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Champions Online Goes Free to Play



Champions Online's "Free-for-All" has gone live in the US and Europe. This update takes the super-heroic MMO to the free-to-play model, joining a growing list of titles like Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online. (Perks reserved for paying members, such as additional character slots, more costumes, character buffs, "Adventure Packs", and a per-diem of in-game currency.)

It remains to be seen how much this move will fend off the newly launched DC Universe Online, a head-to-head that's made more interesting by the fact that DCUO is not only subscription-based, but doesn't offer any sort of free trial. To up the ante, Cryptic has added in an extensive litany of patches designed to improve game-play and rework the UI. Cryptic's detailed break-out of all the changes can be found here, and a nice summary of main changes is over at Massively.

Currently my trusty PC (the 8-Bit Avenger) is chugging away on the download. As soon as I can dive in and try it out, I'll provide some first impressions on the update, and whether it looks like Cryptic can breathe new life into this franchise, or if they will just have a higher than normal number of 12 year olds making dick jokes.




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Freedom Force Revisited

Classic Cheap Games

This month sees the release of DC Universe Online and the conversion of Champions Online to a Free-to-Play model. So we here in the Classic Cheap Games corner of NinjaCamp thought it'd be fun to revisit a spiritual daddy to those titles: Irrational Games' 2002 release, Freedom Force.



Freedom Force was the game which broke the “superhero game curse”, as every major superhero video game previous had been canceled before release. The gameplay occurs in real-time, but the player is able to pause the game and issue orders. As such, it is also an interesting precursor to games such as Dragon Age:Origins or the King's Bounty franchise.


Freedom Force is a tribute to Silver Age Comics, and the visuals are specifically an homage to the art of Jack Kirby (even more specifically the “Cosmic Dot” era Kirby, but hey-- let's not get too geeky, right?). The voice acting is playfully over the top, with the heroes and villains all having distinct and enjoyable accents and quips, leaning heavily on the tropes and stereotypes of the vintage comics which fuel the game. The provided heroes have all your favorite superpowers, from flame-powered flight and superstrength to the ability to summon lightning from the sky. Freedom Force features destructible terrain, and stronger characters are able to pick up various parts of their their surroundings to wield against their enemies. There is something indescribably wondrous to the act of beating your enemies unconscious with a streetlight.


The player controls 1-4 heroes, selectable from a pool of Freedom Force members whose ranks swell as your team gains prestige for their heroic deeds. The initial missions are fun and straight-forward, giving the player plenty of time to get used to the “pause” nature of the game while ramping up the number of heroes and difficulty level. This delight fades a bit as the game's middle third is an interminable process of visiting repetitive level maps with slight variations of tasks. This might have been palatable if there was more lee-way on the the player's ability to impact the game world, but the player's only real input is in the resolution of combat, while things like story-arc and character development are strictly on rails. The final third of the game is a joy, however, and the game rediscovers its momentum with a real sense of resolution as we see clever levels with unexpected twists. While the middle of the game can be a bit of a slog, the end of the trip is well worth getting through it.


Multi-player & Character Creation

There is a multi-player option which feels tacked on at the last minute, but it's clunky and unpleasant enough that we'll just skip over it entirely, and instead move on to the far more interesting character creation. Freedom Force comes with a built-in character editor, allowing players to customize their own heroes or recreate their favorites from the comics. The custom heroes are able to be recruited and used on in-game missions. (The customization tools are intriguing enough that even 9 years after release, there is an active community of Freedom Force modders producing everything from custom meshes and skins to entire new campaigns and story arcs.) There is a wide variety of powers and combinations, enough that the designers seemed to want to use them as enticement for multiple play-throughs. Partly for this reason the single-player campaign is not designed to allow you to unlock all the characters' abilities.


Unless you cheat. Which brings us to...


Cheats and Walkthoughs

There are a number of documents to guide a player through the world of Freedom Force, but the definitive cheat sheet/walkthrough seems to be this one by simulacrum on ign. It contains a complete walkthrough, character descriptions, and console line tags, which are very helpful, especially if you want to play with all of the above-mentioned powers without multiple replays.


Summary

Freedom Force is a fun bit of retro superheroic escapism, a game where the designers' love of the source material comes through at every turn.

As a whole, the game gets 4 out of 5 severed thumbs of our enemies.

It and its sequel (2004's Freedom Force vs the Third Reich) are available on Steam, while the sequel alone is on GOG.com.

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KBX 2011 - He's climbing in yo windows...

The invitations have been sent, and the basas are bathing in the various virgin oils required by KielbasaCon lore.

If you didn't receive an invitation, it's most likely because you haven't honored us with your email address. You see that box in the top right-hand corner? Yeah...fill it out!

Can't attend the festivities? Well maybe you can flaunt your sausage pride with some exclusive KBX X Gear!


Either way, we love our Ninjas and hope to see you there!
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2010 Golden Sausage Awards!

The new year is finally upon us, and it's time for us to look back and honor the greatest games of 2010.

As always, these awards are desired by many, and awarded to few. They aim to commend the best of the best for any given year.Unlike other year-end awards, the Golden Sausage does not require the title to have been released during the year in review. Rather, NinjaCamp's crack team of video game experts simply must have played the game during the period. This is just one of the rules discussed at length in our rules document which you should read now...go ahead...I'll wait...any link is fine.

Furthermore, we can't just go around smacking everyone with a Golden Sausage. Thus we need a system of categories in which to properly honor our favorite games of the year. These simple categories, Game of the Year, Ultimate Pooper, Va-Jay-Jay Prime, Retro Revival and Fresh Beef, are again detailed on the linked page.

Now that all of that bullshit is out of the way, we can get right down to it! Join us in congratulating all of this year's Golden Sausage Winners!
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2010 Fresh Beef

2010 Golden Sausage Awards

Fruit Ninja
System: iOS | Release: 2010

Out of left field comes Fruit Ninja, Half Brick Studio's super successful iOS title. Last I checked, nobody was waiting for a game where your soul mission in life was to hack the living hell out of fruit, but Half Brick had a vision that certainly paid off.

In what I would consider one of the most fun, most polished iOS games, Fruit Ninja slashes into the mobile gaming market. What really helps to define the title is it's utter simplicity. Simply swipe your finger across flying fruit...brilliant!

You really can't explain the fruity fun, until you've tried it. The only negative about this game is the countless clones trying to muscle in on Half Brick's success. Just remember, the one you want is Fruit Ninja, the 2010 Bronze Golden Sausage : Fresh Beef winner!
League of Legends
System: PC | Release: 2010

League of Legends Is the full-scale follow up to the very popular Warcraft III mod, Defense of the Ancients. Unlike the traditional RTS that it was built on top of, League of Legends ditches the micro-management in lieu of a more simplified single hero system. This allows players to concentrate mostly on the fun aspect of the RTS game…the fighting.

Graphically, Riot Games has done an excellent job of both supporting older hardware and developing a colorful, fun look and feel.

Add in all sorts of power-ups, strategies, and heroes and you've got a fairly potent mix. The only thing that could make it better is free online play…which I has! Simply sign up and you can start playing your summoner right away!

Once you put it all together, you're looking at a shiny Silver Golden Sausage : Fresh Beef.

Super Meat Boy
System: XBOX 360, PC | Release: 2010

The 2010 Fresh Beef category couldn't possibly be complete without Super Meat Boy! Team Meat's gruelingly difficult platformer is as lovable as it is despicable.

The plot is simple...You're a fast moving meat pile trying to save your girlfriend (a bundle of bandages) from an evil fetus bent on world domination. You know...the whole, boy meets girl, girl meets meat, meat fights fetus story that's played out so frequently nowadays. Classic really.

Super Meat Boy pays homage to all eras of classic gaming, through interesting and twisted bonus levels along with tossing in a savory amount of popular indie game cameos.

Should you be looking for an excellent platformer, or a new reason to drill a hole in your head, I urge you to pick up a copy of Super Meat Boy the winner of the 2010 Gold Golden Sausage : Fresh Beef!

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2010 Va-Jay-Jay Prime

2010 Golden Sausage Awards

Metroid: Other M
System: WII | Release: 2010

Although it's not a game that your significant other will be dying to play, Metroid: Other M tells a story that the ladies are certain to love.

In this Metroid installment, Team Ninja works to define the character of Samus Aran in a way that's never been done before. By telling a story riddled with bad Japanese dialog, and worse acting...Metroid: Other M should have been an outright flop. But it isn't! Why? Because the gameplay is fun, and the story is women's powered enough to keep even the sternest of the honies satisfied.

Toss in the fact that upon completion of the game, the entire thing can be played back like your watching a two hour movie...I would be hard pressed not to give this one the Bronze Golden Sausage : Va-Jay-Jay Prime.
Kirby's Epic Yarn
System: WII | Release: 2010

Cute! Super Cute! OMG...CUTE! Yeah, that's what your lady friend is going to be yelling as she plays Kirby's Epic Yarn.

Kirby's Epic Yarn is a game designed from the ground up to ooze cuteness, and lady-playability. The game features a nice two player mode that doesn't impede upon the single player experience, along with a girl favorite...almost no difficulty.

Add two servings of collecting pointless items, and a dash of house decorating and you've got yourself a real va-jay-jay experience.

Best of all, it's entertaining for the mens too. OMG So Super Cuddly Cute! That's why Kirby's Epic Yarn wins the Silver Golden Sausage : Va-Jay-Jay Prime.


Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
System: PLAYSTATION 3 | Release: 2010

If my fiancée is any indication, the Uncharted series is the best thing to come to a va-jay-jay since my wang!

Featuring stunning visuals, epic story-lines and interesting puzzles, Naughty Dog's Uncharted 2: Among Thieves has everything needed to entertain the gamer and his bride.

Especially interesting is the fact that the ladies even like the multi-player online. I put a good 10-20 hours in, all the while my fiancée sat and enjoyed. I think it must be something to do with Nathan Drake's rugged good looks.

If you're looking for a nice way to say "Baby...I'm playing PlayStation tonight, and you will NOT be bitching about it" Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is your game. Because of this, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves wins the Gold Golden Sausage : Va-Jay-Jay Prime.
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2010 Ultimate Pooper

2010 Golden Sausage Awards

Super Mega Worm
System: iOS | Release: 2010

Starting off what is certainly everyone's favorite category, we have a little iOS game from Deceased Pixel called Super Mega Worm. Based on the title alone, you know you're in for a wild ride.

Super Mega Worm puts you in the drivers seat of a gigantic, ever growing, Super Mega Worm that's bent on the destruction of humanity. The game borrows it's styling and sound effects from the NES era, and it exceeds all expectations when it comes to fun factor.

Using the iOS Game Center, Super Mega Worm provides full-length potty-time entertainment. I assure you, you'll have to produce your very own Super Mega Worm should you desire a spot atop their high-score list. It's not for the feint of heart.

Amid cry's of "No...My Baby!" and plentiful explosions emerges the sure fire winner of the Bronze Golden Sausage : Ultimate Pooper.Infinity Blade
System: iOS | Release: 2010

On it's surface, it's the best looking iOS game to date. In the meaty center, it's a fantastic approach to "touch gaming" and all around mobile entertainment. Epic/ChAIR Entertainment's Infinity Blade will lead you on a repetitive journey through the Epic Citadel that you won't want to put down.

Infinity Blade puts you in the role of a humble warrior destined to die by the hand of The God King. Using elegant swipe based swordplay, you proceed through fight after fight, collecting all sorts of power-ups along the way. Ultimately, The God King is going to kill you, and take your soul...but honestly, the game is so good you won't even care!

With every death, comes a new life in the form of your character's 18-23 year old offspring whom, much like Sisyphus, is condemned to repeat the same task over and over again. Trust me, for some reason this is fun.

This game has raised the bar for the entire mobile gaming industry. Instead of pushing out a tech demo (like Rage HD) Epic and ChAIR produced a new standard for mobile gaming. Because of this, Infinity Blade is honored with the Silver Golden Sausage : Ultimate Pooper.Cut the Rope
System: iOS | Release: 2010

If you're looking for a game destined to extend your bathroom pleasure, look no further than ZeptoLab's Cut the Rope.

Cut the Rope is a cute and addictive puzzler that's certain to provide hours of entertainment for all ages. The goal is to simply deliver the candy to the Om Nom as fast as possible. The challenge is that all sorts of ropes, bubbles, spiders, etc. get in your way.

The game integrates with the iOS Game Center pitting you against the rest of the world in terms of time and success. Additionally, ZeptLabs has been pumping out free additional levels ever since the initial release.

Cut the Rope oozes style and polish, and certainly deserves this year's Gold Golden Sausage : Ultimate Pooper.
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2010 Retro Revival

2010 Golden Sausage Awards

Underworlds Ultimate Edition
System: iPad | Release: 2010

Pixel Mine's Underworlds Ultimate Edition is about as retro as you can get on a modern system...and guess what? It's perfect! If you love dungeon crawling, Diablo style, D&D influenced games, Underworlds Ultimate Edition is right up your alley.

Underworlds original release on the iPhone didn't quite cut the mustard. The small screen and limited control space, simply felt too cramped and twitchy. It's the iPad that really let this franchise shine.

You play as a simple guard of McTavish's Traveling Caravan who will soon discover that life isn't as easy as he thought. As Hell starts leaking out and causing all sorts of trouble, you're forced to kick it's ass right back into place.

By hacking and slashing though dungeon after dungeon, players are gifted with all sorts of power-ups and items. Although the game lacks the significant character model updates, that I like so much in my RPGs, it remains very entertaining.

Underworlds Ultimate Edition has exactly the right formula to be honored with the Bronze Golden Sausage : Retro Revival.Pac-Man Championship Edition DX
System: XBOX 360, PLAYSTATION 3 | Release: 2010

I don't know how they do it, but Namco keeps packing more fun into this 30 year old title. Just when I had thought Pac-Man Championship Edition was about the best you could do with the aging game, Namco delivers yet another improvement on the original.

This time around, the ghosts aren't taking shit from anyone! Rather than just having the four standard ghosts, Pac-Man CE DX ups the ante by sending hundreds of ghosts to stop your evil yellow pie face. Players get to "kite" a ghost train around the entire level, waiting for the right time to strike. Oh, and when it's time...it's time! Eating 200 ghosts in a row provides a pleasure that even my right hand isn't capable of producing.

In addition to the soul train, Pac-Man is now armed with bombs that can get him out of tricky situations. Couple that with a great Pac-techno soundtrack and you're in business.

As far as I know, Pac-Man CE DX is the definition of Retro Revival. That's why Pac-Man CE DX wins the Silver Golden Sausage : Retro Revival.Castlevania: Harmony of Despair
System: XBOX 360 | Release: 2010

Multi-player Castlevania? It's almost as if Konami reached into my 13 year old brain and pulled out a vision of what Castlevania should become.

Castlevania: Harmony of Despair ads an online, role-playing element to a title that was never destined for such greatness. With an ever evolving cast of characters and new castles coming ever couple of months, Harmony of Despair breaths new life into an aging classic.

Graphically, things stay about the same as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Except, for the fact, that you can zoom out to a view that only modern HD TVs can handle, Harmony of Despair does little to advance the pixelated creatures of yore. Additionally, the gameplay is relatively untouched.

What really sets the game apart for it's ancestors is it's ability to incorporate six player co-op so elegantly. It's only once you play the game online that you can realize it's true magic.

With endless equipment and skill upgrades, the game is certain to keep you entertained for hours on end. That's why Castlevania: Harmony of Despair wins this year's Gold Golden Sausage : Retro Revival!
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2010 Game of the Year

2010 Golden Sausage Awards

Halo Reach
System: XBOX 360 | Release: 2010

Another year, another obligatory Halo title...but wait, this one is good! Building on the concepts outlined in Eric Nylund's excellent "Halo: The Fall of Reach" book, Bungie was able to hit it out of the park with their "last" Halo game.

Graphically, they've reached an all new high-point with visuals that are sure to knock your cock off. This is far and away one of the best looking Xbox 360 titles, along with being one of the most perfect. The game's level of polish is second to none when considering some of the other garbage I've seen this year. Bungie seems to really take their time, and make certain that their games don't fall to ugly clipping mistakes, and cheap 3d models.

The story, and acting are also treated with the same level of perfection. Like others in the series, this title does a great job of drawing you in and keeping you asking "what's next?"

Last but not least, Halo Reach provides a fantastic environment for infinite online play. Yet again Bungie one-upped everyone else in the industry by crafting a fantastic online community around their Halo series starting with the third installment. By utilizing their Bungie.net platform once again, gamers are treated to a near unlimited amount of real-time stats and performance tracking.

When you look at the package as a whole, you're clearly talking Sausage! That is why, Halo Reach is honored with the 2010 Bronze Golden Sausage : Game of the Year!

World of Warcraft : Cataclysm
System: PC,MAC | Release: 2010

What's left to be said about the most successful online gaming franchise of all time? Not a whole lot...in fact, simply reviewing the Cataclysm expansion wouldn't even do it justice. What I'm left with after searching for the greatest games of 2010 is the question "is it fun?" With that, I can answer yes...in spades.

The real challenge for Cataclysm was to keep the World of Warcraft ship sailing, not to re-design the whole vessel. However, rather than sitting at the top of their money pile and releasing yet another basic addon, Blizzard felt the need to rebuild the whole thing.

Cataclysm really works because it makes World of Warcraft new again. If you've ever considered playing the game, now is the time to start. It almost feels like the game has been given new life from every angle.

Thus, it's only fitting for World of Warcraft: Cataclysm to be honored with the Bronze Golden Sauasage : Game of the Year!

God of War III
System: PLAYSTATION 3 | Release: 2010

2010's golden boy had to be God of War III. Santa Monica Studios was firing on all cylinders when they green lighted this thing, and I couldn't be happier.

As with previous God of War titles, God of War III doesn't fall short on any of it's attributes. Graphically, it's probably the best PlayStation 3 game to date. Audibly, it's spectacular, rich with the sounds of bones snapping and tendons tearing. Oratorically, (ya, I just used that word) it continues the tradition of telling a great story using great voice acting.

My only gripe about the game is that it "ends" the series. At least until Santa Monica Studios once again needs to press the money button.

All in all, God of War III has a little something for everyone...except extremely religious people of course. That is why God of War III has been honored with the Gold Golden Sausage : Game of the Year.