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Posted: February 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

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Dave

Disney confirms multiple rumors today of the closure of Austin, TX based studio – Junction Point Studios

By David Tadros

Several popular gaming websites (GameSpot, IGN, GiantBomb, Wired) have posted on Disney’s decision to close Junction Point Studios, the studio founded by game industry legend – Warren Spector – and the studio behind the Epic Mickey franchise.

At first, the news was simply speculation on twitter feeds, but today Disney released it’s official statement on the matter.

“It was with much sadness that we informed our teams today of changes to our Games organization, which include the closure of Junction Point Studios. These changes are part of our ongoing effort to address the fast-evolving gaming platforms and marketplace and to align resources against our key priorities. We’re extremely grateful to Warren Spector and the Junction Point team for their creative contributions to Disney with Disney Epic Mickey and Disney Epic Mickey 2.”

It may come as no surprise to many, due to the recent lackluster sales of Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, as well as Disney’s recent announcement of Infinity.  With the closing of Junction Point, a Disney representative confirmed to Wired.com that Warren Spector will also be leaving Disney.

Why this matters.

So you’re probably wondering why I am reporting on this.  Well, as one of the nearly two million people who purchased the original Wii exclusive Epic Mickey, it saddens me to see the studio fail for two reasons.  One, Epic Mickey 2 was a huge improvement over it’s predecessor.  The platforming was spot on for the majority of the game, and the controls and handling far acceded anything that was seen in the original Epic Mickey.  The ability to play the game on multiple platforms was a serious plus that, honestly, should have given the title a better footing.  The only area the game really lacked in was it’s story.  Two, with the great improvements from Epic Mickey to Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, I was really expecting the third installment to really blow me away.  It was speculated that it would have been a next gen. title and seeing as far as Junction Point Studios has come, it would have been great to see where they would have taken the franchise.  Unfortunately, more people are out of work, another gaming studio has completely shut down, and the world will never see what Warren Spector had in store for Epic Mickey 3.  It’s a shame, but going from almost 2 million units as a Wii exclusive, down to just over 250,000 units as a multi-platform title, I’m sure they may have seen this coming.  Best of luck to those who have lost their jobs.

Review: Assassin’s Creed 3

Posted: December 14, 2012 in Review

assassinscreed3

Assassin’s Creed 3 offers variety of mechanics, story resolutions, though not franchise’s best.

Reviewed by David Tadros

 
Those who are familiar with the Assassin’s Creed franchise know a bit of the complexities that have been fleshed out by developer Ubisoft.  Since 2007 we have followed the story of Desmond Miles as he rejoined the mysterious group known as the Assassins in their fight against the Templar.  We’ve followed Desmond into the Animus – the machine that uses genetics to grant the user the ability to relive the memories of one of their ancestors – as he trained using the experiences of Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad and Ezio Auditore to learn the ways of a master assassin.  And we’ve been enthralled by the developing story arcs that saw Desmond fighting, not only to save the Assassins from the growing power of the Templar, but also to save the world from destruction.  Assassin’s Creed 3 – the fifth home console title in the series – follows the same formula as its predecessors.  More mysteries involving the First Civilization are fleshed out, Desmond’s small group of Assassin’s are still on the run from the Templar, and Desmond must use the Animus to relive the memories of one of his ancestors to unlock the way forward.
 
Unlike past Assassins Creed titles, Desmond’s story has been drawn out significantly to the point that infiltration and assassination missions are now intertwined into his limited gameplay.  Though each Desmond mission acts as a stopgap between Animus missions, Assassin’s Creed 3 really shows the potential of having a future title set in current times, rather than the past.
 

As with past Assassin’s Creed titles, AC3 has two main plot stories; Desmond’s experiences outside the Animus, and the story of one of Desmond’s ancestors.  Where AC1 placed players in the shoes of already established assassin, Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad and AC2, Brotherhood, and Revelations focused on the memories of Ezio Auditore as he grew from a teenager out for revenge to a tired-out elderly man, AC3 turns to a new ancestor, Connor Kenway.  Unlike his ancestors, Connor did not grow up in a family surrounded by Assassins and Templar.  This protagonist was raised by his Native-American mother and knew little of his English father.  Players are given the opportunity to relive pivotal moments in Connor’s life as he grows from a boy into a young man during the Revolutionary War.  Connor’s story for revenge soon becomes entangled with the war between the Patriots and the Redcoats as well as the Assassins and Templar.  This places Connor in the middle of some historical moments in American history.  Connor’s understanding of the world plays a big role in his sense of justice and right, and he constantly questions the morals of those around him.  Instead of backing the founding fathers as our history books always do, AC3 shows some of the consequences of war and the hard choices that had to be made for freedom.

Ubisoft has a track record for creating historical settings and does not disappoint in AC3.  The setting of AC3 centers on Boston and New York City during Revolutionary War times.  These settings allow Connor to be involved in, or even put in motion, some historical events such as the Boston Tea Party and Paul Revere’s Ride.  We even see sequences where Connor commands troops in battles such as the Battle of Bunker Hill.   Though these sequences do seem coincidental at times, we see the ambition put forth on Ubisoft’s part to try and get players to feel as though the Revolutionary War is upon them.  Unfortunately, as some gameplay elements are gained, some elements that have been present in past Assassins Creed games are lost, such as the need to climb buildings and run across rooftops.  In past Assassins Creed games, the settings were in cities that were hundreds of years old and had time to develop into massive sights.  AC3 takes a different timeframe, long before the massive skyscrapers of the current New York City skyline, in a time where the city was still in development, eliminating the need to race across rooftops and I found myself either running to a destination or riding a horse.

Similar to the gameplay introduced in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Boston and New York City feature ways to lessen Templar control and gain Assassin allies.  Both cities have liberation contracts in which you assist by performing various tasks that differ from district to district. For example, in the poorer sections of town you will need to burn contaminated blankets or carry the sick to a doctor, while in the farmland you will need to protect farmers as they collect their crops or save civilians from violent Redcoats.  After completing all the contracts in a district you have the option to go on a mission and, if successful, recruit a new assassin.

Many of the main story missions are assigned at the Davenport Homestead. This location acts as Connor’s home base and has it’s own set of development options.  Starting out as only a few structures, the Davenport Homestead can grow over time by completing Homestead Missions.  These missions add various non-playable characters to the homestead that produce resources that are used for crafting new items and trading for income.

Outside the developing cities of Boston and New York City lies the massive frontier featuring mountain ranges, trees, rivers, and lakes.  The scenery here is one of the most detailed I’ve seen in a video game since Red Dead Redemption, but may be one of the most overlooked features in Assassins Creed 3.  The ability to fast travel to different areas allows players to completely overlook the frontier portions of the game.  The scenery isn’t all the frontier has to offer though, a new hunting mechanic has been added to Assassin’s Creed 3 in which animals in the frontier can be captured and skinned for funds.  While some animals, such as deer, raccoons, rabbits, and foxes will run away from you if detected, other animals, such as cougars, bears, and wolves will openly attack you if you get too close.  This adds new mechanics to the game and can actually take some time to master.  The cleaner the kill, use of one arrow or one stab with your hidden blade, the more the animal skin is worth.  This element encourages players to use bait or traps to capture animals, rather than shooting them with a bullet.

Speaking of bullets, Assassins Creed 3 adds a few new weapons to the assassin arsenal.  First is Connor’s signature weapon, the Tomahawk.  After acquiring the Tomahawk after sequence six, Connor uses it as his main weapon and as a way of zipping across ropes like a zip line.  The Rope Dart can harpoon enemies while they are on foot or horseback, and can be used to hang enemies from trees.  Pistols and Muskets are also new features in the game, each powerful and usually cause a one shot kill.  The downsides of using these weapons are the long reload sequence that must be fully completed without interruption in order to shoot the next round, and using these firearms will alert other nearby enemies of your location.  Though Muskets act as a bayonet in close combat situations, and act as a way of defending and attacking in close quarters.  The Bow and Arrow is by far my choice for long-range attacks as it is quieter and has a shorter reload time.  This new edition is also a great weapon to use during hunting.

Arguably the greatest editions to Assassins Creed 3 are the Navel Missions.  In these missions, Connor captains a ship along the eastern coast of America and battles British Navel fleets for control of the area.  Upgrades to the ship’s equipment can be purchased and enhance the durability and power of the vessel.  A variety of cannonballs are also made available with their own status effects.

Some of the biggest problems with Assassins Creed 3 may lie in the fact that this franchise has been put on a yearly release schedule.  We’ve seen the biggest leap in basic gameplay development from Assassins Creed 1 to Assassins Creed 2, which gave players a two-year gap between games.  But since the great success of Assassins Creed 2, Ubisoft has opted into releasing a new AC game every year.  This has left AC3 marred with basic gameplay that has not changed enough from its’ predecessors and a large amount of glitches that impaired my overall enjoyment of the game.  Assassin’s Creed 3 also suffers from a large disconnect between it’s side missions and the main story line.  In past AC titles, side missions added to the overall storyline by rewarding players with new weapons, a large sum of money, or some story elements that added to the understanding of the world.  In AC3, players can choose to completely ignore the side missions, and will not lose much from the experience.  In this respect, the game falls short.  The new fast travel mechanics even made it easier to pass up these side missions.  Though I was able to get to the next story mission faster, no longer was I stopping along the way to complete a side mission that was marked on my map.  The plot points of the main storyline were so interesting that they left me ignoring the side missions in favor of getting to the next story beat.  Though some of the side missions can be entertaining, the developers did themselves an injustice by disconnecting them so much from the main storyline.

Final Score – 6.0

Though I did enjoy the majority of my experience with Assassin’s Creed 3, I can’t help but feel a bit burned out from the yearly release schedule.  The franchise has come a long way, but is not adding enough gameplay innovations to completely justify a yearly release cycle. Though Desmond’s story has seen some resolution in this latest release, Ubisoft has left enough room to continue the franchise and has already planned another release for quarter 4 2013.  Will the next Assassin’s Creed impress enough players to convenience them to come back again?  We can only wait and see.

Dave sucks at this shitty game and hates his life.

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Dave shows off the speed of the LaCie 2big 4TB Thunderbolt Series external HDD.

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NHL 13 Demo Gameplay

Posted: August 22, 2012 in Preview




The EA Sports Hockey League’s (EASHL) own The Four Horseman (4H) take a look at the demo for NHL 13! Watch as they get owned by the CPU-controlled team for the second year in a row.

Center/Green – Mahervin Slick aka DirtyMike7 aka Da Wildabeast
Left Wing/Red – Andy Nighthorse aka N1ghthors3
Left Defense/Blue – Lipari aka Lipari22
Right Defense/Yellow – Christopher Slick aka Nastiest Guy
Dave Tadros (commentary)

The Legend of the Horseman:
NHL 09: 377-199-46
NHL 10: 409-82-17
NHL 11: 736 -177 – 61
NHL 12: 900 – 236 – 54

NHL 13 will be available for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on September 11, 2012!

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by: David Tadros

 

In the year and a half that we have been capturing video game footage, we have had experience primarily with two HD capture devices, the first device being the Hauppauge 1212 HD-PVR and the second being the Blackmagic Design Intensity Extreme.  The key differences between the two devices are the ports, the capture resolutions, the lag, the pricing, and added necessities.  When examining the two side-by-side, each has it’s pro’s and con’s.

USB 2.0  Vs. Thunderbolt

Firstly we can examine both devices and notice one key feature that the Blackmagic Design Intensity Extreme has over the Hauppauge 1212 HD-PVR, and that is the Thunderbolt port.  While the Hauppauge 1212 uses a USB 2.0 connection, the Intensity Extreme utilizes the new Thunderbolt technology, allowing the device to transfer at incredible speeds.  Not only does the transfer speed increase with this connection, but also the lag drops significantly.  In our testing we have seen about a five second lag from the capture source to the computer screen with the Hauppauge 1212, while the Intensity Extreme seems to have little to no lag at all.  This may not be a deal breaker to many, but the added ability to play straight from the computer screen may be enticing to some.

The use of Thunderbolt gives the Intensity Extreme a leg up over the Hauppauge 1212’s USB 2.0 port when streaming gameplay footage to popular websites such as Justin.TV as well.  While it is possible for both capture devices to stream gameplay footage, the Intensity Extreme is more seamless in its delivery as the computer recognizes it as a video input device.  This feature allows the user to simply select the Intensity Extreme from Justin.TV’s drop down menu.  The dropped lag also seems to aid in syncing audio.  Where it may be difficult for some to live stream using the Hauppauge 1212 due to it’s five-second capture delay, syncing audio with the Intensity Extreme proved to be much easier in our experiences.

The Intensity Extreme’s Thunderbolt port also features the ability to power the unit and daisy chain to multiple Thunderbolt devices.  In our experiences we’ve used the Intensity Extreme with an external Thunderbolt hard drive using the same Thunderbolt port on a Macbook Pro with seamless operation.  The two downsides to the Intensity Extreme’s Thunderbolt is the lack of a second Thunderbolt port on the unit as well as the lack of an included Thunderbolt cable.  Using the Intensity Extreme will force the user to keep the device at the end of the Thunderbolt chain, limiting the ability to use Thunderbolt monitors that have only on input.  The lack of a Thunderbolt cable also sets the user back $50 on top of the Intensity Extreme’s $284 price tag.

In’s and Out’s

Examining both the Hauppauge 1212 and the Intensity Extreme’s in’s and out’s you will notice that both devices are capable of capturing devices using composite and component cables.  The key difference between these devices is the Intensity Extreme’s inclusion of both an HDMI in and out.  Using HDMI the capture resolution is bumped up from 720p to 1080p.  While the Hauppauge 1212 can capture in 720p and 1080i, it lacks the ability to capture in 1080p.  Though the Intensity Extreme does capture 1080p, we were disappointed to see that the fps was capped out at 30.  The inability to capture 1080p at 60fps leaves the user unable to capture gameplay footage from the Xbox 360 as the console is unable to drop its fps.

Necessary Accessories

Though the Intensity Extreme may seem quite easy to use for many users, the device demands great speeds from the target hard drive.  In our experiences, capturing footage using an internal hard drive was very difficult using the Intensity Extreme forcing the purchase of a Thunderbolt external hard drive.  The Hauppauge on the other hand, records to an internal hard drive easily.  Though both devices benefit from external hard drives, the Hauppauge proved to be more consumer friendly as it’s required transfer speeds were much less strenuous on the target hard drives.  As mentioned previously, the Intensity Extreme does not come with a Thunderbolt cable or HDMI cables.  The Hauppauge 1212 includes the necessary USB 2.0 cable as well as a component cable, allowing the user to begin using the device right out of the box.

Software

Users of OS X will find using Blackmagic Designs included software to be easy and effective, while Windows users may be turned off by the Intensity Extreme for it’s current lack of support.  We see this situation changing as soon as Thunderbolt ports become more prominent on Windows based computers.  The Hauppauge 1212 is opposite to the Intensity Extreme in this respect as it only provides first part support for Windows computers.  Mac users will be forced to purchase a program, be it EyeTV or HDPVR Capture, to allow the device to work on the platform.  One major difference between these devices is the ability to use the device as a pass-through.  While the user is able to have the Hauppauge 1212 continually connected without the use of software, the Intensity Extreme requires an application to access the video output.  If an application is not currently using the Intensity Extreme, the output channel to the external monitor or television shows a blank screen.

Pros and Cons

Intensity Extreme

Pros

HDMI in’s and out’s as well as a breakout cable for component and composite inputs

Included program that works well with OS X

Ability to capture up to 1080p

Realtime Capture – Lag free.

Computers recognize the device as a video input

A wide variety of resolution, aspect ratios, and compression settings.

No external power supply

Cons

Lack of support for 1080p at 60fps

No support for Windows

Inability to use the device without an open application or computer (Output Pass-through)

No second Thunderbolt port.  Device must be at the end of the chain.

Does not include Thunderbolt or HDMI cables

Hauppauge 1212

Pros

Simple installation

Support for Windows

Audio/Video pass-though without an open application or computer

Includes necessary cables

Cons

About a five second lag to the computer

Cannot capture in 1080p

No HDMI

Cannot be recognized as a video input

No first party support for Mac OS X

Bottom Line

While both devices are capable of many of the same features, the Intensity Extremes Thunderbolt port, HDMI in and out, and the ability to set it as a video input device makes it a bit easier to use than the Hauppauge 1212.  While the Hauppauge 1212 is priced at $180 and includes all necessary cables, the lack of first party support for Mac users may be a turn off, as well as the need for work arounds to access the ability to live stream and the significant lag.  The Insanity Extreme’s price point of $284 seems reasonable enough, but still may be disappointing when realizing the required $50 Thunderbolt cable is not included.  The lack of support for Windows may also turn off many potential buyers, but as Thunderbolt becomes more readily available on PC’s, we can assume support for Windows will eventually be added.