Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Not Quite Numb – Linkin Park Mix Pack Review

Well, this is strange. While there’s no denying the band’s popularity, I admit I’ve fallen a bit off of the Linkin Park bandwagon. I was there for Hybrid Theory, as was everyone else and loved it, and Meteora was groovy. Their fusion of alternative, industrial, rap and rock has always been an easy pill to swallow, and I still believe that no one can do it quite the way they do and have it sound great, with crossover appeal that extends into the ‘tough to crack’ urban community. That having been said, after Meteora, I fell off. I really liked Collision Course though it was an album of mashups, but my complete knowledge of Minutes to Midnight begins and ends with What I’ve Done, and I’ve barely listened to A Thousand Suns. In fact, prior to this pack’s release, I found myself questioning their relevancy to date, and was surprised they were even still making music. Embarassing? Hardly. But their album release this year (and relative popularity spike) likely prompted this pack, arriving casually and unexpectedly in my DJ Hero. With a hint of trepidation,I started to download. But I still found myself asking: “Is this even going to be remotely cool?”

“Who really asked for three Linkin Park remixes?..”

Fortunately, I’ve heard the songs featured in this pack. Should be interesting..

DJ Hero 2 "Linkin Park Mix Pack" (Downloadable Content)
For: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii (Songs sold as individual tracks)
Publisher: Activision/Freestyle Games
Price: 480 Microsoft Points, $5.99 PSN, 300 Wii Points (per track)
Release: 12/21/2010

Reviewed on Expert difficulty

When They Come For Me (Remix by Diplo)

A very cool remix with a middle eastern twang to it, it’s an easy, surprisingly bumpin track that’s as much fun to play as it is to rap using vocals…Really, why can’t more of the hip-hoppish songs flow like this one in vocals? The song has an undeniable rhythm to it, and its one that’s easy to get into and stay in the rhythm of once the song begins. Now, everyone may not like this new, almost reggaeton sounding like mix of the song, but I enjoyed it a great deal, and it really fits in with the style of the game a lot more than it would have in its original direction. It’s a tad on the easy side, but that isn’t an issue with this reviewer. Making it more difficult may have made it more hectic as a mix, and I think the nice mixture of taps (on cue with the drums!), lengthy freestyle sections, and generous crossfades are just tricky enough to keep even vets from turning their brain off for too long.


Pts.OF.Athrty (Remix by FSG)

An oldie, but goodie. Oddly, it’s very similar to the original remix (produced much later), but with a DJ Hero twist in terms of a variety of turntable effects to break up the action. Honestly, the song was already sick. Featuring Mike Shinoda’s commanding lyrical cadence on one end, and Chester belting out the hooks in a way that makes you stand up and take notice in another, it already felt like a hard hitting song to begin with. Now that the track has been augmented with a ton of on-point, rhythmic scratches and long stretches of bass and electric distortion, it has a sound that escalates and elevates above the original. It isn’t even the meatiest song in the world, but FSG took the multiple choruses within and made them so much fun to play, you don’t even notice. Bonus points for bringing me back to Hybrid Theory though, this track literally reminded me why I started liking the band in the first place. Jeez.

Rating: 5/5

The Catalyst (Does It Offend You, Yeah? Remix)

Overly preachy “lol anarchy” lyrics aside, this is The Catalyst with an Electro/DnB twist. Somehow, this makes it sound more like a Daft Punk song than is reasonably comfortable, but it’s still a fun listen, and as far as challenge goes, it’s the most difficult of the three, but that’s hardly a negative. It has a difficulty curve that’s spread evenly and nicely, with long note sustains and strange scratches thrown about, and the low tempo keeps things from being overwhelming until a nutty conclusion that sees fit to have you alternating between tapping and scratching while holding other buttons on the platter. Overall a pretty good mix, but in my opinion, it’s overshadowed by the first two tracks, likely because the tone of the song keeps it from being as fun as the first two, at least in my opinion.

Rating: 3/5

Man, was this pack a wake up call. Not just because it’s Linkin Park on display here, reminding me why I did like them a TON at one point, but because they did it without taking the easy way out and mixing One Step Closer or Numb. Linkin Park was so far off my radar that even a personal recommendation would’ve been met with trepidation, but I took the plunge here and walked away not only surprisingly unscathed, but without a shred of disappointment as well. Really, what took so long for their music to be featured here? Not only did it fit like a glove, but like the Jay-Z vs. Eminem pack before it, it took several tracks thought untouchable and made them work in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I mean, really. This pack singlehandedly made the band relevant to me again! There should've been an achievement for that along with this content, if you ask me.

Score: 8.5

I don’t know what’s coming next, but with 2010 as a reasonable gauge for expectations*, let’s hope the mixes keep on coming, and with even more variety and creativity than what’s already out.

Easy request to fufill, huh?

*Sure, the Old Skool Pack disappointed, but it was still bumpin’..

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Old Schoolin' - Dj Hero 2 Old Skool Mix Pack Review

It’s a good time to be a DJ Hero player.

Not only do we have what is considered the best game soundtrack released this year, but the usually unruly and stingy Activision has been supporting this game through the roof! No, really. Even Guitar Hero hasn’t seen this kind of support this year, and with FSG’s immense talent, it’s easy to see why they’ve thrown all their support behind this one. Hip-hop fans however, get shown a ton of love here. A great deal of the mixes in the game have much to do with that genre and R&B, and while the techno/electro fans complained that they didn’t get enough of what they loved, several excellent DLC packs did well to keep them at bay for a bit. But what of the crowd that needs their 32 bars? Sat idly by while the techno downloadables were too far out of their genre to even consider? Crossed their fingers and hoped this tidal wave of that which bumps and shocks would subside?

Their wait is over.

FSG’s back with the Old Skool Mix Pack, and just in case you felt like questioning their street cred, they’ve brought Tone Loc, Fat Boys, and The 45 Number among others with them.

Is it what we've been waiting for?

DJ Hero 2 "Old Skool Mix Pack" (Downloadable Content)
For: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii (Songs sold as individual tracks)
Publisher: Activision/Freestyle Games
Price: 480 Microsoft Points, $5.99 PSN, 300 Wii Points (per track)
Release: 12/14/2010

Reviewed on Expert difficulty

Beastie Boys - “Triple Trouble” vs. Tone Loc - “Funky Cold Medina”

It wouldn’t be “old skool” without the Beastie Boys, would it? While this is indeed a fact, the song Triple Trouble isn’t exactly their earliest work. This is a notion that quickly disappears once you realize what it’s being mixed with, the inimitable Funky Cold Medina! Since both songs use almost exactly the same instruments their mix is a deft one, with the Boys dominating the lyricism, and Tone Loc’s trademark drawl saved for the samples. While it is a funky mix, and there’s a hint of Loc busting out during the scratchfest that dominates the latter 3rd, it seems like a bit of a missed opportunity as far as a mix goes. I was hoping for a bit more FCM in the mix than there was on display, but I realize, it would’ve changed the tempo of the song drastically. Overall a moderately challenging song that displays hints of true greatness, but merely settles for being a cool track.

Rating: 3/5

Fat Boys - “Human Beat Box” vs. Mantronix - "King Of The Beats"

Now THIS is what I’m talking about! I knew I was in a treat the minute the song opened with the Fat Boys’ memorable beatboxing line (STICK EM!), and the song quickly segued into Mantronix’s amazing electronic beatmaking. Almost as if this is a fight between human and electronic beatboxing, the song constantly switches back and forth between the two in a way I can only describe as mindblowing. Each tap is a sample cued on rhythm, each freestyle section lets you mess around in a way that truly makes you feel in control, and I have to say, this is the closest feeling I’ll ever get to being a DJ of the 80’s. This is not only because the freestyle sections are abundant and cleverly placed, but it’s also due to some of the most creative scratch patterns I’ve ever played in a DJHero song to date. I even dropped my streak several times during the mix because I’d gotten so into it, I couldn’t help but throw in an extra tap or two along the way. Amazing.

Rating: 5/5

Tag Team - "Whoomp! (There It Is)" vs. The 45 King - "The 900 Number"

..and we’ve settled back down, with a mix that somewhat again reeks of a bit of missed opportunity. While Whoomp! is a definite classic, the decision to mix it with the slick (but repetitive) The 900 Number is what ultimately holds the mix back. You can only do so much with an amen break, and FSG did the best they could, augmenting Tag Team’s lyrics with the signature loop while chopping and screwing the lyrics for a good 1/3 of the song before letting it flow smoothly. The end result is a track that’s more fun to play than listen to, and the abundance of scratches and mad crossfades abound don’t do too much to distract from what is really just a lukewarm track. Not hot, not cold, just somewhere inbetween. Is that a bad thing when FSG’s production overall is better than most of what’s out there? No. But it is a bit of a rub, especially after that stellar second track.

Rating: 2/5

I entered this pack with the highest hopes, and a momentum that showed no sign of slowing, and I honestly walked away a bit underwhelmed by this one. It shouldn’t have been this way though. We had the Beastie Boys, we had Tag Team, even Tone Loc was along for the ride. This should’ve been a recipe for amazing like all the other tracks, but surprisingly, it’s the track selection that I feel did most of the damage here. While all the songs were definitely beloved classics, they just didn’t fit together as well as I hoped they would, nostalgia be damned. With the highest point being the amazing Fat Boys/Mantronix mashup, it makes the other two tracks stick out like sore thumbs, and it shouldn’t be this way when a great deal of Freestyle Games’ work is consistently excellent throughout. It’s good for what it is, but by no means a rush out and must buy..and for once, I envy the Wii owners’ purchasing scheme. Purchasing the second track alone would’ve made me feel much better about the money I spent this time around.

Overall: 6.5

(With a loss of upward momentum comes nothing but worry for the forthcoming Linkin Park pack.Here’s hoping this was a momentary misstep, and that it turns out excellent, instead of merely just good.)

Continue Reading..

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Screw off. LittleBigGyp.

So….let me get this straight. You have a nice little game prepared for your peripheral of questionable success, and to you guys, the logical thing to do is to make it Playstation Plus exclusive? A subscription fee for a “Free” download that could’ve easily been a $5-10 downloadable release?

WHO has Playstation Plus? Last I checked, it was a resounding failure on par with Home’s limited audience, and with questionable features like “early demos”, or “PS store discounts”, what did you expect? It was a attempt to stab at what made Xbox Live successful without actually knowing what made it successful (see PSPgo and the iPod Touch), and since they decided to keep giving away the online multiplayer for free, it further invalidated the $50 a year fee to all but the most dedicated of Sony blind followers.

If I can thank Sony for anything, it was giving me a choice NOT to have it, because it really is a worthless service. Pay…to get discounts? Some of which are usually only a savings of 2-3 dollars? Early demo access? I can wait a week. Free PSone download of THEIR choice every month? I’ll pass. Automatic game/system updates? How is that even a PAID feature?

By offering the entire infrastructure with negligible contrast between paid and free, they shot themselves in the foot right out of the gate. Also, their constant parroting that it’s “free” to play and communicate online with your friends (potshots at XBL) locked them into this position. They couldn’t have started charging for it even if they wanted to. It’d be a harsh betrayal of their fanbase. Kind of like the Qore subscribers that were screwed over because of PS Plus’ similar feature set.

Same thing going on here.

I understand that they REALLY need subscribers for the fledgling premiums. But this is stupid. They did it with High Velocity Bowling around launch time to a resounding backlash, and here we are again. Instead of making it available to the millions of PS3 owners, ESPECIALLY the ones who have bought the Move, they’ve bottlenecked the userbase to what I’m sure is a few hundred thousand (if that). The lot of early adopters who bought the Move this year and are still really wondering what the HELL to do with it are screwed as well. Good job.

The worst part of it all is, really. I like the Move. I think it’s forward thinking technology in the vein of the Wii remote’s physical input, and is in some ways better. I also like the way it’s marketed as a controller I can play real games with despite the inevitable presence of shovelware. That’s definitely something that appeals to me. But I don’t think Sony wants me to like the Move. Not like this they don’t.

I don’t want an EyePet. I want a Kinectimal. Echochrome II isn’t out until the end of the month. Despite the extra legroom the motion sensor gives me, I literally played the hell out of RE5 on my 360 and Heavy Rain is only worth going through another time BECAUSE of the Move integration. Sports Champions is tangibly pleasing but aesthetically dry, and really, The Shoot is the only game keeping me from shoving the controller up my nose in a WoW cancellation style freakout. They’ve got me shooting, ducking, spinning and all sorts of tomfoolery, making it easily one of the most tactile lightgun games I’ve ever played.

I can still remember the look on my face yesterday morning:

“A LittleBigPlanet Move game?! I didn’t see this coming..”


(Playstation Plus Exclusive)

“Surely they mean the ‘free’ price tag…eh, whatever. Good for them.
(Nope. No “Buy” link to be found.)

*incredulous stare*

Good job, guys. Minimum $17.99 just to play?

I’m good.

Continue Reading..

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Rough and Tough - Hard Edge Mix Pack Review

I remember questioning this seemingly endless momentum that FSG seemed to be on when I reviewed Electro Mix Pack, moments before I received the email from Activision announcing the Tiësto Mix Pack. Before I can even settle into the warm fuzzy place I’ve carved out for my turntable and I due to such a wonderful gift, this thing lands in my lap too. It doesn’t come alone either. It comes with news of two OTHER packs slated to release this month. To say I’m excited is the largest understatement I can muster, and I can’t really profess my love for this game any more than I already have. I’m excited. There. Said it again for effect.

December 14th marks the arrival of the “Old Skool Mix Pack”, dropping the tracks Human Beat Box vs. King of Beats (Fat Boys & Mantronix),Whoomp! (There It Is) vs. The 900 Number (Tag Team & 45 King, and Triple Trouble vs. Funky Cold Medina (Beastie Boys & Tone Loc)

On the 21st, The “Linkin Park Mix Pack” releases, featuring The Catalyst (Does It Offend You, Yeah? Remix) (FSG Remix), When They Come For Me (Diplo Remix), and Pts of Athrty (FSG Remix).

Crazy, right? For now however. Let’s indulge the one released on November 30th. The Hard Edge Mix Pack.

DJ Hero 2 "Hard Edge Mix Pack" (Downloadable Content)
For: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii (Songs sold as individual tracks)
Publisher: Activision/Freestyle Games
Price: 480 Microsoft Points, $5.99 PSN, 300 Wii Points (per track)
Release: 11/30/2010

Reviewed on Expert difficulty

Beastie Boys - "Body Movin'" vs. Lenny Kravitz - "Rock And Roll Is Dead"

What?! Why didn’t anyone think of this before? Beastie Boys’ classic hip-hop dance song Body Movin’, smashed into Lenny’s inverted praise of Rock? Sign me up. From the start, the snare and guitar kick in, immediately contrasts with the Boys’ loud lyrics, and the song just continues to elevate itself from there, with both songs almost in a call and answer style as far as lyrics, and Lenny’s band dominating the rest of the sound via instrumentals. This song is a fun to listen to as it is to play, and even rapping along to it is a blast, provided you know the lyrics beforehand. It’s not particularly hard, but when it sounds this much fun, I’m actually glad it wasn’t too challenging. This keeps the focus on the song at all times, and everyone in the room is much better off for the experience. Check off another favorite for me. If I could give my star ratings a gold version ala Rock Band, this song would definitely have it.

Rating: 5/5

Pixies - "Debaser" vs. The Prodigy - "Invaders Must Die"

Honestly, mixing anything with the Pixies is a recipe for success. Mixing The Prodigy can make anything golden. Now that I’ve got that initial bias out of the way, I can be objective and say “Damn”. Try and imagine. Invaders Must Die is definitely the most prominent sound here, and it’s completely in full effect here, with the insane lyrics of Debaser being chopped, screwed, and scratched frantically and seemingly to the whims of The Prodigy’s beats. It’s such a strange and unique sound that it’s instantly startling and instantly likeable when you realize just how much talent is on display. Of course, playing nice with such an insane combination is an insane challenge as well. The entire chart repertoire of taps, scratches, and their variations are all on display here, and they’re all thrown at you at a fast pace that doesn’t give your fingers time to rest (or transition if you aren’t quick). Really, I’m not trying to sound intimidating, because I want EVERY player to give this track for a spin. I’m just saying, be prepared.To break it down lightly, it’s about 796 notes in 3 and ½ minutes. Prepare to be rocked.

Rating: 5/5

While a bit skimpy at only two tracks, the Hard Edge Mix Pack still stands with FSG’s best offerings. Hard rocking, meaty and bass driven, and full of energy plus challenge, its price may be a bit hard to swallow, but really. It’s The Pixies, The Prodigy, Lenny Kravitz, and the Beastie Boys all in the same place! If you are a fan of Dj Hero 2 at all, you need this as part of your collection. It represents some of the best it has to offer, and like its best work, defines why we play the game. Fun, creative, unexpectedly bumping mashups that look just as awesome to play as they sound. Crank up the bass, grab a mic. There’s greatness afoot.

Rating: 10

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Dividing By Zero - Tiësto Mix Pack Review

'Cause there ain’t a thing wrong with free music…

The Tiësto Mix Pack is here, and it’s funny, because I didn’t expect another mix pack so soon, but to get it this fast, and free no less, was something amazing. You can imagine my surprise and disbelief as I signed into the rewards site, got my promo code, and used it to download this one. “Could this be any good?” I thought, as I read through the tracklist. Characteristically, when it comes to Tiësto, I have a particular taste for his music. I don’t care too much for his original music, but I’m in love with his remixes. But here, in this DLC, we have a pack of Tiësto music…remixed by Tiësto himself. Dividing by Zero? Twilight zone? This is exactly what I felt like. Not knowing what to think, I watched the bar fill up and crossed my fingers.

What. It’s free. This is a win/win/win situation, no?

DJ Hero 2 "Tiësto Mix Pack (Sponsored by Coca Cola)" (Downloadable Content)
For: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii (Songs sold as individual tracks)
Publisher: Activision/Freestyle Games
Price: Free during promo period
Release: 11/23/2010

Reviewed on Expert difficulty

Tiësto feat. Tegan & Sara - "Feel It In My Bones"

Ironically proving my earlier statements, it’s funny that my remix philosophy about Tiësto comes to life with the first song in this pack! This version definitely has a bit more kick than the original (making it a better sounding song all around), but “Feel It In My Bones” is still the soothing, bouncy love anthem it always was. The charting kind of reflects this, with a moderate challenge that has a great deal of fun crossfades that indulge each side of the track with a bouncy rhythm, and a gradually increasing challenge that goes a bit wild in the end, but remains level throughout. It’s not a particularly hard song, but it’s one worth returning to not only for its sound, but for its charting. If you need to practice fast switching and spikes, this song has plenty, and the toe of the song makes it run to play around with as well.

Rating: 4/5

Tiësto feat. Emily Haines - "Knock You Out" vs. "Young Lions"

Tiësto songs and their taps! FSG seems to love charting his mixes with a boatload of taps to mix his rhythms, and this song is no different from anything on disc, with this mix staying true to title and threatening to knock me out. Emily Haines’ vocals dominate while the beat from Young Lions guides the rest of the track along and keeps it danceable. This is, of course, provided that you have time to dance between long stretches of rapid taps and wildly placed crossfades. This song becomes a bit insane by the halfway mark and can be hard to keep up with, but that seems to be half the fun intended; keeping up with all the taps while struggling to keep the platter still. It’s a better than average track, and even though it isn’t better than the one before it, there’s plenty of reasons to return for the track later. DJ battles are a must with this one, and really, if you feel like spraining a finger or two, that’s an option as well.

Rating: 4/5

Tiësto - "Louder Than Boom" vs. "Traffic"

I have a bit of a history with Louder Than Boom. Being no stranger to Rhythm games, I remember looking at this song in the “Extreme” category of Tap Tap Revenge (iPhone) and thinking, “Oh! This’ll be fun..” before being assaulted by what I can only describe was a torrent of skittles (and finger death) pouring down my screen. I still believe that song is virtually impossible to play perfectly, but thankfully, this version is a lot more manageable. High speed taps, easy scratches placed in tricky places, and middling crossfades are the order of the day here, as two high tempo high speed tracks collide with surprising energy. Traffic’s influence on the entire mix is defeinitely present though, as it makes the song sound much heavier, and more robotic, a feeling I shared as I played along with it. Many of the sections are similar as well, which kills the variety, but it’s a blast to play, especially when you’re on a roll and begin to feel the song (a given with a good Tiësto mix) Just beware of the final third. It’s a doozy.

Rating: 5/5

Tap tap revolution! It’s something I didn’t notice until I managed to finally play a bunch of Tiësto in a continuous block, but his songs are INCREDIBLY tap heavy. This is a very clever move on the developers part, as most of his music is Trance/Electro, and thus doesn’t have much need for scratches or even varied crossfading, depending on the track. It feels very much like running your own effects and sound equipment, and that’s a great design choice on their part. Overall, I enjoyed this one a great deal. It does reek a bit of advertising madness, being sponsored by Coke and all (along with just about all of these tracks being from his most recent album, Kaleidoscope) But at the low price of free, (if you caught it during promo week) combined with the fact that he always fits like a glove in this game, it makes for a great, listenable pack that I’ve taken to throwing on when I’m even just lounging around my house.

Tres excellent.

Overall: 8.0

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Electric Boogaloo - DJ Hero 2 Electro Mix Pack Review

If you’re a fan of DJ Hero,you’re likely asking for two things. More music, and a larger presence of electro/techno. Fortunately, Freestyle Games acknowledges that there are two types of people in this world. Those who like Electro, and...everyone else. But the fans, (especially those overseas) demanded it, Freestyle Games listened, and now for our listening pleasure (or horror), the Electro Mix Pack is finally here. Countering the preponderance of amazing hip-hop and R&B mixes this game contains is no small feat however. Does it stack up in a way that’ll make our European and electro fans happy, ALONG with the somewhat alienated American audience?


DJ Hero 2 "Electro Mix Pack" (Downloadable Content)
For: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii (Songs sold as individual tracks)
Publisher: Activision/Freestyle Games
Price: 640 Microsoft Points, $7.99 PSN, 300 Wii points (per track)
Release: 11/16/2010

Reviewed on Expert difficulty

LMFAO "I'm In Miami" vs. Green Velvet "Shake & Pop"

I have a bit of a funny relationship with LMFAO (read: indifference) and nothing has really changed..until now*. The key difference between then and now is the addition of Green Velvet's "Shake and Pop". Both songs have a similar beat structure, a heavy, dirty electro sound, and the result is a pretty danceable mashup combines the best of both while throwing a pretty decent challenge around as well. There are strangely off-beat taps to deal with, a decent number of rhythmic crossfades, and plenty of freestyle sections that allow you to mess around with each track as you please.

Overall, a pretty fun, nonthreatening track that's more memorable for it's off-key challenge than its sound.

(*..I still don't like them.)

Rating: 4/5

Steve Aoki feat. Zuper Blahq - "I'm In The House"

While it doesn’t sound terribly different from the original, this beat juggle of Steve Aoki’s I’m In The House actually in my opinion surpasses the regular version with a heaping dose of crazed turntablism. Crossfades aplenty, taps inside of crossfades, scratches inside of taps inside of crossfades, plenty of freestyle sections, and an elevated pace make this not only one of the most challenging songs in the game, but an incredibly fun track that makes you feel like you’re in control of its high speed sound. Though it’s a great listen, this track actually became my favorite in the entire pack to play, no small feat considering the mixes in the final track..

Rating: 5/5

Simian Mobile Disco - "Hustler" vs. Technotronic - "Pump Up The Jam"

This is brilliant. No, really. Similar to the first mix, both songs were picked with an expert ear—the tracks sound similar enough in structure to segue into each other with nary a hitch, and they’re blended so incredibly well here, it almost makes you wish the original sounded this good. Pump Up The Jam’s shoulder moving rhythms flow perfectly into Hustler’s periodic lyrical injections (I'm a hustler, baby) during verses and saves the louder, more energetic parts of both songs for the hooks. The chorus lines are also the parts where the turntable is going to see the most work, with heavy scratches dominating most of the rhythms, and taps filling in the blanks where the unpredictable crossfades won’t fit. If I have any complaint, it’s that the challenge of the song does at times distract from it’s great sound, but it’s still highly enjoyable and a fun track to play in battle mode because of its unpredictable rhythm.


Overall, I can’t say I had a problem with this pack. I’m not the biggest fan of electro, but the songs chosen were iconic and fun enough to play, and the challenge is still up there in a way that still keeps the game fresh, even if you’ve already 5-starred most of (or all) of the game already. Yes, it's true that the gere may not appeal to you, but I'd encourage most fans of music to check it out due to the fact that you may experience the Guitar Hero effect (fandom gained by playing new music instead of just listening) and gain yourself some new artists to add to your roster.


It’s funny, between release and now, we’ve seen 6 all-new mixes, 14 returning ones from the original, and one can only wonder, what’s next? It’s been 20 extra songs in a little over a month! They’ve got to keep this momentum going as long as they’ve got it, right? I know I’m prepared for--


Well! This might be worth checking out..I looks like it’s free and only going on for a week..

Continue Reading..

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Return of the Pack - DJ Hero 2 DLC Review

This is late.

Arguably, I've been busy, or you could say I've just been busy playing this.

The love affair with DJ Hero 2 continues. Even a month later. The music's still amazing, the mixes are still fun to play, and I've even picked up the mic more than a few times to go along with what my friends are doing on the wheels of ...plastic?

Ahem. It's a great time.

But we aren't so easily satisfied. With the learning curve and amazement of innovation missing this time around, returning players and pros are already clamoring for more music. Most of all this particular reviewer has bee scratching his neck feverishly, and can you blame him? They've promised to consistently deliver, with the first pack hitting two weeks after release.

If what I experienced last week was any indication of what's to come for the next 12 months, then...oh man.

DJ Hero 2 "Hit Makers Pack" (Downloadable Content)
For: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii (Songs sold as individual tracks)
Publisher: Activision/Freestyle Games
Price: 640 Microsoft Points, $7.99 PSN, 300 Wii points (per track)
Release: 11/4/2010

(Pack was reviewed at Expert Difficulty)

The first thing that immediately stands out about DJ Hero 2 are the high production values. Not talking about the graphics, but the music. Just about every track is so well produced, so seamlessly cut and mashed it's almost startling to play. It's something that has to be seen to be believed. Everything feels so professional, so alive, it evokes an almost incredulous moment of disbelief that you're experiencing them through a turntable controller instead of an actual deck, or in a club.

This feeling carries over into the DLC almost to a tee, with three mixes hitting all the right notes in a way that feels like FS Games are asking us--

"What, you thought we were done?"

Usher feat. Will.I.Am - "OMG"

Going off this track alone, the answer is no. The only remix of the pack that isn't a mashup, it sounds largely the same, but definitely has a higher tempo and feels even more like a Black Eyed Peas track than it did before. The upside is that this song's lyrics make sense, and it's hell of a lot of fun to play. Challenging taps, some fun freestyle parts, and some fun rhythmic scratches make a very danceable track even better.

Rating: 5/5

Big Boi feat. Cutty - "Shutterbugg" vs. Mark Morrison - "Return Of The Mack"

Easily the standout track of the entire pack, this mix of Shutterbugg with the classic Return of the Mack is not only the best mix in the pack, but it's one of the best mixes in the entire game. Big Boi's boisterous lyrics fit in perfectly with Morrison's returning player theme, and what results is an excessively smooth track that even manages to incorporate En Vogue in one part. Disappointingly, it doesn't have many freestyle crossfade sections, but it's a minor complaint.

The song just reeks fun and old-school flavor, and is a blast to play as well, with clever crossfades, well placed samples, and one (aww) freestyle crossfade that lets you blend Shutterbug's jumpy beats and RotM's smooth draw to great effect towards the end. It's just superb.

Seriously. I dare you to listen to "Return of the-- B.I.G. B.O.I." and not shift in your seat with excitement.

Rating: 5/5

Rihanna - "Umbrella" vs. Marvin Gaye - "Let's Get It On"

It sounds strange in a preview, and even as a complete song, it still sounds odd. But there's something about the closing track of this mix pack that just -works-. It may be because mixing Marvin Gaye with anything may be a recipe for success, but Rihanna's come hither lyrics slowed down running over MG's song just feels nice, and makes Umbrella listenable (I can't stand the original). The excessively slow tempo may throw one for a loop, but it's a decent challenge, if only the freestyle sections were more unique, but there's hardly anything to play with on the few times you do get to have control. Pretty solid, pretty cool, but definitely the odd one out.

Rating: 4/5

Saving the best for last, the backwards compatibility update is out as well, and more than just a simple import track option, they've also been updated with all of the freestyle moves and new gameplay additions from the sequel! Sometimes the new additions work well, sometimes they just sound strange, but the undeniable cool that comes with playing the DLC tracks from the original and scoring into the stratosphere negates said rough patches (mostly related to samples). Also, call me crazy, but it seems as if more post production was done on each track, because they sound MUCH cleaner than they did before. It's just a shame you can't "like" the track like the on-disc songs, but it's hardly a deal-breaker. Even though this update took a while, it was well worth the wait.

Rating: 5/5

I'm always happy to announce when Freestyle Games has done it again, and they have. This pack is a great way to kick off all the new DLC, and because the backwards compatibility update is out as well, now couldn't be a better time to be a DJ Hero 2 player.

Here's to the Electro Mix Pack on Tuesday, yes?

Continue Reading..

Actualized Love Pixels

I've been a bit busy these days.

Not too long to game, however. Well, portably.

So inbetween the cracks of my daily life, I find myself checking the APP store weekly, and I happened across a retro ditty by the name of Pix'n Love Rush.

It's pretty cool.

Clocking in at a fine .99 cents and featuring no narrative, clear objective, or goal, you're tasked with guiding this funky creature (think a Space Invader who sprouted legs through an endless gauntlet of random platforming challenges set to the best of pixel lore.

If you read that last sentence and started scratching your head, let me explain. Via running and jumping, you have one objective: Collecting coins. As you collect more, avoiding enemies and obstaces, your multiplier goes up. As your multiplier increases, the entire visual makeup of the game morphs (along with the music) from a high definition, almost Geometry Wars like aesthetic to a look more inclined to a GameBoy Advance. Collect more, and it switches to a Virtual Boy like display, with Tetris-esque imagery and a red, pixilated tone.

This continues until you're at your most basic, which starts looking more akin to a 1989 gameboy. Not only is the visual effect extremely cool and seamless, but with each change, the stages get tougher and more varied, with red herrings like disappearing platforms, and vertically scrolling stages ala Ice Climber It almost feels like you're going backward through portable console generations, and with only one hit required for you to lose momentum (and one multiplier), it quickly turns into a frantic twitch affair, both in its 5 minute and endless modes.

The package is pretty barebones, yes, with little to unlock other than the aformentioned infiinite mode, but it doesn't change the fact that what little you do get is addictive. There's a certain charm in its old-school feel, and things get just frantic and shaken up enough in the later levels to keep things interesting. There are also Game Center achievements, and leaderboards to extend the frenzy a bit, but really, this is the kind of game that doesn't need to bribe you to come back. After all, who doesn't miss the times when our sole purpose was either running or jumping?

Oh yeah. It's also a dollar. Seriously. :)

Continue Reading..

Monday, November 1, 2010

Retinasizer does.

I have a bone to pick with certain developers on the iPhone.

To be honest, post June 24th, 2010, no one has any excuse to make a game that doesn't support the Retina Display. None!

If you are a developer who has a AAA title that you update periodically (looking at you, Capcom, SF4?!), you have no excuse. Why do you want your games to look bad on the new display that you know everyone else will be using?

We have moved on. We have since doubled our display resolution from 480x320, to 960x640.

This means that games fitted for the older resolution are being blown up for the newer display, with a disgusting pinch of edge smoothing for good measure.
I have personally refused to pay $9.99 for Sonic 4 in the App Store until they fix this. Many games, like Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars , also share the same fate (the latter being a slap in the face because R* took the time to upconvert it for the iPad)

But in the interim, we have jailbreaks. A free update through Cydia called Retinasizer by Sticktron does exactly what Sega and those other companies refuse to do in the form of a tweak that forces game content to run at the iPhone 4's higher resolution. It doesn't work with every game yet and is still very rough around the edges, but there's no denying that if someone can come up with a general purpose tweak and force it, then these companies are just sleeping on purpose.

If you have a (jailbroken) iPhone, I implore you to check it out, as the difference really is night..

..and day.

Continue Reading..

Thursday, October 28, 2010

They spinnin' - DJ Hero 2 Review

DJ Hero 2 is amazing.

You knew I was going to say that though, and it's funny how long I've come in a little over a year. Originally a detractor, turned fan, turned high ranking leaderboard jockey (I was in the top 5 on the leaderboards for a spell), it's safe to say that the unique, aurally innovative title got it's hooks into me and refused to let go.

When say that it refused though, I mean it. I've been across the original's 93 song list on Expert with 5 stars and beyond, purchased every DLC pack doing the same, and spread the love amongst my friends, hooking them as well and letting them know that an oversaturation of plastic instruments in the market did -not- mean that the music genre played not by only one note but by several, just cut and mashed to perfection. It wasn't the most social game however, with most sessions being limited to 1 on 1 battles people didn't want to engage in (especially with me), and an incredibly steep asking price turning others off (It went for $129 and $199 respectively..)

A year, and a reduced price later, the release of its sequel boasts not only a near equal number of new mixes, but a new career mode, expansions on the old gameplay, and a new social component that not only brings with it a new way to play with friends with new multiplayer options, but adds a Facebook-esque persistence to the whole online endeavor as well. Does it hold up though? Or--

Wait, are you kidding?

This is really how a sequel should feel.

Several stylized corporate logos in, and the sense of "new" is immediately evident. A new, sleek porcelain menu replaces the gaudy graffiti-like club flyer interface of the first game, a Facebook-like news feed pops up and replaces the ignorable RSS-like feed from the first game, and everything just looks and feels nicer. The visuals, the animations, everything combines to pull off a convincing club atmosphere, down to the crowd chiming in during mixes. This complete visual package carries over into the UI as well, as notes pop off the screen more than the original, the gauges and icons are larger and more prominent, and the star meter has recieved an upgrade as well. In some ways, because of these changes, it feels like more of a reboot than a sequel to the original.

The game starts you off asking if you'd like to view the tutorial, veteran or no, and with good reason. At first glance, the gameplay at first glance looks mostly unchanged, but slowly, the differences start to creep in. Vocals replace the terrible Guitar Hero mixes from the first with special attention to pitch for harmonizing and cadence for rapping/speaking, but it's really playing second fiddle to the main feature. In DJ Hero, with turntable in hand, you're tasked with crossfading, sampling, and scratching between two tracks to the beat of the music as gems and icons fall down a track shaped like a record. Much of that is still the same, but with all new held taps and long arrows during scratches that require you to hold a button and drag the turntable in a certain direction. If that sounds too boring and familiar for real change, fret not, because a whole new degree of user freedom has been injected into the mix.

At first, it's something strange and awkward, but after a few mixes, experimentation kicks in and you're left wondering why something so open ended and natural wasn't added before. Every track now has freestyle crossfade sections that let you mess around with one or both tracks at the same time, along with samples that change dynamically during the song (no more out of context YEEEEAAAAHH BOOOOYEEEE in every mix), and scratches whose tempo and duration are left up to your own creativity. It's something that makes the songs sound like they're truly under your control and practically ensures that any two people playing a mix won't have the exact same result. As you can imagine, all these new additions rear their heads constantly and to a point, simultaneously on higher difficulties.and if you thought "Groundhog" in the first game was difficult, prepare to have your fingers and wrists destroyed by what they have in store here. It's no stretch to say that the difficulty has increased, but with all the new additions feeling more natural than overbearing, the songs are still a blast whether you're a tried and true vet, or just a beginner.

Navigating the sleek new menus, there's a new option right underneath quickplay, and it's the meat of the single-player experience found within. Dubbed "Empire", it's starts you off naming your own party spot, picking a DJ, and traveling around the world mixing and battling others in a bid to build a virtual empire with you at the center. Along with some very cool intros from each venue seguing into phenomenal new megamixes (continuous sets of 3-4 songs blended together into one huge mix), there are setlists to complete, one on one battles to win, and many, many new things to earn on the way to the top. If only the "top" didn't lie in theory.

I say in theory because really, if there's any complaints to be had about Empire mode, it's that the feeling of being an up-and-coming DJ building a superclub from scratch is surprisingly absent. Yes, you start out picking a DJ, naming your club, and starting out in Ibiza of all places for your first set, but it's a red herring of a setup that ultimately doesn't deliver. You end up spinning in several venues across the world, go toe to toe with DJ superstars and amateurs alike, but it simply doesn't feel like it goes anywhere by the conclusion. There's no management to be seen, no money to earn from playing sets, no crowds to manage as a barometer for your own club's success, hell, even customization of your avatar is limited to a few predetermined costumes. It's a bit of a missed opportunity, and it's not something that ruins the career, but the potential in customizing and expanding your own party spot (or being able to create your own venue) is hopefully something that'll be explored in future DJ Hero games. As it stands, Empire is little more than a new coat of paint on the challenge based structure of last year's game.

Somewhat making up for this though, are the varied community options available. Every significant action you take, from making into a certain bracket on the leaderboards, to completing a challenge in empire, gets reported in a "Hero Feed" that shows up on all your friend's screens via pop up like Twitter. Challenging a friend's dominance in a particular song is a button press away from a notification, and the upgrade to the star meter I mentioned earlier? It now dynamically lists your friend's gamertags in order of high score, and you can either come close to or knock them off their pedestal in real time. It's a small tweak that goes a long way in making the game's userbase seem consistently alive. Fansites like Scorehero have been doing this since the release of the original Guitar Hero, but to see it seamlessly woven in here is a sign of progress.

The multitude of modes injected into the multiplayer do well to inject some much needed life into the original and its boring score battles, addressing a chief complaint about the first having very little to do when a second turntable is in play. There are star battles as before, though now you can steal rewinds and freeze the other player's track, accumulator and streak battles for you to compete on a technical level, DJ battles on special versus tracks that leverage speed and skill over scores, and more. Better still, a Call of Duty like experience and rewards system was added as well, and there are a ton of levels, icons, and titles to unlock on the road to the top. Playing constantly to get a higher score was the most addictive thing about the original, and with all these new features (including issuing challenges to friends after a mix), it ends up feeling more like an Empire mode than the actual game.

My small complaint about the career doesn't detract from the true backbone of this game though, and it's in the game's phenomenal soundtrack that DJ Hero 2 ultimately delivers. The first soundtrack was mostly composed of hip-hop, R&B, and a smattering of electro and techno. Things haven't changed drastically for the second,but things are more eclectic this time, with a broader range indulging disco, trance, house , reggae, and even current pop hits for this intallment. There are overall less mixes than the last game, but it's a moot point. Ever wonder what Kanye West's "Heartless" would sound like mixed with Lady GaGa's "Lovegame"? How about Sean Paul's "Get Busy"mixed with Harold Faltermeyer's iconic "Axel F"? Busta Rhymes vs. House of Pain? Once again, the game boasts an absolutely amazing soundtrack of mashups that'll have you scratching your head when read on paper, then dancing when you actually end up hearing them. The aformentioned megamixes of several of these tracks are a welcome addition the package as well, not only do they nail the seamless transitions between tracks that's normally common in turntablism, but they are an absolute knockout as well. One can only hope that they make it into the next game in a broader form, or that they at least become front and center during the deluge of generous DLC the developers have planned in the upcoming months.

It was a bit tough writing this review to be honest. I have a very strong love for this game, and it took a great deal of effort to simply not fanboy myself all over the place, but at the end of the day my original statement still stands. This game is amazing. The additions and refinements echo a developer who clearly listens to their fanbase, the game was made more challenging without sacrificing fun, the multiplayer is fun, and somehow, they managed to trump the first game's soundtrack with one that's even better, and arguably without peer in the genre.

Yes, even with Rock Band 3 on the horizon.

It's that real.

Why are you still here? You should be playing this. Now.

Continue Reading..

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Say what you will about Sonic 4..

But this is something impressive. With spot-on gameplay, vibrant colors, an intense (though possibly a little too busy) visual style, and music that faithfully represents the original yet has a style all its own, a three act demo for the infmaous Sonic Fan Remix is finally here. The best part is, without a shred of fanboy bias or hype behind my words, I can admit it is damn fine. While I won't go as far as the rest of the internet and say that the two(!!!) guys who worked on this have beaten Sega at their own game and bested Sonic 4, it is certainly impressive, and gives me chills just thinking about what they could do to the Chemical Plant Zone or Mystic Cave.

The three act demo of the Emerald Hill Zone can be found here, and it's definitely worth checking out if you even have a shred of Sonic fandom left in you.

Even if you don't, LOOK AT THIS THING. Here's hoping no one's lawyers try and put a stop into this gorgeous labor of love, eh?

Continue Reading..

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hot Rod Time Machine - Sonic 4: Episode 1 Review (iPhone)

Also on Chocolate Lemon!

From the outset, Sonic 4 wants to win you over with nostalgia.

It's evident in the opening splash screens, Sonic running back and forth before that iconic and instantly familiar "SEGA" scream rings out. It's front and center as Sonic pops out of his crest and shakes his finger with a 'tude. Pressing start yields the sound effect from the original Sonic Adventure. All the pieces are in place, it seems, and after numerous delays, controversial fan backlash, and the ever-present notion that this attempt to be a reboot/remake/sequel could just completely jump the shark (problematic mine carts notwithstanding), Sonic 4 is finally here, and before the console releases to boot. The #1 question in fans' minds though, is: Sixteen years after the release of Sonic 3, is it the sequel we were all waiting for?

Well....let me just say I understand "hardcore" Sonic fans a bit more now.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating the abrasive, heavy-handed way that the more dedicated of Sonic fans approach every new game in the series. Pitchforks and stakes in hand, they're ready to completely trounce every new attempt to bring this series anywhere past 1992, both aesthetically and gameplay wise.

I am not one of those people. I'm in fact a huge fan of Sonic since the series' beginning and couldn't care less about their petty grievances, but immediately upon starting the game, something does stick out like a sore thumb.

The series trademark physics, something very easy to take for granted, seem off here.

Sonic games have always had a tangible, weighty sense of speed and inertia, and what developer Dimps have come up with here is a system that works, albeit inconsistently. Navigating Sonic is rarely a serious problem, But rarely does he feel like he has inertia, as he often just feels heavily programmed. It leads to jumps being floatier than they should be, speed getting marred by an almost erratic acceleration that's simply too fast to start or too slow to peak, a strangely magnetic attraction to flippers and bumpers, and things like ramps and loops occasionally defying gravity by making Sonic lose all momentum when curled into a ball.

This should NOT be happening.

It's as if a heavier sort of physics system from Sonic Rush was in play, but where the former had almost an entire focus on speed and moving forward with very little platforming, Sonic 4 shares level design quirks with the Sonics of old. Given that this was the general spirit, having controls that are slanted towards his new gameplay design is a bit ill advised. It works, but it's something to adjust to. If I had any abrasive fanboy whine of theirs to subscribe to, it would be this one, yes.

With that immediate gripe out of the way, I can finally let you know that despite that odd quirk, Sonic 4 is an absolute blast.

From the outset, the game's four Zones outright let you know this is a sort of retro revival, as the Splash Hill, Casino Street, Lost Labyrinth, and Mad Gear zones all have the distinct look and feel of previous stages in the series. Splash Hill has the rolling hills and corkscrew loops that made the previous Green and Emerald Hill Zones iconic first stages, Casino Street has the neon, oversaturated feel of Casino Night Zone, Lost Labyrinth is a trap filled maze akin to the Labyrinth Zone, and Mad Gear has all the tricky platforming and infuriating enemy spawns that made the Metropolis Zone one of the toughest Sonic levels ever. The music filling each stage is great as well, emulating many of the original 8-note compositions from the Genesis originals, and sounding truer to the spirit of Sonic than the horrible butt-rock that has plagued the series since 2000.

But make no mistake -- while these levels are clearly a homage, their designs are completely original, matching and in some ways even besting their inspirations. Massive, and filled with alternate paths, shortcuts, and secrets aplenty, they very closely nail that perfect balance long forgotten since the franchise's heyday. Well timed jumps and tense platforming sections are rewarded with stretches of speed or alternate (usually faster) paths through a stage, and each stages three acts are all detailed enough to warrant multiple playthroughs, especially for the boss battles that balance looks from the past with surprising new moves. (Special stages have returned as well, with a special surprise for anyone who collects them all) There are also clever gimmicks thrown into a few of the stages, and while they don't all work, tilting the phone to direct a minecart through a high speed maze, or keeping up momentum as a grinder bears down on you are nice diversions from the action.

The control, something I didn't mention until now, is very nice as well. The d-pad and single button given are very accurate, and very responsive (save for the occasional crouch), which is something considering the fact that you're forced to use a touch screen. However, as great as it is, a lot of this wouldn't feel as tight without the newest addition to Sonic's arsenal: The homing attack. It seems like a minor convenience at first, but what you'll find is that it lends a subtle rhythm to his usual run 'n' jump formula, something you'll notice as seemingly innocuous strings of enemies become paths to a shortcut, a botched jump gets corrected, or previously impossible jumps become manageable with just that small boost. It's a fun, logical addition to Sonic's classic gameplay, and its one of the many factors that make this truly feel like a real sequel.

All of this does not make for a perfect game however, and Sonic 4 is not without its flaws. Some levels still feature the series much maligned bad enemy placement and cheap shots, and while some can arguably be avoided with sharp enough reflexes, others simply have to be tripped in order to be aware of their presence. Some of the gimmicks are suspect as well, with one in Lost Labyrinth that doesn't explain itself until you've spent a life or two, and a particularly nasty one in Casino Street that makes the level impossible to finish if you mess up a homing attack on a string of enemies towards the end. The homing attack is a bit suspect as well, sometimes not locking on to targets right away, or locking on when they can't be reached (sending you flying into a wall or to your death) There's also a funky screen rotating effect when going through loops that you'll either love or get motion sickness from, depending on your cup of tea. I thought it was cool, frankly, while it drove a friend of mine crazy.

Motion Sickness!

The graphics are nice too, featuring colorful backgrounds and a great looking 3D model for Sonic himself, but the game inexplicably lacks retina display support, which means that the game looks great on anything but an iPhone 4, where the low resolution becomes more apparent and the game takes a bit of a washed out tone more akin to a DS title. For a iOS game released after June 24th, this is not just a minor oversight, it's inexplicable. The console versions feature some of the most gorgeous high-res CG I've seen in a downloadable title, it would've been nice to say the same here.

A list of complaints is a bit moot however, when the overall package is so well done. Despite its minor and occasionally major flaws in the design and gameplay department, Sonic 4 on the iPhone is not only a sequel that successfully updates classic Sonic gameplay for the next generation, but is a great sneak peek of what to expect from the HD versions as well. If the small bugs and annoyances are ironed out of the next installments of this planned episodic series, then we are all in for a real treat indeed, as Sonic Team (with help from dimps) seems to have tapped what made Sonic successful in the first place, and man, are they on the right track.

Just like '91.

Here's to many more.

Continue Reading..

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Shut up long enough to make a good game.

My god, they've been running a smear campaign on the power of the 360 since the damn hardware was revealed (Xbox 1.5, anyone?), and 5 years later, against all odds (measured by Sony), the system has been able to hold its own, in many ways matching and even besting the PS3's lineup technically as well as artistically.

So why am I still reading lines like this?

"Well, yeah. Yeah. I mean we're still a way away from launching so we're probably going to throw more stuff on that Cell processor. So yeah... Do you think [Xbox 360] could pull off Uncharted 2? Everyone's comparing us to Uncharted 2, so if you think you can make Uncharted 2 on Xbox then OK maybe you can make Infamous 2 on Xbox."

--Darren Bridges, Sucker Punch

Nevermind the fact that inFamous wasn't a technical marvel to begin with and its sequel is really less than groundbreaking in the visuals department (compared to Uncharted 2? WHERE?)It's always the same thing. Somehow, some way, if you're making a PS3 game, it's absolutely imperative that you annouce it isn't possible on any other console at some point during its development.

I realize that mudslinging is a favorable part of any console makers strategy, but when does it stop being clever and start being shortsighted? I keep seeing this trend exemplified in first-party titles like Ratchet and Clank, God of War 3, Killzone 2, and most infamously in Assassin's Creed 5 years ago, with an all-too-catty Sony ready to declare that the game's advanced animation system and physics were too detailed for the 360 to handle. (The game later released with negligible differences.)

Anyone ever hear of Nintendo constantly defending the Wii's honor, touting its motion control like some kind of safety net? How about Microsoft? As far as I can see, they or Nintendo don't care, because at the end of the day, people either buy the games or they don't. Sony devs however, feel it necessary to prove themselves through statements and graphical or hardware specs instead of gameplay. Does PS3 have more raw power? Yes. However, all the potential in the world means nothing if no one's tapping it, and so far very few developers outside of their vaunted first party on PS3 has used it in a unique or compelling way.

Haven't I seen this before?

What WOULD be appreciated, are statements rooted in fact about actual limitations, and how they relate to a game's direction. Not some mini seminar about the PS3's SPUs, or the Cell processor, or the blu-ray disc, and how it adds up to some unassailable miracle formula. There are a ton of factors that go into a game's development on console, from how their CPUs delegate tasks, to their GPU and the amount of redering techniques possible (zzz), but at the end of the day, they are JUST SPECS. They aren't physical, or legal reasons a game can't be multiplatform, they are numbers, and numbers were invalidated the minute consoles became so complex we couldn't define them by bits anymore.

64-bit game. Seriously.

It's really unfortunate, but Media Molecule (LittleBigPlanet) has been the only exclusive Sony developer I can think of to buck the trend, citing that the game was not possible on another console not because of a technical reason, but because of the unique way they were using the PS3 hardware in regards to user-file sharing and other factors unrealated to the RELATIVE power of the console. In fact, they said it was very possible on a rival platform, given enough time and leniency of Microsoft's policies.

And that game is gorgeous.

I can't put my finger on it, but I think the thing that irks me the most is the fact that these baseless comments are being made from a limited, marketing perspective. If you are only using one kind of hardware, how exactly can you be absolutely sure that it's impossible anywhere else? It's cowardly, prattling on about how your game can't be done elsewhere when you have no plans to attempt bringing it aywhere else. It's akin to zealots declaring their religion the one true following, while turning a blind eye to even the slightest opposing idea. Any developer using both systems has stated that the systems both have their strengths and weaknesses (NOT that one is explicitly 'better'), and when a like-for-like game releases on both consoles and looks simply amazing, it only makes those who spoke up seem less talented than they actually are.

Post-Castlevania, No one has any excuse now.

"You'll look at it and see that there's no way we could have done this game on 360."

Really, Sucker Punch. I know Sony needs to market their first party titles and this tradition is a huge part of it. I know there's a need get the fanboy fires raging and the tin hats in play, but I really don't think I'm alone in saying that maybe they should focus less on how their game compares to Uncharted 2 (read:it doesn't), and more on just making a good enough game to be noticed in the glut of highly anticipated releases next year. Because I must say. inFamous barely held itself up when being relentlessly (unfairly?) compared to Prototype, and that was a new IP. In fact, I'd go as far to say that if it weren't for Prototype, it probably wouldn't have sold that well, relative quality be damned.

Many things in 2011 are sequels and reimaginings of some -very- strong titles.

With that in mind, and the prerequisite PS3 dev braggart quota filed, I hope it's back to work.

Continue Reading..

Monday, October 11, 2010

Accurate depiction of your friendlist on 9-14-2010.


Continue Reading..

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Annoyances of the Mainstream - Visual-Tactual Discrepancy

And thus, the maligning of the mainstream continues, with this passage focused on the sticking point of sticking point: Graphics. More and more, I'm seeing games come under fire for their visual prowess, but is it warranted? I don't think so. I've changed much from my youth, where visuals simply didn't matter as much as the game at hand (ah, to be young), but this was largely due in part to the fact that games didn't HAVE technical issues of this sort when I was younger. Take slowdown for example. Every game had a perfect framerate, and if it didn't, you were simply in awe of just how much a developer was willing to push the console in order to get the look achieved on screen. These days, a game slows down, and it's something to be ridiculed--how could a developer let such a thing come to pass? What was once regarded as the pinnacle of technical merit (pushing a console over the edge) now has the worst reputation imaginable.

So the times have changed, and what was once revered is now bottom of the barrel, as is the nature of technology. But why? The building blocks of what consititute good visuals hasn't changed. While we're leagues away from the 2D ideals I just described (in 3D, slowdown is bad, bad, bad), the difference between a game looking bad and simply good or adequate really hasn't changed. I think our way of looking at them has, and once more reviewers, I'm looking at you. Yes, I realize that everything's in HD and that saying "This game looks great!" may start to feel a bit redundant for the 'Graphics' portion of a review, but things are getting off track. So in trying not to get lost in a redundant sea of praise, I think a bit too much information is getting out there as an awkward placeholder and it's warping people's perception of what makes something look good.

(someone actually told me this looked bad)

I'm still of the belief that if a game can pull off its visual accent well, then it is a game of good graphical quality. But these reviewers have morphed somewhat into tech analysts, dissecting everything from techniques used to even resolution as a sticking point. They'll go on and on like a DigitalFoundry article, throwing around programming jargon until you have less of an assessment about a game's visuals and more of a spec sheet. This misdirection of information goes straight past their reader's brains, and into their subconscious. Then, they too prattle endlessly about effects like depth-of-field and ambient occlusion. They start throwing around engine names like Unreal Engine 3 or Frostbite without an understanding of what they're capable of. Some cases will start complaining about gaffes they don't understand like LoD (level of detail) glitches and v-sync tearing.

(a split second of this is not going to condemn this game to the depths of graphical hell)

Suddenly, it's become less about the combination of these techniques and how they contribute to making a great game, but more about how many there are. I explained to a friend absolutely hailing the new Kingdom Hearts that I felt FFVII: Crisis Core was a better looking game than Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep because it has a more detailed look, as opposed to a starkly cartoonish one.

Now, I am not saying Kingdom Hearts looks bad. I am also not implying that it looks worse than Crisis Core. But to see his ears initially flare up spoke volumes. I was immediately leveled volleys about screen effects, animation, AI, textures, and it would've been more had I not stopped him and clarified: Where CC went for a more detailed, industrial, psuedorealistic look (requiring a multitude of detailed textures indoor or out), Kingdom Hearts by design doesn't carry a ton of detail, sitting squarely between Disney-style cel animation and a radical anime aesthetic. "It isn't so much the look, but the intent. KH simply looks sharp, CC looks more detailed", I said.

Then his eyes glazed over.

Was he really up for a graphics debate (given all the bullet points he threw at me), or was he likely following the spirit of a glowing review? My bet goes to the latter.

Call me crazy, but I thought we solved the graphics problem a while ago. Somehow though, the debate rages on, and really, the player loses as a result. Especially if we're going to get caught up in these faux-technical debates, when really I've seen plenty of games with a wide stamp of graphical trickery still fail to impress compared to games working with much less, practically invalidating these claims.

(Silent Hill 3 STILL looks better than any game in the series released after it. A PS2 game. From 2004.)

Generally these days, every game looks technically great. So with every game this generation sporting at least a 720p resolution and textures to boot, it should all boil down not to technical prowess, but art direction. It isn't a resolution, or an eye-light-shadow effect, its how a dev can effectively combine these things to make something that looks virtually incredible. The Wii is already proving in spades that you don't need advanced technical prowess for great visuals, and I'll be damned if someone else walks up to me and tells me Super Mario Galaxy 2 doesn't look amazing:

or that Conker: Live and Reloaded looks aything less than fantastic 5 years after its release on the original Xbox,

Or even that because Grand Theft Auto 4 doesn't look like God of War 3 or Uncharted 2, that it doesn't have the capacity to be just as breathtaking.

Surely you catch my drift by now, and it's exactly my point. The one thing that should have anyone comparing the visuals of one game to another is how well the style is pulled off, because obviously, a technical gap isn't the only obstacle a game has to overcome on its way to our eyes. More and more I'm seeing other games unfairly come under fire for not matching up with the best of the best out there, and for such bad reasons? It's almost like we forget what Namco, Konami, and Square are able to pull off on the PSP, against all odds.

Moving forward, and especially as games begin to blend into each other due to varying degrees of realism, you may want to leave the analysis behind, and focus simply on how great a piece of software looks as opposed to whatever insane machine is powering it. A game with fantastic graphical tricks but no art direction to support it is about as useless as a game with simply bad visuals, and if the critics on top don't stop copening their craws with terminology beyond the average consumer, we'll end up with a whole slew of people refusing to enjoy the finer points of our medium for what they are--that is, absorbing and enjoying our expansive vistas instead of picking apart their texture seams.

..and really, when it comes down to it, no amount of advanced 3D can produce something this intricately detailed and hilarious:

...if you have proof of otherwise, I'd love to see it sometime.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Captain Obvious RETURNS.


(Mouseover for full effect!)

Again, I'm just saying..

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

...Goddammit, Ninja Theory.

Ninja Theory + DMC = (Stephen)Dorff May Cry?

Devil May C(ash in on current vampire marketing trends)?

No thanks. No really. I can appreciate the refusal to continue where DMC2 left off, but dammit, we can't keep making him younger. While I have no problem with yet another prequel, I have an issue with the way he looks. We went from the handsome boyish charm of DMC3 Dante, to this travesty? Brandon Lee is probably turning in his grave due to misappropriation of his likeness.

Seriously. He looks like something a Crow direct-to-DVD movie shat out while squatting in front of Hot Topic.

I'm looking at these screens, and I'm wondering what the hell happened here. As a fan of DMC since the beginning, I'm well aware that at the conclusion of DMC 3, Dante was around 19 years old. Just HOW much younger is he supposed to be here, and...why in the hell is his hair black?

I don't trust Ninja Theory. Enslaved looks really nice and everything, but after a track record that is literally limited to Kung Fu Chaos on the original Xbox, and Heavenly Sword, sue me if I'm just a LITTLE skeptical about the direction they're taking DMC in with this alleged reboot. This is even with the promise that this new title will, in their words: "retain the series’ signature mix of sword and gunplay but add additional weapons, all new powers and a revitalised gameplay system as players encounter the game’s devilish mix of enemies and navigate the rich, interactive environment."

...Hopefully that "revitalised" gameplay system includes a jump button.

As far as I could tell, DMC didn't NEED rebooting, and the fact that Dante looks like he's as goth as his surroundings is unsettling. As an angsty rebellious action hero with platinum white hair, he was just cheesy enough to be self-depreciating and cool at the same time. Here, I just don't know what to think. What was wrong with continuing from where 4 left off, in a comfortable place between 1 and 2? I for one enjoyed (relatively) mature Dante, and wanted to know more about Nero, including his connection to the Sparda family. Now, like the Prince of Persia reboot that Ubisoft gave up on, it looks like I'll never see that new thread fleshed out.

Lost in a sea of marketing and..oh hell I don't know.

Fuck this game so far. They'd better flip this faster than Cole's unnecessary re-redesign in inFamous 2, or I can't see myself playing this at any point in the future.

GOD. Why the hell does he look like Edward Cullen?

Yep. Just as I can't unsee it, neither will you. Crab in a bucket, we're all goin' down.

Source: Destructoid [TGS: New Devil May Cry starring a younger Dante revealed]

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