Friday, 31 October 2014

Hardware Revisited: Alienware M18x at Three Years

Here I am at Year Three with the Alienware M18x, a gaming laptop that continues to justify it's $2,000 price tag even if I've finally found a game that puts the boots to the system. While some of that might relate to the optimization of the game -- Dead Rising 3 -- it feels like the first time the system just couldn't keep up.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

A Matter of Opinion: The Declining Relevance of Traditional Reviews

Over the summer, some pretty dramatic changes came to Steam. While plenty of them instantly plunged me into Curmudgeonly Old Man Who Hates Change mode, there was one thing that I really liked. For the longest time, it was possible to sort games in a given category by review score, whereby games would be listed in ascending or descending order by their Metacritic score. With the Steam update, this was changed so that user reviews were used instead.

Review: Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)

It's no secret that sales of the Wii U haven't exactly been what Nintendo was hoping for. It usually takes a stellar title or two to really be "must own" to make the system fly into the hands of the masses. While the system has definitely had its share of hits like Super Mario 3D World, nothing so far has really been the hit they have needed—until now.

I'm surprised to be saying that a racing game would, could, or should be a system seller because it's certainly not my most favourite gaming genre but I have to admit this one is bursting with the signature marks that Nintendo is good at. The game is made with extreme polish, is full of great content, is bursting with creativity, and most importantly, is fun! There are 30 characters to choose from and with the bikes from Mario Kart Wii and the new Quadbikes, the vehicle selection is better than ever.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Review: Super Smash Bros. for 3DS (3DS)

If I ever built a time machine the first stop would be 1992 to pay a visit to myself, fully charged 3DS in hand. I'd leap out of dark alley and hit myself with a rolled-up copy of EGM. While my past self was dazed I'd snap open my 3DS and show my past self Super Smash Bros. (for 3DS). Besides being impressed by the tech -- especially compared to the current GameBoy, the Game Gear, or the Atari Lynx -- my 1992 brain would implode with the thought that Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, Donkey Kong, Mega Man, Pac Man, Samus, Starfox, and that crazy new character Kirby (and a gaggle of other characters) could be in one game.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Retrospective: Super Hero Games

The relatively recent explosion (or satuaration) of super hero movies and plans that are under way by movie studios to extend storylines across multiple movies and decades, it got me thinking about my favourite super hero games of all time. There's nothing scientific or objective with this list, it's just 8 titles that have delivered on the fantasy of a being a suped-up guy or gal in tights and levelling hundreds of enemies with a single thunderous punch.

The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction
The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction loomed large in my gaming library for a long time. Long after the review was completed, I would dive back into this game on a monthly basis to SMASH! things. For years, this was the benchmark game I compared against all super hero games because it had just about everything I like in a game: a giant sandbox world, incredible range of movement, a story to plow through with boxing gloves made from crushed cars, and a massive, no nonsense protagonist with easily discerned goals.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Raving Rant: The Gender Games - Part 2: Barbarians at the GamerGate

So far, The Armchair Empire has more or less stayed out of the whole “GamerGate” fracas, and wisely so in my opinion.  But sooner or later, it has to be addressed, and being the token loudmouth American (so far as I know) on staff, I might as well jump in.

In the last month, what began as yet another example of the bottom rung of Internet culture showing off its asshole credentials somehow blew up into a “thing.”  Game journalists suddenly got caught in the crosshairs.  Salacious rumors and unverified claims of infidelity became front page news, not in Wired or Ars Technica, but mainstream news in major daily publications.  And the hits just keep on coming.  Rumors of collusion between game journalists, sexual improprieties, death threats, DDoS attacks.  There’s a part of me that knows when the Internet loses its collective shit, things are never the same afterward.  Sometimes, it’s a good thing.  Sometimes, it’s horrific.  I've spent most of the past month or so thinking “fuck all, y’all!” whenever some fresh report of insanity with the hashtag of “GamerGate” heaves into view.  It’s had me vaguely toying with the idea of basically walking away from the video game industry entirely.  Why?  Because everybody who’s got even a modicum of restraint is drowned out by partisans on both sides, and I get enough of that as it is watching the local news.  The Internet, as a whole, does not do “calm.”  But it damned well needs to try.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Review: Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes (PS3)

Besides offering hours of enjoyment for the kids, Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes did something for me. It reminded me how much I enjoyed the likes of The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction (2005), X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), and the Marvel Ultimate Alliance games (2006, 2009) and then plunged me into a hole of nostalgia eight miles deep reminiscing about Stunt Island (1992) but before I can really explain that it's worth quickly describing Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes.

Besides the actual game, the "starter pack" comes packed with three figures -- Thor, Iron Man, Black Widow -- two Toy Box Game Discs, and the Infinity base, which plugs into your PlayStation 3. To actually play the game, one need only put one of the plastic characters on the base; their digital reflections appear in the game and it's off to the races.

At least, for the kids.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Review: NHL 15 (Xbox One)

It's the start of hockey season once again; a time for players to wash their equipment before they stuff it back into their rank smelling hockey bags. All teams start fresh, and for those that insist on not winning every game by 20 goals… there's NHL 15 to get the results that you really want.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Review: The Walking Dead Pinball (XBLA)

Anybody that reads The Walking Dead comics or watches the TV show knows that when it comes to defeating zombies – or walkers in the world of The Walking Dead – in the undead apocalypse, anything can be useful as a walker-head-crushing weapon. Frying pans, pool cues, 2x4s, baseball bats … practically anything within reach while under walker attack duress. What wouldn't be particularly useful to slaughter walkers is a single small silver pinball from a pinball machine. Not seeing that as much of a brain-buster. That is unless while playing The Walking Dead Pinball table on Xbox Live Arcade via Pinball FX2 from Zen Studios.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Review: The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II (PC)

What happens when the world's most famous monster hunter turns freedom fighter and overthrows the mad scientist despot running the creepiest little country in Europe? Well, he sure doesn't get to enjoy his victory overly long.

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II picks up right where the first game ended and throws players right back into the battle for Borgovia, this time challenging the would-be warlord General Harker for control of Borgova's streets and Borgovia's future. Much like any real revolution, there's a lot of slogging around in the streets.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Impressions: Alien: Isolation (PC)

After a little time with Alien: Isolation, it's almost impossible to believe the game comes from Creative Assembly, better known for the Total War strategy series, but it does. The kind of attention to detail they poured into those game is the same kind of love they poured into Alien: Isolation. The difference is that a strategy game never got me so wound up that I had to walk away to let my heart rate return to normal. A full review of Alien: Isolation is coming but here are some quick impressions and observations from the first 60 - 90 minutes.

This screen was grabbed about three minutes into the game. This was the point that absolutely convinced me the developers had done their homework and put in 2,000-psi worth of effort to crush the details (in a very good way). The setting, the sense of place is incredible; it feels (at times) like you're wandering an extremely detailed movie set circa 1979.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Book Review: The Eye of the World (Vol. 5)

If there's a series of fantasy novels that could supply an almost never-ending series of graphic novels, it's the Wheel of Time series.

A sprawling series, it was started in 1990 by Robert Jordan and was only recently concluded by Brandon Sanderson in 2013. Eye of the World Vol. 5 is barely into the first book of the series and there were 13 chunky novels so the current output of the graphic novel means the last book won't arrive until 2035... if the world exists in a form that makes socio-economic sense to still be dealing with, ahem, comic books.

A lot of that has to do with the fact that the graphic novel sticks very close to the original source material -- there appears to be no artistic license taken when it comes to the dialogue and pacing of the overall story. That's another way of saying, "It's a real page-turner!"