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Review Verdict

Gears of War Judgment

Gears of War: Judgment, the 4th game in Epic’s Gears of War franchise, is out this week (Tuesday 3/19) and so far the reviews are mostly positive! Personally I was beginning to tire of the Gears series so it’s great to hear the positive feedback on the new game; most of which complements the tweaks Epic, and co-developer People Can Fly (Bulletstorm), made to the campaign’s structure. Of course, multiplayer is a big part of Gears of War and Judgment’s new mode OverRun is also getting high praise.

Let’s get to the reviews:

Polygon: Gears of War: Judgment provides multiple main player characters for the first time in the series, and each character's point of view and sometimes conflicting motivations for going off-mission are explored enough to flesh them out. People Can Fly do a workmanlike job in building a story that keeps the game moving, doesn't get in the way, and provides for great set pieces that belong, rather than plopping down random bits of bombast.

Those set pieces are oriented around the great, cover-based shooting that's driven all of the Gears of War games so far. You take cover against various surfaces, moving from one position to another with the A button, and aim around corners and the like with the left trigger. In this respect, Gears of War: Judgment is immediately familiar. But it's the additional wings built on top of Gears' now well-established foundation that make things interesting — like the dynamic spawning system. Rather than the static, scripted enemy spawning and positioning of previous Gears games, Gears of War: Judgment adapts to player strategy and play style by mixing up enemy types and tactics based on how you're playing the game.

IGN: Both story and gameplay really come together in the brilliant Declassify system. These optional objectives, which you can activate before most enemy encounters, trigger a challenging variable that handicaps (your) Kilo Squad. If a Declassify variable impairs your vision, adds stronger or more enemies, cuts your ammunition in half, or forces you to use specific weaponry, the way you play the encounter changes dramatically. Each of these awesome combat mods comes with a reasonable narrative conceit, too. An explosion, for instance, may cause a cloudy layer of dust to sweep through the battlefield and reduce your visibility.

Declassified sections also modify another of Judgment’s new wrinkles: the scoring system. Melee executions, explosions, and turning Locust into gibs increases your star rating during each encounter, and activating a Declassify option multiplies the rate at which you earn stars. Leaderboards and arcade scoring are one thing, but this is another of Judgment’s clever ploys to tinker with the way we play Gears. Knowing what scores big points can drive you in a specific direction – if you want to score big, maybe risking an explosive Torque Bow’s limited ammo instead of the Markza sniper rifle’s full clip is worth your while. Judgment’s evaluation of skill is rewarding in its own right, especially when you know you’ve conquered a tough Declassify mission.

Destructoid: This focus on leveling and winning things leads to Judgment's campaign having a lot more of an "arcade" feel than prior installments. Missions are very short, lasting a few minutes at most, which leads to the already basic story feeling segmented. However, the trade-off is a faster, more chaotic, more varied solo and cooperative experience which, coupled with the declassified extras, leads to an altogether different type of Gears that players are used to. Whether fighting in a room covered in thick dust and full of sword-wielding Therons, or defending a position with sentry bots and turrets, Judgment constantly switches things up on the player, and the bite-sized nature of individual missions leads to a feeling of greater replayability.

Eurogamer: What pushes Judgment over the line from "pretty good" to "pretty great" is multiplayer. Not the same old versus matches that have been a staple of the series since 2006, nor the wave-based Survival mode, nor the late addition of a basic free-for-all deathmatch, nor or the King of the Hill variant, Domination. Those are all fine, but standard fare. No, the secret weapon in Judgment's arsenal is OverRun, a hybrid game mode that pulls together the best elements of the series' online play into something epic and satisfying.

At heart, OverRun is a close relation to Battlefield's Rush mode. The COG team is on the defensive, holding back a player-controlled team of Locusts and (hopefully) preventing them from opening sealed Emergence Holes. Fail twice and the humans have to fall back to protect a generator. If the Locusts destroy that, it's all over. Similarly, if the COG can hold the line until the round timer runs out, the Hammer of Dawn fires up and obliterates the monsters.

With a fuss-free class system and tight, well-planned maps, OverRun is Gears multiplayer at its best, combining the strongest elements of deathmatch and survival game types into one nail-biting experience. There's a great balance between frantic action and tactical collaboration, while the addition of some verticality - reachable by the Scout class for sniping duty - subtly changes the ebb and flow. It's a mode where players of any skill level can find room to shine, but only the best will emerge with the medals and ribbons.

Sounds good, right? Is Gears of War: Judgment a day 1 purchase for you? Let me know!





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Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut DLC Release Date Announced -- Closure Is Coming

The Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut DLC Review

Mass Effect 3 gamers demanded closure, answers, and some changes when they asked for more from BioWare. Now that the Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut DLC has been released, many gamers will discover they’re not actually getting the complete package they wished for. Be warned, spoilers abound in this review; it is after all my take on the Extended Cut patch for the Mass Effect 3 ending. The DLC does not offer a different “Shepard kicks ass, takes name, and gets the boy” ending, rather it offers a few more pieces of dialogue in the final scene, some stills showing life after your choice, and a cutscene showing your most beloved crew member adding your name to the Normandy’s memorial wall. A fourth choice is added, but the results probably aren’t what you want either.

Does This Set A Bad Precedent?
For the most part, this DLC does not change the ending the writers had intended. It’s less of an addendum to the story and more of a post-launch patch for the script. You’ll get additional cut scenes which add a “Where are they now” amount of information, but except for a few minor alterations, the DLC does nothing to change the fate of Shepard. Does this set a bad precedent? Gamers already think with the right volume, they’ll be able to demand changes of game makers, but in reality they didn’t get any major tweaks, just added information. On the flip side, this allowed BioWare to explain their choices, and win back the love of many gamers who really wanted to say goodbye.

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Quantum Conundrum Announced From Portal Creator Kim Swift

Quantum Conundrum is Portal lead designer Kim Swift's first game since Chell and her Companion Cube landed at Aperture labs back in the day. The brain-teasing spatial puzzler is set in Professor Fitz Quadwrangle house, and with the help of a Inter-dimensional Shift Device it'll be up to you to find him after one of his experiments goes awry.

Here's a snippet from our Quantum Conundrum review:

"Solving one particular puzzle felt like I was in a well-choreographed John Woo-inspired slow motion sequence, minus the guns. Not only was I riding a safe, I also had to grab and throw four cardboard boxes that were traveling perpendicular to the safe’s flight path. I also needed the presence of mind to jump off a bookshelf to first get on the safe and then jump off the safe to another bookshelf after completing the throwing sequence. It’s dexterously demanding as it sounds although the few retires I took were hardly frustrating. It’s when I clear such areas that I wish Quantum Conundrum had a spectator mode to let you view your achievements in the third person."

Check out our full Quantum Conundrum review for more.


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Zen Pinball 3D Review Verdict: The Portable Pinball Experience

Our two resident pinball wizards, Donell Tucker and Ernie Moreno, took a look at the new Zen Pinball 3D for the Nintendo 3DS. These are their thoughts on the game!

Zen Studios pushes their successful pinball game to the Nintendo 3DS, bringing pinball fanatics a stereoscopic 3D experience with Zen Pinball 3D. While the handheld version produces realistic pinball physics and enchanting audio to enrich your play through over and over again, it doesn't quite deliver the full pinball exeperience that the console versions do.

What Zen Pinball 3D includes are four original crafted tables, which are Earth Defense, Shaman, Excalibur, and Eldorado. In addition, Zen Studio will support additional downloadable content in the future, but for now, you only get four tables. Just like the original Zen Pinball game, your objective is to gain a high score by keeping the silver ball in play using the side flippers which are the right and left bumpers on the Nintendo 3DS. Also, you have the option to shake the table a bit with the analog stick to slightly move the ball from left or right. Beside your main goal on getting the high score, you have specific missions to complete within each table in order to achieve big points, which offers players a more complex and challenging game.

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Gears of War 3 RAAM's Shadow DLC Review Verdict

Gears of War 3 players, let’s go back. Way back. . .all the way back to just after E-day. That’s where you’ll find yourself in RAAM’s Shadow, DLC numero dos for Gears of War 3.

As someone who doesn’t really care about multiplayer enough in general to get jazzed for map packs or new character skins, RAAM’s Shadow is perfect for a guy like me. This DLC is a three-hour chunk of campaign set before the events in the original Gears of War.

You play as Zeta squad made up of a couple old favorites (Lt. Minh Young Kim and Tai, my favorite mysterious shaman and face tattoo enthusiast from Gears 2) and two new fish: Alicia Velera (yay! another female character to help me towards my lady medal in MP!) and Barrick, whom I just refer to as “mutton-chops.”

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Pinball FX 2: Mars Table DLC Review Verdict
240 Microsoft Points

Available Now

Pinball FX 2: Mars Table DLC Review Verdict

Pinball FX launched on the Xbox 360 back in 2007, and in 2009 creator Zen Studios also released Zen Pinball on the PSN. Not exactly sure why they needed the name change, and Zen Pinball actually featured exclusive tables, one of which was Mars. Mars was originally released in July 2010 for PSN users, and the team has updated that table's graphics and physics, and it's now available on Xbox Live Arcade. But is it worth the 240 MS points (three bucks) that you'll have to shell out for it? That's an easy answer: yes.

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Sword and Sworcery EP Review Verdict

Reviewed by Dan O'Halloran

Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP Review

Pros: 

  • Immersive gameplay
  • Unique soundtrack
  • Awesome 8-bit graphics

Cons:

  • Slow pace is not for everyone
  • Puzzle solving sometimes too easy
  • Restricted to iOS devices

Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP takes the classic point and click adventure game and brings it to a whole new level. The developers have carefully designed every aspect of the game to be a slightly strange and totally immersive experience. A perfect combination of simple puzzle solving, retro graphics and finely-crafted audio. It’s a work of art masquerading as an adventure game. A true showcase of what games can do on new platforms.

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Mass Effect 2 Arrival DLC

Reviewed by Jason D'Aprile

Mass Effect 2: Arrival DLC Review

Pros:

  • More Mass Effect is always a good thing
  • Lots of combat
  • Narrates a major plot point for the third game

Cons:

  • Not much new here for $7
  • Very straightforward action
  • No real character interactions or even major decisions to make


Its one last hurrah for Mass Effect 2. Bioware’s final downloadable mission is a solo mission for Commander Shepard and dramatically bridges the gap between this game and the upcoming finale of the trilogy.

Downloadable content is always a hit or miss proposition, but Bioware has a great track record for the Mass Effect games. The last two downloadable missions for Mass Effect 2Lair of the Shadow Broker and Overlord—were terrific additions to the epic sci-fi adventure and well worth buying. So, with the bar set so high, it makes the latest add-on, Arrival, seem downright disappointing.

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The Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Vietnam map pack was released last week, and inquiring minds are wondering if it is worth picking up. At $15 for this piece of DLC, that’s a sizeable investment for four new maps (with a fifth on the way), 15 new era-specific weapons along with six vehicles popularized by the unpopular war. Is it worth it? Hardened Battlefield vets will give you an immediate “yes.” But if you’re a casual Battlefielder, you might want to pass on Vietnam.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Vietnam Launch Trailer »




Vietnam is a multiplayer-only map pack and weapons upgrade for the game, which brings along six new vehicles, including the iconic Huey helicopter. The new weapons range from a flamethrower to the chattering AK-47 to the ever-popular “Thumper” grenade launch, and the entire piece of DLC is basically a Vietnam “skin” that you’re applying to your standard multiplayer. Besides giving you new toys to play with, it’s not changing the BFBC2 that you’re used to at all.
As with most multiplayer games, new maps are always a welcome addition.

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Truly worthwhile DLC is hard to come by. Mind you, worthwhile doesn’t always mean entertaining. In most cases, the content is fairly one-note, an amusing addition good for a few hours of tangential fun before being tossed away completely. In the event of the Mass Effect franchise, pretty much everything up until Lair of the Shadow Broker felt like an insubstantial add-on. With regard to Fallout 3, Broken Steel, Mothership Zeta and Operation: Anchorage offered little more than mindless running-and-gunning in visually distinct environments whereas Point Lookout offered the real deal, chock-a-block with new puzzles, characters and storylines. Generally, with DLC, the odds aren’t in your favor if you’re looking for the same level of attentiveness and creativity given to the core game. So how does the first content pack for Fallout: New Vegas, entitled Dead Money, hold up?

Thankfully, quite well.
 

 

Fallout: New Vegas "Dead Money" Gameplay Video »


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The Verdict: Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2

Zombie slayers, rejoice! Then find a damn good hiding place or a gun with a spare bullet for yourself because the “The Sacrifice” DLC for Left 4 Dead AND Left 4 Dead 2 is pretty brutal. 

This campaign shows the fateful events leading up to the crossover DLC “The Passing” (Read our Left 4 Dead "The Passing Review) and the demise of chain smoking Vietnam vet, Bill. That said, Bill doesn’t have to die here: any one of the survivors can sacrifice themselves to save the team...if they can survive long enough.

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The Verdict: Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock Guitar Peripheral

There was a point when my plastic guitar collection was reaching increasingly higher into two-digit numbers, until I scrapped almost all of them. All of them except the outdated Gibson X-Plorer wired controller for GH2 on 360, because I still think it’s the best guitar to date.

That’s why I’m happy to report that the new Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock guitar is probably closest in feel to the X-Plorer than any instrument that’s come out since. The strum and whammy bars feel comparable though, aesthetically, flames aren’t my first choice of decoration for anything; however, the design -- very in step with the graphical look of the game -- is inoffensively campy.

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The Verdict: Mass Effect 2: Lair of the Shadow Broker

I've been following Mass Effect 2 DLC since its release (read my reviews of Kasumi – Stolen Memory, the free Firewalker DLC pack, and Overlord) and while I enjoyed Overlord, you still walked away from the experience with nothing more than an upgrade and some achievements. Lair of the Shadow Broker is different with a unique payoff on completion that gives you a reason to re-visit the content post-mission as well as successfully bridging the narrative of Mass Effect 3. It's a fantastic addition to the Mass Effect universe as the cycle for sequel DLC fades in transition for future Mass Effect games.

The story revolves around the Shadow Broker, the enigmatic head of a universe-wide clandestine organization that deals in information; if it's out there, the Shadow Broker has his fingers involved with it. He's also not the nicest dude, and while there's deep nerd stuff on why that is (read the Mass Effect Redemption comic for more), to keep it simple, the mission has Commander Shepherd helping an old friend, Liara, rescue her old friend, all while putting a stop to the Broker's way of doing business.

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Mass Effect 2 Premium DLC Details New Recruit Kasumi

I’m not sure how I feel about EA and Bioware’s new DLC strategy these days. At first, I loved the idea of incremental content which added an hour here, an hour there to games that I already enjoy but now that I’ve played it that way, I’m not sure it’s working.

To be fair, Kasumi - Stolen Memory, the first of Mass Effect 2’s premium DLC, is a fine addition to the ME2 universe. Ringing in at about $7, Stolen Memory introduces a new character, Kasumi Goto, a master thief with the ability to cloak herself to stealthily dispatch bad guys. While Kasumi can simply become a member of your crew, it’s her loyalty mission that adds new content to the game with a heist mission that plays out as one part covert op spy thriller, one part action shooter.

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Fallout 3: Point Lookout Screens

You've just inhaled a potentially deadly swamp fruit as part of a bizarre tribal ritual. A stranger cracks your skull open and rips a piece of your brain out with their hand -- the piece holding you back from embracing spiritual enlighten, they tell you. After awakening, sadistic and distorted memories of your past dance in front of you, the ground has become the sky and there's a never-ending bombardment of Coca-Cola bottles exploding into nuclear bombs. Actually, correction: Nuka-Cola bottles.

I was up until the wee hours of the morning this week diving swamp-first into Point Lookout, the fourth, latest and largest downloadable expansion for Fallout 3. Point Lookout is not only the most open-ended add-on Bethesda Softworks has released for its post-apocalyptic epic since it was released last October, it's also the best content the company has produced post-release, rivaling some of Fallout 3's best moments.

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