Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mini Reviews - Gears 3, Toystory 3, Payday...

Last time I shared some thoughts on my dreams, this time around we're going back to the basics and getting back into the games :) I've been playing a lot of games as of late and while they're not all finished, I have completed a number as to rate and voice an opinion on such. I've not the ambition to do full blown reviews, so I decided to slip in some mini reviews and go from there:



Gears of War 3 (360)
Score: 8.5/10
Synopsis:

Thus far the Gears franchise... gives me a mixed bag of thoughts on it's quality. The first Gears, I enjoyed going through with a cousin... but the predicable "run from one area of cover and firefights to the next" really grew boring for me and I really felt they should of mixed it up more. Gears 2 comes out and I'm floored at the amount of variety they put into it, it seemed as though I never got bored of the gameplay and it didn't feel like room after room of bad guys hiding behind cover.

Jump to Gears 3 and... well, game play wise... I find it stuck between Gears 1 and Gears 2. There are moments of brilliance, especially boss battles, but by the end of the campaign I was attempting to run through the remaining rooms of hunkered down bad guys just so I could continue the story. I did enjoy battling the new and different type of baddies... but the standard grunts that stand upright like humans and fire as such... bored the hell out of me. The game rarely deviates away from these battle rooms and even when they do... you're stuck in a vehicle or something just gunning at stuff - rather than testing your skill driving or escaping or something beyond a rails shoot fest. Again, compared to Gears 2 which seemed to give you something new to do every 10 minutes, I was let down by Gears3's lackluster inclusion of these kind of scenarios.

Story wise it's decent as you get a nice mix of new characters as well as more fleshed out returning characters and a touching story. There are a few key moments in the game that'll tug at your heart strings, but IMO they don't match those used in Gears2. The visuals on the other hand are frakking breath-taking! You really need to just stop and look at stuff to enjoy it better. The textures are great and lighting really kicks it up a notch, bringing the scenes into a better light (oh!). The music is decent (as always) and the voice acting good, but neither surprised me.

In the end, I played a game that looks superb visually, yet seems to take a step back from the freshness of Gears 2 in favor of taking a look back at the original game and how it did gameplay. I gave it an 8.5 simply because I rated Gears1 an 8.0 and Gears 2 a 9.0, so it's a good middle ground :P. I must also mention that outside of the beta experience, I've not played the multiplayer and don't plan to and as such didn't rate the game based on that aspect.



Payday: The Heist (PS3)
Score: 8.0/10
Synopsis:

As you may of been able to tell (thanks to a blog post a little while back) Payday surprised me with it's solid core despite it's flaws. The game, while lacking a 'AAA' visual style, still looks rather good for a download title.

The controls feel a bit sensitive, even when adjusted, but once you pin them down, it's rather easy to do exactly what you want. You play one for 4 masked men (odd clown masks at that) whom are, more or less, professional theives who take on jobs of robbing banks, infiltrating diamond strong holds or breaking other criminals out of armored transport vans. Each plays the same, but they all seem to have their own personality and quirks as characters which help you in the immersion of the title. The team could of gone farther with using those unique characters to make them more memorable... but as it stands they're not too bad.

Co-op is key, as you work together with 3 others (human or AI) to go about the tasks given to you to complete the job. You can be drilling into a vault, burning a hole through a floor or hacking security computers all the while strategically trying to control hostages, fight off the police (and later their more difficult special forces) and make sure the rest of your team isn't killed or captured. The interesting part is that you get a set amount of health at the first and while your perks help out with better armor and (for some classes) a 1 time use med pack; you're more or less dependent on trying not to get shot and relying on team mates to help you up if you've fallen due to low health. Without working together, it's easy to be overcome by the law enforcers as you're often left to defend in areas without much cover and the cops storm you in relentless waves. Ammo too is limited (again you can get a perk in one class that allows a drop of an ammo bag) and you must pick up the ammo from downed cops; you can't take their weapons, as your load-out is based on a menu you choose before the heist, which really only adds to the strategy. All of your weapons, health limit, body armor and other helping tools are contained in these perks (some are constants, like body armor level or gun power increases, others like weapons and bags of ammo or medical supplies are equipped in limited slots).

The idea and execution are tight and equals a lot of fun. Like mentioned, it's not the prettiest game and the sound is adequate, it's got touchy controls and there could of been more flavor put into it's style, but over all the game play outshines the shortcomings to give you a unique and memorable experience that keeps you coming back.



Toy Story 3 (PS3)
Score: 8.0/10
Synopsis:

I wasn't expecting much out of Toy Story 3... being a kid friendly game and a movie tie in at that... I expected to jump in, play around for a bit (I had heard the Toy Box mode was fun) and I actually got sucked in for about 15 hours of enjoyment.

First out, the game is better in co-op with a friend than it is by yourself. Co-op is jump in/out, so it's not hard to join and the screen splits vertically, giving you a full view for each character to do as you please. My sis and I ripped through the "story mode" in one sitting and it's your typical run through the movie's story, loosely told with key areas presented. In the single player you can collect items to use in the Toy Box mode, which is where the girth of gameplay actually is.

This Toy Box mode is a rather large map made up of about 9 different areas, all based on parts of the movies and the characters that inspire them. The first is a town in a desert which is connected to woody and the old west, others like a Zerg tower, Sids haunted house and lotso's magical zen garden place are all unique and offer different types of things to do. Your goal in these areas is to collect stuff for your town, building it up as you go. You unlock horses for riding and racing, cars for the same use, new shops for customizing your town and it's citizens and a huge plethora of tasks. You're asked to find items, race take specific pictures with a camera and even play dodge ball and kick townsfolk through makeshift football goal posts. It's crazy, unique and a hell of a lot of fun for quite some time.

Once you've collected enough coins and have unlocked all of the buildings, interactive objects, weapons and what have you, it starts to get a little tedious to play. You have and endless supply of little tasks that the towns folk give you and there is a mammoth amount of stuff to collect both in Toy box and story modes... but at that point there really isn't much need to do so outside of your lust for completion or trophies/achievements.

Presentation wise, it's top notch - adopting a style not too different from the movies and everything is voiced, music plays in the background, there's no large glitches to speak of... it just works as intended. It's easy to control, you've got visual queues to tell you what to do and for a good 8+ hours you'll be enjoying going about the tasks of the world. Sadly when you've reached the limit... you've reached your limit and it's best just to move on to a new title :P.



Battle: Los Angeles (PC)
Score: 2.0/10
Synopsis:

It's been a while since I've played a game this bad. Visually it's a mixed bag... as I thought the weapon models were decent and some of the texture work okay... but the character models are bad even for PS2 era graphics (of which this game is not). The voice over is HORRENDOUS! The music is equally just garbage. Ugh, the A.I doesn't even look at you while shooting, cant' figure out how to move around a car and is more or less cannon fodder for the hour and a half that this game lasts.

Yep. I spent 1 hours 40 minutes in this sucker and... that was while goofing around... if you ran through it, it'd last even less. The cut scenes are badly drawn 2D images accompanied by the horrible voice acting and a story that more or less has a group of militia make their way through a city after being attacked by aliens. The aiming... works... but it doesn't matter as the game is brain dead. The controls are limited and in my case, playing the game on my PC - for some reason, even though I was playing with a keyboard/mouse it would send rumble feedback to my connected 360 controller... without any option to turn that off.

I've had more fun playing Half-life 1 mods from 1999 which were done in 15 minutes. This game is pure garbage the likes of which you should NEVER buy for any reason. Even if the movie of which this game shares a name was your favorite title ever, avoid this POS.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Is someone trying to tell me something?



What do dreams really mean? It's something people have been mulling over for ages and in the end, we really don't know, but there are some decent theories out there.

The most logical idea, that a dream is a practice taken by our subconscious to play things out in an attempt to unravel ideas, thoughts and scenarios to better arm ourselves for the complexities of the world. I kind of like this idea, but it doesn't seem to apply to some instances where dreams just get wacky crazy. Some even believe that dreams are our subconscious's way at testing things we'd really like to do in real life, but for some reason can't seem to. This all seems to make sense to me... but again, there are dreams that don't seem to fit in these categories.

Others, whom are obviously more spiritual, believe that dreams are meant to be lessons and glimpses from entities of beyond to both help us through life and tell us important things. While I'm not especially spiritual, nor follow any religion seriously, I do believe in an state of being after death - the likes of which we don't quite fathom at the moment. Thus, I believe that mesages from beyond this life could be possible.

Which leads me into my initial thought that sparked this blog post.

I've been having dreams over the last 6months+ and while not every dream does, a number of them seem to have a reoccurring piece that's starting to play with my head. It's making be wonder why this subject (actually a person) keeps popping up in my dreams. I don't seem to notice, while in dream, that I've seen this person before, but when I wake - I know it's the same person I've seen in a number of dreams. I've never seen this her in real life, she has no name, I don't know anyone whom resembles her in my life (currently) and yet... I feel like I've known her forever. It's strange.

The first dream that I can remember where she appeared, was a cryptic one in which we found a VHS video tape addressed to me from my grandmother (whom has been dead for about ~12 years now) and after being popped into the machine to play it, it turned out to be a family video tape of sorts, including large portions of the family on my mom's side. We thought it really weird though, because not only is my grandmother in the video in scenes we don't recall being at, she's also there along side grand/greatgrand-children whom were not born or at least not at the age they were before she passed. The dream is chunked up here and there for quite a bit but two very vivid scenes stand out after that first scene. One being this girl showing up, in this instance as a "professional" whom can investigate videos tapes like the one we got and when she arrives to do her job, she is dumbfounded by myself and the tape as it turns out she was contacted by my grandmother (I assume before she died) and was shown (in a dream?) that one day she'd meet her again and she would lead her to her future husband. The second scene is one of myself and her on the side of a mammoth bridge, I release this large banner like cloth to the wind, while holding on, letting it's huge size ripple in the wind. It's red and has type or logo or writing on it, which I'm told (from a disembodied voice?) that I would be known for that... then the dream ended.

If that wasn't odd enough, I've seen this same girl pop up in various dreams since then, she usually just pops in and smiles, or stands by watching what ever scene is currently in session play out.

I don't even have a 100% image of her. If I saw her in real life I would be able to pick her out... but to describe her... it's difficult. Shorter than myself, she has mid-long black hair and a lighter-dark complexion (which looks more like Indian descent - or rather that part of the world, not necessarily that nationality, that's just what comes to mind), dark brown eyes, slim, pretty and with a gorgeous smile. I went looking on google and found some images of girls that kind of look similar.



Then, just last week I had a much more vivid dream (most dreams feel foggy and merely memorable in quick glimpses, occasionally like this time, I remember the dream in near painstaking detail) in which I meet up with her again. Oddly enough, it's got a connection to my mother's family again.

This time we're spending time in a hotel for some kind of family function. For some reason I acknowledge my father not being there, having to work instead of be there for the gathering. A rather long series of events lead me to a lobby like area where I sit at a bench seat/sofa and whip out an old skool gameboy to play pokemon (awesome right? lol), then SHE comes along. Like I mentioned above, this girl is unknown to me in my dreams (but recognized once I wake) and she sits down next to me, gameboy in hand and we hit it off, discussing the game, playing together and so on. Time flies, almost on FF as the day melts away and eventually we reach a scene, same sofa, relaxed, my arms around this girl as she either rests or sleeps beside me. I wake her to remind her that we've got a dinner or something to attend (I assume with my family) and we head off to that, magical clothing change on the way and I find myself sitting at a table, my family behind me somewhere. At the table a large family of, which I presume to be people of an Indian descent (again it could be a number of nationalities, it's just what springs to my mind when I think of the dress they were in and their general look). I remember a whole lot of randomness, talk, a guy dancing? and a number of little things almost on FastForward again and then every thing kind of zeros in and I'm left talking with an older woman of the group (whom I assume is either the mother or grandmother of the girl I met in the lobby) who is asking me questions and I feel the entire group sort of looking and paying attention. It's finished with my trying 3 different foods in front of me and  after an approval of my like for a certain dish, the older woman smiles and throws her hands in the air which leads to the same thing from the rest of the table. To which she exclaims I am now allowed to marry this girl whom I met earlier. Overjoyed, I wake.

I always feel amazing after each dream where she appears but also kind of confused as I'm clueless as to whom she is. It's an odd feeling. Also worth noting, in no way are these dreams sexual, they're rather pure in nature, which is fine with me, it just further makes me wonder about the meaning behind these dreams. Has anyone similar stories? Thoughts? It'd be interesting to get some different views.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

A pleasant surprise in Payday: The Heist



Don't you love it when you get a game, usually just on a whim, not expecting it to blow you away but rather be something of a time kill for the tiny amount of effort and money you put into obtaining it and then it turns out to be much more than you expected?

Such is the case with Payday: The Heist.

I merely got the game free via PSN as Sony offered it up if you went ahead and ordered the other 4 games in their "upcoming PSN releases" special (I forget exactly what they called it). Street Fighter 3rd Strike Online topped the list followed by the impressive looking BloodRayne title, a third in the series for DeathSpank (The Baconing) and the top down Renegade Ops. All of which I had an incline to play and didn't mind ordering them all at once to secure some bonus themes and the aforementioned Payday game.

I didn't even really know what Payday: The Heist was... but, for free I was willing to take a shot in the dark and now I'm hooked.

The game has a simple but decently executed premise. You're one of 4 masked men whom rob banks. In later levels you're doing things besides robbing banks - like ambushing prisoner transport vehicles - but it all works around the 4 player co-op, communicating with others on how best to avoid getting filled up with lead from the countless amount of law enforcement personnel coming your way.

Teamwork is key. Communication a must.
I've sunk about 6 hours into the game before I had my PS3 die, but have jumped back in and started out with 2 hours more, ranking up as I go. With new ranks, new weapons, items and power-ups become available which really allows you to play how you want.

The game itself isn't the most jaw dropping, graphically, nor is it perfect with controls (default controls felts too loose for me, I had to tone down the sensitivity) and I felt it weird as a first person shooter (I felt a third person view might make more sense) but it's over all experience really makes up for it's rough edges. There are varied levels, each with unique tasks to complete and enemies to take on. The enemies range from regular cops to tank like Bulldozer units whom take a ton of bullets to down and the Taser units whom freeze you in your steps with their electrical attacks, among others. Civilians play a role, you must keep them in control, but they can also be used as bargaining tools with the law, which equal out their usefulness. The music kicks in when appropriate and I actually felt it a perfect mood enhancer when you're hunkered down, barely able to move and need an incentive to make a dash for it.

The other issue... I felt that the team didn't put enough personality into it's 4 masked characters. They chat back and forth and have a glimpse of a personality... but I felt that the dev team could of taken it much further and really made each of them into their own recognizable characters - something akin to Left4Dead, which it bares a similarity to anyways. It doesn't cripple the game, but it would of been easier if you could connect to the characters rather than just their masks.

Capturing Hostages is important, you also get penalized for killing them.

To be blunt, I don't play a lot of games online. I don't enjoy randomly killing a bunch of people for hours on end in a death match like setting with the end result being some XP and bragging rights. That perhaps is why I like The Heist so much... as it's really about the experience and working together for a goal. That same kind of gameplay is why I still played L4D on the PC and why this game could be one of the few that holds my interest outside of a week (as with most online games I've played).

I am thoroughly impressed with Payday: The Heist, not because it's a near perfect high profile game, but because it's charming enough to really hold my interest despite it's shortcomings. In a world where cookie-cutter game play (especially in multiplayer) seems to reign supreme and bore me to death, Payday is a pleasant surprise.

Payday can be purchased either on PSN or Steam (PC) for $19.99.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Dis n Dat - Nov 2011

Why hello there, little one.

Ahh, so last blog post was a bit of a sad one... in that I detailed the demise of my beloved PS3. It now rests inside my closet, power cord wrapped around it's corpse, in the dark. My new slim model PS3 in it's place, complete with it's newly swapped in 750gb hdd drive and (so far) clean look.

Yep, I went out and got a slim model, 160gb version... but with the management I had to do with my 250gb (on my Phat PS3), I knew I would need an upgrade. Right now, the largest drive you can get in the specs that meet the PS3's needs is 750gb. At $130, I thought it a great purchase. It (new PS3+hdd) set me back a bit, bank balance wise, but I'm just glad to have the extra space and a working machine

I also purchased something special for my new PS3 from ebay, but will detail that in a later blog.

I've got quite a bit of downloading to do, to get a lot of my games, DLC, updates etc ready to go on my new system... but I hope it's not too bad, just something I'll tackle when I'm sleeping.

I did start a new file on Arkham City, while using the stock 160gb hdd in my new PS3, planning to just upload the save to my PS+ save space and download it when I swapped in my new hdd... but I forgot to do so... and now need to start the game for a third time. I'm pro at the first 5 hours :P lol.

On the very day that my hdd drive arrived, I also received my collector's edition of Uncharted 3. I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to do with the belt buckle (have never worn em) or the Ring, but they're very kewl and are actual items, not just cheap knockoffs. The statue of Drake joins my others on my computer desk and demotes my new batman one to the shelf (mainly because it's the only one that will fit on my shelf).



Lets see. Batman? Check, Uncharted? Check, Gears3? Check. Skyrim is coming soon and... honestly... that should be good for me for a bit (whoops, forgot the MGS HD collection :P). I'm going to try and cut spending on games again for a little while. They've been sucking the ol cash out of my bank account a lot lately, which is never fun :P I did pretty well all summer, warding off buying any games, but this fall is brutal with the amount of amazing that's been out. Eek. Perhaps I'll drop a few on a Christmas wish list and forget buying them myself? :P

Speaking of spending money, check out what I pre-ordered today:


Isn't it beautiful? I find they could of been more true to her actual design, but in all it's quite the awesome looking piece. Mass Effect 3 in March :D

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Lets see, what else is up. Umm, a Tree (or rather, half of it) landed on my car...


Thankfully, just some dents left as damage. The window is fine and no paint chipping as far as I can tell.

- Hydrophobia Prophecy (an update to Hydrophobia) finally came to PSN and it's free for PS+ subscribers (hells yeah)
- Started play Chrono Trigger (PS1 game on my PSP) a little while ago, loving the hell out of it :) Been AGES since I've played this title.
- Square just announced Chrono Cross, Final Fantasy 5 and 6 for PSone classics (my PSP is happy)
- Need to jump into Uncharted3. It's been sitting on my desk just a little over 24hours now... which feels wrong :P
- The Netflix app for my android phone now works in Canada (it didn't previously :S). I caught an episode of 'Til Death' while on my break at work today :D
- I love Netflix.
- Bane is apparently going to be in the new Batman movie. That's awesome.
- The Batwing and BatBike, looks stupid in the new Batman movie.
- Anne Hathaway seems like she'd make a nice Catwoman though. Deff can't be worse than Halle Berry.
- Finished Spaced, a charming show staring Simon Pegg. Going to miss it.
- Jumped into this season's 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia' and couldn't of laughed harder. It's such a funny show :D
- Behind in Dexter, The Office and Community! Eek, shame on me! :P
- Saw Paranormal Activity 3 the other day, Garbage.
- Been having rather vivid and interesting dreams lately.
- Halloween was rather dull this year.
- GTA V.
- I'm tired of writing, as I'm sure you're tired of reading. Peace.