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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Star Trek Online - One Year Old Goodies

Atari and Cryptic studios are celebrating the one-year anniversary of the launch of their Star Trek Online game by releasing a new Feature Episode Series, continuing to discount C-store offers and Lifetime Subscriptions by 20 percent and hosting special in-game events.

Especially for the game's anniversary, Cryptic and Atari are discounting Lifetime Subscriptions to Star Trek Online by 20 percent. The discount guarantees users perpetual access to Star Trek Online’s universe for £153.99 (excl.VAT). The special promotion ends February 4, 2011.

Players can also get to know the development team behind the game as they will make appearances withing the game from Feb 2nd bearing challenges of trivia - so be prepared your knowledge could well be rewarded!

The Feature Episode Series, 'Cloaked Intentions', centers on the Romulan Star Empire and charges players with preventing a civil war between differing factions inside the Empire. The five-episode series also introduces a new ship type and continues Star Trek Online's story beyond 2409. The first Episode is set to debut February 5.

Taking place in the year 2409, Star Trek Online boasts extraordinary features and lets fans both new and old experience unparalleled adventures. Players have the opportunity to become high-ranking Starfleet officers and participate in missions that take them into the depths of space, across exotic planets and inside other starships. Star Trek Online offers total customization, from a player's avatar to the ship he captains.

Review: Mass Effect 2 (PS3)

Unless you’ve been actually living in space, you may have heard of Mass Effect 2. Winning multiple Game of the Year awards last year and making up one-thirds of every Xbox fanboy’s arsenal in console wars, the game has finally arrived on the PS3. We already reviewed Mass Effect 2 last year and gave it a perfect score, so this review is just to help you make up your mind in case you were still on the fence.

If you’ve never heard of Mass Effect and really can’t be bothered with what’s happening on the PC and Xbox side, here’s the lowdown – this is a space opera played out as an action-oriented RPG. The game creates a very rich universe, with its own civilisations, history and politics. The first game saw protagonist Shepard chase across the galaxy in search of a rogue alien and uncover a deeper conspiracy hatched by a long forgotten race of super beings. Mass Effect 2 continues Shepard’s campaign; this time on a mission to find why humans are disappearing from colonies. You will tie up with a rogue human organization and befriend a motley crew of new and old allies, and even meet up with some old faces who’ve moved on with their lives in the two years separating the two games. The game is much more action oriented than its predecessor, and battles can be brutal at higher difficulty levels. This is one of the finest adventures you will embark upon on PC or consoles, and I thoroughly enjoyed replaying it.

The PS3 version includes a comic to bring you up to speed on the events of Mass Effect 1, in case you didn’t play it and because it isn’t available on PS3. The Dark Horse comic is bright and colourful, and well narrated. Over ten minutes, you will also get to make some of the key decisions, which will reflect their outcome in Mass Effect 2. While a ten minute comic is no substitute for 25 hours of gaming and the rich universe created in the first game, it does an admirable job of getting you up and running.

 However, and this is where my gripe with the PS3 version starts, the comic is only available as downloadable content free with every new copy of the PS3 game. They could’ve included it on the disc; it’s not like there was a dearth of space. The game itself requires a ridiculously long installation; 25 minutes on a near empty PS3, and up to 50 minutes on a full PS3. Add to this the time required to download the Cerberus pack, which includes the comic and a very useful ally, and you’re in for a long wait before you can get gaming. Ideally, the comic and the DLC should have been included on the disc, and the comic should have played out during the installation. Starcraft II did this to great effect.

The game looks fantastic. The opening sequence will leave you stunned. The characters are livelier this time, and the cutscenes and conversations have a cinematic touch to them. There is more camera movement, character expressions, and even an option to interrupt the conversation in a helpful or nasty way. The PS3 version is supposed to use the same graphics engine as Mass Effect 3, but it’s difficult to make out any major changes. I had some teething problems playing with the PS3 controller, being used to the Xbox 360 controller. There’s a nifty setting in the Options to switch the bumpers and triggers, which really made life simpler.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Review:Wanton destruction's never been so cheap

It would be easy – and also very wrong – to immediately dismiss Breach out of hand as another generic online shooter. Looks can be deceiving; yes, it borrows generously from the best games of the genre, but Breach’s twists on the oh-so-commonplace FPS model will give many a Modern Warfare-weary virtual soldier an addictive new way to create online mayhem.

It takes a mouthful to define Breach. Officially, it’s a downloadable, online-only, multiplayer-only military simulator from developer Atomic Games. There’s no single-player mode, so you’re thrown into the fray right from the get-go. All the typical accoutrements you’d expect in a modern-day shooter are here, including standard game modes (deathmatch, stronghold, and escort), multiple soldier classes to encourage team-based play, character “perks” you unlock as your experience levels increase, and a variety of map styles that lend themselves to the different modes.

However, Breach really shines as you start to become familiar with the four maps (with one nighttime variant), all of which are layered and full of nooks and crannies that invite exploration, exploitation, and utter destruction. Much of the environment can be blown to bits, including walls, bridges, and floors. This isn’t just for show, either, as bringing a bridge down on top of an enemy is a great way to kill them, or blasting a tiny hole in a brick wall creates a superb sniper spot. Of course, your cubbyhole doesn’t stand a chance against the business end of a rocket launcher – another great tool to alter the environment.

Plentiful gadgetry also alters the balance of power between the warring groups in Breach; investing in nifty items like sticky bombs or sniper detectors as you move up the experience chain goes a long way in helping you win skirmishes. Even better, when you go from the standard settings to Hardcore, radar disappears and you’re left to work with your teammates in an incredibly tense atmosphere.

OK, so it’s not the best-looking title out there, the relatively small number of maps could get tiresome after awhile, and any long-term enjoyment hinges mightily on the establishment of a strong online community. However, at $15, Breach is a great value. Sporting plenty of weapons, upgrades, and gobs of stuff to blow up, it’s an undeniably fun way to get out of your current FPS rut – or get back into one.