Not sure you know this or not, but Mass Effect 3 came out last week. You might have heard about it, it's a pretty big game. It's also pretty good. Like really good.

Mostly.

The game released here in the UK on Friday, but I managed to get a copy on Thursday due to my superior choice in online retailers. First class postage sent out a few days in advance is awesome. So I got Mass Effect 3, and I ploughed through it pretty quickly and it's certainly a very enjoyable game. So I'm going to talk a bit about it.

As a heads-up, spoilers are going to be everywhere, major, major spoilers. If you haven't played and/or finished ME3, and don't want some of the finer details (including, but not limited to the actual ending) spoiled, you might want to stop reading right about now. If you're reading this on my blog's homepage, the rest of this entry will be placed after a jump.

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As the title suggests, these kinds of posts aren't gonna be full-blown reviews, but just talking a little more casually about games I've been playing lately. I think the purpose of these will be mostly for games I want to talk a little bit more in-depth about, without doing an actual review (because, you know, that takes work).

But yes, I've played a little bit of Nexuiz. That is, the new, Illfonic developed XBLA games using CryEngine 3, and not the original free open-source PC game by Alientrap. I have no idea how to properly pronounce that. Some friends and I have been pronouncing it "Nexus", though the original game pronounces it "Nex-ee-us" on it's main menu screen. Either way, it's a silly name. Currently, it's only out on XBLA, but PSN and Steam releases are planned for the future. Hopefully the near future in the case of Steam, because this is a game that I feel will play much, much better on PC.

However, even on Xbox with a controller, this game is surprisingly fun. It's very fun, in fact. To someone who is unfamiliar with the game, it's an arena shoooter, a-lá Quake or Unreal Tournament and is similarly fast-paced, though the very nature of the system it's on slows the gameplay down a little, but is still significantly faster than your average console shooter. Perhaps this is why the game surprised me so much. The thought of playing a Quake-esque game with a console controller is almost absurd. I think Quake 3 is actually available on the XBL marketplace, but god knows what that plays like.

Nexuiz just feels... right with a controller. I'm not saying better than with a mouse and keyboard. This game will obviously play much better with that control setup, but the fact Illfonic have made a fast-paced arena shooter that works well on a console is commendable. In fact, it makes me even more excited for the eventual PC release because, if it plays this well with a controller, it must be phenomenal on PC, right?

The gameplay is pretty typical of these types of shooters. You run around in a small enclosed map shooting dudes with the crazy sci-fun guns also typical of these types of shooters. The main twist is the inclusion of "mutators", effects that can drastically alter the way the game is played for either yourself, your team, or everyone. There are some of the fairly typical ones you would expect: double damage, infinite ammo, etc, but there are also some pretty crazy ones, like inverting everyone's aim, making a random person explode, turning everyone into sombrero-wearing piñatas... some of them are pretty hilarious. And it's the inclusion of things like these that gives the game it's character and shows that the game doesn't take itself too seriously. Which is a good thing.

So, I think I'm gonna try and play more of it, in amongst all the other games I have going on right now (which can be a whole other blog post in and of itself). It's a ton of fun, and a lot of the people I play with think so as well, which is a rare occurrence. There's a demo on the Xbox Live Marketplace if you want to try it out. It limits some features... like playing with friends... but like the Gotham City Impostors demo, is enough to get a jist of how the game plays.

Full disclosure: This being a personal site and all, it is highly likely that any and all reviews I write on here may not be completely objective, whether it be because I have a particular fondness of the genre, developer, etc. So, bear that in mind.

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I'll be completely honest here: up until about a week or so before launch, I had no idea what Gotham City Impostors was. Sure, I had heard of it, but apart from the name, I was completely clueless. Based on the name alone, I figured it would be some sort of MMO-type game, and I still maintain that the name and premise would work well for that kind of game. The premise is pretty simple: a bunch of wannabe vigilante Batmen go against a bunch of wannabe Jokers in standard multiplayer shooter scenarios. Neither Batman, the Joker or any other legitimate characters make an appearance here, it's all regular Joes trying to emulate them, albeit it, a little more... violently.

GCI is a 6v6 multiplayer first-person-shooter, and features everything you'd expect from a modern example of the genre. Customisable classes, a progressive levelling system, persistent unlocks, etc. Ever since Call of Duty 4 set the bar, it's becoming increasingly difficult to find a FPS that doesn't feature these tropes. However, that's not to say this game is just another Call of Duty game with a Batman skin; GCI has it's own set of quirks and features that make it stand out from the crowd.

For instance, the game features some pretty deep customisation options. Sure, the equipment customisation is fairly recognisable: choose a primary weapon, secondary, attachments, etc, as well as items that function very much like Call of Duty's perks system. However, GCI also lets you customise the appearance of your character, including ways that dramatically change the way the game is played. The biggest of these is through changing your body type: there are five different body types to choose from, effectively ranging from tiny to massive. Smaller body types get increased movement speed, but are much more frail, meaning they can't take as many hits. The inverse is true of the larger body types. The largest body type "Mighty" is a huge bullet sponge, but movement speed is painfully slow.

The thing that sets apart the gameplay of GCI from other similar titles is the various gadgets that are unlockable. During the game's "initiation" you are introduced to the grapple-gun, which you fire at any surface, high or low, and then make your way towards; the glider, which allows you to glide in the air, with height boosts attainable from various open air vents and trampolines scattered throughout the map. The glider also lets you do a divebomb attack whilst in midair, which does damage respective to how big your character is, with the "mighty" body type doing incredible damage on a successful hit; the roller skates, which give you increased movement speed, but makes movement harder to control, along with various ramps that provide speed boosts; and the spring boots, which you charge allowing you to jump at greater heights. These gadgets allow for a much greater increase in mobility to that found in more traditional shooters which greatly changes the pace of the game and help to set it apart from its peers.

Graphically, the game is... okay. On the console versions, the resolution is obviously limited, and some of the textures seem to be a little muddy. The frame rate can also be a bit spotty as well, with the game clearly struggling during some more intense moments. The biggest issue however, is that the game only runs at 30FPS (with occasional drops as mentioned). For a title whose speed of gameplay is just as, if not faster than say, Call of Duty, the poor framerate on the console version severely limits how enjoyable the game plays. On the PC, graphics are obviously much sharper with the increased resolution. Unfortunately, resolution is pretty much your only option when it comes to the graphics. Much to my dismay, there wasn't even a FOV slider, which made my time with the PC version rather un-enjoyable.

That is, if I was able to get into a game. One of the biggest flaws with the game at present is that the matchmaking is, to put it bluntly, completely fucked. The game doesn't support joining games in progress and, from what I can gather, lobbies never merge. This means that you will often find yourself sitting for ages in a half-empty lobby waiting for it to fill up with enough people to start the match. This problem is exacerbated on the PC where the player-base obviously isn't anywhere near as large as it is on the home consoles. Monolith have stated that this will be addressed in a future update, but the fact this problem made it into the final retail version to begin with is incredibly disappointing.

My biggest problem with the game however, is simply the core shooting. It just doesn't feel... right. For a game that is so fast-paced to be running at an inconsistent 30FPS is just simply not acceptable. Even though this problem is essentially eliminated if you're playing on a decent computer, the controls themselves just aren't particularly tight either. On PC, sprinting doesn't stop you from aiming-down-sights, so if you started sprinting with ADS-ing, you're going to automatically aim down sight again when you stop, which results in a great deal of unjust deaths.

At this point, I'm not even entirely sure if I would recommend Gotham City Impostors, even to fans of the genre. The sheer premise of the game, along with it's great deal of original gameplay mechanics and absolutely absurd humour is something to be lauded, but the core game itself simply... just isn't that fun. I probably had more moments where I was frustrated than where I was genuinely having fun. Or maybe I'm just jaded from these past few years of Call of Duty. Luckily, there are demos for the PSN and XBLA versions, which essentially let you play the full game for an hour (in-game time, not overall, which is nice). Although an hour is barely enough to scratch the surface of the impressive amount of customisation the game offers, it is enough to get a good sense of how the game plays and whether it's something you want to play more of.