Saturday, March 8, 2008

Skeptical of Red Alert 3

Okay I loved the Red Alert series, back in the day Westwood Studios had the RTS genre under their thumbs. The newest Red Alert pits our favorite nations against each other in a cartoony bought to annihilate each other. The different playing styles of each nation was the Red Alert series greatest strength.

Each nation had its overall appearance tied directly to the units and their use in different situations and strategies. We all had our favorite units (40 German Shepards work for me) and ways to use them and sending in overwhelming numbers was a sure-fire way to destroy any opposition.

But this is 2008 and the RTS genre whether EA would like to recognize it or not, has changed. Their last attempt with Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium wars was ho-hum at best. It just didn't feel like much was getting done when you sent in your troops and held their hand every step of the way. I hated micro-managing my entire base. There were too many elements in CC3 that went to waste cause my attention was elsewhere. The old Red Alerts were simple enough where this didn't present a problem.

Supreme Commander in my eyes was the first breath of fresh air in the genre in a long time. Sure each race was a carbon copy of the other, but it gave you more control than any other RTS aptly living up to its name. Rather than babysitting your troops like in CC, you were able to stack orders on each building and unit. And that was good because the scale of the game was huge along with the battles requiring you to be in many places at once. But you had your units doing their thing while you worried about the bigger picture, not about guiding a few units around a mountain (see CC3).

So here's where I'm placing my money; if Red Alert 3 can keep it simple like the old Red Alerts then I will enjoy the game immensely ("Mammoth Tank assembled" always makes me smile). If the game becomes too complex and becomes a micro-managing orgy then I will not enjoy the game. That simple.

EA had a great chance to make the Tiberium series shine again and failed; where you spent your time worrying about dictating every step your units make. Hopefully Red Alert 3 is a lesson learned and brings this aging franchise a fresh breath but also back to its roots; being fun.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

With Friends Like These...

When I was young and had not evolved to PC games, I'd waste my days playing Goldeneye at my friends house.

There was no Counter Strike or Team Fortress 2 to make believe I was social since my computer at the time had the computing power of a soggy cheerio. It was three other friends and myself crouched next to each other swearing, punching and throwing each other while squinting at the tiny boxes that comprised our deathmatch.

Now though I'm older and have a job to afford the big boy toys like expensive hardware and hookers. I play online mutliplayer games like all the rest and enjoy them greatly, but alas something is missing; the people element. Yes you can use Vent, Teamspeak, in game VOIP or whatever to talk with your fellow players; but nothing is quite like sitting next your enemy and allies with a couple of Dr. Peppers.

So I've been yearning to regain that feeling without the hoaky online feeling. Most games today aren't well suited for the 4 person LAN party and are better off being played online with 20 or more people. What I'm looking for is an in depth and agressive cooperative play. There should be a PC game that lets me reach out and punch my dumbass teammate or bitchy enemy.

Not multiplayer deathmatch teams or that; the story campaign of say Half Life with another person fighting along side you. Solid Co-op games are rare these games for the PC market. There of course was Rainbow Six Vegas which was astounding, and Gears of War (if you can find anyone who can get the dammned thing working). I like yelling at my friends just a few feet away as we attempt to complete a mission or a campaign together. Online multiplayer is all abou the skirmish, deathmatch, battle royal which is fine; but that's over too quickly. I like to long engrossing multiplayer cooperative play of yesteryear.

Imagine if games like Bioshock, Call of Duty 4, Supreme Commander and Crysis allowed for Co-op play during the single player campaign. Online Co-op play would be great, but I would greatly appreciate having a couple of high quality games that I could bring to a LAN party and NOT have to play a lame deathmatch but a long winding mutliplayer experience that you can't finish in one sitting. I would like to see the length and breadth of a single player game expanded for two-four of my closest geek friends.

The ultimate experience would be a game soley devoted to the Co-op experience which has been for sometime a lost art. We may be nerds, but we all have at least a few friends to share in the nerdom and do occasionally like the human interaction of meeting face to face. Cooperative play to me changes the way we play the game and increases the replayability. For once (and don't kill me) I envy those console gamers who play Halo Co-op; the poor lucky saps......sigh.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Swan Song for the PS2

It’s hard to argue against the fact that the Playstation 2 was one, if not the greatest console ever made. With such a huge selection of games, it was hard not to be satisfied with your purchase (unless you got one of those nasty disc read problems, but that’s another topic). So for those too lazy, old, or cheap to switch to the next generation, here is a brief list of games you may want to look into before suffocating it with dust from your attic.

God of War II
I was debating not to put this on the list, since if you haven’t picked it up yet, your either eight years old, Jack Thompson, or hate video games, so Jack Thompson again. Yet I hear some people still did not play it. So not only is it one of the most visually impressive experiences you’ll find on the PS2, but it’s just pure fun. The over-the-top action, bloody brutality, and nudity should make any American cry with joy, and everyone else for that matter.

Persona 3
If you’re like me and the only exposure you had to JRPGs had the words “final” and “fantasy” in them, then Persona 3 really opens your eyes to just how crazy the Japanese can make their games. Coming from the famous Shin Megami Tensei line, the game offers unique visuals, a great story, and some new twists in game play. For example, how many times did you have to shoot yourself in the head just to do magic? Yeah, I thought so. Part dungeon crawler and part Sim game, the choices and social links you make in your character’s normal life help improve his powers in the dark one. Expect a full review from me in the future, if I can ever finish this supposed 80 hour game.

Music Games
We all know of Guitar Hero and Rock Band, but did you know those games also came out on the PS2? Well, the sales show that you do, but still… if you want to play the latest installments of these games without getting new plastic guitars, then try them out. Keep in mind that you won’t have access to all of the glorious DLC available on the PS3 and 360, but you do get a lot less advertising in GH3, which is always a plus. If rock is not your thing, you can always try the latest releases of the popular Singstar line. All great party games for those cool enough to have friends.

The Red Star
You might remember hearing about this game back in 2004, and all of its great comic book adaptation glory. Well, it was just released in April of 2007… that was quite a wait. But putting development problems aside, this game still offers a solid amount of game for your buck, especially at 20-30 of those bucks. It offers up a classic style of game play similar to Contra, with tons of enemies, interesting bosses, and some great Co-op fun. You can even upgrade weapons and certain attributes from points accumulated depending on how well you do on levels. Just keep in mind that this game can get VERY difficult, so you better ask someone besides your mom to play it with you.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Review- Call of Duty 4

I will start of this review by saying I have not played the multiplayer for this game and if you whine about it then buy the damn game yourself; in short I heard good things about the online stuff.

But this is MY review and not some older wiser geek’s so I will run the show my way. For those of us social shutdowns who don’t enjoy online multiplayer games and don’t mind some time alone (insert masturbation joke) with a good single player campaign play COD4 only if you have about 5 hours available to play through the games immensely long single player campaign (/end sarcasm).

COD4 pits you as several different forgettable characters for the British and US Military. I shouldn’t say characters, but more like superheroes. You the player are the target of every bullet between you and the far side of the world it seems; and then manage to hit you…A LOT. But after suffering from some bullet to skull fuck trauma you are new man cause of some magical health regenerating powers all soldiers have and are good to go kill the evil extremists who seem to be out of every patriotic movie made in the 90’s.

While I played the game on normal, harder has this health regenerating feature as well but only much shorter ergo increasing the difficulty which is good; but I will gripe because its fucking there and not making me believe I’m really at war. For pete’s sake everything else in the game was spot on realistic from the guns, to the stereotypical Middle Eastern extremists to the fracking (is pg-13 for fucking) explosions had me shaking in my Captain Underpants (see wikipedia) jammies. But in the spirit of all things whiny and well the suck, EA included this to make the game more accessible and harder to put down. It’s like this if your father slapped you around as a child you wouldn’t show up every day on your father’s doorstep wanting to “give the old man another shot” because you'd probably take a hint and leave. If the game were more realistic it would be quite a reality shock for all 99% of us nerds who’s only combat action is slamming the desk when we lose a game (see the cycle?). I would have felt more at home with a damn health pack or something, not some sort of infinite health well that I continually shove my cock into fucking the gameplay over. I would’ve had a feature for the button M called “call medic” and while you’re incapacitated a medic rushes over to you while you defending your pity excuse for a solider to save you’re bloody life and restores you to a functioning condition; not bloody perfect you twit.

Aside from that one aspect that pisses me off to no end (see Cloverfield), COD4 manages to do what no other FPS has ever done before; make me feel like I’m in a movie which is surprisingly still not as good as a blowjay. The cinematics tie in perfectly with the gameplay and keep the action tight. My heart was kept humming at a solid 154 beats per second when something would blow up or crash, it was better than that one time E for Christ’s sake.

But like most movies the story was kind of dull and it was over far too soon. The single player campaign is well constructed and played out but it’s shorter than my grandma who is shrinking into oblivion. I was very bummed when I reached a point in my head and felt immensely sad this amazing time had to end, it went something like this,

“Oh wow we just infiltrated an enemy missile silo where the baddie is and this will probably be over in 20 minutes flat. Oh fiddlefucks”

And I was right, the game ended and I was left sitting alone in my underwear in front of my computer like a girl getting stood up on the morning after prom; naked (almost), alone and pretty much fucked cause I don’t play multiplayer games that have a single player game. If you make a game have multiplayer, make it a fucking multiplayer game and if you make it a single player game keep it faithful. Release two fucking games with the same name, I don’t care. As long the developer puts forth an equal effort into both gamers will be pleased enough to buy both doubling you’re profits. There I win and go play COD4.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Development Cycle Loses the “Beta” Stage

This article serves as more of a rant than anything else, and while I would hate to waste your time with my mindless ramblings, I feel that this particular topic has some merit. While the effect this rant will have is debatable, at least you can get some shopping tips out of it, right?

I’ve been playing games for a very long time, and have played games across all genres and platforms. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many polygons an object has, or how many footstep sounds there are, we just want a game to be fun, engaging, challenging, and any other positive adjectives you can think of. Most importantly, we demand that our games work. We pay a good amount of money to play these things, we should at least get something in return.

Lately, however, I have been seeing more and more examples of developers and publishers not delivering on their promises, and shipping games that just don’t work. And I’m not talking about a small software glitch or lag on an online game, I’m talking about a game you cannot play when you get it.

Let me list some recent examples. Timeshift for the PC, I picked up a copy since it’s one of the only games my aging PC can play close to max as of late. I install and everything goes smoothly, until it’s time to configure some settings, where the game crashes instantly and I can’t reload the game. Okay, I’ll download the patch, buy now when I reload, my mouse and keyboard don’t work. It took some forum searching to learn I had to delete the old config file and it should work.

Now none of this was particularly major, but it was still unnecessary extra work for me to go through just to switch some damn keys around. And I wonder what would happen to someone who doesn’t waste their life away learning a computer, does the average gamer really know or even have to patience to look for every solution to their problem?

Then comes Gears of War for the PC, ready to offer great Co-op LAN options for my buddies. Also attending the party are dreaded C++ errors, Windows Live errors, stuttering problems, and so on. These are more severe, since me and many others cannot even start the game without it crashing. Others have random crashes at timed intervals and cannot get past certain checkpoints. Others have amazing gaming rigs and still get horrible frame rates.

But hey, they can always patch it right? They have come out with one, too bad it solved only some people’s problems. Me and my friends are still stuck with very light paper-weights. I tried every solution out there, even going as far as reformatting my PC, and still no resolve. Let’s just say I’m trying to get rid of my copy at the moment.

I understand it’s the PC market, with so many different variations of hardware it is almost impossible to satisfy everyone perfectly. But the truth is that these problems can be fixed, that’s why we have Beta testing, so issues like these can be discovered and resolved. Some games, even high profile and very demanding ones, pull it off very well so that there are a limited amount of issues.

However, there is no obligation to make games run great, or else we would have to question our capitalist society. Then who do we shift blame to, people preordering these things when they don’t know what to expect from the final product? But just like seeing a big budget film and then seeing a blurry, distorted mess due to bad editing, you expect a certain level of quality when EA/Microsoft/Sony distribute worldwide.

My point is that we must be careful with our games, and we must show the right message when making our decisions to continue this expensive hobby. Not just on the PC market, but any system, there are plenty of RRODs, Lairs, and even slow frame rates in Mass Effect to go around. Speak with your wallet, try to avoid buying games and hardware that have issues, because eventually they will have to be fixed in order to drive sales. It might be common sense to most, but even the best of us can get suckered in, like my Gears of War experience (The game ran great on the 360, right?). I’m sure your life won’t be inadequate just because you don’t buy a game day one.

Review - Timeshift

Playing around with time is a fantasy of anyone who has experienced an 8 AM class, or anyone else who has to do work (aka everyone). Timeshift looked to be the answer to those prayers, just replacing lectures on chemistry with shooting stuff, which makes it a lot more awesome. There was great potential for this game, but what I got instead was a cheap imitation. It works well and you get your use out of it, but it’s not something to show off to friends.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll say from the start that Timeshift is a good, solid game, and I enjoyed my 10 hours with it. It has everything you want from a FPS: good graphics, cool guns, fun battles, and abysmally dumb A.I. to make you feel like an indestructible killing machine.

As a whole though, it feels all too similar to many games out there. While I’m not a big fan of the game, it seems Halo was on the developer’s mind when making the rechargeable health, weapon carrying limit, radar, sticky grenades, and almost every other part of the game. The one part that was semi-new (only being inspired by Max Payne, F.E.A.R., and every other action game since The Matrix) was the time altering abilities of slow, stop, and reverse. It was definitely fun using stop to sneak behind enemies, or to dodge away from bullets last second, but after awhile that’s all you do. You don’t use the powers to do much else, except for the occasional puzzle which is only outmatched by the first level of Portal.

Normally a good engaging story and purpose keeps you going through mediocre gameplay, but I won’t even try to sum it up in this review since not even the game did a good job at presenting it. All I know is that I went from setting to setting without giant walking spiders like I saw in the first level, completing simple tasks by myself when my “team” stands around guarding a door from the corpses I just laid waste to.

To wrap this up, Timeshift is not a bad game. If it came out during the summer drought I think it would have seen a lot more sales. But when compared to the loads of great games to come out in recent months, this will sadly end up in the bargain bin. It has high production values and you will have some fun playing it, but too many “been there done that” emotions overshadow the few great moments in this game.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Review - Crysis

The guys at Crytek have created a game which is more a tease than my last girlfriend. In one swoop they've made a game that drew me in with fabulous shiny graphics and netted me with promises of a wicked (yea I said wicked so what?) fighting system, and once the trap was sprung I was tranquilized with moderate gameplay and a ho-hum story. After a 48 month development cycle which is computer terms is eons and in human terms is just way too fucking long; Crysis was released upon the waves of eager nerds. What everyone first saw were screen shots of something bordering god like. I could honestly look at the game all day with it's lush visuals and admit I rubbed one or two out to it if it were socially acceptable. The level of detail would astound Stevie Wonder if he had the ridiculous amount of hardware required to run the game at a moderate framerate.
However while creating the equivalent of graphical ecstasy, Crytek forgot to make the gameplay match the epic scenes you'll witness in the game. The gameplay depicted in the commercials depicted you punching a jeep and stopping it dead it it's track and just kicking a large amount of ass. The game however falls short and leaves you with suit powers that look neat.
The standard FPS gameplay is accompanied by good A.I (see screaming Koreans) and a ho-hum story and forgettable NPCs. It's your standard aliens on earth/evil guy harnessing alien technology/evil aliens kicking ass story. Been there done that. Once the Aliens come out the gameplay picks up and I found the action intense. Sadly this is the last hour or two of the game with an ending that leaves much to be desired (I was literally laughing at the last boss).
All in all the game is fun, a graphical whore but fun. Don't expe
ct revolutionary gameplay or action, or even a decent story. Just Grab a box of kleenex and watch the beautiful visuals dance across the screen of your overheating computer.