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November 2011

PTB 2011 Video Gaming Holiday Gift Guide

Donkey Kong plays Santa ClausEach year it seems that there are more and more fantastic video games worth giving as holiday presents to friends, family, and loved ones.  2011 goes above and beyond that with more top titles than ever before.  This is a holiday season that brings us assassins, time travellers, caped crusaders, detectives, treasure hunters, and a malevolent supercomputer intelligence trapped inside a potato.  How can anyone possibly hope to separate the good from the better from the best (we won't waste our time on the terrible)?  Leave it to me to suggest a variety of titles suitable for gift-giving that will delight anyone on your list.  Just like last year, in order for a game to make the list, it must be something that I thoroughly enjoyed or have definite intentions of buying for myself. It's a more personalized perspective that I hope you find useful as you make your list and check it twice. Before you head out to the mall or over to, take a look at what I'm recommending this time around. 

Assassin's Creed: Revelations (PS3 / X360 / PC)

Assassins Creed: Revelations

Ubisoft delivers the final chapter in the long-running story of master assassin Ezio Auditore in this sequel to last year's Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood.  The formula remains largely unchanged as the franchise delivers more free running, climbing, and leaping off of tall structures with blades bared.  It's largely more of the same, but when the same is so much fun, I'm willing to let it slide.  There are a few new aspects added to the formula, however.  A tower defense mini-game has been added to the proceedings along with new weapons and techniques (such as the hookblade and customizable bombs), and from time to time a Templar assassin will track Ezio and attempt to covertly take him out.  Online multiplayer is back with even more new challenges.  The PS3 version even includes the original Assassin's Creed on the disc as a bonus.  It's hard to argue with that!

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Weekly Poll: The Best Of All Drakes

Weekly Poll for 11-14-2011The modern incarnation of Sonic the Hedgehog just barely squeeks ahead of his classic variation when it comes to Sega's Sonic Generations.  For as much as I enjoyed Classic Sonic's levels in this game, I have to admit that I favored Modern Sonic.  That was a shocking realization for me.  Part of that comes from the better level designs created for the latter Sonic to run through this time around.  Something about it all clicked with me in ways I didn't expect, and I found it easier to maintain momentum with Modern Sonic.  I still had fun with Classic Sonic and I hope that we see him again, but for what it's worth, I spend more time replaying levels with Modern Sonic than with Classic.  Trust me, I'm just as shocked as you are.

Speaking of controversies, on the most recent episode of the Power Button podcast, Joey Davidson, Brad Hilderbrand, and I went around and around on Naughty Dog's Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception.  In the end, we were disappointed with it compared to the heights that the previous game, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, set.  You'll have to listen to Episode 69 to hear all of the justification, but we came away with the agreement that the franchise's first sequel is better than its second.  What do you think?  Which is your favorite Uncharted title?  Let's hear your thoughts.

Rampage Movie In The Works

RampageDo you remember taking control of George the Gorilla, Lizzie the Lizard, and Ralph the Wolf in order to smash city buildings into paste as a Godzilla-like expression of rage in the classic Midway arcade title Rampage?  The game led to a number of sequels and home editions over the years, although the franchise has been quiet lately aside from a few retro releases on modern download services.  That may be about to change as a movie based on Rampage is in the works over at New Line Cinema.  The Hollywood Reporter has the early details.

John Rickard, who has acted as a co-producer on a wide range of New Line movies from A Nightmare on Elm Street and Final Destination to Horrible Bosses and next year’s tentpole Jack the Giant Killer, will produce and is meeting with writers to develop a story for the project.

The concept of the game revolves around a trio of mild-mannered humans who are mutated into a giant Godzilla-like lizard, a werewolf and a gorilla, respectively, and fight the military while destroying buildings. Players controlled the monsters and moved up levels when a city was destroyed.

New Line isn’t usually in the tentpole business (the Lord of the Rings trilogy being the big exception) but the studio believes that technology has advanced enough that the possibility exists to make a smartly-budgeted monster movie in the vein and tone of Ghostbusters and Independence Day.

I've heard worse pitches for a film based on a video game, and at least Rampage does have a general backstory unlike other game-to-movie projects such as Asteroids.  There's certainly potential for some fun set pieces and comical action.  Do you think that the film can stay true to the familiar and famous spirit of the games?  And by "spirit", of course, I mean the full frontal nudity that resulted whenever the monster protagonists suffered enough damage to revert to their human forms.  If Rampage isn't rated NC-17, then New Line Cinema will have failed us all.

Power Button - Episode 69: Heated Discussions Regarding Uncharted 3 And Super Mario 3D Land

Power ButtonIt's been a while since Brad Hilderbrand, Joey Davidson, and I got into a heated discussion regarding a big blockbuster video game, so it's only to be expected that we're due for a tense disagreement.  This week on Power Button we return to Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception to discuss the second half of the game complete with spoilers about the final chapters and ending.  Two of us finished the game, but one did not.  Can you guess who?  Then, after a break (at the thirty minute mark for those skipping past the spoilers for the moment), the conflict turns more stern when the topic turns to Super Mario 3D Land.  Two of us love it, but one does not.  Can you guess who?  We also have some voicemail messages to play left by people who called the new Power Button hotline, and that sparks additional discussion.  You haven't heard raised voices like these since our difference of opinion of Star Fox 64 3D back in Episode 62.  No tanookis were harmed in the recording of this episode.  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, or subscribe via iTunes, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach all three of us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow all of us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons, @aubradley84, and @JoeyDavidson or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.  Next Week: We're taking Thanksgiving week off, but we still have something for you take with you on your holiday week. It's a blast from the past as we proudly present a classic episode of our 2009 podcast series, Kombo Breaker.

Power Button - Episode 69: Heated Discussions Regarding Uncharted 3 And Super Mario 3D Land

Mario Karts Are Real

Mario Kart

Mario has driven some unusual vehicles over the years, but while his basic go-kart from the Mario Kart series won't win any prizes for being baffling or bizarre, it will get you where you need to go.  Thanks to Nintendo and West Coast Customs, it isn't fictional anymore.  The two companies teamed up to create life-size working replicas of two Mario Kart vehicles (Mario's standard kart and Luigi's bee-based ride) to promote Mario Kart 7 for the Nintendo 3DS.  Soon they'll give one of 'em away to a GameStop customer.  Here's the official press release, and Jalopnik also has coverage.  Maybe it's just me, but I've always preferred this basic style of kart instead of the drivable eggs, baby carriages, and other whimsical things.  People always seem to be in a hurry to unlock supposedly better karts, but I stick with this model all the way through the game if I can.  I mean, can you really take a long-tongued bipedal dinosaur seriously if he's behind the wheel of a giant egg?  I think not!

Sonic Generations For 3DS Sounds Promising

Sonic GenerationsBeating all of the odds, Sega's Sonic Generations for the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and PC is actually a fantastic title worth your time and attention.  It manages to get Sonic the Hedgehog right after so many lackluster attempts and lycanthropic missteps.  Most of you probably forgot that the company is also working on a version of the game for the Nintendo 3DS and it's not a simple port.  While the big bold high definition version of the game features levels based on classic Sonic zones such as Chemical Plant, Sky Sanctuary, and Speed Highway, the 3DS game branches off in different directions with revamped takes on Casino Night, Emerald Coast, and Mushroom Hill.  Sporting the now-familiar team of Classic Sonic and Modern Sonic, it looks like the handheld version of Sonic Generations is worth watching.  GamesRadar told me so.

Amazingly, the game is almost entirely viewed from the side. You get a couple of over-the-shoulder sections in Modern Sonic levels and some fancy-angled set-pieces, but the majority of the game is played like Sonic Rush. This is arguably a good thing as Sonic Rush is damn fine. But it does negate the classic/modern character distinction, especially when classic Sonic learns the lock-on attack from his newer self and starts using it in every level - even Green Hill.

The main levels feature one act for each Sonic and a special stage. These bonus levels are a lot of fun, taking place in pipes very much in the style of Sonic Heroes. They're controlled with the buttons rather than the touchscreen (in fact the touchscreen is pretty redundant throughout the game), which I actually prefer compared to Sonic Rush's similar efforts. The first one's easy, but once you start having to dodge bombs along the way, it gets much trickier.

To my utmost surprise, I found that switching the 3D on helped. Yes, you read that right - the 3D is actually good in Sonic Generations. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it enhances my enjoyment of the game. Come on, get up off the floor, you make the room look untidy. With the 3D off, everything can look a little 'PSP' in terms of graphical quality. But slide it up and suddenly it all looks way better. And actually rather special.

I played an early demo of the game back at E3 and thought that it had potential, but it had fallen off of my radar since then.  Now I really want to play the finished product.  The GamesRadar reviewer, Justin Towell, goes on to criticize the game for failing to include hardly any behind-the-back segments for Modern Sonic to traverse, and while I think those sections would look amazing in 3D, I think I'm alright with the majority of the game being a classic-style side-scroller.  Classic Sonic levels are fun.  They're what made the Sega Genesis games so memorable, after all.  Why shouldn't we see a new Sonic game that's mostly composed of them?  Sonic Generations for the Nintendo 3DS hits stores next week.

Second Saints Row Comes Free With Third Saints Row On Third PlayStation

Saints Row 2Here's a nice bonus for you: THQ has announced that anyone who buys a new copy of Saints Row: The Third for the Sony PlayStation 3 and activates the online pass in the box prior to February 13, 2012 can download the game's predecessor, Saints Row 2, via the PlayStation Store at no charge (a $20 value).  Not a bad deal at all!  1UP has the news.

During Sony's E3 press conference in June, it was announced that an exclusive mode of some sort would be included in the PS3 version of The Third. It was reported yesterday that the promised bonus appeared to be missing; the console versions of the game seem to be identical and THQ wasn't willing to comment on the situation.

That changed today as THQ announced the bonus gamers would be getting is actually a free copy of the digital version of Saints Row 2. To get it you'll need to redeem the online pass code included with new copies of The Third within 90 days of the game's release (by midnight on February 13, 2012).

I haven't played the new Saints Row yet, but the last one was more fun than I'd expected.  I rented it over the holidays in 2009 and became hooked on its "Grand Theft Auto without limits" sensibilities.  Hall & Oates and a-Ha on the soundtrack certainly helped, too.  While I've heard plenty of good things about The Third, don't overlook the free Saints Row 2.  It's definitely worth your time.

Gone Mad From The Revelation

Ezio AuditoreAfter enjoying Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed II and completely exploring Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood last year, I knew I had to get involved in this year's iteration of the franchise, Assassin's Creed Revelations, as soon as possible.  I picked up the Signature Edition of the game for my Sony PlayStation 3 from GameStop and, with a free hour earlier this week, sat down to take on the role of Ezio Auditore once again.  There will be plenty of time to discuss story points and set pieces; right now I feel the need to outline the many hoops that Ubisoft had me jump through in order to start the game.  Let me state up front that I'm not angry or irritated about any of what you're about to read.  I'm really just stunned by it, left to exclaim a perplexed "Really?" at each accumulating step.

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Chrono Trigger History Changed By Madman With A Box

Square-Enix's classic RPG Chrono Trigger thrives on time travel tropes, one of which is the ability for the player to determine alternate endings to the amazing saga.  The eater of planets, Lavos, sparks a silent protagonist and his friends from across time into spanning history in order to set right what is going to go wrong, and depending on how and when Lavos is destroyed, a variety of possible future unfold.  Up until now the game basically ends with hero Crono defeating the devourer in most of the endings, but Dorkly posits a better finale that I think I'm going to accept as canonical from now on.  What if Lavos isn't really the villain of Chrono Trigger?  What if he's really just a lost alien creature trying to go home?  You'll never see the game the same way again once The Doctor in the TARDIS from the BBC's long-running sci-fi series Doctor Who arrives to save the day.  Look out for the bipedal dalek!

Ten Years Of Xbox

Microsoft XboxThis week marks the tenth anniversary of the release of the original Microsoft Xbox.  Plenty of video game enthusiasts are celebrating the occasion and sharing fond memories of the big black and green box with its massive controllers, and Game Informer is joining the fun with a list of innovations that the Xbox brought to the home video game console world.  Some are major contributions, some are minor aspects that are no longer relevant, and others were further refined by the Xbox 360 and its competition.  Consider, for instance, the importance of a built-in hard drive, breakaway cables, and custom soundtracks.  Oh, and a little service called Xbox Live.

The biggest innovation of the original Xbox, and the one that has probably had the most influence on today’s generation of games, was online play. Xbox was not the first to do it on a console, but it was the first to do it in a well organized manner that made online play easy. Hooking up with friends to play Halo 2 or Splinter Cell was relatively headache free, and didn’t require any additional hardware. It was the first time we had a dedicated friends list that could be used across all games, and the first time we could see what other people were playing without calling them up and asking them. Who wants to go through all that?

I still remember walking through the mall and seeing the Xbox for the first time.  I was in college at the time and was out on a Saturday just browsing the stores and getting some air when I saw a demo kiosk in the doorway of GameStop.  The kiosk was running an early demo disc, and Fuzion Frenzy was the title on display.  I thought it was underwhelming and that not launching with a strong emphasis on a fun mascot such as Mario or Sonic the Hedgehog was a mistake.  In the end, Microsoft found Master Chief and the Gears of War team and didn't really need colorful mascots to find success in its own way.