Dragon Age: Origins is the newest RPG from Bioware, makers of Mass Effect and Knights of the Old Republic. It’s their self titled “spiritual successor” to the beloved Baldur’s Gate, and it shows. I managed to get some hands on time with the Xbox 360 version at Comic Con and I enjoyed the time I spent with it. The character customization, the dialog, and the combat system all seemed up to par. I got some loot, which is always a video game favorite of mine. This all seems good, and it is. However, there’s just something about this game that nags at me in the back of my mind. The violence.

Here is the old logo when the game was known simply as Dragon Age:

Classy, right?

Classy, right?

And here is the logo when it became Dragon Age: Origins:

Not so much

Not so much

You’ll notice that someone wrote Origins in a blood smear beneath the original logo, and that Dragon Age became dingy and speckled with blood. But it doesn’t stop there, no sir!

Here’s the box art for the game:

I just want to rinse it off

I just want to rinse it off

That is a dragon shaped pool of blood. Even the EA logo is made out of blood.

This theme keeps going. While playing as my wood elf, I came upon some ancient ruins, and inside were some giant spiders. As soon as I killed one of the mangy beasts in hand to hand combat, my character was covered in gore from head to toe. It was especially bad when I went into a conversation with my elf buddy because it zoomed in on his blood covered face. You think these guys would bring a wet nap or something with them.

This is what I'm talking about

This is what I'm talking about

None of this makes me think this game is going to be less than fantastic. It just seems to me like Bioware knows that they already have the RPG fan in their pocket, and now they’re trying to appeal to the Halo crowd by making their game look as gritty and violent as possible. Honestly, it just feels a little weird to me. And in case you were wondering, I’ve never had a problem with violence in video games before.

Dragon Age: Origins is being released this fall on the PC, Xbox 360, and PS3, and is a serious conteneder for the game I buy next semester.

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I mean seriously, look at the size of that thing

I mean seriously, look at the size of that thing

He look, it’s another game I got some hands on time with at Comic Con! This time we’re lookin at Darksiders and the lookin is good.

In Darksiders, you play as War, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. I’m not really sure what the story for this game is since i skipped the opening cut scene. There was a line behind me and I couldn’t really hear what they were saying anyway. Not the optimal conditions for a preview.

Anyway, Darksiders is an action platformer. You kill things with sword combos, and traverse the environment with jumping and climbing and even a tad bit of shimmying. For the most part I was combating apocalypse zombies, and they didn’t stand a chance against my big ass sword and the occasional punch thrown in there for good measure. Combat is easy and fun, with some pretty devastating combos. War does work.

A mini-boss reared its ugly head and I killed him too. It was some kind of bigger than me demon that I dispatched without too much effort, and once I wore its health down enough I was rewarded with a brutal quick time even a la God of War.

At this point I had been playing for about ten minutes and decided it was time to give someone else a turn with the game. I had fun with it. I feel like this game does a better job of separating itself from God of War than the similar Dante’s Inferno. The sword felt very different from Kratos’ signature Blades of Chaos, and the art style was flashier and more brightly colored (always a plus in these grim and gritty times). It still had quick time events, but at least the only time I had to do one was to stab a giant demon in the face, as opposed to opening a door.

Even though I had fun with this game, I’m still on the fence about buying it. There are a lot of good games coming out this fall (Brutal Legend, Left 4 Dead 2, Alpha Protocol) and I’m unsure whether this game will rise above to earn my purchase. That’s not to say I think it will be bad, other releases just have more of my attention. I’ll be keeping an eye on this one as it comes closer to its January release.

I'll do this to you if you bitch about this game

I'll do this to you if you bitch about this game

People have been complaining about Left 4 Dead 2. They spout nonsense such as “too soon” and “why isn’t this an update for the first game” and worst of all “lets start a petition and not buy this”. I despise these people. Give Valve the benefit of the doubt because if you liked the first game, you’ll enjoy this just as much.

I jumped on the opportunity to play one of the segments of the newly revealed swamp level over the weekend at Comic Con. Fred, myself, and two other strangers put up a valiant fight and only one of the people I didn’t know died. It felt good after how badly Dead Space: Extraction hurt me.

If you’ve played the first game, you know what this is all about. Killin zombies. Luckily, there are enough differences to set this apart from the first game. The new weapons are awesome. I tried my hand at the new sniper rifle, the AK-47, and the cricket bat. The sniper rifle was miles better than the one in the first game. It uses a clip instead of a bolt action, so i could squeeze several shots off in quick succession. Awesome. The AK was a typical machine gun and didn’t really light my world on fire (speaking of fire, the new incendiary rounds are quite nice). And lastly the cricket bat was decent, but let’s be honest, I don’t want to be that close to the infected if I don’t have to be, so I stuck with the sniper rifle most of the time.

The new infected help mix things up a bit. The spitter reminds me of Gollum, crawling around on all fours being annoying. His little spit gobs hurt and splatter on the screen. I hate him. The charger is really good at slamming me into the ground. I hate him too. (Because they’re good at messing me up, not because they’re bad ideas.) All of your other favorite special infected made appearances too, so don’t worry about them being side lined by the new kids on the block.

Hate these things. HATE

Hate these things. HATE

I didn’t notice any of the ‘uncommon common infected’ but the regular infected have gone through a major change: limb damage. That’s right, you can now shoot off arms and legs, making Left 4 Dead 2 even more violent than the first game. Sweet.

The level itself was set at night in a swamp. No rainbows and sunshine here folks. Most of the time we were wading around in water and it was quite spooky. At one point we came across a crashed air plane and had to open the emergency hatch to get past it, alerting a hoard. The action is just as frantic and exciting as before. Unfortunately we didn’t come across any moments that forced us to keep moving, as opposed to the old holing up and weathering the storm strategy.

After my hands on time with this game I’m confident that Valve will make it worth the sixty-dollar price point. It looks like more zombie killing fun with enough changes to justify the sequel status. Bring on the zombie rush Valve, I’m ready.

can't make fun of this

can't make fun of a title this cool

I loved the original Dead Space. I bought all of the comics, preordered the game so I could get the art book, and beat the entire game in two days. It was my game of the year 2008 and was better than even Resident Evil 5 in my mind. Imagine my excitement to get some hands on time with the Wii prequel, Dead Space: Extraction.

That excitement didn’t last long however as Extraction quickly and repeatedly kicked me in the crotch. The demo starts off with you opening a door. On the other side of the door is a room covered in the Necromorph organic creep and five or six necromorphs quickly show up to kick my ass. The gun I had (not even sure what it was) only had five shots in it and did not reload fast enough. I quickly died twice. Demonstrating the game’s pop-in multiplayer, Fred jumped on to help me. We barely made it through the first fight to be quickly and handily dispatched in the next encounter. Then when we loaded up again we died in the first fight. =(

Extraction doesn’t seem like a bad game, someone just picked a bad place to start the demo. We had no time to familiarize ourselves with the controls and were immediately thrown to the wolves. The hungry undead space zombie wolves with spikes for hands. The game looks good and controls well from the ten minutes we had with it. I didn’t have too much trouble targeting limbs and ‘strategically dismembering’ them. I’m looking forward to playing through the entire game when it is released this fall.

You won't see this scene in Extraction

You won't see this scene in Extraction

My bro!

My bro!

After last night’s session with Persona 4, I am about 7 and a half hours into the game and it keeps getting better. I now have free reign to go around and do what I want, which translates into how I’m going to spend my time after school and what I do before bed.

After school I have several options: I can explore the dungeon inside the TV world, hang out with my friends, or if it’s Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday, practice with the soccer team.

Going inside the dungeon is always a fun test in endurance that reminds me a little bit of Etrian Odyssey. Both games have you exploring a multileveled dungeon with progressively harder enemies on each floor. Both games force you to decide how far you should go before turning around. Try to do too much and you’ll likely die. You need to know when it’s time to fight and when it’s time to leave. This brings me to the one little complaint I have with the game. The enemies are visible on the exploration screen and to initiate battle you need to hit them with your sword, or they can attack you. To get an advantage in battle you need to attack them from behind, so this usually involves me standing around for a minute or two while I wait for these things to turn around.

Hanging out with my friends or practicing with the soccer team both go hand in hand, in that they both involve me leveling up my social links. Social links represent the bonds of friendship I share with people and leveling them up strengthens my personas, demons that assist me in battle. I look forward to going to soccer practice and hanging out with Kou and Daisuke. They’re fun and interesting. On the way home from practice one day we stopped at a restaurant and had some ramen. =D

Other than side characters, I can also hang out with main characters, like my bro Yosuke. We went and got some steaks from this great little stand in the shopping district. Little chewy, but still pretty good. Even if some jerks were gossiping about how Yosuke’s parents are ruining Inaba by bringing Junes, the chain super store, into their town. Hey, I’m from the big city, I love hangin out at the Junes food court. Don’t let the haters get you down.

I freakin love Junes

I freakin love Junes

Before I go to bed there are at least two things I can do. First off, I can study to increase my knowledge. This is all I’ve done so far since no other option has been open to me. However, I bought a book at the book store after school and the next time I jump into Persona 4, I’m reading it before bed. It better be good because it cost me 1200 yen.

Persona 4 has its hooks in me. They created a living, breathing world with intersting characters that I actually care about. Don’t get me wrong, the RPG gameplay is fun, but man I want to hang out with Daisuke and Kou some more. Them some cool guys.

Just some cool guys and some noodles

Just a couple of cool guys and some noodles

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Kids these days

I played the first three hours of Persona on Friday night. After those three hours I pressed the X button hundreds of times to get through lengthy conversations. I fought in maybe five or six actual battles. I might have had direct control of my character for thirty minutes. I’m pretty sure all I accomplished was the tutorial. I had a great time.

Persona 4 is all about being a high school kid in rural Japan and all the burdens that come with it. Including solving murders by going inside TV’s and fighting demons. Most of the time I played was spent being acclimated with the characters and the setting. I went to class a few times, made some friends, and went inside the TV a few times to meet a bear and rescue my friends from demons. There were a few anime cut scenes sprinkled in for good measure.

If there’s on thing I didn’t like it was that the game spelled everything out for me in the most painful fashion possible. It made me feel like I was a two year old that couldn’t even follow the most basic plot developments. For example, I was watching the news one night and after it was over, the main character would summarize everything he just heard. This summarization happens after almost anything plot related happens .

I look forward to the next time I sit down with Persona 4, at which point I’ll provide a more in depth look at gameplay, because like I said, I’m pretty sure I just completed the introduction to the game. Expect more Persona 4 later this week.

Yes, he is punching through that man.

Yes, he is punching through that man.

Prototype is an open-world action game that is vaguely similar to Grand Theft Auto. Except that you have tentacles and can run straight up the side of a building. And then jump off of said building onto a helicopter and hijack it.

You play as Alex Mercer. He’s angry and amnesic and just woke up on a morgue slab. To make things worse (or more exciting) he’s being hunted by the military. Add on top of that Manhattan, where the game is set, is placed under a military quarantine because of a hideous viral outbreak. If you read my Devil Survivor preview then you know this alone is enough to make me foam at the mouth.

Anyway, you run around town performing various missions to advance the story as the city slowly falls apart under the weight of the military and the viral outbreak. There are also a few side challenges, such as races and assisting the military or absorbing people, to keep you occupied.

So far I have enjoyed the time I’ve spent in Prototype’s version of New York immensely. I am close to the end of the game, but have yet to beat it. I’m going to hold off on a full review until the game is completed, so keep your eyes peeled for that next week.