Jan 182012

Today, Bioware announced that the Mass Effect 3 demo will be released on February 14th on the PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.  The demo promises 1-2 hours of single player content as well as access to two co-op levels.  The online  co-op portion will not open up until February 17th, unless you’re a BF3 customer, which then it will unlock immediately on the 14th.  Now you have the perfect excuse to completely ignore the sham of a holiday, Valentine’s day!

Don’t forget that EA is doing some cross-promotion of their two upcoming action RPGs through their demos.  Play the Kingdoms of Amalur:Reckoning  demo to unlock exclusive armor and a weapon in ME3 and play the ME3 demo to unlock “Omniblade daggers” in KoA:R.  The Kingdoms of Amalur demo is out now on Steam, Origin, XBL and PSN and is worth checking out if you’re looking for a game with an Elder Scrolls influence that focuses on action and combat.  That demo also offers a sizable chunk of gameplay, again in the 1-2 hour range.  2 pre-release demos that offer a significant length of gameplay that are both available on the PC?  That definitely bucks the trend over the past couple years.

Jan 162012

If you’ve been paying attention to the EA / Steam battle, you could have guessed that Mass Effect 3 wasn’t going to be on Steam, regardless of the fact that Mass Effect 1 and 2 are currently available.  If you were really in tune to the situation, you would have also guessed that Mass Effect 3 would require Origin to play on the PC.  Bioware has confirmed both facts over the weekend, explicitly stating that Origin will be required even if you buy a boxed copy and that it wouldn’t be available on Steam “at this time.”

While both of those things are true of BF3, and did cause some outrage, it didn’t seem to hurt the game’s sales or popularity online, and I suspect a similar outcome for Mass Effect 3.  Both games are high profile with a large following, and even though the Origin requirement will cause complaints, the number of players boycotting the game due to this alone will be low.

Origin still feels clunky even months after its wide scale debut with BF3, still calls itself a beta in its window title bar, and still shows me games that have permanently expired like the BF3 alpha and beta tests.  At this point, it’s added no value for me and only serves as EA’s latest attempt at always-on DRM that just so happens to come bundled with a game store and a friends list.  What’s your opinion of Origin after you’ve been using it (or not) for the past few months?

Bioware source.

Jan 032012

I’ve  already established that 2011 had lots of great games, more so than any recent year.  But being a gamer, there’s always something to complain about, and there was enough this year to keep my bitter and jaded attitude alive and well.

I wasn’t planning to just rattle off names of games that came out this year that were just terrible; that’d take too long.  Instead I want to go through games that I had at least some sort of expectation for that just fell well short of those goals.

Early in the year the indie/downloadable game, Breach, hit Steam and XBLA during a lull of quality releases and promised to have a fully destructible environment unlike anything we’ve seen before.  Of course this fell flat and the result was a bland, low budget shooter with a scattering of destructible assets and bad shooting mechanics.  Luckily, the low cost of under $15 at launch made me forget the pain quickly enough.

Also in the first quarter Crysis 2 hit the streets.  With a new focus on multiplayer, which felt like a hybrid of CoD and BF, Cyrsis 2 had potential to make a lasting impact in the multiplayer shooter scene.  Needless to say, that never happened mainly because of two reasons.  First off, the PC version was severely crippled and was the poster child for “consolization.”  From the splash screen that said “Press Start to Begin” to the complete lack of video settings beyond changing the resolution, Crytek did a complete 180 from the original Crysis, which was PC only.  The second nail in the coffin on the multiplayer side was the lack of anti-cheat measures which meant that you were almost guaranteed to join a server and see at least one, if not more, aimbots in play.  Botting seemed so prevalent that cheaters made no attempts to hide it — Crysis 2’s CoD-style kill cam made it painfully obvious, as you watch your killer snap off 4 to 5 headshots in a row from across the map in a 3 second span.  Pile on the fact the single player was average at best and it’s hard not to be supremely disappointed with Crysis 2.

While Crysis 2 had its issues, a game that topped it in the disappointment category was Brink.  Touted as the next coming in multiplayer shooters (even by our own Suibhne) and the pedigree that comes with Wolf:ET developer Splash Damage, it was hard to not get excited about this one.  Except it didn’t even come close to meeting those expectations.  The shooting was bland, the gameplay wasn’t very focused and the difference in classes and sizes didn’t add anything interesting to the game play.  The game also suffered from technical issues out of the box which hindered uptake online and caused many never to come back.  Then they pulled some shenanigans with the DLC in that it was only free for the first two weeks before they started charging for it.  Brink was clearly a game that had much potential that was never fulfilled.

Sticking with the multiplayer shooter disappointment theme, Red Orchestra 2 came out this fall.  While I don’t have any specific knock against RO2 and Tripwire Interactive will always be a favorite of mine, RO2 didn’t do anything especially exceptional either.  During an off year, RO2 might have risen to the top, but instead it just got lost in the mix.  Launching with some performance and technical issues, the gameplay didn’t quite do it for me as the original RO mod had grabbed me some 7 years ago (wow!).  I’m willing to give RO2 another shot down the road, but worry that the player base may have been thinned too much by then.  I’ll chalk it up to bad timing.  Maybe with a bit more polish and an early 2012 release, RO2 may have done much better.

Rounding out my disappointments for 2011, I call out Assassin’s Creed Revelations.  I’m going to give Ass Creed Rev an “incomplete” for this year because I simply haven’t had time to invest in the game, but given its first couple of hours of gameplay and the overall reception of the game, AssRev doesn’t match the outstanding level of AssBro (Assassins Creed Brotherhood).  A very slow start, high expectations and a tough competition has put AssRev back on the shelf for me.  I’ll check it out again in 2012 and see if Revelations can redeem itself, but I worry that the Ass Creed saga is starting to suffer from too much repetition and player fatigue, something the CoD series is becoming synonymous with.

That pretty much wraps up my take on the 2011 gaming lineup.  2012 should be interesting with some marquee titles coming out like Bioshock Infinite, Mass Effect 3, Diablo 3 (maybe) and some other potential hits like the sequel no one wanted, Prey 2.

Happy New Year!