LA Noire 2 could be really great if they took off the cuffs.

Just about finished playing through LA Noire, and I've absolutely loved the experience. It's pretty obvious based on the reception the game had that there will be follow-ups; I for one would love to see that happen, but only if they can make it a MUCH more robust experience next time.

According to Wikipedia, LA Noire development started sometime between 2004 and 2007; I'm not entirely clear on what happened there or when they actually started writing any code, but it's painfully obvious to see that it is a severely dated game. Usually when a game evolves over that lengthy a time-frame, the toll is taken on the visuals, and surprisingly, this is not a place where LA Noire comes up short in the least. The graphics aren't anything breathtaking, but they are certainly nothing to scoff at either. The environments don't have the same level of detail and polish that a newer game in the "genre" does (Mafia 2), but they get the job done, and never really do anything to show their age. The facial animation (which was a lauded selling point for this game) is just fantastic, and the character modeling is some of the best we have ever seen. They aren't the highest poly-models out there, but the facial detail is just amazing, and never before in a game have I completely recognized as many actors as I did in this title. 

No, the trouble with this game's age come in its clunky, dated mechanics, and the insane amount of restrictions lay on the player throughout the experience. The truth there painfully is that this game would have felt a little dated in 2007, so playing it in 2011 has an even larger contrast to how we expect games to play today.

For starters, the control is wonky. Real wonky. I'm actually reminded a lot playing it of much earlier games in the sandbox genre from systems past. The Getaway and Driver 3 come to mind, and that's not a really friendly comparison... The movement can even give flashbacks to Resident Evil on occasion, in that feeling of never having a fine-touch to your character's placement in the environment. Often times during L.A.N. I had to circle an area I was trying to target on foot a few times before it would trigger that I was on the right spot. (A fine-touch analog movement to the left stick could do a lot to help this situation.)

This clunky control carries over to just about every aspect of the game unfortunately. Driving feels more like trying to steer a yacht then a car, and just taking a corner becomes somewhat of a chore, particularly anytime you a moving at a good clip and have to weave through some traffic. Navigating indoor environments on foot doesn't fare much better, and I spent more time walking into objects and slamming into walls then I did actually investigating clues.

The game is completely playable using the dated, molasses-covered control scheme, but it definitely holds the title back, and gives it a much older and less polished vibe then I expect from a release of this magnitude in 2011.

Unfortunately though, the real trouble in L.A.N. come in the fact that every single action you take in the game has been decided upon before you even get a chance to screw it up or add your own personal flair to the proceedings, and this is where the game truly comes across feeling like a last-gen (or even older) experience.

I'm not going to harp on the linearity of the game, as that is a design choice, and not a negative one in my opinion. Well, at least when it comes to the main story and how it progresses. I understand that this game has a strong narrative, and it pushing the player along a determined path to a final outcome here, and that is just fine with me. No, the problems come in when you realize that every minute detail along the way has already been decided for you as well.

First is the most glaring omission; the whole god-cop, bad-cop Avenue... LAN is obviously, noir, and with that should come a strong overall idea that there is black and white, good and bad, and with these moral choices, also ambiguity, grey-areas, etc... This is at times alluded to in the game, but the user is never allowed to explore it. You are a good cop, end of story. This is the most damaging choice the developers made in my opinion, and the one that makes the entire game feel like more of an interactive movie then an actual living breathing story and world.

The opportunities to allow the user to make choices just stare you in the face during the entire game, and they never release the shackles on you enough to explore it. For example, every call you go on, be they side-quests or part of the main timeline, knows how it's going to end before you even start it. Some cases will have you chasing the perp down on foot and tackling him, others will place you into a firefight where the mission will not end until the "bad guy" is dead. This forces the player to live by the moral code the game insists upon, at not only does it shatter the immersion level, at times it actually turns it into a guessing game that you can end up eating a bullet over if you aren't paying enough attention.

On multiple occasions, you will chase down an offender only to have them start firing on you. Your character will pull his gun, and you are (usually) allowed to return fire as you see fit, but the game already has a predefined outcome for this fight, and if you don't follow it, you'll usually end up dead. Sometimes they are intending you to chase the perp down and arrest him, other times they want you to just execute him, and unless I missed some obvious indicator of which was which, there was no way to know what they were expecting you to do. On more than one occasion I ran around a car or barricade to encounter the perp face-to-face, only to have no option available to me other then taking a shotgun blast to the chest and starting over again. Why there isn't an arrest option on all cases is just a mind-boggling question...

  In the same vein, during other cases it appears that you are being given free-reign to just spray bullets at an enemy, but then at the end of the fight you're expected to arrest them. This generally happens during the (excellent) car-chase segments, and it totally destroys the immersion and flow of the game when it happens. For example, you start questioning a suspect, only to have them flee out the back of the building and head for a waiting car. For some reason, despite the level of crime they may have perpetrated, you suddenly have free reign to have a massive shootout on crowded streets while chasing them in your cruiser. Your partner will rain gunfire down on their car as you do everything in your power to slam them off the road; often times ending with you giving their car a solid nudge and sending it flipping through the air until it finally lands in a pile of un-drivable debris. Everything seems like its going great, and you hop out of your car to finish the fight. Your character draws his gun, and it looks like you're going to be able to decide what to do next... and then a cut scene kicks in showing you pointing your gun at the waiting perp. Why?

At this point after playing GTA, Saints Row, and the like, I'm expecting to be able to either ya know, shoot the guy I've been in a gun-fight with for ten minutes, or maybe even be given the option of wounding him and going for the arrest. Sadly, none of these options are available; you just sit and watch as the game decided how this is going to end for you. I realize in some cases that it is Jermaine to the story, and you may need to question the assailant as a witness, but why not give me the option to screw that up? Maybe if I killed the guy, I would lose a valuable piece of evidence and not be able to solve that case... Situations like this are rampant in the game, and they keep it from being the truly interactive crime-drama it could be.

The inability to decide an enemy's fate is not only disappointing, but at times it just doesn't make any sense at all. Why I have the right to gun down certain people and not others is bizarre, and at times seems to actually hurt the integrity of the main character. Simply put, you should be able to choose who lives or dies in these sequences, and the game should have varying outcomes depending on how you reacted. What brings these issues even further to the forefront is that the game gives you the impression that you are being given options, but none of it really makes any difference to how the game plays out. 

For example, you can totally screw up a case, mess up every interrogation, and more-then-likely put the wrong guy in jail based on the evidence... and yet, the game doesn't really seem to care. You may get chewed out by the chief, but you'll still move on to the next case as if nothing bad has happened. On top of that, the game even shows you stats for the damage you did during your investigation. A tally of the damage done to cars, to the city as a whole, and the innocent people you may have injured on the street is given at the completion of each case, only again, it doesn't really seem to make any difference one way or the other... Why give me this information if it isn't going to have any bearing on the game?

Lastly, on top of it not giving you any breathing room on your morality or actions, the investigations themselves feel like the most hand-holding part of the entire game, and since they are the bread and butter, it's the most painful issue. Investigating a crime-scene always plays out exactly the same way. You enter a location, and then clunk around in it waiting for the controller to vibrate telling you you're near an object you can interact with. You then (clumsily) handle each object and wait for another vibration to tell you if it's a worth-while clue or not. Once you have found everything, the dramatic background music fades out. 

So, let’s break this down for a moment... The engine automatically tells me when I'm standing near ANY object I can pick up, holding said object instantly tells me whether or not it’s an important piece of information, and the music tells me when I've found every worthwhile object on the scene... So, the ONLY way you could miss a clue would be to get tired of waddling around looking for vibrating objects and leave a scene before the music fades. While I like that there is the ability to leave the scene without all the information, they practically slap you in the face to make sure it doesn't happen.

If you're going to be this cookie-cutter about the entire experience, you may as well just show a cut scene for this stuff and focus on the action for the meat of the game, which is definitely not the case here. I very much enjoyed the illusion that I was investigating these crimes, but it's all just make-believe at that point. I'm pretending that I might not find anything, and I'm pretending that I'm deciding what is fluff and what is hard-evidence, but really, I'm not doing any of those things, and it's disappointing.

At the end of the day though, this game proves that this is an exciting, untapped genre that could be a fantastic experience if it was fleshed out more and allowed the user more room to have fun, and frankly, fail at what it is giving you to do. The developers have already stated publicly that they intend this to be a franchise, and I wholeheartedly hope that turns out to be the case. There is some excellent potential in the game just waiting to come out.


Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3?.... Really?

Oy, I don't know why I'm surprised or bothered by this, but I am...

Capcom to release "Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3":

Basically, they are adding new characters and doing some "balancing", which to me at this point has become nothing more then correcting some gameplay issues/bugs and then attempting to pretend like it's a varation of the engine and worthy of charging more money for...

Ok, I get that they have in the past been pretty famous for releasing "updates" to thier fighting franchises, but in almost every one of those cases (but SF4), those changes were typically a lot larger then an updated roster. I mean, take a look at the jump from SF2:TWW to SF2:CE, or the jump to Turbo, or the even more impressive jump from SSF2 to SSF2T. These games weren't the previous title with a slightly updated roster, they were for the most part profoundly changed games.

Look at what they are doing now though... Unless I missed something, SF4 to SSF4 was just a very small roster update, and then SSF4AE hits, which is exactly the same thing all over again (and all of these were shipping too close to each other in the first place IMHO).

At least with AE they gave you the option of using DLC to add these characters to your existing SSF4... That seems like a fine compromise, but I have to ask... why do they need to release a new disk-based version of these games at all, when it's clearly something they could (and should) be doing via DLC? I mean for cripes sake, MvsC3 already supports and features DLC characters... Why on earth would I need to shell out for a new flavor of that disk (this soon after release) just to add more characters?

The really painful thing here is that, sucker that I am, I'm sure I'll shell out for this, as some of the characters are pretty exicting (and they have as of now, not mentioned a DLC option), but really, what the hell is the point of this? Could they really not have done this via DLC?  
The other issue here too is that they released two characters for DLC here already, at $5 a clip... Does that mean that this addition will cost another $60 for the added chars + $60 for the initial game? No, in fact they are releasing it at $40... How does this make any sense with your DLC pricing on the current game? Do you not realize I now feel totally shafted for spending $10 on TWO characters when you're giving us 12 for 40, and including the cost of the game in there?

What happened to you Capcom?... I used to hold you in the highest regard, but this year is just one slap after another. By all means, keep creating new content for SF4 and MvsC3, but for crying out loud, make it an affordable addition to the existing games that you are using as the base; we don't need to rebuy the same damn game three times a year. Especially considering the fact that we still have SF X Tekken headed to us as well... I love SF like a rabid animal, but there is such thing as oversaturation. Capcom should really talk to Harmonix a lil bit... 
***Edit/Update - 
SuperflousMoniker (heh, great name btw), gave the following link/info, which I will be the first to admit actually does hold some water here (no pun intended). I can release a little of may anger now, as this really does seem like a reasonable excuse as to why they have done everything on MvsC3 the way that they did. I still think $5 per char was WAy too much, but this at least explains why DLC wasn't supported and why this release is happening.  
So, I was going to give them my money anyway, now I'll do it with a little bit less anger. :)

@SuperfluousMoniker said:

There was an article on Joystiq today about the lack of DLC and why they made UMVC3 a disc. TLDR: Tsunami fucked up their dev cycle.


Dirt 3 is the experience I was hoping GT5 would be...

DiRT 3 PS3 Box Art
DiRT 3 PS3 Box Art

I'm just floored by how good Dirt 3 is... I bought this yesterday in a game sale at Target for $35, and I am just blown away. 
Not only is this easily the best looking racer I have ever seen (on console), the control is amazing, the level of detail is staggering, and the sheer amount of variety and options are just increadible. 
I was a little turned off by how difficult it seemed for the first hour or so, but once I got my wheel tuned properly and ironed out what driving-assists I needed to be using, it went from being painful to completely exhilarating.  
The car models themselves don't blow me out of the water, but the tracks are breathtaking, the particle effects are probably the best I've ever seen, and the weather.. MY GOD the weather... Driving in the snow feels completely different then driving in the dirt. It's not even just a loss of control or slidy pavement either, the physics of it all feel like they have totally changed during the snow courses. I feel like I'm strapped to a rocket, just trying to keep it moving forward until it inevitably explodes. 
The sense of speed in this game is just amazing. Hands-down best speed of any racer I've played since Road Rash on 3DO, and possibly, ever. This truly feels like a "next gen" racing game, or at least, an evolution of the genre. Perfect control, tons of content, fantastic presentation. Hell, even the loads times aren't too bad. 
This is what I should have walked away from GT5 feeling. Just glad I finally got that experience. 
Thumbs WAY up, what a fantastic game. 
Ken Block's Ford Fiesta
Ken Block's Ford Fiesta

Men over 30 shouldn't play video games.

Yeah... This is awesomely stupid.

The Relationship Experts of the Today Show Don’t Think Men in Their 30s Should Play Video Games: 

The vapid ridiculousness of this just staggers my mind. I find it extremely amusing that this appeared on Hoda and Kathy Lee too... I wish I could have been there to ask them if they think it's any more productive or less embarassing for grown women (and men?) to sit home in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday watching those two cackling hens get drunk on national television.  

This notion that videogames are any less respectable or worthwhile then any other entertainment or distraction is getting really old. I kind of got that it was the cultural mindset in the 80s, but now that game sales have surpassed DVDs, I thought this kind of bullshit mentality was finally starting to fade, apparently not.

How is reading a book, or watching televsion any more productive or useful then playing a game? I just don't understand this mentality. Everyone who reads from a hand-held, bound object seems to hold it up on some lofty pedestal like its some kind of enriching, mind-expanding pursuit. It's distraction or entertainment, same as playing a game, reading a magazine, or jumping rope. Granted, you may learn something reading certain books, but the same could be said for any medium...

Not all of us over 30 have kids, or any aspirations to. It doesn't make me a bad person that I have hobbies, nobody is being hurt in the equasion but my wallet. Thier relationship "experts" can kiss my ass, I don't think my wife wants me holding her hand 24 hours a day; You need distractions from each other. Besides that, I've been married for over ten years, and neither one of us have cheated on the other; Kathy Lee can't say that.

Oy, I hope something heavy falls on all three of them.

Mafia 2 Impressions. (Ps3)

No Caption Provided

Got this (used) for $18 over the weekend. Not only is it well worth that price, I would have been completely satisfied paying full-price on release day; I'm really enjoying it. I liked the first one quite a bit, but I was wary of this one as I've played SO many "GTA-styled" games at this point... When M1 hit, there wasn't as much saturation of that genre.

At any rate, it actually differs quite a bit from GTA or open-world games in general now, as it really isn't a sand-box game at all, it just appears to be. There are no side-quests, and the city itself is really just a giant network of roads connecting each environment/mission. It has the staple food-stands, auto-shops and clothing stores, but outside of that, the city is pretty much just there for show. That's not an insult though, it's just not the game I thought it was going to be.

The game is completely linear, and doesn't have a typical sand-box style mission progression at all really. As soon as you finish a job or activity, a new waypoint appears on your map and you move on to that one. It comes off feeling more like a cohesive story-driven action game then a series of missions ala GTA, and that's a very good thing.

It plays out much more like you're living out a mob movie and as an avid fan of Scorsese and Coppola, I'm just loving every minute of it. I've never seen that idea of the Mafia (real or not) be as accurately protrayed in a game as it is here.

 The premise is the same basic type of thing as GTA and the like, you start out as a small-time hood and progressively make a name for yourself in the underworld. The really beauty of this game though is that it's painstakingly detailed, has a great story, excellent characters and the action is fantastic. The details in every inch of it are just staggeringly good. There's no cookie-cutter environments here, every building interior has different art on the walls, furniture, etc, and it all looks perfect for the time-period. 
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The details don't just stop at the visuals either, there is a staggering amount of "realisim" to the little touches they have added here and there. Like, rob a gas-station, and the next time you drive by it you'll see a cop or a crime scene. Have a few drinks and you'll barely be able to walk. Stand in your tenement apartment building's hallway and you'll here entire conversations between other tenants, witness a police raid, or just hear a bed squeaking in the prostitute next-door's place. Little touches like this are just rampant throughout the entire game, and it makes it all a much more robust experience. Even when you go to steal a car, you have the option of smashing the window and creating a scene that may lead to police involvement, or you can try to stealthily pick the lock without anyone noticing. I've even heard that you can be fingered on the street by people that have seen you commit a crime earlier in the game. Like a, "That's him officer" type of thing...

There's also a much better level of interaction with the police then in most sand-box games. Just comitting a crime will not get you arrested or shot at ala GTA. If it's a petty crime, they will try to ticket or arrest you, at which point you can try to bribe them, make a run for it, or start a shootout in the middle of the street. If you get a wanted level, you can try changing cars or clothing to throw them off the trail, and thankfully so, because the cops in this game are NO joke. Partly due to tne increased level of realism/damage in this game, they will drop you pretty quickly if you're not careful, and it adds a lot more tension and excitement because of it. The police also seem to react in a more realistic manner. At least, at the levels of crime I've comitted so far anyway. As in, while wanted, if a cop sees me (and I'm in the same car or clothes), they will pursue me, but they don't seem to just magically spawn out of the woodwork as they do in GTA. They also don't give up nearly as easily or forget about you just because you've driven 1.5 miles away from the spot you killed one of thier fellow officers in. Just to test this out I gunned down several police officers and then hightailed it out of the city to a remote area, and sure enough I did lose them. Nobody spawned from behing vacant buildings, no cop cars appeared out of nowhere in the middle of the woods, and yet, when I headed back to the city in the same car, the first one I passed took chase. It gives the whole cops and robbers a much better vibe.

Early on there's a pretty sick amount of progression to the city that impressed the hell out of me. When you first start out, you're in like 40's era NYC at Xmas time, and everything is covered in snow, and all the music is Xmas tunes. You eventually get busted and spend several years in prison, and when you get out, the city is completely changed. There is a flood of 50's roadsters, greaser kids are all over the place, all the music changes, the city looks different; hell, even the cop cars get updated; it was all very very cool. I've never seen a game show the progression of time quite as well as it did here.

The game can be a little slow early on when you're doing menial jobs like selling cigerettes or running mob-bosses around, but it pretty quickly ramps up to a full-on action game that is just fantastic. It's pretty much just an intensely cover-based TPS, but the story and level of immersion are so nice, and the gun-play works so well that it totally rises above the basic gameplay.
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The guns feel great, the control is spot on, and there is a pretty vast selection of firearms. Bullets do damage to the environment (and cars), lights can be shot out, dudes can be plugged in the legs or just shot straight in between the eyes for an instant kill; it all feels perfect. Even the AI is great for this type of game. I wouldn't say we're talking Halo AI here, but the enemies behave pretty well. They take cover, flank, they will even make a run for it at times.

There is also quite a bit of straight-up fisticuffs, and that also works really, really well. I almost enjoy the hand-to-hand brawls as much as the shooting segments. It's obviously much more limited, but I almost get a Fight Night vibe from it. You have light and hard punches, combos, an easy to use but fun dodging system, and there's a great visceral hard-hitting feeling to the hits and the fight in general. There are even context sensitive finishing moves that are usually brutal and animated nicely. You can start a fist-fight with almost anyone, and at times I've found myself risking arrest just cuz a dude looked at me wrong or said something snarky and I wanted to beat some sense into him.

You do a good bit of driving, and at times this can get a little dull just due to how vast the city is and how long it can take you to go from A to B, but the cars handle great and the radio does an excellent job of immersing you in that era. The city too is just gorgeous to look at, so I've yet to really be "bothered" having to go for a drive. There is even an option you can toggle in the menu to turn on "simulation" driving, which I think makes it a much more interesting experience. It basically just makes the cars behave a lot more realistically when they are trying to corner and move around at high-speeds. It definately makes the action-bits harder, but it also makes the hum-drum driving bits a lot more interesting. Thankfully, you can toggle it at any time.

The driving is also more interesting (and realistic) then in GTA, as you have speed limits that you can choose to obey or not, have a gas gauge, and the cars react to gun-fire much more accurately then in GTA. For one thing, you aren't immortal in a car in this game. If you hit something hard enough, you'll get hurt; if you get shot while in the car, you still get shot. If all feels much more natural and dangerous then in GTA and it really helps up the tension level.

The cars themselves look fantastic all things considered. We're not talking Forza level models here, but for an open-world, they look pretty damn nice, and there's a wide selection of them that all handle noticably different.

The graphics in general are just excellent, and while not on the level of GTA4 PC (with mods), they blow away any of the console open-worlds I've seen so far.

The sound design in general is really nice, with tons of recorded dialogue, a lot of interesting stuff to hear, and great music that totally sets the tone and era of the game.

The overall story/mission-progression feels really natural and totally moves the narrative along. The characters are written really well, and I don't recall ever seeing anything outside of a Scorsese/Coppola film that did so much to explain the way of life of a mobster. it's gritty, feels realistic to me, and the level of immersion is just fantastic. Even gun-fights play out more "realistically" here, and I can't even count how many times I've been gunned down playing this when I got too ambitious or cocky. Point being, it feels much more like you're living out a crime-drama then just playing in a toy-box ala GTA. 
No Caption Provided

There is this really great overall sense of immersion in not only the time-period, but the whole cosa nostra family thing in general. They have done an excellent job protraying that life-style as the glamorous, exciting illusion that you see in the Godfather and the like.

Basically, this game is the closest I think we'll ever come to playing a game of GoodFellas, and I'm just having a blast with it. It blows the actual Godfather games out of the water entirely. Highly recommended.

Yakuza 3 is just outstanding.

PS3 box art (cropped)
PS3 box art (cropped)

I found this in a bargain bin last week for $10, and it was a pretty blind-buy for me. I'd heard of it, but I had always (mistakenly) thought it was some kind of Japanese GTA. So glad I was so wrong.

For the first hour or so I was honestly pretty bored and thought the game would end up in my "death-bin" with other lack-luster, unfinished titles; the two most recent being Fairytale Fights and Genji: Days of the Blade. Luckily, I stuck it out for a little while longer and saw the gem here. Put simply, this is one of, if not the single-most engrossing narrative I have ever experienced in a game.

Not only have I not skipped a single cut-scene here (which I am very prone to do in a lot of games), I found myself actually sitting and watching an hour or so of cut-scenes from the previous two games just to get a better understanding of the characters and story-line leading up to Y3. If you had told me I would be doing that prior to playing this, I never would have believed it. The story here is just so engrossing, and the whole level of immersion or feeling of actually being in Japan is just amazing.

This game is slow going at first, especially to a new-comer to the franchise, and I just hated the fight engine when I first experienced it; it seemed really boring and repetitive. Fortunately, as with any good RPG, the system evolved with my character, and after a few hours playing it, I started really enjoying the battles. The environments and interaction with them quickly became the star of the show, and now the somewhat limited mechanics of the actual fighting system are more of a means to an end. You smack guys around a little till you can finish them off with one of the outstanding environmental attacks. The sheer amount of options for both fisticuffs and weapon-play almost rivals Dead Rising, and I spend more time just looking for a fight now as doing anything else the game has to offer.

And speaking of things it has to offer... I'm just blown away. I'm sure I'm not even half-way through this title yet and I've already played excellent, almost fully realized games of Golf, Pool, Darts, Baseball, Cee-Lo, Bowling, and a few other things I'm sure I'm forgetting. Plus there are video games, dating simulators; the list just goes on and on. The amount of content and stuff to do here is just staggering.

It's a little clunky to control, and some of it feels a little dated to me, but it's not hampering the experience at all. I am just having a total blast playing this. Next to Mortal Kombat (9), this is easily going to be one of the games I spent the most time playing this year, and I have no doubt that it will be one of those special games that I fondly remember playing years later.

It's unfortunate that I'm hearing bad things about part 4. It would have been really exciting to have another game to jump to when I finished this one.


Go buy Zelda OOT for 3DS. Do it now.

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Just a word on this game, because I don't see enough hype about it, and it's a shame...
We have the system defining/selling title for 3DS now. Put down your sandwich and go buy one immediately.

I wondered if this game would hold my interest for another go (think I've played through it twice already), and it does, in spades. Simply put, this is the single best remake of a game I have ever seen. It looks gorgeous, the control is spot-freaking-on, and it benefits greatly from being on this hardware.

They didn't tweak the game play all that much apart from adding some nice touchscreen inventory stuff and some optional motion control for aiming (which works amazingly btw), and they have actually managed to improve on the original in every way.

I know a lot of  folks aren't super-pumped about 3D in general (or specificaly on 3DS), but this game redefines what 3D should be; it is just amazing. The sense of depth and immersion with the 3D turned on is just staggering. This should be the game people first try the 3DS with, it will probably make them converts to the effect.

I can't say enough good things about this title; it is easily the best game on the system, and hands-down the best use of 3D I have ever seen in a game.

The only negative thing I can even come up with is that some of the visuals are a little dated, but I can honestly say that I barely notice and I'm definitely not bothered by it. The textures are very sharp, the new models for the characters are fantastic, and apart from some stuff you don't see anymore (like textures on a sloped plain for stairs rather then modeling), you really wouldn't know you're playing an older game (and really, you aren't, it's almost a total remake.)

Don't walk, run and buy it. You will not be sorry.

Some comparisons:
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Dead or Alive Dimensions impressions (3DS)

3DS box art (cropped)
3DS box art (cropped)

So I have finally bought a new 3DS game... Got SF4 and Lego SW the day I bought the console, and I haven't been interested in a single other title since. 
In short, it's pretty damn good for a DOA game, excellent for a portable fighter, and has some of the best visuals I've seen on that hardware thus far. 
Current feelings: 
The graphics are outstanding. Outside of a litle jaggy-ness when they pull really far away from the chars, and some wierdness in the Story mode (sometimes the characters are fully animated, other times they just show static photos) , it looks spectacular, and finally shows the power this thing has over the previous DS. 
The control is top notch. I'm a little dissapointed that they put all the automatic stuff in there (touch any combo or special on the bottom screen and the character does it), but the answer there is pretty simple, I just don't use it. The problem here is that if you play someone else, they have all of that available to them. I guess this is more of a slam to the current trend of making fighters more accessible then it is a against this game in particular, but to quote a certain horse from Ren and Stimpy. "no Sir, I don 't like it"
It's a VERY solid entry in the DOA series. The roster is amazing for a portable (and really, for a console version this would be impressive), there is a good amount of stuff to do in SP, and the unlocking/DLC features are really nice.  
The 3D is GREAT. This is hands-down my favorite usage of 3d that Ive seen on this thing yet. The characters pop from the backgrounds, you see some stuff stick out of the screen, etc.. This is exactly what I was hoping for and it looks great.
It feels like a port of DOA4... This is supposed to be a new entry in the franchise, and it really doesn't feel like it. I haven't even scratched the surface of the title yet, but I haven't seen anything new thus far.

They reduced the boob jiggle. Heh, this is a silly complaint, and I'm sure there are just as many people who will consider this a pro as a con, but I enjoyed the ridiculous campyness of the sexuality in this series, and this one feels a little downplayed. (apart from the photo mode, which is just sleazy enough) 
The bottom screen of info is not very user-friendly, and there doesn't seem to be an easy way to just look up a particular move. Like, just to see what is available to each character you have to scroll through a VERY heavy list of every move, combo, and throw they have, and this screen is not even available in the pause menu. A quick movelist in the pause menu that is seprated by special, combo, etc would have been very helpful. 
The DLC availablity kinda stinks. It's very cool and super-commendable that they are placing all this free DLC out there, but if you miss it on the day it's released, you miss it, and I currently dont have any way to connect my DS to Wifi. 
The AI is just awful. Granted, I'm only playing on default difficulty so far, but I haven't even lost a round yet, even against "boss characters', and that seems kinda off seeing as how I'm really not that good at this game. 
The options are VERY limited. Like for example, you cannot even turn off the background music. I know this is a minor gripe, but it does bother me. I'd like to be able to kill everything but the voices and effects and listen to my own music outside the game, but alas, thats not in the cards. 
All in all, its an excellent game (so far), and hands-down my favorite title on this system yet. Praise to Team Ninja. 

Completed the challenge tower in MK; some insights/tips to share.


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Whew, I finally (at about 3AM last night, yawn) completed the Challenge Tower... I had been trying to stretch it out as best I could, as I wasn’t quite ready to be “done” with the SP game here, but once I got into the final 20 or 30 challenges (there are 300 in total) they started to become so wonderfully insanely difficult that I couldn’t resist attacking them anymore.

There are of course going to be some “spoilers” in this, so read at your own risk please. I’ll do another warning on the reward for completing the tower  later, so you are clear to read my musings without spoiling that final reveal (wink, wink) if you like…


For starters, I just want to mention how incredibly bad-ass the entire experience was. I waited to start this mode until I had already completed the story and unlocked everything (else), and I was pretty much expecting this to just be a goofy chore like the SF4 challenges. Well boy, was I ever wrong on that…

I’m not sure at this point which I enjoyed more, the tower or the story mode, and while parts of it were certainly difficult, I thoroughly enjoyed playing through it and was overjoyed at some of the included content that I was not expecting.

First I want to mention some of the great stuff they crammed in there that could be a welcome addition to (on-Disk)DLC at some point. You would have thought this mode would just be Kombat Kodes and junk, but it was far from it, there was all kinds of content in there that never rears its head in the regular Ladder or MP modes.


The coolest stuff that comes to mind was all the additional playable characters. The most obvious one that I’m sure will end up as DLC was Goro. I was expecting after that to play as Shao Kahn and Kintaro as well, but that did not happen… Fortunately, there was a bunch of other additions as well.


Cyber Reptile. This was just an alternate costume (as opposed to Cyber SubZero), and I couldn’t say offhand if it was merely a palette swap of another cyborg, but it was still damn cool. I’d be happy to see that as an alternate for him.


The Director (Johnny Cage story line). Heh, this one was pretty silly, but it was a nice addition regardless. He wasn’t a fully fleshed out character, but they could have pretty easily added some of Cages moves to his roster and made him playable, but somehow I doubt that will happen.


Zombies! Heh, anyone that knows me would understand immediately that I got a HUGE kick out of the zombie content in here as I am a rabid fan of anything undead. The Zombie versions of the regular characters were great, and while there is a Kombat kode you can enter in to activate this “mode”, I’d personally love to see that be a selectable “costume” for each character so I could enjoy it in the other modes besides Versus. On top of the zombie “costumes” for the regular fighters, there are also playable zombies as well. There wasn’t much to them and they didn’t have a full move set or anything, so they couldn’t be a “real” character, but I liked getting the chance to control them in the tower.


Other Alternate costumes in the tower included a MK1 fight between Sub-Zero and Scorpion, which should further enflame people that they may have to pay for those costumes going forward. I have heard some rumors that those costumes become unlocked by completing the “master” requirements for each character, but that remains to be seen. Obviously it would seem odd to do that since those things were pre-order bonuses (I personally got Scorpion), but I have also read a quote from Ed Boon that people were going to be sorry if they bought those codes off of Ebay. Whether he just meant that they would be cheap DLC versus the premium prices they are going for on Ebay is still in question, but it could go either way really.

I’m sure there was some other stuff that I’m blanking out on now, but regardless, the point is, it was a blast and just chock full of nutty content.


Now, on to some tips if anyone cares to read them, as I’ve heard quite a bit of rumblings on the forums about how insanely hard some of these challenges were.

I don’t have the game in front of me, so I’m not going to give actual numbers for most of these, but that should be pretty easy to figure out if you’re stuck on one. I’m sure I’m overlooking some hard ones here as well, but these are the ones that stand out in my mind as being the biggest challenge (or should be to some.)

Oh, the single biggest thing to understand (which I wish I had realized last night), is that the sliding scale of the difficulty only takes effect if you get a failure. As in, if you retry mid-fight, or for that matter at any point before the failure notice has come and gone and the retry option shows itself on its own time, the difficulty will NOT ramp down accordingly. I wish I had known that prior to this morning, because I worked on the final challenge for hours, and I think I only saw the actual failure notice show to completion once. Oh well, live and learn… I’m not 100% sure what they do to lessen the difficulty, but I’ve definitely noticed it take effect. I believe the AI gets a bit less combo-heavy, and I even read today that you get more health back in-between fights.


Ok, getting into some specifics.

Tilting-stage battles. This doesn’t seem so bad in the lower tiers, but once you get up towards the top they get increasingly difficult as the AI ramps up. The only piece of advice I can really give on these is to play extremely offensively. It seems to me that the longer you stretch out a fight the harder it becomes due to the AI regaining health so quickly. I noticed that if I just kept on them and just peppered them with combos I could keep them from regaining health. These challenges didn’t really pose all that much trouble for me, but there was one towards the end that had me swearing at the TV.


Test Your Might. Now, I’m a pretty good at doing “finger-seizures” after gaming for this long, and even I started to go a little nutty on some of the upper tiers of these. That is, until I realized something that changed the entire playing field and made them all a cakewalk. That incredibly important piece of information is very simple, but infinitely powerful. When the timer runs out, the character will drop their fist on their own, WITHOUT you needing to hit the shoulder button. This changes the whole game because you can then position your hand properly without needing to keep a finger on those shoulders. I realized a long time ago that the best way to do these type of spastic button hits is to rest the controller on my leg, put one finger on each button (the 4 face buttons in this case), and just alternate between them. I can max out that meter in about 2 seconds doing this, and painlessly keep it at the top for quite a while. The trick here is to wait until the timer reaches the 3 or less before you start the frantic pressing. On the last tier of this, I believe I waited for it to hit 2. Then just wail on the four buttons and wait for the timer to stop. Easy as punch and pie.


Stryker VS Shao Kahn X 3. This one scared the Bazeesus out of me until I realized how insanely simple it is. If it had been many of the other characters it would have been VERY painful, but they actually gave you the easiest guy in the game to do this with thankfully. Shao Kahn (and for that matter Goro and Kintaro) have very strict AI responses in how they deal with projectile based attacks. In the case of Shao Kahn, he will throw one of his two projectiles at you as long as you are not within grabbing range. This is his death knell when dealing with anyone, but particularly characters with multi-projectile attacks such as Kitana or Stryker.  It’s very simple; get as far away from him as you can and spam Stryker’s gun attack. He will often block the first bullet, but since you shoot two, he will almost always get hit by the second one. Alternate this with the enhanced version whenever you can, and he will drop like a sack of potatoes in no time. I would bet a million dollars that if given a couple of tries I could get a (triple) flawless victory in this battle with this tactic.


#300 – Goro, Kintaro, Milieena, Shao Kahn.

This one had me pulling my damn hair out for several hours, but it is actually possible. The first time I beat Mileena I jumped off the couch with jubilation, only to be in a state of shock and awe when Shao Kahn walked out afterward. I don’t find Shao Kahn to be all that hard to beat really, but after that insane endurance match I simply didn’t have the health to deal with him. This one is all going to come down to character selection, so thankfully, they give you the option. You simply need to take someone who has a great projectile/long range attack and a good ground based combo. I’ve done it with both Kitana and Kung Lao, and I’m sure there are multiple others.

The single hardest part of this fight is dealing with the uber-Mileena; the three “boss” characters are a cake-walk.A general theory to understand on this fight is that it seems to add more powerups to the enemy the longer the fight goes on, so (if its not your normal strategy anyway,) try to be as offensive and quick as you possibly can.

Winning with Kitana: Goro is not as simple to defeat as Kintaro, but he will drop easily enough. The basic strategy with him is to pepper him with her fan at long range, and jump in for a good combo whenever he misses one of his attacks or does his taunting. I don’t really have a combo to suggest here, as I changed it up quite a bit, but throwing a couple of punches into a fan lift, into a jump kick fanX2 is a good one and it pushes him far enough away to continue your projectile game. A good rule of thumb here is that if he gets your health below 3/4, give it up.

Next is Kintaro, who is the easiest of the bunch. When the fight starts, jump backwards and do an air fan to his head, when you hit the ground, toss her standard fans. (NEVER use the enhanced against him) The rest is very simple; just spam him with fans until he does his jumping smash. When you see him go into the air, wait a second, then jump backwards and kick in the air. The timing is VERY loose/forgiving, and you can kick him out of it virtually every damn time. Just rinse and repeat; he typically doesn’t even hit me to be honest. Again, if your health is much below 3/4 after him, I’d give it up.

Next is the hardest part, Mileena. She is lightning fast, does insanely long combo strings every time she hits you, and will kick the ever loving hell out of you if you attempt to jump at her. The basic strategy here is to just turtle her until she gets close, then unleash on her. Do NOT jump at her, ever; just block and wait for her to come to you. I did find that whatever reaction she tries to do against Mitana’s D-F-K attack (the one where she does like a spinning three hit combo with her fans) doesn’t seem to get off fast enough for her, so you can pummel her easily enough by simply spamming that move. She seems pretty susceptible to fan attacks as well, provided you are far enough away, and I finally beat her by alternating between these two methods until I built up an Xray and finished her off.

Finally is Shao Kahn, which is almost as easy to defeat with Kitana as he is with Stryker. You are going to need a little health here, as he will surprise me every once and a while, but if you have 1/2 a bar going in you’re in pretty good shape. It’s fairly close to the way you beat him with Stryker that I mentioned above, you just spam him with fans. The difference here is that Kitana’s fans don’t come out as fast and furious as Stryker's bullets, so you do actually have to pay attention to what he is doing and react accordingly. It’s still fairly simple though; just get at a good distance, start tossing fans and react to his one of two responses. He will either throw his spear or his hammer. If he throws his spear, you can often times catch him with your fan before he gets it out of his hand, and just continue the abuse, but if it does leave his hands, just jump backwards over it or duck under it and go back to tossing. When he does the hammer toss, immediately stop whatever you are doing and wait for it to come close, then jump backwards over it (do not block it), and go back to tossing fans. Rinse and repeat until he’s dead. It will take you a couple of tries to get the timing down, but once you have it, he’s a cake walk.


Winning with Kung Lao: This is pretty similar to doing it with Kitana, except that you substitute his diving kick special for her fans, and do a lot more combos. When fighting Goro I will toss hats at him until he tries to jump at me, then either do a diving jump kick special at him (the enhanced version can be followed with an uppercut), or I'll just wait for an opening, jump in close with a punch, toss a couple of more punches, transition into a twirl attack, and then jump kick to special down kick , or if my meter allows, enhanced down kick to uppercut. Kintaro is the same thing, except that I alternate this tactic with tossing hats from full screen and doing his backwards jumping punch/kick to take Kintaro out of his jumping smash.
Milenna is easier with Kitana, but Kung Lao is again a similar ordeal. Turtle till she gets close, then unleash a ground combo on her. I didn't find a good spamming attack with him like Kitanas 3 hit fan special, but just doing a lot of blocking and enhanced kicks to uppercuts served me pretty well, although you have to be insanely careful with the timing if you attempt to jump at her.
Shao Kah is a cakewalk with Kung, you just do the same tactic as with Kitana of keeping your distance and tossing hats, but rather then chasing your hat attack  with another like you would with Kitana's fans, I will jump at him and either do the downward special kick (into uppercut if enhanced), or I will jump over him and do a ground based combo. Kung Lao is my best/favorite character, so I might be oversimplifying this, but I don't find him to be very hard to take down with Kung.

I’m sure there are some other fights I’m blanking out on now, but those were the ones that I remember the best right now. If anyone has any questions on how to beat any other ones, please do ask and I’ll add them to the mix.


Final spoiler warning on what you gain by completing the tower....


I’m sure this information is available all over the place, but I have intentionally kept blinders on to all secret content so I could experience it myself, and I was pretty dang amused by this. When you finish the tower you get the “Best Alternate Costume Ever” trophy, and unlock the third costume for Mileena, which I believe is called like the “flesh-pits” suit or something.  (Image below) It is basically just her, naked, with a thin bandage going across her nipples and wrapped around her lady parts. Heh, watching her do her little mammary-groping shimmy in this outfit is pretty damn funny, especially since her face is exposed and she looks like a damn demon. I’ve seen some people pissed off that this was the final prize, and really, I can’t say as I get that. It’s a third unlock-able costume that I would think most teen or repressed boys would be fawning over. I mean hell, I've seen people do this type of stuff with skin editors on PC games for years…



In any event, I had a blast playing through this mode and I loved the rewards and trophies it gave me. As I’ve said before, this IS the fan’s Mortal Kombat, and they really did everything they could do to make this game a winner. I bow before you Ed Boon.

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Mortal Kombat is hands down, the best one since Mk2.

Mortal Kombat (2011)
Mortal Kombat (2011)

How great is (new) Mortal Kombat? So knock-down ,drag-out, kick you in the crotch fuck-tastic that I want to take it behind a building and get it pregnant.

So good I slept for 3 hours last night (Midnight-release)... I'm about to start holding my eyelids open with paperclips, Clockwork Orange style, my back is in screaming agony at my desk right now, and it was all worth it. If Ed Boon was standing in front of me, I'd open-lipped kiss him on the mouth. Ok, probably not, but he definitely deserves a hug.

I'm not going to give a proper review as I've only played it for about 5 hours, but I just cannot overstate how fantastic it is in every way. A couple of the characters feel a little nerfed to me (Liu Kang for one), but everything else is just perfect. It looks gorgeous, it plays outstanding, there is a metric shit-ton of content (hey look, I didn't say Kontent, oh wait, damn...), and I absolutely LOVE the story mode. I don't want to give anything away so I won't get into where it goes, but it is hands down my favorite story mode in any fighting game, ever. Retreads on some old ground, but in such a fun way; it literally brought a smile to my face multiple times.

The only negative thing I could even come up with is that I don't really care for the X-ray moves. They are cool looking the first few times, but I don't get the charge out of seeing them go off that I do an Ultimate in SF4; they just slow down the game play  and sorta annoy me. But it doesn't really hamper the game play, just kinda irks me and slows things down. Speaking of SF4, this is essentially the same exact formula that was. They have gone back to when the series was at its best (MK2), updated the graphics, crammed as much content as they possibly could into it and sent it out the door. There's no real innovations here, and that is a beautiful thing. I would have preferred a little more active involvement with the backgrounds (DOA style), but the game is just amazing.

I was feeling a little wishy-washy about it after playing the demo, and I wondered if it was going to hold my attention this time, and in case you couldn't tell, it does, in spades. I want to state a public thank you to NeatherRealm Studios, this IS the Mortal Kombat fans have been waiting for since part 2.
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