Dj Hero Renegade Edition Review – Xbox 360

Activision has yet again brought us a new “Hero” series game, this time venturing away from the guitar, drums, and microphone to bring us DJ Hero. Yes another metal and plastic instrument for are already overcrowded living rooms. There are two versions of the game the regular edition and the Renegade Edition featuring Jay-Z and Eminem.

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There are only 2 differences on the hardware that I’ve found so far one being the knobs on the Renegade edition are metal compared to plastic on the regular edition. Secondly the turntable is black and gold compared to black and silver. My only real complaint regarding the turn table is the cross fading mechanism. It is has 3 positions left, center and right. When sliding from right to center or vice versa there isn’t enough of a click to ensure that it is centered. I’ve often lost note streaks because of it. FreeStyleGames even thought of the lefties, you can detach the mixer and place it on the right.

One of the biggest complaints I have had with games Rock Band and Guitar Hero are the tracks. Being in my twenties the music in those games just didn’t appeal to me because I didn’t know 90 percent of the artists. This is one of the single most important reasons I love DJ Hero the set list is fantastic. You have music from Eminem, Jay-Z, N.E.R.D, 2-Pac And 50 Cent mixed by the likes of DJ AM, DJ Grandmaster Flash and DJ Jazzy Jeff. This game is loaded with star power.

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Another Hero game means another controller, so half of it is the record platter that contains 3 buttons green, red and blue. The other half is the mixer that includes the cross fader, effects knob , euphoria button (star power) and system control buttons .As the familiar red and blue and as notes come down on the screen you press the button. Scratches involve holding either the green or blue button while moving the platter back or forth, but on harder difficulty you’ll have to follow onscreen arrows that indicate whether to push it forward or pull it back. When you get into the medium, hard and expert settings you add in the cross fader, which you’ll have to push left and right depending on what notes are being played during the song. Think of it this way, when the cross fader is in the middle position music from record 1 and record 2 are being blared through your speakers. Move it to the left and only record 1 is being played, move it to the right and it’s only record 2.

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Beginner and easy mode are just like sound, lame and boring. For me this game started to take off once I switched to medium 5 starred all the songs and found my groove. Hard and expert is a challenge and some of the songs really do kick my ass but I’m ok with that since music in this game is incredible. You can hook up a USB microphone and throw shout out’s to your TV, it’s lame but it could be fun at a party. Next time they tried to integrate a co-op mode by having 10 songs that can also be played using a guitar. The guitar and Turntable mode sounds but I really thought it was tacked on instead of being carefully thought out. One small annoyance I have is that you cannot fail a song regardless of how bad you suck, the music will keep playing. This is great if you wanted to just kick it at a party and listen to some great tunes but it’s hard to focus on where you need to improve your skills.

You can go on line, pick a set list and battle other people, I personally didn’t enjoy this mode at all as I could never seem to win a set list.

I hope Activision takes a cue from the fine folks at Harmonix and releases weekly downloadable mash up tracks for us to play. This is only way to prolong the life of this game.

Dj Hero makes a very good debut onto console platforms but FreeStyleGames needs to make a few improvements to the hardware, co-op and potentially a lower price as some people may find the current price tag a little high. At the end of the day this is one of the best music genre games I’ve played.

Ubisoft Premieres New DRM Strategy [Update]

For the PC Gamers out there, DRM has been a big issue in the past years.  Starting with the Settlers 7 Beta, Ubisoft is changing their DRM forecast to cloudy . In future Ubisoft PC titles, including Assassin’s Creed II, players will be required to log into their Ubi.com account each time they launch the game. That means that you’ll always need to be connected to the internet to play your games. Although this is where most of the comment raging will happen, I think the bigger issue is that gamers will have to have a ubi.com account (and remember their password!). Do gamers want an EA account, a UBI.com account, a GameSpy account or the myriad of accounts that each publisher or multiplayer provider could set up?

We’ve contacted Ubisoft as to whether the authentication will be necessary with the Steam, Direct2Drive and Impulse versions of their titles.

Update: Ubisoft has responded to the outcry:

“Ubisoft’s number one goal is to provide added value that will facilitate and enrich the gaming experience of our PC customers. The Settlers 7 beta version is enabling players to discover that this platform empowers them to install the game on as many PCs as they wish, to synchronise saved games online so that gameplay can be continued from where they left off (from any computer with an installed version of the game) and frees them from needing a CD/DVD in order to play.

“The platform requires a permanent Internet connection. We know this choice is controversial but we feel is justified by the gameplay advantages offered by the system and because most PCs are already connected to the Internet. This platform also offers protection against piracy, an important business element for Ubisoft and for the PC market in general as piracy has an important impact on this market.

“Any initiative that allows us to lower the impact of piracy on our PC games will also allow us to concentrate further effort on the creation and expansion of our intellectual properties for the PC – our goal is to deliver the best gaming experience to our customers.”

Review – Dragon Age: Origins

I have a confession. I knew almost nothing of this game until one of my friends pointed it out to me as one of his most anticipated games of 2009. I looked it up and was less than impressed with the game play visuals I found but when I noticed this game was coming from Bioware, I immediately rushed out to buy this title based purely on Bioware’s track record. I loved the Knights of the Old Republic series, Jade Empire was a great title that I’m still hopeful will get a sequel and of course Mass Effect floored me (Come on ME2).

Dragon Age Banner

Dragon Age: Origins gives the gamer the choice of 6 character classes each with its own distinct story arc. In tradition with how we do our reviews here, I won’t be divulging any plot points only to say that every decision you make helps to shape your interactions and who your hero is. I’ve managed to play through 2 of the 6 totally a massive time suck of over 80hrs in my life gone and I can think of no less than 10 different situations I’d like to play out differently to see how it changes things.

This is one of those games that you just have trouble putting down. The story is engaging as are the characters that join you on your travels. I found myself liking something about every single one of them which is what made some decisions all the more difficult because I really wanted all of them to like me but it’s just not possible.

Dragon Age

Something else that Bioware has done with a great deal of success in my opinion is amazing DLC support. This is actually something I’d been hoping for more of from companies that make deeply engaging games like Dragon Age. My only concern with the DLC is that I feel they may be a little overpriced for the amount of time you’ll spend playing them. The Stone Prisoner, for example, came free with my game but not all versions will have the free code thereby costing them a whopping 1200 points for what amounted to me as an extra 30 minutes of game play (yes, I actually checked). The forthcoming expansion should prove to be something special if anything I’ve heard of it is an indicator.

While the graphics may not be the prettiest on the market by a long shot, the quality of dialogue (trust me, there’s a great deal spoken here) just helps to tie together a well put together medieval story full of intrigue, sorcery, betrayal and love.

If you’re itching to play a great RPG, look no further than Dragon Age: Origins. This is a must have title for any gamers collection. I’ve spent a ton of time on this game and will no doubt be logging in many more hours in the coming months. I’m more than eager to get my hands on the expansion to see what other adventures await my heroes.

Dragon Age

Pros:

  • Long game
  • Multiple stories keep the game fresh
  • Plenty of DLC on the horizon
  • Great Story
  • Awesome Voice Acting

Cons:

  • For the price DLC is too short
  • Graphics aren’t the best on the market

Feed Your Console gives Dragon Age: Origins a 9 out of 10

It’s Launch Night

It’s Christmas all over again Gamers… Tonight at midnight you’ll be able to pickup the following games; More Heroes 2, Tatsunoko vs Capcom, Mass Effect 2, and MAG at many retailers around North America.

Will you pickup the side 2D fighter Tatsunoko vs. Capcom and grab your favourite fighters, will it be the beautiful Chun Ki or will it be Yatterman? Oh the choices… With over 20 fighters to choose from, who will it be?

Or maybe No More Heroes 2 is more your speed – Two swords, updated graphics and a new assassins latter to climb. Will you be able to climb to the number one spot?

Or grab a friend or grab 255 friends and wage war across the globe in Sony’s new Massive Action Game (MAG). Will your fraction win? Do you have what it takes to be General?

And last but definitely not the least – probably the most anticipated title on the list – Mass Effect 2. Take control of Commander Sheppard and his crew to once again save the galaxy.

Let us know what you’re picking up…

The Rockstar Spouse Situation to date

American Gothic with the Rockstar San Diego logo superimposed on the husband's face

You may remember the big EA Spouse shakeup that happened back in 2004, but evidently Rockstar games didn’t hear about it, or didn’t care. For those of you who are foggy on the topic, EA Spouse was a user on Livejournal who wrote a short essay about the poor working conditions and unpaid overtime at EA. After the media got a hold of it, EA found themselves at the business end of a class action lawsuit that lost them about $15 million.

A similar situation is unfolding now with Rockstar. A post on Gamasutra by a user named “Rockstar Spouse” called for working conditions to improve, for overtime to be paid, for benefits to be reinstated, and for crunch times to be only a sometimes food. The post has over 140 comments and over 300 direct retweets from their website. The blogs picked up the story and ran with it, while the rest of the industry held their breath for the next move whether it be Rockstar or the employees or their significant others.

Rockstar responded, and in true Rockstar fashion. The company posted a series of desktop wallpapers on their website titled “The Eye”, as a reference to a comment made by a former employee comparing Rockstar New York to “The Eye of Sauron”:

The source went on to compare Rockstar NYC to the Eye of Sauron when dealing with their studios. Teams would apparently work on a title for close to two years, but because of other priorities, like a major “GTA” release, for example, upper management wouldn’t focus on other titles until the major project was done.

The most recent volley came from Rockstar in the form of a paragraph buried in a post on their corporate blog – the Newswire:

As for the stories spreading around the internet, yes we have noticed them.  Unfortunately, this is a case of people taking the opinions of a few anonymous posters on message boards as fact. No business is ever perfect, but Rockstar Games is a tight knit team made up of around 900 supremely talented and motivated professionals, many of whom have worked here for a very long time.  We’re saddened if any former members of any studio did not find their time here enjoyable or creatively fulfilling and wish them well with finding an environment more suitable to their temperaments and needs, but the vast majority of our company are focused solely on delivering cutting edge interactive entertainment.  We’ve always cared passionately about the people working here, and have always tried to maintain a supportive creative environment.  There is simply no way Rockstar could continue to produce such large scale, high quality games without this.  That being said, making great games is very challenging, which is why we have and will continue to try to keep hold of some of the best talent in the industry and support them in every way we can.

While the last sentence seems to be a bit on the humble or apologetic side, it’s certain that this will be eventually settled in a way quantifiable by dollar signs.a

Review: Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time

Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time

The Dynamic duo of Ratchet and Clank return for an eight time together, and are once again tasked with Saving the Universe from the forces of Dr. Naferious. Join the fun and travel across the galaxy on a joy ride full of mayhem and the usual comedic delight you have come to expect from Insomniac games.

For those of you familiar with the Ratchet and Clank series will find this to be a fun and familiar experience, but for those new to the series I recommend you go back and play the first two titles in the Future series to get a better understanding of the characters and story (Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction released 2007 and Ratchet & Clank Future: Quest for Booty released 2008). Nothing like picking up a trilogy on book three and they can both be found for less than 30$ CDN.

Jumping right in… A Crack in Time delivered the same expected enjoyment and game play you have come to expect from this series, but did not really WOW me… game play is basically the same from every previous version with new locations and a new story line. I just didn’t really see any major improvements with the core functionality of the game. There were some improvements with the weapon systems offering the ability to customize a number of features on a new line of Constructo weapons and Ratchet’s space ship. Offering upgrades to things like the Ammunition and colour of your weapons and ultimately upgrading to a Mega Constructo weapon. Upgrades don’t stop there, collecting Golden Bolts and rescuing lost and trapped Zoni will provide many helpful and interesting tools to assist on your journey.

Where Insomniac delivered was with the story line. Offering two separate adventures, one for each of our heroes, as well as the ability influence the future by travelling back in time to make significant changes that help you in the future. Find out about Clank’s story and the reason he was built and the source of his special skills and abilities… All this while Ratchet is racing across the galaxy looking for the clues to find his lost friend and finding a few new ones along the way. Both Ratchet and Clank will learn the history behind their apparent orphanings.

During your travels you will stumble upon the usual battle arena area similar to those found in previous R&C games. Remember that the Arean brings along a number of valuable weapon upgrades, game rewards and bolts (lots and lots of bolts). You’ll also find many of the popular characters from past R&C games; Quark, the Plumber and the intergalactic Smuggler all offering their unique and helpful advice and oddities.

Pros:

  • A classic game series that has a place in any PlayStation library.
  • Funny and witty dialogue
  • A collectors dream game, more bolts to collect than you can count

Cons:

  • Not a lot of difference from the previous R&C Games in terms of core game play.

Feed Your Console gives Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time: 8 out of 10

Developer(s) Insomniac Games
Publisher(s) Sony Computer Entertainment

Do-It-Yourself Team Fortress 2

Valve’s ever-updating Team Fortress 2 has always supported user generated content from maps to mods (client and serverside) to sound clips and machinima. They’ve also traditionally included popular community made maps in their big updates, but they’ve taken it a step further and allowed users to submit items and avatars for Team Fortress 2 directly to Valve. Although it was a joke before, it’s now official: The fastest, most reliable way to get a hat in TF2 is to go make one yourself. Once approved by Valve, any weapon or item created will appear in the creator’s backpack and will be added to the random drop list for the rest of the Team Fortress 2 Community. A word of warning: Valve already has laid down the law and disallowed inappropriate items, so you might not want to invest time in modelling the Dongcap or the Booby Trap.

The Saboteur: The Review

The Saboteur:

EA’s Saboteur reminded me of a cross between a GTA title (free roam) and a good adventure title, like Assassin’s Creed 2 (do this task for a reason important to saving the world). Granted you’re not looking for treasure, but you are looking for ways to liberate different parts of France from Nazi rule. The treasure one might say would be the bright & colorful outlook after liberation each city takes on, literally. To start, let me say I would and have recommended this game to several of my fellow gamers.

The draw to this game was that it doesn’t hold back in transporting you back in time to a period of oppression and fear. Where the streets, heck the entire everything is cast in shades of gray until little by little you accomplish certain catastrophic tasks that help bring down the Evil Nazi regime city by city. Everything appears like a majestic painting down to the posters on the walls in some alleys promoting some burlesque show. Character models look realistic and react intelligently. It’s a game that forces you to take on different roles at times: stealth, shooter, race car driver…yup!

The plot, as I slightly mentioned above, focuses on a fellow by the name of Sean Delvin. A lovely irish’mon who wound up taking on the cause to fight the Nazi regime that has invaded Paris. The reason being, stop it there before it spread to [his] homeland. Made enough sense to me to want to play it. Missions aren’t too linear where they prevent you from being able to free roam. At random you can just blow up towers, satellites, or anything having to do with the Nazi camps advancement at anytime..and it will help your cause. The more you do as a “saboteur”, the more you see how the patrons of each city react and begin to aid in the fight. The game could get repetitive for some..but does blowing up stuff belonging to evil dictatorship empires ever truly get old?!..naaaah. You can and will have to swap outfits with some poor unsuspecting militia you take down. I have to admit, I love this feature!! After which at some parts of the city, you have to sneak in heavily guarded areas by not sneaking at all. You’ll understand what I mean. Awesome.

Sound is your standard HD quality that at this point you come to expect so I won’t focus too much on that as much as I’d like to mention the amazing soundtrack that plays throughout the game. When hopping in a vehicle the radio comes on with tunes of that era and not stuff just any old 1940s jibber jabba. I actually recognized some mainstream well known period piece tunes still heard today. Kudos. A nice touch overall to keep you in the game whether in a shootout (where of course theres a more intense and appropriate score in tune) or in an auto moving about to tunes on the radio.

The controls are solid. Button configuration is logical and doesn’t even warrant discussion here.

The Saboteur IS worth the money, but is it everyone’s cup of tea if you’re all GTA’d out?..dunno..but I will say that it’s 100% worth a rental at minimum. If purchased I honestly don’t think you’ll regret it. This game is solid. Good show EA. Good show indeed!

Pros:

  • Above average detail in cinematic style and detail to pretty much only EVERYTHING.
  • Great ambient background noise and character AI.
  • The guy carries a man purse throughout the entire game and you – as him – have the cajones to silence anyone who says a word about it. Sweet!

Cons:

  • Load times between almost every minor/major environment change (think old school RE games..going out a door =looooooading…) aka = annoying.
  • Communism.

Feed Your Console gives The Saboteur: 7.5 out of 10

2009 Hit Us Hard, But Things Are Looking Up

Layoffs were a huge topic in 2009 in the games industry. You couldn’t load up your favourite blog without seeing some studio close or some other company laying off people. It was a grim year, and M2 Research has summed it up quantitatively. According to their 2009 Ups and Downs article, almost 11,500 people were laid off in the games industry since 2008. The focus of these layoffs were generally QA and most occurred at the studio level. On top of that, the report states that 18 studios closed last year. Ouch!

Game industry layoffs by country

Before you go out into the streets shaking your fist at the sky and screaming out in protest to your maker, the report also states that the industry is bouncing back. A plethora of new studios are opening in the near future including Ubisoft Toronto, FunCom Montreal, Big Fish Games Vancouver & Ireland, Longtail Studios Halifax, and THQ Montreal.

Looking good there, Canada!

Source: http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/thq-announces-montreal-studio
Source: http://www.m2research.com/the-brief-2009-ups-and-downs.htm
Via: http://www.develop-online.net/news/33622/Study-Industry-hit-by-11500-layoffs-since-late-2008