Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wrestling With PlayStation - Part 1

I have never done, or said, or written anything without merit. About anything.

Or anyone.

But I always catch some sort of flak when I'm speaking about Sony. Fanboy, the fans chirp. Hater. Etc. Never mind the fact that as a gamer, I am proclived to using EVERY system and not just one of my preference, generally at the behest of my passion, usually to the detriment of my wallet. My friend tells me I'm always hating on Sony. I told him, I have no problem taking the piss out of Microsoft, or even Nintendo when they are deserving of it.

"You can't say I'm hating on them when what I'm saying is based in fact. The notion that they are NEGATIVE facts is indeed a point of contention, but it isn't my fault that they are negative in the first place."

He nodded. He knew I was right. Though, making light of the fact that I seem to always be harping on Sony was his way of trying to come up with a legitimate reason why my 60gig PS3 up and died on me the night before.

Yeah, it up and died. Just like that. I knew it was going to happen eventually.

To make a very long story short, I finally ended up purchasing a PS3 late last year when I found the model I wanted, the only reason I'd EVER invest in a PS3: The 60 GB model. Backwards compatibility with PS1/PS2, mixed media memory card slots, 4 USB ports. I was happy. I played my games, watched my movies, went to town. All was well, though I did notice something amiss.

The system would heat up extremely fast, and while this seemed normal for a console with so much under the hood (an older model PS3 weighs about 12 pounds), I still became concerned. The system would heat up so much that the sound of the fan would literally overpower the sound of dialogue in a movie. It wasn't uncommon for it to heat up to this level during a game, and it seemed that the more graphically intensive it was, the faster this occured. I started having to make concessions like lowering the temperature of my room via the AC so the system wouldn't heat up, or even purchasing a small fan to keep it sounding decent, because it did worry me. At it's worst (and it frequently was), it sounded like a vacuum cleaner. I put up with it because, well, they just don't make the PS3 like that anymore, and despite its problems, I did consider it a pretty sturdily built machine.
Though I always threw caution to the wind.

"I'm just waiting for the day it finally just up and explodes", I used to kid. Kidding was all I could do. Where else was I going to find a new 60 GB system? It's not like swapping this one, or exchanging it was an option. I figured I'd just be covered when the system finally petered out.

And it did.

I woke up on Monday, watched a bit of a movie, played Tekken, and left. I came home, it refused to turn on. I did every bit of troubleshooting imaginable. It wasn't a common problem like the "Yellow light of death" or even a blinking red light. I googled and found nothing. My PS3 was gone. Calling Sony didn't help either. After waiting over 20 minutes for a rep to answer, I was hit with a firm denial. Despite the fact that I was technically still within the warranty period Sony offers, I was informed that my model was out of warranty, and that they would not fix it for free.
I thought it was ridiculous. I tried to argue my case and got nowhere. Despite the fact that I was within warranty, they absolutely refused to honor it because of the age of my model. I would have to pay $150 plus shipping so they could not repair my system, but simply send me a similar refurbished model. I would have to pay $150 plus shipping so they could not repair my system, but simply send me a similar refurbished model. This also meant I would lose my hard drive data. Apparently the "repair" process doesn't involve the transfer of data either.

The rep's smug attitude didn't help matters much either, especially the part when he insinuated that Sony's inability to transfer my hard drive data between consoles was my fault because I neglected to back it up often. The exchange literally went like this:

"I don't understand. If I can purchase a 15 dollar cable from a store, mount the drive myself and view its contents with a PC, why can't a certified technician from Sony do so at a repair center? You're telling me I'm getting the system 'fixed', but you can't preserve my data?"

"No sir."

"Why not, exactly?"

"Hey, I have a computer and I know to back up my files frequently."

"Wait..are you insinuating that it's my fault that my data is lost?"

"..Uh no sir, but--"

"Because you're talking about using a computer, and the myriad of problems those units can have are generally related but not limited to: Hardware changes, frequent software deletions and installations, and other unknown factors in the form of viruses and malicious software from third parties. Exactly HOW does that comparison pertain to a self contained piece of equipment like a gaming system?"


"Or are you telling me that I should back up my PS3 hard drive every time I remove a disc from the system?"

He had nothing else to say. By then, I was personally fed up. Calling didn't help, and I was no less stuck than before I called. I couldn't even self diagnose. Between the console's already known heat problem, and the variety of other factors that could've caused my malfunction, I was stuck. I just knew I wasn't paying to give up my console and data for a smiliar refurb that was going to break down in the same way my previous one had. Backward compatibility or no. The copy of Tekken 6 that's stuck inside can stay there as well.

I eventually decided I would just have to replace it with a new model, and keep the old one until I could figure out how to fix it.

Little did I know it was the beginning of my problems, and apparently newfound relationship with Sony's customer service.

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Monday, December 28, 2009

"No bareback even in the great outdoors, eh?.."

Yes, Harry did just say that. Yes, that thing is in trash is what you think it is.

Oh how I love Silent Hill: Shattered Memories more and more with each passing second.

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Aural Elbow Drop.

I own a surround system. In fact, I have since 2004. When the speakers on my "great" television at the time started to die out, I searched frantically for a solution, and lo and behold, my present that year for christmas was a 5.1 surround system of my choosing. Since then I've never looked back.

Sure, I've upgraded my television since then, but sound is the one thing that continues to matter to me. I'm usually the person preaching the contextual value of good graphics, but when the chips are down, I'd take an amazing aural experience over visuals any day. Your eyes can always overcompensate for what you're seeing, but you can't trick your ears.

My favorite example to use is Dead Space...given the choice, which would enrich the experience more; clarity towards already great visuals, or the ability to experience the constant ambient punctuation the game provides, being able to feel the Necromorphs crawling all around you?

With that notion, when I'd finally had enough of my subwoofer not delivering the punch I wanted to, I replaced it. I expected little more than a boost to sounds I was already acquainted with.

I got more than I bargained for.

In a good way.

I was surprised at what I was hearing. I popped in Uncharted 2 and fired up the train sequence. I started hearing things I'd never heard before. Subtleties in the audio made me connect with my surroundings more. I felt more genuine fear at the gunship when it appeared than I had previously. Moreover, it felt like I was there. When everything collapsed and went to hell, my room shook along with the sequence and pulled me in even further.

It was almost surreal, I started replaying things in sequence. Burnout felt more powerful and exciting. DJ Hero turned my room into a club. God of War somehow became even more visceral, deep lows and powerful bass spikes accentuating Kratos' more violent moves.

Even Gears of War 2, a game I've played through countless times with friends simply felt new< thanks to this new thing. In GoW, there is a very constant, very powerful rumbling that spreads itself through the hospital scene that I simply could NOT hear before, despite the fact that I've had surround for years. Old games felt new again.

Especially Dead Space. There aren't even words. I'd already known the game had incredible sound, but now? It was as if Issac was shooting me straight in the eardrum.

It was something that made me with I'd had it much earlier. The audio experience is so rich, so...complete now because of something seemingly so minute an upgrade, that I can only imagine how wonderful Bioshock, or Batman: Arkham Asylum would've sounded my first time through them. No regrets here though.

I'll definitely find out in their sequels.

Continue Reading..

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dante's Inferno.....of War?

I know imitation's the sincerest form of flattery, but c'mon, guys.

Dante's Inferno, Visceral Games' take on the infamous novel, -is- God of War. Yes. I just said it.

I'm not sorry either. Honestly, if Noriko from Heavenly Sword was dabbling around in the "How to Make An Epic Action Game" bullet point list made by the GoW series, then Inferno has gone to Staples, made a copy of it, and dared to stuff it into a decent looking folder instead of laminate it.

I understand the symbiosis of the industry and how we must take an idea or two from each other and expand on it in order to survive, but this is a bit much, even for me. The controls have been copy pasted, the boss battles and enemy encounters are similar right down to the finishing QTE events, and the graphics, while running at a rock solid 60 frames per second, have obviously taken a hit due to this fact.

I almost played the game in a state of utter disbelief, unable to fully enjoy it because I knew where it was all coming from, and unable to hate it because what was on display was very polished. The demo was actually very long and involving, taking me from the beginning of Dante's quest to rescue his love Beatrice, to his entry into one of the many circles of hell he's supposed to endure. It's a concept that is interesting, having been built upon the framework of The Divine Comedy, but it ends up being more unintentionally funny than dramatic. This however, just builds upon what I said earlier.

Everything this game ultimately would like to be, it just falls slightly short in my eyes due to a lack of a tangible soul. The combat is visceral, but lacks that extra oomph it would need to be satisfying. The sense of scale is played up well with convincing camerawork and explosive setpieces, but doesn't feel grand. The game's general design feels so much like God of War and every other action game inspired by it, that it makes me wonder why I'm not playing them instead.

This isn't to say that DI is not a good game however. It's just so blatantly running off of Sony Santa Monica's (the team who created God of War) ideas that it's difficult to justify playing it when the real God of War 3 is merely months away, and even an actual month away from this title's release. There is literally NOTHING I saw in this demo outside of its concept that I found terribly interesting or original, and I don't know if a novel story is enough to warrant a full on purchase. It actually bothers me because I want to see Visceral Games' vision of hell (if the demo's any indication, they've got some things up their sleeve), but I don't know. While Dead Space was a sleeper hit, actually outdoing the series it built its framework upon (Resident Evil 4), this just feels like an impressive knockoff more than anything else. We'll see when February rolls around.

I'll be damned if some of those kills weren't cool though.

No pun intended.

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