Showing posts with label gaming. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gaming. Show all posts

Sunday, November 7, 2010

My Gaming History Pt. 6

This blog series is going to be a look back through time as I recall my 20+ gaming “career,” if you will. I'll take you through the ups and downs, the trials, tribulations and the triumphs. The sleepless nights, the gorging on pizza, the tournaments, the competition, the fights. The friends made over gaming, and the friends lost ov-no wait, I can honestly say that I have never lost a friend because of gaming. That would be rather pathetic, would it not?

Part Six (Part 1 can be found HERE; Part 2 HERE; Part 3 HERE; Part 4 HERE; Part 5 HERE)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

My Gaming History Pt. 5

This blog series is going to be a look back through time as I recall my 20+ gaming “career,” if you will. I'll take you through the ups and downs, the trials, tribulations and the triumphs. The sleepless nights, the gorging on pizza, the tournaments, the competition, the fights. The friends made over gaming, and the friends lost ov-no wait, I can honestly say that I have never lost a friend because of gaming. That would be rather pathetic, would it not?

Part Five (Part 1 can be found HERE; Part 2 HERE; Part 3 HERE; Part 4 HERE)

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Gaming History Pt. 4

This blog series is going to be a look back through time as I recall my 20+ gaming “career,” if you will. I'll take you through the ups and downs, the trials, tribulations and the triumphs. The sleepless nights, the gorging on pizza, the tournaments, the competition, the fights. The friends made over gaming, and the friends lost ov-no wait, I can honestly say that I have never lost a friend because of gaming. That would be rather pathetic, would it not?

Part Four (Part One can be found HERE; Part Two can be found HERE; Part Three HERE)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My Gaming History Pt. 3

This blog series is going to be a look back through time as I recall my 20+ gaming “career,” if you will. I'll take you through the ups and downs, the trials, tribulations and the triumphs. The sleepless nights, the gorging on pizza, the tournaments, the competition, the fights. The friends made over gaming, and the friends lost ov-no wait, I can honestly say that I have never lost a friend because of gaming. That would be rather pathetic, would it not?

Part Three (Part One can be found HERE; Part Two can be found HERE)

So, thus far we have thumb steroids, cumming, erratic ducks, and many, many hours spent playing in 8 bit glory. Time, however, has a way of marching on, and, as it did so, my brother and I found ourselves moving into the future: the 16 bit future (albeit a bit late). (Note: magx01 still thinks the 8 bit generation was better in a lot of ways.)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hey, Game Developers! Listen Up! Features that Need to be Included in ALL Games!

Hey game devs! There are two features that should have been included in every single game released in the last, well....ever, but I will forgive you your trespasses, AS LONG AS YOU START INCLUDING THESE GOING FORWARD:

  • Temporary Quick Saves
  • Fully Customizable Controls

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Point of Gaming

This is a private message I recently received on YouTube:


Enlighten an ole dude. I have been computer literate longer than many people are old but I lost interest in games with pinball. What is the point other than time consumption and fighter pilot training?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Crackdown 2 Reviews are In. Still Confused! Rent or Buy? ALSO, Gaming is a Relgion...My Religion.

Crackdown 2 Reviews are In. Rent or Buy? Also, Gaming is a Relgion...My Religion.

NOTE: This blog was intended to be a short discussion of my feelings regarding whether I should rent or purchase Crackdown 2, as I am feeling uncertain on this point, and the slate of reviews that have just come out don't seem to have helped in this regard. However, it ended up blossoming into this monstrous post regarding a bunch of other stuff including this big realization that gaming is a religion, and that, furthermore, gaming is MY religion. I, the most avowed atheist in existence (lol), an ardent antitheist, who blogs about his disdain for religion on a regular basis, have realized that I am indeed religious!

So, I will do this in sections. Look for the large, bold, red text to signify a new section, and sorry for the rambling. Hopefully the content more than makes up for the form....and the content.....lol!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Magazine writer fired after dustup with Rockstar PR and Capcom Milking Street Fighter IV even MORE!

Magazine writer fired after dustup with Rockstar PR

Leaked email details Rockstar's extreme sensitivity to negative coverage

http://www.gamesradar.com/pc/grand-theft-auto-iv/news/magazine-writer-fired-after-dustup-with-rockstar-pr/a-20100407113454149016/g-2008080416222952067

So, Rockstar is pressuring writers to be very positive, even if they feel otherwise? They are trying to tell the journalists what and how to write?
According to a news.com.au story, a deputy editor for Austrailian publication Zoo Weekly has been fired after publishing an allegedly internal email from Rockstar regarding Zoo's coverage of the upcoming Red Dead Redemption. The alleged email from Rockstar, which former deputy entertainment editor Toby McCasker posted on his Facebook, contained the following:


This is the biggest game we've done since GTA IV, and is already receiving Game of the Year 2010 nominations from specialists all around the world, it read.


Can you please ensure Toby's article reflects this — he needs to respect the huge achievement he's writing about here.

What's the implication here? What are they saying, if you read between the lines? You better play ball, if you know what's good for you.

If Red Dead Redemption is so damn good, why do they need to do this? Are they lying about how good Red Dead Redemption really is?

I think so.

And what's with GOTY nominations already?

What the fuck really goes on behind the scenes in this industry?

Another thing:

Super Street Fighter IV, which already doesn't need to exist, apparently isn't enough milking for Capcom, as there is DLC for the game. Really? Like people buying your game twice isn't enough? You can't at least be somewhat decent and make sure that the gamers whom you have already manipulated and taken advatntage of at least get everything there is to offer from your now $110 game? You still have to sell them more shit?

We've got this shit, DLC releases on day one, DLC being announced well before a game ships, different pre-order bonuses for different stores, further fragmenting a game, Ubisoft holding back 2 levels from Assassin's Creed 2 for sale as DLC, Capcom removing content from Dead Rising 2 to repackage as a prequel (if you believe that they are legitimately developing this content and selling it separately you are a sucker, I'm sorry), and Capcom (again) selling fucking costumes for SFIV at a couple of bucks a pop, which, while already ridiculous, is made 100 times worse when you realize that these costumes were already developed, as they were in the arcade version of the game.

I don't like where this industry is headed.

I could go go on and on and on and on. In fact, I will! In another blog.

Ohhhhhh.

I promise it will be worth the wait. I will do a well thought out list of things that I feel are wrong with gaming. It won't be an off the cuff blog like this, so it will be of a higher quality.

Promise.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hardcore vs. Casual Gamers

I've seen this pop up on forums over the years, and I have always wanted to adress it. I just read a topic about it online, and thought now would be a good time to tackle the issue.

So, hardcore vs. casual gamers........

As far as I see it, there is no such division. They are merely labels placed upon people by some who feel the need to differentiate themselves and assign some sort of......rating to their skill and devotion to video games. It's stupid. They're freaking video games. GAMES. Do you hear people talking about casual vs. hardcore swimmers? bowlers? card players? stamp collectors? It's a hobby. Some enjoy it and do it more/better than others.

Now, if you INSIST that there must be these labels, I would assume it's pretty obvious. Hardcore gamers are supposed to play a lot, be fairly proficient at most games, follow gaming news, and play only real or traditional games, no mini game, super easy, or family oriented games for the hardcore gamer. The casual gamer plays here and there, doesn't follow all of the goings on in the industry, buys what's popular or easily accesible.

But then the lines blur.




If someone buys Halo 3 because it's popular, and plays it online a few times a week, but isn't very good......are they hardcore or casual? What if they are awesome at it, but only bought it because it was popular and don't play very often? What if they know everything there is to know about Halo, buy all the games, but play seldomly and aren't very good? What if someone buys only casual games but is really, really good at them, and spends lots of time playing them? Are they a hardcore causual gamer?





If you ask me, we're all just humans who spend some part of our lives playing video games rather than doing something more constructive. Or destructive. They probably keep some people from going absolutely nuts and shooting a dozen people!

I say we just enjoy the games and keep the labels out of it.

See you later. I'm off to play something hardcore.



Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Gears of War Campaign Review

Gears of War is a third person shooter, developed by Epic Games, of Unreal fame, and published by Microsoft Game Studios. The game was released in November of 2006 for the Xbox 360, and was later ported to the PC (November of 2007). The game is renowned for its high fidelity visuals, powered by the third iteration of the Unreal Engine.

Gears of War details the activities of a band of soldiers known as Delta Squad on the fictional planet Sera. The game follows Delta Squad as they fight to save the human inhabitants of the planet Sera from the Locust Horde, a subterranean, alien enemy. The player assumes the role of Marcus Fenix, a former prisoner and Delta Squad soldier. Gears of War, as mentioned, is a third person shooter, or TPS. The game is commonly referred to as an "over-the-shoulder" third-person shooter, as the camera is positioned in such a way that when firing, the perspective is literally over the shoulder, as opposed to the myriad of alternatives, which all share in common a more panned out camera view. This view is used to enhance the visceral and immersive nature of the combat.


The combat in Gears of War places a heavy emphasis on the the use of cover, which the enemy and friendly AI make liberal use of; the player is expected to follow suit, and in fact, must do so if they desire to survive the onslaught of he relentless Locust Horde.

The game features a number of weapon types, including standard weapons such as shotguns, pistols and grenades. One interesting weapon is the Hammer of Dawn, which is a COG Imulsion-energized satellite weapon. Essentially, it's a laser weapon that uses satellite tracking to locate, and target enemies. Use of the Hammer requires that an orbital satellite first be aligned with the general area of operation, and that it have a line of sight to the targeting unit (thus limiting most uses of the Hammer to the outdoors). Once a visual link between the targeting unit and satellite has been achieved, the user must point the hand-held unit's laser at the intended target, at which point the orbital satellite will lock onto the laser's point of termination and begin a sustained particle energy blast on the site. The Hammer is a very powerful weapon, but limited, by its satellite tracking, to specific environments.

Perhaps the most used, and unique weapon in the game is the Lancer. The Lancer is an otherwise standard assault rifle with a twist: it has on it a mounted chainsaw bayonet that can be used to inflict a gruesome and gory death on the enemy once they are within melee range of the player. This use of this weapon in close range leads to some particularly visceral and exciting kills. Another particularly noteworthy weapon is the Torque Bow, which is a Locust weapon, which the player is eventually able to wield, to great effect, as the Torque Bow is a bow that fires deadly explosive arrows.

The game features an innovative twist on the old reload forumla. The so called ''Active Reload'' is a technique that, when used successfully , allows one to reload faster and also achieve a temporary damage boost. The ''active reload'' is performed by initiating a reload, and then, in the middle of the reload animation, hitting the button a second time at the correct time, indicated by an onscreen marker. If the player fails to execute the technique properly, by mistiming the second button press, the gun will jam, extending the original reload time. This feature is more useful in the single player portion of the game than it is in the multiplayer portion, as it is rather easy to execute, which means virtually anyone can do it, basically negating the intended advantage.

Health in Gears of War is regenerative. When the player takes damage, a red mark in the shape of a cog, referred to as the ''Crimson Omen,'' appears, starting out faint but filling in darker and darker with increasing amounts of damage taken. Once the player is hurt, they must seek cover to recover their health. If too much damage is taken before the player can find cover and initiate the regeneration process, the player is killed. If, however, you are playing the campaign with a co-op partner, and they are in the vicinity, they can actually revive you. Rather than immediately dying, in the co-op mode, the downed player enters a bleed out stage. If their partner can get to them in time, they can revive them and they'll be back to full health and ready to fight. Of course, if the partner cannot get to the player, or both are downed, the team must restart from the last checkpoint, as the death of one of the teammates results in punishment for both. This serves to increase the focus on teamwork, which is vital to a successful an fun co-op experience.


The campaign in Gears of War stretches out over five acts, each themselves broken up into various chapters, totalling 36 Chapters in all, which can be beaten in about 10-12 hours or so, depending upon difficulty and familiarity, of course. All in all, it's a decent length, and it can be played both as a solo effort, and in co-operative mode with one other player. The basic template for the game is fairly simple. You engage in one firefight after another, many of which are part of a larger and usually fairly impressive set piece battle. There are some moments that take a sort of survival horror light approach to things, but generally, it's all about the action.

The actual firefights are based around the idea of taking cover, as previously stated. This mechanic works fairly well, but can also start to feel a bit stale by the end of the game, and it also leads to predictable fights both in the sense that you know how they will play out, but also, when, as you'll be walking, and suddenly you'll see a clearing punctuated with, most frequently, slabs of chest high concrete, but also burned-out cars, piles of scrap metal, huge stone columns, fountains, and, stairways, among other things.

Certain sections of the campaign features divergent paths that attempt to add a bit of non linearity to what is a strictly linear game. In the single player campaign, these sections offer little in the way of any real impact. These moments are more interesting in co-op play, however, as you and your partner are separated, and can no longer rely on eachother, save for a few of these moments where the game will have one player covering another from a specific vantage point. One of these moments in particular has one player using the Hammer of Dawn to cover their partners' back, and this moment, along with a couple of others, serve to offer a fresh change of pace in an otherwise great but stagnant co-operative experience.

Also adding to the change of pace offered by these moments is the fact that, as a consequence of being separated, there is no chance to revive your partner. This results in both players needing to play more cautiously, more strategically, and more intelligently to get through a few tough spots present in the game. If they do not, they will be stuck having to repeat the section over and over until they formulate a workable strategy.

The routine combat sections are also broken up by a few boss fights, as well as an interesting vehicle section, which, rather than have you drive a vehicle or shoot a mounted turret, has you using a mounted......something.......which will not be spoiled here, but suffice it to say it's fairly original, and this idea is actually expanded into a bit of a gameplay mechanic as it appears in another particularly memorable sequence. These moments are framed around the appearance of and subsequent battles with a particularly memorable enemy, whom nothing more will be said about to preserve the surprise new players will encounter. It's not a mechanic that is utilized through the whole game, but when it does appear, it changes the tone of the game somewhat, as actually hinted at earlier in this review.


Speaking of enemies, the enemies in Gears of War are not terribly varied, as the majority are humanoid with slight visual differences, but the weapons they utilize and, consequently, the tactics they employ, actually do serve to make them feel somewhat distinct from one another. However, despite the use of varied tactics, the method of dispatching them is almost always always the same: wait behind cover, while they crouch behind theirs, waiting specifically for them to pop their heads out and then engage. As the game progresses, enemies other than the humanoid type prevalent through much of the game do make appearances, including those alluded to, but not detailed, above.

There are a few issues dealing with the cover system that warrant mention, especially given the fact that the cover mechanic is so integral to the Gears experience. If you shoot a part of an exposed enemies body while they are still crouched behind cover, you won't get a reaction. For example, sometimes an enemies' back is just ever so slightly exposed over the lip of the cover he is hiding behind. You can sit there and shoot their exposed backside, clearly making contact, and have it be to no avail, as you get no reaction. This is a rather jarring thing to encounter, and while some may downplay this as not of any particular importance, it seems to be a pretty fundamental problem to have in a game based around hiding behind cover.

A second issue present is related to the controls. The A button has too many features mapped to it, and this cannot be changed. The A button is used for clinging to cover, as you do not automatically take cover by just walking, running, or crouch walking into a piece of cover. You actually have to press the A button to take cover, which results in what is often referred to as a ''sticky'' cover system, and may be an apt description. In addition to the cling function, however, the A button is also used for the so called ''Roadie Run'' which is Epic Games version of an in game sprint. The roadie run differs from a regular sprint in that it's a quick sprint where the camera takes an embedded-journalist perspective, narrowing and focusing the field of view (but taking the camera control away from the player), with the aim of increasing the tension as you try to escape from danger. The problem lies in the fact that you'll often be sprinting, done by holding down the A button, and inadvertently take cover against some piece of the landscape you just brushed as you were running.

One last issue that bears mention is the fact that the story, while derivative, could still have used some fleshing out. As it stands, it does little more than to serve as fodder for driving the action along. There's no real depth, no emotion, and the characters are all flat, one note brutish thugs. Macho bravado is the order of the day. It's like an 80's action movie on steroids with the one liners cranked to the max. This won't be an issue to many gamers, who are only concerned with the action, and in fact, the genre isn't particularly known for engaging narratives, but it bears mention, at least, as there will be a certain subset of the target audience who will be miffed by this.


In terms of extras, there are present throughout the campaign, the cog tags (which are Gears of War's version of dog tags) of fallen comrades, which the player is tasked with collecting, which they can opt to do or not. It's at the player's discretion whether or not they do so. The ones who take this small but not insignificant extra challenge will find themselves rewarded with the pleasure of the hunt, for those to whom collecting items is attractive, and also a set of achievements, which ups the ante in terms of motivation to partake in the search. Unfortunately, there is a missed opportunity here, as Epic games could have used the cog tags as a lunching pad to extra character development. It would have been neat had they given the player a small flashback cutscene, or some text, to provide some information on the specific soldier who's tag was being recovered.

The campaign can be played at three difficulty settings. From easiest to hardest, these are "Casual", "Hardcore" and "Insane". The "Insane" difficulty is unlocked only when the game is beaten on one of the other two difficulties. The difficulties are aptly named, and Insane, while doable alone, is much better suite for co-op play, and it's quite difficult, and exposing oneself for more than a few seconds at a time puts one in grave mortal danger. This really leads to heavy use of the cover mechanic and the amplification of the repetition experienced on the lower difficulties. Co-op offsets some of this, as, and pardon the cliche, two heads (or two guns might be more apt) are better than one.

Graphically, this game is simply astounding, at least on a technical level. There may be contention based upon the art style, which can best be described and drab and gritty (seriously, the colour palette seems to include brown, black and grey, and nothing else) but on a technical level, this game is easily one of the best looking on the console. If the graphics, on a technical level, had to be summed up in one word, that word would be detail. The character models are big, thick, fully detailed, and larger than life. The polygon count looks to be though the roof. Ditto for the environments, which, along with everything else, also feature high resolution textures and no visible jaggies or other flaws.

The art style, as drab as some people may accuse it of being, serves to lend the game a really gritty, realistic look, which, when this game was released, was an absolute benchmark setter for consoles, and even now impresses. One negative aspect of the graphics, other than the distaste some have for the art style, is the fact that they impressed so greatly both before and after the game's release, that some would argue that the issues with the game, such as the control problems and repetitive nature of the combat, were glossed over by people in awe of the visuals.


Also rounding out the impressive presentation is the excellent sound design and musical score. The score changes, depending on the action taking lace onscreen, punctuating the action with punchy, military themed music, and guiding along the slower, more tense moments with sounds that propel you forward, drawing you in deeper, but carrying with it a sense that anything could be lurking around the next corner. The Locusts' voices are sufficiently menacing and alien, really adding to the atmosphere and the feeling that you truly are fighting an alien force. The weapons sound great, and have a decent amount of kick to them. The sounds of heads exploding and chainsaws revving are very intense. All in all, from a presentation perspective, the game is spot on in terms of visuals and sound, but lacking when it comes to story.

So, Gears of War provides a well paced, great looking and sounding, fun, brutal, and visceral campaign experience which can be enjoyed either alone or with a friend. The game has challenge for those who seek it, and apart from the small control related issues, and the strange phenomenon of enemies not responding to being shot when they are crouched behind cover, everything works beautifully on a technical level. The game is pretty well polished. There are some very cool set piece moments present in the campaign, the enemy design is quite cool and sufficiently menacing, and the weapons available for use are well rounded and diverse.

That all being said, the core gameplay mechanic, namely, the cover system, can become tedious and repetitive after a time, and as mentioned earlier, the battles get predictable both in terms of when they happen and how they play out. The combat never ceases to be fun, mind you, and the vehicle section, few boss fights, and few really excellent moments relating to the unnamed enemy type do help to alleviate some of the tedium, but it's still undeniably there. Sure to be experienced differently by different gamers, there does exist some element of repetition and predictability in Gears of War.

Overall Score: 8.5/10

Monday, March 8, 2010

Aegis Wing Review

Aegis Wing is a free (no, really, it's free!) horizontal scrolling shoot em up (shmup) available to North American xbox Live members on the xbox Live Arcade. The game was released in 2007, and developed by three interns at Microsoft, who spent three months building the game. They then handed it over to Carbonated Games to add some finishing touches.

Your ship is only equipped with one gun, and, unfortunately, it cannot be upgraded. However, by grabbing powerups that enemies drop upon death, you can pick up secondary weaponry to utilize in your quest to rid the galaxy of the galactic scum who re trying to take you out. Among the available secondary weapons you will find a beam which shoots straight and in a fixed path, but destroys enemies and enemy fire on contact, an EMP pulse which disables enemies, a shield which deflects enemy fire back at them, and heat seeking missiles.

In a bit of a twist for the genre, one hit does not result in automatic death; rather, you have a health bar, and can take a few hits before you meet your demise. This does serve to diminish the challenge somewhat, although it remains far from easy. This was likely a concession on the part of the developers for the behalf of players new to the genre. Once you do die, you lose a life, and respawn right where you were at the time of death. However, lose all of your lives, your score resets to zero, and it's back to the start of the level with you. On Normal mode. On Insane mode, you have no lives.

Another, much more interesting (and significant) twist is that, during multiplayer (more on that later) you and the other players can link your ships together at the press of a button. In linked mode, one player controls movement, and the rest of the players control the shooting. This is advantageous in that the combined fire is stronger than one ships single firepower; however, this comes at the price of reduced navigational speed.

In typical old school shmup fashion, the game presents you with a high level of challenge and pattern based AI. The enemies fill the screen, shooting at you in tandem. The game also uses the environment to add to the challenge. In addition to the enemies, you must also look out for the mines that are placed throughout the levels. These detonate on contact, and serve to further keep you on your toes. This may not be the hardest shmup ever conceived, due in part to the aforementioned health system, and also the fact that the enemies don't fill the screen with fire as they do in many other games of this type, but it will definitely present a tough challenge to anyone who plays it. The hardest difficulty should suffice to present even those hardest of the hardened genre vets with some difficulty.

Graphically, this is a simple looking game. While there are some neat background effects present, everything looks fairly simplistic and somewhat bland. The poly count for ship models seems a bit low, and they aren't terribly detailed. This doesn't detract from the gameplay of course, but things don't exactly pop, either. Sound design is fine. The music serves to punctuate the action, but nothing is terribly memorable.

As I alluded to earlier, Aegis Wing features multiplayer. Both local and online co-op modes are available for up to four players. The way lives are handled is as follows: if a player loses all of their lives, they can re-enter the game upon another player picking up a powerup (which is then discarded). If all of the players die at the same time, or the last remaining player dies before reaching a powerup, the players are returned to the start of the level, and their combined score is reset to zero (as it is in the single player mode). Online runs well enough, no major issues are present, although there have been a few instances where it seemed as though a player was killed by something that seemed to miss them. This is likely due to lag, but fortunately, it doesn't seem to be a very common occurrence.

All in all, this is a fairly entertaining game. The boss and enemy designs suffice, but don't wow, the main gun cannot be upgraded, and the graphics aren't anything to write home about. However, the linking mechanic is a nice feature, there is a fully functional multiplayer mode which allows for up to 4 people to play in tandem, the game presents a good level of challenge, the controls work flawlessly, and, it's free. You can't really go wrong with free.

Overall Score: 8/10

Friday, March 5, 2010

Regarding Game Reviews: Theory, Details, Numerical Scales: Analysis and a Proposition

In this blog, I am going to discuss what I think a general guideline for reviews should look like. I will then discuss reviews in general, followed by attempt at qualifying a top ten scale. 



So first, the review guideline.

Points of Interest: This should be fairly obvious. Story, Graphics, Sound, Gameplay, Overall/Summation. Should they be done in explicit categories, or just worked into the text in an implicit but clear manner? On this point, I have mixed feelings. It looks more professional and cohesive without categories, but categories really aid with navigation, and they also tend to make the reviews look really structured. I could go either way on this one, although since most professional reviews tend to take the uncategorized approach, it must be more desirable.

Length: Certain games merit a certain amount of effort, and while you could get away with a 500 word review for something like Tetris, something like Mass Effect 2 requires much more detail.

My idea of a rough outline for review lengths:

Indy game/DLC/Arcade game: At least 500 words.

Full retail or full downloadable game: At least 1500 words.

I like to write lengthy reviews, because I am all about detail, but I recognize not everyone wants to read (or write) 3000 word reviews. This, however, brings me to my final point:

Detail: Detail is very important. Certain games warrant more detail than others, as do certain genres, and where that detail lies is also genre specific. If you're reviewing a hack n slash game with a heavy focus on action, don't glaze over the combat system. Describe it in detail. Explain the mechanics of it.

If you're reviewing an RPG, don't just hastily mention that there's a skill tree. Describe it in detail. Explain how points are assigned, whether or not you can respec it once you're in game, etc. If the game is a combat heavy RPG, explain the combat system. If you're reviewing a survival horror game with a focus on puzzles, don't just mention that it's puzzle heavy. Describe them in detail. How numerous are they? Are they challenging? Do they make sense in the context of the game, or are they completely nonsensical? What types of puzzles do you encounter, and are they repetitive? etc.

There's nothing I hate more than a review that skimps on detail. Not to brag or anything, but compare my Tokyo Beat Down review, which I just submitted to this site on Friday, to gamespot’s review for said game, and tell me my review isn’t far superior. The author skimped on the details and obviously rushed the review. That’s bullshit, especially for a supposed professional. You can still write a detailed review without going overboard on the word count. The reader should be left with as few questions as possible after a review. That’s how I see it at least.

Now, I would like to briefly discuss reviews in general.

Game reviews are a tricky thing. Reviews in general are a tricky thing. You want to be as objective as possible, but, while there certainly are objective elements within a game, the overall nature of gaming preferences and enjoyment is absolutely subjective. I can play a game like Modern Warfare 2, be completely underwhelmed, and more inclined to notice the faults of the game, while a fan would likely glaze over them. I might say ascribe a 7 or an 8 to the game, which is still a great score, but where I see redundancy and lack of innovation (not to mention technical flaws and broken promises), others will see FPS greatness, and disparage my ‘’low’’ score. I could then face being ostracized by the gaming community at large, for what is effectively my opinion.

This is why I hesitate to fully trust professional reviews for big name, hyped games. Are you telling me that not one of the dozens of reviewers was underwhelmed by MW2, and saw fit to score it much lower than the high 9’s it was pulling everywhere? I suppose it’s possible, but I have my doubts. And when you throw in the conflict of interest that is advertising (and freebies/goodies/trips/dinners/parties, etc) one has to wonder how truthful they really are when it comes to some games.

As for review scores themselves, they are arbitrary, and this is more evident the more specific you get. I mean, clearly there’s some objectivity inherent within the scoring system. A 2 is a far cry from a 9. But what’s the difference between an 8.5 and an 8.8?

Go ahead, try and qualify that for me.

I’ll wait here.

*waits*

Thought so.

That being said, most of us like scores (although I hope you all focus more on the content of the review than you do the numerical score) and I use them myself in my reviews.

So what’s my scoring system like?



Note: Keep in mind that this isn't terribly serious, it will differ from person to person, and I didn't put exceptional amounts of thought into it. It's an on the spot, rough outline of how I see it.

1-Broken.The worst a game could ever be. Avoid, even if paid to play it. In fact, burn on sight.

2-Dreadful. Not worth it, even for free. Punch the person in the face for even offering it to you.

3-Very bad. Maybe play for the lulz, if you can get it free. Maybe. On a dreadfully boring rainy day.

4-Pretty bad, but some redeeming qualities. Sort of. Rent if you have no other options.

5-Mediocre. Few things done right, but buried amongst much bad. Decent rental, nothing more.

6-Decent. The bones of a good game here, but many flaws. A rental or bargain bin purchase.

7-Good. A good game that doesn't particularly stand out, and has some flaws, but is worth your time.

8-Great. Few flaws, mostly positives. Doesn't quite stand out, perhaps held back by a few little issues.

9-Excellent. A game that must be played. Very few discernable flaws. Nothing seriously wrong with it.

10-As good as you'll ever get. Does everything right. Seemingly flawless; what devs should aspire to.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Fuck Acitivision!!

This blog is going to consist of a rant. The cynical side of me will fly, as will the profanity. If you wish to avoid such things, turn back now.



Still here? Alright, let's rock.

So, there is an article on gamespot today, detailing where exactly the evil empire, the leviathan, the bloodsucking entity known disaffectionaltely as Sequelvisi-......er, rather, NoArtisticVisio-, um....sorry, no....Activision (that's it!) is on their quest to homogenize and then eventually destroy gaming and make as much money as possible before they do so.

Here's the link:

http://www.gamespot.com/news/6252764.html

So what does the article detail, exactly? Well:

MW2 is getting two paid DLC's this year!!!! Yes, exciting, isn't it? Maybe they'll include some dedicated server support and upgrades to their innovative text chat system in the PC version of the DLC's.

*rolls eyes*

Here's an excerpt:

Activision now lists the Encino, California, developer as working only on the two downloadable expansions to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, due out later this year.

But just wait folks, that's not all!

Acitivion confirmed that Treyarch is currently at work on a new COD title to be released this year (as we all already know). They then, however, went on to say the following:

The company is also for the first time announcing that a new game in the Call of Duty series is expected to be released in 2011

Oh BOY!!!!! A second Call of Duty title in the same fucking year? Yaaaay!

But wait!!! There's more!!!!:

Sledgehammer Games, a newly formed, wholly owned studio, is in development on a Call of Duty game that will extend the franchise into the action-adventure genre.
.....

So there are currently 3 Call of Duty titles in development, plus the 2 DLC's for MW2, and of course the as of yet unannounced but inevitable handheld titles, iphone game, facebook app, blah blah blah.
They didn't say in the article, but it's possible that in 2011, we'll see 3 major COD releases.

How many fucking times can Call of Duty be redone? They keep calling, and calling, and calling......

SOMEONE ANSWER THE FUCKING CALL ALREADY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jaysus!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Let's take a look at this, just from an xbox 360 gamer's POV. The xbox 360 was released in November of 2005. Which means that it has been out for 4 years and 3 months. In 4 years and three months, the xbox 360 has been graced with SIX FUCKING COD GAMES!!!!!!

COD1 (xbla)
COD2 (retail)
COD3 (retail)
CODMW (retail)
CODWAW (retail)
CODWM2 (retail)

6 motherfucking titles in one motherfucking first fucking person fucking shooter franchise in 4 motherfucking years on one motherfucking system!!!!!!!!!!!

Let that sink in for a moment.

Now, if I were to approach you ten years ago, and tell you that there would be a franchise that would see 6 games released in 4 years on one system, what would you have thought? When did things get to the point where this is deemed okay? People are going to continue eating this shit up, and that does NOT bode well for the industry. We are already starting to see the disease of sequelitis really start to take hold. Same with remakeitis, although, fortunately, it's nowhere near to the point it has reached in Hollywood. Not even close.

Still though, it's bad. We all know that it's hard enough as it is for developers to launch successful new ip's. And when one is a success, they whore the shit out of it. Ubisoft recently announced that they are scaling back on new ip's. I have a link for that, hold on a moment....

Here:


Read this quote:

The scaling back on new franchises is one part of a Ubisoft plan to ultimately have its major franchises seeing more frequent and regular releases.

Hmmm......Major releases seeing more frequent and regular releases......who does that sound like?
OH YA!!!!!!! Activision!!! The financial giant, who all other companies, especially the struggling ones (Ubisoft is one of them....somehow.....) are going to emulate in the coming years.

*sigh*

Look, sequels aren't all bad. And I understand the problem these companies face. New IP's are a risk. You could end up pulling an Okami or even worse, a Psychonauts. Two great games that sold like shit. But then again, look at Assassin's Creed. It was new, and sold in the millions. Bayonetta sold well. Borderlands sold well. Dead Space sold well. Hell, Mirror's Edge sold well, despite stupid ass EA being disappointed with it.
New IP's can sell just fine, as long as they are marketed properly, and/or appeal to people/are good games. Every single game franchise started out as a new intellectual property. The developers and publishers seem to forget this fact. The industry can grow if they establish new, exciting brands. We all win that way. But if they do it like this.....it's going to stagnate. They're going to eventually hit a wall, it's going to stagnate, and then it's going to fucking crash, like it did one before.

And none of us want that.

But there's more.

*puts on naive idealist hat*

What about the fucking art, man?

*passes joint*

Seriously, I know that they need to make money, but can't they do it in a way that at least maintains some integrity? That shows a little passion for the art? There are many companies out there doing it right, and making money at it. Activision is like the WalMart of gaming. EA is I dunno, the KMART or something. I digress.

The point is, and I say this as an atheist who doesn't believe in souls, they way Activision is doing it is just so damn soulless. They don't give one iota of a shit for the medium. Bobby Kotick doesn't give a FUCK about gaming. Companies like Blizzard. Team ICO. Bungie. PlatinumGames. Speaking of PlatinumGames, did you know they refused to do DLC for Bayonetta? Ya, they said the game ships complete, and that's it. We wait until we have everything we could possibly want to add to it, and we do. Then it ships. We're not holding anything back to sell, and we're not shipping an incomplete game. Of course, PS3 owners could argue against that, and they'd have a point, but at least it's been patched.

Companies like Activision don't give a flying fucking shit about artistic integrity or expanding the medium. The companies I mentioned, and many more, actually do. You can be incredibly successful without whoring, and I think the people that do that should be damn proud of what they have accomplished. They have given us great games, they have created something with merit, something of value, and they have made money doing it. Shit, I'm almost inclined to say god bless.

*wipes tear*

I fucking hated EA for years, and still do (seriously, fuck EA), but man, Activision must have looked to EA and said, ''we can do that, but better (or should I say worse).'' And then they set out to do just that.

1) Establish a new brand, Guitar Hero, whore the fucking ever loving (what the fuck does ever loving mean anyways? someone explain that to me) shit out of it

2) Take their successful COD brand and begin whoring the fucking ever loving shit out of it

3) Throw a piece of shit $4 dollar toy version of night vision goggles into a super duper edition of MW2 and sell it for like $100 extra. Market it as though it comes with real night vision goggles so your COD playing basement dwellers can feel like they are soldiers as they lol at their friends cat in the dark....or what they can make of it with their $4 toy they paid $100 for.

4) Whore the fuck out of Tony Hawk, and then when people finally get bored of it....add a board (seriously.....you bored? here's a board!!) and sell a shitty, unfinished product for like $130

5) Realize you can save an extra buck or two and cut back on instruction manuals, because every penny
counts!

6) Have your shitty, asshole piece of shit president go on record saying shit like developing games shouldn't be fun, and we want to charge $90 per game

7) Remove mods from the PC version of MW2, then sell them DLC. Oh, and remove dedicated server support.

and on, and on, and on, and on and on and on and on and on......

Fuck Them.

Seriously, fuck Activision. And you.....stop buying Activision products. No, shut up, I don't want to hear it.

Just stop.

Fuck Activision.

Amen.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Zombie Apocalypse XBLA Review

Bring the Apocalypse, or Get Feasted On.























In Zombie Apocalypse, you have two choices. Either expend incredible amounts of ammunition bringing the Apocalypse to a bunch of brain hungry zombies, or just give up and be eaten. Not sure which option to take? Well, then this review is for you. This won't be a terribly lengthy review, as the game is quite simple. It's an arcade style twin stick shooter, in the vein of classics like Robotron and SMASH TV (both of which are also available on the Xbox Live Arcade).

Remember this?

Now there's this:

This game follows the same basic pattern. You pick one of four characters:

and then you start out in an area, blast away everything in sight, then move on to the next area when you clear the one you're currently in. There are 7 different environments, and you move from one to the other and back again over the course of 50 days (each level is a different day). And of course, like the games of old, you work to increase your score, which goes up higher and higher via a multiplier. You earn 1 to your multiplier for every 5 zombies you kill. You do this until you survive the ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE.

So, you do this, along the way picking up various weapons, which include a shotgun, dual SMG, rifle, molotov cocktails, flamethrower, grenade launcher, and rocket launcher. Your default weapons are an assault rifle and a chainsaw, which you can use in two ways. Normal, and execution. Executions add 3 to your multiplier for each one you do, so they are very useful, but they also leave you open for attack for a second after you do one, so you must use them wisely. When the shotgun toting sheriff zombies (yes, seriously) show up, you don't want to be stuck doing an execution when one of them is nearby, you'll be open to a shotgun blast.

Speaking of shotgun toting sheriff zombies, these are the enemy types to be found in the game (weapon or attributes in brackets):

Dodge Zombie (side-stepper)
Shambler (regular zombie)
Big Boy (construction worker, can't break)
Granny (knives)
Nurse
Queen (flying)
Puker (puke piles, slows you down)
Dynamite Guy (blows you up)
Infected Human (not attracted to bait)

That last one refers to two things I have not, as of yet, mentioned. There are survivors that randomly appear, and if you protect them for a short period of time, and they get picked up by helicopter, you get a score bonus. If they get attacked, they turn and then attack you. The bait mentioned is a talking C4 filled teddy bear (again, seriously) which you can throw to get the horde off of your back, and then watch as they gather around the lovable teddy bear.....and then BOOM, they explode into a pile of bloody gore. Well, this works on everything except the newly turned zombies.

Splat!

The game starts out with one mode, and then you can unlock some new ones through normal play. They are as follows:

Turbo (faster)
All Weaons (you carry infinite versions of every weapon, which you can cycle through with the dpad)
Blackout (limited light)
Hardcore (start with one life)
Chainsaw Only (self explanatory)
7 Days of Hell (a long and very difficult mode)

As for the difficulty, it starts out easy and then ramps up, gettting quite difficult later on, although this is offset by infinite continues, which you can use if desired. Any score earned after continuing does not get posted to the leaderboards. You start with 4 lives, and you earn more as you gain score.

There is 4 player co-op, both online and off, in addition to the aforementioned leaderboards. The game is really fun, especially at first, but it's not perfect. So, a few downsides to the game:

1) Only 2 bosses, and it's really the same one twice

2) It gets repetitive, seeing as how it's a fairly shallow arcade game.

3) At $10, I don't think it's overpriced per se, but at $5 it would have been a sure bet for more people.

4) There isn't a huge community for this, at least on the xbox 360 version (I can't speak for the PS3 version). It's been out a few days, and the most people I have seen online at once is maybe 40.

Overall, this is a good looking, fun, modernized take on an old arcade standby, the top down shooter. Very fun, especially with friends, and it has a decent amount if unlockables, which is refreshing. It can also get stale fairly quickly. If you're a high score junkie, then you'll find more replayability out of it. The price is fair enough, and it really is fun. For the price of a movie ticket, you'll get two (or more) times the amount of hours of enjoyment. So, despite the inherently repetitive and shallow nature of the game, it's definitely a recommended buy for arcade shooter and zombie fans.

Final Score: 8/10.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Bejeweled 2 Deluxe XBLA Review

Bedazzled
























Bejeweled 2 Deluxe was released in 2005 for the xbox 360. It's a sequel to the hit puzzle game Bejeweled. The concept of Bejeweled, as is the case with most puzzle games, is really quite simple. There is a board filled with gems, or jewels, of various shapes and sizes, and your goal is to swap places, two gems at a time, in order to cause three or more of the same kind of gems to line up. This results in them disappearing from the board, only to be replaced by the same number of a random selection of gems. Also as is the case with most other puzzle games, this simplicity is deceptive, as there are various strategies to be employed en route to clearing the requisite number of moves in order to progress. At least, this is the case for some of the modes. The end goal changes depending on which of the several game modes you are playing. We'll come to this momentarily, however. I'd like to describe the basic gameplay in just a little more detail before we get to the game modes.

There are seven main types of gems: the red square, the green circle, the yellow diamond, the white circle, the orange hexagon, the blue rounded (Reuleaux) triangle, and the purple triangle. When four of these are matched, a Power Gem is created. These are special versions of the regular pieces that explode when matched with other gems, destroying the surrounding pieces. When five gems are matched, a Hypercube is created. These special pieces destroy all of the gems of a given variety on the field when matched with one of that variety. For example, matching it with a purple triangle results in all of the available purple triangles being destroyed. These Power Gems and Hypercubes become focal points of the gameplay, as they play heavily into the strategies employed in the game.


As alluded to earlier, there are several game modes found within Bejeweled 2 Deluxe. There are nine modes, to be exact. The standard mode is as described above. The Action mode is a timed version of the standard mode. Puzzle Mode is a mode in which you are presented with various puzzles which need to be solved by matching specific gems in a certain order, thereby clearing the board. Another mode available in the game is the Endless mode, which is comprised of a series of levels, which increase in length as you get farther in. The hook in this mode is that you can never lose, hence the title 'Endless Mode.' Unlike in the regular modes, you will never get the dreaded no more moves text popup, which signifies a game over. The rest of the modes are hidden, and are up to the player to discover.

Visually, the game is pleasing to the eye, especially in high definition. Nothing ground breaking, but it's a nice clean, simple look, with sharp detail and beautiful backgrounds. The gems have a shine to them which catches the eye.

The game, like many other in the genre, is seemingly innocuous at first, but gets devilishly harder as time progresses, and if it grabs you, will hook you in for many, many hours. The developers tried to play to this with the achievements, which are very, very difficult to attain and almost incomprehensibly time consuming for the most part. The one for reaching level 280 in Endless mode, for example, will take about 100 hours to complete. Then you add in the 10000 power gems/1000 hypercubes achievement, and you have yourself a lot of gameplay ahead of you, if so inclined.

As far as negatives go, there are but a few. It's not incredibly complex, but that seems to work to its advantage. There's just enough depth to keep you interested, while at the same time remaining simplistic enough to be accessible and fun. However, this lack of depth may be seen as a downside to some gamers. Another possible downside is that there is no multiplayer. This is a single player only affair. The game design is not one that strikes me as particularly conducive to multiplayer, but some people may feel otherwise.

This is a good game that will appeal to most puzzle game fans, save for those few who require vast amounts of depth in their puzzle games. Other than that group, this will be a good purchase, and at 10 dollars, it's a good value, especially considering the gameplay hours you can squeeze from it. It's the type of game that's good for those times where you don't want to play anything too engaging, but rather, just sort of zone out and play something that will help you unwind after a long day. And if you're an achievement hunter, you've got your work cut out for you.

Overall Score: 8.5/10

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Gaming Sequels, New Ip's, and Ubisoft.

Sequelitis, New Ip's, and Ubisoft.


Ubisoft backing off new IP's as holiday sales slip

http://www.gamespot.com/news/6249972.html

In recent years, Ubisoft has launched a bevy of new series with varying degrees of success. Since 2006, the publisher has introduced gamers to Assassin's Creed, Shaun White Snowboarding, EndWar, HAWX, Rayman Raving Rabbids, Call of Juarez, and Haze, among others.


Assassin's Creed paid off for Ubisoft, but the publisher's looking to take fewer risks of that sort in the future. The flow of original intellectual properties from Ubisoft will be stemmed in the coming years, as the publisher is shifting its focus away from new franchises. In reporting its final results for the third fiscal quarter (three months ended December 31, 2009), Ubisoft confirmed a reduction in new creations investments.


The scaling back on new franchises is one part of a Ubisoft plan to ultimately have its major franchises seeing more frequent and regular releases.

UGH. WHAT THE FUCK!!!!!!

When I saw the headline on gamespot, I went into cynic/anger mode. I was ready to rage. What the fuck Ubisoft? Your new IP, Assassin's Creed, has sold in the MILLIONS (AC2 has sold 8 million....well, shipped, but still). All of your big hits were new IP's at one point. We're already suffering from sequelitis in this industry, and now you're going to make it worse?

FUCK YOOOUUUUUUUU!!!!

This feeling was amplified by 100 when I read this:

..reconfirms Oct.-Dec. earnings fell 3 percent to $682 million.

WHAT? You earned 682 MILLION fucking dollars in one quarter, and you're cutting IP's because that represented a 3 fucking percent drop? HOW GREEDY CAN YOU GET?

But then I read on:

For the full year ending March 31, 2010, the company expects to post an operating loss of €50 million ($69 million) off sales of €860 million ($1.19 billion).

...


Oh.


....


...


Oohhh.....


Now I get it. It's hard to believe, but damn, they're losing money.

This perfectly exemplifies the fact that it's possible to be be a huge corporation, raking in billions of dollars in sales, and still be in the red. Many people (myself included) often critisize these companies for what we perceive to be shady (some DLC) or just unfavourable (cutting new IP's in favour of sequelitis) practices. I happen to do this a lot. It's hard to think that these companies can make so much money, yet still post losses at the end of the year.

I guess I'm going to have to be careful from now on, and try not to be so reactionary when I hear news like this (that will be very hard, I'm sure, as it's going to be tough to seperate the legitimate moves from the lazy/greedy ones, unless full financial data is disclosed).

BUT HOLD ON.

It's unfortunate that things are going this way, and my initial reaction was to blame us, the gamers. We're not buying new IP's. It's our fault. And this is partly true. However, as I said earlier, Ubi just released the news that they have shipped 8 million copies of AC2. Now, I don't know how HAWX or Endwar sold. I don't know how the Raving Rabbids spinoffs of Rayman are selling. The thing is, if they aren't, maybe it's their fault.

Maybe they need to make better games.

Companies are so quick to deem something unfeasible or unprofitable once it has been tried unsuccessfully. ''People didn't buy enough copies to warrant a sequel.'' Well, maybe that's because it fucking sucked? Doesn't mean the IP isn't viable. It just needs to be done better.

Sure, some great new IP's go overlooked. Okami and Psychonauts are two commonly touted examples of this. Often though, the new IP is mediocre, and the sales reflect that. Or perhaps, as is likely the case with Okami and Psychonauts, the game just doesn't appeal to a wide range of gamers.

Does this mean we cut out new ideas? Sure, a proven success is a proven success. But that's short term thinking. Don't they realize there won't be any industry left if all we have in ten years is COD, GH, Madden, Halo, and Assassin's Creed (extreme exaggeration, sure, but I think you get my point)?

Then again, every friggin new iteration of these games sells like hotcakes, so I guess gamers are getting what they deserve.

I don't know. I understand the sentiment. If people seem to want sequels, well, let's give it to them. We need to make money, and when we're losing money, we can't afford to take risks. But at the same time, I worry about gaming as a whole, and also, the creative/artistic aspect if it. I'm not some naive idealist, I understand that the companies are in it for the money, but damn, there should be more to it than that. It's better to create and earn then to rehash and really earn, in my opinion.

I'm starting to ramble now. When I started this I had a clear conclusion in mind, but now I don't know what to think.

What do you think?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Gamer On Fire!!! ( Gameronfire.com )

Gamer On Fire!!!

I am now on staff at a gaming website. We're still working on defining roles, but it appears that I will be the Lead Content Editor, or something akin to that, as well as a writer (primarily xbox 360 related content, I imagine, but as I said, roles are still being defined), and a forum moderator. We are throwing together ideas for a podcast, a video service, and some other cool stuff like integration with and support of, professional gaming teams, and some other neat stuff.

The site is also going to feature a discussion forum that allows basically any and all discussion in regards to gaming. None of that ''blog it'' or ''no vs. threads'' shit. If you want to post a topic extolling the virtues of one game over another, go for it, but at least try and be constructive about it. If you think the DS is better than the PSP, say it. We're not little children who will jump to rally behind our little plastic devices and act all indignant upon hearing a dissenting opinion. And if you act like one, you won't have mods to protect you from others' opinions, so you'll have to either grow up, or leave.

Of course, if this is too idealistic, and it turns into a shitstorm of crybaby bullshit, then we might have to implement some changes, but that's not the vision we have for the forums.

The website is http://www.gameronfire.com/

I have an offical blog there, which can be accessed @ http://www.gameronfire.com/index.php/blogs/magx01

So, come check us out, join the forums, and help us grow. Keep in mind, the place is still under construction, and things are still being sorted out, but it's basically fully functional at this point in terms of forums and such, but there is plenty of work to be done yet on the content and infrastructure implementation side of things. The admin/webmaster, Tyler, seems to have a good vision for the site, so I have much confidence in it and him. Also, he's looking for staff, so feel free to apply if you feel you would be an asset. You can do that on the website itself, or in the forums.

What I Have Been Up To.

Well, I have been up to some fairly big things, at least, I consider them to be so in the little microcosm of my world. I'll do these numerically:

l) I am now on staff at a gaming website. I'll put up a post on that momentarily.

EDIT: That post it now up. See HERE

2) It appears that I am going to be writing a monthly corporate newsletter for my buddies' business, as well as editing and proofing their written proposals and other such documents. I was given their current proposals to look over as a sort of test run, and, having submitted them to him tonight, I think he's going to be pretty happy with what I did :)

And if he's not.....I'll kick him in the balls and make him cry :P

Bye for now.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Game Character Interview: Mario

This is a new blog series, in which, I, magx, interview different game characters, and get the behind the scenes information we all want to know. What drives them? Who are they? What do they do in their off time? Who are the people behind the beloved characters? In this series, we finally find out.

So, for the first edition, we're going to start it off with a BANG, as I have secured an interview with the ever present, beloved mascot of video gaming, Mario!




So, without further ado, let's get the the questions, shall we?

Editor's Note: This interview contains much foul language. Reader discretion is advised. This is no joke.



magx: So, Mario, before we begin, I just want to thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. I'm going to try and maintain a calm, neutral demeanor, but I mean.....wow, you're freaking Mario, man! [pause] Okay, okay. I'm collected. So, yes, thanks for sitting down with me today.

Mario: It's a me, Mario!

magx: Yes, but actually, as we spoke about, this series of interviews has the cha-

Mario: That's a so nice!

magx: Uh......Mario? We're actually looking for an out of character interview here. So please, if you would kindly drop character, as much as we love it, we'd be much obliged.

Andrew Dice Clay: Ah, fuck, finally. That's a fuckin relief, you know what I mean.

magx: Uh.....you're.......Andrew Dice Clay?!



Andrew Dice Clay: You're fuckin surprised? What the fuck, I thought it was obvious? Where'd you think I'd been all these years?

Editor's Note: For those unfamiliar with Andrew Dice Clay, see the following video:



It's a minute or so long clip of Mr. Clay (sorry, Diceman) on CNN, telling off the reporter. His comedy routines can also be seen on youtube. To sum up his act, it's very vulgar, misogynistic, racist, and all around raucous.


magx: [long pause] Well, okay.....ahem....Alright, so I guess we'll get started. So, Mr. Cla-

Andrew Dice Clay: Andrew, please, or Diceman, none of this Mr. shit, you know what I mean? [he pauses to light up a cigarette]

magx: Okay, sorry about that, Andrew. So, please, explain how you went from the comedy stage, selling out Madison Square Garden, to playing perhaps the most beloved character in all of video gaming?

Andrew Dice Clay: Well, that's pretty easy. I was backstage after a show, getting my dick sucked, you know, I mean, this chick was really working my shit, you know? So I blow in her hair, and as I'm lighting up a cigarette, I hear this little voice. I look up, and there's this little Jappy yappy in front of me, you know, like 4 foot 2, and he's got a translator with him, and next thing I know, he's offering me this gig.

magx: So, you decided right on the spot?

Andrew Dice Clay: Well, ya, you know, I mean, I was still the best fucking comedian who ever lived, but my numbers maybe weren't like they were a few years before, you know? And I got this guy offering me a long term deal, big money, and all I gotta do is rescue some fucking mopy idiot from a fire breathing piece of shit once every couple of years? And along the way I get to do mushrooms, and jump on stupid fuckin turtles, which is great, because I hate stupid fucking turtles. I mean, who the fuck invented those useless, slow pieces of shit? I fuckin sat there for thirty minutes once, watching this big dumbass turtle fuck walk from one end of my bathroom to the other. Thirty fucking minutes? I drowned him in the toilet, just for being so fucking stupid.

magx: [pause] Well.....I don't know if I would have drowned him......

Andrew Dice Clay: What are, you some kind of liberal pussyfuck? Oh, save the turtles? They're life too? Fuck that.

magx: ….....Okay, okay, well, let's get this back on track. So, Mr. Miyamoto offers you the role of Mario, and you take it. Now what?

Andrew Dice Clay: Well, I started out in some shitty games, donkey kong, and shit, hell, I was even called Jumpman at first. Then, in '83, I get this retard brother and we have to save New Yor City from these little fucks running around the sewer. At this point, I'm wondering what the fuck I'm doin, here, you know? Like, I'm ready to stomp that little Jappy yappy into the ground, money or no money. Fuck this shit.

magx: But then Super Mario Bros. happened.

Andrew Dice Clay: Ya, suddenly, I'm running free through these trippy world, doing shrooms and shit, rescuing this fucking broad, who doesn't even give me any by the way, so I have to take it later on, you know what I mean? She wanted to quit the first time, and go to the cops, but I set that bitch straight. So, anyways, there was the piece of shit second game, but then the third one was awesome. I mean, I'm traveling all over the place, I'm on airships, I'm so high everything looks like it's gigantic in the one place, I mean I'm just tripping out, you know? [pauses to light another cigarette] This is a pretty good gig.

magx: And then you get a dinosaur.

Andrew Dice Clay: And then I get a dinosaur. You know how much the broads love that fuckin tongue? I mean, I was getting pussy before, but now? Fuggedaboutit! Even that frigid bitch couldn't refuse anymore, at least, not behind the scenes. Sure, in the games, she's still little miss innocent, making me cake in Super Mario 64, but you know what happened backstage? I ate that cake off her tits and she did a line of coke off my balls, and then I used that dinosaurs tongue on her for three hours. It was fuckin beautiful, I mean, I'm having the time of my life, you know what I mean?

magx:Ya....it sounds like it, although I have to say, a lot of my childhood illusions are being shattered here.

Andrew Dice Clay: Hey, everybody has to grow up sometime, you know?

magx: True enough. So, tell me, what's your favourite Mario game?

Andrew Dice Clay: Super Mario Sunshine was a lot of fun. I loved playing with my hose.

magx: [pause] Of course. So, anything you want to say to the fans before we end this......rather.....illuminating interview?

Andrew Dice Clay:Ya, go fuck yourself.

magx: Great. Well, thanks for the interview, and we hope to see yo-well, Mario, soon.

[End of Interview]

Well, there it is. For better or for worse, that's the real Mario, folks. I think I am going to need some time to digest it all. I mean, that was one of my childhood heroes, and to know that, this whole time, it was really Andrew Dice Clay behind that smiling face.......I don't know. I think this Mario fan is disappointed. Be sure to let us know how you feel in the comment section.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Borderlands Review

Care to Open Pandora's.....Vault?


[Note] This review is for the xbox 360 version of the game.


Borderlands in the latest game from Gearbox software, the developer known for making FPS games, namely, the Brothers in Arms series. They have always prided themselves on being just a bit different. A bit more cerebral and thoughtful in their approach. They have brought that mentality of innovation and fresh experiences to Borderlands, which is an FPS/RPG hybrid, that finds the player alone on a vast wasteland of a planet known as Pandora.

Pandora is a hostile place. You find yourself there on a quest to locate the oft rumoured Vault, a place steeped in myth and legend that is said to contain unnamed riches. You are not alone in this search, as many other individuals and some greedy corporations have tried over the years to locate the Vault. So far, none have been successful. Does the Vault even exist? This question haunts you on your quest.

Does that sound compelling? Well, I didn't think so either, but it's enough to drive the action forward. The story is definitely not a highlight in this game, and it's shallowness is definitely one of the few flaws. The emphasis in this game is on gameplay. Namely, combat, looting, and leveling up your choice of one of four available characters. So, is the game compelling enough to succeed despite a paper thin story, and other issues?

Graphics

This game utilizes an intriguing art style that has been described as a moving comic book. It's really quite stunning in motion, despite a few occasional flaws (jagged edges and shadows, and some minor clipping). It features black line borders around characters and objects, and a very vast colour palette. It's a game who's look speaks for itself (which is likely why the developers changed it midway through development. It really helps differentiate it). There is a small issue with the engine, as texture pop in is evident when loading a new area, similar to games like Mass Effect and Gears of War. I'm not sure if this game utilizes a modified Unreal III engine, but I know that engine is known for pop in so it is possible. Overall, despite the few flaws, this is a game that will, if not outright atop you in your tracks, at least have you acknowledge it's proficiency and uniqueness. The look is also complimented by some nice special effects, including fire and explosive effects, lightning, and exploding limbs. It's really quite beautiful to see.





Sound

The game's soundtrack is largely forgettable, and the audio mixing seems a bit off, as I have difficulty finding a balance between audible but not overpowering musical accompaniment, and clearly defined sound effects. It works for a while, but the music has moments where it grows either too quiet or too loud, and, at least for me, needed to be occasionally adjusted. Then again, when playing, I always have a wife and baby sleeping nearby, as I play at night, so it definitely may be a player specific concern. The gun sounds are adequate.
Voice work is good, although there isn't very much of it, which brings us to another one of the game's flaws: largely inactive NPC's. Most of them don't have all that much to say to you, which can leave you feeling even more alone than you already did at times (assuming you aren't playing this co-op). I'll expand upon this later.

Gameplay

As stated earlier, this game is an FPS/RPG hybrid. It plays like a very adequate FPS, and the RPG elements fit right in, and do not feel at all tacked on, although NPC interaction and story are on the weaker side, as I mentioned earlier. What is done right on the RPG side of things is the experience/leveling system and the loot system. Essentially what you have here is a Diablo style game that plays like an FPS. There are an incredible number of weapons and different items to be found, most of which are procedurally generated, giving you almost limitless combinations of things. Enemies drop guns, shields, money, health packs, class modifications, and other items when they expire, leading to the infamous loot drop addiction: What cool stuff can I acquire next? Let's kill something to find out! You also obtain things as rewards for completing quests, and also, you'll find items through chests located throughout the world. All of these are staples of the RPG genre. Take that, but play it from a first person perspective and with guns, and you have the basic blueprints for Borderlands.


Ah, loot. Glorious loot!

The game is structured similarly to an MMO, although an MMO it is not. There are several areas in a huge world, separated into different zones (with a load time between each). In each zone, you'll find people waiting to doll out quests to you, both of the main story and side variety. You accept these quests, and then go forth to kill things, hunt items and people down, repair things, etc. Standard fare, and of course, along the way, you fight enemies scattered throughout the environment. Speaking of enemies, there is a good variety. You'll find yourself fighting human bandits, giant spiders, rat like creatures (skags), giant scorpion like enemies, flying bat like creatures called Rakks, huge bosses, and a few others I won't spoil here.



You start the game with an introduction to the four playable heroes. You have the Soldier, the Hunter, the Siren, and the Berserker. Each of the classes is more proficient with certain weapons, although anyone can use any weapon they like, with no penalty. Each class has specific abilities, which can be unlocked via a skill tree (different for each character). Using this skill tree, you can specialize your character, so, for example, as a Soldier, you can spec yourself to be a medic, or a support character. Or you can go Commando style and focus on damage abilities. You can also mix it up, and refreshingly, you can redo the whole build for a small in game fee, so don't be afraid to invest points, you can always redo it later on.

Each character also has a character specific action skill. The Hunter can release a bird of prey, which hunts down enemies, the Soldier can throw down an automatic turret which provides cover as well as shoots enemies (and can be spec'd to heal the player(s) as well as regenerate ammo, the Siren can turn invisible and run very fast. Activating this also damages all enemies in the vicinity. The Berserker goes into Berserk mode, which is a rage mode that makes him damage resistant. In this mode, you can rush enemies and melee the hell out of them.

So, you do the aforementioned quests, and you collect weapons and armor. You build up an super powerful version of your original character, kill countless enemies, and try to find this Fabled Vault. You can do this alone, or you play with up to 3 other players online, or 1 more in splitscreen. Co-op increases the fun exponentially in this game, as playing alone can make you feel bit lonely in the vast wasteland that is Pandora, and the fear-of-public-speaking NPC's don't help this feeling.


If it helps, just picture me in my underwear

Co-op works very well, and it is drop in/drop out, so no need to wait around in lobbies. People can join and leave mid game. The only negative to co-op is that the loot system does not incorporate rules for loot drops. It doesn't randomly allocate things to players, or take turns giving each person something. It doesn't split up or share the loot in any way. It's totally everyone for themselves, which means, if you are playing with the wrong people, someone may hog it all. If you are playing with friends, or decent people, it's easy to share, even after someone picks something up. You can just drop it for them, or even trade. You can also fight over loot if you wish, as there is a duel feature implemented into the game. Just melee someone, and if they melee you back, it's on. The fight leaves one person close to death, but no one dies. You can also go to various arenas located throughout the world to engage in 4 player round based skirmishes.

The developers hyped up the amount of guns in the game, and they weren't being deceitful. It's almost endless. You can get shotguns that shoot rockets, snipers that do lighting damage, assault rifles that set people on fire, rocket launchers that shoot 3 rockets at once, ect etc. Now, of course, there are archetypes that the guns fall into, and more often than not, you'll find yourself dropping, ignoring, or selling the guns you see, as many of them won't be better or as good as something you are already carrying. The guns fall into the following types: Combat Rifles, Pistols, Shotguns, Rockets, Submachine guns, Snipers, and Eridian Weapons. There is a proficiency rating for each, and this is leveled up as you earn experience while using one of the different kinds of guns.

There are these little robots called Claptraps, and they can be located throughout the world. When you find one, you will have to find a nearby repair kit to fix him, and upon doing so, are given a backpack expansion, which adds to your inventory space. By the end, you can carry as many as 42 items/weapons.

The world is very huge, although it is broken up into zones, as said earlier. To traverse the land, you can walk, sprint (you have an infinite sprint and do not need to hold the button down, it can be toggled). You can also approach any of the vehicle spawn locations and order up a car, which can be outfitted with either a rocket launcher or machine gun. You can also change the colour of the vehicle, but that's it for customization. And that there is another flaw in the game.

One great aspect of RPG's is that they often allow you to customize your character's appearance. In Borderlands, this is restricted to colour, just like the vehicles. It's not a pressing issue, but it is one that demonstrates how the game is a bit weaker on the RPG elements than some may like.

Summation

So, to sum up, the combat is fast, fluid, visceral (even with the more ''cartoony'' presentation) and fun. Leveling and loot collecting is very addictive. This game is absolutely recommended for anyone who is into both types of gameplay. This game, despite the few flaws, is a fantastic new intellectual property, and, for my money, is one of, if not the game of the year. If the gameplay hooks you, be prepared for countless hours of exploration and looting. Co-op adds to this replay value, as does a new game mode type mode called ''Playthrough 2'' (inventive, I know) which is unlocked after beating the game for the first time. Boderlands is a fantastic game that should not be overlooked.

Overall score: 9/10