Monday, September 27, 2010

October - Frightening Amounts of Games to Play

October 5th

Castlevania Lords of Shadow
PS3, Xbox 360
Developer: Mercury Stream
Publisher: Konami

Stunning environments, fast-paced action, and horrifying creatures. Castlevania looks like an action-packed rollercoaster of a game, and is a great way to kick off October.

Def Jam: Rapstar
Xbox 360, PS3, Wii
Developer: Def Jam Interactive
Publisher: Konami

Looking to take aim at as the new "party game", Def Jam Rapstar lets you sing?...along with your favorite rap songs. 

Notable Mentions: NBA 2K11

October 12th

Medal of Honor
PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Developer: Danger Close
Publisher: Electronic Arts

Revamped and looking to give Modern Warfare a run for its money, Medal of Honor promises to satisfy any shooter fan's trigger finger.

Notable Mentions: Super Scribblenauts

October 19th

Fallout: New Vegas
PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher: Bethesda

Return to post-apocalyptia for even more worlds to explore, slow-mo shootouts, and oh so satisfying destruction.

Kirby's Epic Yarn
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Publisher: Nintendo

Kirby's Epic Yarn is the start of the Wii's 2D Side-Scroller come-back. The unique style looks to offer incredibly fun platforming with everyone's favorite pink...whatever the hell Kirby is...

PS3, Xbox 360
Developer: Platinum Games
Publisher: Sega

Someone took a third person shooter and gave it a dose of crystal meth. Fast-paced action with insane weaponry and platform traversing will be sure to turn heads.

October 26th

Fable 3
Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Lionhead Studios
Publisher: Microsoft

Fable returns for another installment. Expect plenty of choices that dictate your rise to power as a noble king or ruthless tyrant. 

Rock Band 3
Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, DS
Developer: Harmonix
Publisher: MTV Games

Rock Band returns with a new mode that actually helps you in learning guitar, bringing your closer to having actual talent. Throw in a new keyboard controller...and...well your living room is filling up with plastic toys...

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2
PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS
Developer: LucasArts
Publisher: LucasArts

Betrayed by Vader once again, Starkiller sets out to find the one person who he still remembers. Clones, Lightsabers, and more force powers; Oh My!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Halo: Reach - Review

Score 9.25/10

Halo: Reach
Developer: Bungie
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date: Sept 14, 2010

Pros: Halo multiplayer has been perfected, Customizable Spartan armor lets yours stand out from the rest, Slew of challenges and modes keep you coming back for more, New loadouts and abilities fit nicely in combat, Story blends with stellar soundtrack for a moving fight for Reach

Cons: Friendly AI is still as horrible as ever, Campaign left a little to be desired, new Multiplayer maps border on the "meh" side

Halo: Reach pre-dates the Halo games story-wise, but acts as the "final" installment in the Halo series. With four games before it, Reach had a lot to live up to. Bungie delivers once again, providing one of the best entries in the series with a perfected multiplayer to top it all off.

Remember Reach

The Campaign is usually the first thing I dive into, and I came out ultimately satisfied with what was given. You play the part of "Noble Six" of Noble Team, a group of Spartans fending off the Covenant invasion. Each member of noble team has their own unique look and personality to distinguish them apart, which unfortunately was a wasted opportunity to establish some cool franchise characters. You never spend enough time with each of them for any real "character development", and as a result never become attached to any.

Ultimately, the campaign "felt" the way it should have. The game's textures and colors are as rich as ever, with each environment containing something new to set it apart from the rest. The backdrops look like they came straight out of a painting, bringing a sense of beauty out of all the destruction going on around you. The soundtrack adds to each moment, donning the typical Halo theme upon battle with a somber symphony playing as a reminder of the ultimate fate of Reach. Any Halo fan knows that Reach falls, and with every action you accomplish it seems like the Covenant come back stronger. With an opening cinematic displaying a war torn field and a bullet through a Spartan helmet, you can't help but feel a sense of helplessness.

The enemy AI has significantly increased. Covenant are faster and a hell of a lot more brutal. Jackals now dip and dodge all around you, Elites are harder to take down and more brutal then ever, and even Grunts will sacrifice themselves to thin your ranks. This made combat much more intense, even with a team. While the enemies are smarter, the friendly AI is incredibly, incredibly stupid. They will stand still as enemies pummel you in the face 2 feet away, drive as slow as possible INTO enemy fire, shoot at a grunt instead of an Elite with a sword; you get the idea. At least with Master Chief they had the excuse of just being soldiers, with 3 Spartans there is no excuse; and certainly 4 games in, we should not be having this problem. If you play Campaign, Co-op is the way to get the best experience.

While the Campaign is fun, no real mission left a mark with me as previous Halo games did. I still remember jumping on and destroying the Spider Walker in 2, the daring escape from the ring on 3, and the first encounter with Flood in the first installment. With this game, no mission really stuck with me. They tried something new with the space combat, which is entertaining; but in the end felt a little lacking. There are even a few "set pieces", that you ultimately know are coming as the game fades to white for 10 seconds before occurring. Two years ago, this would have "wow"ed me, but with epic campaigns that Modern Warfare and Uncharted set in place, this campaign became forgetful.

Combat Evolved

While the combat in Halo ultimately remains the same, a few things have changed. Dual wielding is ditched for new "abilities". Now the Left Bar will trigger one of various new armor abilites that can be exchanged in Campaign or set in a Loadout on Matchmaking.

These goodies fit nicely in the typical Halo combat, and each has its own use. The Jetpack is the most welcome addition, allowing various death from above scenarios and quick movement along rooftops. The Sprint ability is surprisingly useful for moving quickly to cover or dashing to assassinate an enemy. The Armor Lock ability grants temporary invulnerability, which I found incredibly satisfying to use when a warthog tries to run you over.

While I wish there was a way to customize loadouts for various abilities in multiplayer, each set is still useful and all are a great way to mix the gameplay up.

There are also new "assassinations", in which you hold down the melee button while hitting someone from behind to showcase a nice animation of their timely demise. They never get old, but can really get you killed if you try to show it off in matchmaking.

My Spartan and Me

When you aren't battling the Covenant or teabagging noobs, you are typically spending your credits. Every action in the game earns you credits. Playing Campaign, mutiplayer, firefight; basically spending time on the game earns you credits to use. These credits are spent on armor upgrades.

The upgrades do not affect your ability at all. Equipping one helmet will not increase how much damage you can take compared to the other. These simply act as decorative items, and man are there plenty. Dozens of helmets, shoulder pads, chest pieces, and more are available to fully customize your Spartan the way you want. This appearance transfers over to the Campaign, giving more of a feeling that you are Noble Six. Some of the equipment is available right off the bat, and some you need to meet certain prerequisites to unlock; such as the rank of Captain. Some are cheap, some are incredibly expensive.

Bungie took this into consideration and has established "daily" and "weekly" challenges to boost your credits. Complete a set of parameters and you unlock bonus credits. Some come easy enough like "Get 'x' amount of kills in multiplayer", while others are more specific like "Complete one set of Firefight without dying". The weekly challenges border on the parameters of "Complete the Campaign on Heroic", but yield big rewards. Each of these not only provide some fun things to do in-game, but will continually bring people back to see what they can unlock the next day.

Mutliplayer Perfection

Halo truly shines in its multiplayer. It's no surprise, and Bungie proves once again why Halo remains such a force online.

The playlists have been revamped. You still have your typical Big Team Battle, Rumble Pit, and Team Slayer options. Once you pick the initial option, a vote commences of three additional options as to what you feel like playing. The options vary so much that anything is possible once you enter Matchmaking. Sometimes people want to play Sniper Wars (most popular choice), Headhunter, or Capture the Flag. Every option has something to offer.

Typical modes like Slayer and Capture the Flag make their return, but the new modes prove equally enjoyable. Headhunter pits teams/solos against each other collecting skulls and turning them into a set point, but upon death all of your skulls are dropped. Invasion pits Spartans against Elites in a fight to protect a core drive. Tiers of classes unlock as you progress through the game, promising more chaos as the fight goes on. Then of course there is a Mongoose Racing option, which speaks for itself as a hilarious endeavor.

While the new modes and types are great, the maps at your disposal are a bit less memorable than before. More than half of the maps are simply rehashes of the old-school maps like Blood Gulch. The newer ones occasionally shine with their layout, but some feel a bit lacking in enjoyment. It's always fun to go back and play the classics, but some really new, enjoyable maps would have been nicer. Not to mention that most of the new multiplayer maps were pulled straight from sections of the campaign. However, let's face facts; we all know a map pack will come along to fix this.


With a strong multiplayer and enjoyable co-operative experience, Halo: Reach is a fine addition to the series. The game offers plenty to do and is well worth the purchase price. As a final entry for the series, I was expecting a little more from the Campaign, but nothing swayed me so far as to take away any fun I was having. This is a must-have for any 360 owner.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Haunted Majora's Mask Copy

"Jadusable" was revisiting his roots with an old N64. He went to a local yard sale and procured a few classic titles to play. He stumbled upon a very creepy old man's table, that gave him a blank N64 cartridge with the words "Majora" written on it in Sharpie for free.

Little did he know, that he just received one of the most ridiculously messed up games he would ever play. The game was indeed The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, but the game was intentionally bugged to the point of becoming a "let's see how long he plays until he craps himself" game. Below are the videos, but here are a few highlights if you are short on time:

  • Upon playing the song of time, Link bursts into flames
  • Occasionally, game soundtracks are played backwards
  • Link's upper torso is stuck horizontal while still being able to run around
  • A statue copy of Link used in a portion of the game chases him around, sometimes killing you
  • Clock Town becomes a ghost town with missing textures and the Song of Healing on loop
  • Random teleportation to different areas with characters repeating: "You should not have done that" upon deletion of another filed named, BEN, which restores itself after you return to the main menu.
  • Random cues of sounds like the Skull Kid's scream occur at random intervals

The list goes on. For the full "ghost story" on how this guy picked this game up click here. Otherwise the vids posted are displayed below.

Now mind you, I have not seen him insert the cartridge in the N64 to play this and show it off, nor is there any real validity in the story; but it is entertaining as hell to watch a glitched/hacked N64 game. I will never play Majora's Mask the same way again...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Happy Birthday to the Playstation

It was today in 1995 that Sony released the original Playstation. Little did they know this little machine would go on to inspire and establish many of the franchises we know and love today.

I cannot remember the very first game that I played on the PS one, but do remember the ones I played to death. Twisted Metal remained the prime game I wasted time on. Countless hours were poured into getting one level farther as Mr. Grimm. Resident Evil caused many sleepless nights from the countless scares. Final Fantasy 7 sealed my love for RPGs. Metal Gear Solid introduced me to stealth action like no other title.

I could go on and on with a huge list of games I enjoyed, but it would take a least 4 more pages. For a console that has offered so much fun and had such an impact on the industry, Happy Birthday to the PS One!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Metroid: Other M - Review

Score: 7.75/10

Metroid: Other M
Developer: Team Ninja/Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: Aug 31, 2010

Pros: Stunning visuals for a Wii title, Finishers are always satisfying, Boss fights prove enjoyable, fights are fast paced, 1st to 3rd person transitions are smooth, plenty of save spots

Cons: Auto-aim works against you at times, Dialogue is lost in translation, Depiction of Samus is unfavored, Hard to judge platforming at most angles, transition to 1st person loses reticule on occasion, Rather short if you do not favor 100% completion

Metroid: Other M was one of the biggest shockers at last year's E3. With Team Ninja at the helm (developers of such titles as Ninja Gaiden), it was sure to not only be a different approach to Metroid but possibly a new genre of gaming. A first/third/shooter/platformer/puzzle game....title needs work. While some attempts at a new approach work well in the technical aspect, other areas of the game tend to hold the title back from greatness.

A Diamond in the Rough

This game is possibly the most gorgeous title to grace the Wii. We are talking on-par if not exceeding Super Mario Galaxy 2. The pre-rendered cutscenes are what we come to expect from Team Ninja; over-the-top, shiny, and a joyous break from the action. Even sudden snap transitions from pre-rendered to in-game are done smoothly. Textures of the environment are sleek and give each Sector it's own feel. Samus's armor is finely detailed, as many close "over the shoulder" moments are cause to appreciate the finer details. The edges are not as smooth as the PS3 or 360's capabilities with a few noticeable jagged features, but as far as the Wii is concerned, this game is one of the "prettier" titles available.

Are You There God? It's Me, Samus....

The biggest complaint about the game that I can agree upon is giving voice to Samus. Since the original Metroid first hit, Samus has been a bit of a mute. With only text or grunts, she has never talked/narrated/monologued about her adventures. Taking place after Super Metroid and the Prime saga, she obviously has had a lot on her mind, as she constantly spills out dialogue through the entirety of the game.

Taking place after the last known Metroid had been destroyed along with Mother Brain, Samus finds herself responding to a distress call codenamed "Baby's Cry". Upon her arrival she runs into her old unit from the Galactic Federation and agrees to fall under command once again to figure out what happened at the facility. She goes so far as to agree to restrict certain weapon use until told to do so. It is actually a welcome break from the typical "Oh no I rolled into another explosion and lost all my powerups again!" intro, but seems silly when dashing through high temperature environments begging the commander to let you turn on your suit's AC.

Probably the worst thing about the game is the dialogue. On more than one occasion does Samus think something in her head, then proceed to say it out loud. The soldiers also tend to state the obvious, bring about cliche' ridden responses, or are just utterly annoying. There were two members of the team that I recognized when shown, all the others were the typical un-interesting soldier. All the talking reminded me why I enjoyed killing Space Pirates alone in Super Metroid.

Team Ninja attempted to delve into the character of Samus and shine light on her past role in the Galactic Federation. They cue up the reason she left, relationships with her commander (She's the one who gives thumbs down at the end of the meeting! So renegade!), and experiences that remain with her to this day. While it is an interesting thing to attempt to dissect the character, it is also very dangerous ground as this has been a well established character that players have had well over 10 years to lay their own assumptions into. So here comes Team Ninja to take your idea of the character of Samus and give their own version. While I respect the attempt, it ultimately confused me given the accomplishments Samus has had prior to this game.

Despite the character background I refuse to accept and cringe worthy dialogue, the game's story itself proves enough to hold your attention to the end.

Wiimote A.D.D.

Metroid: Other M takes the typical Metroid formula and flips it, then shakes it violently, then throws it at the wall. The main thing you notice is that only a Wii-mote is used for this game. No nunchuck, no Metroid limited edition attachment, just a Wiimote. You hold it sideways as the default for traversing the map and flipping around in third-person, then point the Wiimote at the screen when you wish to switch to first-person mode to shoot missiles and investigate your surroundings. The good news? This works. I had no trouble waiting for my enemy to give me a window, then switching, shooting a missile, and flipping back to dodge. The Wii does an excellent job at reading this.

The bad news? Without a joystick, trying to go diagonally becomes a chore with the D-pad. Platforming led to many misses as the camera remained stuck at an overhead angle and the D-pad was less than helpful in compensating. Though it works for the most part, this minor discrepancy was enough to irritate me at a few parts.

Another interesting aspect of the game is the "concentrate" ability. To recharge your missiles or heal yourself when in the red you point the Wiimote up and hold the A button for a set time. This refills your missiles and not get into the physics of the thing, it just does. Samus has gained the amazing ability to heal herself through positive thinking! Like collecting floating orbs for health/missiles wasn't weird enough. Still, it acts as a nice "one less thing to look for" deal, and can save you in a pinch if you are quick on the draw.

Leap Frog is Better with Plasma Cannons

The combat in the game acts as the high point. In 3rd person view the game aims for you and with the simple tap of the D-Pad before a move lands, you dodge in slow-mo. These blend together to make some truly entertaining fights. By no means is the game a breeze, as some fights have you constantly dodging bullets as you figure out where to fire and who to attack next. The boss fights are also incredibly enjoyable. Each boss is more menacing than the last and some prove pretty challenging.

If you charge at the enemy that is stunned with a charged up cannon, it initiates a "finisher". These are the main things you want to go for, as each is more stylish than the last. There is no law of diminishing returns with noogie headshots. On top of the finishers you can actually plop right on time of some enemies' heads and lay one into their noggin. It can be tough to pull off though, as you must be fast and you must also hit them just right or suffer a knockback.

Turn Left at the Next Space Pirate

When you are not shooting enemies in the skull, you are pushing forward in traditional Metroid fashion. Unlike previous Metroids, the amount of backtracking has substantially decreased. Most of the time you will end up pushing forward. Sure the game has you return to sectors multiple times, but rarely did I stop playing to go back and get an item ping I missed. This is due in part to most of the items being sealed behind a door that can only open with a power you do not receive until close to the end of the game. It is almost as if the developers encourage you to finish the story, THEN go back and get everything.

I did love the transition from room to room. Most of the time you end up in a big box room you can move around completely. Enter a hallway and it can shift to 2-D side scroller. Move up a hallway and it gets thrown back over your shoulder. This constant switch keeps traversing the Bottle Ship interesting, as it never keeps you in one situation too long.

The missile tanks and energy tanks can be tough to get. Some are hidden very well, while others are dangled in your face behind a super missile door early on. After a room is cleared of enemies a blue "blip" appears to signify the item location. It is up to you to locate the item and find a way to get to it. These act as nice breathers from the fighting, and are worth investing time to collect for an added boost.

Though the game has its faults, it is not nearly as terrible as many critics have complained about. This is a different direction for Metroid and one that essentially works, but just did not deliver that typical experience I came to know and love from the series. Right when I began to truly enjoy what it had to offer, the game was over. Clocking in at about 7-8 hours without too much concentration on items, it's not exactly a lengthy ordeal.

However the game does allow you to return and collect any items you miss upon completion with the reward of...Hard Mode, something that should have really been standard from the get go. You can also unlock art galleries and FMV movies, but after completing the game 100% and playing through Hard there is not a huge amount of incentive for replay value.

While Metroid: Other M will not be taking any "Game of the Year" titles from me, it still provided a generally enjoyable experience worth any time from Metroid fans.