Tag Archive: storm


Dr. Doomed from the start

Right next to having superpowers of their own and fighting alongside their favorite characters, the next best thing for most comic-book fans would be actually assuming the role of their most beloved superheroes. Personally, I’d probably like to be one of the X-Men. Wolverine, Iceman, or Colossus, if possible—I’m not picky.

The guys and gals at Gazillion Entertainment zero in on this concept with their free-to-play PC game, Marvel Heroes. Driven by Diablo-style action-RPG mechanics, the game sees players starting off by choosing one of five heroes who most comic fans would consider B-list: Hawkeye, Storm, Scarlet Witch, Daredevil, and the Thing. By beating the game—or spending some cold, hard cash—you can unlock other heroes or purchase a variety of costumes for these characters.

Unfortunately, if you’re like me and get tempted into picking up the ’90s X-Men cartoon version of Cyclops or Wolverine after a few story chapters, you’ll soon realize that the starter characters represent core classes—and no matter what hero you choose, the powersets are basically the same, just with different animations.

Considering the differences between the heroes in the Marvel universe, this was frustrating as a fan. After all, I was willing to shell out the cash—only to find out there’s no need beyond cosmetic preferences. To add insult to injury, each purchased character starts at level 1, so if you want to immediately use them, the game recommends that you start the entire adventure over again, no matter what point you’re currently at.

A couple of saving graces here, however, are the story and comic-book-still cutscenes. Written by Marvel super-scribe Brian Michael Bendis, the tale incorporates some of Marvel’s most famous story arcs from all their major comic lines into one tidy package. The basics, though, boil down to this: Dr. Doom has a Cosmic Cube, and he feels like messing with reality, because that’s what megalomaniacal bad guys do. I’ve also got to compliment the top-notch voice acting in the cutscenes, including instantly recognizable pros like Nolan North as Deadpool, Steve Blum as Wolverine, and Keith David as Nick Fury.

After choosing your characters, it’s time to actually play the game. And by the time I got a third of the way through the campaign, I’d already grown bored. Instead of offering any kind of variety or difficulty, the game simply threw more and more enemies at me—or gave them an insane amount of health—in the hopes of slowing me down. But it’s not like I was actually doing anything. I played as Hawkeye for most of the game after wasting my money, so all I had to do was get a decent distance away, hold the Shift key in order to ground my hero, and then hold another button to attack. Sometimes two. If I played as the Hulk or Thing, the only thing that changed was my distance relative to the target. The enemy spawn times are also horribly balanced, and I’d regularly clear an area of Hand ninjas or HYDRA goons, only to have them reappear nanoseconds later.

One decent aspect of the gameplay, however, comes in the dungeons. If you turn on auto-grouping, you can enter any dungeon without the fear of being completely overwhelmed. Unlike a lot of other MMOs, when you enter a dungeon around the same time as other players, you can be automatically placed on a team with them. Of course, this can lead to the confusing dilemma of having six Hawkeyes on the same team (which happened to me a lot) and getting your particular avatar lost in the chaos, but if you’re a more introverted gamer, you don’t have to worry about pulling up an awkward chat window, begging for assistance, and dealing with complete strangers.

Normally, this is about where I’d wrap up my review, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the most disappointing aspect of my time playing Marvel Heroes: the technical side. I purposely waited as long as I did to put up my review because I was waiting to see how the game performed after some patches. While the game has seen several small patches and one major fix in the two weeks since the game went live, I’m still experiencing many gameplay-balance problems, as well as numerous technical issues.

Every 20 to 30 minutes, my game crashes or freezes for no apparent reason, and while I’ve reported this error on the technical forums, it remains unfixed after performing the recommended actions from the support staff. I’ve made sure my drivers are up to date, I’ve uninstalled and reinstalled the game launcher, and I’ve even turned down the specs to the lowest possible setting (my PC isn’t the highest-end gaming rig, but it should handle the minimum requirements no problem).

This left the support staff confounded—and me increasingly frustrated. So, I want to warn people before they play Marvel Heroes: In my experience, it just doesn’t work as well as it should. And after perusing the forums, I found that the error I encountered is actually pretty common. Then again, you get what you pay for—and the core of the game is free, after all.

So, if the game works for you perfectly, that’s great, but at the end of the day, fewer crashes still won’t make Marvel Heroes the most worthwhile of experiences unless you fall in love with its price tag.

Developer: Gazillion Entertainment • Publisher: Gazillion Entertainment • ESRB: N/A • Release Date: 06.04.13
4.0
While Marvel Heroes does some nice things, the Marvel license isn’t enough to cover up glaring technical and design flaws. As much as I wanted to like this game, I can’t recommend something that is, at its core, broken. In the end, you get what you pay for (or less, if you actually invested in this).
The Good Story that expertly reimagines some of Marvel’s greatest moments.
The Bad Constant crashing and glitches; uninspired gameplay.
The Ugly Expecting to get something for nothing—and then being surprised when what you get just isn’t that good.
Marvel Heroes is a PC exclusive. 
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There’s a storm brewin’…

Looking to capitalize on the success of its TrackMania brand and expand their repertoire, developer Nadeo looked to put their unique spin on old-school first-person shooters. Thus, we have ShootMania. And we were able to go hands-on with Storm, the first maps of the first environment for ShootMania.

The main theme behind ShootMania, much like it’s sister TrackMania, is providing entertaining head-to-head competition by simplifying things in order to hopefully minimize time spent not actually in game and to make the games fast-paced with frantic action. There are several ways Nadeo is doing that with ShootMania, starting with your primary weapon. Described as a rocket launcher (although it looks more like a beam cannon of sorts), the weapon fires streaking blasts of explosive light and so all it takes is two hits to eliminate your enemies in what feels like laser tag on steroids. Players also can utilize bunkers that they would hole up in to use “sniper rifles” that really just focused their lasers to maximize their blast distance.

This was all we saw in regards to weapon variety, however. This is so that players wouldn’t worry about needing to customize loadouts or the like as everyone basically plays on an even level. This not only gets you into the action faster, but also ensures that the competition comes down more to skill, and maybe a little luck, to determine the outcome.

There were items that weren’t offensive in nature though that could also help to the strategy. Reminding me of Metroid, each player is equipped with an energy-based grappling hook that can attach to several points on each map and allow players to swing across gaps to hopefully set up better positions for later offense. There is a risk to the grappling hook though as you cannot fire while swinging.

If you don’t like the idea of being defenseless when swinging through the air, there is also the wall jump. Not easy to time considering the game is a first-person shooter, players who master this maneuver can completely change matches by luring unsuspecting players into coffin corners and then leaping behind them by bouncing up the walls.

In regards to game modes, we also played a simplified version of Team Deathmatch where there were only three players on each team. Again, this affords faster matches, but also gives you the chance to really gel with a particular group of guys and tests your skill as a group. To make sure you don’t spend a lot of time searching for opponents though, as a 3v3 match doesn’t usually last long, you play a series of games with the same people where the overall match doesn’t end until a team gets three game wins and are up by at least two victories. Should a pair of teams trade wins back and forth, then it is the first to five wins overall.

Another way to speed up the action we found was by activating a beacon in the middle of most maps. This switched on an electrical storm field that starts closing in around the beacon. Anyone hit by the field is immediately eliminated and so your surroundings start speeding up the competition as well until there is a small patch of safe zone left and you are left in a Mexican standoff with your opponents.

Of course, some gamers may not be all about competing with other players. Well, any players who are transition over from TrackMania will be happy to know that ShootMania will have a similar map editor so you can build your own nefarious mazes with Halo-like launchers or camper paradises littered with bunkers depending on your own personal play style and share these with your friends. And considering there is minimal customization you can do with your in-game avatar, putting a kick ass map out into the community might be the best way for you to stand out if your kill/death ratio isn’t up to snuff.

In the end, veterans of online first-person shooters should quickly be able to pick up and play around with ShootMania, but mastering it will prove a bit more difficult considering its unique take on map design and game play pace. If you’re a fan of TrackMania and what Nadeo has done with that community over there, you can expect a lot more of the same user-interaction and strong community to develop here. And then again if you’re just looking for a cheap way to shoot some giant lasers, ShootMania: Storm looks like it’ll be a worthwhile romp when it launches January 23, 2013.

Gimmicks Assemble!

Every time you walk into a comic book store nowadays, it seems there is some sort of new major event going on, especially with Marvel. This constant bombardment of universe changing stories makes it so that mighty Marvelites barely get a chance to breathe when it comes to keeping up with the flood of fiction usually before them. Fear Itself, World War Hulk, House of M, Dark Reign, Avengers vs X-Men, Civil War, Chaos War, Schism, and Spider-Island, are just some, not even close to all, of what has happened in the past few years of Marvel. So when we first heard we were getting a Marvel Avengers Kinect game based off of Secret Invasion, most of us were shaking our heads at the idea since in modern comic terms, this four-year old story arc was already considered ancient in the mythos of Earth-616 and is not nearly as beloved as some other stories.

The basic premise of Secret Invasion was that the shape-shifting Skurllls had found a way to transform themselves to resemble many of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes without being detected and then inserted themselves as sleeper agents amongst the super hero populous. Once it was revealed with Skrull-Electra’s death, the event had everyone guessing as to whom they could trust and just where all the original heroes had gone. And so the idea of jumping into the shoes of everyone’s favorite heroes to bash those green-skinned, three-chinned, would be conquerors led to Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth.

The game has you play as 20 different characters from the Marvel Universe and take on both regular and Skrull versions of many of these heroes and villains in a fighting game style as you loosely follow the events of Secret Invasion. From the infiltration of the Baxter Building where the Fantastic Four make their home to the attack on the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, you must fend off dozens of foes overall as each level has several conflicts associated with it.

Each round of fighting features a pair of heroes or villains on each side, but should one character’s lifebar be depleted, the match is over. In terms of the motions you must perform, anyone who played Ubisoft’s previous Kinect hero game, PowerUp Heroes, should be familiar with the actions as you kick, punch, and swing your arms around to mimic moves that the actual Marvel characters might do. From clasping your fists together and swinging upward for a massive Hulk uppercut to opening your arms up wide for an Iron Man Repulsor Beam, the game does a very good job of recognizing your movements and what exactly you want to do with each character. To immerse you in the experience even more, there are even voice commands where if you scream certain phrases during Ultra Attacks, like ‘HULK SMASH’, your moves are even more powerful and as cheesy as you may sound, the gimmick is surprisingly fun.

As tight handling as the game may be for a motion game though, its core mechanics are overly simple and the motions become repetitive and boring as you quickly realize just how many battles you have to work your way through in order to beat the game’s campaign mode. The story adaptation also clearly needed more work than it got and if you are a diehard fan of the comics, you won’t appreciate the characters and scenarios that were randomly added to try to force some longevity into this title that even then should really only require a few hours to beat.

Despite its fatal flaw of being as repetitive as every other Kinect game out there though, Marvel Avengrs: Battle for Earth actually has a lot more polish than you might expect from a game of this nature and is a great way to get your butt out of your chair to pummel some of your all-time favorite comic book characters. Along with some tight controls, there is a versus and co-op feature that allows you to play with or against your friends and could prove to be a great way to kill a rainy day should your living room have the space for it. The look and sound of the game also helps give the game an authentic comic book feel. All told, if you’re a Marvel fan really looking to get into the shoes of one of your favorite characters, there are worst things you can do than play Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth.

SUMMARY: As usual, the gimmicks quickly become evident and tiresome, especially for folks familiar with the comic arc this game’s story is based off of. However, there is some surprising polish here and you might have more fun with it than you’d expect as it is one of the few Kinect games where the controls actually work.

  • THE GOOD: Great look and sound to the game that mimics the comics well
  • THE BAD: Simple game play that can become boring quickly
  • THE UGLY: Skrulls and their triple chins

SCORE: 7.0

Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth is available currently for Xbox 360 and will later be available on Wii U. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox 360.    

X-Men #10 Review

Originally Published: April 27, 2011, on Comicvine.com

The X-Men and Spider-Man wrap up their expedition in the sewers of New York City as they try to stop Dark Beast and his mad experiments on Dr. Curt Connors and the unsuspecting citizens of Manhattan.

The Good

Any story arc with Dark Beast in it is a win for me because he poses a threat on so many levels to the current X-Men. This is also an ideal time to have him re-emerge in the X-Men’s lives since we know he will be a major player in future X-Force issues, even though we don’t know the details on that as of yet.

The banter back and forth between Emma Frost and Spider-Man was also very well written as they are burdened with the task of rescuing the rest of the X-Men after they fall under the spell of Dark Beast’s lizard transformation device.

The Bad

This arc started off so strongly, with a brief spike at the Dark Beast reveal, but has been on a downward slide ever since with this final issue hitting rock bottom. Most of the issue is Emma and Spidey crawling through the sewers trying to regroup and escape from the barely coherent Lizard X-Men. Although the banter was entertaining, it just felt like filler before we got to what was a short and quick resolution with Emma freeing the original Lizard, Curt Connors.

Due to the cramped quarters, you also never really see Wolverine, Spidey, or anyone else with any speed or agility really ramp up and let go in the limited fight scenes. If anything, Spider-Man felt like an unnecessary addition to this entire adventure and was there simply because it is his turf and he’s had experience with the Lizard before and reminded me why I don’t particularly read most Spider-Man comics anymore.

The Verdict

Although the banter was well written, there was far too much of it and made this comic feel like it was dragging two pages in. To sort through all that filler and end on such an anti-climatic resolution on top of it just left me shaking my head.

Spider-Man was nothing but useless aside from acting as foil to Emma and this entire story arc felt like a cheap way of bringing Dark Beast into everyone’s mind before he makes his impact on the Age of Apocalypse storyline with X-Force coming in June. Even if you’ve been reading this arc, I’m tempted to tell you to steer clear and hope for better things next month.

Originally Published: March 29, 2011, on Youtube.com/RCars4885

I come to you once again with your weekly geek fix from my mother’s basement! This week’s episode sees me review X-Men #9 from Marvel and the downloadable Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime from Atari. My hot chick pick of the week is Nancy Patton and this week’s theme is Ray Parker Jr.’s Ghostbusters movie theme.

Chew on this Galactus!

Originally Published: February 27, 2011, on my StrongProtector account on GiantBomb.com

In high school and even later in college, my friends and I back in Jersey would head over to the mall arcade maybe once a week and feed a ton of quarters into our favorite machines. A couple guys would settle into the chair of a racer like Initial-D, but I would always head over to the Marvel vs Capcom 2 cabinet. This went on until I graduated college and the arcade, like many others in Jersey, closed down.

Fortunately for me, shortly after that, Capcom would give us Marvel vs Capcom junkies a downloadable version for current generation consoles. Instead of placating us though, all this ended up doing was feed the fires for myself and others like me who wanted another sequel to this beloved brawler. And now, after a decade of waiting, its finally here. But with so much hype and anticipation surrounding it, could Marvel vs Capcom 3: The Fate of Two Worlds live up to the lofty expectations of addicts like me?

The basic plot of the game is that Doctor Doom has tampered with his dark magic a bit too much and has discovered a parallel Earth populated by the characters of our favorite Capcom games (and a future Earth with Zero). Tempted with the thought of conquering multiple worlds, Doom teams up with not only the greatest threats of his Earth like Dormammu and M.O.D.O.K., but also with the greatest of the Capcom universe, Albert Wesker. Unfortunately, this wormhole into other dimensions has also stoked the hunger of the greatest nemesis anyone, hero or villain, has ever faced, the cosmic being Galactus. With a smorgasbord of planets to possibly quell his insatiable hunger, Galactus has begun his approach and now heroes and villains will have to unite to save all universes threatened by his cosmic power.

Right off the bat, this is probably the best plot of the series as it has more of traditional Marvel comics feel and you can credit veteran comic writer Frank Tieri for that. On top of the plot being heavily influenced by comics, the entire art direction of the game seems to be ripped from comics as well. Bright, stylized, cel-shaded graphics with beautifully drawn paneled cut scenes, much like a comic book page, has the game seem more like a fan service for loyal Marvelites out there. All you need is Stan Lee to yell “Excelsior!” before every match. Even the character select screen sees the chosen characters placed onto a graphic novel style tablet as you choose their assists before a battle.

The audio is also very strong as instead of each level having a set theme, now each character has their own theme and you’ll hear the theme of whomever you may be facing. From a more patriotic ballad for Captain America to the classic Bionic Commando and Street Fighter themes for when Spencer or Ryu jump on screen, the music is tremendous. It’s not the only part of the audio that shines though as the voice acting is also well done. With each character having specific taunts both in battle and after every victory depending on whom they’re facing, like Captain America yelling at Iron Man “That was for the Civil War!”, the audio is simply top notch all around for Marvel vs Capcom 3.

Marvel vs Capcom 3 isn’t perfect though. The standards of the series return such as three member tag-teams and huge hyper combos that can be done singly or with your team if you have enough power bars. But other diehards of the series might be a little put-off by the fact that the combat system has been simplified in many ways. Instead of having the standard six attack buttons like the old arcade cabinets (high punch, med punch, low punch, high kick, med kick, low kick), now there are only four comprised of a low, medium, high, and special attack that can be used to launch foes into the air. This offered me a lot of confusion when I first started playing the game and was trying to perform a low kick with Iron Man.

To help remedy this, there is a new missions mode reminiscent of some of the later Mortal Kombat games which serves as a chance for you to learn some basic combos and special moves to get the feel of the game if you wish. Each character has 10 missions and so this lets you either become well-rounded with many characters, or really specialize in two or three.

One positive to the new button layout is that it is much easier to switch characters in and out, call for assists, or perform your hyper combos as now each one of those maneuvers has been assigned their own button on the controllers. This does allow for more rookie fighters to jump right into it and level the playing field with more veterans, but there are plenty of new maneuvers that have been added to help separate the rookies from the veterans as well like the brand new team air combos and new reversal systems.

Another new aspect added is the “X-Factor” where by smashing the four attack buttons at the same time, you can increase the attack power and heal your active character. This new feature does give an interesting strategic twist, but again diehards of previous titles in the series probably won’t even remember to use it as it just feels so gimmicky and foreign to this series.

The biggest disappointment probably for the game is the lack of characters though, both old and new. There are only 36 characters total at launch, with more coming in DLC to sap you of more money. Sure new characters like Deadpool, Super-Skrull, Viewtiful Joe, and Amaterasu are great original additions to the series, but others are just rip-offs of characters who were removed or are still in the game. Haggar is just a Zangief rip-off with a steel pipe, X-23 replaces the “bone claw” version of Wolverine, and Zero is Mega Man with a sword.

I understand that Capcom wanted to streamline the 56 characters that were in Marvel vs Capcom 2, but to cut out 20 characters including a lot of fan favorites? Just to re-package them as DLC later? Of course fans will still buy it, but I think I speak for a lot of people when I say how disappointing that is. Cutting out half the roster when making a fighting game sequel is not usually the way to go because by pure definition that is not bigger nor better.

Despite all this, Marvel vs Capcom 3 is still a very good fighting game. Technically it is very sound and it is easy to pick up but hard to master with a great storyline that will make any and every Marvel fan squeal in delight. If you are a fan of the franchise, Marvel, Capcom, or just fighters in general, then this is a game you should add to your collection even if you’ll walk away feeling it is a bit more generic than you’d initially expect.

Ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best.

Graphics: 10.0: The visuals for MvC3 are absolutely tremendous done in a stylized cel-shading that really stresses the comic book feel that is persistent throughout the game as you are bombarded by bright and vibrant colors all day long.

Audio: 10.0: Redone classic video game themes for all the Capcom characters and fitting original themes for the Marvel characters is one of the great highlights of this game. Coupled with great voice acting from all those involved and the audio is as perfect as can be.

Plot/Plot Development: 4.0: Most fighting games truly lack a compelling plot, and MvC3 may have the most piss poor of them all. Never even properly explained, all you have to go on is a stylized opening sequence and a solid boss battle with Galactus to put together that Wesker and Doom have partnered together. Solid comic book plot, but it needed to be explained a lot better than it was.

Gameplay: 7.0: Many diehards will be irritated with the button changes and new features added, but at the end of the day, they work and will appeal to a mass audience. Too bad for this review, I’m representing the diehards.

Replay Value: 6.5: Like any good fighting game nowadays, the replay value really comes in the online play, especially since you can blow through the single player offline mode in a weekend if need be. Unfortunately, it may take you 20 minutes to find an opponent to play online and therefore make the online play moot because who wants to play three matches in an hour? So if you don’t have some friends to form a lobby with, then you might think twice about the worth of MvC3.

Overall (not an average): 8.0: MvC3 is a very solid fighter on a technical level, but fans of the series will be put off by the gimmicks added and the arcade style of play that is the true staple of this series. More bells and whistles are all well and good, but it felt like Capcom sold the soul of this game. So even with it being technically perfect, this game falls just short of being put into elite status in my mind.

Originally Published: December 15, 2010, on youtube.com/CGRUndertow

As a part of CGR Undertow, I reviewed the Wiiware Fluidity.