Welcome back boys and girls. I’m painfully aware that I need to update this, so I’ll see if I can’t scrounge some stuff together. I haven’t done a review in a while, so we can start there. Let’s see, what have I got near me…I’ve got the Mass Effect 3 Demo and I’ve also got the relatively new self titled Evanescence cd. But first, we’ll start off with some Updates and New News.

Y’all are well aware that I’ve been working on a song to turn in for my Spanish Portfolio. Well, it turns out that the due date for this portfolio was a lot sooner than I had anticipated, so I had to move my time tables forward, and be done with it. It is finished, but I wasn’t able to get it quite as refined as I would have liked. This doesn’t mean that I can’t go back later and touch it up, but I’ll probably drop the Spanish vocals. Just rhyming in Spanish has been a hard enough task, I don’t think I’ll do this again…oh wait, I kinda have to. Drat, welp, back to square 1.

The instrumentals could still use some authentic replacement, and the vocals could use…well, English, but here is the version that I turned in for my class, Mirar El Mundo Quemar.


Now, once you have a chance to review my work, I’ll move on to my own reviews.

Evanescence released their 4th studio album back in October of last year. So I’m a little late in getting around to it. This is a 12 track album, or 16 in the case that you downloaded the Deluxe version of the album. I think Evanescence may have either got a lot of complaints that their last album, “The Open Door” might have plateaued in intensity way too early, or they just wanted to return back to their driving rock roots. Whether it be either one of those explanations or something else entirely, this latest album delivers a plethora of high intensity, driving rock songs. Their are a few of the obligatory, slower paced, much more musical songs, but it is a style that works well for Evanescence as Amy Lee’s operatic vocal work and great dynamic and tonal range is a force to be reckoned with. Amy Lee is renowned for her intense dramatic presence, being compared to living legends such as Meatloaf and Michael Bolton. The songs What You Want, Erase This, and Oceans show off thundering guitar riffs driving drum lines while Lost in Paradise and Swimming Back showcase Amy Lee’s operatic stylings. All the way through are the signature orchestral accompaniments and fanatical keyboard fills. Somehow Evanescence has the ability to make guitars and violins go together like macaroni and cheese like no other band I know. My only complaint is that the more operatic/less intense rock songs break up the pace of the album. You get into a good groove and just want to stay there. While the songs are quite enjoyable on their own, I find myself skipping over them when listening to the album as a whole. Overall though, it is a solid album that is leaps and bounds better than their last. I think my favorite track off the album is the bonus track, “Say You Will”.
Evanescence – Evanescence, I give it a 4 out of 5.

On Valentines Day Bioware/EA decided to give us a sneak peak at arguably the most anticipated game of 2012, Mass Effect 3. The demo sought to show us two of the large aspect of the third installation of the trilogy, the Campaign and the Multiplayer.

Campaign

The Campaign preview showcases the improvements made to the active battle systems, the cinematic storytelling, and foreshadows the events to unfold in the full game.

WARNING: This Review Contains Spoilers of the ME3:Demo

The demo opens up with ex-Commander Shepard in his room. Due to the events in the Arrival DLC for Mass Effect 2, Shepherd has been grounded and had his ship repossessed by the Alliance. He is immediately contacted by new character, James Vega, and to to report to the Alliance Brass. While on the way he meets up with Admiral David Anderson who also escorts him to the Alliances high ranking officials. The Alliance Brass address his knowledge of the Reapers as they have lost their ability to communicate outside of the Sol system. Before Shepherd can finish his warning the Reapers land on Earth, immediately throwing Shepherd back into the fold. Shepard and Anderson are forced to fight their way to the Normandy so that they can try to make contact with the Citadel Council, encountering numerous new and old enemies along the way. All the old classes and powers have returned, as well as grenades and a new heavy melee atack. Adepts, Vanguards, and Sentinals use a biotic punch whereas Soldiers, Engineers, and Infiltrators are given a new Omni-Blade to slice through your foes. Shepard and Anderson arrive at the Normandy relatively unscathed, and Anderson reinstates Commander Shepard and instructs him to report to the Council on the events that are unfolding.

The Demo jumps ahead to the Salarian homeworld, where you are given access to more of you classes powers, more weapons, and a few more squad mates. You are on a very short mission to help Urdnot Wrex retrieve a fertile Krogan female. You are accompanied by Garrus Vakarian and Liara T’Soni. You are ambushed by Cerberus forces and are forced to fight your way to the top, protecting the Krogan pod all the way along.

You get a much better chance to test the new combat system in this much more fully immersed environment. The new techniques for dodging and cover are a breath of relief as I often found myself in ME2 surrounded by enemies needing to dodge away and make a  quick escape. I also felt before that the melee option was just added in without much thought, and the new system is far more satisfying to use…that’s if you can land the punch. The AI has been upgraded, so your enemies aren’t going to be a bunch of lumbering idiots as they were before. It’s not impossibly difficult, but they won’t just stand by anymore while you lay into them, and if you stay in cover for too long they’ll try to flank you. I also don’t know now if every class is given access to a full arsenal of weapons, but it is given to each class, at least in the demo.

I’m ecstatic with the improvements they’ve made to the campaign in all areas, and can’t wait for the full game to come out.
Mass Effect 3 Campaign Demo – 5 out of 5

Now, the galaxy has just been thrust into war with an enemy the like of which no one except Shepard has ever seen before. The entire galaxy must do its part. There are some assets to be obtained, and some battles to be fought that Shepard cannot do. He can’t be everywhere at once. That is why this is the perfect time in the trilogy to introduce Multiplayer!

Multiplayer

You, for the first time, can run into battle as an Asari, Krogan, Turian, Drell, Salarian, or a Quarian, as well as a Human. You are initially only able to go out as a human, but as you continue to play, you earn unlockables including new weapons, upgrades, battle equipment, single use items, and new characters.

During the demo, you are only granted the ability to fight in two locations, and only against an enemy made up of Cerberus troops (hey, they have to leave something to surprise us in the full version). You are also only given a scaled down version of each of the character classes, and this is something that will remain in the full version of the game. What I mean by that is that each class is restricted to 3 already defined powers/skills and 2 weapons max at a time. Normally I would complain about this, but this actually streamlines the combat, and forces you to work as a team. Most of the time I play a games’ multiplayer, I end up playing as an individual on a team of individuals. Everyone tends to run off and do their own thing instead of working together. Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer forces to work with your team to accomplish your goals and survive through all 11 waves of increasing difficulty.

As I just mentioned, the multiplayer unfolds in waves of increasing difficulty. Each wave presents a random challenge to you. You could have to activate certain data points around the map where the player activating the point is left defenseless, needing a team member or two to guard him. You might have to perform a lengthy download on a small part of the map in which more team members in the download area mean a faster download time, but also restricts the area that you can fight from. In another scenario you might need to take down key enemies that have high defenses or come with their own entourage of other foes with them. This scenario forces you to focus your efforts and possibly expose your unfocused side to attack. You also might just have to simply eradicate all enemy forces from the area. No matter what you are faced with, everything is made infinitely easier when everyone decides to work together instead of fighting their own battles.

The only complaint I’ve heard from most people, and expressed myself is the item acquisition system. As you play through, you are awarded XP and money at the end of each engagement. You can buy two things with the money, a $5,000 box of goodies and a $20,000 box of goodies. In the more expensive box, you stand a much greater chance of getting some rare items, but it still comes down to chance, and acquiring new characters are extremely rare. I, personally, have wanted to have access to one particular human character, and out of a couple dozen purchases, I still have yet to get him. One solution I’ve heard to this problem are a greater variety of  goodie boxes to choose from, for example one that has higher chances of unlocking characters, and one that has higher chances for rare weapons. But hey, it’s a beta version, I’m sure that this is a problem that has been addressed.

I love that this multiplayer game forces people to actually act as a team, it adds more replay-ability and fun to a game type that can often times grow old pretty fast. It’s a nice change of pace from a lot of the other games out there with multiplayer variants.
Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer Demo – 4 out of 5

I’ll definitely give a review for the full game and its game types once it comes out, but I’ll probably be consumed with actually playing it for quite a while.

Keep your heads up, your minds sharp, and your hearts open.

– The Outlaw

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