“Quantum Break” is a flawed but enjoyable slice of hybrid entertainment

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We don’t cover video games on this site as much as we used to, but it’s difficult to ignore a title like “Quantum Break,” which was originally teased during the reveal of the Xbox One back in 2013. That’s because it’s unlike anything you’ve ever played before – a uniquely immersive experience that’s one part video game, one part live-action TV series. But to fully understand how the merging of these two mediums works, you first need to know what the game is about.

Set in a fictional Northeastern town that’s been overtaken by an enigmatic corporation known as Monarch Solutions, the story follows Jack Joyce (Shawn Ashmore), who returns home after years of trying to escape his past when he receives a cryptic message from his friend Paul Serene (Aiden Gillen) asking him to meet at Riverport University. It turns out that Paul has been secretly building a time machine, and with his investors threatening to pull the plug on the project, he needs Jack’s help to prove that it actually works. But when the experiment goes horribly wrong and causes a fracture in time, Jack and Paul are affected in different ways; Jack is granted the ability to manipulate time, while Paul can see into the future.

Forced to go on the run after he’s framed for the incident, Jack must team up with his physicist brother Will (Dominic Monaghan) and a Monarch security officer named Beth Wilder (Courtney Hope) to stop Paul – who has returned from the future a changed man – from exploiting the time fracture for his own personal gain. If that sounds incredibly ambiguous, that’s because saying any more would be wading into major spoiler territory.

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“Disney Infinity 3.0″ is the best installment yet

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Just like the Marvel Universe was a natural fit to headline last year’s edition of Disney’s “toys-to-life” video game franchise, it was a forgone conclusion that the “Star Wars” universe would play a key role in “Disney Infinity 3.0,” especially with the new film coming out later this year. But while George Lucas’ space adventure saga is undoubtedly the main draw, there’s a lot to love about the latest installment, which makes some big strides towards improving the game’s all-around experience, as well as its future potential.

1) Star Wars, Star Wars, Star Wars

“Star Wars” is sort of like the cinematic version of The Beatles – everyone likes it, but we all have our favorite movie/album and character/band member. Thankfully, that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the team at Disney Interactive. Though it’s a little strange that the original trilogy isn’t featured in the game’s official Starter Pack – instead, you get prequel characters Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano along with the “Twilight of the Republic” Play Set – Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia will be getting their own playable adventure (“Rise Against the Empire”) at the end of September. In addition to those four characters, you can purchase other figures individually, including fan favorites like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, Darth Maul, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, Boba Fett and most of the “Star Wars Rebels” crew, all of which are compatible with any “Star Wars”-themed Play Set.

Those with a PS4 or PS3 don’t even have to wait to play “Rise Against the Empire” thanks to an exclusive Saga Bundle that includes both Play Sets and an advanced copy of the Boba Fett figure, but if you’re in the Xbox One or Wii U camp, don’t fret, because “Twilight of the Republic” is still loads of fun. In fact, it’s a marked improvement upon the Avengers Play Set from “Disney Infinity 2.0,” with more exciting gameplay and improved combat mechanics, that basically operates like a greatest hits of locations and characters from the prequels and “Clone Wars” animated series.

2) Upgraded Toy Box features

One of the biggest complaints about previous iterations of the Toy Box was that, despite trumpeting all of the great things you can do with the software, it was incredibly confusing to use. Version 3.0 fixes most of those issues by including a central hub with specialized guides that help you along the way, as well as introduces some new tools, like farming crops that give your sidekicks abilities; a Path Creator that can be used to build theme park rides, parades and more; and a Toy Dispenser that provides instant access to toys you would otherwise have to unlock through gameplay. Additionally, there’s a new online matchmaking system located inside Flynn’s Arcade, as well as an in-game access point at the famous El Capitan Theatre for uploading and downloading customized Toy Boxes.

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Game Review: “Lost Planet 3″

Available for
Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3
Publisher
Capcom

There are two types of bad games. Those that try for something great and simply miss the mark, and those that just didn’t care at all and end up being the exact sum of their efforts. While “Lost Planet 3” is an example of the former, which is normally the better way to go, here it’s a frustrating case of a game with incredible potential not making the most of it.

Let’s back up a bit. “Lost Planet 3” is the return of a series that had its 15 minutes of fame during the Xbox 360 launch for featuring an impressive snow world that proved to be one of the initial examples of things that the 360 could do that wasn’t possible before.

Those amazing graphics, and some lightning fast gameplay, made the series stand out for a time, but its star faded only months after its release, and a 2010 follow-up did little to improve its standing, as it only emphasized the same elements and gameplay that by then had more than worn out their welcome.

That’s where new developer Spark Unlimited takes over for this third installment, and their designs to turn the series into something relevant are immediately apparent. A prequel to the initial games, renewed focused has now been placed on the plot, which may borrow liberally from movies like “Alien,” “The Thing,” “Starship Troopers” and other classic sci-fi staples, but is actually really, really good. Told through found audio and text logs, along with traditional cut scenes and environmental clues, it revolves largely around a new energy source on a hostile (and still very snowy) planet, and the trials your blue collar protagonist endures in his pursuit of it as a contract worker for a shady organization.

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Game Review: “Madden NFL 25″

Available for
Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3
Publisher
Electronic Arts

Even the most adamant of “Madden” fans don’t expect each new installment to be mind-blowingly original or reinvent the game of virtual football each time out, but with the series celebrating a landmark quarter century anniversary, you’d be forgiven if just this once you let those expectations be lifted in the hopes that “Madden 25” presents that significant leap forward that has eluded the franchise like cover boy Barry Sanders used to elude defenders.

If you are one of those that hoped the series would present an installment worthy of its biggest anniversary yet, then I’m sorry to tell you the short answer is, it doesn’t.

“Madden 25” continues where “Madden 13” left off, in that its main aim is to make the on-the-field part of the game more dynamic. Whereas “Madden 13” did that with a new physics engine, “Madden 25” adds precision modifiers, which allow you to pull off some enhanced moves in the run/after the catch play. Accomplished by using the left trigger or shoulder button at the optimal time, it’s a system that actually does benefit the running game tremendously and, for those willing to explore it, can create some pretty incredible highlight reel maneuvers, such as the ability to juke right after a spin and blow past multiple defenders. It’s reminiscent of the incredible “charge” ability in “NFL 2K5,” but with a flair all its own.

Off the field, the biggest addition (though it’s somewhat of a returning feature) is the Owner mode, which sees you take the role of owner and manage everything from soda costs to staff decisions. Like the precision modifiers, it’s a feature that benefits from some commitment and yields most of its entertainment from playing like a maniacal control freak a la Al Davis, making dangerously bold media comments that throw your staff under the bus or just saying screw it and moving the team to Portland, Oregon (FYI, my Oregon Hipsters are 2013 NFC champions). Considering you can still play your season in between the shenanigans, it’s actually my preferred franchise mode for the added options.

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Game Review: “The Bureau: XCOM Declassified”

Available for
Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC
Publisher
2K Games

The year is 1962, and in the midst of the Cold War, a new enemy has emerged in the form of alien invaders called the Zujari. With a covert military organization already in place to defend against an attack from the Russians, CIA special agent William Carter is recruited by the Bureau of Strategic Emergency Command and tasked with neutralizing the extraterrestrial threat without creating mass panic across the country. But while aliens and the 1960s seemingly go hand in hand, whether or not it makes for a great gaming experience is another question. Though “The Bureau: XCOM Declassified” looks pretty good for a title that’s been in development since 2006, it lacks the polish and quality that you’d expect from a studio like 2K Games.

Most of your time in the game is spent doing one of two things: going on field missions and running errands around Bureau HQ, the latter of which is mostly comprised of boring dialogue sequences that might not feel so laborious if any of it actually mattered. But despite a deceptively intricate storyline, most of the information you receive over the course of the campaign is supplemental at best, but generally just a big waste of time. Thankfully, the missions themselves are fun, although not incredibly difficult once you get a hang of things. Though there’s a bit of a learning curve at first (especially in regards to keeping your fellow agents alive), as your squad mates level up and receive increased health and new abilities, they become even more powerful than your enemies. Case in point: One of the big boss fights was practically over before I even had the chance to pull the trigger on my sweet alien grenade launcher.

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