Friday, May 29, 2009

Filler - The REAL DJ Hero.

The amount of manual dexterity required to pull this off is honestly lost to me. I've been playing this on and off for some years now.

Another after the jump..

If I can get this working smoothly...ah..the things you'll see..

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Thursday, May 28, 2009


I have a very love-hate relationship with fighting game series The King of Fighters...

On one hand, there's the expansive cast of characters, the uniquely tangible, weighty fighting system, and of course the unforgettably, unforgivably brutal boss fights...

On the other, it also looked like this.


Now, I'm not a stickler for graphics, but while that may look kind of bad now, it was amazing in it's heyday. The Neo-Geo was a 2D powerhouse, but after 10 years of using the same sprites, it was REALLY showing its age in the visual department. Even though the fighting system kept evolving, the look wasn't. So you can imagine my excitement when SNK announced they would be using Atomiswave, the amazing 2D engine powering the excellent Guilty Gear series..

...and my disappointment when it ended up looking like this.


(Really guys? The backgrounds look amazing, but the SPRITES are still the same?..)

Now we're 5 years later, and the influx of great looking fighting games has everyone taking notice. We've seen a high-definition remix of Street Fighter 2, a 3D overhaul of the series in its fourth installment, and even Arc System Works came up with something more impressive looking in the game Blazblue.

I think SNK had no choice but to step their game up.

I'll spare any more nostalgic waxing and say they did in spades, because The King of Fighters XII looks amazing. Using a graphic technique akin to the way Rare made Donkey Kong Country for the SNES yet being completely hand-drawn**, SNK has not only managed to redefine KOF, but they've also I think, redefined the expectations for what a next-gen 2D game should look like.

I'm done talking, just have a look. You may be speechless as I was.

**Curious? Have a read. Source: Kotaku.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Quick Thoughts - Identity Crisis


Sucker Punch, Volition, Radical.

All three of you developers want me to run around in an open world and blow..






But I can't tell the difference between the three of you. I mean, you all have slight variations in your template, but I'm beginning to think open world destruction is this year's big thing.

It's not necessarily a bad thing, given that many of our galaxies, our gaming careers have revolved around some sort of destruction or conquering spirits, but I'm sincerely hoping too much isn't TOO much.

Having played at least 8 hours (and then some) of inFamous though...I am almost too impressed. Sucker Punch has really created something amazing, though I'll touch on it as soon as I reach the end.

P.S. - After finishing the first mission, the game told me, based on my performance, they were switching me to HARD (yes in all capitals) difficulty. I haven't looked back since. Great game.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Playing God.

Y'know, while we're busy shooting each other in the jaw, saving the world from immediate destruction, foiling some grand master plan from an insane dictator, and being that one scrappy underdog who gradually comes into their hidden power..

Someone's out there creating lives.


..and screwing with them.

I actually wish I played The Sims more, I remember being a kid and playing SimCity like a nut, however I wasn't carefully managing the economy, building residences, promoting business, constructing a easily navigable grid, or any of those responsible things a great mayor should.

I was tearing all of it down.


Call me crazy, but it's endlessly hilarious when Godzilla is destroying your town while a hurricane goes at odds with a tornado for most buildings flattened, during a massive flash flood and viral outbreak. The disaster slider was my friend, and it was always turned up to max RIGHT when my citizens were experiencing a golden age.

I think it's the philosophy behind what makes The Sims so much fun to mess around with. Almost like controlling reality TV, it's a riot to watch these guys succeed as much as it is to watch them fail. We're on the cusp of the third one's release, and honestly? I'm tempted. Robust customization options down to a character's fitness, raising them from kid, the entire town being seamless (one of my complaints was that the indoors felt too disconnected from the outdoors, being less cohesive as a world), and removing the annoying traits (am I the only one who WASN'T fond of making them poop every 5 minutes?) means EA just wants us to have fun focusing on them and their quirks (Did I mention there were over 80 of those things, ranging from klepto to insane?). Given these below videos, it looks like it'll be a riot.

Marking June 2nd on my calendar..

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Today is..

today is.jpg

...the I've ever known.

(Yep, I downloaded it. Yes, I will still purchase it. It's that good.)

(Updated 5-31-2009: Now with gameplay video after the jump! Michael!)

Rock Band: Unplugged for the PSP.

Great soundtrack? (Jackson 5, The Police, AFI, Smashing Pumpkins, Weezer) Check. Graphics and sound? Quite on point. Controls? As intuitive as DJ Max's 4 button scheme, with the added task of switching between all four members of the band dynamically. I was a bit iffy about how this kind of thing would work across a 4-5 minute song with multiple parts, but my doubts were immediately put to rest once I started playing.

While it's true that all four tracks (Guitar, Bass, Drums, Vocals) are laid out and running at the same time, you only have to complete a small portion of the song, or a "phrase", and that part of the track will start playing itself. When a phrase is complete, you switch to another member and play their portion. What it boils down to is completing phrases from each member of the band in order to keep the song sounding great, and while it sounds like a handful in text, there's a certain addictive rhythm and satisfaction in successfully keeping the song going from all fronts. On the other side of the coin, messing up will cause that portion of the track to cut out, but you can easily rescue it with a few consistently well timed button presses.

I like it. Add the fact that this portable version retains the music store, which means downloadable content, which means this game could potentially NEVER end like the console Rock Band (Over 670 songs available for download and growing!), and you have a game that'll never leave my memory card--er, I mean UMD Drive.

Because I am buying it.

Harmonix deserves it. It's not like they're Activision or anything.

Continue Reading..

Friday, May 15, 2009

Gold Mining Part 2 - Guitar Zeroes.


Guitar Hero, post Harmonix is fucking doomed.

Mine it, and mine it well, guys.

You caught the Bioshock post, I'm certain, felt my anger towards the subject. This post is in the same vein, but Guitar Hero is another story.

The problem with Guitar Hero is that it isn't getting better with each release, it's simply gotten progressively worse after Harmonix jumped ship. Apparently high off the few gamers who managed to finish the difficult song "Jordan" from Guitar Hero 2, they thought the road to success would be making every song nearly as difficult as that one!


Looks like fun, right?

Inaccurate, unnecessarily difficult note charts, vertical difficulty curve, shoddy art direction and character design, and an overall loose and inconsistent feel made Guitar Hero 3 the last game I picked up in the series. I moved on to Rock Band, and never looked back. It seems that after Harmonix left, Activision realized the series was practically a license to print money and put the men who created and subsequently killed Tony Hawk's series on the job.

If there's anything Neversoft knows, it's how to run a franchise into the ground, and judging by that second introductory link, they're off to a great start.

Now the series suffers from an egregious lack of talent and creativity that leads to them playing catch up with Rock Band ever since its release.

"Hey, let's stick drums and vocals in GUITAR Hero, thereby contradicting the title of the series and openly admitting that we're riding on Harmonix's coattails!"

Brilliant. Why not just make a separate franchise for a full band and call it something else, like...I don't know, Band Hero or something?

...Oh wait.


What makes Rock Band the spiritual successor to Guitar Hero in every way shape and form is the way it took the basic formula of being the guitarist, and expanded it into the format of an entire band. While I won't go into the subtleties of how they improved the game in detail, having accurate, FUN note charts, a unique, engaging visual style, and instead of mining the consumer for their cash, creating a business model where the game is a platform you can expand upon with downloadable music instead of a new game every few months went a long way in advancing the genre.

Superiority in numbers if you're outclassed, I suppose. Good luck oversaturating the market with these "Hero" style music games and running this franchise into the ground even further, Neversoft. Because it's working. You've already managed four GH titles in the two years you've had control, haven't you? Now 7 more are coming before the end of this year. Wonderful.

I was personally finished after 3.

Tool as I am though, I will be picking up Guitar Hero: Smash Hits, on the basis that it reminds me of a time when Guitar Hero DIDN'T suck. Music from 1, 2, and 3 in one tight package.

That will however, be the last 59.99 they ever get out of me.

Continue Reading..

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Gold Mining Part 1 - Bioshock XVIII

This would be why I'm so against Bioshock 2. I foresaw this.


While I am aware that the gaming industry is a business first, and an art form second, I can't help but be offended at some of the decisions made. It's almost a given that a successful game will get a sequel, but at what cost?

Bioshock 2 doesn't make any sense to me. Now that the game is apparently getting multiplayer it's become even LESS relevant in my mind. Bioshock wasn't primarily about giving people what they wanted, it was about delivering an experience people have never had before. The original game didn't have multiplayer because they felt it was UNNECESSARY, what with the single player experience being so strong. The game was about telling a story, one with a very specific message. If I remember, Ken Levine's team HATED him by the time development of the game came to a close, because he had to have the game his way. Damn constant revisions and opinions he didn't agree with, at the end of the day, it was his baby, and the amazing game we all had a chance to experience was the fruit of all that labor. The team may have complained a great deal, but I'm sure the countless accolades, critical acclaim, and increasingly passionate fanbase gained were quite soothing.

It also ended. Didn't leave room for a sequel. Because of this fact, this game SCREAMS cash-in so much to me that I can't help but be a raging cynic. The hackneyed story is an excuse to revisit Rapture, but if you played the game to completion, Rapture ISN'T really a place you would want to return to even if it were possible, given the events of the first. They want you to play as a Big Daddy so bad while retaining what made the first one great, you're apparently a "prototype" that can use plasmids. Why in the HELL does it have multiplayer? The fans? Are you kidding? The game is a sequel so devoid of actual purpose, it's relying on people's complaints about the original in order to sustain itself.

I have literally read quotes from the developers saying that a great deal of people who purchased Bioshock saw a Big Daddy on the box of the original and were disappointed. Apparently they felt misled because you spent the majority of the game fighting them instead of being one yourself. So, the main character in the sequel is a means of appeasing the people they "duped". Then they go on to ramble about how "cool" using the drill will be.


Do I even need to explain why there's multiplayer in the game now? Great job not only pandering to the masses, but also ironically missing the point of the original game, guys. Now you're just like everyone else.

Continue Reading..

Monday, May 11, 2009

Snake Is Out of Control - Redux

(This is a post I wrote for another website, however it's still so relevant to me, I decided to remaster it.)

Ocasionally, I wonder if I complain too much.

I try to balance it out with some good vibes every so often, but..I cannot help myself. When my brain sends me the "bad design" signal, my fingers immediately act on impulse and begin working.

Even the complaint itself is more than a little late, I know... but I eventually received a PS3 as a gift some months ago, and of course, my first title had to be MGS4, the system's true killer app.

After the initial 8 minute install (the end of which, Snake taunts my patience with his infamous "kept you waiting" line), I was ready to jump in, and jump in, I did.

For the first hour or so of play, everything is glorious. The visuals are solid, but not extraordinary, the sound is enveloping and immersive, and the controls take a bit getting used to, but are undeniably Metal Gear. As I snuck around, narrowly avoiding enemies and disabling others with a flick of my knife, I was sated. I was a sneaking machine, and every movement I made, for the most part, traveled cleanly from brain to controller to screen.


Then I met up with Rat Patrol, Meryl's ragtag, yet capable squad. A debriefing and information dump later, the Frogs were unleashed, a full on close-quarters firefight started, and it all fell apart.

Initial impression upon entering battle -- Snake is not built for gunfights.


During a cutscene, Snake is practically infallible, a well oiled combat machine who survives insurmountable odds--even in his old age. He's sharp, agile, quick witted, and most importantly, effective. Watching Snake do what he does best during a cutscene is nothing short of impressive, and one of the many reasons I look forward to putting the controller down and watching him go.

My Snake is nowhere near as effective.

Under my control, Snake is a mess. He moves much too slow, cannot find cover for the life of himself, and has difficulty aiming his weapon. When he isn't stuck awkwardly attempting to fire around a corner, he's standing straight up in the middle of a firefight, as if he were oblivious to the presence of bullets. His transitions aren't smooth. His body language doesn't scream that of a hero.


In my opinion, MGS was never truly about action, it was about stealth, and Snake's gunfight prowess during gameplay, I felt, was gimped the way it was in order to put an emphasis on sneaking. You could fight, but only so effectively, and it simply felt better to conquer an area with your wits instead of your firearms. However, MGS4 wants me to disregard that and engage me in wide open firefights using the SAME archaic battle system that inexplicably has roots in MGS2, despite being loaded with new commands and battle options.


Unfortunately, In the four years it took for MGS4 to come out, I've been treated to such gems as G.R.A.W., Gears of War , Rainbow Six Vegas, and Uncharted all games that have a sound, intuitive cover mechanic at their core. Even Niko in GTA4 will slide behind anything in the game world within reason. This makes it that much harder to accept that when I come into contact with a waist high structure in MGS4, I can't take cover behind it unless the game says I can. I can crouch behind it, or go prone, but doing so only looks and feels awkward, as if I'm taunting my enemies by showing off my moveset.

Then to make matters worse, popping out from behind cover is a chore in itself. To my dismay, I found I can only peek out from the left or right of whichever structure I'm leaning against. To do something as simple as fire over an object, I have to unstick myself from cover, stand straight up, fire off a few rounds, then crouch again and restick myself. Why can't I simply aim over cover, and have him crouch back down smoothly? Even a seemingly thoughtless action like switching aiming shoulders requires me to unstick myself, switch shoulders, then restick myself into cover. I have to disengage myself from behind cover so often to function it makes me wonder why the option even exists. Manipulating Snake feels almost like work, and I literally have to unlearn about two years of good cover mechanics across various games in order to come to grips with this.

This isn't revolution, or evolution. This is just lazy. While I appreciate Kojima Productions taking note of what everyone has been clamoring for and injecting a bit of war into Snake's repertoire, what's in place here is completely counterintuitive. Gears of War showed everyone what a great cover system could be and excelled at it, here, it feels like an afterthrought. There's a way to bring intense, group firefights into MGS, but I don't feel this was the right route at all. Even having finished the game, I still feel like it could've been much smoother. It's even something that gets in the way of me playing Metal Gear Online, given that the entire mode is based around multiplayer combat using this exact same system. I'm sure it's a great deal of fun, but you may have a better chance of getting me to play Resident Evil 5's Versus mode; multiplayer featuring characters who can't move and shoot at the same time.

Feel free to call me a "n00b" and an inexperienced hack, but just keep in mind that even if YOU have come to grips with and completely mastered this flawed control scheme, that doesn't necessarily mean it's too perfect for improvement. There are videos on YouTube of people completely destroying Sonic 2006 despite what a train wreck we all know that game to be.

Continue Reading..

Saturday, May 9, 2009

How many commandos does it take.. screw up a demo?

I played the long-anticipated Bionic Commando demo the other day..

I have one question for you, Capcom.

Why, when introducing a very fresh reimagining of the bionic arm swinging that made the series famous back in '87, do you have me doing this in the demo:

...Instead of this?

It's really a shame too, because when I wasn't choking on the obviously scaled-down-for-multiplayer visuals, being blown away by high powered weapons while attempting to learn the controls, and being called every name out of XBL trash talking's greatest hits while being inexplicably kicked off the map by a bunch of players doing their best Liu Kang impression..

...I was having fun tooling around with the incredibly intuitive mix of swinging/shooting the game offers.

When they let me, of course.

A word to the wise. While I realize that multiplayer modes are becoming more and more prevalent in gaming regardless of whether it actually enhances the overall experience or not, trying to sell a game with a multiplayer demo is the worst possible decision you can make.

At least I know which part of the game to avoid come May 19th.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I shouldn't be excited..

...But I am.


For those of us who have completed Gears 2,If this picture doesn't immediately bring any immediate thoughts to mind, let's hit the jump. Otherwise, I'll be spoiling a lot for you. You've been warned.

By now we're already familiar with Dom's reunion with his wife, Maria, but was anyone paying attention to this part afterward? When Marcus was tooling around with the Theron armor, suggesting that the two of them could sneak into Nexus were Dom willing to be subtle?

That picture headlining this post just became a whole lot more meaningful, didn't it.

Should have.

By the end of July, Epic's releasing a DLC atom bomb called the "All Fronts Collection", but the fact that it's going to have a strategy guide, dashboard theme, poster, AND all 19 extra maps for the multiplayer, 7 of which are going to be brand new (HORDE!!) matters little to me. What excites me the most about this pack is a little something in the form of an extra chapter for the campaign called "Road to Ruin."

Apparently an ENTIRE part of the campaign was just left out on the cutting room floor, and instead of leaving us in the dark like they did with the PC version, we'll actually be able to play it. Marcus and Dom wearing Theron armor? Aside from looking COMPLETELY ridiculous, the prospect of getting a bit of stealth injected into Gears' already tactical gameplay is more than a bit exciting, especially if they do it right.

The best part? It'll be ours for only $19.99.

My mind buzzes. Sneaking behind cover, what happens if your cover's blown, how hilarious it'd be to hear the two of them faux hissing in order to slip past Drones and's endless..

(Gracias to Destructoid and Kotaku for the news and picture, respectively.)

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Monday, May 4, 2009

Uncaged Animal - X-Men Origins: Wolverine Demo Impressions


X-Men Origins: Wolverine. While everything I've heard about the movie has been overwhelmingly TERRIBLE, I'm pleased to say that the game itself is anything but. Movie licenses are really easy to screw up, and that they do with aplomb.By my estimate, about 95% of them turn out to be undercooked rush-jobs.

With this game though, I knew from the opening movie that I was in for a treat.

No more than a few seconds into the cinematic, Wolverine is bounding about, disembowling , impaling, eviscerating, and adjectives fail me, basically fucking up everyone in his way. No, really. At one point he gets a hole blown in him--literally--and he just gets back up and gives the guy a claw uppercut. Through the head.

Yep. This game's rated M.

As soon as actual gameplay started, it made no bones about getting me straight into the action, controls were very simple and God of War-esque, with the usual heavy/light/grab attack buttons front and center. As the general "test pattern" way of figuring out combos (XXY,XXX,XYY....etc) was going on in my head, I was pleased that everything coming out on screen was not only tight from a control standpoint, but from a visceral one as well. When Raven Studios said they refused to compromise Wolverine's character in this title, they weren't kidding. Every action I did either had streaks of blood, or limbs flying everywhere, occasionally in glorious slow-motion (with zoom cam!). If grunts weren't being torn apart, they were being pounded into dust, if they wern't being pounded into dust, they were being covered in claw marks and reduced to a bloody mess. The more enemies they threw at me, the more I felt like cutting loose until I was the only one left standing.

Sounds like I was in a Wolverine state of mind, no?


The rest of the demo was a similarly themed killing spree, mixing in nifty environmental kills (Press B near this spike jutting out of the ground and see what happens!), and new moves (You've leveled up! Hold Y to launch enemies into the air!) to keep me on my toes, all similarly fun to execute and experiment with at will. My favorite one however, was a technique called "Lunge".


It's exactly what it sounds (and looks) like; Logan himself shooting through the air like a torpedo with claws, launched directly into some strapping young lad's chest. Bullets and commotion be damned, I took out about 5 people in succession with this one move. How was this not regulated with a meter or power bar of some sort? How? I spared myself the questions and abused it like a cheap corner move in [insert your favorite fighting game here].

I think the highlight of my newfound ability had to have been when the helicopter came in, and the first thought that popped into my head was "I wonder if I can use Lunge on this?"

Sure enough, it worked.


I was rendered speechless as I watched Logan jump nearly 40 feet onto the helicopter, make his way to the pilot-side window, bash in the glass, yank the driver out, and hold his body up to the still-moving propellers, decapitating him and spraying blood everywhere.

Yes again.. This game is rated M.

With the kills and cinematics being the selling point however, it's a bit disappointing to admit that visually, the game leaves a bit to be desired. The camera is just a -bit- too far away for my liking (making the characters look small) and the framerate could be better considering everything the engine is NOT pushing, but the overall level of detail the game provides offsets it somewhat. It's not the greatest looking game out there, but it gets its point across nicely.

The damage modeling is also worth special mention, as it fits in perfectly with his character. Rather than going the usual BS route of limiting his healing factor to a limited powerup or a story detail that gets momentary mention, it's the crux of the game's health system. There are two layers to the damage system, one represents his outer skin, where you can continuously take damage up until a point where his vitals are exposed, then a heart meter representing this starts to go down unless you can find some cover and begin regenerating. The best part is, you get to watch this happen in real time. Everything from bullet wounds to entire missing chunks of muscle and flesh starts repairing their way back to normalcy as Wolverine's most famous ability begins filling in the gaps left by your recklessness. Cool.

Ultimately, my experience with the X-Men Origins: Wolverine demo was a fine one. (Even if they copped out by not letting me fight that boss at the end.) The visuals, overall presentation, and gameplay do a great job of not only putting you in Wolverine's shoes, but also give you the claws to cut out of them. It's also one of the rare licensed properties that make you FEEL like the character you're using. It's very easy to associate Cyclops with simple eye lasers, or The Punisher with a bunch of guns, but to actually capture the essence of your source material? It takes passion. If there's anything that worries me, it's that judging from my brief playtime, the reviewer side of me worries about the experience being repetitive. However, I can only hope Raven injected enough variety in the finished game to keep things satisfying. I'm not too sure watching Wolverine claw someone from head to crotch ever gets old though. That may be the balance.

Great stuff though. I'd have to rank this one up there with Riddick as an experience so tight, it surpasses the movie it's based on.

Ain't a bad thing at all, bub.

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Saturday, May 2, 2009


Of all the early 360 games I played, none surprised and blew me away more than Lost Planet. It wasn't trying to be the best game in the world, but it was definitely shooting for the most fun. The story was ridiculous, the acting was questionable, but the combination of a huge weapon selection (including mechs and other vehicles!), old school shoot 'em up feel, and some MASSIVE bosses won me over in the end.

I know I didn't mention the graphics.

They were awesome. Fucking awesome.

Everything that Lost Planet was admittedly wouldn't have succeeded without the awe-inspiring visuals. Textures were clean and sharp, effects like smoke and particles were fluid and in abundance, and it was all tied together with some of the most tangible and convincing animation I still have yet to see matched in another game outside Capcom. Their internal game engine, MT Framework is one of the best "next-gen" middleware platforms, right up there in my book with Unreal Engine 3 (Gears of War 2, Bioshock), and the COD4 Engine (Call of Duty 4/World At War) in terms of delivering eye candy on all fronts. Also With titles like Devil May Cry 4 and Resident Evil releasing in Lost Planet's wake and looking better and better, it shows no signs of slowing down.

Now, Lost Planet 2 is on its way, and everyone involved are hard at work upping the ante in every way possible. More players, bigger creatures, bigger weapons, and somehow, even better visuals (if it's even possible), courtesy of MT Framework 2.0 .

I'm not one for hype, but I'd be remiss if I said I wasn't excited, even if the setting doesn't make much sense to me (yet). Exactly HOW did EDN-3 melt down, and why didn't it's diverse, cold loving insect population go with it?..


Director Kenji Oguro speaks a bit on the new gameplay direction, improvements, and even online co-op in the below vid. Enjoy =)

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