Microsoft

Better, but still not enough…

Beginning April 1, Hitman Absolution will be available through Xbox Games with Gold. Hitman is a Square Enix title, one of my favorite publishers, and I missed it when it was originally released, so I’ll definitely be picking it up. Hitman Absolution was released in 2012, so it’s not exactly a new title.

On April 16, Hitman Absolution will be replaced with Deadlight, an XBLA title also from 2012. While it was well received, like Hitman, Deadlight is over a year old not exactly at the top of anyone’s radar.

Microsoft continues to fall behind in comparison to the titles being released via Son’s Playstation Plus. In January, Sony made Bioshock Infinite available for free to Playstation Plus subscribers. Bioshock Infinite is barely a year old and is largely considered to be one of the best games released last year. Among the titles being released this month via Playstation plus, is Batman: Arkham City.

I’d be interested in seeing the numbers behind the Games with Gold program to see how many downloads are actually being made. At any rate, Microsoft should consider opening up the safe and letting go of the few exclusives they still have. Give us Halo 4, or at least Halo Reach, and Gears of War Judgment. Or if not some new games, then start dishing out some of the older fan favorites like Crackdown or Left 4 Dead.

Step it up Microsoft. You’re not winning this fight and if you don’t start making some moves soon, the ref is going to call it.

Dues Ex: Human Revolution – Directors Cut – Xbox 360 Edition – Spoilers

by Jon Michael May

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There will come a day, perhaps in our lifetime, when science can build a better human, fixing the flaws of nature and enhancing abilities bordering on science fiction. That is the world presented in Dues Ex: Human Revolution, a game blending directed action and meticulous stealth, into the not so distant future of human augmentation.

Developed by Eidos Montreal and published by Square Enix, Human Revolution emerged from the shadows of obscurity, at least to me, with few expectations. Having never played the original title, to which HR is a prequel, I knew little of what to expect from the GameFly rental. Imagine then my surprise when I stumbled upon this sleeper hit and discovered something amazing.

Human Revolution puts you in the first person perspective of Adam Jensen, the head of security for Sarif Industries and the unwitting recipient for a host of cybernetic augmentations. Those augmentations are at the heart of what sets Dues Ex apart from other games. Instead of including the typical RPG element of upgradeable traits/skills, human augmentation is placed front and center as the catalyst for the next step in human evolution. It’s through this augmentation that Jensen’s abilities can be enhanced, as it’s as much a part of Jensen’s character as the world in which he inhabits. This is never more evident than in the way in which the story explores the ethical uncertainties inherit when science plays God and tries to make man, better.

Determined to find answers and justice for the death of key scientists at Sarif industries Jensen is led into the world of corporate espionage and a truth that reaches far beyond his employer. Jensen must now rely on his new augmentations to overcome a world of augmented mercenaries determined on stopping him.

Human Revolution was a game that I couldn’t put down, even when faced with a particularly difficult challenge or action sequence. Many games inevitably create a challenge that becomes frustrating to overcome, with no insensitive to keep coming back, because the only reward is the progression beyond the obstacle. Dues Ex, overcomes this with it’s story and the rich and vibrant world Eidos Montreal has created.

While not completely linear or open world, the locations where the action does occur, are developed into thriving vibrant worlds where more is going on than just the focus of the story. There are definite boundaries, but the environment is created to direct the gameplay in a manner that never feels constrained. Even while exploring, I don’t recall running up against the typical blank wall or edge of the world.

On several occasions I found myself wanting to stop and look around, not to see where the edge of the world might be, but to examine the minute details. That exploration is often rewarded with side quests, loot, and world supporting details that add a wealth of detail to the universe.

Ultimately, Human Revolution depicts a universe I want to revisit. With a variety of ways to play the game, from straight action shooter to hacking stealth mechanics, and in lack of a proper sequel, I can easily see myself replaying Human Revolution for a second (technically a third) time.

Initially, the game bugged out on me in the final mission and at the time, when I rented it back in 2011 and I was unable to complete the main campaign. The Directors Cut seeks to correct such issues and I experienced no further problems completing the game.

Additional flourishes promised improved boss battles, AI and graphics, and enhanced Wii U GamePad functionality. While I can’t speak to the latter, even with the inclusion of Second Screen Tablet and PS Vita support, due to my lack of a tablet, I did notice a refinement in the boss battle sequences. As for improved graphics, the game looked good to begin with and I couldn’t see any distinguishable increase in graphic fidelity, though that’s not to say it was lacking. I played on the highest difficulty setting and the action, both stealth and combat, presented challenging obstacles.

The Directors Cut promised to integrate The Missing Link DLC and as promised, played like an original part of the story, rather than another level tacked onto the end. The integration was so convincing, that I suspect the Missing Link content was part of the original game and removed so DLC would be available when the game launched. While I have no proof of this, I can’t escape the thought this was the case and done as a simple money grab. That’s too bad and remains the one downside I came away with from the entire game. It remains a minor qualm however.

The game fills tightly constructed, but never claustrophobic. Levels are intricately laid out to provide a wealth of game play and missions across a relatively small landscape while being detailed enough to never be boring. Combat, if you choose to engage, is quick and precise, while the stealth mechanics offer their own level of enjoyment. I found that for me a combination of both tactics worked well to overcome most situations. I could sneak through a room and hack various doors, terminals, and robots, but if detected, I had the capacity to fight my way out it. It does however take much of the game to build up this balance and the early stages of dealing with which augmentations to chose, can be overwhelming, particularly when early investments in a particular skill make later levels and boss fights, much easier to overcome.

I enjoyed the open ended nature of the game, as the build up to the conclusion originated from elements within the first moments of the story. The final moments never felt anticlimactic as though a shoehorned ending rolled into the credits without warning. The player is never asked to make a decision with little or no context as to why that decision matters or what effect it will have on the world. While it took time to make that final choice, I appreciated the chance to make a decision that actually had an impact on the world, albeit after the fact.

A time consuming game and one not picked up to quell a few minutes of boredom, Human Revolution rewards those willing to stick with the Science Fiction adventure it attempts to tell. Completing the full story and the variety of side quests takes a commitment and because of that, Human Revolution loses a degree of replayability. Given enough time, it’s definitely a game I intend to revisit.

I’m not sure how I feel about the concept of releasing a Directors Cut of a game, which essentially addresses issues which arise after the games release. I suppose that in many ways it’s not that different from periodic patches and updates that most games now receive, but that suggests a consumer willing to purchase a broken product and companies more than willing to sell us that broken product. While nothing can be entirely perfect and in many cases, testing before release, even Open Beta’s, won’t find every problem. The Directors Cut of Dues Ex: Human Revolution is an interesting case because it offers changes to actual gameplay in addition to the inclusion of DLC and bug fixes. Were it merely the latter, we could chalk it up to a fancy Game of the Year type release. Those are common these days, but few if any actually go back and tweak parts of the game in ways that alter the gameplay.

It helps that the Directors Cut was cheaper than the original game and in the end, Human Revolution is better for it. If you have the original version, it’s not worth another purchase unless you want a collectors item or plan to purchase it for the Wii U. If you’ve never played it before or like me, didn’t finish it the first time around, than give it another chance. It’s worth your time and money.

 

It’s not that bad…

About Microsoft and always on…

Yes, it’s about piracy and used games. This pretty much goes without saying. They want to make sure the game you’re playing are legit and if is, and it should be, why does should that matter. It doesn’t to me. You know what’s also always on and connected, my PC and cell phone. Yes I may lose coverage in certain areas and that’s annoying but they’re always working to expand better coverage and that represents what I think Microsoft is really doing here.

We all know all digital disc-less games are coming. We’re there with music, tv, and movies and games are next. They problem is that games are big and a lot of people still have slow Internet or no Internet at all. That’s a problem.

One way to fix this, is to create an incredibly popular service that demands a high speed Internet infrastructure. If the need is there, service providers will have no choice but to comply to meet the demand of their consumers. And if they won’t, someone will enter the market to fill that void because money is there to be made. Google Fiber stands to make a small fortune if they can ramp up production of their own high speed Internet service, but that doesn’t seem to be happening right now. Sow for now, we’re stuck with slower speeds.

Microsoft isn’t settling for what the market and consumers want right now. The 360 taught them that they’ll need to be adaptable as the gaming landscape changes. Compare what was available on the first 360 to what you can do with that machine now and the difference is substantial. Microsoft is banking on the future where gamers will download all their media, including games, in a time when you’ll not only need to be always on, but want to always be online and connected.

The Xbox One may not live up to its potential on day one, but in time, with some refinement, it has the potential to be something truly great.  The people crying that Microsoft is doomed, based solely on what they saw yesterday are failing to see the larger picture.  In less than three weeks, Microsoft will no doubt showcase a plethora of games at E3.  Between now and then and even after that up to the point the console actually launches, they’ll likely spend a great deal of time on their message, branding, and clarifying what the console can and can’t do on day one.  And realistically until people actually get their hands on it, I remain optimistic about its potential.  Secondly, they couldn’t show everything yesterday, because they need things to show at E3 so any expecting a nonstop lineup of games going in, was going to be disappointed no matter what.

Lets keep in mind that Sony hasn’t even shown what they’re actual console looks like yet.  Yesterday, Microsoft was showing a working console.  And the WiiU isn’t even in the same class.  It’s a current gen console at best, with two of it’s major games, Batman and Mass Effect, already long over on its competitors consoles.  And do we actually remember the Nintendo press conference?  Ninetnedo only showed the tablet, never making it clear until after the press conference that it was indeed a new console and not just a new peripheral for the Wii.

None of the big three have exactly come out and taken the top spot yet, and to claim a winner at his point is simply ridiculous.