Splinter Cell: Blacklist Review and System Requirements

Splinter Cell: Blacklist is the latest installment in the beloved
series. With Splinter Cell Conviction, Ubisoft decided to make the game
less about stealth and more about brute force. Sure, there was the
option at times of using stealth but I never felt the need to use it.
With Blacklist however, stealth plays a much bigger role. Gone are the
days when it was ok to charge headlong into a room emptying clip after
clip on enemies. While I enjoyed Conviction, Blacklist takes all the
good parts of Conviction and adds so much more to it.

For a game
bearing Tom Clancy’s name, the plot line is exactly what you would
expect. Terrorists are threatening to destroy something and an elite
group of soldiers have been given carte blanch to stop them. In this
case, terrorists are threatening to destroy the United States by
systematically taking out high value targets, or what they call the
Blacklist — things like energy, food; basically the backbones of the
country. Sam Fisher of the elite 4th Echelon is tasked by the President
to do anything necessary to stop the attacks. While the plot isn’t
spectacular, it serves it purposes to facilitate the missions and lead
you towards the final encounter.

From the first mission it’s
evident that there is an enhanced fluidity to movement. It’s easy to
slip into the shadows, mantle over cover, climb up a pipe and drop down
onto an unsuspecting enemy. There is a certain satisfaction in sitting
in one spot for several minutes studying enemy movements to really plan
out a route that will either let you slip by completely undetected, or
to divide and conquer without raising any alarms. Each mission allows
you to complete it any number of ways; some force you to remain
undetected while others encourage it by sending in swarms of
reinforcements. It proves beneficial to not start large scale gun
battles.

One complaint I had with Splinter Cell Conviction was,
while stealth was a game mechanic, there was very little true need to
use it. That has completely changed with Blacklist. Sam Fisher can only
take limited damage and when multiple enemies are attacking it can end
very quickly. Planning before the mission is just as important. Deciding
what gadgets and gear to equip before you put boots on the ground is
imperative to making the mission go as smoothly as possible. There is a
wide array of gadgets you can purchase with money earned during the
mission such as smoke bombs, EMP grenades, sticky cameras, sleep gas
grenades, etc. Depending on your play style, there is certain to be gear
you will quickly fall in love with.
Graphically the game looks good.
On Xbox there is an optional HD Texture pack that can be installed from
disc 2. It’s approximately 3 GBs of data; honestly if you have the
space just download it for the full effect of the game. Lighting and
shadows are well done. The lights on Sam’s suit flare when you are under
cover of darkness. They provide a nice indicator so you are not left
guessing if you are in the shadows or not. Likewise, the sound track and
effects are pretty good as well. They won’t win any awards here, but
they don’t detract from the game either, but with one exception. I have a
surround sound headset which is perfect for a stealth game like this.
However, on more than one occasion the enemies footsteps did not mesh
with where the enemy was on screen. This created some frustrating
moments when I needed to go off enemy positions purely based on sound.

On
top of the single player campaign there are two multiplayer offering as
well. The first is the fan favorite Spies vs Mercs mode. Spies are
elite, agile stealth-based characters who need to hack certain
terminals, all done in third-person perspective. The Mercs and heavily
armed, first-person based characters whose job is to stops the Spies
from hacking or to kill the spy responsible for the hack before it
completes. Playing as the Merc, there is always a sense of tension as
you search for the spies, knowing at any moment you may be taken down by
a lithe assailant. Conversely, as a Spy you know if you are caught in
the open the fight will end quickly. There are a couple different modes
within the Spies vs Mercs umbrella. Classic 2 vs 2, 4 vs 4, and then
Uplink where there is a combination of Spies and Mercs on the same team.
All three are high tension modes, but when you succeed luring an enemy
into a kill spot and execute it to perfection, there are not many video
game moments that can live up to it.

The other multiplayer mode
is 14 Co-op based missions. These appear as side missions during the
campaign, and all but 4 can technically be done solo. Yet, playing
through these missions with a partner adds an entirely new level of
strategy, planning, and tension. Executing double kills, having a
partner distract a guard so the other can sneak up behind them and
eliminate them is so rewarding. I have never hid the fact that I love
co-op games, missions, or stories. While Conviction had a Co-op mode, it
was a self-contained story and felt more like an add-on. The co-op in
Blacklist feels and plays so well. Enemies rarely do the same thing no
matter how many times you play a mission, so repeating the missions with
different play styles, or partners, still offers an engaging
experience.

I haven’t enjoyed a Splinter Cell game this much
since Splinter Cell Chaos Theory. Blacklist went back to the roots of
what made it an outstanding game and added more variety and appealing
gameplay. I have always been a fan of stealth-based games, a few games
claim to be stealth-based but quickly become run and gun games where the
only stealth is hiding when you are waiting for your health to
regenerate. Blacklist is not one of those games. It’s a game that forces
you to plan ahead, and rewards you for good choices, and punishes you
for rash decisions.

Pros
Stealth, that actually works and is beneficial
Amazing Co-op and MP modes
Fluid movement

Cons

At times audio is out of sync with events on screen, most notable enemy footsteps
At times the control scheme gets in the way of the game

Splinter
Cell Blacklist is the stealth game that Conviction promised it would
be. With solid gameplay, and fantastic level design, it delivers many
memorable moments while not sacrificing its true vision. Allowing the
player to play anyway they want through almost each mission, and still
feel as though it was the way the developers intended it, is a testament
to how much Ubisoft wanted to get this right. Blacklist is a deeply
rewarding game for those who take their time, plan, and execute a
strategy. If you are looking for a fast paced, run and gun shooter – you
can play like that. If you are looking for a game where you can sneak
past virtually every enemy leaving nothing but a shadow behind, you can
play like that. If you want something in between those you, you can do
that as well. While Conviction was a decent game, Blacklist excels as a
stealth -based game with loads of replayability. This is one game I will
be trying to convince as many friends as I can to pick up. This one is
simply too good to ignore.    

Verdict:80/100

System Requirements:

    Minimum:

    • OS:Windows® XP (SP3) / Windows Vista (SP2) / Windows 7 (SP1) / Windows 8
    • Processor:2.53 GHz Intel Core2 Duo E6400 or 2.80 GHz AMD Athlon™ 64 X2 5600+ or better
    • Memory:2 GB RAM
    • Graphics:512 MB DirectX 10–compliant with Shader Model 4.0 or higher
    • DirectX:9
    • Hard Drive:25 GB HD space
    • Sound:DirectX 10–compliant DirectX 9.0c–compliant
    • Additional:Peripherals Supported:
      Windows-compatible keyboard, mouse, headset, optional controller (Xbox
      360 Controller for Windows recommended). Requires UPLAY account. 
    Recommended:

    • Processor:2.66 GHz Intel Core2 Quad Q8400 or 3.00 GHz AMD Phenom II X4 940 or better
    • Memory:4 GB RAM
    • DirectX:11
    • Hard Drive:25 GB HD space
    • Sound:(5.1 surround sound recommended)
    • Other Requirements:Broadband Internet connection
    • Additional:Peripherals Supported:
      Windows-compatible keyboard, mouse, headset, optional controller (Xbox
      360 Controller for Windows recommended). Requires UPLAY account.. 

The Raven – Legacy Of A Master Thief: Ancestry of Lies Now Available

Nordic Games has today announced that Ancestry Of Lies, the second chapter of the point-n’-click adventure The Raven – Legacy Of A Master Thief, is now available for PC via Steam. The second instalment of a three part series on PC, the whole of The Raven – Legacy Of A Master Thief will be available later this year in digital format for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Battlefield 4 launches with 10 maps and 7 game modes

During another gameplay-filled live interview at GamesCom, DICE just revealed that Battlefield 4 will launch with no less than 10 multiplayer maps and 7 game modes. By comparison, BF3 launched with 9 maps and 5 game modes. DICE’s Linnea Harrison confirmed the map and game mode count during an on-stage interview at GamesCom

Saints Row IV Review and System Requirements

“Saints Row the Third” was a massive disappointment from its
predecessor. While it still had fun gameplay, the rest of the game was
limited, downgraded, disappointing, and too stupid and immature with its
“Over The Top” 3rd grader mentality.

“Saints Row IV” is fun,
with the addition of superpowers inside an alien computer simulation of
Steelport, but it still feels just like “Saints Row 3.5” instead of a
fleshed out sequel.

Originally, this was supposed to be a DLC for
Saints Row the Third in April 2012 called “Enter The Dominatrix”. But
because of space, they turned much of it into an entire game, which is
what Saints Row IV is. The two games are so similar, you can literally
use your same character from Saints Row the Third into IV (using the
Saints Row Community website). They’re that similar of games.

However,
Saints Row IV stands out from three due to the new missions,
objectives, altered activities and return of much beloved past Saints
Row characters and features.

In all reality, the superpowers and
maybe a few missions were probably part of the canceled DLC. And the
“new” stuff they fleshed out into a separate game would be more of the
story, like more missions and returning old favorites.

GAMEPLAY:
As
stated, this game was originally planned to be a very detailed DLC, so
it’s not surprising that most everything in the game is setup exactly
the same as Saints the Third. (Even most of the same glitches are still
in, like the ‘modding special vehicles in Rim Jobs’ glitch.) The
gameplay is familiar to Saints Row the Third, only with new powers and
agility added in. Shooting is the same, and driving is ALMOST the same.
While it seemed like mixing in superpowers with Saints Row gameplay
would play oddly, it works well, here. And that’s because the
superpowers only compliment the shooting gameplay. Your only “real”
powers will be superhuman speed and superhuman sprinting. The others,
like elemental blasts and telekinesis, actually just work more like
weapons. In fact, they simply replace grenades. Some people have
compared this to “Crackdown,” but it’s really more like “Prototype” with
better weapons. And while most of the new alien weapons are pretty dumb
and impractical, they can be fun to some people.

However, what
sucks is, many of the same problems from before persist. Like the lack
of a cover system, for example. But at least, they added health recovery
items back into the game, at the cost of longer delayed health
regeneration, meaning you’ll have to rely on killing enemies to heal
yourself more than taking cover. Kill an enemy and they’ll drop health,
unlike in Saints The Third, where you just absorb damage until you can
kill everyone, or simply die.

A few things are different, like
getting rid of notoriety. Since there are no safe houses anymore, you’ll
now have to get rid of it by chasing down an A.I. bot and smashing it.
This can be QUITE annoying and isn’t nearly as convenient as simply
hiding in your house, like before. Also, the new addition of
super-sprinting, as well as the altered car controls (which now make
shooting while driving on the 360 extremely difficult, to the point of
non-usage) make street vehicles nearly obsolete. Aircraft still has its
uses though, as stamina is not infinite (when you first start out), and
you’ll constantly need to get around Virtual Steelport. But now,
summoning vehicles and using them through your phone/HUB works
instantly. Call up a vehicle and you’ll immediately warp in it, since
you’re inside a simulation, anyway.

The game is setup a lot like
“Mass Effect 2” in which you first save/recruit your crew, and then,
gain their “loyalty” and superpowers and upgrades that come with it. You
even have a ship, similar to the Normandy and an A.I. who makes bad
jokes (Kinzie is Garrus). There are also “romances” in the game too, but
it’s really just another Mass Effect parody/joke for you to easily
sleep with your crew. It’s nothing, really.

The missions
themselves are setup even more linear than before, and because Steelport
is just a simulation now, you’ll feel like you have less of an open
world experience. Especially since most superpowers will need to be
upgraded in order to fully utilize them. Most of the fun Activities,
like Professor Genki’s “Super Ethical Reality Climax” and “Trail
Blazing” are gone, and the new ones aren’t that great, but some are.
“Blazin” is a superpowered hybrid of Cyber Blazing and Racing. And many
“Mayhem” missions return in altered states, like “Mech Mayhem” or “UFO
Mayhem.” “Fight Club” from Saints Row 2 returns, only with superpowers.
Professor Genki’s “Mind Over Murder”, where you use telekinesis to hurl
stuff through targets, is horrible, on top of feeling utterly pointless
and is probably one of the worst activities in the game. And the only
original Activity to return and also be in every single Saints game is
good old fashioned “Insurance Fraud.”

75/100

STORY:
While
not nearly as good as One, or especially Two, at least this time, they
attempt to have a decent story in Saints Row IV. It’s an alien
apocalypse as the Zin Empire, led by articulate and elegant Emperor
Zinyak, invades Earth. The Boss (who is now the U.S. President) as well
as humanity’s best and brightest are abducted and everyone else is left
at the mercy of the Zin. Now it’s up to the Saints to break free and
destroy the Zin empire from within. Old allies and enemies return as
most of the game takes place inside virtual reality Steelport.

The
lack of drama or suspense is noticeable here, though. While I get
Saints Row IV is no “Mass Effect,” certain things just don’t seem right.
For example, early on in the game, the Boss sees someone (actually,
more than that) killed by the Zin after escaping the simulation for the
first time. His/her response is to simply go back in the simulation and
get revenge. No shock, no horror, no sorrow. Nothing, really. You’d
think having just seen [___] completely killed by Zinyak, there would be
more emotion than “put me back in the simulation so I can get payback
on Zinyak.”

If it wasn’t for the nostalgic pull and return of so
many beloved Stilwater characters from the series, I’d say the story is
almost as bad as The Third. Not quite as much though, so this is
definitely an improvement, even if it isn’t spectacular, which most
people won’t expect from Volition, anyways. Expect lots of jokes and gag
sights instead of compelling drama or storytelling.

60/100

SOUND/VOICE ACTING:
The
voice acting is good. While most all of the returning characters don’t
have the same voice actors, some of your player protagonists, as well as
your closest allies, do return and do a good job. Surprisingly,
Volition even had them re-record all your Boss’ catchphrases and sayings
for the new game, instead of just reusing them. They say their usual
quips and one-liners, but they’re clearly not reused sound clips and are
actually re-recorded. Along with all of this though, Keith David is
here, as well, playing himself as well as Julius Little (original leader
and founder of the Third Street Saints) and him alone is enough to
instantly boost any game’s dialogue.

90/100

MUSIC:
The
music choices are HORRIBLE! Simply put. It’s hard to say if they’re
worse than The Third, but the only radio stations you’ll likely listen
to are “The Mix” or “Klassic”, which also includes Zinyak educating us
mindless fools of this generation with some classic Shakespeare.
Everything else outside of those two stations have nothing, whatsoever.
Not to mention the game being heavily influenced by Dubstep this time
around. So much so, it has its own weapon, appropriately named the
Dubstep Gun. It’s a music genre you’ll either love, barely tolerate
(like me), or absolutely loathe, so be aware that most of the game’s
non-radio soundtrack is the wub wub techno noises known as dubstep.

This
is another game where you’ll likely listen to your own music or nothing
at all than the songs on the game. K-Rhyme and Gen-X has the most
unlistenable music, and Heavy Metal and Reggaeton (Urban Latin) don’t
even return. (I personally don’t even listen to either of those, but I
know many people are bummed they don’t come back.) Reggae music returns,
but it seems to not fit in with the sci-fi tone of this game. If it
wasn’t for the radio station “The Mix” (which gives us Haddaway’s “What
is Love?”, Outkast’s “Bombs Over Baghdad”, and Montel Jordan’s “This is
How We Do It”), this category would score be a Zero. But it is pretty
awesome listening to “What is Love?” while escaping a Zin Mothership.
And also, surprisingly appropriate.

20/100

GRAPHICS/VISUAL:

It’s
almost exactly the same as Saints Row the Third. Maybe SLIGHTLY better.
However, the permanent night sucks. Steelport was already pretty ugly
at night. This game will be even more of an eyesore. Even after turning
up the Brightness and Gamma settings to maximum. But, for what it’s
worth, the digital effects of the “simulation” are nice and work well,
especially with entering the simulation and it ‘loading in’ once you
come through the gateway. They can sometimes be a bit of a problem, for
example, when modding a car and not being able to see cause it’s
constantly glitching, but these are minor issues. At the very least,
they remind you that none of this is real, even inside the game itself.
So harming pedestrians will bother your conscience even less now.

50/100

OVERALL:
“Saints
Row IV,” much like The Third, is a lot of hype and it doesn’t quite
live up to expectations. But don’t get me wrong; it can be a fun game,
and it definitely is better than Saints the Third, even if it still
doesn’t quite give us that amazing feeling anyone who loved “Saints Row
2” had when playing it for the first time. Most of the game is recycled
from The Third, so it’ll never really feel like you’re playing an actual
sequel, but the superpowers does give you a whole new experience and
way of playing. Even with the superpowers though, the structure of the
game and the way missions are set up make it feel less like an open
world game and things feel very structured and limited.

Also, I
have to mention, the ability to replay missions do NOT return! Just like
the prior game. So that’s a major disadvantage. “Saints Row IV,” while
not nearly on the level of the Stilwater games, is still worth playing. I
just wouldn’t buy it for full price. I’d say it’s a $30-$35 game, not a
full $60 game. It’s fun, but if you’ve played Saints Row the Third
before, the superpowers are the only real draw, here. And if you’ve
played Saints Row 1 and 2 before, it’s the superpowers and the nostalgic
characters returning.

Verdict: 70/100

System Requirements

    Minimum:

    • OS: Windows Vista (x86 or x64)
    • Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 | AMD Athlon II x3
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: NVIDIA GTX 260 | AMD Radeon HD 5800 series
    • DirectX: Version 10
    • Hard Drive: 10 GB available space 
    Recommended:

    • OS: Windows 7 (x86 or x64)
    • Processor: Intel i3 2100T | AMD Phenom II x4 or higher
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: NVIDIA GTX 560 | AMD Radeon HD 6800 series or higher
    • DirectX: Version 11
    • Hard Drive: 10 GB available space 

‘Skyrim’ success put pressure on ‘The Elder Scrolls Online’ team

In 2011, Bethesda released The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim for PS3, Xbox 360, and PC. The title saw rapid success with total sales exceeding 10 million copies worldwide. This high level of success, however, put pressure on the Elder Scrolls Online team.

“Yeah honestly [we felt the pressure.] Oblivion had done well and had obviously been big enough to launch our venture because that was all that was out at first,” Konkle shared.

The Sims 3: Dragon Valley Review and System Requirements

This looked like a really cool new set, but EA has really outdone themselves for sheer bad planning. Instead of a nice, simple install, this game makes you jump through hoops to start. I literally tried for three days to install it and tried every bit of advice from EA reps and other gamers. No luck. I had to try and go to a website that needed a 5 number set instead of the 4 I had, was told to download Origin which didn’t help at all, and the installer kept skipping anyway.

Save your money. This is trash.

Verdict: 20/100

Minimum System Requirements:

  • Operating System: Windows XP 32
  • CPU: Pentium 4 2.0GHz or Athlon XP 2000+
  • Memory: 1.5 GB
  • Graphics Card: GeForce 6200 OR Radeon Xpress 1100 128mb
  • DirectX: DirectX 9
  • HDD Space: 500 MB

Recommended System Requirements:

  • Operating System: Windows XP 32
  • CPU: Core 2 Duo E4400 2.0GHz OR Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 4000+
  • Memory: 2 GB
  • Graphics Card: GeForce 7600 GT 256MB OR adeon HD 6450
  • DirectX: DirectX 9
  • HDD Space: 7.5 GB

Call Of The Battlefields: ‘Battlefield 4’ Vs. ‘Call Of Duty: Ghosts’

I’ve written a bit this week on both the enormous success of Activision’s first-person shooter franchise Call of Duty and on the newly revealed, gender-balanced Call of Duty: Ghosts multiplayer.

Now EA and DICE have released a series of videos of Battlefield 4 player “testimonials” accompanied by footage of some pretty crazy-looking gameplay in the game’s sprawling multiplayer mode.

To be honest, it looks pretty good—a step up even from 2011′s Battlefield 3.

Europa Universalis IV Review and System Requirements

EU4 is easily the best game in the series, taking all the best advancements of its previous iterations and expansions and melding them seamlessly with new features.

The tired (and highly flawed) trading system has been replaced with one that makes a lot more sense and keeps the game from getting out of hand (particularly during the end-game).

Income has been replaced with a single, monthly, number greatly increasing ease of understanding and economic planning. Some features, such as inflation have been dumbed down, which may or may not be of concern, but overall economics just feels better.

Technology sliders and certain diplomatic/administrative actions have been replaced by a three pronged point system, which again, streamlines ease of use, but more importantly, makes actions, like (the ever-popular) large-scale revolts, construction, and war exhaustion manageable and easier to visualize as real world paradigms.

This limited points system spills over into diplomacy, religion, and trade, with diplomats, missionaries, and merchants now a standing number non-replenishable over the months but available to send and call back from missions at will, which particularly with diplomats open more options.

 Wars are shorter and more defined, and reinforce speed has been significantly decreased, meaning standing armies are more important. Losing a battle makes your units fall back several territories and prevents the ridiculous “cat-and-mouse” chases of yesteryear.

Overall, for those who are old hands of EU, this is a great new addition to the series, expanding on the best EU has to offer. For those who are new to series, this is the perfect entry to get your feet wet, with tool tips and explanations abound. Although complicated enough to be called a “grand strategy” game, EU4 is the perfect blend of complexity and design, but without the complication inherent in some other titles.

Verdict: 80/100

System Requirements:

    Minimum:

    • OS:XP/Vista/Windows 7/Windows 8
    • Processor:Intel® Pentium® IV 2.4 GHz eller AMD 3500+
    • Memory:2 GB RAM
    • Graphics:NVIDIA® GeForce 8800 or ATI Radeon® X1900, 512mb video memory required
    • DirectX®:9.0c
    • Hard Drive:2 GB HD space
    • Sound:Direct X- compatible soundcard
    • Other Requirements:Broadband Internet connection
    • Additional:Controller support: 3-button mouse, keyboard and speakers. Internet Connection or LAN for multiplayer 
    Recommended:

    • OS:XP/Vista/Windows 7/Windows 8
    • Processor:Intel® Pentium® IV 2.4 GHz or AMD 3500+
    • Memory:2 GB RAM
    • Graphics:NVIDIA® GeForce 8800 or ATI Radeon® X1900, 1024mb video memory required
    • DirectX®:9.0c
    • Hard Drive:2 GB HD space
    • Sound:Direct X-compatible soundcard
    • Other Requirements:Broadband Internet connection
    • Additional:Controller support: 3-button mouse, keyboard and speakers. Internet Connection or LAN for multiplayer 

Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen Screenshots and System Requirements

Reviews           Screenshots & Specs Related Trailer

    Minimum:

    • OS: Windows Vista or newer (32 or 64 bit)
    • Processor: Intel Core i5 660 CPU or equivalent
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: Radeon HD 5870 or equivalent
    • DirectX: Version 9.0c
    • Network: Broadband Internet connection
    • Storage: 20 GB available space
    • Sound Card: DirectX-compatible sound card or onboard audio chip
    • Additional Notes: 1) Supports Keyboard+Mouse and XInput/DirectInput devices including Xbox 360, Xbox One, DualShock4 and Steam Controller.

      2) Some high end integrated graphics chips and modern gaming laptops
      with a discrete GPU may work but have not been tested, nor are they
      officially supported by Capcom.
    Recommended:

    • OS: Windows 7/8/10
    • Processor: Intel Core i7-4770K or equivalent
    • Memory: 8 GB RAM
    • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 or equivalent
    • DirectX: Version 9.0c
    • Network: Broadband Internet connection
    • Storage: 20 GB available space
    • Sound Card: DirectX-compatible sound card or onboard audio chip
    • Additional Notes: 1) Supports Keyboard+Mouse and XInput/DirectInput devices including Xbox 360, Xbox One, DualShock4 and Steam Controller.

      2) Some high end integrated graphics chips and modern gaming laptops
      with a discrete GPU may work but have not been tested, nor are they
      officially supported by Capcom.

Ultra Street Fighter IV PC Will Use Steamworks Instead Of GFWL, Simultaneously Release Hinted

Capcom’s Digital Media Specialist, Haunts, has revealed some interesting details about the PC version of Ultra Street Fighter IV. According to Haunts, Ultra Street Fighter IV will be dropping GFWL for Steamworks. This, of course, did not shock us as Capcom has been using Steamworks in almost all its latest PC titles. And we are glad for that. After all, one of the worst things of both SSF4: AE and SF4 was GFWL (for a lot of reasons).