Review: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim | PC

Skyrim is here, most of you already know that and are fighting your way through endless quests and missions. For those of you who have not ventured into the latest offering for The Elder Scrolls we have our review on the PC for everyone. Here are some details to help things along though. With the 1.2 patch out I do find it fair to note what I started on for the review so that any issues mentioned might fixed in later patches.

Version Reviewed: 1.0 + 1.1 patch (1.2 patch just arrived today)
Drivers: Catalyst 11.11a (11.11b came out today to help with Skyrim Ambient Occlusion)
Modifications: None

Suggested mods: – Skyrim just got a bit better – Graphic mod mania!

Hardware:
AMD Phenom 9750
ATI HD 4850 512 (710/1100)
4GB Crucial DDR2 800
Samsung 1920×1200 LCD 16:10

With that said’ lets roll into the review and see how the latest installment of The Elder Scrolls can deliver.

Story:

The Elder Scrolls has always been about story, telling new legends with each installment and consuming a lifetime the player in the process. Skyrim is an evolution on that idea, making the entire world more involved and attempting to place stories within the world so that it never ends. The primary quest revolves around dragons invading Skyrim, they’ve been gone for ages and have faded into the pages of history but a drastic change has come and the world is on the brink of chaos again.  You take on the role of the Dragonborn, a legendary figure granted divine power by Akatosh to level the field between the dragons and the humans so that order and balance can exist. It sounds like a hardcore story full of rugged adventure, mystic finds and amazing battles right? Well it is and as you step in, you only sink further and further into each mini story that appears.

If dragons, the end of the world and being a mystic warrior were not enough, you get the added perk of being on the verge of a complete civil war between the Empire and the Nords with the Thalmor eagerly watching in the darkness to strike for control of Skyrim. The last of that bunch, the Thalmor will probably be the most frustrating bunch to meet throughout the game, the arrogance and attitude just grind away as unrest fills the air. Players must pick a path during the story that allows them to side with one faction or simply fade into the pages without directly impacting either side, stack in the issue that both sides have their own downsides and it becomes a mess for any player to decide where their loyalty rests. Of course there’s also another option of being a complete demon and bringing death down upon everyone and having absurdly high bounties wherever you go, it isn’t exactly a quest though, more like something you do on a separate save file.

While Oblivion could eventually be completed to some level, Skyrim is the opposite, with dynamic stories and involvement that keep players adventuring for months or even years through expansion content from the users and Bethesda. Everything takes time in the game and only those in a rush will be able to finish the primary aspects of the game anytime soon. Want to pursue a skill? That’ll take a while, not just because of money, time and leveling but also due to the size of Skyrim, it’s huge and they make no effort to hide that fact. As a result it takes forever to cross from a fast-travel point to a new location, if you’re anti-fast travel it’ll take you even longer to get there as you battle through enemies, sleep, recover, take on more side quests and whatever else pops up. For many it’s a what they’ve hoped to get all along, tasking in the game actually feels like a task instead of just going A to B and being done with it.

If you’re a bit crazy and only out there to do just the main quest it will still set you back in time invested, you need to train like crazy and fight and learn the shouts so that you’re competitive against the dragons.

Gameplay:

How deep do you want to go is the question you need to ask yourself, Skyrim essentially allows you to go get as involved in the world as you feel comfortable and to remove yourself just as fast. An example of this is while running around doing quests and pushing on, I realized I needed a place to store my goods outside of an inn for the day or the mages guild. In Oblivion you do have limited chances to purchase homes, depending on where you frequent you might want to live in a specific area though, in these cases you need to earn the trust of the city and do some good deeds questing for the citizens, these stack up on your time and often distract you from the main quest as more mini-quests pop up. Stack in developing your house after you buy it and there’s an entire mess to the madness, I had to pull back for the sake of the review to stop from buying other houses or nothing would get done.

The changes go beyond just the story and quests though, instead of simply walking into shops with a wad of cash or finding the biggest guy to beat the life out of, Skyrim really makes you work for the weapons you want. On top of that, if you want to really make use of the game you need to learn the art of mining for ore as the new smithing skill revolves around it for weapon and item creation. How strong your armor and weapons are is up to you and finding ores without any mods is a bit of a pain given how dense the landscape is this time around and how limited some ores are to make bars from. Add in the need to work through multiple guilds to properly level up your gear and training and the game gets a bit more complex.

Speaking of training, hoping to break into the mages guild and just rock the world? You’ll need to figure out how to get there first after you break out of your shackles and avoid death by dragon fire. Unfortunately there are a lot of bandits, a ton of animals and general difficulties getting out into the mountains and into the right cities. Leveling up to make the trek would be a good idea, keep in mind you’ll need to beef up against the intense cold in the area as well, so many zones are full of blizzards and ice that it’s difficult to survive. It’s not impossible and the benefits are plenty once you get there, you can develop key defensive spells and combinations through research and training to fight dragons, factions and anything else that gets in your way.

Presentation:

Graphically, Skyrim looks amazing out of the box. The time it takes to paint in and organize and arrange every little facet of t he world, the wisps of snow and ice over mountain edges, the glow of the night in each city and the arrangements of grass and brush throughout the world just lifts it into another level. Even with countless mods to Oblivion, it doesn’t compare to the base engine and design quality of the game.  The water, the trees, everything just shines with quality to provide a great modern experience. Higher poly models, higher resolution textures and a new experience are difficult to top and the community has already reacted to support the game with 2K (2048×2048) texture mods, improved water, optimized shaders and more. Any details Bethesda missed are already being addressed with HQ packs from the community to make the game shine and they’re free as well.

Character creation is back of course, enabling male or female races with an improved UI to handle the shape and look of your character, instead of a flood of sliders they’ve taken time to slap everything into clean categories and control the extremes the slider can go to. As a result you can get some very interesting characters to develop and even mimic some real-life actors or figures if you wish. The hair would be the biggest drawback at this point simply because it’s extremely… uhm, messy. Short of that, they really nailed the options for character development and the ability to really personalize a character without having to make them alien or freakish.

The audio department is no slouch in Skyrim, beautiful orchestrations flow throughout the world, calm songs playing as you make your way through the game giving a cinematic feel. As you meet enemies or animals you get a twist with some extra energy and a faster pace, as you fight dragons it gets more intensity and drama to the sound. Part of the immersion that comes from the game is based just around the attention to detail in the audio, walking the mountain paths in the storms hearing the blizzards whip around from side to side. It’s a unique experience and they worked hard to tailor it as best they could for the gamer. I do suggest trying to experience the audio in more than a 2.0 or 2.1 configuration. I was using a 4.1 setup with everything positioned properly and the audio shined, allowing for positional audio to work at full potential and environmental effects to circulate while walking around.

Control:

Some may feel compelled to use a game controller to play Skyrim on the PC but it’s really not required, the keyboard commands are simple and the positions have gone under great consideration so that the hand remains stationary during gameplay. Casting shouts is a simple swipe of the pinky, interaction, drawing or hiding your weapon is a swipe of the index and middle fingers, it’s all in one place and the mouse is harnessed to allow for additional actions as well. The response and flow are great, the only issue one might have is if they wiggle or bump their mouse during a conversation, suddenly the camera will track off quickly and take seemingly forever to position back over the person you’re talking too. Locking the mouse when you need it to interact with dialogue sequences would be a bit much though and even the camera needs to shift when sequences come up with multiple AI.

Bugs:

Bugs are present in the PC build for sure, the most notable in the play-through came from Esbern, his vocal files were glitching and as a result it was a guessing game getting things going again. Meeting him at the door provided endless headaches of reloading and shaking the door handle over and over. Eventually I downloaded a vocal pack to install directly into the data directory that got things back on track. If you keep going that way you’ll hit issues with him during multiple points of the game as he’s part of the main story line. How this ended up as an issue I don’t know, it is frustrating and logs online show that it ruins game play if you’re unlucky enough to be sacked with it. Other glitches include instances where the engine isn’t able to initiate parts of the story properly, during a flashback I sat for 10 minutes waiting for the rest of the sequence to finish, after loading it again it played through within minutes. With such a large amount of data processing at once in the engine it’s easy to understand hiccups but they’re still a point where the user breaks out of the groove.

Conclusion:

Is Skyrim everything I hoped it would be? Yes. Is it something Elder Scrolls fans will no doubt enjoy and mod the life out of for years to come? Yes. There’s so much they did right that it’s easy to ignore the Esbern moments or the cinematic glitches because you get so into the game and the story and the mentality of the character that it’s a small sacrifice for the reward that you get. The story and quests have a deep involvement that drag players in even if they think they can resist it, plan to go lone wolf? Too bad, you’ll need a house eventually and then some furniture and then a collection of something to showcase in there, on top of that you’ll need to make nice with the community in the city and by then it’ll be too late. Expect to lose hours of work, school, social time and family time to Skyrim, it’s extremely good and even though I powered through to some extent I know I’ll most likely start it all over just to take my time section by section because the story is that good.  Sometimes having regrets about not helping find that missing loved one or the precious artifact lost. About not taking time to clear up some of the corruption in sections of the world when I could have, rushing for a review does have some down sides but it is critical to experience that core story in the game even if after that it’s just a footnote in a larger situation between the Empire and the Nords.

Many RPG’s have come out this year but Skyrim just presents it with a unique touch that is hard to resist, the formula is so honed and simple and the experience is always enjoyable. Pick it up for your winter break this year and you’ll have plenty to keep you busy through the new year. If you’re coming from Oblivion, think of that as a vacation, you see the sights you try the customs and you have a good time, when you come to Skyrim, you move in you live it in every single step.

Gameplay:★★★★★★★★★★ 
Story:★★★★★★★★★½ 
Features:★★★★★★★★★★ 
Visuals:★★★★★★★★★☆ 
Overall:★★★★★★★★★½ 

Overall: 9.5/10

NZXT launches HALE82 PSU line

NZXT is busy this week, just after the HAVIK we have news about the HALE82 line going live for consumers.

The power supply / PSU is the one part of your system you never want to go cheap on, as of late many will notice their brands have jumped in cost without understanding why. Part of that is meeting various levels of 80+ certification, basically ensuring that your power supply is efficient in power production based on a standard criteria. In this case the HALE 82 line is 82% efficient at 20% load,  85% efficient at 50% load and 82% efficient again at 100% load. For consumers this means they’re getting a solid idea of potential power from their power supply.

The HALE82 comes in 3 varieties:

Top off that introduction with a new exchange policy
NZXT is also introducing a very unique Less Than Three PSU service program. US and Canadian customers are entitled to NZXT’s industry-leading risk-free guarantee.  Should your PSU be defective, simply send it back with a prepaid return label and NZXT will send you a fresh replacement direct to your door step.
All models come with flat modular cables for easy stealth cable running and ease of management, for those that don’t know the perks of modular cables, you simply attach only the cables you need. You can leave the rest in a safe drawer or in the box until they’re needed, it’s pretty awesome actually. Flat cables are better for airflow and cable running, they’re easier to bind up and hide away when you’re trying to keep your case nice and sleek-looking inside. If you have a windowed side panel this is extra helpful actually as everyone will see where you tucked your spare cables away and it might become somewhat embarrassing.
If you’re looking for something outside of a black, you’ll need to step up to the HALE90 to get their white PSU’s, if you’re a white Phantom owner you’ll really want to look into one of those just for looks. Check out a ton of shots from the HALE82 line below in our gallery to get a better sense of things.

Skyrim just got a bit better – Graphic mod mania!

So you’re on a PC, you’re running Skyrim and loving it like mad and… you’re a bit frustrated at some of the visuals in the game. If you have a strong video card you’re not in trouble. The following tweaks will get you insane visuals without a lot of stress but you will take a performance hit if you’re on a lesser system.

Recommended Video Cards:

NVIDIA: 8800GTX,9800GTX,260,280.295,460,470,480,550,560,570,580,590

ATI: 3850/70, 4830/50/70/90, 5770, 5830/50/70, 5970, 6770/90, 6850/70, 6950/70/90

Why the crazy suggestions? Lots of power and lots of memory are a must, 256mb variants and cards not able to keep up with the instructions may fall to the wayside. Even Oblivion mods took the game to levels where the CPU and GPU fell under the demand. With that said let’s get going.

Skyrim HD – 2K Textures

Loving the look of Skyrim but tired of the dull textures tending to slow things down? Love how things look great from a distance but have you cringe up close? If so, this is a must have starter pack to show some results. The mod updates your existing image files to higher resolution textures and gives Skyrim a huge injection of awesome in the process. This is still in progress so keep checking in for new additions to areas that might be on the to-do list though.

 

No More Blocky Faces

You run into people alllll the time in Skyrim, sometimes their faces just seem a bit… off. This mod fixes nearly all areas of the face so they look less choppy, smooth noses, faces, chins and etc are all there. Xenius the creator notes that eyes and brows are the only thing left on the list to wrap up, the rest of the features show immediate improvements and should make talking to someone or slashing them in the face just that extra bit more pleasant. Personally I didn’t notice the issue until after I saw this mod, then it started appearing quite often.

 

Detailed Faces v2

Xenius seems quite busy, detailed faces accomplishes what Bethesda had to hold back on,  the character textures step up in resolution and allow for tighter lines and finer details. No longer are skin pores huge and cracks dangerously large, combine this with the blocky face mod and things take a huge step up, even on the big uglies that run around Skyrim. It’s a basic tweak but again, you’re always running into people or they’re tracking you down to find their brothers, uncles, cousins, nephews, aunts, sisters penguin.

 

STEP – Skyrim Total Enhancement Project

Sometimes it seems a bit insane to keep up with all this, for casual players and less tech savvy users, the STEP mod is going strong and it’s looking great. It packs in all the base tweaks, textures and items you need for an overhaul of Skyrim without the need to constantly check for mod updates on everything you’re running. I would recommend this for hardcore users or casual ones as it’s a great base to work from and you can only improve after that. Also for casual users the author promises to update the files and mods within the STEP file until the release of TES6 so you’re good for the next 5 years or so haha.

 

Skyrim Enhanced Shaders

The shaders in Skyrim seem to do the job fine, although when you see things like the Enhanced Shader mod you realize there are some off moments that you might overlook from the pure action going on. Dragon fire in the night blazing through the sky and everything failing to react to the red-orange glow bellowing out is just one of those issues. Add it in and get immediate results to clear those areas you might start picking away at now that I’ve said this.

Changes include Adaptive Bloom, Enhanced HDR and HLSL sharpening to help boost the visuals even more. Skyrim does the  job with their HDR actually but the color palette could use some work as shown to the right.

 

 

 

 

Glowing Ore Veins

Doing the little things is a pain in Skyrim, as a last note in this post I’ll throw in Glowing Ore Veins, some sections of the game including the caves just get unbelievably dark and hard to ID ores and other items within. This takes off some of the stress but if you’re going for hardcore realism then it would be best to avoid this one.

Ores are identified by glow so you wont mine a single color and just hope it’s the one you need with no way to remember. The latest update turns Iron from purple to a reddish-orange as well.

Big thanks to the folks at Skyrim Nexus for bringing together a strong mod community. We’ll have more posts in the future highlighting other mods as everyone gets a bit more time.

The NZXT HAVIK 120 arrives

That is a lot of capital letters, the NZXT HAVIK 120 is here though and aiming to fit into some extra markets out there, with a smaller profile design and smaller fans it aims to tackle areas that they couldn’t reach with the 140 series. As someone who has an Antec Skeleton in their lineup I can say that sometimes you really do need something a little lower profile. Even my NZXT Phantom requires a bit of extra space due to the 250mm Antec fan mounted to the side panel opening. Coolers like the V10 and such tend to a little too tall for that setup.

NZXT uses their long-life 13 blade 120mm fan in push-pull configuration to cool the nickel-plated copper beast down at a steady 75cfm, the 8mm heatpipes cool and pump heat out of the socket base to keep things regulated and efficient. Overall it’s sleek and the nickel has a great finish to it. Given my impressions from the Phantom review I can only hold high hopes for this latest release. If we get lucky and catch a review of it I’ll go through the full details of the cooler and how it stacks up. In the meantime just check out the specs listed from NZXT and a nice gallery about the HAVIK 120.

MODEL HAVIK 120
MATERIALS Aluminum / Copper Nickel-Plated
DIMENSIONS 125(W) x 160(H) x 112(D) mm
125(W) x 160(H) x 58(D) mm (heatsink)
WEIGHT 680g (excluding fans and mounting kit)
980g (with dual 120mm fans)
MOUNTING PRESSURE
55-60 lbs
FAN SIZE Dual 120(W) x 140(H) x 25(D) mm
FAN BEARING Long Life (Oil-Leaking Prevention)
FAN SPEED 1200 +/- 10% RPM (low); 1500 +/- 10% RPM (high)
NOISE LEVEL 18-22 dBA
AIR FLOW 61.5-75.8 CFM
CONNECTOR 3-Pin
Y-SPLIT CABLE White connector for low speed; black connector for high speed
INPUT POWER 3.6 W
LIFE 30,000 Hours
COMPATIBILITY Intel Socket: 2011, 1366, 1155, 1156, 775 CPUs
AMD Socket: AM3, AM2+, AM2 CPUs

Review: The King of Fighters XIII | Xbox 360

The latest battle in the King of Fighters is here, join the legendary teams as they battle it out once more across the world.  At least that’s the idea with any new game in the series but for KOF XII it wasn’t the case, instead we saw a complete overhaul of the game, all the animations redrawn by SNK and a largely unpolished title. For fans of the series it brought a bit of doubt into the future of the game, missing moves, missing specials and a UI that was a bit more futuristic than anticipated made it even stranger than usual.

Fortunately SNK has listened to the worries of King of Fighters fans and in XIII brings so many improvements it’s almost a bit crazy, I’ll go through them in sections to keep the clutter to a minimum.

Characters:

XII featured 22 standard characters in arcade mode, many classic teams were missing or incomplete, a bit of a pain when you have a series where people have developed a flood of favorites to use. To make matters worse, SNK nerfed moves and specials from these characters in the game, even if it was a matter of time I think fans would have been happier with the game delayed and complete, instead we were halfway there and struggling. In XIII we have 31 characters playable + 2 unlockable which is a solid expansion, not only have many (not all) moves returned but they’ve upped the ante by bringing in new specials and improved EX specials.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a wish list of characters to return, hopefully we can have a dream match version coming soon that brings back characters like K’9999, Yamazaki, Blue Mary, Angel, the other members of Korea Team and more.  For what there is, it’s amazing though, the hand drawn quality of each character is extremely fluid, you can see the flow of each move, each shadow and each shift in their attire. SNK has invested so much time in art for the game that it’s an amazing reward to those who played from the early days. Even if they could swing another 11 characters it would bring it close to the roster seen in KOF 2002 and it would allow a ton of versatility for the future.

There are some character boosts as well given the time elapsed since the last game in the story, watch out for improved ability from Joe, Andy, Kyo, King, Robert, Yuri, Kim and more. Not everyone gets a boost, Iori takes a huge hit without his Orochi power. Other characters do have changed styles but not necessarily weaker or stronger changes to their array of attacks though. Vice feels like one of these by taking a more conservative approach to her fighting poses and style, no longer slippery or vulgar she’s a tighter frame fighter.

Gameplay:

Hyper drive mode may have gamers scratching their heads, think X-Factor from the MVC3 series, it’s not as severe but it boosts last chance options for survival as speed, attack and defense are all raised temporarily. Combine this with Desperation moves, Specials or EX moves and things get really sketchy as new chain attacks bring extreme devastation from any character. It’s not as cheap to use for pure damage increases but it certainly spices up any fight and helps so very much in the boss fights.

For those unsure about Desperation Moves, they’re now charged regular moves using your special attack gauge instead of specialty attacks, because of the damage and extra strikes you can actually chain these moves into EX specials, specials or just regular combination attacks. Timed right, these crucial strikes can change the tide of a battle for any player. When tied in with Hyper drive and a critical combo these can reach 40+ strikes for a single attack victory when luck is on the player’s side. Desperation attacks are now a twist on a classic feature but the expansion allows for versatility in battle that wasn’t seen before.

For the most part, the KOF formula has not had much change, HD attacks and Desperation do add variety but they’re not always needed. You do have guard cancels and the classic roll ability to get you out of a fireball showdown or even a super showdown in some cases but the basics are there and unchanged. EX and Neomax specials are there for use but they do make you work for them, instead of just making it a repeat direction they do add some variety to keep it from being pure controller spam luck.

Bosses:

There are bosses in this game, yes I know a single boss usually cuts it for KOF but we’re not that fortunate this time around, in fact I think gamers may have royally enraged the gods of KOF at the SNK studio. Saiki is the first boss, harnessing Orochi power to become a demon god on Earth, given that everything has become ashes once he powers up, it’s not a good sign for how the match will go along at all… Keeping short distance out of arms length is a key step, if you end up on the other side of the screen you’ll just beg for abuse from him, if you engage him in close combat you might as well wait for the continue screen to appear. Kim Kaphwan and Yuri shine well in these fights with a range of air and ground dash attacks that are often too quick or short for him to catch you mid-attack. Ash, Kyo and K’ also do well to chip away at Saiki’s life gauge when being careful.

The second boss is a spoiler so quickly jump ahead if you don’t want to know about it…

Have you jumped yet? Go ahead.

Okay so Saiki is out of the picture, your team is victorious and order is back in the world. Well, almost, Ash decides that at this point of vulnerability it’s time to step in and collect a bit more Orochi flame, his actions lead to Dark Ash. A Saiki/Ash hybrid supercharged as Ash already has 2 of the treasures collected (Kyo is the only one running free). This Ash is different in the sense that he’s a wild form or Orochi form and spams attacks like no tomorrow, fireball spam, upper cuts and really annoying teleport attacks all fall on the table. To stop him, you need to juggle him, keep him busy with short burst combinations and don’t aim for chain special attacks as it will most likely fail. If you give him too much room, you’ll spend your entire life gauge trying to get face to face again.

Anyone can really chip away at this Ash or beat him outright, just enduring and knowing when to roll and use the HD and Desperation attacks is critical to success.

Story:

While there is a wider story that closes out or seems to close out this arc with Ash, the personalized stories between characters feel like the real draw this time around. In the past you had a series of one liners or cheap comments from characters. This time there’s a sense of personality with everyone and they’re all unique between each character. SNK actually invested a bit of time on something that seems small but rewards greatly, the interactions between Robert and Andy are a great example of it, or even Andy and Kyo. A light-hearted exchange between characters is really enjoyable before you slug it out to see who will go forward, also it reveals a little history about what each character has done since the last bout.

For those hoping to have a bit more explained finally, play the story mode featured in the game, it’s pretty amazing driving your way through each team and watch their fate unfold in the game, it’s a bit different from the regular arcade story line and it forces you to stick to the hard teams instead of picking your own group. There are a ton of spoilers in there but overall I find it one of the most interesting areas of the game. Also you can flash back and watch special movie sequences as rewards for completion.

Presentation:

The visuals in the game are amazing, each character flows so well in design and form that it’s hard to imagine going back to anything else. The backgrounds carry the same appeal and often use teasers like the giant Mr. Karate mask in the background of one stage, other times you’re left to guess some background choices such as a battlefield behind you between two vague characters. Either way the look and execution are amazing, only those from possibly Blazblue could hold up to them for resolution but even then they would fall short in the execution and treatment of attire and fluidity.

For those who feel that adding 9 alternate costumes isn’t enough, you have a custom character option as well to color and style your favorites with a large variety of attire, upset about a missing color scheme for your favorite team? Make it on your own or improve the existing ones and have something unique to your system. The options are large and some of them are a bit disturbing like Joe Higashi’s tiger stripe pants, I know that’s already too much information but I had to see it firsthand so there.

The voices and music are solid throughout the game, although when you reach Dark Ash the vocals seem to go to hell, part of that might be the echo effect from the chamber. Either way, Ash comes off like a goon for vocals more than anything and it’s a bit sad to say for the character that’s supposed to act as a supreme figure in the story now. Ignoring that we can divert ourselves to the soundtrack, there are a huge list of songs in the game this time and they’re a wonderful fusion mix of rock and orchestra that keep the pace of battle on the edge. While only the second game to break free from the old engine, this is by far one of the best showings SNK has been able to make for the series. Top that off with remixes of the past games and it’s a treat for any fan of the series with the execution and attention to bring these to a higher quality of production.

If you’re lucky and score The King of Soundtracks with your game you’ll be treated to a 4 disc collection of all the amazing tracks from the games since the ’94 introduction.

Overall:

King of Fighters XIII is the game I wanted from XII, it’s not perfect but it’s a solid array of characters, it has most of their moves and it is entertaining overall. The story mode adds depth to what is normally a mystery for casual fans, elaborating on the Orochi saga, the mysteries behind ash and the world of King of Fighters at large. 33 Characters is a big leap not including boss figures so it’s great to see that SNK wants to expand the lineup, honestly the roster is about average now to other KOF games so its hard to complain for more. One can only hope that they keep going for another Dream Match title so that we might be able to see everyone revamped in full glory. SNK has made KOF a success again and minus some issues with the bosses being stupidly hard most of the time, it’s a really an enjoyable game this time.

*Special note: I do recall there being an issue for character visuals between the 360 and PS3 versions of the game, the PS3 being a bit blurrier than anticipated. Judging by some of our screen gallery composed of shots released by Atlus it might prove true again.

Gameplay:★★★★★★★★★½ 
Story:★★★★★★★★☆☆ 
Features:★★★★★★★★★☆ 
Visuals:★★★★★★★★★★ 
Overall:★★★★★★★★★☆ 

Overall: 9/10

  

Dorkly and Mario respond to PETA claims of cruelty in a new video

It’s hard to go anywhere without rage coming up for the PETA attack on Mario, what was a claimed act of raising awareness blew back in their faces 100 fold. Today the folks at Dorkly have set the record straight with a special clip featuring Mario so he can tell his side of the story. Check out the awesomeness below.

Oh you guys…

Dark Horse Digital gets wild for Cyber Monday – 50% off offer

Dark Horse Comics wants everyone to hammer their shopping system apparently, the first 500 orders on Cyber Monday after 12:00am Pacific strikes (-08:00GMT) will get 50% off of their order of $20 or more. Given so many titles are $0.99 it allows someone to pull in a huge haul as long as they can click and load their basket fast enough. Web users and Dark Horse Digital app users can both apply the coupon given they’re in time.

Looking for the magical code? Fine. Here it is.

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dhcyber

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Enter that at checkout and you shall be rewarded with a huge chunk off of your final tab. I’m curious to see how the balance works out for everyone, will people go for 21-22 comic shots to just break the minimum requirement or will there be a few that actually stack a huge assortment in for the 50% and make it in time. Or… Will people stack their carts wait until 12:00am strikes and attempt to check out with their basket immediately?

It will be wild, just remember it’s 12:00am midnight PACIFIC (-08:00GMT) or you’ll totally miss the deal.

Serious Sam 3: BFE is here, load up for a hell of a ride

While we don’t have a review to show you of the game at this moment, we do have an amazing trailer to motivate you to jump out and try the game as soon as humanly or even supernaturally possible. Check out Sam as he shows everyone some of his best moves and one liners that you can share with him in BFE.

Serious Sam 3: BFE is out right now for $39.99. Actually no it isn’t… it’s $35.99 if you buy it now on Steam, see you’re already getting a savings just because the game is that crazy. I should warn that if you cling to cover based shooters like a security blanket that you’ll absolutely hate what this game will do to you emotionally. Run, gun and kill everything in your path if you’re going to do it right.

Update: Scratch all of that. $31.99 if you buy it from Get Games

Batman Arkham City arrives for a 30 min demo on OnLive

Are you a PC gamer eager to check out Arkham City but lacking in funds or skeptical about the new game itself? OnLive is doing a free 30min demo of the full game through their network to promote the launch of the game. If you’re in the UK you can get in on a demo 3 days early before the game releases over there!

Normally I don’t do streaming games, I did give the OnLive trial a spin, the visuals were moderate for the game and the resolution was fixed most likely for optimal speed. Audio was solid and the only issue was that traffic spikes had the scenes stuttering about 8 times in the 30 minutes of gaming. Nothing game breaking, one of the skips hit in the middle of a fight sequence which led to a missed combination and counter opportunity. Overall the performance and resolution were acceptable and it gives you a free amount of time to see how far you can get. Optionally after that point if you’re satisfied you can buy the game right there and continue fighting it out.

For the time spent and the ease of use I was tempted to just buy it there and keep rolling though, a first given I usually just buy titles through Steam.

For more information and to sign up check out http://www.onlive.com or http://www.onlive.co.uk

Review – WWE ’12 | Xbox 360

 BIGGER, BADDER, BETTER …WWE ’12 looks like it’s finally making strides on becoming an all around complete game for its genre with a 70+ character roster and a promise of more to come, WWE’12 is giving the fans what they have asked for… lets jump in and go through the details.

Presentation/Visuals:

The look of WWE ’12 is a huge leap from SvR 2011, the minute you press start you’ll notice the menu layout is simple and direct. I think this helps the loading times significantly, it is the most noticeable in the creation feature. THQ did a great job capturing the production style of the television show, from broadcast camera angles to little things like the mini titantron’s around the arena. The ring entrances are more cinematic and authentic to its TV counterpart, they really capture a WWE event atmosphere and its intensity.

Controls/Gameplay:

Over the past 3 years, the SmackDown! Vs Raw series controls have become so complex that THQ featured a training gym with a move checklist so players could learn the control scheme. That’s not the case anymore, for WWE ’12 they’ve simplified the button layout entirely. Since the weak/strong grapple system from earlier versions is no longer around, you can only execute certain moves based on your opponents physical state. A button initiates grapples, with another press along with a direction on the analog stick you can perform one of the four standard moves each grapple position has. This setup allows you the ability to switch between positions using the right analog stick, if your opponent is groggy you will be able to perform a stronger move. Another change in the  game is the limp targeting system, in SvR2011 players had a HUD layout of your opponents body would showcase which area has taken the most damage, it never made difference in matches it was just for show. Now you can isolate a specific part the body by holding the RB button when engaged in a grapple, a similar HUD layout with the face buttons assigned to each area will appear. Pressing a button that corresponds to the head, body, legs and arms will affect opponents hindering their movements and make it easier to hold submissions. Dynamic Comebacks give the player who’s on the verge of losing a last-minute opportunity to turn the tables by hitting certain combinations of moves.

A.I. has gotten an upgrade, for those of you who play on legend difficultly there are some times the CPU use’s cheap tactics to boost its potency, it’s most noticeably when facing John Cena and Randy Orton.

The new Submission system (Breaking Point) moves submissions back to face buttons now, it now becomes a mash button mini game between players/CPU. When a submission is locked on, a breaking point meter pops up and the attacker must fill the meter to the top while the defender tries to stop the meter from reaching the end. Make sure you have your opponent nice and red or they will get kick out instantly on you.

Features:

WWE Universe back and by far the best mode in the series since GM mode for Smackdown vs Raw 2006. Being able to make matches and choose what brand wrestlers go to which event  is what fans always want in WWE games. This mode gives it you and then some, it kept me glued to my Xbox controller through this review. Universe now lets you  change brand names, arenas, logos  and which titles go to which brand. For instance, replacing the RAW U.S. Title with the European title and converting Smackdown into WCW Monday Nitro are some things you can do with this change. I was a little disappointed that you have to buy Fan Axxess DLC to edit character attributes though.

The Weakest part of the game I have to say is the Road to Wrestlemania, players play through months of programming as Superstars of Shamus, Triple H and a created player. With a large episodic format, players must play through match after match with heavy backstage and promo segments and even scripted events during matches. With each segment completed it unlocks special content for the rest of the game. I understand Road to Wrestlemaina gives players a different option besides WWE Universe, but it falls short  and if you’re a fan of RTW then you should enjoy this years game, but if you’re not I would suggest sticking to WWE universe.

The Customization for the series has always been astounding , in WWE’12  it can almost be overwhelming to see the wide variety of options available to players. This is what made this game what it is today, from wrestlers to  logos,  finishers, ring entrance sequences. Throwing in arenas makes this game even more exciting by re-creating past and present wrestling promotions  from AWA to ROH is now possible.

Arena creation is set up like create-a-wrestler,  You have four options: Ring, Ring Side, Electronic Billboard and other. The ring option lets you edit Apron, Mat, Ropes, Ring post and Turnbuckle Pad. The Ring Side option lets you edit Floor mat, Barricade, and Announcer table and you can even choose what logos or designs you want on the Billboard, you can literally spend hours customizing now.

Verdict: 

WWE ’12 is one of the strongest wrestling games the WWF /  WWE has put out on the market, with so many options available it’s hard to imagine getting bored with this version anytime soon. Minus shortcomings such as the AI bias it’s a well designed game and a huge accomplishment for Yukes and THQ this year. With the holidays approaching fast, this should be in any wrestling fans gift list if they don’t have it already.

Gameplay:★★★★★★★★★☆ 
Story:★★★★★★★★☆☆ 
Features:★★★★★★★★★½ 
Visuals:★★★★★★★★★☆ 
Overall:★★★★★★★★★☆ 

Overall: 9/10