Marvel Heroes (PC – 2013)

In Marvel Heroes, players take control of one of several starting characters (Punisher, Colossus, Captain America, Black Widow, Storm, Human Torch, Hawkeye…among others, with the roster changing all the time) and embark on a mission to stop the nefarious Doctor Doom from his plans to use the Cosmic Cube for his own evil purposes.

If you’ve ever played a game like Diablo II, then you’ve essentially already played Marvel Heroes. This game isn’t innovative, but it doesn’t really seek to be – which is somewhat of a shame due to the Marvel property being so popular right now. However, for the casual gamer, this game will be great fun.

I had originally planned on boycotting this game when I found out that there was no character creation system and instead, as a player, you’d pick a character like Spider-Man or Colossus (whom I am using at the moment) and would be running around on-screen with potentially dozens of other players using the same character as you. However, in reality, it often doesn’t play out that way. The reason for this is due to there being (at the moment) 20+ characters (somewhere around 28, I believe) – all of whom have multiple costumes and other custom appearance options available to the player to make their particular Colossus or Spider-Man or Thor stand out. So even if two or more characters are using Colossus, there’s a good chance that most of them will have individualized aesthetics. Still not as good as being able to create your own character, which is what Champions Online excels at (Note: Champions Online was originally supposed to be a Marvel game) and even DC Universe Online is pretty decent at.

As it is, Marvel Heroes, despite not being innovative and despite being somewhat repetitive (as games in this genre sometimes are) is a decent action MMORPG. It’s best to play with friends for the fun factor, but there isn’t a large difficulty curve and it’s FREE (you can still pay for characters and costumes with real-life money but it’s not necessary to play the full version of the game – you can still buy characters and costumes with in-game currency that you earn, but it takes a long time), meaning that it’s not a huge investment and you’re likely to get at least some enjoyment out of it and the best thing about it is, well…it’s FREE. The only real thing that kept me from giving this four stars is the fact that you can’t pick any hero to begin with, and you can’t create your own hero.

Check it out, team up with your favorite characters and whup some bad-guy arse. The developers are constantly adding new characters to the mix, so gameplay isn’t likely to get too stale anytime soon.

JOE Rating: ★★★

The Last of Us (PS3 – 2013)

The Last of Us (PS3 - 2013)

It’s twenty years after a zombie-like pandemic broke out across the globe. As Joel, a survivor living in a Boston-area quarantine camp, you have experienced the loss of everything you know and loved in your past life. As a survivor, you’re in a constant struggle for resources and when your dealings land you with an opportunity to smuggle a young girl, who may have the key within her to saving humanity to a band of freedom fighters calling themselves the Fireflies,  you find yourself in a dangerous and intense quest across the continent as you evade roving bands of human scavengers intent on murdering you and taking your possessions and also evading the clickers….humans who’ve been infected with the spores that have turned them into zombie-like creatures which use sonar to hunt their prey.

The opening of this game packs a punch like no other I’ve seen in recent memory. The writing is superb, the graphics are great, the gameplay is seamless most of the time and moves back and forth between gameplay and cutscenes effortlessly.

The enemies are cunning and terrifying. Not since I originally played Fatal Frame or Silent Hill have I been this unsettled within the atmosphere of a video game.

Play this, play this, play this. It’s like The Road mixed with Resident Evil.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Diablo III (PS3 – 2013)

Diablo III (PS3 - 2013)

On Sanctuary, a fantasy world constantly under attack and being saved by heroes in previous incarnations of the Diablo franchise, you must set out either by yourself or with friends to stop the advancing shadow of the demonic hordes. With the help of magical items and powerful allies, you will trek across the continent and lay waste to the evil armies of the Burning Hells…and get rich doing so.

Listen.

I have loved Diablo for years. I straight out REFUSED to play Diablo III when it came to PC because it a.) didn’t FEEL like Diablo to me – instead seeming almost like an auction-house simulator, with micro-transactions ruling the day and the gameplay, throwing everything off balance and b.) it required you to be online EVEN TO PLAY BY YOURSELF.

Once I found out they’d gotten rid of the auction house and the online-only requirement, I was sold on at least trying it, and let me tell you – I’m not super-disappointed.

There are plenty of classes to choose from like Barbarian, Monk, Wizard, Witch Doctor and Demon Hunter (with optional male/female with different looks for each) and though most of the time you’ll be mindlessly slogging along through impossible-looking mobs of enemies there is a slight amount of strategy involved in most situations, especially when it comes to combo attacks with your friends.

Still, with other games like The Last of Us and Grand Theft Auto V out there which offer lots in the way of story and immersive gameplay, this game can seem tame in comparison (although those are completely different kinds of games) although the animations and the graphics are sort of flashy and colorful and reminiscent of World of Warcraft.

This console port exceeded my expectations by far and I’ve been able to play alongside my friends on the same console, which to me is the main draw. Online-only isn’t always the best option, so I’m really glad they decided to get rid of that feature. If you’ve played the PC version, you might hate it but maybe you should give the console version a chance. It seems to have been made more with the consoles in mind than with the PC. And if you’re like me and you didn’t want to touch this game with a ten-foot pole, try it out. It might surprise you.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Grand Theft Auto V (PS3 – 2013)

Grand Theft Auto V (PS3 - 2013)

Los Santos: A city that never sleeps, filled with botox, gangbangers and money. Lots and lots of money. As either Michael (A former wise-guy-turned informant), Franklin (A hustler looking to make some fat stacks and a better life) or Trevor (a violent psychopath with a meandering scale of justice and morality), you find yourself thrust into the biggest heists of your careers which could make or break you, depending on the roads you take.

Having played all the previous incarnations of the GTA series (Vice City being my favorite and San Andreas being my least favorite) I was pretty excited about playing this and bought it a day or two after it came out.

The story mode is great. A lot of missions are gun-n-run, but that was obviously expected. The graphics definitely got an overhaul, most noticeably with some of the environmental stuff. (Check out videos of the water graphics if you haven’t played the game yet).

The police seem to swarm faster and angrier in V than they did in previous incarnations – sometimes I find myself in a harrowing flight from death by trigger-happy police for the most minor infractions while they burst through parked vehicles with their armored vans and fire willy-nilly into the crowds trying to murder me in cold blood.

As in previous GTA games, there are a ton of mini-games. I haven’t tried them all out yet, but they are all kind of nifty to try at least once from what I’ve seen. As Michael, I played tennis with my wife for a good half hour of real time and it was fun. One of the most controversial mini-games, of course, is when you’re at the strip club and you’re trying to touch the strippers giving you a private lap dance without getting kicked out of the club. (FYI – might not want to play this particular mini-game in front of sensitive folks or children because the strippers are topless and it’s a first-person strip-club experience. Yup….big ol’ digital boobies on your massive flat-screen television. If your grandmother didn’t think your life was fail before, she will now).

GTA V Online launched already, of course, and it has been riddled with lots and lots of problems. At first, I just couldn’t get on and then after that, I could get on but my character wouldn’t save and I couldn’t rob stores or do missions so those of us on the map just ran around killing each other with sheer boredom. After that, they finally got the game at least somewhat functioning so now I can join missions and complete robberies, but the kinks aren’t all worked out yet and there are still griefers out there so watch yourself if you go on. I had a whole squad of them following me around, trying to kill me for at least an hour.

Without even taking GTA: Online into consideration, I’d give the game the score below. They packed so much into the game that it will honestly give you hours and hours of enjoyment. The sheer amount of variety earns this game a five star from moi, despite its faults, which are minor against the entirety of the game experience. Add to that the extra depth of the online mode once they get the kinks out, and it’s just a mind-numbing amount of time one could spend playing it.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Assassin’s Creed III (2012 – PS3)

Assassin's Creed III (2012 - PS3)

Release Date: October 30, 2012
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft

In Assassin’s Creed III, players assume the role of Connor Kenway, a Native American brought up in hard times and trained to be an assassin during the 1700’s. Throughout the game, you will experience historical battles such as the Battle of Breed’s (Bunker) Hill and the Battle of North Bridge where the shot heard ’round the world occurred in Concord, Mass. You will also experience other historical events such as the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party and Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride.

You will be able to enjoy roaming historically and visually accurate (for the most part) portrayals of Boston, New York, Concord and Lexington. (Though, I couldn’t find The Old Manse while I was near the Old North Bridge, in the game).

Despite a lot of historical things, the game also, of course, is historical fiction and they take liberties (ha, no pun intended) with some of the events in order to facilitate their own sci-fi-themed storyline…which also takes place simultaneously in a near-future where you are a modern day assassin looking back via the Animus. (A device which makes this sort of “time travel” possible)

The game is immensely fun and I really enjoy traipsing over the rooftops of Boston, seeing as I know the area fairly well. The time period is also not done very much in games nowadays, and so it’s nice to see a playable, non-boring representation of combat from that era. (Can we maybe do one during Civil War times, PLEASE?!)

The multiplayer modes are super-fun as well, but a lot of the novelty is lost on many folks who just want to run around and avoid the challenge of trying to blend in with the crowd. This doesn’t happen in every game, but it happened in enough of the matches that it sort of made me move onto other multiplayer gaming options, though I still re-play the hell out of the story.

The best part of the game, in my opinion, are the naval battles you can take part in with your ship (once you complete the missions to get it). It’s really well-done and very fun.

There haven’t been a ton of glitches, (at least, I hear, compared to the Wii U version) but I did run into a cart that was half in the ground (vertically) so the driver was facing the sky, but with no horses.

If you liked the previous Assassin’s Creed games, you’ll like this too…and you’ll especially like it if you’re a history buff, or have been to Boston. It’s really fun to be able to walk around the Freedom Trail in-game.

Check it out!

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Game Trailer For Assassin’s Creed III

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Smash-Up (2009 – Wii)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Smash-Up (2009)

Release Date: September 22, 2009
Developer: Game Arts
Publisher: Ubisoft

In this game, you can take control of any of the TMNT foursome (Leonardo, Donatello, Michaelangelo or Raphael) or some of their allies (April or Casey Jones). In story mode, Splinter decides to have a tournament with the winner being able to pick something from his private treasure stash. As you move ahead in the tournament, however, Shredder (as usual) shows up to put a damper on things.

This game essentially ends up being a Smash Brothers knock-off. While it’s fun to play it, you begin to just start wishing you were playing Smash Brothers instead.

There isn’t a ton of variety in the move sets and when I used different characters, I didn’t really get a feel that any of them were terribly different other than aesthetics.

The cut scenes aren’t even animated, which they could have definitely done more with. It was a perfect opportunity to tie it in to the TMNT movie with the same artwork style. (I have the review for that movie here if you want to read it)

The levels don’t seem to have a lot of punch other than the interactive environments that hurt your characters, and that was a neat addition.

Overall, the game was okay but it wasn’t good enough to be better than Smash Brothers or different enough to make me want to play it instead.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Game Trailer For Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Smash-Up

 

DC Universe Online (2011- PS3)

DC Universe Online (2011)

Original Release Date: January 11, 2011
Developer: Sony Online Entertainment
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment and WB Games

As far as the storyline goes, you begin the game by watching a really cool cinematic battle between the Justice League and a bunch of DC villains. The heroes are all killed in the battle, even Superman, with the Joker and Lex Luthor still standing. Then, Brainiac shows up with an army of metahumans he’s created by “downloading” the powers of the DC heroes and villains for years. Lex Luthor can do nothing but watch. So, Lex travels through time and warns the heroes about Brainiac and also releases stolen exobytes (nano-sized mechanisms that attach to humans and give them superpowers) into the atmosphere, creating thousands of metahumans which will be able to help in the fight against Brainiac once they are trained by either the Justice League (With mentors being Superman, Wonder Woman or Batman) or the DC villains (With mentors being Lex Luthor, Circe and Joker).

The character you create is one of those new superheroes, just learning how to use their powers.

Jim Lee is at the helm of the game (awesome) so the art and production is pretty amazing. Geoff Johns does the principal writing, so the story is decent as well.

I played through the entire game with my own character, Captain Kinesis, and reached the level cap. (30, currently) It didn’t take me too long and I didn’t have to pay to play, although I ended up subscribing so I could make more characters. (You only get two slots, initially, unless you pay…which is $15 a month) Captain Kinesis is a mental-based superhero who can fly, use telekinesis to lift buses and cars into the air to throw at villains, and he has super-strength….pummeling the bad guys with his fists. There are tons of power combinations for characters. (I also have another character, an anthropomorphic fox named Permafox who has super-speed and ice-based powers and uses a shield like Captain America)

I found no real down sides about the game aside from character creation problems (more on that below). It was consistently fun, the graphics and art were great and the PVP modes were always fun (and you could play as major DC characters like Superman or Batman).

One drawback, though, was actually in the character creation mode. When you try to name your character, more often than not you’ll get a message that says “Already taken, please try again” or something to that effect. HOWEVER, they don’t give you any other options and there is no way to tell what’s already been taken unless you try. Sometimes, I would sit for a half hour or more, trying various names (I refused to name the character the same way I would name a screen name in a chat room…”SuperDude23″) I don’t consider myself not creative and I imagine if they had a way to list available variations or have a list with names already taken once you try to type it in, that it would be a lot faster.

Most of the fun in this game and in others like it is creating your own superhero and seeing them interact with a comic book universe that you’ve grown to love. I’m way more of a Marvel guy than a DC guy, but I can still appreciate Metropolis and Gotham. There is plenty of that as you travel through those cities, mostly, and you fight crime alongside other new heroes or even alongside seasoned, canon characters.

The other downside was the download time for the actual game. I think it took more than four hours, and that was consistent with other folks I knew of who downloaded it. Make sure to leave yourself some time for that.

Since it’s free to play, you should give it a try! Especially if you have played and liked games such as Champions Online or City of Heroes/City of Villains or Marvel Heroes – You won’t be disappointed.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Game Trailer For DC Universe Online