Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Champion Spotlight - Fiora, The Grand Duelist

HoN Hero Spotlight: Kinesis

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Fiora, The Grand Duelist, Revealed

It’s been quite a while since we’ve had the opportunity to explore the design space of a true melee carry in League of Legends. Fiora, the Grand Duelist, is our first all-out take on this type of champion since our initial launch, and our new addition to this role has let us really focus on a particular aspect: speed.

Not content to leave melee to the guys with oversized weapons, Fiora makes up for it in raw agility and lightning speed, using a fencer’s grace to shred opponents apart and keep herself in the fight. One way she utilizes this is by parrying her enemy’s attacks if she times it right. Parrying returns damages in the same swipe, making enemies think twice before directing attacks at her.

A melee carry must consider how to engage a fight, such as when to attack and how to stay on important targets with stuns, slows and snares flying around the battlefield. Fiora doesn’t deal with these by being immune to crowd control, or being too stubborn to lose that last bit of health – that would be uncouth. Instead, her Blade Waltz moves her from target to target at light speed, making her so fast that no spell or weapon can lay a hand on her during its duration. Popping Blade Waltz early will give Fiora some additional up-front burst, but will leave her vulnerable to burst damage and counter attacks. This “de-aggro” timing is an important choice that can result in either a swift death or a Pentakill.

While all carries have a boost to help their auto attacks get the job done, Burst of Speed has a high effect, very short duration, and a moderate cooldown. To compensate this higher opportunity cost, it refreshes when Fiora runs an enemy through. This not only makes Fiora players consider their timing as when to use this powerful buff, but her enemies can also deny her the opportunity by saving their escapes and disables for when this is up, suppressing her massive damage increase.

Being a melee carry is no longer a boy’s club – Fiora adds grace, class and a rapier wit to the group. While she may not be as large or overbearing as her contemporaries, underestimating her is an often fatal mistake.
  • Duelist (passive) - Fiora regenerates health over 6 seconds each time she deals damage. Striking champions will cause this effect to stack up to 4 times.
  • Lunge - Fiora dashes forward to strike her target, dealing physical damage. Fiora can perform the dash a second time within a couple seconds at no mana cost.
  • Riposte - Fiora's Attack Damage is increased. When activated, Fiora parries the next basic attack and reflects magic damage back to the attacker. Works against champions, monsters, and large minions.
  • Burst of Speed - Fiora temporarily gains additional Attack Speed. Each basic attack or Lunge she lands during this time increases her Movement Speed. Killing a champion refreshes the cooldown on Burst of Speed.
  • Blade Waltz (ultimate) - Fiora dashes around the battlefield to deal physical damage to enemy champions. Successive strikes against the same target deal less damage.

As the youngest child of the noble House Laurent, Fiora always considered herself destined for greatness. The Laurents had dominated the dueling culture of Demacia's aristocracy for centuries, and Fiora's father was regarded as one of the finest swordsmen the nation had ever seen. Inspired by his tales of glory, Fiora began training as soon as she could wield a blade and quickly showed greater talent than any of her siblings. As she grew older, her self-confidence and rigid discipline only widened the gulf of expertise between Fiora and her peers. Her fellow duelists perceived her confidence as arrogance, but none could defeat her in combat, and each victory only heightened her lofty self-esteem. Even so, Fiora never allowed herself to become complacent in her training, and she drove herself ever harder to become a worthy successor to her father's legacy.

Her devotion turned out to be misplaced. On the eve of an arranged duel, Fiora's father was caught slipping a slow paralysis poison into his opponent's drink. Following the incident, many of his past opponents came forward with their own accusations: envenomed weapons, bribery, blackmail, and more. In an instant, he had destroyed his family's honorable reputation. Fiora was outraged. Not only had her hero betrayed her ideals, but Demacia's dueling elite now doubted her own ability. She desperately wanted to wipe the stain from her family's history but, even more, she wanted the world to acknowledge her mastery. She found her solution in the one arena where she could fight the world's strongest warriors without being accused of dishonesty: the League of Legends.

info from:

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Champion Spotlight - Nautilus, the Titan of the Depths

enjoy the new trailer!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Hero Teaser: Kinesis

The Prophet teaches that energy flows through all things, we must only harness it for ourselves. The mages invoke incantations, the priests call upon gods wicked and just, but for the truly powerful, the power is harnessed from within. These are the Disciples of the Way and among them there is one known for his mastery over all – Kinesis. Let the Hellbourne beware the power of his mind.

Kinesis is a ranged intelligence hero who uses his surroundings to mercilessly pummel his enemies. The more havoc he wreaks, the harder it is for his enemies to take him down!

Abilities teaser:

Stasis Smash

Telekinetic Control

Inherent Defense

Mass Control

Friday, February 24, 2012

Counter Strike: Global Offensive Gameplay

We take a look at the Counter Strike Global Offensive Closed BETA.

Warp Review: A Downloadable Puzzler That's Equal Parts Bloody And Brilliant

Your story begins with you looking through the eyes of a creature as it's being carted through a laboratory by ominous looking scientists and military-types. An antiseptic white dominates the color palette to a point where you can almost smell the disinfectant. Once the camera zooms out, you discover that your avatar is a semi-transparent alien whose cute features are more Monsters, Inc. than menacing. Why are there so many armed guards for something so cute? Well, that question is quickly answered after you warp inside the body of a scientist and proceed to blow it into a heap of bloody chunks. 

Warp is a downloadable title that continues the tradition of last year's Catherine as puzzlers wrapped in the guise of an M-rated story. Your goal is to guide your extraterrestrial out of the laboratory by any means necessary. While your powers start off with the simple ability to warp through walls, you'll quickly gain the prowess to do more complex maneuvers like hurling objects via telekinesis and creating ethereal copies of yourself. This wide array of tactical options opens up the challenges, and allow you to navigate the environment as you see fit. Say you have to cross a room filled with barrels, passive scientists, and armed guards. You're presented with the choice of either warping through the room from scientist to scientist, hurling a barrel to cause a distraction, or just go all Scanners on the room and murder everyone in sight. Warp is truly a game built for stealthy pacifists, homicidal maniacs, and everyone in-between.

The developers give you the perfect amount of time to learn and master an ability before introducing a new one. They seem to take a page from the screenwriter's bible by showing us how to use new mechanics, and not telling us. For example, when booby-trapped tiles are introduced, the game doesn't pause and direct us to menu screen indicating what this different colored flooring is capable of. Instead, the player remains in total control as they witness a rat crawling over the tile and being blown to bits. Too many games nowadays rely on lengthy tutorials that grind the flow of the experience to a halt, so it's refreshing to see Warp's approach to teaching the player how its world works. By the end, after the player has mastered these tools, the solutions to puzzles then open up and allow one to navigate the environment and solve the puzzles in whichever way they are most comfortable. 

While there's a lot of charm in the animated gestures of your alien creature, the world tends to look fairly drab. Other editors who watch the game in passing mention that the government facility where Warp takes place resembles a mix of Final Fantasy VII's Shinra Building and Metal Gear Solid's Shadow Moses. I'm partial to the latter comparison, as the isometric camera and individual challenges oftentimes play out like one of MGS's VR Missions. Thankfully the uninspired locales of Warp get overshadowed by the fantastic online components. Although Warp is single-player in theory, it incorporates a stat-tracking system that creates a communal element to the experience. It keeps track of a plethora of statistics -- from distance warped to soldiers being blown up. Each time you hit a milestone in one of these categories, you're notified of your accomplishment and told where you rank in these categories in comparison to players on your friends list. This creates a sort of indirect competition that calls back to games like Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2, and something that other online games should really take note of.

There's one feature omitted from Warp that completely baffles me: I'm in no way hearing-impaired, but the lack of subtitles in 2012 is frankly unacceptable. I'm sure I speak for a lot of gamers when I say that it's impossible for me to always play games in a soundproof bubble, so I often find myself turning on subtitles and reading the dialogue as opposed to listening to it. While this may be a minor inconvenience to some, it ended up really eating away at me as the game went on. Slightly more problematic is the fact that Warp has a frustrating spike in difficulty during the final act. There are a few puzzles and a boss encounter that quickly surpass challenging and become obliquely frustrating moments that you'll undoubtedly have to retry a few dozen times before even realizing just what the hell the game wants you to do. It's an odd side effect of the multiple solutions approach that I praised earlier -- where trying everything you know does almost nothing and ends up frustrating you instead.

The slight stumble near the finish line doesn't change the fact that Warp is a fantastic puzzler that any fan of the genre should experience. Though the main campaign can be completed in only a handful of hours, the wealth of secrets hidden throughout the complex make a second playthrough something that people are going to definitely want to participate in. There're also a handful of challenge rooms complete with leader boards that will surely be competitive arenas for fans of the Warp. Couple this with an open-ended approach to circumventing obstacles, and you're left with fantastic action-puzzler that begs to be played again and again.

BioWare Doesn't Deserve Such Hate For Mass Effect 3's Day One DLC

Thanks to a mistake on the Xbox Live Marketplace earlier this week, a piece of Mass Effect 3 downloadable content was revealed sooner than it was meant to be. As it turns out, the From Ashes DLC is scheduled to be released alongside the game on March 6. This both means Jeremy's idea of a tuxedo T-shirt for Jack can't be the first DLC item and that a boycott is already being arranged by infuriated gamers who don't like the idea of having to pay for this particular content on the day the game comes out.
Note: If you'd like to avoid any and all spoilers related to ME3, you'd be wise to not read on as the nature of the DLC is part of the reason why series fans are so upset.
The Marketplace listing for From Ashes describes the content as allowing players to "Unearth lost secrets from the past and recruit the Prothean squad member," the latter of which is a big deal. Protheans are a race in Mass Effect lore believed to be long extinct. They were at one point credited with the creation of extremely advanced pieces of technology like the Citadel and the mass relays, so suffice it to say they are a critical aspect of the series.
As such, relegating what is presumably (keep in mind we don't know this for sure) the last remaining member of the Protheans to premium DLC has upset fans who feel this should be a part of the game they purchase on March 6. Instead, meeting the Prothean will be a $10 proposition unless you've decided to purchase either the Collector's or Digital Deluxe versions of the game.
Many fans are claiming they will not be purchasing the game, including those on Reddit who have been engaged with a letter-writing campaign expressing their displeasure with the situation. Many feel this DLC's existence is entirely attributable to Electronic Arts which, like Activision, is seen as a money-hungry publisher that cares about nothing but its bottom line. Accusations of customers being ripped off and shafted are common among those airing their grievances on Reddit and elsewhere."But this is just unacceptable. For the first time in...forever, I actually took the time to send a lengthy email and have agreed not to purchase Mass Effect 3 unless they do something regarding this," wrote Reddit user breadrising.
"At this point, they are only punishing loyal fans by holding a large amount of the lore experience for ransom. Its disgraceful. I urge anyone reading this who hasn't sent an email, to take the (quite literally) two minutes to do so. Simply upvoting will not change things as drastically as voicing your criticism." "It is the principle of including mission and character content as part of the complete code on launch and charging for it on Day 1," said TotalBiscuit. 
"It could be the lamest character in the world or the most vital thing ever, the principle remains the same. Non-cosmetic Day 1 launch paid DLC is unacceptable in all games."
"You are absolutely allowed to disagree with a decision a game company/publisher is making with regards to DLC," wrote kingerp in response to those on Reddit stating they would pirate the game after learning of the DLC. "HOWEVER, this does not justify pirating the game, or the DLC in question. Claiming otherwise is the epitome of gamer self-entitlement, and it's laughable that any of you could argue that you somehow 'deserve' to get access to something without paying for it." 
BioWare has already begun attempting to defend itself. Mass Effect executive producer Casey Hudson took to Twitter with a series of messages which read, "It takes about 3 months from "content complete" to bug-fix, certify, manufacture, and ship game discs. In that time we work on DLC. DLC has fast cert and no mfg., so if a team works very hard, they can get a DLC done in time to enjoy it with your 1st playthrough on day 1. On #ME3, content creators completed the game in January & moved onto the 'From Ashes' DLC, free w/ the CE or you can buy seperately." Producer Michael Gamble also offered up an explanation on the BioWare forums. He outlined what the DLC includes noted the Prothean is optional content, and explained it was included in the CE because the content is designed for long-time fans, adding that the DLC release is intended to allow non-CE buyers to also enjoy the content.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun's John Walker suggested the solution to avoiding this reaction is to simply delay the release of the DLC. Push it back from launching alongside the game to coming two weeks later; that way day one buyers will largely be done with the game and ready for new content.
I disagree for several reasons, one of which is that some players (myself included) would prefer to have the option of meeting up with the Prothean in the midst of the story rather than in a subsequent playthrough or at some point after the main campaign has been wrapped up and Earth has (I assume) been saved. Without knowing the specifics of how ME3's story will end or what the Prothean meeting will be like, I can't help but think the Prothean meeting will somehow come across as less important than it should if it comes after completing the game.That's another reason why delaying the release of this particular DLC wouldn't be the right way to go. 
Whether the DLC is available at launch or months down the road, BioWare will be faced with criticism that it held back a moment it knew fans would be eager to experience in order to make more money. This calls into question whether we simply need to begin looking at game stories differently in this digital age, where some events can take place beyond the scope of what is included on the disc at release, similar to an MMO. (But that's a matter for another discussion.) The motive behind such a DLC release isn't always as selfish as it may seem. 
If you follow industry news closely, you'll likely have read a story at one point or another about a developer finishing up a game and laying off a number of staff around the time of its release. Eat Sleep Play and Starbreeze are two recent examples. As John points out in his RPS story, when confronted about this developers have a very reasonable explanation for DLC that is developed prior to the game's release: it's "a move that helps to keep people employed." 
Gamers tend to ignore (or simply be unaware) of the time which exists between development on a game coming to a close and the day that game shows up on store shelves. As Hudson alluded to on Twitter, certification processes, manufacturing, and so on take up a good deal of time. A piece of content finished a week before the retail release of a game can't be included on the disc, which is why we so often see patches released on the first day a game is made available. It's not as if the content on the disc you insert into your console or PC was being developed up until the days before its release.Delaying a piece of DLC purely to avoid gamers getting the wrong impression is not the right way to approach this situation. 
DLC isn't going away and there's no reason why developers should have to wait an arbitrary amount of time before selling DLC that is complete. I'm by no means in support of developers withholding content simply so it can make extra money on it later, something we have certainly seen in the past. But in the case of From Ashes that doesn't appear to be the case. Being angry about content located on the disc you're expected to pay extra for is one thing; assuming content was held back just to screw fans is another matter entirely. I'm not saying you have to purchase the DLC or anything like that. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

2011 is behind us and we're already well into the last year before the Mayan odometer rolls over. It's probably a good time to celebrate another year of economic recession and the rapidly approaching End of All Things with an absolute orgy of free videogames. Don't worry if you're among the growing ranks of the poor and jobless, you'll always have games to play without giving in to the unforgivable sin of internet piracy.

Meanwhile, if this year's bumper crop of $0.00 entertainment isn't enough, remember that over on our sister site we've still got 101 lists from 2011, the first and second halves of 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006. Yup, 800-something free games should be enough to keep anyone busy for a while. You can also check out IGN's Free Game of the Day by following their Twitter feed.

Mass Effect 3 Trailer

Genre: RPG
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Online Play: 4 Co-op
Release date: March 6, 2012

In Mass Effect 3, an ancient alien race known only as Reapers, has launched an all-out invasion of the galaxy, leaving nothing but a trail of destruction in their wake. Earth has been taken, the galaxy is on the verge of total annihilation, and you are the only one who can stop them. The price of failure is extinction. You, as Commander Shepard, must lead the counter assault to take it back. Only you can determine how events will play out, which planets you will save from annihilation and which alliances you will form or abandon as you rally the forces of the galaxy to eliminate the Reaper threat once and for all.

Battle with your comrades or even your own friends in this all-out galactic war to take Earth back. With co-op online multiplayer missions new to the Mass Effect universe , you can choose from a variety of classes and races, form an elite Special Forces squad, and combine weapons, powers and abilities to devastating effect as you all fight together to liberate key territories from enemy control in this third entry of the epic intergalactic RPG franchise.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Is Sleeping Dogs a More Relevant Sandbox Crime Game Than GTAV?

After viewing (and briefly playing) a recent demo of Square Enix's Sleeping Dogs, I found myself less taken by the history of the game and its design than I was by its setting. The game itself looks good, but it's nothing extraordinary: An iterative addition to the ever-expanding open-world action genre. It simply adds a few refinements (along with an absolutely excessive patina of violence) to the formula established a decade ago by Grand Theft Auto III without adding any particularly bold innovations. Yet as gamers and the industry alike brace for the fifth chapter of the Grand Theft Auto series to arrive later this year, I find what I've seen of Sleeping Dogs to be far more forward-thinking than what little Rockstar has shown of GTAV. 

Of course, from a play mechanics perspective, who can really say? We've seen nothing of how GTAV plays. And our demo of Sleeping Dogs consisted of a 45-minute patchwork of game random sequences strung together in rapid succession. One moment the hero was hanging out with a rangy childhood friend in the back room of a restaurant owned by that friend's mother; the next, he was vowing revenge for that friend's death to that same mother, now grieving. While we caught a few glimpses of Dogs' dense free-roaming world, they were largely limited to the handful of moments when the demo guide stopped to rotate the camera and take in a scene. Certainly we didn't take much away from the playable portion, which offered nothing more than a brief car race and a sequence involving an on-foot chase. The chase and the subsequent brawl had already been shown off in the demo session, and straying too far from the mission goals in the playable portion to explore the streets resulted in instant mission failure. Dogs' may be an open world, but we were offered only the briefest guided tour.  

Still, what little we played of Dogs was respectable. Its most noteworthy additions are the tweaks it makes to combat, which has traditionally been the weakest aspect of open-world games (despite those games' tendency to lean so heavily on fighting). The brawling draws openly from Batman: Arkham Asylum emphasizing dodges and finishing moves. The game's protagonist can evade incoming attacks with the press of a button when an icon flashes over the assailant's head and counter with a flurry of punches and kicks. A stunned enemy can be grappled and smashed into interactive points within the environment, resulting in finishing moves that range from harsh (smashing someone's head in a refrigerator door) to needlessly grotesque (holding a foe's face against a running table saw, or punching them into the hood of a disassembled car before dropping the entire engine block on their chest). It's a smooth, fluid combat system whose elegance is jarringly contrasted by the utter brutality of the finishing moves. 

Gunplay seems equally refined, though we didn't have the opportunity to test it ourselves. Dogs looks to employ the modern post-Resident Evil 4 standard of drawing with the left trigger, aiming with the right stick, and firing with the right trigger. Cover points come into play, and you can slide into hiding or vault over obstacles with the press of the A button. Blindfire, of course, is an option, and it's possible to dilate time to slow the action and aim with higher precision, though the mechanics and limitations of this ability weren't entirely clear from simply watching the action. The slowdown element seems a particularly welcome addition to vehicular gunplay, though; at one point the demo shifted to an on-road chase which saw the hero gunning down foes from the back of a motorcycle. Where these sequences tend to be infuriatingly twitchy in other similar games, the ability to cut the action to half-speed made the whole affair appear far less frustrating than any vehicular shootout I've ever suffered through in this genre. 

 In short, brawling and shooting in Sleeping Dogs look like a vast improvement over any Grand Theft Auto game to date. So what? Rockstar hasn't shown how GTAV plays yet (and probably won't until E3, which is about when Dogs is set to ship); we have no reason to assume Rockstar North isn't taking great pains to finally address the long-standing complaints about how the combat portions of GTA always feel like pure distilled anti-fun. 

No, what I find most striking about Dogs is that the way in which its setting and style feel so much more forward-thinking than GTAV's. Rockstar is adamant about making the GTA series a parody of the American dream, or lifestyle, or something; besides a brief dalliance in 1969's London that few current fans of the series have ever played, GTA has eternally played out in a bizarre, inconsistent effigy of major American metropoles like New York, Los Angeles, and Miami. The underlying subtext of GTA is that the American Dream is a nightmare and the U.S. isn't the perfect center of the universe that its residents see it as. It goes about making this point by centering its stories in a fake version of America and setting up strawmen to knock down rather than by simply setting its action elsewhere.  

Sleeping Dogs, on the other hand, is set in Hong Kong. This makes it the second open-world Square Enix game within the past year to feature action in a modern (or futuristic, in the case of Deus Ex: Human Revolution) Chinese city. Its hard-boiled crime caper is inspired by HK cinema and the demo's quieter moments of walking through the crowded streets, markets, and back alleys between missions could have been lifted from a Wong Kar Wai film (minus the '60s rock and grainy, color-shifted visual style). As China rises to become a major player on the world stage and its economic and military power grow to rival America's, I find it both interesting and appropriate to see more Western pop media begin to explore the culture and history of that very foreign and very closed society. This growing interest in China is to the current decade what America's obsession with Japan was in the '80s: Equal parts fear, fascination, and curiosity. Sleeping Dogs doesn't seem to make any big statements about China, or Hong Kong's relationship to it but simply seeing a Canadian studio draw on the work of John Woo is interesting... especially since they're specifically looking to John Woo the HK auteur rather than John Woo the bombastic purveyor of Hollywood action schlock.

Meanwhile, I look at GTAV and I see a game in peril of arriving practically stillborn due, ironically enough, to its attempt at timeliness. GTA's next hero seems a more mature character than the series has known before, a family man no doubt inspired by the popularity of Red Dead Redemption's John Marston, and that's a welcome change. But his story seemingly revolves around the sub-prime housing crisis, which no doubt will drive him to steal many, many cars and kill many, many people. It's a tale many Americans can relate to (minus, hopefully, the theft and murder), but it also feels like a reaction to news from a few years ago,

The True Crime games have always been dismissed by the public as GTA-wannabes; this time around, the series may be redefining itself in more than name. At the very least, at least it'll offer a new crime-ridden city to bum around in after a decade of slogging through various fake versions of L.A. and New York. 


HoN Hero Spotlight: Draconis

Monday, February 13, 2012

Vita Launch Week: Everything You Need to Read

Pretty much all anyone is going to talk about for the next few weeks is Sony's fancy new PlayStation Vita. Whether you're waiting for the traditional February 22 launch date, or picking up your First Edition Bundle pre-order this week, we've got you covered for news and opinions about the Vita. We'll collect every Vita-related story and file it right here for your convenience. Keep checking this page throughout the week as we add Vita stories of all stripes. 

  • PlayStation Vita Scorecard: Is Sony's new portable all it's cracked up to be? Read our in-depth evaluation.
  • The Making of Uncharted: Golden Abyss: In case you missed this last week, check out this in-depth behind-the-scenes look at what most people consider the Vita's signature game. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Max Payne 3

For Max Payne, the tragedies that took his loved ones years ago are wounds that refuse to heal. No longer a cop, close to washed up and addicted to pain killers, Max takes a job in São Paulo, Brazil, protecting the family of wealthy real estate mogul Rodrigo Branco, in an effort to finally escape his troubled past. But as events spiral out of his control, Max Payne finds himself alone on the streets of an unfamiliar city, desperately searching for the truth and fighting for a way out.

Featuring cutting edge shooting mechanics for precision gunplay, advanced new Bullet Time® and Shootdodge™ effects, full integration of Natural Motion’s Euphoria Character Behavior system for lifelike movement and a dark and twisted story, Max Payne 3 is a seamless, highly detailed, cinematic experience from Rockstar Games.

In addition to an expansive single-player campaign, Max Payne 3 will also be the first entry in the series to introduce a thorough and engrossing multiplayer experience. In a unique twist, Max Payne 3 multiplayer delivers a compelling experience that dynamically alters maps and mode progression for all players in a match. Along with traditional multiplayer modes, Max Payne 3 will also include a deep reward and leveling system, persistent clans and multiple strategic load-out options.

Developed across Rockstar Games Studios Worldwide, Max Payne 3 standard and Special Editions (Special Edition is available for pre-order until April 2nd, 2012 and includes a 10" tall collectible Max Payne statue along with much more premium content) will be available for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation3 on May 15, 2012 in North America and May 18, 2012 in Europe, with the PC version launching on May 29th, 2012 in North America and June 1st, 2012 in Europe.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Once upon a time, getting about in a Zelda game was such a clear-cut process. You had your dungeons (anywhere from four to 12, depending) and you had the overworld that linked them all together. Aside from the occasional spin-off (Four Swords Adventures was broken into levels, and Majora's Mask centered around the hub of Clock Town), that's how it always worked. You'd wander around, maybe poke into a cave for a Heart Piece, clear away some scrub, fight some bad guys, and eventually work your way to the next subterranean puzzle labyrinth. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is mixing things up, and the results are pretty great. Skyward Sword's design makes the distinction between overworld and underworld much muddier than in past games. Perhaps that's appropriate, since this adventure divides its world into three layers rather than the usual two. Above the dungeons, you have the overworld; meanwhile, above it all is the realm of Skyloft, best described as an aerial take on Wind Waker's sea. At the heart of Skyloft is a large city held aloft by (one assumes) ancient magic or technology or something, but the skies are littered with floating islands, and Link travels between them on the back of a huge red bird.

Dive into certain points in the cloud barrier below, though, and Link plummets from the world of the skies to the earth below. This is where the game's dungeons are located, but it's not a straight shot from the sky to the underworld. Players have to work their way through an in-between space, one that doesn't simply divide the areas physically but also sits between them in terms of function and structure. Skyward Sword's external ground-based areas link the game's dungeons, but they also stand between the player and his objectives. Unlike Ocarina of Time's Hyrule Field, the first of Skyward Sword's overworld portions we've seen (Faron Woods, an overt reference to Twilight Princess' Faron Province and the goddess Farore) is an open but convoluted space crammed featuring puzzles to navigate and quests to complete.
Reaching the temple itself requires the completion of a small sidequest which sees Link tracking down cowardly birds called Kikwis with the aid of a secondary ability of the Goddess Sword, a divining function. This also reveals an interesting fact about Skyward Sword's controls: It's now possible to move around in a first-person view, aiming with Motion Plus. The first-person perspective isn't ideal for more than simple, brief tasks, but it's an option.

Faron Woods isn't structured exactly like a dungeon; the Deep Woods area features a handful of rooms intricately designed to force extensive backtracking and puzzle solving. In contrast, the outer woods are more spacious, with a layout not unlike that of a Metroid game. Divergent paths loop back on one another, and Link can push logs from ledges and employ other similar tricks to create shortcuts through areas that were initially inaccessible. Not every trick here is perfectly designed; particularly annoying are a handful of tightrope sections that require players to balance Link with Wii Motion Plus and could use a few rounds of fine-tuning before the game goes gold. Still, even these sequences reward clever players: Tightropes are often guarded by goblins eager to pummel Link and knock him into the pits below, but you can draw them out and preemptively knock them to their doom instead. 

Neither Faron Woods nor the Deep Woods dungeon is brimming with concepts that haven't been explored in a Zelda game before. Fetch quests, hunting for keys, raising and lowering water levels to reach new areas it's all tried and true material. What makes it all feel fresh in Skyward Sword is the manner in which it's presented. It takes longer to reach the Deep Woods than to clear the dungeon itself, and for the first time the path to a dungeon is obstructed by the intricacy of the landscape rather than sheer distance to be covered or arbitrary plot-key tasks gathered in a nearby town. The means to working your way through way through the woods are found in the woods themselves; the area is a self-contained puzzle. In that sense, it really does play out like a dungeon. You even acquire a new tool, the slingshot, in the course of locating the Deep Woods. Skyward Sword's entire lower world could arguably be seen as a series of nested dungeons. We're not talking Celtic knotwork levels of intricacy here, but there's a sense of purpose to the world outside of Skyward Sword's dungeons that is usually lacking in Zelda games.

Producer Eiji Aonuma's team has reportedly been working on Skyward Sword since Twilight Princess launched five years ago, and the unusually lengthy development has paid off. The game is loaded with detail on both a large and small scale. Complementing the re-envisioned game structure are dozens of minor details that really make the adventure shine. Everyone seems smitten with the fact that Link can skewer pumpkins with a quick jab of the sword, but that's hardly the only throwaway detail you'll find in Skyward Sword. From the Skyloft-obsessed Goron archeologist whose mind Link repeatedly blows with his habit of performing magical sword strikes and activating ancient devices to the fact that heeding the game's constant prompts to sit allows Link to regenerate his health in unexpected places, Skyward Sword feels as artfully crafted as Wind Waker's best moments... but those moments feel far more frequent here, with far less filler in between.
Zelda fans love to present their personal opinions on which chapter of the series is best as cold, hard fact, and nothing will ever change that. But by the looks of things, Skyward Sword seems likely to join the short list of top contenders. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Pac-Man, Mega Man Teased for Street Fighter X Tekken on Vita

Ahead of the game's release in March, Capcom has released a variety of new Street Fighter X Tekken content today and confirmed the identity of six more fighters. But it's a short teaser in one of the new trailers that is the most noteworthy bit from what the company had to show today.
The newly-announced characters include three from either side: Street Fighter provides Balrog, Vega, and Juri, while Tekken offers up Paul, Law, and Xiaoyu. It's nothing terribly unexpected, and the surprise guest characters remain Cole from Infamous, plus Toro and Kuro.
But watch all the way to the end of the trailer above and you'll see a tease for the Vita version of the game. Besides a brief gameplay clip reinforcing that Vita is likely to be the absolute best handheld for fighting game fans (Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is also on the way to the system, as is the just-revealed Vita version of Mortal Kombat), the image below is shown teasing that both Pac-Man and some version of Mega Man will be included in the game. 

Mega Man has made fighting game appearances before, having been a playable character in the first two Marvel vs. Capcom games (before being suspiciously absent from both MvC3 and Ultimate MvC3). Just which version of Mega Man we might see here is unclear; some believe it to be Bad Box Art Mega Man, while others think it's Dead Rising's Frank West donning the Mega Man attire.
Although it feels as if Mega Man has been put on the back burner recently between the cancellations of Mega Man Universe and Mega Man Legends 3, Capcom says it remains a "key brand" for the company. With it looking like Capcom plans to celebrate the series' 25-year anniversary, it shouldn't come as a complete surprise that Mega Man will be involved with Street Fighter X Tekken.
Pac-Man would be the bigger shock of the two; whereas Mega Man felt like a notable omission in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, there weren't flocks of fans clamoring for some Pac-Man fighting action (although keep in mind Pac-Man comes from Namco Bandai, not Capcom). Still, it's UMvC3 that would be the more appropriate game for Pac-Man to show up as a playable fighter, though if Pac-Man (and Mega Man) are only available in the Vita version of Street Fighter X Tekken, it could be that Capcom simply feels it can get away with more in the handheld game. Then again, Cole prove Capcom and Yoshinori Ono aren't exactly hell-bent on providing the most serious fighting game experience possible.
Between those three, Pac-Man, and Mega Man (assuming the latter two are Vita exclusives), it's looking like the Xbox 360 version of the game could be the most lacking if it doesn't have even a single character all to itself. Microsoft wasn't concerned enough to try countering Kratos in Mortal Kombat last year, and it seems like that situation will repeat itself barring another secret character being revealed in the next month or so.


Monday, February 6, 2012



Enjoy this classic game!

Tetris - Play a classic game here!

Enjoy this classic game!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Razer's 'Project Fiona' - gaming tablet prototype

Perhaps the PlayStation Vita's leggy 5 inch screen just isn't enough for your dedicated gaming portable needs. Perhaps you think Sony's promise of console quality games on the Vita isn't nearly as important as full-on console games on the go. Enter Razer's "Project Fiona PC Gaming Tablet." It's merely a prototype (at least for now), but this may be the go-to portable for you at some point in the future, fictional crazy person.
Razer unveiled the prototype concept this week at CES, ending an ambiguous, weeks-long promotional campaign (seen after the break). According to a press release issued by the hardware company, the Project Fiona tablet comes with an Intel Core i7 processor, and is capable of running "current-generation PC games".
Ubisoft is jumping at the chance to showcase its wares on a new gaming device. Razer claimed in the announce that "many" PC games will "run natively" on the device without any need for specialization.
Beyond being a super powerful gaming tablet, Project Fiona also keeps up with the Joneses by including "ultra-precise accelerometers and a highly sensitive multi-touch screen," which is intended to give developers a chance to cater their PC games to the device. It also has now de rigeur forced feedback, so you can rumble while commuting.
Unlike Razer's previous gaming prototype, the Switchblade, the company isn't giving out a hard price for Project Fiona, but said it'll be "under $1,000" when it's expected to launch in "Q4 2012."


Champion Spotlight - Ziggs, the Hexplosives Expert

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

HoN Hero Spotlight: Berzerker

check the new hero!