Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dream Match 2012?

With the announcement of Street Fighter x Tekken, the fighting game community is in a frenzy. Endess speculation and discussion about gameplay, endless fan rants about balance and why it should or should not happen, but arguably the most fun part of any crossover are the dream matches. For the first time ever, a lot of rivalries have the potential to be put to rest, and since both recent games in each franchse retained their classic characters in each roster, the possibilities are not only there, but potentially endless. I've of course, had a ton of conversations among friends about who should fight who and why, but these are the ones in particular that I found the most interesting. Matchups after the jump!

Fei Long vs. Marshall Law

While this is the most obvious pairing, it's also the one I want to see much. Even though they're both obvious homages to Bruce Lee, their similarities lie in technique and look alone. In reality, they're both a pair of kung fools, the former being a cheesy action star who seems to speak in bad dubbing, and the latter being a scheming...doofus. No really. After watching this ending, I dare you to tell me that the clash of martial arts technique and slapstick that would ensue from their battle wouldn't be a sight to behold.

Christie vs. Elena

While this one seems a bit far fetched in theory because Elena isn't actually IN SSF4, one can only hope one of the new characters added to the arcade version of SSF4 is Elena. Not only is she the only SF character who practices Capoiera, (making her unique enough for consideration) but it'd be an excellent segue into a SFXT matchup catalyst. It's as much a display of showmanship as it is a fighting style, and while Christie is an incredibly realistic rendition of the discipline seen in movies and popularized by breakdancing, Elena's is simply more elegant, more over the top im my opinion. I think it's an unnderstatement when I say that a fight between them would be likely a mindblowing (not to mention stunning) show. Woo!

Bob vs. Rufus

Both incredibly agile despite having meatball like frames, both are obsessed with being the best at what they do. Both are implausibly, confusingly, hilariously skilled with their respective unconventional fighting styles. Fighting devs have a knack for making fun of the competition with some of their fighters, but in this case, I can't tell which one is making fun of which. With Rufus being an unknown newb, and Bob being a formerly respected fighter in (percievably) terrible shape, I think a spat between the master and the mook has to have come up during brainstorming. I mean, LOOK at them fight.

This is inevitable. It has to be.

Nina vs. Cammy

This may have been neglected in the reveal trailer, where Nina's counterpart in battle seemed to be Chun-Li, but I think that was due more to their iconic status than anything else.

This is a real rivalry.

When the game finally does release, why wouldn't a duel between two gorgeous deadly government agents be anything but a limb--no--potentially NECK-breaking CQC fest? There's something to be said when you're an individual whose learned so many fighting styles through training, you walk away with a mish mash style people can only describe as deadly. Cammy's recent special moves highlight just how effective an assassin she is, and when put up against Nina's highly trained exploits, it isn't too hard to imagine an epic fight of (Daniel Craig) Bond proportions.

Besides. Cammy had the better game.That's got to be something else to be bitter about.

Paul Phoenix vs. Guile

I'm going to admit, I chose this one solely on the merits of inexplicable hair suspension techniques more than anything else. Scientists still can't figure out how these two keep their respective coifs intact during a fight, and as silly as Paul can be (He is after all, Law's partner-in-crime), I can see him clashing with Guile's one track minded sentiment (which often gets him into mistaken identity fights) nicely. Imagine a scenario where Guile runs into Paul, believes he may know something about Charlie, and due to his boneheaded nature (and Paul likely overreacting in defense), ends up inadvertantly starting a fight?

Seems plausible, no? I'd anticipate a very interesting match, seeing as both practice effective grappling and striking fighting styles with a mixture of strange self-improvised moves..

T.Hawk vs. Julia

...Actually, on second thought, these two actually need each other, being an endangered species and all.

Perhaps they should team up.


There were a bunch of other ones that didn't make the cut, (E.Honda vs. Ganryu, King vs. Zangief, you seem BORING), but these were the ones that appealed to me the most. I'm pretty certain as the months pass, the reveals will likely be shocking, some even disappointing, but I know a few of these have to make the cut. We have after all, grown up playing these games, and if this project isn't a labor of love with the fans in mind, how could any of these not see the light of day? They're simply just too priceless not to.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Looks like Twitter's good for something..

I know Abe, I can't believe it either.

A few weeks back, I found out about a Twitter account apparently started by Abe, and while it claimed to be official in some way, knowing the internet, I took the small rumblings within to be nothing more than a fan having a good time. This didn't stop me from keeping a close eye on it anyway, and now, it seems as if it's paid off! A small development crew by the name of Just Add Water games has apparently been working closely with Oddworld Inhabitants on a new Oddworld title across multiple platforms.

Screenshot from my phone after the jump, and man. I know I'll be on eggshells until they announce whatever it is. The gaming landscape NEEDS something as soulful as Oddworld right now, and I've been waiting to dive back into all those charming personalities and beautifully twisted worlds for some time now.

Heck, I'm still sitting here trying to achieve a perfect 300 in Abe's Exoddus on my PSP (297's my best!)..and that's REALLY saying something.

Welcome back, sir. You were missed.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

LittleBigRevelation - Bringing a Solo Gamer Back to the Fold..

Also on Chocolate Lemon!

I'm not a multiplayer kind of guy.

No--scratch that. For as long as I could remember, I've always enjoyed playing games with others. Fighting games, shooters, adventure games, if a game had some sort of multiplayer, I was game. This went on until around 2004, when I'd gotten Xbox Live for the first time. After years of Halo, and Need for Speed local sessions, food and insults being passed around, it was all slowly coming to a close due to the advent of online gaming. Why play Burnout with half the framerate? Why play Halo on my (then) cramped screen when I could have one all to myself? It answered itself.

But with this revelation, with this newfound convenience, came it's own form of double edged sword. My friends and I started hanging out less, and more online. My beloved Halo--the first FPS I'd taken seriously enough to learn its nuances and play at a competitive level-- had a sequel with a insufferable campaign, and was seemingly focused only on its (newly broken) multiplayer. I started seeing great games being neglected for lack of multiplayer (Oddworld:Stranger's Wrath), or being played solely because of it, despite strong campaigns. I've even seen a game lose its integrity in favor of a strong multiplayer component (Conker: Live and Reloaded). It was a problem. It seems, for every great experience I had playing Doom 3's fun co-op, or even Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory in counter-ops, I had a bunch of other reasons disenfranchising me from the whole endeavor. Annoying online brats, braindead allies, shoddy mechanics, apathy towards individuality, and lag were at the top of a very long list of reasons to just let it all go.

Flash forward a year or so, and it stuck.

I don't buy games for multiplayer anymore. In fact, it's the very last thing I'll buy a game for, and my years since have been spent indulging in the campaigns of various games, playing them to completion at my pace, on my terms. I've also very much enjoyed my solitude, sparingly indulging in strong co-op centric expriences like Crackdown, or Gears of War, but largely maintaining my stance. After all, games that had multiplayer seemingly tacked on despite quality elsewhere (The Darkness), games still with insufferable campaigns but robust multiplayer (Halo 3), and games still losing integrity in favor of strong multiplayer components (Resident Evil 5) continued to exist. Sure, I still played the odd racing or fighting game here and there, but my days were still long since past. I can't even stand the thought of multiplayer, and attempts to the contrary with games like Modern Warfare 2 still just cement the notion in my head.

You know, that insufferable notion of buying a game against one's judgement solely for it's online modes, playing them for a while, and never even finishing the campaign due to latent disinterest? I've been there.

But something still nagged at me, because, it isn't as if I didn't enjoy playing with people. I just think I was simply tired of the compromise that online gaming had saddled me with. If a game had a strong single player component, the multiplayer usually suffered. If it was strong in multiplayer, it's easy to see in single where the compromises were made. Even mediocrity was being settled for if the multiplayer was functional (Aliens vs. Predator). The stigma more than anything else got to me, got under my skin, and left me with an extreme distaste where there should've been joy at being able to enjoy rounds with my friends and company. I had no problem with multiplayer as a whole, but when it started to compromise the way games were being made and appreciated on a fundamental level, I took offense. Even so, while I was still up for even a good co-op experience at the very least, my heart wasn't fully in it. Even the most recent Transformers: War For Cybertron, with its co-op component front and center, is something I'll admit to be great fun, but it's something I won't rush to invite friends to right away.

Then, a bit of change..

I bought my girlfriend LittleBigPlanet a while back, and even though I'd personally had the game for well over a year, I'd never finished it because it was simply one of those games I'd bought to play with friends, and eventually dropped out of unintentionally because other experiences simply took precedence. Getting it for her however, made me pick it up for a bit, and while I never denied the game's strong design all around, playing it filled me with a different kind of feeling than before.

I invited her, a friend of mine, and we were off. It was a great, fun night, one we running around, solving puzzles, pushing each other into pits and amicably competing for points. That night, I went to bed that night with a few pictures, memories in hand, and an odd feeling that I initially ignored. The next night fared better, I jumped back on and played with her for a few hours, logging more adventures in my head, and after we parted ways, I jumped onto my 360 and played Blur. While it was strange and odd to me at first, I was suddenly bombarded with great thoughts that helped clarify. I was actually looking forward to more nights of LittleBigPlanet, more nights, more games where I could gather a few friends and have a good time. I also started to reminisce.

I remembered running around Pacific City with my best friend in Crackdown, watching them toss gang members with ease, and fondly remembered leaping across rooftops. As weak as I considered Resident Evil 5 to be, I couldn't have named it "Chris and Sheva's Racist African Handcannon Tour 2009" without the help of friends. How did I ever forget Castle Crashers, and its old-school, 4-player mayhem? Did I forget the hysterical fun that rhythm games like Rock Band have brought me? Blur and it's impossibly stable 4-player mode?! Had I taken them for granted? There was a certain tangible, lively energy that went along with this kind of gaming that I'd long since forgotten during my tenure of solitude, and I felt almost as if I'd unfairly snowballed my bad experiences into the whole of the genre. There were worthwhile co-op experiences. I'd just been too cynical to notice or appreaciate them fully since I'd been so put off to playing with others for so long.

(My lady's LBP pod, adorned with pictures of our adventures does much to help this sentiment as well..)

While it seems like a very abrupt shift, and I can't completely undo years of anger and bias against the entire endeavor (though, I did forget to mention, I do respect those who have the stomach for it), I certainly do think very differently now, and look forward to sharing experiences with my friends moving forward. While competitive multiplayer likely won't be something I'll seriously devote myself to moving forward, I definitely still have a soft spot for the co-op experiences. To think I'd almost forgotten the memories, stories, and even the run home enthusiasm that comes with social gaming!

It is, after all, a large part of what helped this industry grow. Shame on me. :)

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cry if I want to - DJ Hero Party Mix Pack Review

Tis another day, and suddenly, out of nowhere, DJ Hero Content! While I was completely sated with the Domination Mix Pack and the great Preview for DJ Hero 2, the Party Mix Pack is a complete surprise, and it can't come soon enough, as I don't think I can really wait until October to keep the party going anyhow. After seeing the tracklist in the description on Xbox Live, I worried a bit. With beat juggles (arrangements) of The Pussycat Dolls "Buttons", Rihanna's S.O.S., and a mashup of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" with Duran Duran's "Girls on Film" (wha?), it signaled a more MTV pop direction that left me not knowing what to expect. While the first two I could tolerate, given that I didn't exactly hate their original versions, it was the mashup at the end that really had me going. Those two songs? Really? How could that possibly work?

I hit the download button with a hint of unease, but remained faithful. You know, I never would've thought "Feel Good Inc." would mix with "Heard It Through the Grapevine" so well until this game, and surely, the same applied here, as the high quality of their mixes thus far left little room for doubt.

Was I right?

DJ Hero "Party 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: 7/4/2010

To put it lightly: No, I wasn't right with my assumption at all. But it isn't all bad news. While the Party Mix Pack features an daring track selection and a decent challenge, its lazily put together arranges and questionable third act, not to mention its oddly placed difficulty spikes ensure that seasoned veterans have little to return to, and the casual fan has yet another pack of songs to add to the collection, but it will stay in rotation for only so long before interest is lost.

But, to my verdict, yes?

Once again, songs are rated on a 1 to 5 scale, with an overall grade given at the end.

Pussycat Dolls - Buttons (Beat Juggle)

I was half awake and nearly had a perfect sightread on my first try.

Despite that ringing in my mind as a bad omen rather than a testament to skill, there wasn't a complete trainwreck left in my wake, but not anything too special here either. It's a slow, wispy track that mimics the same energy and tempo as the original, (why not make it energetic and interesting?) but sounds so close to it that you'll wonder why they've bothered to call it a beat juggle at all until the final moments, where a clever use of samples and scratches do a bit to liven things up at the end. It isn't enough to save the song from it's squarely middle of the road challenge, but it's a decently fun run that could've stood to be more interesting to play overall. Bit of a missed opportunity. (Rating: 3/5)

Rihanna - S.O.S. (Beat Juggle)

The same can also be said about this arrangement of Rihanna's song S.O.S. Carrying a higher and a more playful steady tempo than the song before it, its strange inclusion is only exacerbated by how boring it was to play. While I could stomach Buttons due to it's fun lyrics, heavy middle eastern-esque twang, and entertaining, yet unremarkable chart, I couldn't wait for this mix to end, and even started dropping notes and neglecting rewinds towards the climax because I didn't want to extend the song any longer than it should've been. Again, it was a bit skimpy on challenge, and I probably would've gotten another impromptu perfect if I hadn't gotten so bored 3 quarters in. Maybe a true Rihanna fan would enjoy it more than I, but that seems to me like it'd need to survive on made up excuses, rather than it truly being a good track to play and listen to on its own merits. (Rating: 2/5)

Duran Duran/Lady Gaga - Poker Face vs. Girls on Film

Well, this is strange. Watching the video, you can get a glimpse of what I mean. This way, you won't find it strange when I wonder aloud as to what the hell they were thinking with this one. While I enjoy "Poker Face" (the Cartman version sits proudly as a part of my Rock Band 2 tracklist), and "Girls on Film" on their own (Yes, Duran Duran has played MORE than "Hungry Like the Wolf"), whoever thought they would work as a mashup needs their ears, and brain checked. Very little of Poker Face is present besides the lyrics, and using GaGa's vocals with Duran Duran's synth results in a strangely awkward sound that requires a tempo increase on the former's part, turning the song even more poppish than it was before while managing to make it sound rushed and NOW!-ish at the same time. While the song has admittedly grown on me in subsequent playthroughs, I think it's more because of the song's unique blend of tapping and crossfading, rather than it's strength as a pretty good, but below standard mashup. I was disappointed, but still return for a challenge here and there. (Rating: 3/5)

So there you have it. While I was expecting something with a little more heart, and definitely little more challenging (especially after the amazing Domination pack), I didn't get that at all, and ended up feeling a bit shortchanged. The worst part was, the mixes themselves weren't terrible, per-se, but instead so middle of the road that in a game that insofar has had EXCELLENT downloadable content, it ended up feeling mediocre by comparison. It isn't even their fault for setting the bar so high in the first place, but rather their fault for not matching it with this uninspired effort, because for the first time wince release there's finally a pack that I didn't enjoy much at all. My advice for experts is to not expect too much from an unimaginative set, and midrange players, appreciate the oddly paced challenge, but don't expect to play it more than once or twice at best. Bummer.

Rating: 6.5

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Skills for Kills - Crackdown 2 Review

The original Crackdown was a bit of a sleeper hit. Deftly combining a Grand Theft Auto esque sense of freedom and scale with an empowering, stat building mechanic that mimed the addictive, collect-a-thon nature of Rare's best titles, it seemingly came out of nowhere, gave players an sandbox, and told them to run around and have as much fun as possible, either alone or with a friend. The fact that the game came packaged with the Halo 3 Beta was also a boon, as it meant that many gamers who wouldn't have played it otherwise were exposed to it's unique blend of platforming, shooting, and open world mayhem, and it's a design that games like inFamous play off of to this very day. The aformentioned co-op was also unheard of at the time, and it ensured that the game would have a dedicated following, many of which were clamoring for a sequel.

Three years later, we've gotten our answer. Crackdown 2 is among us, boasting a new developer, new aesthetic, and all around more content. A new 4 player co-op, more weapons, more enemies, just MORE all around. It's risky after three years to go the route of refine rather than redefine, and while I'm not one to mess with an already winning formula, does it work a second time around?

In short, YES. Crackdown 2 may not be radically different from its predecessor, but its list of upgrades and expansions do well to augment what was already a great game.

Read the rest of the review on!

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Outdoing Stuart Black.

It's funny, to this day, Black is still one of my favorite shooters of all time. Originally from the previous generation of gaming, but definitely not FEELING like it, it deftly combined gratuitous "gun porn" aesthetics with a tactical underside that bested even the hardest of the hardcore. Unsurprisingly, everyone loved Criterion's take on the modern FPS and wanted more, and it's no surprise that a sequel was expected and anticipated. What was a surprise however, is the fact that said game did NOT get a sequel of any kind, leaving the masses to only imagine what could've been. If Black was able to be the spectacle it was on outdated hardware, imagine what it would be like now?

The creator of Black stepped forward and announced his new project, a spiritual successor in the form of Bodycount and triumphantly announced his return to the world of shooters, and how we would all be rocked by what he has in store for us. Exciting!

...To be honest, it sucked. A bit bland in some spots, a bit spotty in others, it's as if his hubris at having created one of the most intense shooters of the last gen has overshadowed his sight. There are so many shooters now that equal or best the intensity that Black displayed four years ago that his successor feels dated by comparison. These are just alpha impressions though, and while the game does have time to improve, if it keeps looking like this:

I have no choice but to assume that he's lost it, and I need to move on.

However, someone seems to be getting it. Polish developer People Can Fly (most famous for their stellar balls out shooter Painkiller) and Epic Games (Unreal, Gears of War) are putting together a shooter that looks to turn the action shooter on its head. Joystiq has the scoop with a brief walkthrough of one of the game's levels, and I have to admit..It looks like so much fun, it's prospective 2011 release date is going to be agonizing. Relentless destruction, a focus on creative kills and mayhem (with a combo and point system for an extra layer of tactical planning/childlike glee), and visually superb? Sign me up.

No,really. The points system is so robust that you get special bonuses for shooting a man in the ass. This game needs a release date already.

Mr. Black? Do step your game up.

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