Tag Archives: BioWare

Eight games which define a generation | Opinion | Gaming

The seventh gen of gamingMany words have been written about the ‘blockbuster’ games of the so-called seventh generation of home games consoles, but, as we move into a brave new world in November, what will their legacy be?

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 boasted the biggest launch day sales figure in history (now more than likely claimed by GTAV) and Skyrim undoubtedly boasted the most hours spent by borderline-obsessed gamers indulging their fantasy lives, but some games made a more definitive impact (for me, anyway).

The titles below are the ones which made a significant impact for me on either Wii, PS3 or Xbox 360. (Sorry Wii U owners, but the real party is still to come, and also since I never owned a PS3, apologies in advance).

Resident Evil 4 (Wii)

Resident Evil 4: Wii EditionUndoubtedly the most suitable and effective port of a game I have ever come across, Resi 4 had it all. There was a great, likeable protagonist, admittedly not the sort of guy you might want to go for a drink with, and an intriguing mysterious action/adventure (not survival horror) coupled with a drop of Japanese insanity to keep things interesting.

Whether it was the obsessive upgrading of my weapons – you never know when you might need an extra shotgun shell – or the cripplingly simple puzzles which I still couldn’t complete, there was fun to be had around every corner here, and on the Wii it took things a step further in terms of control and immersion.

Of course this wasn’t the arcade-machine-in-your-house that was Umbrella Chronicles, which was excellent, but flawed, but somehow there was something terrifying about the fact that you can’t move your character properly. It just added to the experience.

By the time you got to Resi 5 the magic had worn off, and the novelty of not fighting zombies but gunning down people infected by parasites unfortunately couldn’t sustain it through.

Guitar Hero III (360/PS3/Wii)

Guitar Hero IIIAs much as its predecessor pushed the envelope over the first in the series, it was this game which really made its mark and told the world was here to stay (well, for a bit…).

The inclusion of rock icons such as Slash for the first time attempted to bring an element of narrative to proceedings, with mixed success, and shook off the legacy of Harmonix, the first game’s developer.

Like many Guitar Hero titles, the tracklist was key to the game’s success, boasting classics such as Pearl Jam’s Even Flow, Cliffs of Dover by Eric Johnson and, most memorably, Through The Fire and Flames by Dragonforce – a fiendishly hard track unlocked at the end of the game during the closing credits.

There might not have been a huge jump forward from Guitar Hero II, but the style and execution was more polished, consistent, and fun.

The coop or head-to-head battles made for some entertaining late night entertainment, especially when arriving home at 2.00am at university, and there is the added benefit of being exposed to some excellent music from a variety of bands and years.

Rock Band 3 (360/PS3/Wii)

Rock Band 3Of course, by the time Rock Band 3 came along, the music game was on its last legs, but this title is as close to entertainment perfection as I think any game has ever been.

The addition of downloadable tracks, which began with the first game, reached a peak in this title as new songs were added every single week since launch for years after the game first came out. Plus there was the chance for content creators to share out their own music on the service, and often get more exposure than they ever could have any other way.

The implementation of the keyboard could have been smoother, but it was still fantastic, and opened up the possibility of you actually learning keyboard through a console, something for which I’m sure Rocksmith is most grateful.

The title gave the most diverse range of songs to date and became a classic party game overnight.

The notes runway, developed by Harmonix for the first Guitar Hero, reached its peak with every song playing out its own way – even including space for some improvisation.

The instruments were slightly hit and miss compared to rival title Guitar Hero: World Tour, but the travel version of the game’s cumbersome drum kit quickly made the entire package more accessible.

This game defined multi-instrument gaming to an extent that it has never been bettered since. Some might argue that it was the final nail in the coffin of the music game era, but to finish with an encore like this? Not too shabby.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (360/PS3/Wii)

Call Of Duty 4: Modern WarfareProbably the most influential game on this list. It spawned an entire generation of modern military shooters, many of which carrying the COD moniker, and the twitchy-action and gritty fast-paced style of the game was aped just as often as the gameplay.

The nuclear destruction of the protagonist mid-campaign, a tragedy the player could do nothing to escape, was one of the most dramatic moments in video game history. To take such a bold step was something which, unfortunately they weren’t able to live up to in subsequent iterations.

The execution of the gameplay is undeniably one of the most well-produced of the generation, and still holds up well today. Campaign mission ‘All Ghillied Up’, a flashback featuring the player taking control of series regular Captain Price on a stealthy sniper assignment, remains one of the most tense and memorable missions for a first-person shooter.

Although the multiplayer wasn’t for everyone, it undeniably set the standard with its level design and perks system, even pushing the envelope in terms of Downloadable Content, something build upon significantly in later games.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (360/PS3)

Battlefield Bad Company 2What Modern Warfare did for shooters in general, Bad Company 2 did for vehicle combat.

Battlefield has always been about team play and the epic scale of war, and this title created a feeling of immersion within vehicles which I had never experienced before.

Not that it was the height of realism, but the map design and balance of different vehicles made it an incredibly compelling multiplayer experience. Flying vehicles were tricky, and arguably are still a little fiddly even now, but definitely good fun.

More impressive than the gameplay aspects though, where what developers DICE did with their new engine, Frostbite 2, which offered destruction even more impressive than that seen in Red Faction: Guerilla.

Buildings and scenery crumbled under the might of tank shells, with wood splintering, concrete disintegrating and the ground developing huge holes.

On top of that you add some of the most entertaining game modes out there for online multiplayer and you had a fantastic game. The only thing which pushed it that little bit further was the DLC expansion, Vietnam.

More than just DLC, the addition added new maps, vehicles and weapons to completely change the tone of the game within its own digital playground. Most importantly of all, it pushed the fun factor up to 11.

Left 4 Dead 2 (360)

Left 4 Dead 2In terms of multiplayer re-playability, there’s little which stands in the way of L4D2.

Although the game came out a little close to its predecessor for comfort, it managed to bring most of that game along with it through a number of DLC updates (which, admittedly, took some time).

The AI is what really impresses me about this game, as each of the special infected act differently and never fail to catch you out, no matter how many times you have played a particular level.

The feeling of panic as the horde rush mindlessly towards you far outstrips that of your average horror game. The sheer number of infected is overwhelming, not perhaps in the way as they are in Dead Rising, but because of their speed and relentless nature you quickly find yourself flailing wildly to escape.

The AI director, who silently changes the game behind the scenes to make a different experience each time, acts as an evil torturer at times, gifting the odd health pack before hitting back with a world-ending Tank.

Being a Valve game, the attention to detail is excellent and the level design is second to none – every time you play a game you find a different aspect jumps out at you (not literally, mostly).

It might have taken some time to become the game it is today, but that’s Valve, and there’s no doubt that it is the crowning glory of asymmetrical multiplayer.

Grand Theft Auto IV (360/PS3)

Grand Theft Auto 4It might be the fifth iteration which is grabbing all the headlines for its billions of sales, but it’s the fourth instalment which really put the franchise on the map.

After swinging between realism and caricature for years with various games on the PS2, Rockstar decided to go all-out with the vast expansion of its world.

Comedy clubs you could visit, bowling, drinking, and a plethora of other sights were on show in what was the biggest and most detailed parody of New York City that has ever been created.

From the ‘GetALife’ building to the Statue of Happiness, the parody is flawless, mocking American culture at every turn. All to the effortless soundtrack of the Liberty City radio stations, which take things even further.

While the gameplay might not be the best aspect, in fact many aspects such as driving or combat are done far better by even similar games released around the same time, but it’s the overall convincing nature of the game’s world which makes the title truly compelling.

The story wasn’t anything ground breaking, but it fitted in with the game’s world well, offering insights into the life of Niko Bellic. How the player chose to make that character act is another story.

Mass Effect (360)

Mass EffectMass Effect undeniably has the greatest story of any game I have ever played. Not least because it’s a story I wrote (sort of).

As the first chapter in the most exciting and varied piece of interactive story-telling in history, Mass Effect claims the crown over other RPGs (or, later, ‘action RPGs’) by making the player the centre of that universe so completely that they believe it has been created just for them.

The decisions you make throughout the story continue to shape the universe for years afterwards, cutting out entire characters from the subsequent games or changing alliances between races.

The controversy of the ending was inevitable with so much scope, but I believe that, all things considered, developers BioWare did well.

It’s one thing to create characters people love and care about, it’s another thing to feel like you really know them, love them, miss them when they are gone.

Garrus remains one of my favourite characters of all time, in any media, purely because of the journey he has joined my version of Shepard on. The emotional investment with this franchise, for me, is something which I haven’t experienced since Star Wars.

Is this what it's all about, or is there more to it?
Is this what it’s all about, or is there more to it?

In the end, it is the experiences we have all had with these games, more than the games themselves, which will ‘define the generation’.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration or a grandiose statement to make to suggest that this is the most variety we will ever see in any generation of gaming ever.

The difference between the games which began it, like Perfect Dark Zero, and ended it, the likes of Watch Dogs and plenty more still on the horizon, is vast. The one thing which they do have in common, is the player, and for me, this next chapter of gaming remains just as interesting and exciting because of the new types of experience it will inevitably bring.

So there you have it, my not-quite-top-ten. Which games would you choose?

James Michael Parry

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Gaming | Mass Effect Demo first impressions | This Is Entertainment

Save the Earth..like that's never been done before....The first teasings of Mass Effect 3 have now been released in the form of a single and multi-player demo. Generally released on Tuesday (specifically designed to wreck relationships across the globe), the demo is now available through the Xbox UK Facebook page, but the multiplayer servers aren’t currently online.

While the nature of Mass Effect as a series means everyone’s playing experience differs, which is in fact one of it’s most appealing features, the demo does contain single player story content and therefore everything that follows is spoilerific, you have been warned.

What immediately hits you is the scale that this game will take, with the title screen (above) depicting the Reaper assault on Earth. These 50,000 year-old tin openers – or mechanical apocolypse-bringers, if you prefer – intend to destroy the entire galaxy with the help of the Mass Effect relays, which were left scattered around as bait for sentient species to go zipping around the cosmos.

Now they are back to claim their bounty, and the story begins with Shepard grounded on Earth after being stripped of his (or her) Commander status following the events of Mass Effect 2.

The first of many choices you must make as a player in the game (apart from your Shep’s gender), is what ‘style’ you would like to play. The game asks you to ‘Choose Your Experience’, between ‘Action’, ‘Role-Playing’ and ‘Story’.

‘Action’ cuts through the pesky story nonsense, gives you a ‘generic’ character profile and cuts straight to the shooting, treating any decision-making as a quick and easy cut scene and allow you to adjust combat difficulty as you see fit.

‘Role-Playing’ is the traditional, and some might say real, Mass Effect experience which BioWare intended, while ‘Story’ cuts down on the action to a minimum and keeps all the initial customisation options, but levels up your character as the story dictates.

Presuming you want to customise, the demo gives you all the options you might fancy, including who Shepard has lost from his team up to now, decided between ME1’s fallen comrades or ‘Several’ – suggesting there will be a significant effect on Shepard’s mental state depending on the amount of loss which has been suffered, which doesn’t show in the demo, but certainly will have implications in the full game.

As you jump into the action, The Alliance is tracking a large unknown threat approaching Earth. Soon there is news of the UK being under attack, and sure enough the Reaper invasion shown in the teaser trailer spans out as far as the eye can see.

For now Shepard has to get back to his ship, which means a bit of a trek with series regular Admiral Anderson. The interface is all familiar, albeit with some spit polish, but the health bars of both you and your enemies has now been split into sections rather than a continuous bar, meaning you can’t just hide to recover any longer – choosing your battles has never been more important.

The combat movement is far more fluid than ME2. Unfortunately it still fall short of the smoothness of Gears of War, but Shepard now has the ability to roll, dash between cover and, most addictively, deliver an instant-kill ‘hard’ mêlée attack which has your omni-tool sprout a large glowing blade to impale evil-doers.

Get your skills onPowers and abilities have been inevitably tweaked (the Adrenaline Rush is now a shadow of its former self at level 1) and the points trees are more complex. Instead of having three linear levels and then one specialisation at the end, the player can now customise three out of six Ranks, choosing between two variations. For example, at Rank 4 Disrupter Ammo can either have its damage enhanced, or you can make it available for the rest of your squad at 50% effectiveness. This allows for more personalisation of skills as you progressing, making a big impact on your combat effectiveness at later levels in the full game.

Combat too has taken a more stylised turn. Thanks to the improved mobility controls, it’s now easier to flank and outrun enemies, so BioWare has hit back with enemies with turrets and riot shields as well as meatier husks and even giant user-driven mechs.

Other little touches just throw up questions. There is also a ‘Weight Capacity’ statistic thrown in here and there but no sign of an inventory at present, perhaps something held back from the demo? There is also none of the detailed weapon customisations on show here, suggesting that these were added later on in the development process. Also the Bypass mini-game seems to have gone, what about hacking?

The feeling of the game really takes shape in the second section of the demo. Set later on in the game, the sequence depicts a visit to the Salarian homeworld to transport a Krogan female. It’s an action mission through and through, but you are bumped up to level 12 so you have a wide selection of powers at your disposal from both you and your team.

Powers play a much bigger part in combat than before, dealing some serious damage and deploying more quickly. Armour and barriers aren’t as easily taken down by straight-forward shooting, so some tactics are needed to take enemies down without you or your squad-mates taking too much damage.

Your companions are, as always, what brings the richness to the Mass Effect universe, and even the short selection shown by the demo oozes character. From Admiral Anderson’s trouble facing the reality of Earth’s destruction, to Mordin’s frantic but calculated orders shrieked to you amid a firefight, there is plenty here to make you think of them as real.

With just under a month to go until release on March 9 (in Europe), the game will be being polished up since this demo was submitted for verification, so we might still see tweaks and changes. (As for the multiplayer component, this should go live on Tuesday if not before, and there will be a separate update then if there is enough to say.)

For now, appetites should be thoroughly whetted.

Released 9 March

Don’t forget to check out our other Mass Effect articles, back in 2010 we spoke to Shepard’s voice actor Mark Meer while the game was in full swing, and then again last year when things were starting to wrap up. Plus the game features in our most anticipated games of the year, take a look.

James Michael Parry

Believing the hype – Part 3: Most anticipated Xbox games of 2012 | This Is Entertainment

With the next Xbox possibly around the corner, 2012 could be the last hurrah for the 360, but will it be its biggest yearever? Ahead of a distinctly Xbox-themed week, here are a few of our most anticipated titles for Xbox 360 this year.

Mass Effect 3 – March 9

The conclusion to the biggest space opera of the decade draws ever closer, with the fate of Commander Shepard being revealed. The best part of this game is the fact that every player’s story will finish differently, as a result of countless decisions made through the previous two titles (presuming you played them, and if not, shame on you). Endless possibilities beckon, did you punch the journalist in the face? Did you release the space beast in ME1? Did you save whats-his-face’s wife? There’s new features, such as an added element of danger to the omni-tool with an added melee blade, and even slicker combat style with everything polished up from ME2’s leap forward. There might be a slightly uneasy multiplayer mode added, but with BioWare pouring everything into this final instalment, and with no Mass Effect 4 on the way meaning no loose ends to leave open, they will be sure to end Shepard’s story out with a bang.

Max Payne 3 – March

A sequel which has been a long time coming, and from a new studio, the new Max Payne title keeps the spirit of the first two games with a more gritty edge – courtesy of Grand Theft Auto Kings Rockstar Studios (though admittedly a different branch to that creating Grand Theft Auto 5, also due this year, but the story is from the same lead writer). Always a broken character, Max is older, boozier and has a penchant for head-shaving in this game, which is set a few years after the events of The Fall of Max Payne. The signature bullet-time returns, with 360 degree shooting, as well as Max’s trusty painkillers. There’s also multiplayer on the cards, and with Rockstar calling the shots it’s sure to be something special, expect unusual game modes and there’s even dynamic maps which change in-play to contend with. With third person shooters quieter this year with no new Gears of War title, Max could well fill the void and deliver an out and out shooting-fest with real character.

Aliens: Colonial Marines – 2012

Almost 30 years after the release of James Cameron’s film, the dreams of xenomorph fans across the world could well be answered in the form of Colonial Marines. While it may have lost its original squad-based shooter dynamic, the game is shaping up to deliver as strong an alien playing experience as well as letting you fill the shoes of machine-gun and flamethrower-toting marines. There’s no heads-up display, which should make for a more immersive experience, but there is some relief in the form of the signature gun-mounted motion-tracker. There’s new alien types available too, as well as the classic xenomorph and the face-hugger, there are ‘runners’ which are faster, scout-style aliens, and you can be sure the queen will make an appearance at some point. The game is set on planet LV-426, the same place where the Aliens film is set, but some time after, and it’s been confirmed the crashed ship from the first film will feature, suggesting plenty of fan service. There have been concerns about the ‘meaty-ness’ of the Aliens’ acid blood, but this is a franchise dear to the hearts of many, which should be ecouragement enough for developers Gearbox to get it right. The developers have a reasonable back catalogue – if you omit the misstep that was Duke Nukem Forever – having contributed to the Half Life series as well as Brothers in Arms and Borderlands, putting the game on course to deliver the experience fans have been waiting for.

BioShock Infinite – 2012

From the depths of dystopian Rapture to the blinding heights of Columbia, BioShock Infinite will make you long for darkness. Another broken society, Columbia isn’t empty of life bar crazed slicers, but a functioning(ish – it has descended into warring factions) city with people milling around. One of those inhabitants is Elizabeth, who protagonist Booker DeWitt is trying to rescue from the city, which is a metropolis flying high above the Earth. Instead of walking around through corridors, you glide through the city on ‘skyrails’, as Elizabeth follows along behind. Reportedly an interactive AI, Elizabeth reacts to your actions, behaving differently depending on what you do. If designer Ken Levine is to be believed, then it should offer the most developed player to AI relationship in a game. Elizabeth isn’t just a follow-along companion though, since she has the power to reach through the fabric of space and time, but exactly how that will work is anyone’s guess. The game is far removed from the events of Rapture, with no Adam or Big Daddies to worry about, but Levine won’t confirm if and how the games are linked. Once everyone has worn out Skyrim, this is the game they will be moving on to for single player storytelling – something Irrational Games are known for.

Syndicate – February 24

The result of a genetic splicing experiment between Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Crysis 2, Syndicate could be the near-future set game of the year. In 2069 the world is controlled by corporations and business, and in the game, a re-boot of a 1993 strategy game in little more than name, you work for a syndicate – which the world is comprised of – and go around carrying out contract killings and other missions to protect the company. The real intriguing point is the Dart 6 chip, which allows you to hack into enemies and control them, causing them to shoot themselves or tell you everything you need to know, as well as more combat-based hacks, such as redirecting projectiles. The big feature is four-player coop, surely a standard in a squad-based game like this, and there are plenty of powered-up-hacker scenarios you can imagine being great fun with a few friends. The competitive multiplayer won’t hurt either.

What, no Halo 4?

That’s right, we aren’t too excited about Halo 4. It may be the game that made the Xbox, but that was a decade ago now, and we are begging for some new innovation. It might be that new studio 343 can come up with some fresh new ideas to re-invigorate the series, but for now it’s a franchise which is struggling to remain relevant, thought the multiplayer matchmaking is still something to be envied – DICE take note.

Stay tuned for more gaming news in the coming week.

James Michael Parry

Gaming: E3 2011 the aftermath for Microsoft

Go greenSo the Electronic Entertainment Expo came and went once more and with a shiny new Xbox design in 2010 it was going to be difficult to top Microsoft’s press briefing.

…and sure enough it didn’t. In fact the whole spectacle was a collection of fairly obvious announcements and some more detail of the games we already know something about.

The big M got the obvious Call of Duty piece out of the way early, and luckily the negative rumour surrounding the possibility of having to pay for Call of Duty Elite was dispelled quickly as we were taken through the service’s suitably simplistic titled features: Connect, Compete and Improve.

Largely it boils down to a very similar service to that offered by Halo Waypoint, combined with a few nifty things lifted from Bungie.net (the true Lords of the Halo Rings) such as kill heatmaps for deathmatch games.

Other big franchises flexing their muscles included Gears of War, which was a fairly standard affair compared to the later released details of Horde Mode 2.0 (which you should definitely take a look at in the latest OXM).

One franchise TIE is eagerly looking forward to is the climax of Commander Shepard’s adventures in Mass Effect 3. After the tragic news of a delay to the release date until 2012, fans, including myself, were understandably upset. The reason for the move became clear a few days before E3 when this packshot leaked out:

It hits the fan...epically

The box’s shiny purple logo said it all: Kinect will be energising Mass Effect 3. There isn’t a complete breakdown of how it will be implemented yet, but from what was shown at E3, it will allow you to select dialogue options verbally (slightly obvious), but more interestingly it allows simple commands of your teammates such as ‘move up’ or ‘use overload’.

Presuming that these functions are implemented correctly, and BioWare’s care and consideration over the series to date, combined with the slipped release date would suggest that is the case, then it could prove to be the most engaging RPG/shooter ever released on the platform.

It may all sound like Pip Dreams, but after so many hours invested by players over years, BioWare will be making sure their loyalty pays off once the final game hits shelves in the first half of next year.

No E3 would be complete without children being trotted out on stage to perform and Massivesoft obliged in its usual style, getting some kids to show off some new kid-orientated Kinect titles, before some burly men played American football on stage and messed it up on their first try, though the entire show began with a ‘Please recconect controller’ message so it was a case of start as you mean to go on.

The ‘shock’ reveal was the completely predictable Halo 4, which sees Master Cheif return, though it will be created by 343 Industries, which leads us to wonder what Bungie are getting up to, they have been remarkably quiet since Halo Reach launched with rumours of RPGs and other exciting possibilities so far revealing nothing, we’ll keep you posted.

There was also news of 100s of more partnerships between Xbox and other outlets this year, but the only one which was actually named was YouTube, which itself is surely in decline compared to a few years ago. Come on Xbox, hurry up and get iPlayer on there so I can justify getting a new TV!

All in all a slightly underwhelming show, not the usual crash, bang, wallop you might expect from possibly the biggest gaming platform at the moment. Conspicuous by their absence were things like Metal Gear Solid: Rising, which debuted last year and has not been heard from since, as well as the likes of Grand Theft Auto, surely not a franchise Rockstar are ready to leave well alone…and in fact there have been whispers but no concrete facts, it would seem E3 would be the best place for a big announcement?

And finally after the show is over, Microsoft hints that a lot of Xbox features may be stored online as part of their new Cloud service, which could see gamertags, saved games and even the games themselves stored online and streamed to you, read all about it here.

In the meantime, take a look at Red Faction: Armageddon, it might not be the greatest game ever but the single player is infinitely more playable than its predecessor and the Magnet Gun is an experience every destruction-lover should have in their life.

Gaming Exclusive: Interview with Mark Meer, Shepard from Mass Effect 3

Last year This Is Entertainment caught up with Mark Meer, the man who provides the dulcet tones that bring the Mass Effect series’ Commander Shepard to life (the male version at least).

What with it being a brand new year, and there being a brand new trailer to gawp at (take a look at the Mass Effect 3 trailer), we thought we’d see how things were going.

This Is Entertainment: So how are things coming along with Mass Effect 3?

Mark Meer: Swimmingly!
TIE: Anything you can tell us?

MM: Sadly, no.
TIE: The final Downloadable Content for Mass Effect 2 re-united Shepard with Liara T’Soni, how was it getting to work more with Ali Hillis? Is there any truth to the rumour that her character will return in Mass Effect 3?

MM: I still haven’t actually met Ms. Hillis in person, but it was a pleasure to hear her voice in my headphones once again… I cannot comment on Liara’s possible presence or lack thereof in ME3 at this time. I will say that the Lair of the Shadowbroker DLC was some of my favorite work in the Mass Effect universe thus far…
TIE: BioWare Project Lead Casey Hudson has said that the series’ third instalment will have over 1,000 variables to its story line. That sounds like an awful lot of lines…how do you cope?

MM: Keep in mind that I get paid by the hour. I’m coping just fine.
TIE: Mass Effect 2 bagged best Role-Playing Game last year at the Golden Joysticks, was it a proud moment?

MM: The awards and accolades for ME2 just kept rolling in over the last couple of months – I’m certainly proud of the game’s many successes, but keep in mind, I’m just a small cog in this unstoppable entertainment juggernaut! Plus, any credit that goes to me must be shared equally with my other half, the lovely and talented Jennifer Hale.
TIE: IGN reported statistics last year showing that some people have completed Mass Effect 2 23 times. Have you ever been that addicted to a computer game?

MM: Way back when (in the mid-late nineties), I once played the original Warcraft for so long that I missed a night’s sleep entirely. I was doing a touring show at the time, and when the rest of the troupe arrived at my house in the morning to pick me up in the company van, I instinctively reached for the mouse to move myself from my front door to the vehicle. True story. These days, I tend to limit myself to one “Evil” and one “Good” playthrough of most RPGs.
TIE: The trailer released at the Spike Video Game Awards showed us a glimpse of London being overrun by the Reapers. Have you ever visited? What was your favourite place?

MM: Speaking of sleep deprivation… I’ve actually just returned from London and performing at the Annual 50-Hour London Improvathon! My wife Belinda is from London originally, and we visit there often, so I have quite a few favorite spots in that fine city. I always make a point of dropping into the world-famous comic shop Forbidden Planet, usually take in a few shows on the West End, do some improv shows with my friends from Grand Theft Improv at the Wheatsheaf pub in Rathbone Place, and of course there’s Hoxton Hall – an authentic Victorian music hall in Shoreditch where we do the Improvathon each year.
TIE: The next Dragon Age is only a couple of months away from release, have you managed to get your hands on it yet? How’s it shaping up?

MM: Not yet – I’ve been away for the last few weeks, so I’m hoping to pop into Bioware and see what’s up…

TIE: When we spoke to you last you mentioned you were looking forward to playing Fallout: New Vegas and Dead Rising 2, did you enjoy them? Anything you’re looking forward to playing later this year?

MM: Got Dead Rising 2 for Christmas, but I haven’t been able to play it yet. Now that I’m home, I’ll dive in. I LOVED Fallout: New Vegas – only had time to play it to completion once so far, but I killed Caesar! I’m unreasonably proud of myself for that (probably because people were constantly saying “That’s the man who killed Caesar ” around me for the rest of the game). I’ll definitely take another run at that one. Another Christmas gift was Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare – I’m very anxious to get to that, and to Dragon Age 2, of course. And, as a comic book geek, I’ll be looking forward to playing DC Universe Online and Batman: Arkham City…
TIE: You got a nomination for a clip called “Doug, The Last Man on Earth”, on The Irrelevant Show CBC Radio show, at the Canadian Comedy Awards last year. Were you miffed not to win?

MM: Not at all. It is, as they say, an honour to be nominated. I should mention, that wasn’t improv, which I do quite a bit of – it was a comedy sketch that I performed in, written by my good friend Dana Andersen. I’ll ask him if he’s miffed – I think he would have got the award if we’d won.
TIE: And finally, any news on Shepard’s chimpanzee sidekick?

MM: He’s going to smoke cigars and wear a little green derby. More than that, I cannot say.


James Michael Parry

Gaming: Spike Video Game Awards Top Picks

Finish the fight...?For those in the know the news is out: Eldar Scrolls V and Mass Effect 3 teaser trailers have both been unleashed on the gaming world, but for everyone else thinking “What on Earth are the Spike VGAs?” and “Why didn’t anyone tell me something was going on?” Here’s a micro-explanation.

The Spike VGAs have been going on for a few years now, they tend to attract a lot of big Hollywood names and the associated glamour, with some previews for upcoming titles thrown in just to keep the gaming part of the name happy.

In the past the Awards have seen  a few unveilings and announcements such as  The Force Unleashed II and Arkham Asylum 2 – Arkham City last year (but more on that later).

There’s plenty of criticism for the awards since they have a lot of live music acts and celebrities and really play into the big franchises borrowed from other genres, but they do occasionally bring some exciting news-bites…which is what we were graced with this year.

On the Sci-fi side of the argument lies a little game called Mass Effect 3:

Earth finally comes into play, not as a dot to orbit around but a battlefield, and things look serious. There’s debate at present whether BioWare will opt for a continuation of Mass Effect 2’s more upbeat action style, slide back towards a more diverse RPG game or progress to something new entirely, since there has been much talk of a spin-off game.

The trailer shows the Reapers decimating Earth, clearly something has to be done but how will the game work? Will you be traversing continents now instead of galaxies? Being Earth-bound might be hard to swallow for some players, though the game has been screaming out for some perspective since it’s inception.

Next up is the return of the Caped Crusader:

 

So the Joker is nowhere to be seen in this trailer, though we know he’s around from the teaser a while ago, but instead we are greeted by Doctor Hugo Strange, who is keeping an eye on the inmates for new Mayor Quincy Sharp – who has taken credit for all your efforts in stopping the Joker in the first game.

The visuals are particularly impressive, though obviously it isn’t in-game footage, and the same brutality as before along with a host of new gadgets and bits and bobs should make this a tremendous game.

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the big news for fantasy RPG fans. Take a look at the teaser trailer:

So there isn’t much to go on as of yet, but clearly the game continues the story on after Oblivion and involves dragons. Any fans of Bathesda or previous Elder Scrolls outings will most likely be salavating even though the release is almost a year away, on 11 Novermber next year.

Finally Portal 2 made an appearance:

A real ‘tease’ with this one, Valve are bound to produce a great game, particularly the co-op aspect, but this footage doesn’t really tell us anything about the same, except that it has Valve’s usual sense of humour. Definitely one to watch.

 

James Michael Parry

Gaming: Exclusive Interview with Mark Meer, Commander Shepard from Mass Effect

While many people play computer games, there’s generally little thought for the voices behind our war-torn characters, until now. This Is Entertainment, in a totally original and never-before-seen stunt, has sought out one of these unsung heroes to ask them a few questions and find out some juicy game secrets.
The man in question is none other than Mark Meer, better known as the noble/dastardly Commander Shepard from Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2 and the imaginatively titled concluding episode: Mass Effect 3.
This Is Entertainment managed to catch up with him between saving the galaxy and having some herbal tea :

This Is Entertainment: How does it feel to be one of the most identifiable computer game characters of this generation?

Mark Meer: First of all, thank-you for opening with a flattering question. I feel lucky and honoured. As a long-time collector, I’m pretty thrilled that I get my own action figure later this summer. Of course, it will really be a Mark Vanderloo action figure… he’s the guy who Shepard’s appearance is based on. It’s also quite an honour to get to play the male version of a character Jennifer Hale is voicing – she’s one of the best in the business.

TIE: Have you played the games yourself? If so, what did you think of them?

MM: I have, and they’re great. I’ve usually seen some animatics and concept art during the recording process, but to see it all put together in gameplay always makes me pretty proud to be a part of it. As a player, the one problem for me personally is that I’m privy to many of elements of the plot, including the many alternate ways that any given situation could go. Here’s two equally geeky frames of reference: it’s a bit like playing through a Dungeons & Dragons module that you were Dungeon Master of a few months ago. Or like being Dr. Manhattan…except with pants. On the other hand, with something like the Dragon Age games, I can enjoy watching the plot unfold as it would normally, and then have fun slaying myself as a Werewolf or Darkspawn or what have you.

TIE: Mass Effect works on a varied morality system, if you were Shepard for real, would you be the noble hero, or the man who did whatever it takes to get the job done?

MM: Well when gaming, I tend to play ruthless on the first round, and noble on the second. It feels like I’m redeeming myself for all the poor bastards I screwed over on the first playthrough. Since there are few opportunities for a second chance at real life, I’d probably do my best to try to be noble.

TIE: There are countless dialogue choices throughout the two games, is there any line in particular which you’d class as your favourite?

MM: I could trot out “I have to go”, since I say it enough. Renegade Shepard has plenty of awesomely snide/badass comments… it’s hard to choose. As a side note, I had a blast doing all the Vorcha in ME2. Screaming and screeching at the top of your lungs in the soundbooth is always fun.

TIE: How did you begin to build the character of Shepard at the beginning of making ME1? Did you have a lot of room to experiment or were BioWare very clear on what they wanted word for word?

MM: To approach Shepard as a character is a bit tricky, because many of the lines you record will have to serve for both the Renegade and Paragon versions. And ultimately, the player is the one who’s deciding what Shepard’s personality and background are. First and foremost, Bioware wanted Shepard to be a marine – whether ruthless or noble, that’s who Shepard is at his/her core. Occasionally, we’d change bits of dialogue on the fly to make it flow better or sound more natural, and when Mac (Walters – Head Writer) was sitting in on sessions, he could approve those on the spot, rather than us having to pause in recording and phone Bioware for clearance.

TIE: What’s your favourite part of voice acting?

MM: I suppose it’s different to other sorts of performing since there’s the chance to play an incredibly wide variety of parts, including ones that you might not be cast in if the project were, say, a film or television show. Plus, you get to show up in your pyjamas and drink soothing herbal teas while you work.

TIE: What was your reaction to the controversies which were raised over the first game’s adult content? Were you surprised?
MM: Baffled, really. Most of what was being said was outright fabrication, so what was really puzzling was how these people who had never played the game were speaking with such authority on its content. But ultimately, most everyone realized it had been blown completely out of proportion and that some fairly tasteful partial nudity did not equal “virtual orgasmic rape” or whatever the hell they were trying to call it. As I recall, most of the “pundits” involved sheepishly recanted within a week.

TIE: Other than Shepard, who’s your favourite character in the series? And why?

MM: It’s hard to choose. I’ll have to go with my top three – Wrex, Tali, and Mordin. I guess I just like aliens…

TIE: According to me sources (i.e. Mr Google) you’re a keen gamer. Are there any titles you are particularly enjoying playing at the moment? Or looking forward to?

MM: Currently playing Red Dead Redemption, eagerly awaiting Fallout: New Vegas, Dead Rising 2, and DC Universe Online. Naturally, I’ll be eager to see the next Dragon Age and Mass Effect 3 as well.

TIE: Outside voice acting work you do improv shows, how are those going at the moment?

MM: Very well indeed. I just got back from the Los Angeles Improv Comedy Festival and the General Fools Improv Fest in Regina in time for Edmonton’s own Improvaganza. A lot of comedy has been made up on the spot and a lot of beer has been consumed. While I was in L.A., some friends of mine and I did a special super-hero themed show at the Eisner Award-winning Brave New World Comics in Newhall. The show’s called “The Harold of Galactus”. If you know both improv and comic books, you’ll find that name hilarious. Otherwise, you’ll just be confused and angry.

TIE: Mass Effect 3 is due late next year and we’ve heard it’s going to be more ‘light-hearted’. For fear of danger to your family from the BioWare overseers, is there anything else you can safely tell us about the game?

MM: Two words. Chimpanzee sidekick.
James Michael Parry