17 01 2008

I need to get myself a Wii. Smash Bros. Brawl’s coming in a few months, and I know it’s going to take me that long to get my hands on one of those darned systems. Time to go fight granny in the game aisle.


All right…

21 11 2007

So I played Mass Effect for 3 hours last night. One of those hours was spent creating my awesome character. What do I think of it?

The best game on the Xbox 360. Period.


19 11 2007


Mass Effect is coming out tomorrow! Excitement! Joy! Celebration!

At any rate, this means I’ll be busy. Very busy. For the next few weeks months. 🙂

See you in space.

An Awesome Call

9 11 2007

I dare say that Call of Duty 4’s singleplayer campaign is better than Halo 3’s.

The mainstream masses claw and howl at my doorstep as I say that, but it’s true. I don’t think there is a game that is more seat-of-your-pants intense than CoD4. Halo 3 is awesome by all means, for sure, but even hardcore Master Chief fanboys have to admit that all the backtracking sucks. And for all the cool gunplay in Halo 3, none of it truly feels like war. Not like all those Halo “Believe” ads will have you…well, believe. In the end, you’re still a one-man army (or four-man, if you’re going in with some buddies for co-op), and your AI teammates tend to do ridiculously retarded things, leaving you to fend for yourself as the Flood feast upon your less intellectually inclined friends.

Not in CoD4. Here, it truly feels like war, with your dudes swarming all over the place, breaching and clearing and taking out the bad guys without a second thought. Your soldiers actually feel like real, thinking, breathing human beings instead of strings of really smart code. Never do you have to command your teammates in CoD4, because they can take pretty good care of themselves—and pretty good care of you, too. Often they’ll take out enemies that you can’t even see, and they’ll certainly save your ass more than once by the time the campaign is over.

It’s refreshing to finally have a game where you don’t have to babysit the A.I.—in fact, it tends to babysit you more often than not. Once in a while this can create minor frustrations, such as when you’re going for that “three knife kills in a row” achievement and your friendlies keep taking out the enemy before you can even get close enough for a melee, but overall, this is a good thing, because, really, once you get that silly little achievement, you’ll want smart dudes guarding your six, not morons that prefer staring at walls instead of aiming at heads.

The campaign itself is a rollercoaster of pure awesome—developer Infinity Ward smartly cut out any and all dead time/backtracking/garbage you might have to go through in other games, and they ultimately boiled down the singleplayer into an exciting, hardcore, cinematic experience that I believe no other FPSes offer save for other entries in the CoD series. “Holy sh—!” moments come fast and often, and you never know what lies around the next corner, keeping you on your toes at all times. Things might look clear one moment, but then the next you’ll find yourself in a morass of bullets, grenades, and RPGs (the enemy really seems to like using those), and you’ll be scrabbling for cover faster than you can say, “oh crap.”

Jets will fly overhead, helicopters will track you through the night, and dogs will tear after your ass while you furiously backpedal and try to take them down before they rip out your throat. It’s an intense, breathtaking experience, and it’ll leave you hungering for more. And that’s not even counting the multiplayer aspect, which deserves a whole other blog in and of itself. It, too, is spellbinding.

This year has been a good one for FPS fans, with the holy trifecta of BioShock-Halo 3-Call of Duty 4 creating a holiday season unlike any other. Each game offers its own highlights, and each one is excellent in its own way. But if there’s one game that’ll keep your eyes open and your heart pounding in sheer, raw excitement and awe, it’ll be Call of Duty 4. It’s short, but it’s sweet, and I’ll take a quick rollercoaster ride over a long, boring drive any day.

The Call has been sent. Now it’s up to you to answer it.


6 11 2007

I just realized today that I haven’t talked about Bioshock yet.

Chances are that if you’re a gamer, you’ve heard about this game. It’s the industry’s latest success story: a new, strange, untested IP that suddenly topped review charts and sales charts from, quite literally, out of nowhere.

Chances are that you also know that the game’s premise lies in exploring a ruined underwater utopia to try and discover what led to its demise. Along the way, you’ll gain use of special plasmid powers that allow you to do things like shock enemies and set fire to the environment, and you’ll also find and use a whole bunch of cool weapons.

The art direction in this game is second to none. It features a retro, art-deco style ripped straight from the 1950s, as well as musical hits from that era. The city of Rapture is completely, fully realized, with quaint touches such as posters advertising the latest play or the newest plasmid. If ever there was a game in which the environment tells a story, it’s Bioshock, for sure.

Perhaps the game’s greatest achievement, however, is the characterization: Throughout the game world, you’ll discover audio diaries, which unravel the plot bit by bit. It’s not a requirement to find them all, but you’ll miss huge chunks of the increasingly intricate plot if you decide to breeze past all the diaries. This was a smart choice on the developers’ part, though: I know all the impatient, spazzy gamers out there with ADD attention spans will care less about the story, but if you’re someone like me, who likes to revel in the game world, you have the opportunity to learn more about the story without having to go to outside resources like the game’s website or an artbook. These audio diaries are superbly acted, too. I don’t know where they found these people, but they act very well. It’s some of the best acting I’ve heard in a game so far (save for the occasional Bioware title, of course 🙂 ). At any rate, do yourself a favor and try to hunt down all the diaries. You’ll get an achivement for doing so, so there’s a bit of an incentive there, too.

Another great thing about Bioshock are the Big Daddies and Little Sisters. These are characters that pop up throughout the game world, and it’s always a treat to stumble upon them. Little Sisters are essentially deranged little girls that go around harvesting genetic material from the corpses littered around Rapture, and Big Daddies are the hulking brutes that protect them. It’s a very interesting dynamic, and in making these characters, I believe the developers crafted an iconic benchmark for the industry. There’s no mistaking that Big Daddies define Bioshock almost as much as Rapture defines Bioshock, and this is evidenced by the fact that one of the creatures actually graces the cover of the game.

At any rate, there’s a demo out on Xbox Live Marketplace, so if you haven’t tried Bioshock, do yourself a favor and test it out. You’ll get to play through the entire first section of the game, and you’ll get a pretty good taste of what lies in store.

As countless reviews have said, Bioshock is one of the Xbox 360’s best games, if not one of the best games ever, period. It’s truly a mature title, dealing with a lot of interesting themes, and it’s got the visual and aural muscle to back it all up. The graphics are excellent, and the sound is absolutely stunning. The gameplay, too, is great in that you have an almost limitless number of ways to approach any situation. Do you use a pistol? Your chemical thrower? Or do you set a trap using proximity mines and trip wires? You can even forsake the weapons altogether and rely exclusively on your plasmid powers, freezing enemies or even turning them against one another. If you can think it up, chances are that you can pull it off.

Set against any other environment, Bioshock would’ve been great. But it’s Rapture—with its iconic Big Daddies and submerged skyscrapers—that really elevates Bioshock beyond almost any other title to date. People like to argue about gameplay versus graphics, but I think to truly have an excellent game, you need a balance of both. Bioshock strikes that balance, and as such, it’s one of those rare experiences that leaves you truly breathless afterwards.

Take a step into Rapture. You won’t regret it.

Fists of Fun

1 11 2007

Virtua Fighter 5 is awesome. How awesome? So awesome that it’s unbelievable.

This, my friends, is a beautiful game. Seriously. I daresay it even looks better than DOA4! People always say that the fighters in DOA look like plastic dolls. Well, now I finally agree with them, after seeing fighters that look like actual people instead of, well…Barbies. That’s not to knock DOA, though—it’s a great game in its own right, just not as great as Virtua Fighter.

Last night I only spent time playing as two people—Eileen, one of the two new additions to the roster, and Vanessa. And boy, folks, let me tell you—they are totally, utterly different. Not many fighting games can pull that off so well. And that’s just two characters! There’s a heck of a lot more!

And man, VF5 is unrelentingly precise. I was spanked black and blue by the command training because the game wants you to nail the moves exactly. And by exactly, I mean milliseconds. There’s a certain satisfaction you get when you finally learn the timing and balance of a particular character, and of the game in general. It’s really spectacular, and truly hardcore in a way that no other fighter has touched save for the VF series. I played number 4. I know just how technical of a game that was, too.

But now, with number 5, the VF series finally has the eye candy and flow to keep up with once-prettier and flashier contenders Tekken and DOA. This is a game that’ll make you want to get that HDTV, folks. It’s completely worth it. The cloth textures and physics are something to behold, and the colors are so very bright. It’s definitely a treat.

Anyway, if you’re a fan of fighting games, do yourself a huge favor and pick this one up. It puts the Marianas Trench to shame in terms of depth, and it’s a looker of a title. Those who find themselves more attracted to casual fare might find this one way too technical and hardcore, but it still offers some nice thrills for button-mashers. The true heart of the game, though, is in mastering the fighters, learning all their many moves and using those moves to the fullest extent. Nothing is cooler than charging up a powerful move, only to cancel it and fake out your opponent, then follow up with a few punches and a crushing throw. There’s a flow to this game, like water, that few other titles (save for perhaps Soul Calibur) have.

Virtua Fighter 5 is in a league of its own.

Fighting on Halloween

30 10 2007

Virtua Fighter 5 is coming out today. Do you know how excited I am?

I tried the demo out on Marketplace a few weeks ago, and I was instantly converted. I’ve played VF4 and such, mind you, but I could never get into it like Soul Calibur or even DOA. (Which, speaking of DOA, curse you for your cheap-ass AI, number four!) But VF5 looks to change that.

I really love fighting games. Fighting games and FPS’s are my two favorite genres. I also like a good action/adventure title, but shooting people and kicking the crap out of them are my two favorite things to do in a video game. So it comes as little surprise that I’ll be picking up one of the best fighting games in recent memory.

 The bonus with the 360 version is that it’ll have online play. This, I can assure you, will rock. No doubt there’ll be lag and the general crappiness/unfairness/etc. that comes with the online territory, but it’ll still be really cool to smack down some fools with your customized Eileen or El Blaze or even that chick that looks like Nina Williams. I know for a fact that DOA4 online was a lot of fun, even with the constipated fighting system and occasional lag. AND you could save replays, which was wonderful for those times you managed to whup someone’s butt without them even touching you. Pure excellence. I’m really hoping VF5 will have a replay save feature.

Another thing I noticed in the demo is that the AI isn’t so freaking cheap. The AI in DOA4 is some of the crappiest AI I think I’ve ever encountered in a fighting game. One moment, the computer will be stupidly standing there, picking its virtual nose, and then the next moment it’s blocking every single move you throw at it. It gets tiring after a while, especially since there’s NO WAY to change the AI difficulty settings. (At least I don’t think so….Don’t quote me on that.) I will admit that fighting against cheap-ass AI made me a better fighter, but you folks who’ve played DOA know that it’s wholly possible for a newbie to play as Hayabusa or Hayate and cheap-shot his way to a win. I can’t tell you just how many cheap Hayabusa/Hayate players I’ve encountered online in DOA4. It’s staggering. It’s a nice feeling, though, when I end up beating them as someone other than Hayabusa or Hayate, such as, oh, Kokoro. Or maybe Hitomi, or Brad Wong, or one of the other 12 people you can play as. (There are characters other than Hayate and Hayabusa in the game, people! Wake-up call!)

I’m hoping that with Virtua Fighter 5, people won’t all end up playing as the same dude. Because that would be kind of boring. I’d just have to play as someone else and whup them. 🙂

Anyway, so there you go: Virtua Fighter 5 is shipping today. It’ll probably be in stores on Halloween, so in between your trick-or-treating you’ll be able to punch a few folks online. I know that’s what I’m gonna be doing.