Transformers: War For Cybertron

Reviewed by: Lucas Siegel

From: Activision

Reviewed on: PS3 (also on Xbox360, PC)

This is a Transformers game for casual hardcore Transformers fans. That’s a really strange statement, but hear me out. The game is fun, though a bit repetitive. It’s got cool transformations, and pretty solid 3rd person shooting mechanics. The characters are recognizable, though they’re in different designs than we’ve ever seen before.

So why is it for “casual hardcore” fans? Well, those who are die-hard Transformers fans will find some interesting things here. It’s a game that takes place in the past, in-continuity with the original series. The character designs are all-new, with a slightly sleeker more machine-oriented look to the characters vehicle forms. Seeing Megatron and Optimus move into their positions of leadership is cool, too.

For casual fans who like the Transformers universe, these bits will be more fun. Things like characters switching loyalty are interesting story beats that may or may not have been revealed in the past, for instance.

The gameplay itself is also “casual hardcore.” Yes, this is a third-person shooter, but it’s one that can be picked up and played by just about anyone. The various powerups are cool, and the way weapons are acquired, becoming a transformed version of your arm, is a great effect. But this game was clearly designed for non-shooter fans, which I think plays strongly. Add in 3 player co-op for the entire double campaign (one half as Decepticons, one as Autobots) and a very fast-paced competitive multiplayer, and you have a solid game that hardcore shooter fans will master quickly but casual ones will dig for much longer.

If you like the Transformers (especially if you remember them more from childhood than recent films) and you like shooter games (but maybe aren’t amazing at them) this will be a fun playthrough for you and a few friends. If you’re looking for a die-hard shooter based on the franchise or something that adheres strictly to existing Transformers style will probably find this a bit lacking.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11

Reviewed by Tim Janson

From: EA Sports

Reviewed on: Playstation 3 (This version also on: Xbox 360, PC)

The developers of Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf have the best of both worlds.  On one hand, for a series that has been going strong as long as this one, they need only to make some improvements and work out the kinks of the previous year’s edition.  On the other hand, fans of the series aren’t just looking for improvements over the last game but new features which continue to keep the game fresh.  That’s exactly what you get out of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11…some improvements, some new features, and a largely enjoyable new game.  With the tumultuous past year for Woods, you had to wonder if EA Sports was going to release a new game, given how many other sponsors dropped Tiger in light of his personal issues.  Perhaps as a way of addressing this issue, EA did not put Tiger all alone on the cover, but rather co-features him with Ireland’s Rory McIlroy.

This edition is without a doubt the most authentic golf game ever developed by the EA Tiburon team with the addition of the new Shot Focus.  This allows you to add extra power, spin, and accuracy on your shots.  One might find that decidedly UNREALISTIC but think of it as bearing down and concentrating on those important shots during a round.  Shot Focus is not unlimited so you have to pick and choose just the right situations to use it.  This does in many ways make it more authentic as is simulates that extra shot of adrenalin a golfer can get.

You can choose to play as any of over 25 professional golfers as well as a handful of rather silly novelty characters.  Not sure if people actually use these but I think the game would benefit by including more actual golfers rather than these cartoonish characters.  What you really want to do is go for the career mode by creating your own golfer with more attributes than any game in history.  If detailing a character is your thing you can literally spend a couple of hours creating your golfer.  You can also upload your own picture to attach to your created golfer and literally play as yourself.

The reward of previous editions has been replaced by an experience point system.  The XP is gained through playing the game both “in-game” and online and allows you to increase your golfer’s attributes.  Strangely though, whether you are creating a golfer from scratch or playing as Tiger Woods, you get the same amount of focus which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  XP can also be used for outfitting your golfer, just as you could with cash rewards in the previous games.

Once your golfer is created you will go through a multi-step tutorial mode, which will teach you all about the Shot Focus and using it for a variety of shots such as drives, roughs, sand traps, putting, and more.  XP is gained during the tutorial so make sure you hit all the goals so you can start your career with a max amount of XP to increase your attributes.  Thankfully you can repeat the tutorial shots over and over until you master them.  

Now you’re ready for the PGA Tour…or maybe not.  Even with the XP you’ve gained you’re still going to be woefully weak in terms of all your skill attribute ratings.  Shot Focus can help a bit but don’t expect to go out and score a win in your first tournament.  You’ll have to grind it out and earn your stripes along the way as you improve your game.  Unlike Tiger, you probably won’t take the tour by storm.

The other major addition to Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 is the inclusion of a Ryder Cup mode.  In this mode, teams of American golfers compete against a European team.  You decide the pairs of golfers you want to team-up, going for balance as best you can.  Let them play on their own or swap yourself in if you see that they are under performing.  You can also play Ryder Cup mode online with up to 24 players total.  In all there are ten online modes of play including daily, weekly, and play-the-pros tournaments that let you play alone and then upload your scores to the leader boards. You will see other players' names and scores on the leader boards next to every hole, along with an ESPN-style ticker that announce other player’s achievements which is really cool.

Graphically the game is as strong as ever with incredible textures and even more weather and time of day effects than ever.  It’s just cool to view a fly over of each hole to take in the landscape.  The player models are beautifully designed and any gold fan will easily recognize most of the pros included.  There are glitches in camera viewpoints here and there that keep the graphics from the highest grade, however.  The game commentary isn’t the most colorful but it is an improvement over last year’s drab announcers.

In all, the game includes 17 courses including classics like St. Andrews, TPC Sawgrass, and Pebble Beach along with five new courses: Celtic Manor Resort, The Greenbrier, Liberty National, TPC Scottsdale, and Whistling Straits and more courses will be available for download.  

While not perfect, EA has succeeded in adding several key new elements to the long-running series that will make golf fans stand up and cheer. 

Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4 (From Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment, Review by Lucas Siegel): Finally, a Harry Potter game that just plain gets it right. From the tone of the novels, mixed with bits from both the novels and movies, to the control scheme, to the sense of awe gotten from the other ways to experience this story, this game hits every note. It’s probably the most ambitious of the Lego games, taking a recent giant and adding lots of new features. The spell wheel allows you to learn and select various spells throughout the game. Wingardium Leviosa allows you to use magic as a sort of telekinesis, free-moving objects (and even people) through the air for puzzle solving or just for fun. There is just moment after moment in this game where Harry Potter fans will consistently be saying “this is SO great!” Another surefire hit for the Lego franchise, it builds (no pun intended) on the games before it, captures the magic (okay, I intended that one) of the source material, and just provides great fun for gamers young and old. This is so far the definitive Harry Potter game experience, and a must-own for any fan of either franchise.

Played any of these games? what did you think?

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