Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut: Was It Worth The Wait?

Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut: Was It Worth The Wait? (Opinion Article)

Discloser: This article is solely the opinion of this one writer and does not reflect the overall opinion of this entire site.

Spring Break 2012. Families, young, old, and everything in between flocked to the beaches of both the east and west coasts to revel in a short glimpse of the upcoming summer. Those unfortunate enough to not be able to participate in over-glorified tourism spent time at the pool and with their families and friends, enjoying this week of relaxation and freedom from school and for some, work. Though I did enjoy some of these endeavors, the thing I looked forward to the most was a game I had longed to play for four entire years, Mass Effect 3. Receiving the game at the beginning of Spring Break meant an entire week to spend playing the most anticipated game ever in my gaming career. The fanatic I am, I of course scourged eBay, having been too arrogant to pre-order the Collector’s Edition ahead of time and was treated to the punishment of them being sold out. Paying much more than I would have otherwise, I had invested in this game more than any other game in my entire life. And was it worth it? Of course! Now this is by no means a review of Mass Effect 3 (though I believe it to be one of the greatest of all time), but instead an insight into the infamous ending.

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

I got the game in the mail and started it on Monday of Spring Break, arriving to the conclusion that Saturday afternoon. Anticipating the inevitable defeat of the Reapers since the end of the first game, I knew it was coming. I woke up that morning knowing that today, the machines bent on destroying all life as we know it were going to be vanquished once and for all. The ending came and gone and alas many were disappointed in how the war ended but there was no true impact and result from all the decisions and choices made across three entire games. Bioware had attempted something no other franchise had done before in truly making your voice count in the game you played but when the final credits rolled, no matter what choices you made, you roughly had the same ending as everyone else.

But I liked the ending.

There I said it! I am apart of the staunch few that stand by Bioware’s original ending, praising the brave sacrifice of one man to save the galaxy. Normally, I would be on my soapbox demanding change just like the majority, but I didn’t simply because the ending Bioware gave, gave me closure on Shephard’s life and the Reapers’ lives for that matter. Peace and salvation for all those I cared for because of Bioware’s fantastic character development. So why does a few decisions matter? The ending left an air of mystery into where the series could possibly go next. The thought that the mass relays were completely destroyed, leaving many races and peoples stranded in their systems (many of which were presumed to be stranded on Earth) left me pondering about a new series where there is no racial discrimination but instead galactic unification. Against a new threat? Of course. Which is why I of course chose the Synthesis ending and still stick by that one, loving the idea of a unity and equality between organic and synthetic life, plus that was a sick green color! (no pun intended) I went onto Bioware’s Facebook page, praising the ending and overly excited for where the series was headed next. Whether that be continuing the story of the Normandy crew through the eyes of a new main character (more of my hypothesis about that at a later date) on an adventure across this strange new world they landed upon or somewhere completely different, I am ecstatic regardless! But now to the main event: Tuesday’s release of the Extended Cut. 

All I have to say is this is where I am now disappointed and in more ways than one. First of all, the download was an entire 1.85 GB (almost 2 GB’s!!!) for a 5 minute, that’s right 5 minute, additional cutscene/slideshow. Now yes that is 5 minutes for each ending including all new 4th ending, entitled “Refusal”, which by the way is not good at all except to amuse yourself to the idea that the cycle will continue (but actually inferring in the post-credit scene that the next race does in fact destroy the Reapers anyways). Other than that, there’s not a whole lot to the extended scenes. My second problem is a short and simple one. Yes, I did in fact enjoy the extra scenes (and humorous other ending) but why make us wait so long for this? Couldn’t have this been made much faster? Did Bioware even intend for all this to happen and if so, what was their goal? And finally, my third and biggest problem is the fact that Bioware did this in the first place. It is the battle between the consumer and the creator. But I personally think they should have stood by their original ending and not added anything because this decision has ultimately taken away some of the power a developer has in their own creation. From now on, who’s to say this whole community uprising won’t happen again and cause an entire game to be completely different than what it’s creator would have wanted it to be. Game is an art whether the main stream society wishes to believe so or not, it truly is and how would you like it if you spent a couple years putting your entire self into something you believed in and loved just for a person to hate it? And not only that, but they only hate something as small as your sculpture only has four fingers. Would you go to the trouble to completely remove the hands and spend months to rebuild them just for one pinky? Yes we are the consumers and yes we put the money in their pockets but does that give us the right to demand they change or even simply add to their creation? We wouldn’t have Mass Effect without them so don’t take them for granted. Don’t you trust them? I do. And that’s why I can’t wait for Bioware’s next game, be it Dragon Age 3 or a new Mass Effect, because when it comes down to it, I trust Bioware to deliver a rich, compelling storyline and truly immersive, choice and player driven experience that no other developer can do.

As always for walkthroughs for this game and/or tips (including videos) just comment or send me a message! I’m always willing to help!

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Rumor: Half-Life 2: Episode 3 in the Works?

An interesting and exciting thread appeared yesterday on the fan created site ValveTime.net, claiming that they had found supposed concept art for the next installment in the Half-Life series.  Although sent in by an anonymous user from an unnamed source, the art does fit with the Half-Life concept art style and contains elements that could hint towards a Half-Life sequel.  For example one piece is a drawing of what appears to be Alyx wearing Eli’s jacket, and in another piece the helicopter from the end of Episode 2 turns up crashed in an arctic setting.  ValveTime claims that these images are the real deal, however there is no hard evidence suggesting that it is indeed from Valve themselves.  I guess all we can do for now is hope that this isn’t some scam, and that this concept art is indeed legitimate. Be sure to check out some of the images below, and head over to ValveTime’s Gallery (link posted below) to see all of the concept art. What do you think? Could we possibly be looking at the makings of Half-Life 2: Episode 3? Be sure to comment below and let us know what you think, and stay tuned to Updownright for all the latest on this rumor and other gaming news.

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The next Gordon Freemon?

The First of Seven: Max Payne 3 DLC out July 3rd

Rockstar announced yesterday that the first downloadable content pack for their noir inspired game Max Payne 3 will release next week on consoles.  Titled Local Justice, this downloadable content will come out on the Xbox Live marketplace and Playstation Network on July 3rd, with a following release for the PC on July 17th.

Three new maps come with this DLC; the 55th Batallion HQ, Imperial Palace, and Departure Lounge.  The 55th Batallion HQ map will be playable on all game modes, while the Imperial Palace and Departure Lounge maps will only be playable on Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Payne Killer.  Furthermore this new DLC pack comes with a new weapon, the M4 assault rifle, a new item called Light Fingers which makes looting faster, and the Sao Paulo police faction, complete with avatar customization.

Originally set to release in June, the Local Justice DLC will be at a discounted price during launch week as an “appreciation of patience.”  During this time the Local Justice DLC will run for 480 MS points (6$) on Xbox Live, and 6$ on Playstation Network and PC.  After the week though, the content will return to its normal price of 640 MS points ($8) on Xbox Live and $8 on Playstation Network and PC.  Additionally the Local Justice pack and all other DLC content for Max Payne 3 can also be purchased through the Rockstar Pass program.  Currently this pass is available for 2400 MS points ($30) on Xbox Live and $30 on PSN and PC.

This new DLC for Max Payne 3 is the first of seven planned add-ons for the game.  Due out later this summer is the Disorganized Crime map pack, the Deathmatch Made in Heaven mode pack, the Hostage Negotiation map pack, and the New York Minute co-op pack.  Coming out sometime later this fall will be the Painful Memories map pack and the Trickle Down Economics map pack.  In short there’s a lot coming to Max Payne 3 making this a title that refuses to slow down.  Be sure to check out our review of the game and stay tuned to Updownright for all the latest in gaming news.

Far Cry 3 Delayed Until December

Ubisoft announced this past Monday that Far Cry 3 has been delayed until the holiday season. Originally announced to be released early in September, this highly anticipated title has been pushed back until November 28th for the UK and December 4th for the U.S. According to producer Dan Hay, the team decided to delay the game because they want to take “more time to create the best possible gameplay experience.”

As of this moment Far Cry 3 is the only title scheduled for December, however this new release date could potentially hurt its sales. Originally slated to be released in September, the only other close by first person shooter was Borderlands 2, which releases on September 18. With this December 4th release date, Far Cry 3 now comes out after Halo 4 (11/6/2012) and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (11/13/2012), which are two highly anticipated and competitive titles. What do you think, does Far Cry 3 stand a chance in the sales against these highly popular titles? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to check out the Far Cry 3 preview to see what we think of this upcoming title.

U.S. History Just Got a Bit More Interesting – A Preview of Assassin’s Creed III

U.S. History was always a subject I could never really quite get that into.  I mean I consider myself to be quite the history buff.  I love ancient history and world, but for some reason the Battles of Lexington and Concord or the signing of the Declaration never really resonated with me as much as say the battle of Thermopylae or discovering the Rosetta Stone.  Maybe call me un-patriotic or what have you, but I just never really found our nations history to be that riveting or exciting.  That is, until now.

In Assassin’s Creed III, the next installment to the critically acclaimed Assassin’s Creed series, the on going war between the Assassins and Templars has been moved from the dense and rich European cities to the vast and open American frontier.  Taking place over the course over 30 years, the story is before, during, and after the American Revolution.  Unfortunately the sauve yet badass Ezio will not be making the long trip to American shores, however we are introduced to a new character and lead, Ratonhnhaké:ton or better known as Connor.  Half Native American and half British, Connor is conflicted on whom to fight for, however it is this conflict that makes the story.  This is Connor’s story and how he became a part of the Assassin order and how he becomes a part of the fight in the American Revolution.  Along the way Connor will encounter numerous historical figures such as George Washington, Ben Franklin, Charles Lee, and others, ensuring that history is still a staple aspect of the series.

In an interview with CVG (computerandvideogames.com) Ubisoft president Yves Guillemot stated that this Assassin’s game “will be the biggest to date,” and from what’s been revealed so far it certainly appears to be that way.  Ubisoft Montreal is returning yet again to spearhead this latest installment in the Assassin’s Creed series, so it should be of no surprise then that a lot of the same elements seen from previous Assassin’s Creed games will be returning, however they have been totally revamped and made a new, creating a fresher and new take to the Assassin’s Creed formula.

The combat has been totally redone and a new controller scheme has been created for this upcoming title.  In being a new assassin Connor now always fights dual handed.  According to creative director Alex Hutchinson, the brand new controller scheme “allows you continual access to tools such as pistols on one button, as well as maintaining access to your core weapon, such as the hidden blade.”  This creates a more fluid control when it comes to combat making Connor not only easier to handle, but also making him look extremely graceful and badass when it comes to killing.  Since the game takes place during the American Revolution guns have become a bigger threat in this Assassin’s game as opposed to past.  According to Hutchinson “firing lines are a key feature of the period and we’ve integrated them into both combat and pre-combat, to give the player different opportunities such as the meat-shield.”  Countering is still a huge aspect when it comes to combat.  Enemies now attack in unison generating a new and stylish “duel counter” and according to Hutchinson after you counter an enemy “you have a choice of what to do, whether to assassinate, dodge, or throw them.”  They call this a “window of opportunity,” which creates a new and refreshing taste when it comes to combat.  On top of this the assassinations have also been totally redone.  In being a new assassin Connor can now assassinate with any weapon, and can also perform “running assassinations,” giving off this impression that Connor is always on the move.

The biggest and most intriguing change with Assassin’s Creed III however is the environment and animation.  The dense gridded cities that always made up the scenery in past Assassin’s games are gone, and has instead been replaced by the vast and open American frontier.  This change of surroundings has lead to a totally redone parkour and navigation system that has always been a staple part of the series.  Tree navigation is the newest and most significant addition to the overall navigation system.  According to Hutchinson tree navigation “allows Connor to deal with forests, cliffs, uneven surfaces as fluidly and smoothly as previous Assassin’s dealt with cities.”  The team at Ubisoft Montreal is “trying very hard to keep natural shapes, organic surfaces, to make believable terrain” according to Hutchinson.  The environment is no longer gridded with square surfaces, and Connor can now grab onto all sorts of different shapes and objects.  “You can go anywhere.  Anything you see that has a handhold that’s climbable is climbable, and we really highlight the areas where you can’t go,” says Hutchinson.  This new navigation system not only brings a fresh take on how to traverse and travel throughout the environment, but it is also a major leap in gaming animation.

With this new environment it opens the door to a whole new type of gameplay.  Seasons such as winter and summer are now implemented in the game, and both have their own unique effects on Connor.  For instance during the winter, snow slows Connor down encouraging him to climb and stay off of the ground.  This introduction of the frontier has also introduced wildlife to the series.  “There are over 200 different species of animal in the game,” says Hutchinson and they all offer unique opportunities or threats to Connor.  Although the vast frontier has replaced the populated city, cities or rather colonies will still play an important role in Assassin’s Creed III.  Colonies such as New York and Boston will be central areas in the game, and will offer a different take on gameplay as opposed to the wilderness.  With two virtually different atmospheres to explore, the environment in Assassin’s Creed III will be a refreshing take to not only the series but also action adventure games in general.

Hutchinson and the team at Ubisoft Montreal truly believe that they “have the most robust third person character in action games today,” and from what’s been seen and revealed so far they just might.  If anything can be said, they for sure have the most robust third person character in any Assassin’s Creed game to date, and this title is definitely shaping up to be the best in the series.  With super tight animation, a new combat scheme and navigation system, this is one title that for sure needs to be on your radar when it comes out later this fall on October 30th.  Be sure to check out the gameplay video and let us know what you think, and stay tuned to updownright for all the latest on this highly anticipated title.

Max Payne 3: A Pain Free Review

This was like Baghdad with g-strings.”

The cynical but humorous alcoholic hero Max Payne is back in action after 9 years of waiting.  With Rockstar’s “biggest and boldest marketing effort thus far,” standards and hopes were high for the game. After  multiple release delays since 2009, the wait has well paid off.

Max Payne 3 is a third person shooter with a large emphasis on cinematic and film noire elements. The series after all, is credited with being the pioneer of “bullet time.” The developer Rockstar, is known for notable titles such as the Grand Theft Auto series, Red Dead series, and L.A Noire. True to form, Rockstar delivered an incredible title.

Display: The game’s cinematics are rendered from the actual gameplay engine, making the transition between gameplay and cinematic seamless. Being that the game is cut scene heavy, the style of the cinematics is not a strain on the player.

The in house developed RAGE engine is absolutely gorgeous, and complements the cinematics extremely well. Characters are completely realistic with normal looking facial and body movements. In fact, Rockstar used motion capture technology on the voice actor for Max Payne, James McCaffery to make him look the most realistic. Action sequences are fluid, and bullet time makes each gunshot and wound look pretty epic. My only criticism of the graphics would be the environments.  Despite the themed variety, all of them appear quite generic and foreboding. At least the environments match Max’s generally poor disposition.

Storyline: The point of the game. Max Payne 3 puts a massive emphasis on storyline when compared to most other shooters to date. The main character is frequently making internal monologues, and long cut scenes to show his drug addled sufferings and problems. The plot itself is enticing with many turns and twists. One really gets a feel for the main character and the other characters he encounters. Again, this is the film noire style of the game showing itself in prime.

Rockstar’s co-founder and president Sam Houser said of Max Payne  “This is Max as we’ve never seen him before, a few years older, more world-weary and cynical than ever.” This is certainly true in the actual game. He is a dynamic, believable, sympathetic but sometimes overbearing character. In the era of AAA blockbuster first person shooters and broad audience titles, it is refreshing to see an actually good character as part of a game. Max Payne can get on ones nerves after a while though.

Without spoiling the plot however, I will make mention there is one major plot hole that hurts the story to a marginal degree. In fact, it’s so large that Ben Croshaw (known as Yahtzee from his Zero Puncuation series) says that “one could drive a glacier through it.” If you’ve gotten at least halfway through the game, you will know exactly what I am talking about.

Gameplay: The game is a third person shooter with emphasis on use of cover and bullet time. Bullet time is where the player executes a slow motion action (such as diving or rolling) in order to gain a slight advantage over his foes…and look totally badass while doing it. At first glance, the idea of bullet time would seem either overpowered or too much like a quicktime event. In Max Payne 3, it is in fact neither. Bullet time has a very limited use time, and if you don’t execute it correctly, you can easily find yourself dead. It takes skill and timing to maximize kills using this mechanic.

The weapons doing the shooting in this third person shooter, known as guns seemed disappointing to me. Choices are essentially limited to assault rifle, shotgun, pistol or dual wield pistols. Even though there were apparently numerous different guns, they all felt generic and basically the same to me.

The singleplayer campaign does get progressively difficult as it moves on. A few mini boss fights appear in the form of a helmeted mercenary wielding a seemingly infinite ammo machine gun. Mainly though, the firefights just become more complex and filled with more enemies to kill.

Bottom Line: A top-notch quality title that is one of the few currently on the market that I would say is worth the $60 price tag. If you can endure some of Max’s more annoying moments, and find your own reconciliation with the plot hole, I promise you will enjoy this title. I have not played such a quality third person shooter since Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The game is a rare modern example of how a big blockbuster title and franchise can be made with high quality.

“When had I ever needed to invite trouble in? It always found me, no matter where I hid.”

The Microsoft Surface Finally Surfaces

On Monday, June 19th at a press conference in Los Angeles, California, Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, finally unveiled Microsoft’s first ever tablet PC. Entitled the Microsoft Surface, this is Microsoft’s leap into the tablet industry in what they claim to be greater than Apple’s iPad. Standard competitor trash-talking aside, the specs of the Surface speak for itself (full list of both model’s spec as well as a comparison with the iPad 3 can be found here).

The Surface will be launching alongside  Windows 8 (currently expected to be released fall 2012) and will also be powered by the Windows 8 OS. In an industry filled with Apple and Android powered tablets, it will be interesting to see how this newbie does. This announcement also coincides with the previous announcement during Microsoft’s E3 press conference for SmartGlass. A new, innovative way of increasing connectivity across tablets, phone, Xbox, and more, expect the Surface to take full advantage of enhancing your entertainment experience.

But ultimately as a gamer, you’re most likely wondering what does this mean for you? Well, personally as a fan of both Microsoft and mobile gaming, I see this as a perfect marriage of the two. With the processing power the Surface boasts, you’ll be able to play any normal PC game without sacrificing anything all the while being able to do it on the go. However Microsoft would be foolish not to extend their own line of software to the tablet from first party exclusives to the Xbox Live Marketplace. The Surface is Microsoft’s best effort at establishing a foothold in the mobile gaming market, while innovating at the same time.

For more information on the Microsoft Surface, stay tuned with us here and we will keep you up to date as always!