King’s Quest Chapter 2: Rubble Without a Cause Review

In King’s Quest Chapter 2, King Graham (Christopher Lloyd) continues to recount the adventures of his younger self to his grandchild(ren). In chapter 1, he was simply an adventurer hoping to become a knight to the king, but in Rubble Without a Cause, he himself is now the King of Daventry. That doesn’t mean his adventuring days are behind him, though. After a quick intro showing that Graham was actually not that good of a king in his younger years, he and his friends who work in the town square are promptly kidnapped by goblins and taken into a secret cave illuminated by bioluminescent lizards and held as prisoners. For some reason, Graham is chosen by the goblins to perform their chores for them which means he is the only prisoner able to wander the caverns unsupervised. This of course means that he takes it upon himself to figure out how to break everyone out and get back to Daventry. Continue reading

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Too much of a good thing: How good games can suffer from being too long, and how to fix it

image credit: chacha.com

If you’ve watched many movies in your life, chances are you’ve seen at least one that didn’t end when it should have. You know, the one where you think everything is wrapping up, but then the movie goes on for another 45 minutes and all you can do is roll your eyes. The best way I’ve seen it put is in Roger Ebert’s review of Pear Harbor in which he quips, “Pearl Harbor is a two-hour movie squeezed into three hours”. I have certainly come across several pieces that . Movies that go on too long, books that never end, and finally video games that go on and on…and on…and on some more.

So many games, including some of the most popular AAA franchises, seem to suffer so much from the ceaseless monotony that comes from repeating the same gameplay over and over in the pursuit of bloating the hour count of how long it takes to complete the game. Now, let me get one thing out of the way. I’m not saying long games are inherently bad. However, taking a good game and extending to make it a 50 hour game rarely works, in the same way that shortening games made to be long (Skyrim, for example), would take away from the enjoyment of the game.

So, what guidelines should developers follow when trying to make a game of perfect length? I am by no means an expert on the development side of things, but I thought it might be fun and worthwhile to create a hypothetical list of guidelines on how to make a game that isn’t too long. Continue reading

The Xbox Elite Controller might actually be worth the money

You read that right, Microsoft somehow made a controller that just might be worth the ridiculous $150 price tag. Ever since the announcement of the Elite Controller, I have been more than skeptical that it would be anything other than a minor improvement over the already solid Xbox One controller. Honestly, I thought it was just a way to get more money out of Xbox fanboys to make up for the price cut last year. Every once in a while though, I’m OK with being wrong. The Elite seems more like a PC and Xbox player’s wet dream than shelf decoration.

Let’s start out simple. Before even pairing it up a console, the Xbox Elite Controller is obviously a solidly made piece of hardware, even more so than the console. It comes in a hard case, which nicely keeps track of the interchangeable pieces of the controller when not in use. Three sets of triggers are included, two different kinds of d-pads and a pair of interchangeable sticks. Everything feels like it is made of high-quality material and should hold up well over thousands of uses. The thumb sticks click in magnetically, which gives me hope that the inner mechanism is well protected and won’t pick up small problems along the way as I have experienced with the normal XBO controller. Another important feature is the ability to customize the travel of the Elite Controller’s triggers which can increase performance in different game types.

The controller feels extremely natural and solid when in my hands. It feels like I’m holding something that cost $150. The physical customization isn’t crazy, but the software side takes it to the next level. It is possible to remap the controller’s buttons on the Xbox One. This may not be an important feature to PC players who can do that with any controller ever made, but for serious console only players this can be a game changer, literally. This is all done in the downloadable Xbox Accessories app. A slider on the back of the controller allows for quick changing between different saved controller configurations. While I didn’t personally use this feature much, I can see how it could be great for a variety of games like first person shooters where one might want a different control setup for different weapons. The Elite Controller allows for this to happen quickly and smoothly in game which could certainly help in a competitive online situation.

Now for the one terrible annoying thing about this controller which makes absolutely no since to me. The Xbox Elite controller does not come with a rechargeable battery pack. That’s right, this $150 controller requires two AA batteries, not included. Um, what? Surely Microsoft could have included the $20 rechargeable kit in their ridiculous expensive controller, right?

I feel that the Xbox Elite controller will actually be used mainly on PC. Console gamers are often not very likely to spend ridiculous amounts of money on their gaming experience. I mean much of the console gamer crowd is yet to move up to the current generation of consoles! PC gamers, though, who often throw down over a grand for a PC build may be much more likely to invest in a high quality gamepad, especially when so many PC gamers are looking for a new controller after seeing the disappointment of the Steam Controller.

So, is the new Xbox Elite Controller worth the money? Well, that depends on how much you have? If the price means you would have to do without buying two new games this holiday season, it’s not worth it. If you are willing to spend money to improve the gaming experience on top of just buying new games, this controller might be worth it to you. I could certainly see this controller being the way for gamers to cement their status as a “real gamer”, even if that is a ridiculous thing to do. The Elite Controller is certainly the best console controller made to date. There is a problem for console gamers though. To use the Elite Controller you have to play on the Xbox instead of PS4…

 

The First of Seven: Max Payne 3 DLC out July 3rd

Rockstar announced yesterday that the first downloadable content pack for their noir inspired game Max Payne 3 will release next week on consoles.  Titled Local Justice, this downloadable content will come out on the Xbox Live marketplace and Playstation Network on July 3rd, with a following release for the PC on July 17th.

Three new maps come with this DLC; the 55th Batallion HQ, Imperial Palace, and Departure Lounge.  The 55th Batallion HQ map will be playable on all game modes, while the Imperial Palace and Departure Lounge maps will only be playable on Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Payne Killer.  Furthermore this new DLC pack comes with a new weapon, the M4 assault rifle, a new item called Light Fingers which makes looting faster, and the Sao Paulo police faction, complete with avatar customization.

Originally set to release in June, the Local Justice DLC will be at a discounted price during launch week as an “appreciation of patience.”  During this time the Local Justice DLC will run for 480 MS points (6$) on Xbox Live, and 6$ on Playstation Network and PC.  After the week though, the content will return to its normal price of 640 MS points ($8) on Xbox Live and $8 on Playstation Network and PC.  Additionally the Local Justice pack and all other DLC content for Max Payne 3 can also be purchased through the Rockstar Pass program.  Currently this pass is available for 2400 MS points ($30) on Xbox Live and $30 on PSN and PC.

This new DLC for Max Payne 3 is the first of seven planned add-ons for the game.  Due out later this summer is the Disorganized Crime map pack, the Deathmatch Made in Heaven mode pack, the Hostage Negotiation map pack, and the New York Minute co-op pack.  Coming out sometime later this fall will be the Painful Memories map pack and the Trickle Down Economics map pack.  In short there’s a lot coming to Max Payne 3 making this a title that refuses to slow down.  Be sure to check out our review of the game and stay tuned to Updownright for all the latest in gaming news.

Far Cry 3 Delayed Until December

Ubisoft announced this past Monday that Far Cry 3 has been delayed until the holiday season. Originally announced to be released early in September, this highly anticipated title has been pushed back until November 28th for the UK and December 4th for the U.S. According to producer Dan Hay, the team decided to delay the game because they want to take “more time to create the best possible gameplay experience.”

As of this moment Far Cry 3 is the only title scheduled for December, however this new release date could potentially hurt its sales. Originally slated to be released in September, the only other close by first person shooter was Borderlands 2, which releases on September 18. With this December 4th release date, Far Cry 3 now comes out after Halo 4 (11/6/2012) and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (11/13/2012), which are two highly anticipated and competitive titles. What do you think, does Far Cry 3 stand a chance in the sales against these highly popular titles? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to check out the Far Cry 3 preview to see what we think of this upcoming title.

U.S. History Just Got a Bit More Interesting – A Preview of Assassin’s Creed III

U.S. History was always a subject I could never really quite get that into.  I mean I consider myself to be quite the history buff.  I love ancient history and world, but for some reason the Battles of Lexington and Concord or the signing of the Declaration never really resonated with me as much as say the battle of Thermopylae or discovering the Rosetta Stone.  Maybe call me un-patriotic or what have you, but I just never really found our nations history to be that riveting or exciting.  That is, until now.

In Assassin’s Creed III, the next installment to the critically acclaimed Assassin’s Creed series, the on going war between the Assassins and Templars has been moved from the dense and rich European cities to the vast and open American frontier.  Taking place over the course over 30 years, the story is before, during, and after the American Revolution.  Unfortunately the sauve yet badass Ezio will not be making the long trip to American shores, however we are introduced to a new character and lead, Ratonhnhaké:ton or better known as Connor.  Half Native American and half British, Connor is conflicted on whom to fight for, however it is this conflict that makes the story.  This is Connor’s story and how he became a part of the Assassin order and how he becomes a part of the fight in the American Revolution.  Along the way Connor will encounter numerous historical figures such as George Washington, Ben Franklin, Charles Lee, and others, ensuring that history is still a staple aspect of the series.

In an interview with CVG (computerandvideogames.com) Ubisoft president Yves Guillemot stated that this Assassin’s game “will be the biggest to date,” and from what’s been revealed so far it certainly appears to be that way.  Ubisoft Montreal is returning yet again to spearhead this latest installment in the Assassin’s Creed series, so it should be of no surprise then that a lot of the same elements seen from previous Assassin’s Creed games will be returning, however they have been totally revamped and made a new, creating a fresher and new take to the Assassin’s Creed formula.

The combat has been totally redone and a new controller scheme has been created for this upcoming title.  In being a new assassin Connor now always fights dual handed.  According to creative director Alex Hutchinson, the brand new controller scheme “allows you continual access to tools such as pistols on one button, as well as maintaining access to your core weapon, such as the hidden blade.”  This creates a more fluid control when it comes to combat making Connor not only easier to handle, but also making him look extremely graceful and badass when it comes to killing.  Since the game takes place during the American Revolution guns have become a bigger threat in this Assassin’s game as opposed to past.  According to Hutchinson “firing lines are a key feature of the period and we’ve integrated them into both combat and pre-combat, to give the player different opportunities such as the meat-shield.”  Countering is still a huge aspect when it comes to combat.  Enemies now attack in unison generating a new and stylish “duel counter” and according to Hutchinson after you counter an enemy “you have a choice of what to do, whether to assassinate, dodge, or throw them.”  They call this a “window of opportunity,” which creates a new and refreshing taste when it comes to combat.  On top of this the assassinations have also been totally redone.  In being a new assassin Connor can now assassinate with any weapon, and can also perform “running assassinations,” giving off this impression that Connor is always on the move.

The biggest and most intriguing change with Assassin’s Creed III however is the environment and animation.  The dense gridded cities that always made up the scenery in past Assassin’s games are gone, and has instead been replaced by the vast and open American frontier.  This change of surroundings has lead to a totally redone parkour and navigation system that has always been a staple part of the series.  Tree navigation is the newest and most significant addition to the overall navigation system.  According to Hutchinson tree navigation “allows Connor to deal with forests, cliffs, uneven surfaces as fluidly and smoothly as previous Assassin’s dealt with cities.”  The team at Ubisoft Montreal is “trying very hard to keep natural shapes, organic surfaces, to make believable terrain” according to Hutchinson.  The environment is no longer gridded with square surfaces, and Connor can now grab onto all sorts of different shapes and objects.  “You can go anywhere.  Anything you see that has a handhold that’s climbable is climbable, and we really highlight the areas where you can’t go,” says Hutchinson.  This new navigation system not only brings a fresh take on how to traverse and travel throughout the environment, but it is also a major leap in gaming animation.

With this new environment it opens the door to a whole new type of gameplay.  Seasons such as winter and summer are now implemented in the game, and both have their own unique effects on Connor.  For instance during the winter, snow slows Connor down encouraging him to climb and stay off of the ground.  This introduction of the frontier has also introduced wildlife to the series.  “There are over 200 different species of animal in the game,” says Hutchinson and they all offer unique opportunities or threats to Connor.  Although the vast frontier has replaced the populated city, cities or rather colonies will still play an important role in Assassin’s Creed III.  Colonies such as New York and Boston will be central areas in the game, and will offer a different take on gameplay as opposed to the wilderness.  With two virtually different atmospheres to explore, the environment in Assassin’s Creed III will be a refreshing take to not only the series but also action adventure games in general.

Hutchinson and the team at Ubisoft Montreal truly believe that they “have the most robust third person character in action games today,” and from what’s been seen and revealed so far they just might.  If anything can be said, they for sure have the most robust third person character in any Assassin’s Creed game to date, and this title is definitely shaping up to be the best in the series.  With super tight animation, a new combat scheme and navigation system, this is one title that for sure needs to be on your radar when it comes out later this fall on October 30th.  Be sure to check out the gameplay video and let us know what you think, and stay tuned to updownright for all the latest on this highly anticipated title.

The New Face of War – Warface Preview

Imagine if top rated shooters like Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 were free to play? It would be pretty unbelievable and I’m sure gamers everywhere would rejoice to the fact that they wouldn’t have to drop $60.00 in order to save the world from terrorists. I’m speaking hypothetically here of course; something like this could never happen, right?

Well, it turns out something like this is going to happen, and it’s called Warface.

In development by Crytek studios, the team behind the various Crysis games as well as the amazing CryEngine gaming engines, Warface is a new first person shooter MMO being developed for the PC. It should be of no surprise then that Warface will feature some stellar next gen graphics. Crytek has already announced that the game will run on the new CryEngine 3, however no need to worry if your system can’t handle this new gaming engine. According to Jack DeVries, an associate editor over at IGN, Crytek has “developed Warface to use as low system reqs as possible. Anyone with at least a 2 Ghz processor and 1 GB of RAM should be able to war all the faces they can handle.”

Warface is a military shooter set in the near future. I know, sounds like every other military themed shooter that has come out within the past few years, however Warface is different. It is a strict multiplayer game that will feature your typical PvP (player vs. player) game modes such as deathmatch and bomb defuse scenarios, however what separates Warface from other shooters is its co-op play, or also known as PvE matches (player vs. environment). According to DeVries, “every day Crytek loads new missions to complete using the game’s random mission generation. All of the co-op missions feature moments where you have to use teamwork. If there’s a huge armored enemy blocking a bridge, chances are there’s a way for you to boost your partner over a ledge somewhere and sneak around behind him while the rest of the squad distracts the enemy.” This new co-op play is a refreshing take on the multiplayer experience, and with new missions being generated everyday the experience will never grow old.

Like Call of Duty, Warface will also feature their own system of perks and rewards. According to IGN’s PC executive editor Charles Onyett, “to enhance your performance, you’ll be able to equip special items like silent shoes that muffle your footsteps, boots that allow you to pass by claymore mines without triggering them, and other items lengthen sprint times.” Furthermore there will also be weapon customization and upgrades, which you can earn by completing the daily missions, and specific class sets such as soldiers and medics.

There is one final difference that separates Warface from other shooters, and if you didn’t catch on to it at the beginning of this article then I’ll reveal it now in clearer terms. Warface will be a completely free-to-play shooter. Yes, you read that correctly, I kid you not. Warface is supported by a free-to-play model and you can already reserve your screen name on the official website.

Already live in China and Russia and receiving critical acclaim, Warface is shaping up to be a very promising online shooter. With amazing next gen graphics and a free to play model in place, Warface looks to be a top contender in the realm of online shooters. I guess we will all know for sure when it is released in the states later this year.