Unigine Benchmarks

Bioshock Infinite Benchmarks

Tomb Raider benchmarks

Image

Guild Wars 2 has been a game that many have had on their radars since it was first announced in March 2007. I was able to avoid the rabid following and fanaticism orbiting this game due to one very simple fact. I never really played the original Guild Wars to begin with. I probably watched my brother play it from afar but I could not really get into it at the time since I had just gotten into playing World of Warcraft and was completely oblivious to any other Massive Multiplayer Online games being released at the time. So here I am now experiencing a game that never was, for the first time.

Make no mistake about it. Guild Wars 2 is a fantastically polished product. In recent memory, MMO launches are horrible affairs in which the gamer installs the game, and then sits around hours on end not being able to play due to either servers being flooded, face lengthy queue times to join, or experience various reference based error messages. Even the lucky few who are able to get on a server and create a character are only able to load up the game to be disconnected shortly thereafter. ArenaNet has done a fabulous job minimizing this downtime and have not had many issues in my experience so far other than a few random disconnects that are few and far in between. That is a accomplishment that I and many other gamers can truly appreciate.

GW2 visuals are really quite stunning. From all of the different locales I have traversed so far, they have all been varied and feel no forced repetition in the world structure. Starting off in the human starting zone introduces you to an idyllic farmland backdrop with lush greens, grassy knolls, battle scarred keeps and waterlogged caves. Head back towards the main player city and you are introduced to a large imposing castled city the likes of which hearkens back to the visuals presented in the Lord of The Rings movie trilogy city of Gondor. While this is all a familiar backdrop to those versed in MMO’s, their execution is the reason why it creates a lasting impression. The forest and nature city of the “elf-like” Sylvari is again, a concept that has been done before, but the color tones and blurs of the blues, purples and greens of the forest really had me stop and scroll my view around just to enjoy all of the hard work that the designers and graphical artists put into the landscape. At one point I was fighting off a horde of fireflies somewhat haphazardly since I was caught up in the slight glow they emitted on the landscape. Player animations are immensely satisfying as I would be standing next to fluidly animated “Viking” like warrior character swinging around a massive two-handed sword in the midst of battle while a “Thief” character would dart in and out of combat like a gymnast and attack with a pair of daggers.

This leads me to my next point. This game runs really well on different hardware setups. A low end gaming card is able to punch through the game without significant lag or delay assuming you realistically dial back all of the candy visuals such as antialiasing and shadow quality. I’ve seen the game through three different setups so far from low-mid-high range and even when things get graphically intense and lots of players are firing off spells left and right, the game just chugs along delivering up smooth frame rate and game play.

Now, no game is worth a dime if the game play is non-existent or boring. GW2 has created an interesting solution to long held beliefs about how questing/leveling should be done. Gone are the days when people had to wait for quest mobs to respawn so another person has a chance to kill them. Gone are the days when working on professions were cutthroat affairs where players would rush over to harvest a node before someone else has a chance. All of these are now shared and can be worked on by any of the players in the immediate vicinity assuming that they take the time to make one swipe on the mob with their weapon of choice. The best feature that GW2 has incorporated into the game play is the introduction of “real-time events”. For example, the player character may be doing the typical questing fair such as disposing of bandits in a nearby orchard when suddenly an event text pops up over screen and alerts the player that a Non-player character from the local farm needs help escorting her barrel of brew to the city. From that point on, there is a highlighted portion on the map in which the player must run towards and escort the NPC to safety and fight off spiders that attempt to hinder the route. Other players in the area also receive this alert and naturally all players arrive and defend the NPC. This is just one example of how these real time events play out, but it all happens so fluidly and organically that you wonder why this has not been the standard in MMO’s to date. The mere presence of these real time events brings back the feeling that you really are playing alongside other people. This is something that I feel has been lacking for quite some time.

Being that this is an MMO, it sure is a breath of fresh air to have ArenaNet launch the game as a free to play standalone polished game. As many have noticed from previous MMO’s that have come along with subscription fees the past couple of years, it is not a very successful business model if you are not named Warcraft. That being said, ArenaNet incorporated the “pay for comforts” feature, such as buying experience boosting or extra character slots, to continue sustaining the massive world that is Tyria. The only detractor from this game is that it is not a very intuitive game whatsoever. You get general tips from the beginning of where to go and people to see, but after that it is up to the player to look up information about how to work professions or how exactly their character progression works out. A little help from third party sites helps alleviate these issues but it would be nice to have a bit more tutorial in-game to explain and describe the process of leveling up.

Overall this is a fantastic game and I wholeheartedly recommend it to those who have enjoyed MMO’s in one way, shape or form in the past and are looking to enjoy a stand alone game without the hassle and pain of a subscription fee. I will definitely update this impression as more content is released and I sink my teeth a little bit further into Tyria. Happy gaming everybody.

I game. I love.

Image

I remember when I finished watching Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back for the first time I had that agonizing feeling after Luke is left tending to his wounds after having just lost Han to the Empire, that it was possibly the worst and best ending I have seen. I could not believe it and felt cheated that I was left sitting there yearning for more. Mass Effect 2 replicated that feeling and needless to say, Mass Effect 3 has been on my short-list for must have games ever since then.

The story begins with Commander Shepard having to leave Earth after the Reapers invade and begin their systematic destruction of humanity. Let it be known, this game is dark and ominous throughout. Every planet and system you visit is under duress from the Reapers and the feeling of hopelessness and uncertainty of what is going to happen is present throughout. Bioware has done an amazing job of creating a galaxy at war and presenting it in a way that one can empathize with the emotions of those that go to war and those of whom are left behind. I remember walking past a mother begging and pleading to get into contact with her son only to leave with an answer unsurprisingly unfulfilled. Moments like these that tug at your heart strings are littered throughout as you head from objective to the next.

Visually, the game once again utilizes the best that console systems have to offer and continues to add dramatic and cinematic presentations to conversations amongst Commander Shepard and his fellow squad mates. The dynamic set piece action sequences during the game are truly awe inspiring and at times left me with a mission failure having to retry the sequence over again since I was busy enjoying what was happening on screen.

The game play of ME3 brings back the action shooter structure from ME2 and reintroduces some RPG elements to the mix by being able to modify attachments to weaponry, such as scopes to Assault Rifles, of your own liking. Additionally, the talent system for leveling up has been tweaked in a way that there are multiple path progressions for how your abilities will be enhanced; such as improving grenade ammunition or increasing head shot damage at the expense of more general damage. These minor tweaks are welcome additions that should enhance the game play of those critics of ME2’s more straightforward combat.

The newest feature to ME3 is their inclusion of multiplayer. At first I was in the camp that was hesitant to adopt multiplayer since I enjoy the Mass Effect single player and could not bear to have it turned into a frag fest in the likes of Call of Duty. Bioware took the hoard mode of Gears of War and implemented their own version where you take on swathes of Geth, Cerberus or Reaper forces. The progression system allows you to level talents just as you do during the regular game and also allows the purchase of packs with money earned by surviving rounds. The packs themselves provide rewards such as new character classes, weapons and different attachments. Overall, it is a very fun experience and extends replayability beyond the single player campaign.

Mass Effect 3 is truly an amazing game and I cannot think of a better way to end the journey of Commander Shepard. There is quite a bit of heated debate to the ending of the game, but personally I feel that the journey to get there has been incredibly rewarding and I enjoyed every bit from beginning to end. If there is one qualm I have, it would be for an easier ability to modify who lived and died in previous entries of the game to see how they interact and play out in ME3. That aside, once again I’m left with an ambiguous feeling after completion of this beloved series. I feel in a daze at having enjoyed Commander Shepard’s last journey and sad that the journey has to end.

9.5/10

I game. I love.

Every new console, handheld or otherwise, needs a de facto blockbuster to get consumers excited and anxious to pick up their new hardware. Nintendo has it’s lovable plumber, yellow lightning mouse and other stable cast of Nintendo regulars. Sony has chosen Nathan Drake of the Uncharted series to kick off the Playstation Vita’s launch in the right direction.

If there ever was a game to dissolve any preconceived notions that handhelds do not pack the hardware to produce visually stunning games, Uncharted Golden Abyss will make a believer out of even the most staunch critic. From clambering around broken temple ruins to navigating your way through the Panamanian jungles and rivers, Uncharted is just an absolutely gorgeous game. However, for those accustomed to the rest of the Uncharted series there are a couple nitpicks to be had with the eye movement animation. They seem to be a bit out of sync for where they should be at looking during some of cut scenes. This is just a minor nitpick and in no way detracts from the immersion and game as a whole.

Uncharted is responsive and makes full use of the dual analog setup to control just as an Uncharted game feels. You rush towards the nearest yellow ledge and hop, flip and jump from place to place. However, the PS Vita tech allows for interesting ways to add wrinkles to this game play. During quick-time events you swipe the screen in the appropriate direction to stay in the action and dip the console from right to left to avoid falling from ledges. Other new actions introduced include; rubbing dirt off of items to decipher them and camera controlled gun play. Although there were times that I grew weary of having to stop and tilt my Vita from side to side when crossing a ledge for the tenth time, I feel Naughty Dog did find a decent medium between being mandatory and using them to the right effect during tense moments. The gun play was particularly enjoyable since you would use the PS Vita as an aiming camera while zoomed in, this facilitates some easy head shots on the villain henchmen.

The one detractor from Golden Abyss is that the story lacks the globe trotting feel associated with the rest of the Uncharted series since Panama is the main location. I sometimes yearned that Drake would find himself imprisoned in a plane in the middle of the desert. Ah not quite that, but some variety in locales would have been a nice addition.

As the premier launch title for the Playstation Vita, Uncharted: Golden Abyss does not disappoint and introduces not only another explosive Nathan Drake adventure but also a new chapter into how Sony can redefine the handheld market.

9/10

I game. I love.