Monday, 30 December 2013

Feature: The Year in Review - 2013

As the year comes to a close, looking back at everything that happened, I'm slackjawed.  I'm having a hard time thinking of a more momentous year in gaming.  It has been just such a wild ride, I’m torn between relief at having made it through in one piece and anxiety that all of this is mere prelude for an even more incredible year.  So, without further ado and in no particular order, the highlights of 2013 (at least as far as I go):

LucasArts Shuts Down
This isn’t like the closures of 38 Studios or Troika.  This is akin to Pontiac or Oldsmobile going away.  For years, LucasArts was the premier game development studio.  Despite being started by George Lucas and kept as an adjunct of Lucasfilm, LucasArts made a lot of original games that had nothing to do with Star Wars, even after Lucas’ decade long moratorium expired.  But with the acquisition of Lucasfilm by Disney, LucasArts became expendable and was quickly shut down despite having two new Star Wars games in the pipe.  In related news, Disney inked an agreement with EA to produce new Star Wars games for the next decade.  The shadow of the Dark Side has fallen over us.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Review: Memoria (PC)

For an old school gamer, point-and-click adventure games are remembered with a great deal of fondness. The LucasArts back catalog is held up reverently, along with the Myst and Journeyman Project series, as examples of a simpler and more elegant time in gaming. Where twitch reflexes were blessedly not required to enjoy the game. It was like going to see live theatre: cultured, artistic, cerebral. While the genre has been badly under-represented the last several years, it's not dead. Daedelic Entertainment decided to put out a classic style adventure game, set in their Dark Eye universe, and did a solid job. It's easy to see where Memoria comes from, but it suffers from the same problem about where to go that many classic adventure games experience.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Review: Skylanders Swap Force (PS4)

It was last August that I had first played Skylanders. I was at the Call of Duty Multiplayer Reveal Event and on the last day of the event I received an invite to see the Playstation 4 version in action. The portal, the multiple characters and the colour, brought out of the little kid inside me. How had I not heard of Skylanders sooner?

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Editorial: A Special Note

As we quickly close out 2013, I hope each and every one of you reading this has a chance to spend some time with family and friends this time of year. And maybe even play a game or two...

I extend a "Merry Christmas!" to you even if you're not really into the holiday scene and I wish you nothing but the best for 2014!

I'll admit the preceding isn't quite as poetic or stirring as what the Queen's speech writers come up with but it's a genuine sentiment. I raise a glass -- it's half-full at this point and the world is a little blurry -- and toast your success and that any challenges that come your way in 2014 make you a better person!

Aaron Simmer
Co-Founder and Head Writer, The Armchair Empire

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Review: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)

The Zelda franchise may not sell as well as Mario games do, but that's partly because the games are directed at a more hardcore audience. Where Mario is accessible and enjoyable to all ages, Zelda games are more intense (and arguably more violent) and require a different kind of attention. With the Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Nintendo is trying to attract a more well-rounded audience that skews to a younger crowd on the 3DS. In doing so, they have made a game that appeals to those familiar with the franchise and those just stepping in for the first time.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Review: Metro: Last Light Season Pass (PC)

The Season Pass for Metro: Last Light has come out and it's an interesting little mix of stuff.
Rather than putting out large new chunks of story, 4A Games decided to go with smaller side stories
from the perspective of different characters and even different factions. Along with that, they've also thrown in some light sandbox play in the form of the Developer Pack and an endless wave mode in the Tower Pack.

The elements that made Metro: Last Light so enjoyable originally are still in effect here.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Review: Y's: Memories of Celceta (PS Vita)

 Y's: Memories of Celceta

The Y's franchise never really got the traction in North America that it should have, which is really a shame for RPG fans like myself (who couldn't find a copy of the original games for decades). As a result, the fourth game in the franchise never was officially released in North America until now – and it's been updated to match modern sensibilities.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Review: Rainbow Moon (PS Vita)

Rainbow Moon is a PlayStation Store download title that first came out for the PlayStation 3 back in July of 2012 and is now available for the Vita.

The combat system uses a top down isometric-view battle area, akin to Final Fantasy Tactics. In an ideal world, the battles are a balancing act of using both position and well placed battle strategies to maximize your inflicted damage and protect your team. Typically though, the battles are an enemy dog pile where you try and keep your team afloat with judicious amounts of healing items.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Review: Charlie Murder (XBLA)

charlie murder
Many a rocker has been accused of bartering his soul to the devil, or some variation of evil entity, for attaining rock stardom. Charlie Murder doesn't sell his soul to become the rock legend he is now, but jealousy has fuelled a rival death metal band, Gore Quaffer, to trade theirs in order to get the power to destroy Charlie and his bandmates. That's the heavy-metal backdrop that drives the brawler hybrid (mostly brawler, a good portion roleplaying game) Charlie Murder for Xbox Live Arcade, the new title from Ska Studios, makers of the excellent Dishwasher brawler series.

While there's a lot to like about Charlie Murder, including good multiplayer and that infusion of RPG character building, it lacks the charisma of both Dishwasher titles and doesn't quite capture the brawler soul either of those two games did.

Review: Mario Party: Island Tour (3DS)

For the first time ever, Nintendo has brought the popular Mario Party franchise to the portable 3DS. If you liked the games in the past, you are likely going to feel right at home here.

The main quest feels a bit like an interactive Monopoly game where four players compete against each other to be the first to reach the end. There are seven differently themed boards that players will explore, rolling a set of virtual dice and competing in a variety of mini-game challenges. Winning the challenges (or at least ranking high) will net you some additional items such as the ability to switch positions with other players on the board or sending them back several places on their next turn.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Review: Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition (PC)

You had to know that this one was coming.

Beamdog and Overhaul Games have released Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition for the PC.  It's a little surprising that it actually got done, given some of the legal wrangling that happened after the first one came out.  But it's all smiles and rainbows now between Beamdog, Atari, and BioWare.  Except for those of us who actually play the game.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Review: Battlefield 4 (PC)

Diagram 1
Battlefield 4 is really difficult to peg with a numerical score because it's a constantly moving target. The game leaps up and down radically over time, which is something the series has suffered from since the start.

Upon its release, Battlefield 4's multiplayer -- the main draw for the series -- featured server instability, inexplicable crashes and lock-ups, bizarre sound issues, and very short stretches of fun. The early going sparked a rant from this writer about how anyone could possibly review Battlefield 4 (at launch) with any honesty because, although it wasn't unplayable, it was close enough that any writer should have had second thoughts about slapping a score on the game and calling it a day.

In my experience, even the single-player campaign featured a plethora of random lock-ups until a few weeks had passed since the launch. Since the single-player campaign is so inconsequential and acts as a training ground for multiplayer -- glimpses of the gadgets, the scope of the conflict, etc. -- the last time it crashed out was the last time I spent any time with it. As much as the campaign is a cool graphical showcase the story is limp with almost no charm and characters I couldn't care less about.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Review: Call of Duty: Ghosts (PS4)

When the Xbox 360 and PlayStation released back in 2005 and 2006 there was one series that was present at both launches. That series was Call of Duty: Call of Duty 2 for 360 and Call of Duty 3 for PlayStation 3.

With this generation of consoles launching seven or eight years later, the situation is no different. Call of Duty: Ghosts is available as a launch title for both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It's become an industry norm that launch titles available to a respective platform are usually mediocre at best. Ghosts is one of the better games available at launch, but at the same time, the series is starting to feel a bit stale.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Review: Pacific Rim - The Video Game (XBLA)

Many games based on a movie – simply made to try and take advantage of a movie's popularity – turn out rather predictable: bad-to-mediocre in quality, nothing more than a ill-conceived money grab, trying to gain some additional revenue out of the intellectual property. That's exactly the case with Pacific Rim on XBLA, a fighting title that takes its inspiration from the summer blockbuster.

While the movie did OK critically and in ticket sales, the videogame is a complete travesty that perpetuates the awfulness of many movie-based licensed titles. Even if this were a free-to-play title, Pacific Rim wouldn't have an excuse for its poor quality and total lack of enjoyment. And it has no shame in posing as a F2P game, with nearly every imaginable upgrade in weaponry and other elements available to purchase.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Review: Jewel Master: Cradle of Egypt 2 3D (3DS)

Puzzle games that are addictive tend to get copied a lot. Such is the case of Tetris, and later another less-known (but also Russian developed) game called Shariki. Shariki was the original inspiration for what would eventually become Bejewelled, and  thus an entire generation of what is collectively known as "match three" games was born.

Jewel Master: Cradle of Egypt 2 is another game in the Jewel Master series, of which over a quarter million games have been sold. Built upon the basics of a match-three game it does add some extra elements in to make things a little more exciting.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Review: Knack (PS4)

While anticipating the launch of the PS4 I couldn't help but look forward to Knack. Amidst the usual offerings of racing, sports, and shooters that typically litter the landscape during a system launch I was happy to see the return of something more in line with my kind of game: the platform action-adventure. The genre seems to be a bit of a dying breed but it is still my favourite. When the PS3 launched, there really wasn't a title that fit this category with Genji: Days of the Blade being the closest. On the Xbox 360 we had Kameo: Elements of Power.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Review: Madden 25 (PS4/Xbox One)

1989 saw the official end of the Cold War and is also marked as the year that the World Wide Web was conceived. It is also the first year that John Madden Football hit the pavement in a big way (technically the first release was in 1988, but don't tell anyone). The game was available on MS-DOS machines (PC's), the Commodore 64, and the Amiga. If you are not sure what those platforms even are, you need to do your gaming homework.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Review: Batman: Arkham Origins (360)

Batman: Arkham Origins is a prequel, which focuses on the early years of Bruce Wayne being Batman and provides an initial point of contact with his future arch-nemesis Joker.

The story is centralized around a Christmas plot by Black Mask to kill Batman by offering a bounty of $50 million. Needless to say, the assassins start coming out of the woodwork: Deathstroke, Deadshot, Bane, Killer Croc, Firefly, Shiva, Copperhead, and Electrocutioner all make appearances to try and stop the Dark Knight. Your job is to remind everyone that you're the G**DAMMNED BATMAN!

Friday, 29 November 2013

Hardware Revisited: Alienware M18x Gaming Laptop

An aspect of most hardware reviews that's always missing is the prediction of how durable a piece of equipment is unless the thing falls to pieces while it's in use. With that in mind I thought it was time to revisit a piece of hardware I reviewed back in 2012, but have been using since late 2011. That piece of hardware is the Alienware M18x.

The casing of the unit has held up extremely well, even under heavy use. I travel a lot with this thing even though it weighs a ton and it has suffered it's fair share of knocks and toddlers slamming the screen down, and the only evidence of it's use is a small nick out of the paint. (See picture below.) I've done my best to minimize exposure to dents or scratches during transit, to the extent that I hunted down a (second-hand) official Alienware shoulder bag made specifically to accommodate the oversized nature of the laptop. The laptop picks up the typical amount of finger prints and dust, but the overall look of the machine is almost flawless.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Review: Batman: Arkham Origins (PC)

You know what? Batman: Arkham Origins is pretty darn good.

Sure, there are some traversal slogs through the city and the fact Batman starts with a bunch of weaponry that only trickles out slowly in the previous two titles, my brain inhales Batman the same way gamers sometimes do lines of Dorito® dust: in great quantities and with zero regard for the moral authority that would rather see a society devoid of orange moustaches.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Review: DuckTales: Remastered (360)

The 8-bit 2D side-scroller genre was defined by Nintendo's Mario Brothers titles, each one a masterpiece of design perfection in the Golden Age of Gaming. But one unlikely title was able to place itself on that lofty mantle right alongside Mario's NES-era plumber-rescuing-the-princess exploits: DuckTales.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Review: Atomic Ninjas (PS3)

The growth of the indy games community has certainly brought forward some brilliant minimalist games; Fez, Super Meat Boy, and FTL are the first to my mind.

Unfortunately for every one of those, there are the titles that could have used more fleshing out. Atomic Ninjas goes the route of the multiplayer brawler – a multi-leveled frantic experience not too dissimilar to a good game of Super Smash Brothers. The visuals are simple yet grab the eye – bright popping colors and frantic action meant to suck you right in. The problem is that when you get there, you get the feeling that you arrived a little too early to the party.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Review: Need for Speed - Rivals (PS4)


Need for Speed: Most Wanted was one of my favourite games last year and perhaps the best racing game I have played in recent memory. Criterion Games, the developers behind Most Wanted don't return this year as development of Rivals was handed over to Ghost Games. The only similarities between Most Wanted and Rivals is that both games take place in open world environments and feature the Autolog system.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Editorial: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 We Hardly Knew Ye

So, with a new generation of consoles here, it's time to eulogize the imminent passing of the previous one. We look back on all of the good times we had, the bad times, the high and low points, all the things that made the generation special for us. My problem is that this past generation was the first time I genuinely found myself not caring about console games, and I can see that opinion galvanizing in the future.

There were plenty of games that I liked that came out on those systems, but they also came out on PC where they were often times prettier. Even better, if I waited until something like a Steam Sale, I could get a lot of those games for a sack of nickels, which is quite the savings over their console equivalents where I was hard pressed to find a lot of those games for under twenty bucks.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Review: Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Full Burst (360)

It's important to get one thing up front and out of the way during this review: if you are a fan of Naruto Shippuden then you are going to want to read further. If not, you are welcome to keep reading but I'm not sure you should get this game.

The game name and packaging might be confusing and that's because Full Burst is a re-pack of the earlier game from March of 2013, with the extra DLC packed in. It's kind of hard to believe that more stuff has been added to the disc since overall this game contains almost all of the plot points from the Fourth Ninja War. If you haven't caught up what's happening in the series outside the gaming world, this game is going to be a major spoiler alert. In some cases, the cut scenes can actually last up to half an hour (longer than an entire episode) so be prepared.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Review: Killzone - Mercenary (PS Vita)

killzone mercenary
The PS Vita was really aching for a good first person shooter, and while Killzone: Mercenary certainly has its faults, it’s easily the closest to filling this role and one of the best Vita games to date.

It’s a graphical behemoth that really showcases how beautiful Vita games can be, and while some silly mechanics like touch screen melee kills may turn off some people, they’re not forced. You can easily avoid melee combat with some tight gameplay that has that familiar weightiness that Killzone is known for.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Review: Urban Trial Freestyle (PC)

There's a simplicity to Urban Trial Freestyle that does a good job, at least initially, of burying the complexity required to truly master the game.

Manoeuvring the rider through a nightmare motocross obstacle course, the controls amount to accelerate, brake, lean forward, and lean backward. The simple combination of those four control directions with the occasionally bizarre interactive and changing "course" creates an environment whereby the player must exhibit some skill and sometimes just get a lucky break to make it through the course or match challenge markers (like longest distance). It doesn't hurt to upgrade the bike either.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Battlefield 4 (PC): Pre-Review Thoughts

At this moment, if I were to write an official review of Battlefield 4 it would be decidedly unfavourable. 1 star on Amazon, maybe a 2 for a Metacritic User Review because right now Battlefield 4 is like driving the ultra high-end sports car of your choice, with a twist. It looks gorgeous, the lines are great, the sense of power is incredible. But imagine that the hidden "feature" of this vehicle is that the front wheels will fly off without any indication that something is about to go horribly and dramatically wrong.

Review: Call of Duty - Ghosts (PS3)

Since the series went yearly in 2005, the gaming community has come to expect a new iteration of Call of Duty each holiday season.

Each year it seems like the latest instalment in the series breaks the previous years sales records.  Regardless of sales figures, many gamers feel the series has grown tiresome and stale. In addition to that, Electronic Arts Battlefield series holds a special place in the hearts of many gamers. So, Call of Duty: Ghosts has it's work cut out for itself.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Review: Star Wars - Balance of the Force Pinball (360)

For those among us who can actually remember visiting an arcade instead of the few machines attached to your movie theatre, the Pinball Machine should bring back fond memories. Simple to learn, complex to truly master and deceptive enough to drag you into the "zone" and away from the outside world. While I was good enough to earn an extra ball on a single quarter, I never would be called a pinball wizard and apparently over time and as evidenced by my time with Star Wars Pinball, my talents have atrophied significantly.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Review: Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures (360)

Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures has a bit of an identity crisis. Targeted at kids who are likely to watch the television series, the game offers challenging levels that I believe most of the younger crowd will have a hard time figuring out. For adults, the design is going to remind you of the plethora of PlayStation 2 platformers that you might have enjoyed during the previous last generation of gaming.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Review: WWE 2K14 (360)

The WWE has always had some memorable video games and with WWE 2K14 the gap between Wrestling Entertainment and center piece games like the Madden Franchise and the NBA2K franchise are disappearing. That's not to say that the differences are gone, but the quality level that we are seeing for a wrestling game definitely deserves some acclaim. The opening roster alone is quite extensive – as you compete, you will unlock even more wrestlers and fill out this crazy initial roster of 72 wrestlers (not including downloadable ones).

Friday, 8 November 2013

Review: Rocksmith 2014 Edition (PS3)

I reviewed the original Rocksmith for the PS3 when it first released in the fall of 2011. At the time it came out, I had never picked up a real guitar so it was a great entry into the music world for me. However, even with all it offered, the game was held back by a clunky user interface, long load times and the fact that you had to retune your guitar between every song (even if they are tuned the same). Rocksmith 2014 (RS2014) fixes all of the problems of the original game while adding some great new features.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Blackguards Early Access Impressions (PC)

Jeff's been fiddling around in turn-based strategy game Blackguards since it hit Steam's Early Access recently, and gives some early impressions of what's planned for the game.

Review: FIFA 14 (360)

Last year I reviewed both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of FIFA 13. It took me a long, long time to achieve a familiarity with the game mechanics, you know, just figuring out how things worked. The learning curve was a lot less steep this year, but I'd be hard-pressed to point out the specific differences between FIFA 13 and FIFA 14. I mean, besides the cover athletes.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Review: Grand Theft Auto V (360)

There are AAA games and there is Grand Theft Auto (GTA).

The newest tale of criminals and corruption Rockstar establishes GTA as the pre-eminent gaming franchise today, with 29 million units shipped to date and a ridiculously impossible-to-believe $1 billion in sales in the first 72 hours of its release. And it deserves every cent, with a magnificently huge open-world of Los Angeles stand-in Los Santos -- filled with celebrities, wannabe celebrities and those who exploit them -- being the backdrop to a superior heist-filled storyline with great dialogue, great satire. Rockstar has once again crafted another exceptional, long-lasting game that's good enough to be a Hollywood blockbuster.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Catching Up with Assault Android Cactus

Over the summer a fun little twin stick shooter called Assault Android Cactus appeared on Steam's Early Access service. It features a team of female androids out to stop hordes of robots from running a muck in various locales, each girl with her own pair of unique primary and secondary weapons. The game isn't really setting out to reinvent the genre in any grand way, but it has some little tweaks to the gameplay and a very nice aesthetic, making it a game to watch out for. I did a video on our YouTube channel discussing the game shortly after it became available, but since that time there have been a few updates to it and I feel it's high time I took a moment to revisit the game.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Curse You, Roundabouts! - My Adventures in Euro Truck Simulator 2

Onward to adventure!  Or at least to the chemical plant.
I'm very late to the party in playing Euro Truck Simulator 2. It's not as though I was unaware of the adulation being heaped on the game, or even that I wasn't curious about it. I was, but, for whatever reason, I just kept on procrastinating on giving it a shot. That's all changed now and like countless others have stated already, it's quite surprising how much this game can grow on a person. Never would I have thought I'd be having such a good time hauling nitrogen, furniture, and tractors across Europe. Yet here I am, blasting down the highway, slowing only because of the speed cameras, dead set on getting my load to its destination as fast as I can just so I can start the process all over again.

Review: How to Survive (PC)

How to Survive is an almost quirky mixtures of horrible thing/zombie titles you might already be familiar with. There are elements of Dead Rising, Dead Island, and the Hunter: Reckoning games; along with hints of isometric post-apocalyptic role-playing and possibly Monkey Island.

It's almost something I'd recommend to see what a small studio can do, especially if you're looking to pick-up games on the cheap -- $15 seems just about right -- but for me it whiffs on capitalizing on it's biggest asset: Kovac.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Review: King of Fighters XIII - Steam Edition (PC)

An aspect I've come to appreciate about fighting games is their ability to differentiate themselves in a packed genre. It's a missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to, let's just use this as an example, first-person shooters where being able to tell the difference between Call of Duty and Battlefield and Generic Shooter X is difficult. It's not even a Pepsi vs. Coke blind taste test. It's almost a Coke vs. Coke blind taste test. Fighting games manage to avoid this thanks to some very different art styles. Mortal Kombat and King of Fighters XIII are both fighting games, but it's extremely easy to tell them apart. It blurs a little with the likes of Virtua Fighter and Dead or Alive, but that's the only near-miss I can think of.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Review: Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate (PS3)

Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate (DOA5U) is an upgraded version of DOA 5 Plus for the Playstation Vita and DOA5 for the PS3, both of which were released within the past year.  Like the title suggests, DOA5U at its core, is a Game of the Year Edition featuring several DLC packs, some new features and gameplay tweaks to round out the package.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Review: Secret World (PC)

Secret societies?  Balderdash!  The idea that any sort of secret society can survive in this day and age is utter nonsense.  The purported power of so-called mystical sites like Stonehenge and [REDACTED] boggles the rational mind with yclept of fantasy that yclept yclept [REDACTED][REDACTED][REDACTED] filth [REDACTED][REDACTED].
Good, the text scrambler is in place and operating normally.  We can talk, if only for a short while.  It's important to pass along this information with a minimal amount of interference.  Maybe they're allowing it come out, just enough truth to salt the field of lies.  Or maybe they've slipped up this once.  After all, even in a secret society, people are only human.  Mostly.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Review: Legends of Aethereus (PC)

legends of aethereus Role-playing games (RPG) are not everyone's bread and butter. For me, I find a good smattering of JRPGs (Japanese role-playing games) and domestic RPGs are part of a balanced gaming diet (apparently I should not write while hungry). Legends of Aethereus reminds me greatly of North American style of RPGs – visually similar to Ultima Online: using a 3rd person perspective, you guide your character through a series of quests in the never ending pursuit of riches and construction materials.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Review: Skylanders - SWAP Force (PS3)

As a series, Skylanders has garnered a cult-like following over the past couple of years and has sold millions of copies worldwide and presumably multimillions in additional toy sales.

Skylanders can be best described as a toy-game crossover that at first glance seems like it's primarily aimed at children, However, if you dig a little deeper, you'll quickly learn that Skylanders offers something cool to players of all ages.

Review: Shadow Warrior (PC)

shadow warrior

While playing Shadow Warrior, the notorious reputation of the original game weighed heavily in my mind, mostly around the portrayal of Asian culture and the fact that unless the game smacked me in the face with racism I probably wouldn't notice. Being a Canadian white guy in his mid-30's, I'm admittedly at a disadvantage when it comes to detecting subtle racism, especially in video games where hot-button issues are often washed away with my general feeling of, "It's a game. Whatever." That is, unless it stomps on my foot then stabs me in the eye with it. Metaphorically.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Legends of Eisenwald Early Access Impressions (PC)

Fans of turn-based strategy games such as Heroes of Might and Magic and King's Bounty may want to keep an eye on Legends of Eisenwald, as it appears to be heavily influenced by these classic series.  In the video below, Jeff gives some preliminary thoughts on the game as it recently entered Steam's Early Access program.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Review: Lost Planet 3 (360)

Nearly two months from its official launch and it's hard to find anyone talking about Lost Planet 3. Hell, even around launch there wasn't much, if any chatter, about the game. It's a darn shame too because Lost Planet 3 is part of the quickly dying breed of mid-tier games that offer good action in short bursts. In a broader perspective, there's an ever-widening chasm separating AAA-blockbuster and everything else, which usually amounts to indie projects.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Collectible: Naked Snake (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater)

Hot Toys has a reputation -- at least as much as I can put together -- of being the top tier action figure house when it comes to source material accuracy, accessories and the overall quality of construction for figures in the 12" (or 30cm) range). It's something that was pointed out to me when J'Tonello reviewed the The Joker (The Dark Knight).

Maybe a better way to describe Hot Toys overarching mandate is that they produce the Big Mac you see in the print ads. There are no camera tricks or sleight of hand here. What you see is what you get with offerings from Hot Toys. Of course, for a little more than $200 you should be expecting as much. You don't want to be opening that box to a bunch of loose lettuce, patties that have slid sideways from a squashed bun, the cheese congealed on side of the box.

Right from the box that Naked Snake (Sneaking Suite Version) comes in, there's an attention to detail that only Metal Gear Solid fans may notice. The large exclamation point under the top flap, for one, but it's the small details of Snake that really do make this a remarkable figure.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Review: Out of the Park 14 (PC)

The baseball season has started it playoff period, bringing a lot more eyes to the sport than it enjoys during a regular season that goes on for so long than non-fans could find it interminable.  This seems like a good time to spend some time with the latest iteration of the near-legendary sports sim Out of the Park Baseball 14.

For those who haven't played an OOTP game before, here is a quick rundown:  OOTP allows players to take the role of team owner, General Manager, and/or field manager of a professional baseball team (Major League, Minor League, current, historical).  The most important trait of the game is that players have near-total freedom to play the game as they choose.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Feature: Time Capsule - Grand Theft Auto

grand theft auto iii
With Grand Theft Auto V gripping the conciousness of the gaming world -- have you read the "14,633 Small Touches of GTA V That You May Have Missed" click-bait feature yet? -- I thought it might be a good time to jump on the bandwagon by beating open a time capsule then running it over to see what The Armchair Empire was saying about past Grand Theft Auto games.

Review: Grand Theft Auto III (PC)
More than a decade old at this point, GTA III was released on PC in 2002 to the kind of acclaim that greeted the Playstation 2 version in 2001. Nevermind that this game kickstarted the oft-repeated phrase, "Have sex with a prostitute then kill her to get your money back," GTA III may not have been the first open-world game but it did it with enough style and content to allow it to hold up today. The review is notable for this line: "[Online play] was never promised, and was likely always a pipe dream, but it would be infinitely cool to wonder around the world of GTA3 with, say, 32 real people scattered amongst the computer AI crowd."

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Review: Disney Infinity (PS3)

It's difficult to begin a review of Disney Infinity without providing an ample warning to parents about the real-world action figure economy that Disney has created in some respects (and takes a few cues from the popular Skylanders series).

Besides a video game, there are real-world figures to collect that can be plunked down on the "Infinity Base" which interact with each other, along with optional/additional "Power Discs." Setting these items on the base makes them "live" in the game. The base set comes packed with Mr. Incredible (The Incredibles), Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean), and Sulley (Monsters U) and one Power Disc. In practicality, this means three fair sized campaigns ("Play Sets") and plenty of options when it comes to Toy Box mode.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Arma Tactics Quick Impressions (PC)

Usually when people think of Arma, people think of really in-depth tactical shooters.  Now the series has a turn-based strategy offshoot, and it's a surprisingly casual affair.  Jeff gives some brief thoughts on the game after futzing around in it for a bit.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Valdis Story: Abyssal City Quick Impressions (PC)

Today Jeff takes a look at Valdis Story, a 2D action adventure game in the spirit of classics like Castlevania and Metroid.  The game also recently got approved on Steam's Greenlight service, and will show up in the store some time in the future.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Underrail Early Access Impressions (PC)

Isometric RPGs were a big thing back in the day with games like Fallout, Icewind Dale, and Baldur's Gate leading the charge.  Recently Underrail appeared on Steam's Early Access service, and it looks to be trying to recapture some of the magic from those titles, especially Fallout.  Jeff's spent a bit of time fiddling around in the game and gives some early thoughts on what he's come across so far.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Feature: Time Capsule - Sept./Oct. 2003

Soul Calibur II
If there's one thing the Internet is extremely bad about it's being able to just flip through random articles from months or years ago. An article sits on top of a page for a bit then seemingly vanishes, lost to the ravages of Time, which in some cases is hours after it's posted.

For those of us that hang on to magazines, I'm sure you can relate to sitting down on a rainy Sunday with a magazine four or five years old and re-reading articles or reading some of them for the first time. The Internet offers no such thing -- if you don't read something now, like, right now! then you'll probably never see it.

To combat this, we'll be running articles like this one to highlight content we've done in the past. Without further ado, here are a few links to content from The Armchair Empire that's a decade old. Maybe you won't cozy up with a coffee and donut, but maybe you'll remember briefly a time when things were a simpler and McFarlane Toys was pumping out action figures like Old Faithful.

Review: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (360)

From the very moment the game begins, to the very last second, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons on Xbox Live Arcade has one of the most unforgettable, emotionally draining and melancholy game narratives ever in a game. Coupled with good puzzle-action gameplay and a superior visual style that will invoke memories of classic titles Ico and LIMBO, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a great game that will haunt the heartstrings of anybody that plays it.

From the opening scene, we see loss in the lives of the brothers – in this case, Little Brother – who lives with the guilt of seeing his mother drown. Too small, too tiny, too frail to do anything but watch her sink into the depths of her watery grave; it is an important moment, because is establishes his fear of the water that will appear whenever water obstacles must be traversed. And then there's his Big Brother, faced with looking after his guilt-ridden little brother while facing a new family dilemma: Father is sick and injured, and only a special medicine can heal him, which will require a long and dangerous journey that the brothers must make to save his life.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Steam OS Announced

Valve is getting into operating systems with its Linux-based Steam OS.  Interesting times ahead!

Feature Preview: Skylanders Swap Force (Part III)

Last week, Sidd was in Albany, New York to take a tour of developer Vicarious Visions studio. During the trip he got a chance to talk to the developers and get some hands on time with the game. In our first two feature articles (Part I, Part II, we took a behind the scenes look at the game talking about everything from the character creation to how the story was crafted. In this third and final article gives us some hands-on impressions of Swap Force for the Xbox 360.

The Skylanders series has garnered a cult-like following over the past couple of years and has sold millions of copies worldwide, which is to say nothing of the number of toy sales that has generated.