Game Review Roundup: SIMS 3, MARVEL VS. CAPCOM 2, More

Game Review Roundup: SIMS 3, Tons More

Sequels, sequels, sequels. Typically, summers have been when game companies have tried a couple more off-the-wall new properties, but in a down economy, it seems they decided to play it a little more safe this year. We've got a selection of sequels, tie-ins, and even a re-release for you this time around.

The Sims 3

From: EA Games

Reviewed on: PC/Mac

Reviewed by: Lucas Siegel

I haven't played a Sims game since one of the expansion packs for the first game, somewhere around 7 years ago. My wife, however, is a Sims nut, and has constantly been trying to get me to enjoy her favorite game ever with her. With a new full iteration of the franchise that consistently sits in the top 10 best selling PC games (and has since The Sims 1 was released), I decided to dive back into the virtual world.

The series has obviously come a long way since its premier. While still a bit cartony, the characters and environments have gotten increasingly lifelike as the years have progressed. EA, with Sims 3, has managed to reach a truly insane level of detail and customization. If you want total control of a character's appearance, this is the absolute closest yet in a video game. The patient creator can accurately portray literally anyone with the detail tools involved. A new addition to the customization also allows you to change the colors, patterns, and even make your own patterns for any clothes or accessories in the game. Love a shirt, and want a headband to match? Just drag and drop the pattern onto it. Want some converse-style shoes with a starfield on them? It's just a couple of clicks. You can even make pants that look like your wood floor, if you're so inclined.

These new tools extend to your house designing, as well. The same easy-design-switch is available for floors, walls, ceilings, and most objects. Previously, you needed to change colors or patterns with an external piece of software, then individually load that custom content into the game. People can still make and share custom content, but it's less essential to know the outside sources this time around.

For those that may be a little daunted by the prospect of playing the game four or five hours without getting beyond creating your family, you can also just choose pre-made options, or even generate a random Sim, name them, and move on. Likewise, when buying your house, you can buy any home furnished or unfurnished. If your favorite part of the game is actually controlling your Sims' lives and moving them through their days, you can be up and running in 10 minutes or less with ease.

The other major change to the game is navigation around town. Previously, there was a bit of...teleporting. You'd choose to go to another location, and POOF there you are. Now your Sims can actively walk, drive, or bike around the entire town, even walking straight up to the edge of the mountain ranges previously only in the distance. It doesn't add much to the gameplay, but it does add to the realism, and the spontaneity of visiting your Sim's friends or going to the grocery store.

Several interface changes were made for this sequel, mostly with people who haven't played in a while or have never played a Sims game in mind. The daily management of your Sims is a lot easier, allowing you to try for the larger goals and focus on what YOU really want to do. With the level of customization being a bit intimidating, it was nice that once you get into the actual game, it's pretty easy to play. There are nuances that some harcore fans would notice that a new player wouldn't, and some may not like it being easy'ed up a bit, but if the ultimate goal is for more people to play, this seems like a huge step in the right direction.

I'm never going to be the kind of dedicated player my wife is, but The Sims 3 makes it a lot easier to understand what all the fuss is about, and will definitely have me returning to the world of Simlish and woohooing on a more regular basis in the future.

Tiger Woods ‘10

From: EA Sports

Reviewed on: Xbox 360 (This version also on PS3, others available for most other systems)

Reviewed By: John Stvan

The driver.  120% power added.  Wind at the back and a beautiful green fairway rushing underneath your ball as it glides through the air at a speed only reserved for the pros.  That’s when it hits you, I’m never going to be able to do this in real life… ever.

Golfing shortcomings aside, Tiger Woods ’10 brings back the familiar feelings of all the previous versions with many added perks and bonuses.  The ability to add a little bit of extra power to your shots, control ball spin mid-flight, and previewing your putting line are all still in place.  The model hasn’t changed much.  But that does come with a big disclaimer for people who are familiar with the putting system from the previous games.  If you remember the nightmare that was putting in Tiger ’09, you’ll be happily surprised to see that they’ve reconstructed the way you putt, almost entirely.  Instead of “blocks” of putting power you now have one long smooth bar that covers all your distances on the green.  It takes a few tries to get used to it, but it clearly is the best way to go.

The size of the game is expanded upon as well.  Some of the greatest new features are summed up in the online play.  Tired of just playing with your buddies and beating them by ten strokes?  Take your skill to the next levels with online tournaments – adjusted for your skill range.  This incredibly fun and intuitive feature of online play allows you to play actual tournaments as they are being played in the pros – during the same time and in the same conditions.  Additionally, you are able to play casual tournaments and aggressive tournaments and use whatever golfer you choose.

On top of those added pieces, Tiger ’10 still allows you to create your own golfer and use your own likeness in the game, something that feeds the ego quite nicely.  Once you create your own golfer, like in other Tigers, you begin your journey towards the FexEd Cup and test and tune your skills to that of a pro golfer.  Buying clubs, apparel, and upgrades allow you to participate and even win tournaments. 

With the Weather Channel’s Live Weather option turned on, you’ll never feel like you are playing against the game.  This little tidbit took me a minute to think about.  In other Tiger games, the sense of playing against the game – its weather, wind, green and fairway speeds – always seemed to be random and generated.  With the addition of the Live Weather feature, EA has alleviated that feeling.  A player now knows that whether or not the wind is blowing 20 mph in your face is actually being generated by live conditions at that course and not just some random game engine screwing with you.  As small as this feature is, it impacts how the game is approach, played, and enjoyed.

For the mini-golfer to the “tee off at 5:00 AM” extremist, this is a game that gives you all the tools to become a stand out pro – in the online world – and works with you over time to accomplish your challenges and career goals.  Tiger Woods ’10 is a game worth owning and playing at whatever time or place you would like.  Calling up a friend to go golf a round at Turnberry at 11:45 PM is no longer an issue and in most cases more fun than having to pay for greens fees, or in my case a new sleeve of golf balls.

Bleeps and Blorps- Small Reviews of Big Games

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen; Reviewed on PS3/Xbox 360; Review by Lucas: Hey, this game isn't half bad. The game puts you in control of the same Autobots and Decepticons you see in the movie, plus a few extras if you're in multiplayer, and pits you against your enemies. Each mission is essentailly a multiplayer map, with computer controlled characters instead of other humans to fight against. There are tons of side-goals and collectibles, allowing you to unlock new characters (so you can use any charcter on any mission), new abilities, and even episodes of the classic original animated series. The controls and animations are both easy to master and fluid, a big change from the first game. Multiplayer is tons of fun, with players fitting into classes and able to easily find their niche to better support the team. I think, due to the movie game stigma and the utterly horrid first game, a lot of people will completely overlook this one. it's a bit simplistic, but a fun game, and definitely a must-have for bigtime Transformers fans.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; Reviewed on Wii; Review by Lucas: This game was a rarity, in that it was developed first on the Wii, then ported to the Xbox 360 and PS3 with upgraded graphics. The Wii version's graphics and sound are not the best Nintendo's system has seen, but they are very good. Backgrounds and environments were especially constructed and drawn with meticulous detail; this is the closest most gamers will get to actually wandering around Hogwarts.

The real draw for the Wii version however is the controls. Using the Wiimote and to a lesser extent the Nunchuk, EA has created an incredibly immersive game. Casting spells requires actual flicks of your Wiimote as Harry's Wand. Mixing potions has you actually picking up various ingredients and pouring them into the cauldron. Flying on a broom for Quidditch is incredible; even though you're following a very linear flight-path goal, the sense of speed, height, and flying in general is truly remarkable. I found myself so engaged, I was holding the Wiimote in front of me, as if I was holding onto the broomstick.

There are also elements from the book that the movie missed, which is nice for bigger fans. Add to all of this various multiplayer minigames, collectibles, dueling and other clubs, a great storyline, and free rein across the Hogwarts grounds, and this is easily the best game yet. Even those who may not be big fans of the books, but are fans of old school adventure/exploration games should have hours of fun with this one. It's always nice to see a must-own Wii game, especially when it uses the Wii so, so well.

Marvel vs. Capcom 2; Reviewed on XBLA; Review by Lucas: "I wanna take you for a ride." Man, it's great to hear that tune on a regular basis again. What can I say about this game without simply gushing? It's the same great game you've played at arcades, or on Dreamcast, or on PS2. It's a near-perfect translation. The graphics are sharpened up and look beautiful on a hi-def big screen. The sound is exactly the same, which is perfect. The menu system has been updated to be more in-line with today's games, and that's about the only other change than adding online play. I saw no hiccups ins the matches I played, it was smooth online and off. The only problem here is that Xbox 360 controller. It is the bane of a fighting game fan's existence with its imprecise and oddly placed d-pad (the movement controls can also use the analog stick, but talk about imprecise!). To truly enjoy this at its highest level, you'll want a third party joystick style controller. That's not the fault of Capcom, however; they've simply given us all the means to play this fantastic game on a regular basis, and fall in love with it all over again. Marvel fans, Capcom fans, fighting game fans, buy this game. Let it take you for a ride.

King of Fighters XII; Reviewed on PS3; Review by Lucas: This is another much loved fighting franchise, but one I'm only somewhat familiar with. I know I've played a handful of these games, but definitely not 12 of them. Regardless, I started the newest one up, and quickly found something out: I'm a King of Fighters fan! The fighting in this is at its core very similar to other 2D fighters, including the Street Fighter franchise. However, there's less emphasis on special moves, and more on combos and keeping a fast pace to the fight. It makes for a game that manages to mix the best feelings of playing Street Fighter with the best feelings of playing Tekken. It sounds bizarre at first, but it really is great. The graphics are a little low-end for how I like most of my current-gen games, but not distractingly so. If you're a fighting game fan who hasn't given a chance in awhile, this is a great point to jump back on with. It will likely surprise you.

Battlefield 1943; Reviewed on PSN; Review by Lucas: This online-only first person war shooter is fun, easy to pick up, and overall pretty cool. However, it's not enought to make you outright give up your other FPSes. The controls for driving and on foot are both great; spectacular even. Flying has a much higher learning curve, and many will likely simply decide that being in a plane just isn't worth it. With all these variations on the battlefield, the pace is definitely quick, and a beginner will die a lot while getting used to it. Once you've played for awhile, though, the game becomes incredibly fun. If you can make a good squad with a group of friends, things get even better, as strategies and complimenting play styles are a huge key to success here. Again, fans of WWII shooters will find plenty, almost everything, to like about this game. It's just not likely to become your must-play-all-the-time addiction.

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