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Friday
Oct152010

Assassin's Creed Brotherhood Multi-Player Hands-on

 

 

I finally got to spend some time with the Assassin's Creed Multi-player Beta courtesy of Sony and Playstation Plus.  I had put off installing the beta for a bit simply because Assassin's Creed isn't a franchise that I have particularly enjoyed (though, to be fair, I still haven't given part 2 a fair shake).  It also isn't really a franchise that seemed desperately in need of a multi-player component.  After a few hours with the beta, it is fair to say my expectations and hopes have changed a bit.  The slice of the game made available in the beta is pretty enjoyable, but certainly not perfect.  

The beta gives players access to two multi-player modes, Wanted and Alliance.  Wanted is basically deathmatch while Alliance is team deathmatch with 2-man teams.  Both modes allow players to earn experience points that go toward leveling-up and opening new items, maps, and perks.  I was glad to see the rewards system as both the Halo and Call of Duty franchises have shown that such features really add to the longevity of  A a game.

The game includes single-player tutorial that allows the player to become familiar with the basic game concepts and controls.  After one game of that, I jumped right into a match.  Gameplay is very much pick up and play, and I was comfortable with what I was trying to do from game one.  Players choose an Assassin and enter a virtual world.  Soon after spawning each player is assigned a target.  The goal is simply to kill your target while avoiding being killed by your pursuer.  Kill a civilian (an easy mistake since all the Assassin models are used repeatedly to form the crowds) or get killed and you have to wait for a new target to be assigned.  The game is played for a specific amount of time and the highest score wins.

Scoring is intuitive:  the less aware your victim is of your presence before the kill, the higher your score. This puts a premium on being as sneaky as possible and using the crowds and the level design to your advantage.  If you are too obvious and get outed by your target, a chase mode launches and you have a limited amount of time to catch and kill your prey before they a no longer your target.  The pursued can shut doors or place obstacles in the pursuers path in order to escape.  These chases are stressful from both sides though I suppose it is better to be the chaser than the chased.  Regardless, the chases are fun and being on the winning end of one is rewarding.

Graphically, the game is pretty.  The character models are a success both technically and aesthetically. The levels look great and are well-designed in relation to the game mechanics.  I really can't wait to see the maps that come with the full game as I can see different maps impacting the gameplay greatly. 

Assassin's Creed Brotherhood does a great job of keeping the player aware of the elements of the game state that are important.  The HUD includes a picture of your target, an arrow that indicates the direction the target is in with an additional indicator of his elevation in relation to the pursuer.  I never found myself at a loss for what to do, and it didn't take move from my initial fifth-place finish to a win in my third game.  

Most of my complaints about the Beta are simply limitations of the Beta itself, not the full game.  I'd like to see more levels, but obviously those are coming with the full release.  I'd like to see the different assassins be more than just different models with different animations and actually force the player to use the characters in different ways.  A game this small cries out for the variety that is introduced with the inclusion of asymmetric character abilities.  

In the end, there isn't much to complain about. The game is tight, focused and, often, very tense. Do I think Assassin's Creed Multi-player is going to be a smash hit?  Not really.  It is fun, and the gameplay is tight and focused in the way Splinter Cell or Gears of War had previously managed.  I'm just not sure the game offers enough variety in the end to draw players away from more dynamic multi-player franchises. I expect a couple of months of heavy play before the players return to Halo or Call of Duty.   

Friday
Oct012010

The Walking Dead Intro that AMC won't be able to match...

Is there any chance that the actual intro for The Walking Dead will be as cool as this one by animator Daniel Kanemoto?  I don't think so.  It uses actual drawings from the comic in a way that perfectly captures the tone of the series.  That, and it is simply beautiful.  Also, check out the creator's other work.  He is stupidly talented.  Great work, Mr. Kanemoto.

 

 

THE WALKING DEAD "Opening Titles" from Daniel Kanemoto on Vimeo.

 

Tuesday
Aug242010

Piranha 3D review on The Blackest Eyes

My review of Piranha 3D is up on The Blackest Eyes as a second opinion to Hallo's review.  All four of the main writers planned on doing a review of the film as an experiment, so there may be two more competing reviews to follow from Skot and Missy.  I really enjoyed the film, though I thought that some of the gratuitous nudity was over the top.  Click the quote below to go to the full review:

 

"The film removes the military angle and the local politics and basically avoids wasting screen time on anything that isn’t naked or being eaten. It’s a purity that I appreciate." 

Monday
Aug232010

Review Glory to Rome

Review

Glory to Rome

Cambridge Game Factory

Designed by Carl Chudyk

 

The Spin:  “The seriously strategic strategy card game”

The Story:  Players of Glory to Rome take on the roll of Patricians who are hoping to play a large role in the rebuilding of Rome after it has been burned down in the great fire of 64 A.D.  Through the course of the game, players recruit patrons, gather material, build infrastructure and increase their wealth and influence in order to come out on top. 

The Play:  The rules to Glory to Rome are not particularly complex.  There are a small number of options available each turn which are further limited by the cards the player has in hand.  Those cards, however, are complex in that each card can serve multiple functions according to what the player wants to do.  Assuming the player doesn’t simply pass in order to draw more cards, he or she can choose to play a card that represents one of the game’s six roles (patron, laborer, architect, craftsman, legionary, or merchant).  The other players, in turn, decide whether to follow the action (assuming they also have the matching role card) or pass and draw cards.  Then, starting with the lead player, each player takes the action associated with the role.  The starting player card is then passed to the left and the next round begins. 

My TakeGlory to Rome can be a hard game to wrap your mind around.  There are forty different buildings, many of which can interact in complex ways.  Once a player has a couple of buildings and a few clients in play, turns can be complex and confusing, especially for new players.  On top of the combinations, Glory to Rome features a number of different paths to victory.  It can be a lot to wrap your head around.  That said, the game is filled with interesting, meaningful choices.  Each game feels different.  In other games of this type, one broken (read: too powerful) card can ruin the game.  Glory to Rome has dozens of cards that can be broken when combined with another card.  Really, every card could likely be part of a three-card combo that would seem abusive.  Given this, the game isn’t for everyone.  For me, trying to find combos for the buildings is a blast.  I love winning by fielding some ridiculous combo, and, more importantly, I enjoy the game even when it is my opponent that puts the powerful combo into play.  If you like tactical games and don’t mind a bit of chaos, Glory to Rome is a must-own.  If, instead, you like your card games to be perfectly balanced, I’d play GtR before buying it.

Similar Games:  Glory to Rome will remind players of San Juan and Race for the Galaxy.  It has many more combinations that San Juan and is far more chaotic than Race.  Huge fans of either of those games should definitely check out Glory to Rome.

 

Score: 9/10

Nerdblogger Dan

Saturday
Jul032010

Ebert Backs Off a bit on the Video Games as art issue

Unlike other blogs, we didn't get all that upset at Roger Ebert and his "video games will never be considered art" post a while back.  Still, as we said at the time, history will likely prove Ebert wrong as it does nearly everyone who claims to have some sure vision of the future.  Because Ebert is a smart and thoughtful critic, he has published a bit of a mea culpa, basically saying that he doesn't know enough about the genre to be taking shots at it.  You can read the whole article here:

 

Ebert's Mea Culpa