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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Episode 24 or You Never Forget Your First Shepard

N7 is back bitches!!
The war for Earth, nay ALL LIFE has begun!  Mass Effect 3 has hit shelves with a vengance selling more than 3.5 million copies before the first week was out!  That means the aggressive marketing plan worked!  I have never seen a bigger push for a launch than for ME3.  And it truly was a worthy title.  I had my N7 Edition in my hands at midnight, and by 12:10am, it was in my 360.  I could hardly stand it!  Six years, three games, novels, comic book series, and it all came down to this.  The reapers are here and, as usual, it's up to Shepard to save the galaxy.

Aaron Shepard, an Earthborn war hero and Alliance Soldier was my first Shepard.  A no-nonsense gunslinger who put the galaxy's best interest above his own.  This is how my journey into the Mass Effect universe began. It was the original Mass Effect that got me into gaming to begin with.  The story grabbed me and pulled me in.  The characters were flawed and believable.  You actually cared about them! He was my first Shepard, and I was going to finish his fight.  I made the choices, now I was going to reap the consequences.

  The game starts off like the demo started(this time with all your choices imported!).  As Shepard is forced to leave Earth in order to save it, you must create alliances, broker peace and make more hard choices.  Who do you ally with?  If you help over here, will you lose support over there?  Oh yeah, and watch out for the Reapers!!

This game is graphically beautiful!  The textures are wonderfully rendered, and the level layouts are masterful!  The sound is spectacular.  With a soundtrack by Clint Mansell with Chris Lennertz, Chris Velasco, Sam Hulick and Sasha Dikicyan, you cannot go wrong.  It is both epic and emotional.  Then there is the voice work.  Mark Meer does a fantastic job of portraying BroShep, while the always spectacular Jennifer Hale shines again as FemShep.  Follow that with excellent work by Ali Hillis, Seth Green, Martin Sheen, and Keith David.  The voice work is perfect.  That's it.  End of story.  Perfect.

Add to all this awesomeness co-op multiplayer!  Not just multiplayer, but GOOD multiplayer that actually rewards you for playing!  You don't have to play the co-op to beat the game and get the best ending, but it helps!    Plus, it's awesome!!

This review is spoiler free.  Saying that, I have to say this about the much bitched about ending.  I LIKED IT!  I am very satisfied by the ending my Shepard earned.  That's all I will say.

I'm calling it right now!  GAME OF THE YEAR!

I am also giving MASS EFFECT 3 a PERFECT SCORE!  10/10!

But I'm just a BioWare fanboy...

Next Time:  The Relevant Wife's take on ME3!!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Episode 23 or FemShep Friday and the ME3 Demo

Did you get your early ME3 demo code?? We got our codes on FemShep Friday. Any coincidence that the early demo dropped on FemShep Friday? I think not!

This is how The Relevant Wife (Mrs. Captain Awesome)
games with little Baby Awesome!
If you have to wait until Tuesday, don't worry. It's totally worth it! In honor of FemShep Friday, The Irrelevant Gamer celebrated by letting me, The Relevant Wife, have first crack at the ME3 demo. All I can say is wow!

Heck yeah! Thanks for the FemShep recognition BioWare :-)

When BioWare wants to hit you, they hit you hard! In the opening sequence alone, I was tearing up even though from earlier articles and game play reported from the different conferences, I knew what to expect. You immediately understand what's at stake in ME3. You can't save everyone, but gosh darn it you'll do everything you can to save as many as possible. 

With the demo, you can see the new improved changes the BioWare team has made. You can use Kinect to speak the lines during conversations, which is really cool. There are new biotic powers and of course the Omni-blade!! There are subtle differences in the controls, but after a few minutes you won't notice them. The new way Shepard moves is a vast improvement over the first two games. You can actually jump over objects and climb easily instead of taking cover and then moving over and up things. As I was getting used to the new controls, my FemShep was rolling and dodging unexpectedly. That was quickly cleared up after a few minutes of playing. 

It's also nice to see that you comrades in arms are more useful in combat. They use their powers and special abilities without you having to direct them the majority of the time. This has pluses and minuses. Great to not have to direct so much, not so great because they may use a particular power on one enemy that you wanted to direct them to use on another. 

I was also pleased to see that during the options set up, you can specify to have Shepard's helmet and all other characters' helmets off during conversations. It will be nice to make sure you see everyone's faces during dialog time. Not a huge change, but a really nice option they included.

On an unrelated note, we have a bone to pick with BioWare. We just got our Art of the Mass Effect Universe book. Such beautiful art work and we were enjoying it immensely until we got to the ME3 portion. We can't look at it any more because of all the character spoilers!! For instance (Spoiler alert, roll over to see text): 

Jack has hair and you meet a Prothean!?!?

So now it's sitting on the shelf staring at us, enticing us to look. But we must resist until after we complete ME3. Shoot BioWare! Why'd you have to go and be like that? (We still love you though.)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Episode 22 or Mass Effect Demo Madness!!!

Hello there folks!  What a wild 24 hours it's been!  Yesterday was the early release of the MASS EFFECT 3 demo, which drops for everyone else on Tuesday.  I happened to be lucky enough to get it early.  The Relevant Wife and I will review the demo next episode.  I have a treat for all our readers.  EARLY ACCESS TO THE MASS EFFECT DEMO!!  BioWare was gracious enough to send me 19 codes!

Please note: They are one-time use only, and first come, first served.  Enjoy!





















Saturday, January 28, 2012

Episode 21 or Q1 2012 Preview

What's up party people!  2012 is in full swing and the games are lining up.   Resident Evil 6, GTA 5, HALO 4, Mass Effect 3, Borderlands 2, and Kingdoms of Amalur.  See what I did there???  I believe a nice preview of the games that caught my attention in Quarter 1 is in order!  And those are MLB12 The Show, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, and Mass Effect 3.  Let's get it on!!


While I'm not a fan of most sports games, the exception has been and will always be THE SHOW.  I AM a huge baseball fan, so this one is right in my wheelhouse.  MLB11 was supurb!  The controls were tight, the animations spot on and the feel of the game was right on.  This year, the animations look even better!  Plus the announcers won't be repeating themselves as much, which is always good.  Also on deck is an improved "Road To The Show" mode, where you can create a ball player and take them through the minors and finally make it to the Majors.  Sony continually puts out the highest rated sports games in MLB THE SHOW franchise and looks to keep the streak alive!  Look for it on shelves 3-6-12.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning(360, PS3, PC)

This title caught my eye late last year.  The team making this game is a venerable who's who!  Ken Rolsten - lead designer of Elder Scrolls III Morrowind and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, R.A. Salvatore - NY Times best selling author (The man who killed Chewbacca), Todd McFarlane - Creator of Spawn.  Oh and the company making the game?  Owned by World Series Champion and former Red Sox Ace Curt Schilling!  Impressed yet?  I've played the demo and was pleasantly surprised!  The freeflow combat and expansive open world was really cool!  The best way to describe it is Fable mixed with Oblivion/Skyrim, a dash of Dragon Age and the conversation wheel from Mass Effect!  Still not convinced?  Download the demo on XBOX Live or the PSN and find out for yourself!  Plus if you do, you get awesome goodies for Mass Effect 3!  KoA: R drops 2-7-12

YEAH BUDDY!  It's MASS EFFECT 3!!!(360, PS3, PC)

Words cannot describe how badly I want this game!  Everything about this game screams EPIC!!!  The scale and scope, the emotional attachment, the multiplayer!!  It all comes down to this!  The war begins and ends here!  With customizable weapons, both new and returning crewmates, and an import feature second to none.  Perhaps that's why I love this series so much.  It's MY game.  My Shepard.  MY choices.  Your game will be different and unique!  Did you romance Liara?  Leave Kaiden to die?  Punch the reporter?  Watching all the videos, staring at the screenshots, it's hard to imagine this game is going to be below my lofty expectations.  With the demo dropping on Valentine's Day, I have a date with my XBox.  And now, you do too!  The war for Earth begins 3-6-12!

NEXT TIME:  Review of the Demo of ME3!!!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Episode 20 or What are ESRB Ratings?

If you frequent a video store you’ve come across this scene at least once:
What makes these games rated M?
Turn them over to find out.


“Mom/Dad, this is the one I want,” kid that has to be a pre-teen waves a copy of Grand Theft Auto, God of War, Mafia II, take your pick of any inappropriate M games.

“Well I don’t know, it’s rated M,” says obviously clueless parent.

“But we already played the first one at so-and-so’s house,” kid whines.

Mom looks at store employee, “Ok so what’s it rated for?”

“Well there’s a list on the back of the categories that put it into the M rating, but in this particular game you can do (insert list) and see this (insert list).” Says employee trying to be helpful and sway the Mom to making a good parenting decision.

“Well I’m not worried about violence, he’s pretty mature for an 8th grader,” says Mom.

Sigh, lady, your kid should not be playing this ultra violent, sexed up video game! Go buy him a book!!” thinks the frustrated worker but he/she actually says. “Well, I would have to remind you that every rated M game has to be purchased by someone 17 or older. We have to card for these games. They’re rated M for a reason, though there are varying degrees of M.”

“Well, we’ll take it, he’ll just play it at his friends anyway.”


This helpful site gives a description of what each symbol and each content descriptor means.

Each content descriptor can be preceded by ‘Mild’ which means low frequency or intensity. The ESRB listing of content descriptors is usually pretty accurate. The Irrelevant Gamer and I haven’t come across any games that were blatantly missing something from the description list. In fact a study done shows that “parents agreed with the ESRB ratings 82% of the time, while another 5% of the time the ratings were thought to be "too strict". A study, published in April 2007 by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), found that 87% of parents are "somewhat" to "very" satisfied with the ESRB ratings, and 64% agree with ratings "all," "nearly all" or "most of the time.”” (http://www.esrb.org/ratings/faq.jsp#19)

More people agree with the ESRB than with Congress!! ESRB for President!!

So how does a game get a rating?

Reviewers go through the games including gameplay and cut-scenes and fill out a questionnaire. Even scenes that don’t make the final cut have to be disclosed. That’s why some people wanted to investigate Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

The Irrelevant Gamer and I have always wanted to try our hand at being a ESRB reviewer, however, you have to be in New York City (Sad Panda!!)

Now with all the information out there, how can parents be so clueless? And what can be done? Well absentee parents aside, if they feel they need any further information the best resource is your local game shop employees. Any game seller worth his/her salt will be able to give you insights to why games are rated M since there are varying degrees of M-ness. (I lay claim to that word, M-ness.)

Of course they can do research online before they go to the game store with their children. The ESRB has a really nifty search for game ratings (http://www.esrb.org/ratings/index.jsp). If you know the title that’s the easiest way to look, but you can also find lists of games with specific criteria like, M rated games with nudity. Apparently there are 43 games that have been reviewed by the ESRB that are rated M and have nudity. Interestingly enough, there are 24 games listed with an AO (Adult Only) rating and they’re almost all for PC (only 2 for consoles).

The Irrelevant Gamer and I have been discussing kids and games a lot lately since we just welcomed our son into the world in late December 2011. Of course games are going to change a lot between now and when he’s a teen, but if he were a teen gamer now what would we let him play? Well it all depends on how he matures. We’d probably let him play games with less M-ness like Halo as early as 13/14. Something like Mass Effect/Dragon Age 15. Then we’d hope he’d be able to make his own good decisions by the time he’s 16, but until then we’d do a lot of gaming with him.


I guess that would be our central message. Game as a family and in moderation! There are lots of great games families with younger children can play together. Then as they get older play games with them so you can talk about them as they go.

The Relevant Gamer will be back soon with some new reviews and more about what’s coming up in 2012!

Until then, keep gaming friends!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Episode 19 or Yet Another Awards Show!!

I'm back!!!

Wow it's been awhile!  Sooooo much gaming since April.  Fallout New Vegas and Dragon Age 2 add-ons, ANOTHER FREAKIN' CALL OF DOODY!  That's right!  I said it!  I swear I am done with these first person military shooters.  But there were also three AMAZING titles dropped that make up my finalists for GAME OF THE YEAR!!!!  It's that time again!!  The Second Annual

Irrelevant Gaming Awards

Shall we get to it?  Yeah buddy!

Best Add-On/DLC
Runner up: Fallout New Vegas - Old World Blues
Winner: Dragon Age 2 - Mark of the Assassin

Best Collectors Edition
Winner: Gears of War 3 - Epic Edition

Best Multi-Player
Runner up: Portal 2
Winner: Gears of War 3

Best Graphics
Runner up: Gears of War 3
Winner: LA Noire

Most Memorable Moment
Runner up: Portal 2 - Lunacy(Spaaaaaaaaace!!)
Winner: Gears of War 3 - Dom's Fate

Best Story
Runner up: Dragon Age 2
Winner: Batman: Arkham City

Most Anticipated Game of 2012
Runner up: Bioshock Infinite
Winner: Mass Effect 3 - Note: ME3 won this last year too!

Best Xbox Live Arcade Title
Runner up: Trenched
Winner: A World of Keflings

Best Sports Title
Winner: MLB 11 The Show

Best Kinect Title
Winner: Kinect Sports Season 2

Best Voice Performance
Runner up: Ellen McLain (Portal 2)
Winner: Mark Hammil (Batman: Arkham City)

Best Character
Runner up: Cole Phelps (LA Noire)
Winner: The Joker (Batman: Arkham City)

Runner up: TIE!!  Portal 2 & Batman: Arkham City

That can only mean...drumroll please...


And what a year of gaming it has been!  2012 looks pretty grand with Max Payne 3, Kingdoms of Amalur, Bioshock Infinite and of course Mass Effect 3 on the horizon all in Quarter One.  I can promise you I will be vigilant and post much more frequently.  Keep it tuned here for more gaming awesomeness!  The Captain is BACK!

Next Time: The Relevant Wife is back with a discussion of Game Ratings!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Episode 18 or The Cake May Be A Lie, But The Cube Is Forever!

The take-over has past, but I'm sure that's not the last we'll hear from the Relevant Wife!  Welcome to April!  Tons going on in the next month.!  And with the Nintendo 3DS launch behind us, we can now look forward to some AAA titles coming later this year, as well as the mega-system update in May.  Let's get some news!

NEWS:  DUKE NUKEM DELAYED...AGAIN.  Goddammit!  That's all I have to say about that.  I'm just tired of all the delays.  At least they had a sense of humor about the whole thing.  Watching Gearbox President Randy Pitchford freak out was very funny.  Speaking of funny, if you haven't checked out the Aperture Investment videos, open a new tab and check them out NOW!  These ads for PORTAL 2 look so good I agree with Tim Buckley of cad-comic.com when I say "Shut up and take my money!!"  Keep reading for a full review of PORTAL 2.


I was 3rd in line to get one of these bad boys, and I'm glad I did!  This little gaming device has just drawn a line in the sand when it comes to portable gaming.  Not only does it offer 3d graphics without the need for glasses, but offers much, MUCH improved graphics that rival the Wii. Still not stellar graphics, but we are talking portable here.  The 3DS breaths some much needed life into Nintendo's DS line, which seemed to stagnate with really crappy 3rd party games from junk studios like 505, UFO and ZOO studios.  It's the same problem on the Wii.  All these studios who cannot make a good game to save their lives, over populating the shelves with games not worthy enough to use as toilet paper.  And because of this, people miss great games like MADWORD and The CONDUIT.  Shenanigans I say!!

Back on topic...With some great AAA titles like SUPER STREET FIGHTER IV and NINTENDOGS, they slipped a few surprise titles in there like STEEL DIVER, which to my shock was in production for over 5 years!!  I bought both SSF IV and STEEL DIVER and I love them both!  I'll  post reviews for both next time.

The software is somewhat restricted at the moment, as there is not internet browser, shops or much of anything at the moment.  Fret not, however as they are coming, along with Netflix in May via a system update.  The most awesome thing it can do at the moment is the 3D augmented reality games that are included with the system in the form of 6 cards.  One really can't explain this as it must be seen to fully appreciate it.  Go check the 3DS out at a friends place or at a demo station near you.  Then get the credit card out!


"Just when I thought I was out...they pull me back in!"  That's the segue from PORTAL to PORTAL 2.  You again play as Chell, the heroine from the first game.  After killing the sadistic GLaDOS and escaping Aperture Labs, an injured Chell collapses on the surface.  The Ratman(if you haven't played the first game, you have no clue.) finds Chell and with no idea how to treat her injuries, brings her back to Aperture Labs, and places her in a chamber to heal.  After 50 days, she is reawakened for analysis, but put back to sleep.  After ???? days, she is woken up by Wheatly, an AI, but much nicer than GLaDOS.  And thus begins your journey to escape the ruins of Aperture once again.  Over the course of the single player campaign, you will come face to face with GLaDOS again, do more tests, learn the Aperture Science story, see GLaDOS attached to a potato, and new amazing Aperture products!

If you have played this game before, you know exactly how to play.  The controls are easy to master, and the puzzles are amazing!  The graphics are beautiful as you go through ruined test chambers, into the bowels of forgotten Aperture experiments, into new test chambers designed to kill you!

PROS: The addition of co-op is very nice!  The feel of the original game is still there, but it's the right amount of different.  Quite possibly the funniest game I've ever played...right up there with BULLETSTORM.

CONS:  Even though I'm not done with the single player story yet, I see no cake.  But seriously, the single player could be a bit longer...or the price a bit lower.

GRADE: 9.5