Friday, February 25, 2011

Demo Scene: Vol 1

Yet another 'series' post I'd like to start. Every so often I'll be giving you my two cents on demos I've played and give you a heads up as to whether or not I think they're worth the download. I will also try to play the game on each system it appears on as to give a better view on the game as a whole, rather than just one version of it.

This week's titles are:

Killzone 3 - Single Player Demo - PS3
Dragon Age 2 - PC (Steam), PS3, 360
Nail'd - PS3, 360
Fight Night Champion - PS3, 360
Bulletstorm - PS3, 360


Title - Killzone 3
System(s) looked at - PS3
Positives - Great visuals, spot on voice work, decent emotive pacing for cutscenes, lots of variety, title shows welcomed improvements to control fluidity - menu speed, loading and others over previous title, Jetpacks.
Negatives - Occasional screen tear or visual hiccups
Rating -9/10

A blast from start to finish, Killzone 3's demo of single player happenings is a rush. You get a few different scenes to play through, giving you freedom to try a variety of weapons including teaching you the new brutal Melee attack which is very satisfying. Also notable, you get to strap on a Jetpack and fly around, showing the Helghast who's boss - which feels like just the right amount of advantage tethered to a more reality focused version of how a Jet pack should preform. The controls are really tight and the responsiveness of the whole game seems to be a leg up over that in KZ2 (which was one of my few gripes with that title). The demo perfectly gives you a taste of what to expect in the final product and is very polished, I enjoyed it a lot.

Title - Dragon Age 2
System(s) looked at - PS3, 360, PC
Positives - Nice visual bump from previous game, controls very intuitive for console games, excellent voice acting, Bioware's signature character work, leaves you craving more
Negatives - Some loading (more noticeable on consoles vs PC), Change in action may put off some purists (again, console), a lot of inner-workings locked out for the demo, felt short
Rating -9/10

Another demo which I am totally satisfied with. Dragon Age 2 gives you a couple of scenes to play with, allowing you to get a feel for the controls, fighting, casting and dialogue tree. Right away, I noticed the way the game moved along, especially in action pieces, feels much more console focused when playing the game on the consoles. Unlike Dragon Age Origins where it felt like a controller re-mapping of the old tried n True PC click and go tactic, this game really lends itself to the machine it's on. That said, when you play the game on PC it feels much more like the old style we've grown to know (also seen in DAO) which makes total sense. I'm glad the team recognized that console gamers and PC gamers play differently.

The graphics have a nice new shine to them and from what I can tell, no frame rate issues or blurry textures to be seen on the consoles versions of the game. Sure the PC version looks sharper... but that's to be expected. Dialogue is handled on a wheel (sort of like Mass Effect) but doesn't support a "Good vs Evil" karma system like the aforementioned title, instead, you get icons on imply the kind of emotion behind a response - be it peaceful, sarcastic, mean etc which helps effect the relationships around you.

I knew the game was coming but wasn't currently really excited for it, this demo really impressed me and got me excited, which is exactly what a demo should do.

Title - Nail'd
System(s) looked at - PS3, 360
Positives - Decent sense of speed, Tight controls, music selection seems right for high octane racer
Negatives - Frame rate dips (on both systems), merely adequate visuals, grain effect takes away from visual pop, not much in terms of tricks, tracks laid out in confusing manner - leaves racers not knowing where to go, Pure - an older racer seems more polished.
Rating -6/10

While I wasn't looking for a new racer per se, I decided I'd give Nail'd it's fare shake and see what it was all about. From previous knowledge, I found out that Nail'd is pushing the idea of large jumps and insane vertigo as their selling points... and really, that's all there is.

Instantly I thought something wrong when I booted it up and saw how unappealing the visuals were. The 360 and PS3 share the exact same visuals - so it wasn't a 'broken port' scenario. The environments, while large in nature... seemed very blocky in terms of polygons and the whole game applied a weird grain filter that just made it look horrible. I'm reminded of Pure when playing this - which is over 2 years old now and is much crisper, clearer and overall a better looking game.

Visuals aside, the tracks are confusing and full of bugs. I rammed a train head on and it didn't slow me down, instead I went all the way through it and at the other side I fell through the map. Some trees I hit would knock me off my bike, others wouldn't even register as being there. Turns and jumps seem to lead no where and the game has a poor way of telling you where to go - you get lost often and end up just flooring it as far as you can go hoping you're doing well.

That said, at least the controls are tight and responsive. Your character can shift their weight around the bike with ease and the jumps really do look nice. Some of the tracks included for the soundtrack seemed spot on for a racer with such speed - which by the way pushes you along at a decent clip... but sometimes the frame rate dips noticeably as you fly along and meet with other racers.

Title - Fight Night Champion
System(s) looked at - PS3, 360
Positives - Continues trend of superb visuals, controls feel much easier over older titles, pick up and go fighting, decent sound work
Negatives - Stamina and slower pace may bore some, seemingly void of a soundtrack, only 2 fighters available
Rating -8/10

This demo is the kind that gives you just a tiny taste on the tip of your tongue. It does impress with what it has, but you feel like a lot more should of been packed in.

The visuals, as usual for the series look great as each fighter seems realistic, sweat and all. Punches connect well with bodies and each character reacts accordingly. The audio seems ample, but the music... well... I don't remember any :P You'd think there would be some - maybe I just need to listen again? But really, you don't rank a boxing game on it's music... you want the feel and ease of whooping some butt to count more toward the end result.

Thankfully, the controls are MUCH more streamlined and easy to understand over older titles. Last time we had a dual joystick operation where moves like uppercuts required you pull the stick straight down and then force it straight up or a side swipe requiring you swivel around the outside up to the top after slamming the joystick down first... which all worked... but wasn't very intuitive and actually caused problems for some people. This time around we've got a much simpler system that works on looking at the joystick as an 8-way device, with each of those 8 ways delivering a different punch. Straight up is a jab, uppercut a stright down, etc.

It really makes for a quicker game that takes less throught, allowing you to use more strategy. I actually skipped FNR4 partly because of it's controls and after this demo think I very may well get FNC.

Title - Bullet Storm
System(s) looked at - PS3, 360
Positives -Unique idea, the idea is described avidly, good showcase of what the game is about
Negatives -Tired 'unreal3 engine' characters, forced comedy is hit and miss (more miss), flipping people around to get unique kill counters gets old quick, over quickly.
Rating - 3/10

I swear, nearly every Unreal Engine 3 shooter around has the same dumb, muscle bound tards in it. That doesn't even begin to address my issues with this game demo. Much like Nail'd, Bulletstorm relies on one gimmick to stand out from others in it's genre.. and that gimmick get's tired quick.

As you may already know, the gimmick is combo-ing your kills to rack up more points. The more varied ways you kill people, the more points you get. Shoot them in partiular spots, kick them away from you, sling them into a wall of spikes, toss them over the edge, feed them to a mutant plant or do all of that in succession, it's your choice. The game even encourages you to keep trying different combos to keep getting a higher score for each level... but, at least in my case, I found once I blew through the given level I was instantly bored of the idea. I just wanted the brain dead A.I characters done with so I could continue... but no... I had to dream up repetitive ways to combo my killing together. Yawn.

The writing is dumb. It's that simple. The characters are meant to be funny, they curse a lot and more or less try to be like Duke Nukem... but fall horribly short. Each of them just comes off as developers trying to be funny and failing. The visuals are okay... but nothing worth mentioning. The controls work and the audio (aside from bad writing) doesn't seem flawed... but at the end of the day it's a boring idea that never feels fun.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Star Wars fever?

I'll start this blog off by saying that I've always been a general fan of what Star Wars presented... but never a huge fun of the fiction itself. I didn't know the names of all the characters, nor the connections they all had. I was always confused about the whole storm trooper thing and how they were the bad guys - yet in the prequel movies they start off as the good guys .... anyways... suffice to say I've never paid enough attention to this universe to grasp a great understanding of it all and really appreciate the collectiveness of it all.

Until now. Ha. Well, I'm not going to say I'm a Star Wars encyclopedia, but I've begun to take steps to learn A LOT more about the universe and it's characters. It started simply with my brother and I deciding to watch the Star Wars movies from 1-6 and refresh on it all. We're not through them all yet... I'm currently on 5/6 and my brother just needs to watch the last one but we're really close and it's really sparked my interest in the series.

Chucking troopers around is a lot of fun.

While out shopping I nabbed a copy of 'The Force Unleashed' for the 360 thinking I might have some fun with it; little did I know that I would LOVE the game. I hated the demo that I played when it first came out and so I put it out of my mind, but when I sat down with this game I absolutely loved the feel of it... strange, no? I've gone and beaten it and have started a second play through as I'm still pumped about it and using my acquired abilities on harder enemies. I gave it a good 9.0 rating here on gamespot.

Deciding I wanted more, I re-bought Lego Star Wars Complete (use to have it for PS3 but sold it), this time for the 360 and I can't wait to jump into it further and see the similarities to the movies. Funny thing, while watching some of the movies, my brother would say "I remember this part from lego star wars" :P I also nabbed Star Wars: The Clone Wars for the 360 (all of these were $10ea, so even if they don't turn out great... no big loss) which I later see horrible review for here on gamespot... but I'll hold judgment till I play it.

I've got a copy of KotOR on steam that I might try to get back into and I have very fond memories of my copy of Republic Commando - a Storm Trooper squad based shooter that I actually beat a couple times because it was a superb title, which I may see if I can scrounge up. Even more recently I picked up a copy of Rogue Squadron for the N64 that I'm looking forward to playing. Researching, I see the PSP has done very well with Star Wars titles, as each one (even that systems version of the force unleashed) have decent review scores... so I may see about nabbing some cheap versions of those. Do you recommend any others? Just about any system is fine as I have the ability to play most systems.

I'm also interested in seeing the CG based "Clone Wars" series, does anyone know if that's decent? I picked up the DVD of the movie that started that series, hope to get to that after I finish the main movies.

I always thought this race, and specifically this Jedi was kewl.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My Gaming Abode

Muahahaha, My PC is back in full function working order!!!! :D So blogging you will get... it is Tuesday after all :P

Which leads me to my first question! Whom of you would be game if I did a blog post every so often... that wasn't on the Tuesday schedule? I still plan on leaving the blogging to Tuesdays... but feel that smaller blogs may make their way in between the week span from Tue-Tue. Stuff like movie reviews, thoughts on games, demos etc that usually get pushed into a bit ol "Catch up" post would then become smaller posts through out the week. Is that kewl? Or should I stick to 1 a week? Let your voice be heard.

Now, as to the topic of this blog; I was torn between 3 different ideas... all of which are about half written... so I had to decide on one and this week, it's something fun rather than informative.

It's where I game (Minus the crazy Wii players here).

Just recently I've been re-organizing everything to better fit stuff around in my room. I took all my books out and put them on a 'family shelf' in the hallway and have moved all my PS3 games over to their own shelf while the rest of my games share space with my movie shelf.

First off, the Movie shelf; it's where I keep most of my games. Shown here, you can see some SNES cartridges beside some N64 ones, my (working) PSP, DSL and Blu-Rays. Below that my PS2, GC, XB and 360 games propped up by some PS1 games followed by my PSP discs. Down below, aside from figures and box sets, rest my PC games (the boxed ones, most of my games are either digital or in a big CD binder) and my PSP game cases.

I've included a shot of the entire shelf just to show it's awesomeness - I built it myself :P.

Next, my PS3 shelf... which is kind of hard to take a shot of... as it's tall and narrow...

Then, my PC desk, with various crap around - it's actually quite clean as I organized it along with my other stuff.

Turn 90 degrees and you've got my main entertainment hub with my game systems (N64, SNES, PS3, 360) along with TV, Receiver and a variety of controllers and clutter.

Opposite that, I've got an ottoman, that's sometimes used as a chair, but inside... all my my random gaming gear, controllers, wires and such.

Next, I'd like to showcase some of the kewler parts of thine gaming abode. First off, my kick ass StarCraft2 mouse pad - which I love. Next, my two current systems PS3 and 360 both with custom vinyl skins to give them a unique flare (Batman for PS3, Ghostbusters for 360).

Lastly, some of the nice posters I've collected over the years. All of which, I've just noticed are made of cloth material. We've got Cloud and Ms Alba on one wall and three parts of the Mass Effect 2 team along with the Major and Tachikomas of Ghost in the Shell on another.

 It's a little cramped, that's for sure... but I think it'd be a hassle and a half to move it all around too much. I'm curious, what do your gaming areas look like?

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Buried Treasure Vol 1: XBL Indies

I've had this idea in my list of blogs I'd like to do for a while... and just left it mostly as a list of games I wanted to talk about... without much content to accompany them. I've decided that I'll do this as a series rather than just one blog and split them up into categories. Today's category is XBox Live Indies titles.

The idea I speak of is a sort of treasure trove of games that are either forgotten, perhaps unknown to a lot of gamers or independent projects that don't seem to get the publicity they should through normal channels.

In a non-ordered list, the XBL indies I think you should know about:

Price: 400msp

Developed by Kydos Studios, the game is a puzzle-platformer which stars a bright yellow little blob who goes around collecting fireflies to help restore light to his/her world. The entire game mechanics revolve around your little creature jumping (he/she can't jump very high) and attracting themselves to rotating circles of light either blue or red in color. You use the left and right trigger to align your attraction to either Red or Blue to attach yourself to these wheels to propel yourself forward. This scenario changes things up with a law that dictates each color repels the other and color wheels that change in effectiveness. 

I found the game under a random search for decent indie titles on XBLA and instantly fell in love with it's superb hand painted-esc visuals and charming music. It reminded me a lot of the feeling I got when I first got my hands on LocoRoco. It plays simply, looks beautiful and sounds charming... which is kind of surprising for an indie title. It feels more like a professionally developed arcade title rather than indie title - which more often than not turn out to look like messy first attempts at game design. 

Aphelion: Episode 1 and 2
Price: 240msp (each)

Developed by Lunatic Studios, Aphelion is done in the style of a Japanese RPG, complete with anime looking characters, over dramatic dialogue and turn based combat. The story (thus far) seems pretty standard fare as you follow lead character on his quest, running into friend along the way. 

What really sets this title apart from most other indie titles on XBLA is the polish of it's graphical presentation. It, like Lumi looks quite professionally done and is a delight to look at. The music does it's job and the team has created a very believable atmosphere for the characters. The battles are simple but well executed, items and such are easy to use, understand and if odd are explained. The only quirk is some of the writing.... which could use some work... but other than that, it's a nice handful of hours of JRPG goodness wrapped up in project not unlike Phantasy Star or Star Ocean of years past. (Note each title is 240msp (about $3) and thus you'll pay $6 in the end). 

Arkedo 03 - Pixel
Price: 240msp

The last of our buried treasure series for today is the third game from the Arkedo studio whom have been doing superb games since their first title, Jump. The titles are simple but well polished and a great deal of fun. This title in particular is a platformer done in a smooth style pixel art with a white and blue color pallet. You control a cat creature whom must make their way to... the end of the level? Not sure exactly what the end goal is... but it's going very tight controls and plays nearly like a mario title. It's very well done and a lot of fun.