The Independent

Treyarch: Answering the Call of Duty

Greg Adler

December 5, 2012

Filed under Arts & Life, Game & App Reviews

  What would it be like, to make $500 million in 24 hours? The video game developer, Treyarch, and parent company, Activision, will never have to wonder; because that is the record they set during the launch of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 on November 13, 2012. With the respective studios financial forecasting departments...

NFL Madden 2k13

Ari Guttman

December 5, 2012

Filed under Arts & Life, Game & App Reviews

  2.5 Stars What were the game raters thinking when they gave Madden 2K13 a 5 star rating? This game went backwards and it’s the most confusing game ever. When a person buys this game at their local store and sees the label that says, “Better with Kinetic Sensor” they are forced to wonder, “What if I don’t have a Kinect? Will it play the same without the sensor?” Other Madden games from EA Sports have never had a label like this before, and if the game requires the sensor in order for the game to work, the buyer could be deterred from making the purchase. Some of the new game mechanics are pretty confusing. Right away on the game menu, the trigger is what moves the cursor, as well as the joystick. This doesn’t make any sense, and can cause the player to make incorrect selections on the game menu. Then, players can choose to “Build your own legacy” either on-line or off line, and these menus aren’t clear either. Finally, after all of that, players realize they have to go back and create a coach first, and then choose the team they want to build for career mode. It appears that EA Sports is trying to copy the same format from NCAA 13, where the gamer creates a coach and then chooses their team to want to coach. Why change the format after 20 years of successful formats in the other Madden games? Everything was fine for the five years that Madden games have sold out in stores. There were enjoyable new things that Madden added. First among them is the announcing team of Phil Simms and Jim Nantz hosting games. They announce the two teams that are playing like a real life broadcast, and go on to discuss what they think are the keys for either team to win. Simms and Nantz would also talk about what was going on in the other NFL games and pretend that somebody ran for over 100 yards or received 10 catches and what the outcome was for the game. Additionally, they have added famous coaches like George Halas and Vince Lombardi, among others, that are available to play as. In the end, the game earns a rank of a 2 ½ stars. It’s disappointing that this is the latest game of Madden. The Madden producers might have been sleeping when they were creating this game. While previous games were on an upswing, Madden 2K13 has seriously under-delivered overall....

Halo 4: A New Age

Michael Mieszcak and Nell Greaney

December 5, 2012

Filed under Arts & Life, Game & App Reviews

  If there’s anything we can learn from Halo, it’s that being a die-hard fan can be taxing with all the pressure felt to stick with a series no matter how bad things get. Halo: Reach was an example of this dilemma. This was a game that irked players to the point where purist fans felt like they hit a fork in the road. It was a long, depressing funeral march for each of the Spartan characters. Some fanatic gamers may have decided it wasn’t a part of their beloved series. After 343 Industries (the sub-studio of Bungie largely responsible for the new installment) purchased the rights to the series, fans have been biting their fingernails in anticipation for Halo 4. Much to fans’ surprise, and relief, this didn’t turn out to be a Mass Effect 3-style resolution. Halo 4takes place almost five years after the events of Halo 3, which left Master Chief floating in space, preserved in cryo-stasis while his AI companion, Cortana, watched over him. Unforeseen events force Cortana to thaw the Chief out of stasis and, as if on cue, the dreaded Covenant is knocking on their doorstep once again. Not too much about the game-play is different, but what has changed certainly spices things up. Sprinting, for example, is now innate rather than taking space as an armor ability. The most notable change, however, is in weaponry. It is possible to play this game and be a fan of the human weapons again. Every weapon, from the classic MA5 Assault Rifle to the Reach-favored DMR, is equally lethal. It’s no longer “Which gun is better?” as much as it is “Which gun is preferable?” Graphics have been given a pleasingly drastic overhaul as well. Environments capture that soft contrast of colors that Halo 3 had, as though 343 Industries realized that Reach’s attempt at a grittier look was a colossal failure. Even character models are currently at the best quality seen in a Halo title to date. This means players could be able to anticipate what a character was about to say based on their facial expressions alone. The game’s replay value is rather modest when it comes to the campaign, which is a rather well-paced five to eight hours, but the Infinity extras, such as Multiplayer and Spartan Ops are downright addictive. Multiplayer is both rewarding and entertaining beyond combining the good elements of both Halo 3 and Reach. One of the best modes by far is Spartan Ops, a cooperative capable sub-campaign that releases new missions episodically every week. These episodes are free, complete with a full rendered cut-scene for each. As sad as it is to say goodbye to Firefight mode, Spartan Ops serves as a fair replacement. The only downside is that an internet connection and Xbox LIVE account are required to run it, which is still subject to change through possible title updates. There are some complaints to be made about this game, though they are mostly trivial when comparing the good versus the bad. Armor seems to have taken an awkward route, with both Spartan characters and even NPCs like Marines. It just doesn’t look like a classic Halo-guy. Another issue is that of Commander Sara Palmer, the player’s handler for Spartan Ops missions, voiced by Jennifer Hale. Jennifer Hale is fantastic. Her voice role as the female Commander Shepard in Mass Effect is iconic, but having that voice doesn’t change the flatness of a character like Sara Palmer. Again, this is simply nitpicking. Overall, fans will be pleased with how Halo 4 turned out in the new, caring hands of 343 Industries. The campaign was thrilling, multiplayer is a blast, and Spartans Ops has all but become The Walking Dead for Halo fans. So far, the change of hands has yielded favorable results, and leaves an optimistic outlook for future titles in this new trilogy....

2012 Gaming experiences you might have missed

Luis Badillo, Writer

December 5, 2012

Filed under Arts & Life, Game & App Reviews

  In the gaming industry, December brings about year-end review discussions. Reviewers and enthusiasts alike are working on their games of the year lists, focusing on the best titles of the past 12 months. 2012 was a big year for blockbuster titles, but while outlets are focusing on entries for million dollar franchise, it's important not to forget some of the lower profile of the year. This list puts together some of the smaller games that were still able to make a big splash in 2012. 1. Slender: The Eight Pages (PC/Mac) Slender is a short experimental game inspired by the urban legend known as the Slender Man. The game places a player in a forest preserve at night only armed with a flashlight to fend of the Slender Man, a freakishly supernatural being hunting the player.  The only hope for survival is to collect eight pages hidden throughout the forest. As each page is collected, layers of disturbing music are added on as the silent Slender Man stalks you more aggressively in this nightmarish cat and mouse chase. Available at ParsecProductions.com 2. Day Z (PC) What happens when A hyper-realistic military shooter gets mashed up with the zombie apocalypse? Players get Day Z, a modification to the popular PC military simulator ARMA II. Day Z drops players in a zombie infected island about 140 miles wide. Aside from the walking dead, players stave off death from starvation, dehydration, blood loss, and even catching a cold. Scavenging the island for food, water, vehicle parts, medicine and weapons is necessary in order to survive. The real fear isn't the undead hordes though. Day Z accommodates up to 63 other players, all of which can fight together to survive, or form bandit groups to prey on the unsuspecting survivor. DayZ is available for download at DayZmod.com and requires ARMA II: Combined Ops to play. 3. Coderunner (iPhone) Have ambitions for becoming a secret agent? There's an app for that. Coderunner takes the GPS capabilities of smartphones to envelope players in a story of intrigue and espionage. Using an overhead map of the physical area, Coderunner will give mission objectives to go play 007.  Players will be tasked with walking to locations to hack into databases, crack passwords, trail targets, all while an agency contact is feeding commands and mission intel via earphones. Players who have downloaded the app can create dead drops for fellow spies to go to and perform mission objectives, all with a location and password of the creator's choosing. NEIU students may find a little surprise for them on campus if they choose to embark on this cloak and dagger adventure. Available on the iPhone app store. 4. Rhythm Heaven Fever (Wii) With the release of the Wii U, the last year of life for the Wii was scarce with new releases. Luckily for Wii owners, Nintendo released the spectacularly quirky Rhythm Heaven Fever, from the creators of the popular WarioWare series. Rhythm heaven offers a selection of rhythm based mini-games each with a delightfully absurd premise. Keep a tempo with a watch powered solely by the high fives of tiny monkeys living in it. Conduct a successful wrestler post-game interview by keeping your responses in beat. Help an air-pilot cat play badminton in midflight by maintaining a rhythm. There are enough  kooky games to have players of all ages coming back for hours of gameplay. Rhythm Heaven is available in both online and retail stores. 5. Journey (PS3) Journey is a game that truly understands how to turn a game into a great narrative experience, even if it is only a few hours long. Taking the role of a nameless silent scarf-wearing creature, the game gives almost no context to who this creature is, or what sort of world it inhabits. The camera only points to a mountain in the distance, and the player is left to figure out how to get there on their own. The game's plot unfolds to reveal the world’s secret history with no dialogue whatsoever. Instead, beautiful level design and musical scores weave the story together. As the lonely pilgrim, the player might also encounter other players making the same quest online. Even with no voice or text chat enabled, these encounters create a brief respite from solitude. Journey's storytelling method is unique and no other game, no matter how big its budget may be, comes close to it. Journey is available on the PlayStation Network Store, and both online and retail stores.  ...

Karma Points – Gamers Scoring Through Charity.

Luis Badillo, Writer

October 3, 2012

Filed under Game & App Reviews

  It’s no surprise that gamers have faced a bum rap by having a hobby labeled as a useless pastime, but Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins are two gamers that have found a way to use the dedication of the gamer fanbase to create a tangible positive influence in the world. Krahulik and Holkins (respectively called "Gabe" and "Tycho" by their fans) are the founders and creators of Penny-Arcade, which has given them popularity, fame and a huge voice in the video game community. They currently have a fanbase of around 3.5 million and often use the comic to express their (often humorous) responses to criticism aimed at the gaming culture and industry. One of these criticisms, penned by columnist Bill France, warned parents of the dangers of video games on young minds. In his article he says that "Video games laced with human atrocities" and "help young, impressionable people practice killing without care." France also goes on to say that "Every time a youngster plays one of these games...They practice laughing at others' pain and justifying murder." As a response to this article and the many like it, Gabe wrote in his blog post for Nov. 23, 2003 "The media seems intent on perpetuating the myth that gamers are ticking time bombs just waiting to go off. I know for a fact that gamers are good people."  Soon after, Gabe and Tycho announced Child's Play, their new charity. Teamed up with Amazon.com, gamers would be able to donate toys and video games to the patients of the local pediatric hospital. After about a month, word of Child's Play circulated among blogs, forums, and magazines. The quick mobilization of gamers led to an impressive $250,000 raised for Child’s Play in just under a month. Since then Child's Play has raised more than $12.5 million and recruited some of the biggest names in the game industry to help out in the noble effort. Companies like Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony now help support the worldwide network of over 70 hospitals. The effort started by Gabe and Tycho has inspired gamers everywhere to find ways to raise money. Sketch comedy group LoadingReadyRun, hosts an event called "Desert Bus for Hope" which has raised more than $380,000. Various independent game developers gather on occasion and sell their games in what is called the "Humble Indie Bundle" where they sell five games at a time. A portion of the profits go to Child's play, as well as other organizations such as the Red Cross, or Charity: water. Gaming blog and community, Sarcasticgamer.com founded Extra-Life in 2008, which allows independent gamers host their own 24-hour video game marathons. Some Northeastern students have been known to participate in this annual test of endurance. Participants are tasked to seek sponsors which raise money for the Children's Miracle Network, a collection of pediatric hospitals throughout the United States. After seeing the work done by Gabe and Tycho with Child's Play and gamer organizations like theirs, France wrote another article. In it he describes the gamers’ efforts as wanting to do something good and that they "demonstrated that they have big hearts and generous instincts." It just goes to show that a little bit of good can go a long way to change somebody's mind.  So the next time you see a gamer obsessing over saving the princess, you may want to take a second look. There might just be a little more at stake than a digital princess....

This Means Guild Wars 2

Christos Liardakis, Assistant Opinions Editor

September 6, 2012

Filed under Game & App Reviews

  As we begin our new semester ArenaNet has officially launched Guild Wars 2 on August 28, 2012. An MMORPG (Mostly Multi-player Online RPG) based of the original guild wars game, there are lots of expectations and after participating in the Beta, it is safe to say this game will not disappoint. Guild Wars 2still takes place in the fantasy world of Tyria, 250 years after the original Guild Wars game. After the defeat of the Great Destroyer in the original game, the awakening of five elder dragons wreak havoc on mankind and all the other races featured in Guild Wars Prophecies, and in its expansion Eye of the North. Guild Wars 2 also features a new race, the Sylvari, which has emerged 25 years after the elder dragons started to awaken. With 250 years gone by since the original game, even when you are in familiar places, they all look vastly different, with improved technology, new apparel and all the races using a global language; the Guild Wars 2 setting is almost unrecognizable from the original. Along with a new setting, ArenaNet has vastly modified the game. The gaming engine has been updated with advanced real-time 3D environments, enhanced graphics and animation and the new Havok physics system allowing for more realistic interactions between players and the environment. The uniquely low level cap of 20 isn’t there anymore either, replaced with a level 80 level cap ArenaNet has made sure there is much more to do than ever before. When playing, you can gain experience from crafting, quests and even something as simple as exploring the area where you are located so suddenly a level 80 cap does not seem so unreasonable. All these changes come with a highly simplified combat system where gamers will only rely on their weapon for their first 5 combat abilities, with the six key being reserved for healing, 7- 9 reserved for skills that are unlocked as you progress in the game, and 0 being reserved for elite skills that you can unlock after level 30, the complex and overabundant skill system of the original Guild Wars has now been replaced with a simplified development system that emphasizes quality over quantity. As simplified as it sounds there is also a “combination” system added into the game adding much more complexity than previously experienced in other games. Also, there is no “kill stealing” famously found in other MMOs. As a matter of fact in most cases, random helpers are welcome. Everyone is going to get their fair share of experience or reward if some random hulking behemoth spawns in the middle of a map. No one gets a “bonus” for finding it first. As a matter of fact, with the new combination system it is almost expected of large groups to come together to take down such challenges. With new graphics, a new combat system, and a new story; Guild Wars 2 is definitely a game to consider for all the gamers out there looking for something to distract them as school starts when they need some rest and relaxation. A lot of people will also find Guild Wars 2 to be very friendly to new gamers as well. There is no need for macros and even the well-known tedious experience of crafting is smoothed out into a more fun and enjoyable experience. There were a lot of expectations of Guild Wars 2 and it has delivered in every aspect. Best of all, even with all the improvements and changes to the old system, it is still free to play once you buy it....

That’s (M)iPhone!

Nicole Lela, Staff Writer

April 28, 2012

Filed under Game & App Reviews

  With thefts taking place on campus all the time, it is important to never leave your valuables unattended. There have been reports of stolen laptops, phones and textbooks. In most cases, the owner never gets them back. My iPhone was stolen from campus and under normal circumstances I never would have gotten it back. However, because of an amazing app called “Find My iPhone,” I was able to track down my phone. In Fall 2011, I was at school late for an event. I went to the bathroom and forgot my iPhone by the sink. When I realized that my phone was missing, I checked the bathroom and didn’t find it. I remembered the “Find My iPhone” app that uses GPS to find your iPhone. But there’s one catch: the phone needs to be turned on. When I signed in with my Apple ID on MobileMe.com, the phone could not be located. However, it gave me the option to lock my phone, erase my data, and/or display a message on the screen once the phone was turned back on. I locked my phone and left a message for the person who had it, and started refreshing the page literally every minute to see if they had turned the phone on yet. The phone was turned on at around 1 a.m., and I located it at a home not too far from campus. I got a hold of the Chicago Police Department (CPD) because I didn’t want to go to a random person’s house in the middle of the night by myself. I went to the station to fill out a theft report, but the police didn’t seem too interested in helping me. They thought I was nuts to be up this late searching for my phone. But to me, it was worth it for a $600 phone that was a gift from my boyfriend. Two cops finally agreed to escort me to the home. Whoever had answered the door claimed that only old people lived there, and to try across the street. The cops were fed up with me at this point, so they just called it a night. The person who had my phone had shut my phone back off because the next day I couldn’t locate it again. Everyone was telling me to give up on getting it back, but I didn’t want to since I knew where my iPhone was located. That night, the phone was turned on and pointed to the same location as before. I called my friend and asked her and her brother to go to the house to see what they can do. That was the best decision I could have made because if I had gone to the house myself, I would have been so angry with the person that they probably would have felt attacked and denied having my phone. My friends went to the house and asked if anyone from the house had found an iPhone, because the GPS tracked it to this address. The girl who answered the door denied having the phone and said she would ask her family when they got home. My friend asked her to call if it turned up. Ten minutes after my friends left the house the phone rang. The girl said that her mom had found an iPhone in the girl’s bathroom at school and was planning to return it. I’m not sure how true that story is; what I do know is that having “Find My iPhone” helped me more than the campus police and the Chicago Police. The next day I went back to their house with my friend and got the iPhone back. My advice to anyone with an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Mac, is to download the "FindMyiPhone" app. It is free and the best chance you have to find an Apple device that was stolen or misplaced....

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