Feb 25, 2009

Lamenting and Lost Planet 2

I would say that I'm disappointed in myself for a lack of time lately, but holy crap, have I had a lot to do.

To keep in short and sweet - Yes, I have Killzone 2, I haven't even cracked it open yet and am hating every second of that fact.

Lost Plantet 2 - Do want.

And this.

I'm hoping for a chance for a longer dissertation later.

Tick tock tock tick

P.S. Have some Noby Noby Boy!

Feb 24, 2009

Reboot My Heart

I know Killzone 2 comes out this week and I'm among the many who are anticipating it. I played Killzone, I played Killzone: Liberation and I really enjoyed the hell out of both. Granted, Killzone was never the 'Halo-killer' that Sony marketing wanted it to be, but that didn't mean it still didn't measure up as a respectable and fun first person shooter. But sometimes, when a series has had its timeline go on for far too long, the power-move of many designers now seems to be the reboot. The fucking reboot. Film wise, after Batman & Robin with Arnold, Uma and the contemptable Alicia Silverstone, Batman needed the reboot and Batman Begins along with The Dark Knight were incredibly well done, making me feel closer to the Batman franchise than the campy films ever could. While there are times this is necessary, I'm unsure how to respond to the news that Capcom may be rebooting the Resident Evil franchise. I'm not saying that it's going to be more squalor than a Calcutta alley in the summer, what I am saying it that among the Resident Evil faithful, there are going to be a few dissenting voices among the crowd. Even more than that, I would agree that it is time that the series got itself a makeover. Yes, Resident Evil 5 looks gorgeous, positively more beautiful than Jesus sunning himself on the beach, but for the casual audiences and those who will be now coming into the franchise via this title expecting a game that'll play like Halo, Killzone or even Dead Space; they will be sorely disappointed. And I think that's a good thing. I've always considered Resident Evil to be a thinking man's survival-horror series. Yes, there are alternatives, like Silent Hill and Fatal Frame, but when you need to either figure out how you are going to fight or run like hell, that's when you have a game worth remembering on your hands. I remember the first time I played Resident Evil on the Playstation, after having only played Doom and The 7th Guest as games I considered somewhat-spooky, RE with it's at times shameless horror flick tactics succeeded in scaring the living hell out of me the first time I played. But even years later, the polish is still there. The Gamecube iterations, in my opinion with refined graphics and tight controls, are perhaps the definitive offerings for the series. I'm curious how a reboot would evolve, and I feel its something worth following, because after all the convoluted years of following the insidious deeds of the Umbrella Corporation, where can Resident Evil go? I'm hoping for something that does further flesh out Umbrella or even allow players to take on the role of another UCBCS mercenary! There are numerous ways they can go, I have my imagination full of ideas, but for now I'm going to kick back and wait to see what Resident Evil 5 is going to serve me up like a finely removed head served up on a platter of doom.

On the MMO front, it seems the marathon is finally getting to Conan. I'm not pleased or displeased, it's a rather apathetic feeling as I was never really intrigued with the Conan mythos or any prospect of being able to play online. However, I've heard the stories about how Funcom lured players in with a pretty start, voice acting and the whole nine yards, only to hold the player down and rape them in the face upon completing the, for all intents and purposes, trial area. Funcom essentially dropped the ball, screwed the pooch, fucked up. Really, however you want to paint that horse, it still equates to the same thing, after level 20, you might as well quite and go back to WoW, EVE, Guild Wars, Everquest, really whatever you were playing prior will do quite nicely as Funcom already had your money and no one is going to want to grind all the way up on Mobs from level 20 - 80, seriously, unless you're a Chinese Gold Farmer, this is a serious mindfuck that Funcom dumped on those playing like a truckload of dead fish. So, it should come as no surpirse that the financial loss that is currently mounting against Funcom may lead to a reduction of servers, or even a shuttering of AoC itself. Despite never being captivated enough by Conan to leave Azeroth for what could surely have been an enjoyable romp (for at least 20 levels), for all of you faithfuls out there, I hope for your sake that Conan doesn't go the way of Tabula Rasa. But, should that happen, just remember, there's always enough room in Azeroth.

Speaking of apathy, The US Court of Appeals has ruled that California law legislated by the Governator has been declared unconstitutional. For those of you over 18 and most likely didn't care:

The California law passed in 2005 that would have restricted the sale of violent video games to anyone under the age of 18."

Now for those you not keeping score, this isn't the first time this legislation has been attempted. I can understand penalties, fines, and being a partial product of the public school system, all manner of government-instituted torture, however, it borders on nanny-state mentality that creates the kind of precious little snowflakes that are almost terrified to convert oxygen to carbon dioxide without a good hug and hand holding from mommy and daddy. Ultimately, isn't it up to the parent to supervise what exactly their children watch, play and do? Since when did it become stylish to take a hands off policy in raising goddamn kids? Anyway, I feel this is, on some level, a victory for tax payers given how much Arnie has blown of his states funds on this and would absolutely love to watch the state of California try to get an appeal to the Supreme Court, sheerly because I haven't had a good laugh yet today.

As an intermission, I would like to say, I believe Quake Live would be awesome - If I actually was able to play it.

Update: The Half-Life 2 short I posted previously (see below) has an addendum, per Kotaku, illustrating how they spent the $500 dollars of production money. I can't wait for part 2.

Missing watching Reboot

Feb 23, 2009

Pants blown off by Street Fighter IV

It's not really a question of whether or not you like Street Fighter IV as a franchise; it's whether or not you like fighting games as a whole. Originally in 2D and remembered by anyone who has ever had the pleasure to feel the thrill of the arcade controls in hand from casual to hardcore players alike. Standing head and shoulders above its predecessors - Street Fighter IV is already proving itself worthy of the hype that has been lauded upon it. But without a disseminating and exhaustive history of the franchise, which I'm sure you'd get bored with before I could get to the end, I will suffice to say that I'm filled with more glee than a Japanese cosplayer (who is, of course, playing someone filled with glee) that Capcom was capable of reinvigorating the series without reinventing the wheel.

Before you begin the game, the first thing clearly noticeable is the new art style. Differing vastly from previous entries into the series, any suppositions I had quickly evaporated as the soundtrack, which depending on who you ask falls on either side of the spectrum from epic to the deepest end of fail, boomed. I soon entered my first match as my all-time favorite character, Blanka. On medium difficulty, the game is a nice refresher for players returning after an extended sabbatical, much like myself. However, even on medium as with most Capcom titles, the challenges are still somewhat apparent, not leaving a beginner/intermediate gamer feeling like they are dealing with a complete pushover. The presented challenges egg the player on to attempt moving up to higher difficulties and with in-between settings like 'medium hard' conveniently tucked between 'medium' and 'hard' it affords those players easily intimidated or those doubting their abilities to move up slowly without fear of being exponentially stomped upon by the CPU-controlled characters. This isn't without good reason as spiking difficulty, from observational experience, is a primary reason in most players walking away from a title. On hard, Street Fighter doesn't suddenly become impossible, but when you select a difficulty, you get what you ask for, in most respects, and the game does not curb itself on what it asks of you skillwise. Regardless whether you feel kicked in the teeth at one point or another, the game will keep you coming back for more.

For something that seems to drag me back continuously, I really am not flush full of gripes. Ultimately, having played Street Fighter II and, I confess, a bit cautious about the iterations in between then and the current incarnation I don't believe I can truly be blamed for stepping away, lest the time and love I invested in Street Fighter II, which I'm overjoyed to have on my Wii's Virtual Console, be shattered by some half-hearted attempt, potentially breaking my passion. Graphically, the game satisfies the usual rabid hunger I have to see a good and strong attempt at artistry, which Street Fighter exceeds with it gorgeously unique visual style, having endured the test of time and transition to 3D quite well. But I digree. My only true issue about SFIV is after usually one match on 'hard' against the computer-controlled fighters I could discern basic fighting patters right out of the gate. Granted, this is a gripe thicker with minutia than E. Honda at a buffet, but occasionally tripped up and am satisfied that patterns are really no place to be found on higher difficulties.

The shining glimmer of SFIV is the head-to-head in Arcade, very much like Street Fighter II before it, fighting another player never feels arduous or forced. The fluidity when two experienced, evenly matched fighters shimmer through giving anyone watching a variety show worth of entertainment. Arcade mode, utilizing a persistant network connection allows players over Xbox Live or the Playstation Network to challenge those playing at any time, a feature which can be disabled, but for all intents and purposes recreates the feeling of being back in the arcade, having to defend your place with skill or quarters. Incredibly, I do find myself coming back for more even after having my ass completely handed to me by Seth on hard, besting all attempts for the better part of an hour, which makes me wonder how many hours of my life I lost going back to SFII; but I can always look back knowing not a single lost hour was ever wasted.

Replayability that'll keep gamers going for years to come (or until Street Fighter 5 is released) there is no limit to the potential SFIV can have in the future with support from Capcom via DLC; combine that with a strong fan-community and that's when a game no longer is something you play and becomes a part of video game lore, generational pop culture and the players themselves.

Dumptruck to the face Seth, take it!

Feb 20, 2009

Indeed a Distrubing Universe

I'm a Halo fan. Yes. Not one of those Madden-playing, spiked-hair, hat-crooked wearing idiot Halo fans you see trying to cheat and achievement-whore their way to the top of the fucking leader boards, but a big enough Halo fan to play through all three on Legendary for kicks, and I assure you, I always got my kicks. That being said, I have been playing through the Halo Wars demo for a few days now, taking a break to retry the other demos currently out like Resident Evil 5, Death Tank and Hawx, just to name a few. Consistently though, I find myself going back to Halo Wars. Now, I'm obviously excited for each title with different reasons in mind. Halo Wars is built from the ground up by Ensemble Studios. You remember the one-trick-pony that could do that one trick really well? That's Ensemble - Few studios could take Real-time strategy and do what the now-defunct studio did. Taking what they learned developing the Ages of Empires franchise into a powerhouse and translating that ability to Halo Wars, not just creating something for a pc and porting it, the fare is pretty well. The controls strike me as being solid and the units special abilities really do stand out as being unique and fun to utilize, especially when my Warthogs crash into a group of Covenant. But, what is further exceptional is taking the lore and universe established by Bungie and running with it in a way that will hopefully deter the less skillful one-trick-pony FPS players from dipping into Halo Wars. The meat of the game really does come from the potential for multiplayer, lore expansion as well as the overall gameplay that does strike me as being readily accessible to a more vast crowd than just the people who have only played Halo, and while many will be disappointed that it isn't another shooter - I think many will be overjoyed with what how the last project Ensemble ever worked on turned out. Personally, next week can't get here fast enough for me, which at that time I'll try to get through it as fast as possible for an exhaustive review.

Shifting gears slightly abruptly, Street Fighter IV has now shipped/sold 2 million+ copies and I can't really blame those gamers wanting to play it. But, for those of you who forgot, there is also a live-action Street Fighter movie in the works and that's what has me troubled. As I've stated before, what Hollywood suit believes, honestly, that films have gotten to the point where great films/franchises can be carved out of both video games and movies. You see, both industries are entirely different, with the artists and the hacks, you can't force the two into the same pool or you have people drowning in shit. What pisses me off is that directors who come out and say they don't play games or take creative liberties on the source material are already setting themselves up for failure, and even more than that, completely and utterly pissing off the gaming community they originally sought to sell movie tickets to. And yes, there are good films that have come from video games, at least one - and vice versa. But think about what's out there and the potential money Hollywood sees to make off the gaming culture with a fast hack job of a film. I mean, if I wanted to watch crap thrown for hours on end, I'd drive down to the Brookfield Zoo and chill out in the Monkey house with my laptop. But, what doesn't bode well at all for the Street Fighter film is the fact that they won't allow a critic screening. It seems that they have this belief that if someone can't tell the masses the film is crap before everyone realizes that it's crap, then they can peddle said crap for at least an opening weekend and recoup the eventual loss that is surely to occur prior to shuffling this bit of trash onto a blu-ray dvd somewhere. If some people in the film industry and some people in the game industry would remove their heads out of their asses for about fifteen minutes and stop believing in peddling cheap wares for the sake of the almighty dollar, perhaps we, the masses, could have a creative, intriguing and generally well received film. Doubtful though, seeing as Uwe Boll, who really needs to retire to somewhere he belongs like the inside of a volcano or the center of the fucking sun, continues to churn out films and considers receiving razzies a distinct honor. In the meantime, Hollywood, keep trying to give me something video game oriented worth watching, and I'll watch it.

Finally, I'm just going to leave a DSi launch video and a DS vs. DSi internet comparison here and let those speak for themselves.

In the meantime, if anyone is looking for a new shirt by the way, I suggest you look here.

Finally, as usual, I must apologize for the lack of posts, with a wedding last week and review week here at work, it's been a lot busier than usual. Hopefully I can get back on my schedule in due time. But, until then, keep playing hard.

PC Load Letter?!

Feb 18, 2009

Two Sequels with none of the disappointment

Smaller, thinner, and supposedly lighter than it's ancestor the DS Lite, the new DSi is most certainly shaping up to be the hottest little sister of the 3 handhelds...oh wait...I'm reading something else entirely. While I'm glad this isn't any sort of impending April Fool's joke on the part of Nintendo, I can't help but demonstrate a type of cautious optimism for what there is in store for the Nintendo faithful. Yes, I'm almost certain that the legions of children either ignorant of the previous Game Boy Advance generation or simply uncaring of anything less than cutting edge fun will be more than enthused by what the DSi is promising.

The Nintendo DSi is about 12% thinner (2.6 mm) than the DS Lite, had two VGA (.3 Megapixel) digital cameras; one on the internal hinge pointed towards the user and the second one in the outer shell as well as larger screens (3.25 inches, instead of the previous 3 inches) and improved speakers. The power switch has been replaced with a power button similar to the original Nintendo DS, but it is now located next to the bottom left side of the touchscreen. The DSi has five brightness settings compared to the DS Lite's four; however, battery life is reduced to 14 hours on the lowest brightness setting compared to the 19 hours of its predecessor. The internal rechargeable battery can still be replaced by the user at the end of its useful life of (typically) several hundred charge/discharge cycles.

Furthermore, the DSi is now capable of is used for external storage of pictures and downloaded Nintendo software as well as AAC audio format files.

Nintendo stated that in order to improve the portability without sacrificing durability, the front slot for GBA titles as well as DS titles that utilize the slot such as Guitar Hero and Pokemon Diamond/Pearl has been removed, however, the photos taken can be synchronized with the Wii Photo Channel, which I'm imagining won't be a superb amount of consolation for a few DS owners out there.

Similar to the PSP and Nintendo's own Wii console, the DSi has upgradable firmware; a first for a Nintendo handheld system. All existing flash cards for the DS and subsequently the DS Lite are incompatible with the DSi, but DSi compatible flashcards are now being produced - the first one was created by Acekard. Whether they will/can be locked out by future firmware updates remains to be seen.

It has been reported that the DSi utilizes region locking for most, if not all, DSi-specific software, since it provides Internet services tailored individually for each region, however, the DSi itself does not have region lock-outs, so Nintendo DS games from any region can be played. Additionally, the DSi uses rating-based parental-controls, which differ by country. The WPA and WPA2 support is not backward compatible with original DS games. Only DSi services can use

Tech Specs

Nintendo has also improved some of the DSi's hardware (compared to the DS Lite), such as the main CPU and the RAM.

  • CPUs: Two processors. The main processor is an ARM9 clocked at 133MHz, a significant upgrade from the original 67MHz ARM9 processor that was in the DS and DS Lite. The co-processor is the same as the previous generations, a 33MHz ARM7 processor.
  • RAM: 16 MB of RAM (Four times that of previous DS models)
  • Storage: 256 MB of internal Flash memo
  • Wireless: 802.11 internet wireless connectivity
Finally and most importantly, the DSi shop will allow users to browse and buy new titles for their DSi and have the same varying price points as the Wii Shop Channel. The DSi will be retailing for $169.99 in North America on April 5, 2009.

Fiercerly hitting like a Hadoken and blowing non-believers away, Street Fighter IV has been released to a relative great fanfare in the United States as of Tuesday. Having had a few hours already with it, I can't necessarily grant my full opinion, but I'm already having a fun time and am reminded for the first time in a long time that when a game difficulty says "Hard" it means it. It's been a breath of fresh air so far and I can't wait to get some more playing time in with it. Above, as you can see, is my favorite fighter since the forlorn days of Street Fighter II, Blanka. In the meantime, cool your heels, get some play time in with your own toys and I'll be sure to let you know what I think as soon as I've had the time to form an opinion.

Don't stop believin'

Feb 13, 2009

Movies Based Off Video Games - And Other Things I Don't Like To Discuss

Films and Video Games have always been dominantly strong mediums when it comes to conveying various ideas, however, when traversing the lines between the two, it seems overall quality becomes more blurry than the early bird special menu at Old Country Buffet to an eighty-year-old man with cataracts. I remember a time when I became venomously excited upon the knowledge than not only a Super Mario Bros. film existed, but had seen the trailer for it. Let's face it, my youthful mind was overcome with a joy that only the clarity, which comes with hindsight, could possibly bring faster than falling nude into an ice covered lake. I didn't get to see it in the theater, mainly because my parents professed to me how stupid the movie was, looked, was reviewed and wouldn't be willing to waste their time or money taking me to a theater to see a film I had built up in my childhood mind as the most amazing thing I had ever known (granted, these are the same parents who subjected my brother and I to the motion picture extravaganza that was Arachnophobia). When I finally saw Super Mario Bros. at long last, I thought it was incredible. I began to believe that almost any video game could be brought into the medium of film. Looking back now, the movie was significantly less than what my childhood mind had built it up to be.

I think that's how it is with most films and video games that cross the void and share the shame intellectual property, with a few notable exceptions. This is one of those primary exceptions. A short film was put up on youtube in parts and in exceptional for a few reasons; first, its a fan-made film, second, it was shot with almost no script or anything of the like and finally, it was made with a net total budget of less than five-hundred dollars. Even better than all that, it's actually better than some full-length films I've seen (namely those made by Uwe Boll). The film is actually believable and as far as staying true to the Half-Life universe, it seems extremely viable as a top-tier example of translating the medium of a video game to a film and part 1 is embedded below for your viewing pleasure:

Now, on the flipside, simply to touch on it, a case where a video game was better than it's film. Did you ever play Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay? It was a title originally designed for the Xbox and I only have one thought after the previous question, if you didn't play it, why not? I can understand if you don't like first-person shooters or games with extreme violence, but if you had/have any interest whatsoever in the Riddick universe and you never played this game, why the hell not?! Simply said, this game took the narrative drive of the films and put you, almost totally immersed, into the shoes of Riddick, topping the narration that the films possessed. So, without a doubt, yes, this was probably one of the few games, if not the only game that could possibly be considered better than the original film source material from which it was derived. My only comfort about it never being backwards compatible on the 360 is that an entirely new, rebuilt from the ground-up title is coming out with both Escape from Butcher Bay and a new adventures where Riddick must escape from the Dark Athena.

Really, just to keep this short and sweet. There have maybe been one other decent game based on a video game and that would be Silent Hill. Everything else just seems to be mediocre for obvious quality reasons, but with people beginning to capitalize on certain franchises, I can only hope that the same attentiveness that the fans go out of their way to remain true to the games they love will be afford by the directors in Hollywood.

It's Valentine's. Dance!

Feb 11, 2009

Casual Art Snobbery and Other Bumps in the Digital Road

First off, I want to apologize for the lack of a cohesive post both Monday and a makeup on Tuesday, personal issues got the best of me.


So, if you enjoy art oriented video games, well that's good, because I do too. Games Radar has a segment up commenting on the current downloadable titles from PSN and XBL. Essentially, it talks about the titles like Braid, Castle Crashers, Flow, Pixeljunk Eden and Everyday Shooter. The point the article basically attempts to make is exactly are these games artsy or not, so to speak, and would someone who enjoys video games with art pulsing through their veins would enjoy it or not. While I'll be one of the first to convey to almost anyone who will listen that a good portion of games can be considered, on some level, as art. The problem is, titles that include words like Madden, Nascar or Cabella's can't really be considered artistic so much as graphical representations of an event. Basically, it would be like me trying to leverage Microsoft's Flight Simulator on the same level as the Mona Lisa. Games like Braid and Ico, among other titles convey not just an artistic idealism, but an experience, which is capable of transcending the digitized canvas and reaching out immersing the player into the vision that the creator wished for all those who would come into contact with the video game. Take Madworld for instance, a black and white motif, with a hint of ultra-violence has this title shaping up to be one of the greatest looking titles for the Wii this year. Now, just because a game looks pretty doesn't mean it's going to be amazing.

Take all of the Jericho, Prey and Call of Duty: World at Wars. All pretty games, but ultimately forgettable because as visually appealing as they were capable of being, they left no indentation on the audience that played it. When a gamer plays anything, the first thing they notice are the graphics in the title screen and subsequently the introductory trailer leading into the first 30 seconds of gameplay. While these don't need to be pretty, (i.e Killzone 2, Halo series) it certainly does help set the stage and allow for the immersion factor to be affected at a more exponential rate than games of the previous generations. When a game opens following the introduction, I wonder what's going to happen in those first few seconds. I could be allowed to wander and become attuned to the new universe I've entered, being enabled for a few moments to take it all in like one would the first piece of art that catches an eye in an art gallery, but this isn't always the case. When a developers wants the gamer to go somewhere, when a player absolutely has to be shuffled along, a sense of beautiful urgency is propelled upon the person holding the controller and you rush along, missing a few things here and there. It's then that the graphics no longer matter, gameplay and objectives take center stage and as long as the game doesn't drop below the framerate that sucked the gamer in nor does the game crash, the immersion hooks may very well stay dug into the player for an indeterminate amount of time. And personally, the best games you play are the beautiful ones that play like dreams, especially when you start and about seven hours later are just realizing that its seven hours later. Artistry in regards to games though will always be a spot of debate, I believe, for any critic who wants to cause a stir. Does it take artistic talent to create anything, even if it is ultimately a hollow vehicle for advertisement? Possibly. Ultimately, all ideas come from somewhere and whether we see the enthusiasm that may or may not go into the next Madden, there'll always be titles like LittleBigPlanet, Braid and Pixeljunk to keep me convinced, that behind some keyboard, somewhere, there is a struggling artist looking for a set of fresh eyes to show off the latest and greatest opus.

For those of you brave enough to try Blockbuster Total Access, they now offer video games similar to Gamefly. While I support neither really, since you never know exactly what you're getting and I've heard numerous tales of poor service, at least it's an option.

Anyone excited for Pokemon shouldn't be surprised that preordering Pokemon: Platinum will warrant you receiving a free toy. Check it out, everyone loves toys.

Last and regrettably the best, with Tabula Rasa shutting down, the developers have released a patch for further exploration into mechanized power armor and given ample room for stomping grounds and combat. It's a pity really, had this released sooner, it may have been enough to pull me away from the fucking time-blackhole that is World of Warcraft.

In the meantime, I'm getting back into Warhammer 40K and am looking at throwing a little bit of my tax money at Uncharted Seas, Warmachine and possibly Monsterpocalypse. If you know anyone who is also interested, I've added a link to my email in my notoriously boring signature, so let me know.

Sleeping when I'm dead.

Feb 9, 2009

Dead Rising 2

Oh yeah, it's real.

Busy day today.

Post tomorrow.


Feb 6, 2009

Does every point count in every single round of every single fight?

I originally was going to start this post off with a quote from the A-Team, but after having discovered the gem that is Adam Sessler's soapbox - a video blog hosted in the same internet universe as G4 - I have to say, I'm glad I had a change of heart. I remember the first time that I saw Adam in an interview with then notorious headhunter of violent video games, Jack Thompson. I honestly believed Adam was an interesting man, but found it difficult to get through episodes on the G4 network just to hear this man speak and coalesce his ideas, because doubtlessly, are usually pretty interesting and given how willingly vocal he is, that's been making for quite a good time. I suggest that if you have some time to kill, it's a nice break from Zero Punctuation.

Alternatively, while trying to find reasons not to shuffle away from T-mobile and enslave myself to AT&T and the illustrious technological bliss that is the iPhone, Nintendo seems to have no problem giving me reasons to go over to the proverbial dark side. Granted, it's interesting to see both the iPhone as well as T-mobile's own G1 develop not only as platforms for people to expand themselves in the floating, sometimes hazy, cloud of data that streams along like a mighty torrent (of information or water, your call) but as gaming platforms as well.

Snowblind Studios has been acquired by Warner Brothers in an effort for the companies to expand as well as capitalize on the possibility of an expanded user base that will hopefully be inherited with the exceptional ability of the Snowblind staff. Why is this important? Snowblind, for months has been working on Death Tank, which for those of you who may not remember or weren't fun enough to play it, is shaping up to be a real-time successor to the insanely popular turn-based Scorched Earth. The website detailing the title has two videos, one embedded below for your viewing pleasure, which shows off the fast paced gameplay as well as what is shaping up to be an exceptional possibility for newest multiplayer arcade title worth playing over XBL. While there is no short supply of titles on Xbox Live for even the most fickle casual or hardcore player, it's exceptionally rare that an arcade title in development is able to excite me as much as a full-feature game like Bioshock or Gears of War 2, call that cynicism speaking, but it's easier to remain disappointed until something comes along able to impress as oppossed to being excited and then let down. So, for now, I'll allow myself to be enthralled by Death Tanks and you should be too:

Now, I was glancing through the morning news on Kotaku and came upon this quote from Nintendo President Satoru Iwata:

"I agree that Wii Music, as of now, has not achieved its true potential. On the other hand, I feel that Wii Music is a software that elicits largely two extremely different reaction from consumers. There are people who highly appreciate it and those who do not appreciate it at all."

I could have easily left that within the confines of a paragraph, but I thought I'd leave it free in the wild there so it could be looked at twice, maybe a few times, like watching an animal raised in captivity be released into the wild and without any delay, fucking die. I won't mince a single word, I'm of the belief that Wii Music was, without a doubt, the worst piece of software Shigeru Miyamoto has ever put his name on in the history of the game industry. And that's exactly what it is, a piece of software. It's not a game, it will never be a game, so stop trying to sell it to me as a game. A game is something where a player has objectives, a start as well as a finish, and a defined challenge. I will concede that Wii Music has an objective of attempting to make music, as well as a start and finish (how long that is exactly is dependent solely on mental fortitude for pain), but there is no defined challenge. Participants (I refuse to insinuate it is played), are charged with flailing their arms about in a hapless manner while attempting to convince Wii Music that some myriad form of skill is being demonstrated. However spun, this is not a game, it is a toy for children who want to wave their arms around as if crying for mommy and daddy while listening to tunes that, while every person may know, only the most infantile, damaged or combination therein of people would enjoy. Yes, there is a clear distinction, those who play the game because they've bought into what little concept there is to this title, and those who just know better and play something else. I'm aware that children who are still precious little snowflakes to their parents love a game that doesn't punish them and pats them on the head after every level, but where's the challenge or any installation of want for a challenge? I'm not saying throw the kiddies to the wolves via Guitar Hero or Rock Band on expert, but how will casual gamers ever appreciate what there is to play, if they're only served up minute pieces of software that in the long run disable them from knowing the difference between what a real music game is and Wii Music?

As a brief interlude to clense the palette, I will just briefly mention that Halo Wars is now available for download to Xbox Live Gold Members as of February fifth and yes, it's worth a try.

Apparently, Killzone 2 pre-orders have spiraled out of control reaching into such numbers as 1.1 million reserves and whether or not that has to do with the exclusive demo that Gamestop cornered going live yesterday afternoon is only a mystery, it's already receiving a Chicago snowstorm worth of commentary from every single facet of the internet. I think it's hilarious that the fanboys are up in arms about Killzone 2, flooding message boards with derogatory statements, some semi-intelligent and some not-so-much, in an attempt to continue the console wars that have been ensuing since someone got a crazed look on their face many years ago and exclaimed, "Screw you, Nolan Bushnell!" My point and general worldview on the console wars and fanboyism as a whole is that, when you focus on a single system and pledge an undying loyalty to a company as a consumer, especially when you have no stake in the company, financial or otherwise, you're only limiting yourself to the gameplay experiences that company wants you to have when you could be enjoying so much more and only because you've allowed yourself to become a vocal extension for a developer's or publisher's marketing department. That being said, I've heard many good things about Killzone 2 and couldn't be more envious to play the demo and final product following it's impending release at the end of the month, which I'm glad is a Friday so I have all weekend to enjoy the hell out of it.

Do you have someone special to be with on Valentine's Day? If you won't be enjoying the hell out of the loneliest day of the year for some, have no fear, because Media Molecule has your back with some LittleBigPlanet DLC. While you may think that this isn't worth picking up, it's exceedingly cute looking especially for a game completely based on allowing the player to define themselves from the very fabric of their sack and should be a nice pickup for anyone wishing to continue the trend of owning all the little downloadable nicknacks being divvied out like candy to school children and increasing the lifespan of a title like LBP, which is so fun I hear you're a communist if you don't love it, is always worth a second look.

As we draw to the end for this week, I have one more thing to bombard my audience with and it's a little more searing, clenched-fist hatred. Sony Europe's David Reeves was quoted as saying:

"We simply have to suffer a little, go down in market share and mind-share. It's like Ali vs. Foreman — go eight or nine rounds and let him punch himself out. We're still standing, we're still profitable and there's a lot of fight in us. I don't say we will land a knockout blow, but we're there and we're fighting."

The first thing I'm going ask is a rather simply quesiton and that's do you, by any chance, have to be completely delusional to make it into Sony's upper management echelon? I've said it before elsewhere and it becomes more true almost daily with how disconnected Sony and it's executive-level management in particular that seem to be blatantly and utterly disconnected with the average consumer. They need expanded in-house development so that they can have a huge and widely accessibly library of games, which was seen on both the Playstation and Playstation 2, as well as decide on a particular model and sell the hell out of it. Furthermore I'm all for pushing alternate agendas if proper and appropriate given a companies position in the market, however, using the PS3 as a prime way to utilize and push blu-ray was a bit short sighted cost-wise on the part of Sony and they've paid for it in marketshare. Conversely, Microsoft realized hd-dvd was a lost cause and dropped it, never pushing it into the 360 console, which made the format easier to abandon when the format lost. That's been more or less the problem, Sony has been gripping on to lost management and development practices and I believe them when they say they are in it for the 10-year lifecycle of the system, however, those first five years may see Microsoft and Nintendo snatch marketshare that may leave Sony without a paddle and treading for water much like Sega before the final demise of the Dreamcast. Appreciating determination and fighting spirit is all well and good, but it'll only get a company and product so far before they are so displaced, so far and gone from the public mindset that the company is still fighting a war that's been over for years. Bottom line, Sony has always been an electronics company, and they're good at it for the most part. They know how to sell average products to average consumers, but the PS3 is still being touted as a high end product and it's eating the company alive where Microsoft has always been a software company and that's what they've lavished on their system, because ultimately what's the point of owning a system if nothing worthwhile exists to play it on? Sincerely though, I do hope Sony pulls through this tough time and learns a lesson or two, even if it does cost them a few secton 8 executives, but for now, I'll keep holding my breath while playing LBP, MGS4 and Killzone 2, here's hoping I don't suffocate before Sony gets back on track.

Like watching a loved one die.

Feb 4, 2009

Prototype in the Sandbox , Innovations Stowaways, and Wii Fad

Sandbox games have to be some of the most fun you'll have playing a video game. Granted that Rockstar did it with Grand Theft Auto 3 first, best and in 3D on the Playstation 2 it has only picked up from there with titles such as Crackdown, Battlefield: Bad Company, Grand Theft Auto IV and the impeding titles Prototype and Infamous just to name a few. Prototype follows the main character is a large metropolitan city after a catastrophe has predictably occurred, stop me if you've heard this before. Well, this is where the vanilla skyline ends and a game of epic proportions picks up. The main playable character utilizes the term prototype in the sense of the first in the new step of evolution. Following the disaster and imaginably without any memory as to how it happened exactly, the player steps into the shoes of Alex and wielding such powers as, "
consuming the bodies of those he has beaten and killed which gives him access to their memories, their experiences, their biomass and their physical forms. Alex can also shapeshift into more specialized forms for attack, defense or sensory enhancement. All of these together are intended to give players multiple ways to complete their objectives."
This opens up a great deal of new ways to play. In essence, the player can forgo using any sort of firearm at all and allows for the use of the abilities endowed upon Alex. Having said that, it's exciting to see that the game has been dated for June 2009 and will be available for play at New York Comic-Con. I'm very satisfied to see a divergence in the sandbox category of game titles once again.

Now granted, there aren't exceptionally major divisions and designers/developers aren't necessarily reinventing the wheel, but all things aside, why should they? A minor change here and there to a genre is what keeps things somewhat fresh, like tidying up a room, but when something revolutionary occurs, that is what rewrites how games are made. The titles that always ultimately change the industry are usually destined for underground or cult-success until a more accessible game is created that will to appeal to gamers of a larger fanbase. Take for instance a game like Psychonauts the game was designed with tight controls, off-the-wall characters, incredible dialogue and solid controls but fell so far under the radar that few people realized it was there. Tim Schafer however went on to work on Brutal Legend, which is already highly anticipated as one of the few original IPs coming out this year. Furthermore, while the game had awards heaped on it, it fell to the wayside, but the message of strong writing in a game bled through, and was successfully championed to be brought to Xbox Live as a downloadable title.

Clearly, if you give a gamer something they like and suddenly completely change it and tell them to like it, without a doubt, you're going to piss them off. Take Call of Duty 3 created by Treyarch, never before have I seen such a pretty rip-off and shameless riding of coattales anywhere else (Well, up until Call of Duty: World at War was released). Call of Duty 2 was released by Infinity Ward to rave reviews, stellar achievement and of course, an overjoyed gamerbase more than willing to step back into World War 2 for the upteenth time. Call of Duty 2 was solid, with exceptional sound, dialogue, writing and some of the most beautiful graphics I had seen for the time. Call of Duty 3 was everything that Call of Duty 2 was with the exception of being good. The lackluster controls, quick-time-events, loosely threaded story and painfully bad audio made the gameplay more of a chore to complete than anything else and the greatest apology that Activision could and had to deliver to the faithful of the CoD series was Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, again made my Infinity Ward. The bar was raised, and raised well with a modern setting, action-movie caliber plot, tight controls, hefty multiplayer and a sheer staggering amount of content and replayability that it was undeniable who should be producing and developing for said franchise. But, let's face it, Call of Duty 3 was so terrible that the next iteration couldn't even take place in the same decade, hence, Modern Warfare. But what if Treyarch is being typecast as the whipping boy? Treyarch, as evidence by Call of Duty 3, really showed a lack of true innovative talent when it came to CoD 3 and even more so by riding along the wave that Modern Warfare had created with World at War. Is Treyarch essentially doomed to churn out a title bearing a franchise watermark made more popular by another developer? Really, it's like two children making macaroni pictures to show their parents, except one is far better at doing it, so the other child copies, not exactly, but enough to look good and passes it off as it own with expected praise and a slight minutia of enthusiasm from the exasperated parents wishing that the lesser-creative child would come into their own. So, here's hoping with Modern Warfare 2 sometime this year, Activision can once again cash is, but still give the Infinity Ward faithful the fix they've been looking for, untainted by the slighted hands of Treyarch.

Finally, I want to touch on this Wii Fad that hasn't only gripped the North Americas, it's gripped the entire world it seems. Everyone needs either a Wii, Wii Fit or Mario Kart Wii, as if you didn't have one your birth-righted ability to sustain on a planet with gravity would cease and you'd be blown out into the ether of space doomed to float for all eternity wondering how it had come to that - at least that's how Nintendo seems to be making parents, grandparents, kids, dogs and cats everywhere feel. But, I've been thinking that maybe the Wii and expanded library/accessories hasn't begun to lose it's charm what with Nintendo stock finally feeling the crunch of this global recession we seem to have been having. My beef isn't with the system itself, it's with the fact that Nintendo allows just about anyone to produce games for their consoles. I'm not opposed to games being made either, I'm opposed to the surplus of garbage and crap that seems to be piling up in the Wii section of Best Buys, Blockbusters and Gamestops as exceptional and even average titles are muscled out by the amount of shovelware that is choking the shelves. Remarkably, it took Nintendo this long and with accusations of artificial scarcity when it comes to supplies of anything Wii, this latest stock showing should dispel any of those thoughts immediately. When it comes down to it, Nintendo is a company, in the business of games to make money. I'm sure there are people who do it for the love of the games, but somehow, I don't believe stockholders are in it for that exact purpose. Let's take Wii Fit. It has essentially been touted as the greatest thing someone can do with their freetime short of Jesus and hasn't been able to remain on shelves for sometime. It's almost as if there has been a developed consumer expectation that if they find this product on store shelves somewhere, anywhere, they must buy it without reason, rhyme or hesitation. As a gamer, and at times a consumer, I have a grim feeling when it seems that a company has an unrealistic expectation of me (or an expectation, at all), Sony made that mistake once before and look where they are now. Nintendo has been riding the wave for sometime and their release schedule hasn't promised that much to North America, if anything, it's promising Wii versions of games that already exist for the Gamecube. This worked with Resident Evil 4, but it's not a business model. I can only wonder what crazy stunt Nintendo will pull next, but for now, the fad seems to be working even if people are just buying them to have them.

Consumer whores, away!

Feb 3, 2009

Killzone 2, Resident Evil 5 and Lamentations

With a weekend that shaped up to be absolutely insane-for personal reasons, this week is shaping up to be much more so, and for, thankfully, alternate causes.

For those inquisitive enough to care about knowing who exactly has the fastest download service, MTV tested it using Mega Man 9. Granted the file size differs between each system and online service, however, ultimately, it seems that the Playstation 3 is better at managing downloads faster wirelessly as opposed to the Xbox 360 which captures the speed race in the wired category. As far as the Wii goes, if you own one and you've downloaded something from the Virtual Console already, I'm guessing you've had your fill of various Mario & Luigi download progress animatics so you'll probably be off doing something else, like I usually am, while waiting for anything to download to the Wii. In the meantime though, I'm sure this is just another drink of water to continue fueling the pissing match that is the Sony v. Microsoft fanboys.

Alternately, Wii Owners have another, surprise surprise, title coming to their system. The difference between this one and all the others though, is that this one just may be worth owning. Let's Tap is a title devised from the mind of Yuji Naka, the same mind behind titles like Sonic the Hedgehog. Here's the basic premise from Nerve:

Let’s Tap is a four-player mini-game collection with five modes. The entire game is played by placing the Wii remote face down on a cardboard box (or any flat surface really) and tapping on the box. The least game-like of the modes is a visualizer; tap on the box and watch fireworks explode over a weird cityscape or see ripples wave across a pool of water. Silent Blocks is similar to Jenga and Rhthym Tap is not unlike Taiko Drum Master. The meatiest modes of the bunch are Tap Runner and Bubble Voyager. Runner is a sprint-race and obstacle course mode that’s far more visually and aurally appealing than it has any right to be. The trailer above really doesn’t do it justice, there’s just something hypnotic about it. Bubble Voyager is a sidescroller. You tap to keep your titular character – a classic little Naka character if there ever was one – afloat and to avoid obstacles.

What seems to set this title apart from the slew of shovelware and crapware that have been finding their way to Nintendo's latest system, is that this title actually looks like it has the potential to be really, really fun.

And I really don't mean slightly fun, I mean, this has the potential to be something special in North America. And with all the titles coming to a system that has quickly as it has quietly gained notoriety for being a bastion of terrible games able to be created for a minimum licensing fee, it's nice to see a game that may break the mold of all that, not created by Nintendo, that doesn't strike me as just another piece of garbage on an already impressive pile. The mechanic of tapping as opposed to directly holding, and waving said holding appendages around like an idiot strikes me as something with a true contention to be the next party game in the same way as Wii Sports or WarioWare Touched. This has yet to be seen, and on a console that has already forged it's legacy as the defacto family/party/multiplayer system of this generation, it would be a huge mistake for Nintendo to pass up letting this come to these shores.

Speaking of titles that I'm nervous about being good, Joystiq has their impressions up of the next Batman title, which tentatively takes place at Arkham Asylum. For fans of the Dark Knight and the lore behind him and his universe, Arkham Asylum is perhaps one of the most intriguing locations in the Batman and greater DC canon. Home to such villains as the Joker, Mad Hatter, Two-Face, Poison Ivy, Croc and Victor Freeze, it has been said that each of these reviled former citizens of great Gotham are a small part of the madness comprising the hero citizens call Batman. Watching the recent trailer, it can be noted that the Joker's dialogue, which seems to be the only heard so far, is captured in essense perfectly, his attitude and other elements that make the Joker both the man fans love and hate is, for lack of any better word, perfect.

In the meantime, Sony is still trying to push Home, the online, interactive environment where players can meet, greet and play in a under-handed and under-developed Second Life rip-off that doesn't seem to capture everything as well as it means to do so. This time, Sony has released downloadable content that allows players to be dressed as characters from Street Fighter IV and Resident Evil 5, both hard hitting titles quickly drawing near on the horizon. The redeeming quality of said titles, is that post-release, a patch will be implemented for Street Fighter players allowing them to meet in Home areas and participate in a match. Conversely, Sony plans to have special events in the Resident Evil 5 area that looks like the first level of the upcoming Capcom title.

Speaking of Resident Evil 5, the ability to shoot while moving in the latest opus of the survival-horror series, is never going to happen. This will not happen post-release, this will not be a patch, do not pass go, do not collect two-hundred dollars; never going to happen. Period. This now-debunked rumor was squashed in preparation for the title release and essentially, I'm taking it as a good sign that the series isn't moving too far away from it's roots. Personally, I'll be happy playing it as it was meant to be played and am thrilled that this title won't stray into almost casual fps territory in some hapless attempt to appeal to a wider fanbase.

Fans of a little known title Wardevil, which displayed a tech trailer back when the PS3 was still a twinkle in Kutaragi's eye, seems to be going off the beaten path again while it keeps those ever-intrigued in the title, still in the dark. Without letting myself become overwhelmed with curiousity that boggles my mind, the company is now looking for people to work on CG-blu-ray animatics, which Kotaku raised the question, what the hell is this project becoming?

Simply to touch on it, as usual: Cyptic released new Star Trek Online screens, needless to say, I'm hoping this game doesn't tank before I have a chance to try something that might actually hold my interest away from World of Warcraft. Also, on March 3rd Phantasy Star Portable is coming to North America for the Playstation Portable, and may be worth a second look from those who were with Phantasy Star from it's earlier years. Finally, not to simply touch on it, Ensemble Studios, which after finishing Halo Wars has been shuttered by Microsoft unleashed a torrent of what they had previously had in the works including a Halo MMO, not to say that is what I wanted, but after looking at the rest of the projects in the mix, why oh why did Microsoft stop these people from working?!

Now it's that time, with the Killzone 2 demo coming up this Thursday and having my in via the Gamestop exclusive demo, which I suggest if you can get your hands on a download code, humble yourself and go for it. Aside from a few impressions and slighted reviews that tap into the undeserved scorn the first Killzone received from much of the gaming community, I believe this is going to be one of those titles that only the gamers will be able to decide and if they decide the way Sony is hoping, a few homes might get a Playstation 3 in them quicker than an obese child gets sent to fat camp. I'm personally holding any sort of criticism until I can play through the title in it's entirety as you wouldn't read half of a book and review it, unless that's as far as you could get, because you hated it. But then again, if I hate something, I love seeing if the end ties it all together in a way that leaves me satisfied, or not. So, here's to Killzone 2.

Did you know the iPhone nows accounts for 14% of downloaded games, when Apple of course says it's okay for you to play them.

Last but not least. Airtight Games has released more screens and videos of Dark Void. If you know nothing about this game, find out. If you can't find out, hire someone to find out for you, kill them, eat their brain and gain their knowledge like the lost Zeasar race on planet ZumaJambi in the Phartzee sector. Now!

I do want to end on a note of apology, I meant to post yesterday, but with a hectic work day, it wasn't possible. My goal is to maintain a regular schedule of Monday, Wednesday, Friday and if something important occurs on the weekend, I'll let you know. But hey, if someone doesn't tell you wants going on, where will you go to learn about video games?

probably another crappy blog