Shacknews - Steve Watts

Assassin's Creed 3 is getting a large patch next week, aimed at fixing a whole host of issues and softening some of the game's rough edges. It includes balance adjustments for the multiplayer modes, tones down the challenge on some single-player missions, and brings bug fixes to both.

The lengthy patch notes detail the changes, but you may want to be careful for spoilers. A few non-spoilery highlights include a fix to the loss streak trigger, equal points distributed for a tied match, and warm up games no longer being interrupted when the host player leaves. It also fixed some potential bugs and exploits in the single-player, and made the chase sequences a little less frustrating. If you've been there, you know the ones. On the Xbox 360, the patch will remove the PS3-exclusive Benedict Arnold mission marker, which presumably just didn't trigger anything.

The patch is expected to hit sometime around the end of next week, hence the "Thanksgiving" tag. So you can spend the holidays thankful that your chase sequences are no longer broken.

Shacknews - Garnett Lee and Andrew Yoon

Note: Portions of this review have been republished from our review of Mass Effect 3 played on Xbox 360.

For many Nintendo fans, Mass Effect 3: Special Edition is not the end of trilogy--it is the first foray into BioWare's compelling sci-fi franchise. Whereas many players have spent countless hours customizing their Shepard, building alliances, and recruiting (and losing) squad mates along the way, Wii U players must jump into the Mass Effect universe unequipped with this knowledge, this personal connection.

BioWare's concession is Genesis 2, an updated version of the interactive prequel comic that shipped with the PS3 version of Mass Effect 2. This choose-your-own-adventure has the daunting task of summarizing not only the first game, but the larger second game as well. Given the sheer amount of content that needs to be covered, it's unsurprising that the comic does a poor job of summarizing the games, reducing memorable decisions into simple, broad "Yes or No" questions.

While the key decisions of the original Mass Effect are kept intact in Genesis, not enough time is spent covering the story of Mass Effect 2. The sequel tasked Shepard with recruiting a team for a "suicide mission." Your readiness for the final mission was determined by the allegiances you could secure. And unfortunately, instead of providing quick overviews of these individual loyalty missions, Genesis sums up the entire experience in one minute, asking players "do you want to help your team?" What fool would say "no?"

Oddly, Genesis doesn't offer any content featured in Mass Effect 2's DLC. That means characters like Zaeed are completely absent, and the significant decisions made in Lair of the Shadow Broker are unavailable to the player. This omission makes your eventual encounter with Liara in Mass Effect 3 much less powerful, and flat-out confusing for series newcomers. If Genesis' goal is to make you feel connected to the universe, it fails.

Genesis 2 does a poor job of summarizing the first two games

Once you get past the disappointing Genesis comic, Mass Effect 3 starts off with a bang and then hits a strong stride that ebbs and flows to allow tension to build and releases, but at an ever increasing level of intensity. The central storyline can be followed without distraction, but the side missions that are worked in naturally provide just the right pacing and all add meaningful development to the plot. Even the exploration element of the game better contributes to the core game this time out, though it still becomes tedious at times.

Mass Effect 3 also completes the evolution of the game into a sophisticated hybrid of role-playing and action. Combat lives up to top-tier third-person-shooter standards every bit as well as the character and narrative systems reflect the best of RPGs. The blend of ballistic weapons, tech skills, and magic-like biotic powers has become seamless. They are all balanced near perfectly to one another, making it a tactical pleasure developing squadmates to fulfill combat roles and then executing with them in game.

Taking advantage of the Wii U GamePad also expands upon the tactical depth of the game. Perhaps the best addition afforded by the tablet is the ability to precisely draw paths for your AI squadmates to follow. Partner AI has never been remarkable in the game, so being able to take cover and command your AI team to flank enemies is surprisingly useful. In addition, you can map abilities to the touch screen. I found myself using the GamePad far more often than I expected: drawing a path for one teammate, tapping a biotic power, and then running into a flanking position.

The GamePad augments the combat experience in a non-intrusive way. While I appreciated the added functionality, many players will be perfectly fine playing with just the Pro Controller. The tablet serves almost no function in the rest of the game--disappointing, because there are so many other opportunities where the GamePad could have enhanced the game: a better Codex and a better resource-scanning experience are just two ideas off the top of my head.

Mass Effect 3 also offers a four-player co-op multiplayer mode. The "horde mode" concept of teaming up with others to hold off waves of enemies brings out the best in the overlapping support capabilities of the different classes in the game. The extra kicker comes from the connection that factors playing co-op missions into the campaign giving it that extra addictive quality from a sense of accomplishing something every time I play a match. Do note that the Wii U version does not connect with either the Datapad or Mass Effect Infiltrator, companion apps that contributed to the "Galaxy at War" system on other platforms.

While newcomers may not have the same personal connection to their Shepard that longtime players will, Mass Effect 3: Special Edition still has a lot to offer. It melds the story progression of the first game with the improved combat engine of the second to create a game that achieves more than just the sum of those two parts. While an intimidating entry into the series, Mass Effect 3 is a solid game, one made even better with the Wii U GamePad.

This Mass Effect 3: Special Edition review was based on a retail Wii U version of the game provided by the publisher. Portions of this review are based on a retail Xbox 360 version of the game also provided by the publisher. Online functionality could not be tested on Wii U, as Nintendo Network was unavailable before publishing. For this review, online impressions are based on the Xbox 360 version of the game, and are expected to remain identical.

Shacknews - Jeff Mattas

On today's spirited episode of Weekend Confirmed, Garnett Lee and "Indie" Jeff Mattas are joined by Insomniac's James Stevenson and Marcus Beer from Invisible Walls. X-COM: Enemy Unknown gets a healthy dose of love from the crew, and the polarizing nature of Assassin's Creed 3--particularly its opening hours--gets discussed. The gaming scrutiny continues with some talk about Halo 4 and the legacy of 007, before everything gets wrapped up with Finishing Moves and the post-show TailGate.

Weekend Confirmed Ep. 139: 11/16/2012

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If you're viewing this in the GameFly application, you can play Weekend Confirmed Episode 139 directly.

Weekend Confirmed comes in four segments to make it easy to listen to in segments or all at once. Here's the timing for this week's episode:

    Show Breakdown:

    Round 1 - 00:00:36 - 00:30:31

    Whatcha' Been Playin Part 1 - 00:31:10 - 00:56:55

    Whatcha Been Playin Part 2 00:57:32 - 01:29:00

    Listener Feedback/Front Page News/Finishing Moves - 01:29:34 - 01:57:35

    Tailgate - 01:58:17 - 02:05:55

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Garnett Lee @GarnettLee

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James Stevenson @JamesStevenson

Marcus Beer @AnnoyedGamer

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Original music in the show by Del Rio. Get his latest Album, Club Tipsy on iTunes. Check out more, including the Super Mega Worm mix and other mash-ups on his ReverbNation page or Facebook page, and follow him on twitter @delriomusic.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

A gathering of the world's finest StarCraft 2 and World of Warcraft Arena players are fighting to the virtual death at Blizzard's own World Championship this weekend. While the event is both in China and sold out, perhaps making it a little tricky for you to attend, the action will be streamed live in HD for free.

Thirty-two StarCraft 2 players who qualified in tournaments around the world will be fighting for the grand prize of $100,000, and ten 3v3 WoW Arena teams are after $105,000. Runners-up get some cash too, but they're simply glorified losers. On the side, two top WoW guilds will be racing to finish the Mists of Pandaria raid Mogu'shan Vaults for glory.

The action will be streamed here from 6pm PST tonight. Check the schedule for more.

Observe, a fluffy trailer that has moving pictures and stuff I guess:

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Hitman: Absolution is just around the corner, and Square Enix is drawing its promotional blitz to a close with the final launch trailer. It's full of quick cuts to the story, some token murders, and even the controversial "sexy nuns."

The game is due out next Tuesday for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. Check out the trailer below to see Agent 47's closing arguments.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

The pay-what-you-want Humble Android Bundle #4 was already a pretty flipping great offer, and now it's ludicrously so. As is customary, Humble Bundle has boshed in a whole load more multiplatform games for those who pay above the average price, namely Canabalt, Cogs, Zen Bound 2, Avadon: The Black Fortress, and Swords & Soldiers HD.

Everyone who bought the bundle before the additions will receive the five games returning from Humble Android Bundle #2, no matter what they paid, but anyone who wants them now will need to beat the average.

Given that Android Bundle #4 already offered Superbrothers: Swords & Sworcery EP, Eufloria, Crayon Physics Deluxe, Waking Mars, Splice and, for those who beat the average, Machinarium, it's a damn fine deal. All of the games come for PC, Mac, Linux and Android, and most come with Steam keys if you pay at least $1.

The bundle will come off sale next Friday. Hit the Humble Bundle site to buy it.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Nintendo made the Wii U's TVii functionality a big part of its E3 presentation this year, but don't expect to have it right out of the box. In a fact sheet in preparation for this weekend's system launch, the company confirmed that both the TVii and Video On Demand services won't be available until sometime in December.

The TVii feature, which lets you browse TV shows and set preferences according to your Mii profile, explicitly mentions a December release date. Video on Demand apps like Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant Video, are slated for release "in the coming weeks" -- which, given a late November release, also probably means December. Once the VOD apps release, their content will be sorted into the TVii menus alongside standard television.

If you connect your Wii U to the Internet, you'll get a notification when these options become live. But if you were hoping to show off all the bells and whistles of your new console after the Thanksgiving parade, you'll have to scuttle those plans.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

You might be among the lucky ones to snag a Wii U this weekend, and our own Andrew Yoon claims New Super Mario Bros U is a must-have for the system. But if you marathon through the game as soon as you get it, don't worry. More courses are on the way.

In the latest Iwata Asks, producer Takashi Tekuza said that they are currently planning "additional courses." Nintendo president Satoru Iwata then clarified that he was referring to downloadable content similar to what the company did for New Super Mario Bros 2.

"We're trying to think of ways of play that are different from New Super Mario Bros. 2, but we haven't made anything yet!" he said. "The mechanism for adding courses is already there, so please stand by for an update on what they'll be like."

Pricing wasn't announced for the packs. On the 3DS, they cost $2.50 apiece, but new stages for a full HD console title would probably be a bit more.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Activision has gone over the launch-day figures for the latest Call of Duty game and once again declared the latest instalment the biggest-selling yet. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 sold-through an estimated $500 million in its first 24 hours on sale, according to data from market research firm Chart-Track and its own internal sources. You may personally be growing tired of annualised Call of Duty sequels, but the world certainly isn't.

"With first day sales of over half a billion dollars worldwide, we believe Call of Duty is the biggest entertainment launch of the year for the fourth year in a row," Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick declared in this morning's announcement. "Life-to-date sales for the Call of Duty franchise have exceeded worldwide theatrical box office receipts for 'Harry Potter' and 'Star Wars,' the two most successful movie franchises of all time."

Last year's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 made $400 million in the first 24 hours, while the original Black Ops raked in $360 million in 2010, and Modern Warfare 2 made $310 million the year before that. Launch-day excitement continues to grow at a steady pace, then.

As a point of comparison, Halo 4 made $220 million in sales in its 24 hours, though of course it's a single-platform game. Retailer GameStop declared that the biggest launch of the year only a few days ago, but that didn't last long.

"Call of Duty has become more than a product people buy, it's a brand people buy into," Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg added in the announcement, which really is a bit of an unpleasant thing to boast about. "And every November we do more than just the launch of a game, we kick off an annual, unofficial but worldwide phenomenon called the Call of Duty season."

Cod Blops 2 hit PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on Tuesday, and arrives for Wii U alongside the console's launch on Sunday. Check out our review of its single-player campaign or, if you're a grumpy naysayer, this Doom 2 mod poking fun at modern linear FPSs may be more up your alley.

Shacknews - John Keefer

We knew Mr. Torgue was coming as DLC for Borderlands 2, but now we know that his Campaign of Carnage will hit on November 20 and will cost $10 (or 800 MS points). It will be free of course if you have the Season Pass.

Apparently, the DLC will have some new Torgue currency to go with it to be used to purchase gear from the incredibly loud and boisterous weapon manufacturer, according to the 2K blog. And it is all taking place in an area known as the Baddass Crater of Badassitude. Not surprising based on messages from Torgue's hijacked Twitter feeds from yesterday.

The timing also falls in line with the release of Borderlands 2 on Mac, although still no word on if the DLC and Mechromancer class will be available at launch.