Saturday, January 21, 2012

LittleBigPlanet 2 (PS3) The Muppets Premium Level Kit Trailer

The Muppets are going from the big screen to LittleBigPlanet with The Muppets Premium Level Kit. It brings with it five brand-new Muppet themed levels, seven new trophies, two mini-games, a new material that allows Sackboy to walk and run on walls and ceilings, and an assortment of other objects, stickers, and more! The Muppet madness on the world of LittleBigPlanet comes January 25th for £4.79 / €5.99 / US $5.99 / AUS $ 9.95.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Bowing Out From Xbox: Why I Won't Be in the Market For Microsoft's Next Console

In 2011 Microsoft's Xbox 360 had top honors as the best-selling console for the year. That's all fine and dandy, but I certainly am not impressed. I mean, all they had to do was copy the Wii's success, turn their back on the gamers that got them to their current position, and con gamers out of their hard-earned money with god-forsaken, horribly-made hardware. The following are reasons why I will not be buying whatever Microsoft has in store for next gen anytime soon.

1) Shoddy hardware

I do not believe that there has been a console with as huge and pathetic of a hardware failure rate as the early Xbox 360. The SuperPhillip household in Central City was one of the families hit by this curse, and we received the Red Ring of Death a mere two or three months once the darned system was out of warranty. I cannot help but shake my head furiously when I hear or read reports of people buying second, third, fourth, and even more 360s to replace their RROD'd one. Way to teach Microsoft that gamers like us will reward them for their miserable broken hardware! It's pitiful that Microsoft was allowed to reap the success because of their design flaws. Though to be fair, all three current generation platforms have had their share of failures. RROD, the Yellow Light of Death on the PS3 (apparently gamers aren't that creative with their names of these things), and the Wii's disc read errors (of which I suffered from) are all prominent this go around which makes me hesitant to go guns blazing with my wallet into the next generation of consoles.

2) The FIFA hack

If you are not familiar with this hack, it involved hackers stealing other people's Xbox Live accounts through an exploit in one of the popular FIFA games, charging an incredible amount to their victims' credit cards, and leaving the victim to pay the debt. Just because this isn't affecting as many people as the PSN fiasco doesn't mean it is not worth reporters' time. This is yet another example of the incompetence of Microsoft. You'd think that after having the luxury of paying sixty dollars just to be able to hop online, be called names by bigots and racists, and experience poor sportsmanship that Microsoft could control this egregious oversight.

3) Worst exclusives of any current gen platform

Xbox wins two gens in a row. Whether it is the Wii (which in my view has the best exclusives this gen, or does that invalidate my opinion on everything, trolls?), the PS3 (close behind along with...), the DS (...this platform), or the PSP, the Xbox 360 sits at the bottom of the ladder with the worst exclusives. Unless you cannot get enough of the most over-saturated genre this gen, the shooter, then you probably yearn for more from your console(s) of choice. When they weren't moneyhatting Japanese developers early on in the generation in a failure of an effort to sell software and gain Japanese mind share, they were putting out shooter (Gears of War) after shooter (Halo). Besides, most of the worthwhile games of this gen can be found on both the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3.

4) They essentially killed off Rare and many other of their developers

It seems any and every studio that Microsoft get their hands on they kill. The most disturbing example is Rare which originally made some of the best games on the Nintendo 64 like Banjo-Kazooie, GoldenEye 007, Perfect Dark, Jet Force Gemini, and Blast Corps). Now what do they do? After awesome games that failed to light up the charts like Kameo: Elements of Power, Viva Pinata and its sequel, and Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. This is apparently because the Xbox userbase only cares for shooters and racing games as evident by sales charts. Rare has now been relegated to making Kinect games and running Microsoft's Mii ripoff, Avatars. Just another reason to have a distaste for Microsoft.

Rare... Good night, sweet prince.

5) They seem to care more about money than actual games.

This could be said about any company, but it is most true for Microsoft. They entered the industry for the pure reason of making more money-- games and developers (why buy devs only to gut them?) be damned. Who needs to develop great games when you can just moneyhat devs to create the games for you? Who needs the core anymore after you've used them like a cheap call girl and turned your back on them-- going with the casual audience with Kinect? And don't even get me started on Kinect. I don't care if it is selling well. Of the 40+ games available for the blasted device, maybe 3-5 are worthwhile or are actually selling. Again, just look at sales charts (and not VGChartz as the owner just pulls numbers from his rear and then fixes them when actual official numbers come). There seems to be a reason critics of Microsoft use the "M$" moniker.

Kinect Sports and its sequel are one of
the few games worth owning a Kinect for.

6) Pay-to-play online

Xbox Live = sixty dollars, avatar clothes = five dollars, getting called the "n" word or the "f" word on Xbox Live by a seven year-old boy = priceless. As if I needed a reason not to go online, there's a charge for services for Xbox Live. I already don't enjoy online multiplayer, so this turned me off even more. At least with PSN, I can play any game I want online and have most of the features of XBL. Unfortunately at this rate, Sony is probably going to charge next gen for their online service thanks to the greed of Microsoft.

Bitter much, SuperPhillip? Definitely. Hopefully my vitriol towards Xbox wasn't too harsh. Regardless, for these aforementioned reasons I have no desire to buy Microsoft's next console at launch. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. That's how the old saying goes, and I intend to live by it. Let me just say this-- with their current business practices and attitude towards the industry, I fear for an industry where Microsoft is considered the leader.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Resident Evil 6 (PS3, 360) First Trailer

After rumors of a big reveal, Capcom has pulled up the curtain on Resident Evil 6, the next chapter to their popular survival horror series. Not only is Leon back in action, but so is Chris Redfield. Will these two titans partner up somewhere along the line? The game is set to launch on November 20th this year, and we're bound to see more at E3 this year for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC (I don't cover PC, so it isn't listed in the story heading). Hopefully a Wii U release is also on the way. Goodness knows that platform needs all the third-party support it can get. As it stands, though, scope out this intense trailer full of speedy zombies, bright cities, and debonair special agents delivering axes to foreheads.

SPC Showdown - 1/19/12

Our last SPC Showdown was back in August of last year, so why not bring this feature out of retirement and bring forth some battles to end all battles? SPC Showdown is where I take two like-minded games, companies, etc., and pit them against one another to see which one achieves supremacy. It won't be pretty-- blood will be spilled, bones will be crushed-- Just kidding! This is a family-friendly affair, after all! Let's see what is up first!

Round One: Grand Theft Auto IV VS. Saints Row: The Third

Pretty much the top dogs when it comes to open-world sandbox-styled gameplay this generation, which out sandboxes the other?

Grand Theft Auto IV

Join immigrant Nico Bellic on his exodus to the crime-filled corners of Liberty City in pursuit of the American dream. Of course, Nico won't let anything get in his way of his dream, including gangs, mafia members-- you name it. Focusing more on realism than past Grand Theft Auto games, GTA IV introduces a living, breathing city to explore. Sure, there isn't much to do in it unless you REALLY like searching for pigeons and racing fast cars, but it is a testament to Rockstar's undying love of creating entertaining playgrounds for players to explore.

Saints Row: The Third

While GTA IV narrowed its view towards realism, Saints Row: The Third does just the opposite. What can you say about a game with a weapon called fart-in-a-jar, allows you to streak for money, vehicle surf, operate a tank to earn cash and respect, take over neighborhoods in the name of the Saints, and provide some testicular manslaughter to unlucky adversaries? Well, you could say a whole heck of a lot. From flying VTOLs to entering cyberspace to do battle with a huge tech head, Saints Row: The Third provides plenty of gameplay variety and some unapologetic humor along the way.

Winner: Saints Row: The Third

Round Two: New Super Mario Bros. Wii VS. Rayman Origins

This pair of pleasant platforming experiences are both available on the Wii where the genre has found a lovely home. Which jumps ahead of the other?

New Super Mario Bros. Wii

Mario's return to 2D on consoles was a grand occasion, and consumers rewarded him with millions upon millions of sales. You had your typical grass world, desert world, ice world, jungle world, sky world, and so forth, but the level design was sensational. Hidden in each level were three star coins that opened up the way to the ultra-difficult ninth world-- purely optional, of course. And don't forget four player multiplayer, the return of the Koopa Kids, and one of the best final battles with Bowser ever seen, 2D or 3D!

Rayman Origins

This game reminds me heavily of Donkey Kong Country Returns. In each level there are bonus areas where the goal is to defeat all enemies to rescue the caged Electoons. Also placed in secret locations are Skull Coins which give you 25 lums. Get enough lums and you earn medallions which open up the way to the super-fun treasure chest chase levels. These levels test your dexterity and platforming know-how. Like NSMBWii, Rayman Origins offers up to four players trekking it through the whimsical levels together. Rayman's latest is one of the best platformers of this generation, and it's a crime that more people didn't play it.

Winner: New Super Mario Bros. Wii

Round Three: Sonic CD JPN and PAL Soundtrack VS. Sonic CD NA Soundtrack

Sonic CD recently released on PSN and XBLA, so a new generation of players were introduced to one of Sonic's best 2D outings. However, the JPN/PAL and NA soundtracks differ in sound and melodies. Which is the superior sound?

Sonic CD JPN and PAL Soundtrack

Composed by Naofumi Hataya and Masafumi Ogata, the Japanese and PAL version of the Sonic CD soundtrack has many fine tunes such as:

Sonic CD NA Soundtrack

The North American soundtrack utilizes more of a rock sound. It was composed and produced in part by Spencer Nielsen and David Young. Some of my favorite tracks include:

Winner: Sonic CD NA Soundtrack

Round Four: Super Smash Bros. Melee VS. Super Smash Bros. Brawl

A debate that Nintendo fans argue to the death, which is better-- Melee or Brawl?

Super Smash Bros. Melee

Melee introduced a slew of new characters such as Peach, Zelda/Sheik, Bowser, Ice Climbers, Ganondorf, Marth, Roy, Falco, Dr. Mario, Young Link, Pichu, Mewtwo, and Mr. Game and Watch as well as had the best adventure mode the series has seen. The concept of trophies was brought in which made collecting a high goal for most players. Add in new items, new and classic stages, and the tactic of wave-dashing, and you have one competitive clash for the ages.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl

The all-star brawl is on! New characters this time around included Pit, Wario, Metaknight, King Dedede, Wolf O'Donnell, Toon Link, Pokemon Trainer, and many more. Brawl featured a new adventure mode in the form of the Subspace Emissary, had awesome stages like Mario Circuit, Delfino Island, Mushroomy Kingdom, Bridge of Eldin, Pirate Frigate, Norfair, Rumble Falls, Skyworld, Distant Planet, and a plethora of other wild and wacky stages to knock opponents off of. With more trophies, characters, stages, options, and modes than ever before, Brawl takes my pick as the better game.

Winner: Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Round Five: Super Mario 3D Land VS. Super Mario Galaxy 2

Our final battle this go around puts two titans of platforming together in a fight to the finish. Which 3D Mario will leave the other falling down a bottomless pit?

Super Mario 3D Land

The game that will no doubt outsell previous 3D Marios as this game perfectly mixes 3D Mario with 2D Mario for one experience that is surely unforgettable. Just when you think you've bested Bowser and your journey is complete, the game throws a curve ball and gives you even more gameplay goodness to leap through. Whether you're collecting star medals, knocking Bowser into the fiery abyss below, or teaching Pom Pom or Boom Boom a lesson in civility, there is no shortage of memorable moments in the newest Mario adventure.

Super Mario Galaxy 2

Continuing the tradition the original Galaxy set by offering imaginative worlds and sectors of space to trek through, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is indeed a love letter to fans of Mario. The music and presentation are just the icing on this delicious, scrumptious cake and show that Nintendo could get a lot out of the underpowered Wii. Like Super Mario 3D Land, even after all 120 stars are gathered, you think you're finished with the game. And then Super Mario Galaxy 2 opens itself up considerably for even more spectacular gameplay. One of my favorite games of all time, Super Mario Galaxy 2 reigns supreme in this battle.

Winner: Super Mario Galaxy 2


Once more five rounds are over and one with. The battles have concluded, the swords have been sheathed, and the fighters are going to their neutral corners. And thus that wraps up an action-packed SPC Showdown. Do you agree/disagree with my choices? Let me know in the comments section.

Kid Icarus: Uprising (3DS) New Trailer

Kid Icarus: Uprising soars onto the Nintendo 3DS in late March, and the hype train has started rolling. The game will come with a stand, and it's been revealed that if North American gamers pre-order the game, they will receive a download code for 3D Classics: Kid Icarus. The MSRP for Uprising is $39.99. For now, check out this all-new trailer showing off the sky and ground battles Pit will encounter.

SSX (PS3, 360) Online Features Trailer

It seems this gen is prime for revivals. We've seen Turok, Mortal Kombat, Donkey Kong Country Returns, New Super Mario Bros., and a slew of others. Next on the list is SSX, a series that made its debut as a launch title for the PlayStation 2. This video shows off an online mode called Explore. I'd explain it, but that would be redundant, would it not? The fine fellow in this trailer does an excellent job discussing the ins and outs of Explore mode and the ability to play against user-created ghosts.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Rayman Origins (PS3, 360, Wii) Review

The next game I'll be reviewing won runner-up for Best Multiplatform Game at the SPC Best of 2011 Awards, so you know it's of quality. If you have any hesitations in picking this game up, stop it and run to your local game retailer of choice. Toys 'R Us had been selling the game at the drastic price of $19.99. My pleas aside, here's my review of Rayman Origins which is also coming to Nintendo 3DS and the PlayStation Vita.

No Limbs? No Problem!

The 2D platforming genre has seen a bit of a resurgence as of late with everyone from Nintendo to Capcom to indie studios producing and developing games cut from the same 2D cloth. After an extended hiatus and a profusion of games starring the precocious Rabbids, Rayman is finally returning to the spotlight and starring in his own game, Rayman Origins. Coming from Ubisoft of all places who are not known for their high quality games of late other than Assassin's Creed, Rayman Origins is certainly one pleasant surprise worthy of your gaming time.

Rayman Origins starts out with the limbless hero and his trusty friend Globox resting heavily in their home in the Glade of Dreams. However, when their loud, obnoxious snoring bothers their downstairs neighbors in the Land of the Livid Dead, all-out war begins! The villains then capture the small creatures known as Electoons in small cages and imprison the ability-giving Nymphs as well. Rayman, Globox, and two Teensies all join up to explore worlds big and small to right the wrongs of the patrons of the Land of the Livid Dead so they can get back to what they love doing-- resting and snacking back at the Glade of Dreams! The story of Rayman Origins is unobtrusive for the most part with small portions of dialogue scattered throughout the game. Most of the time, though, actions speak louder than words, and that is the case with Rayman's latest adventure.

Rayman marches to the beat of a different drum.

No matter which character you choose, they all have the same amount of moves at their disposal. As you progress through the game and rescue Nymphs from their cages, they teach you new moves such as the ability to hover for a limited amount of time, the ability to swim, to run up walls, and to shrink at specially marked locations. There are four characters to select from: Rayman, his overweight buddy Globox, and two Teensies. There might be some small differences between characters, but it's nothing major. You can sprint, slap enemies or other players even, wall jump, and of course since this is a platformer, leap into the air onto platforms and enemy heads.

Like New Super Mario Bros. Wii and LittleBigPlanet, Rayman Origins allows you to team up with up to three other players and venture through the 9+ unique worlds and 60+ levels the game has to offer. Players can interact with one another by slapping each other. This can actually help by giving you extra height during a jump to reach otherwise-inaccessible items and areas. When someone perishes (you can only get hit once before you die unless you are carrying a heart), they turn into a bubble a la New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Unlike that game, however, you can control the bubble 100% completely and have your alive friends rescue you. If all players end up inside bubbles, you begin from a checkpoint, and as there are an ample amount to be found, retrying areas of the game is never a chore. Playing with friends is much easier than playing alone as there's a much wider margin for error when teaming up. Unfortunately there is no online play to speak of which is a huge oversight. A game like this begs to have online play. Regardless, get a roomful of buddies, and you're bound to have a slap-happy good time.

The first five worlds are played in a linear fashion, but once you clear that fifth world, you gain the choice of going to any of four worlds. You get to clear them in any order you wish. The levels are highly creative, ranging from deserts full of instruments like drums, oboes, and guitar strings to frozen glaciers infested with deadly fruit. Each level introduces a new gameplay element to spice things up. One level you'll be cautiously avoiding being squished by gears, mashers, and pistons while another you'll be running from a incredibly hungry creature or flying on top of mosquitoes (these on-rails shooter segments occur in every world). In this regard Rayman Origins reminds me very much of Donkey Kong Country and its three sequels.

These shooter segments break up the platforming gameplay.

The comparisons to Donkey Kong Country don't end there, either. In each level there are Electoon cages hidden away in bonus rooms. These are hidden in fiendish locations usually just off the screen in a secret area of a level, but the faint cry of "help me" usually assists in knowing the coordinates of a bonus room. In these bonus rooms the goal is to clear out every enemy and then bust open the cage to free the Electoons. There are three cages in every platforming level with two being in hidden rooms and the third being the conclusion of the level.

Apart from Electoons, there are Skull Coins found in hard-to-reach, dangerous, or hidden locations in the game's levels. If you can manage to hold onto them for a few seconds, you'll earn twenty-five Lums (pronounced "looms"). Lums are yellow specs of light that are like the coins of the Super Mario Bros. series. The point of Lums is to gather as many as possible so at the end of a level you earn Lum Medallions for reaching a certain total (100, 150, 200, 250, 300, etc.). Collecting enough of said medallions opens the way to the most challenging levels in Rayman Origins.

Now I know what a tin can feels like!

These levels have you chasing after a rogue treasure chest who flees from Rayman and friends when it gets the thought in its head that our heroes want to clobber it open. The trick to these levels is to constantly be at top speed as you navigate falling platforms, deadly obstacles, and try to keep up with the treasure chest until the conclusion of the level. Catching up with the treasure chest nets you one of ten Skull Teeth. When all ten have been collected, the way to the most difficult world in the game, the Land of the Livid Dead, is opened. These treasure chest levels are mostly about trial and error as well as high precision platforming. One small mistake can be the difference between victory and defeat, but the levels are built around the idea of "just one more try" and "almost have it" that repeated tries are never too annoying. The skills you get from completing these levels assist you in the main game. Not all is well with these levels, however, as one early level has a glitch near the tail-end which can instantly kill all players if the jump isn't exactly right. This caused a lot of frustration, and there's no excuse for it. How could the developers not find this?

Moving on, the first half of the game does not feature many bosses at all, if any. Instead the game slowly introduces you to new gameplay concepts and trials. It's a steady challenge and a fun adventure. When you reach the second half, however, that is when each world concludes with a traditional three-hit-and-they're-dead boss battle. Each one has you dodging the boss's attack, and then hitting the giant sore that stands as its weak point. One battle has you hovering in the air while avoiding being sucked up by a colossal cuckoo bird while another has you fighting inside the belly of a beast with a severe and hazardous case of heartburn! The encounters are enjoyable enough and divides up the game quite nicely.

The boss fights are your typical three hit affairs.

After a level has been finished, you can opt to try out a Time Attack challenge. These have you racing against the clock and competing to best a set time. You earn a medal for each time you successfully beat. Between trying to finish the Land of the Livid Dead and gathering every Electoon Medallion, there is no shortage of things to do in Rayman Origins.

There is no question that Rayman Origins is one gorgeous game. Using a new graphics engine, the UbiArt Framework, has allowed Michel Ancel and his team to create lush worlds teeming with beautiful backgrounds and crisp and colorful characters. The fact that it is all hand-drawn is astounding as well. If you needed a pick for the "are games art?" debate, you should definitely choose Rayman Origins as your evidence. The game's soundtrack is as crazy and insane as the visuals of the game, featuring vocals (Chipmunks, anyone?), percussion, brass, and a myriad of memorable melodies that you cannot help but bop your head to. Case in point, Rayman Origins delivers and delivers big time.

Leave it to Rayman to slap some sense into his enemies!

Rayman Origins is a nice cross between New Super Mario Bros. Wii and the Donkey Kong Country series in that it has awesome local multiplayer play, it constantly introduces new gameplay mechanics into the fray, and the presentation is without a doubt one of the best-- if not the best-- of 2011. From the "just there" story to the ingenious level design, Rayman Origins is sadly an overlooked gem that should without question be in every serious platforming fan's library. Rayman might not have limbs, but he undoubtedly has heart.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.25/10]

SuperPhillip Presents: The Countdown to 300

No, this has nothing to do with the movie of the same name. It's been a long time coming. It seems only yesterday I was celebrating my 100th review, and then my 150th... and then my 200th! I am fast approaching my 300th review on SuperPhillip Central, and I hope you will join me in celebrating. There will be some grand reviews in the pipeline for the site, so you won't want to miss it. It all leads to the big kahuna-- review #300! Stay tuned in the coming months for the festivities, and join me for this great occasion!

To relive past reviews, check out the SPC Review Archive! It lists every and all reviews I have ever written. You can probably tell which ones were my earliest! See you at 300!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Saints Row: The Third (PS3, 360) Review

Saints Row was a new IP from this generation that has done well for itself. Volition, too, has done well for itself even with past rumors of THQ perhaps cancelling off its (THQ's, that is) 2014 lineup. THQ has commented and stated that these rumors are false, thankfully. There's been enough closures of studios thanks to the HD twins and the Wii (mostly the HD twins and the broken publisher/developer system). That said, this all-new review is based on nearly thirty hours of playtime, so I've explored the ins and outs of Steelport to the very best of my abilities. Let's see if it was worth it with my review of Saints Row: The Third.

The Secret to the Saints' Success

The sandbox genre was immensely popular last generation thanks to the help of Grand Theft Auto III. Since its release there have been plenty of imitators, some good, some bad, but they failed to capture the spirit of the original source. This generation we've seen Just Cause and Saints Row try their hand at the open-world formula to varying degrees of success. This time around Volition is at it again with the third installment to the popular Saints Row series. The Saints go marching in with their third outing, but should you go marching in with them?

The Saints have moved from the cramped city streets of Stilwater and have traveled to the expansive metropolis of Steelport. However, they have completely sold out. Members of the Saints appear in TV commercials, they have their names plastered on clothing stores, energy drinks-- you name it, and the Saints probably have their collective hands dabbling in it. When a bank heist goes wrong, a rival group of gangs known as The Syndicate move in while the Saints are at their most vulnerable. They kill off Johnny Gat, the face of the Saints, and proceed to make life miserable for the gang, cutting off their access to funds and much more. The goal is clear for the Saints: it is to get revenge for the death of Johnny, cause hell for The Syndicate, and take over Steelport in the name of the Saints. The story itself is completely off-the-wall and bonkers. It never takes itself seriously which is somewhat refreshing. Nonetheless, there are places in the story that I wish the developers didn't go. Without spoiling anything, most sections with Zemos, a pimp who always speaks with autotune, I found to be completely distasteful and almost embarrassing to sit through. Thankfully no one was around me when I was playing.

The gang's all here.

At first you create your character, choosing a sex, altering everything from the skin color to the shape of your avatar's nose. You can also select one of seven voices for your gang member of choice. One is your typical Anglo-Saxon male, another is a chick with a 'tude, another is Hispanic, while one just growls and moans for brains as the voice is called "Zombie." Several stores throughout the game allow you to purchase new clothing for the upper body and lower body (or you can forgo clothes altogether and go streaking), obtain new tattoos, or get some plastic surgery for a low cost. Character customization is paramount in Saints Row, and the tradition continues with this third installment.

From freaky to fly, outfit your character your way.

Saints Row: The Third begins with a bang. After the heist at the beginning of the game goes awry, you're blasting SWAT team members raining in through the windows with your firepower, using civilians as human shields, and aiming for head shots to take foes down in one bullet. Then comes a scene where a helicopter grabs the bank's vault while you're standing on it, it rises up, and suddenly you're doing battle while suspended in the air, hanging for your life from the edge of the vault. Other missions have you free-falling through an airplane's wreckage, stealing parachutes from unsuspecting baddies as you attempt to catch up with a fallen comrade. Some missions give you a choice of two options to decide upon. The rewards given differ for whichever choice you do, and sometimes they have dire consequences. You can choose to blow up a rival gang's building to garner Respect from your fellow gang members, or opt to keep it standing for yourself to earn a permanent cash percentage bonus for every mission you complete from then on out. The choice is yours and yours alone.

Who needs a parachute when I already look this good?

Unfortunately, throughout the story there are a number of missions that are simply there to introduce you to the many activities Saints Row: The Third offers. There are a myriad of activities to take part in in this game. There's Snatch, Escort, Mayhem, Tank Mayhem, Insurance Fraud, Heli Assault, Trafficking, and Professor Genki's Super Ethical Reality Climax. Snatch has you picking up hos from their abusive pimps and bringing them back to a specific location. Escort either has you driving around with a tiger riding shotgun-- yes, a tiger-- or has you driving two people exchanging pleasantries while dodging news fans who attempt to capture footage. Other activities like Mayhem and Tank Mayhem have you doing as much damage to vehicles, buildings, and civilians as possible before time runs out, while fan favorite Insurance Fraud gets you going limp in front of a car and being ran over by as many cars as possible. One of the newest activities in the form of Professor Genki's S.E.R.C. is a deadly obstacle course where killing mascots, hitting certain signs, and avoiding traps like flames and pulsating electricity awards cash. The goal is to get to the finish of the course without dying, with enough cash, and before the clock reaches zero. There are six instances of each activity, and they are spread out all over Steelport. For each activity finished, the Saints take over and occupy a small percentage of gang territory.

Completing activities is just one way to take over gang territory in Saints Row 3. Hidden throughout Steelport on the various islands that make up the metropolis are gang operations. When found, the objective is to eliminate all gang members with a red icon over their head to gain that section of Steelport. Additionally, there are a plethora of properties that can be purchased for a set price. New cribs can be accessed where you can park vehicles, change clothes, and escape police and/or gang notoriety. Establishments such as clothing stores, plastic surgeon offices, car customization garages, tattoo parlors, and gun shops give discounts for stores you own. As more sections of Steelport are owned by the Saints, less rival gang members hang out and more Saints arrive, mingling on the streets.

Grab a civilian and use them as a shield.
This is a turf war we're talking about!
Speaking of guns and vehicles, there are a vast variety of weaponry and rides at your fingertips. As you complete missions you earn new goodies such as tanks, VTOLs, and bizarre weapons like a Mega Man-styled hand cannon, a giant fist that punches people across long distances, a shock hammer that sends ripples wherever it is slammed on, a fart-in-a-jar which causes opponents to gag, throw up, and become dazed as you off them, and yes, even sex toys. Stay classy, Volition. Weapons can be upgraded at any Friendly Fire location. For instance, a normal everyday wooden baseball bat can be upgraded to have barbwire encircling it.

Decidedly, Saints Row: The Third is not grounded in reality.

While we're on the subject of upgrades, these are dealt out differently than in past Saints Row games. No longer do you obtain them from completing activities. Instead, you gain them from purchasing them via your phone. You just need the right amount of Respect (received from completing missions, activities, and doing odd tasks like power-sliding, nearly hitting other cars, popping a wheelie across a long distance, vehicle surfing, killing cops and rival gang members, etc.) to buy them. Your character can obtain higher stamina, more health, and when you reach level 45 Respect or higher, unlimited ammo. You'll be able to feel free to pop a cap in someone's hind parts as often as you like!

Take it to the fuzz with an attack chopper.

Aside from the 47 missions and 60-something instances of activities, there's still a lot to complete in Steelport. The city might not be as ambitious as say, a San Andreas, but it has a fair amount of stuff to offer. There's assassination missions where you follow instructions to lure out the target and then kill him or her, vehicle theft missions that have you going to a certain part of town to steal a vehicle and bringing back to a marked location, survival missions that happen randomly as you play, and challenges (reaching a set amount of streaking time, big air time, travel distance, boats/cars/aircraft/tanks destroyed, and so forth). You'll be spending plenty of time in Steelport-- over thirty hours if you plan on achieving everything there is to accomplish.

The gameplay mechanics of Saints Row 3 are relatively top-notch. The driving controls are some of the genre's best. Of course, a truck doesn't have the agility and swiftness of a sports car, and that is to be expected. One thing that did bug me was how slow rising and lowering in a helicopter felt. It took far too long for it to rise and sink in the sky. Meanwhile, being on-foot had its ups and downs. The game utilizes a stamina meter and a regenerating health system. Occasionally I'd get caught up on the geometry of a fence or building and be a sitting duck to fire or explosions. Thankfully, if my character got caught under an insurmountable object or obstacle, the game would instantly refresh and put my character out of harm's way. If this wasn't done, I'd have lots of frustration and anger, for sure. Gunplay in Saints Row: The Third feels tight enough. Pulling off head shots (and the sporadic nut shot) is a breeze, and close encounters never were irritating either. Holding a button popped up the weapon wheel which made exchanging weapons beyond simple. There would be nothing worse than trying to shift weapons in the middle of a firefight and being unable to do so.

Saints Row: The Third is an above average-looking open-world action game. As you would expect with a game of this magnitude and scale, there is a large amount of graphical bugs and glitches such as pop up, pop in, and every type of pop except soda pop and popcorn. Characters can glitch through walls, sometimes making completing missions an impossibility. I've had it where I had to restart a mission because the game glitched and wouldn't allow me to progress. Other times the game froze and I had to hard reset my system. These problems aside, Steelport is a living, breathing city, and while not as memorable as Vice City or Liberty City, it invites players to explore every nook and cranny. The level of detail in Steelport is phenomenal even with all of the graphical bugs. Characters animate well as evident by the various taunts your character can do. Shifting to sound, the voice acting is incredible. Each line is delivered convincingly, and the soundtrack was something I came into hesitantly. I'm a classic rock kind of guy, but some of my favorite tracks on Saints Row 3's many radio stations came from The Mix, Gen-X, and the classical music station. Also, after each "big" event in the game, a news broadcast would chime in chronicling what had just occurred making for a greater sense of realism in an otherwise totally surreal game.

Obviously not dressing for the occasion, is she?

Saints Row: The Third might just be a title that-- at least for this gen-- out GTAs GTA. It harks back to a less realistic open world experience that focuses more on fun than "how serious can we make our game be." Although there are plenty of distasteful moments and sophomoric humor (the kind you see on an average message board) and there are a grand amount of glitches to be had, the good far outweighs the bad in this third outing of the Saints. While the main campaign may be short, Saints Row: The Third manages to somehow be entertaining for the majority of the wild, wacky, and whimsical ride. Suit up and strap it on. The Saints are back and they mean business.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.0/10]

Monday, January 16, 2012

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - Mid-January Edition

We've reached the beginning of a new week. Some of you at least in the United States might be off school and/or work today with it being a holiday and all. Nonetheless, the VGMs are not, and they are happy to be here, back on Mondays where they belong. Today I have music from Super Mario Galaxy, Viewtiful Joe, and Mega Man X3, to name a few. Just click on the song name to move to the corresponding YouTube video. Let's get started!

v11. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii) - Wind Garden

Who could have expected Nintendo EAD to give a Super Mario game a full orchestra? Well, that is exactly what they did with Super Mario Galaxy. Without a doubt one of the best themes from the game is Wind Garden which is heard playing in the gorgeous Gusty Garden Galaxy. This galaxy has worms that feast upon apples, winds that blow flowers in the air, and a stubborn mole that refuses to surrender.

v12. Viewtiful Joe (PS2, GCN) - Standing Ovation

After vanquishing Captain Blue in the original Viewtiful Joe, our unlikely hero winds up at the precipice of a new battle. But this time the girl that Joe saved wants to tag along in the form of Sexy Sylvia. Sure, why not? That opens up the way to the somewhat disappointing sequel and the credits where faux movie posters, cast, and credits are listed. Stand up and take a bow, Viewtiful Joe. You've earned it.

v13. Mega Man X3 (SNES) - Cast Roll

Sigma has once again been defeated thanks in part to the efforts of Mega Man X, Zero, and even Dr. Doppler. The Sigma Virus has been contained for the time being, but Mega Man X fans know that this wouldn't be the final time that Sigma would show his ugly mug. That's what the five sequels of Mega Man X3 were for. As Mega Man X runs through a futuristic metropolis, this rocking theme plays and the cast and crew light up the night sky. If you ever wanted to know how much Blizzard Buffalo weighed, this was the perfect opportunity to find out the answer.

v14. NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams (Wii) - Queen Bella's Ball

I didn't get to play much of the sequel to NiGHTS Into Dreams, but what I did get to play wasn't too terribly bad. There was plenty of variety in the gameplay from flying in the sunset sky as NiGHTs to exploring a map as one of the two children to racing to disarm a bomb. However, the most impressive part of the package was without question the music. SEGA once again delivered in spades with a variable pantheon of pretty and pleasant music. Queen Bella's Ball is just one of these terrific tracks. It gets you with its jazz flair and has you dancing in your seat as you play the boss battle that accompanies it.

v15. Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii) - Final Destination

As you'll discover, unlike most YouTube commenters, my vocabulary doesn't only consist of the word "epic", so I will attempt to not describe this song as that. Instead, I will talk about the incredible chanting backing this song that will send shivers down your spine. It borrows the melody of the main theme of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, a game that might be listed in my favorite games of all time. But that's a discussion for another day. Whether you're battling Master Hand or taking on opponents in this flat, featureless arena, this track will get the blood pumping... to your loins! Oh!


This concludes the third installment of my favorite VGMs. Stay tuned next week for five more excellent themes from possibly your favorite video games of all time. Stay tuned later in the week for an all-new review and a new edition of the SPC Showdown!