Friday, December 7, 2007


I have moved to a new site, at wordpress. Here is the new url:

And a link:

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Less Ugly Killzone

Oh, and here is a more cinematic trailer for Killzone two.

You Must Watch This Now!

Alright, I know I have linked a lot of videos, but never have I linked one with such a completely amazing song in it. This is for a game called Lost Odyssey, a Japanese RPG, which looks like it could be fun. But wait, there's more. At around the four minute mark, a song comes on that will blow your mind. Seriously, watch it, NOW.

Killzone Looks Awesome

While Killzone 2 has had its share of fakery, lies and bullshot, now that they have some actual ingame footage and screens, and the gameplay looks good, one can start to hope. This game looks pretty badass, and the videos we are seeing now is qute impressive. I'll put a screen or two up in the album later today.

A Racing Game I Might Care About

I like Burnout Revenge and its ilk on the PS2 alright, but they are, like many racers (besides Midtown Madness 1 and 2, which will never be beat), hard for me to sink into. Well, check this out. Burnout Paradise esentially takes the Midtown Madness route, with a living city. But, not only do you have that, there are no laod times. You just activate races and challenges when you want, or drive around for fun. It sounds really awesome to tell the truth. Lucky I have that PS3 now! Oh, and a picture from IGN is now up in the awesome pictures section.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Dead Space!

Kotaku has a bunch of pictures up from Dead Space, a survival horror game that looks like a cross between The Thing and Event Horizon. This probably means I will be too scared of it to ever play it all the way through, if it is good. Oh, and two of the pictures are up in the photo album thingy over there on the right. I hate fun games that I am too scared to play.


Like the end of Drake's Fucking Fortune.

COD4 is Actually Really Good

So I picked up Call of Duty 4 today, mostly cause I heard the single player was alright, and I wanted to play it split-screen with a friend. I normally don't like online shooters that are in any way realistic, in fact, I just play CS:S and TF2 these days. Anyway, I played the single player a bit, got annoyed by that TV station shootout, and switched to multiplayer.

Wow, it rocks. Seriously, this is amazing, it's better than CS:S, by a mile and a half. Sure, there are guys grenade spamming from half a map away, but the gameplay rocks, and the pseudo-RPG elements they've thrown in are weirdly compelling.

All-in-all, a good purchase, and once I buy a cheapo $20 controller, some badass splitscreen action, I hope. I should really go to bed, I think.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Drake's Fortune

Alright, I just finished Drake's Fortune, and although I am too lazy to review it right now (and by too lazy, I mean I am going to back back and unlock more rewards by shooting guys with specific weapons!), I thought I would let you know a thing or two about it. It kick's ass, there isn't another way to put it (or if there is, mine is better). It's fun, beautiful, smooth to play, and has a pretty decent plot, when you get down to it. The gunplay is really amazing, it's hard to describe how smooth and fun it is. The voice-acting is perfect for what the game is aiming for, and the endgame is fun, if a bit silly.

Oh, and I am 2 assassinations into Assassin's Creed, and it is still, quite excellent. People who say otherwise are silly. Finally, Motorstorm is fun, but I can't beat this one level. Grrr. Back to work now?

Wow, Time For Call of Duty 5: Diablo Kicks Your Ass

So, in an interesting bit of news, Activision and Vivendi are merging (with Vivendi owning the majority of the share or somesuch). According to the Kotaku article, this won't change how Vivendi (and more importantly, Blizzard, which is part of Vivendi) runs its stuff. Frankly, I almsot don't care, they could produce Call of Duty: World of Warcraft, and I'd hate it, and all of you losers would lap it up. BUT. My dream of some kind of World War II/Diablo/Starcraft mashup can finaly become a reality. Whoopee.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Absolutely Ridiculous: Gamespot

So, I'm late to this one, but I just found a new piece of info, so here goes: A guy named Gertsmann at Gamespot was recently fired, essentially because he gave Kane and Lynch a bad review (for which he should have gotten a raise). Eidos ads are basically smeared over every inch of Gamespot, so I guess we know why they came down so hard on him. Here is an anonymous post in some forum, provided by Kotaku, where an alleged Gamespot emplyee spills the beans on what happened. Gabe and Tycho know the guy, and vouch for that side of the story, so I think we can say this is a true story.

This is pretty sad, apparently he had been working there for 10 years and was one of the senior writers. What the fuck. Good luck to Gertsmann on finding a new job, and fuck the Gamespot management. Lets hope the rest of the editorial staff can remain employed, and that they don't have 9 and 10 reviews shoved down their throats.

Blog Banter: Becoming an Ace and Dealing With Minsc

Blog Banter is a group of bloggers passionate about video games. We enjoy getting together once a month to write about the same subject. You will be amazed at the different viewpoints so many people can have on the same exact topic. If you are interested in participating, contact bs angel for more information. Enjoy our stories!

The first game I ever played were on my Dad's old 386. My older brother and I used to play a bunch of them: SimAnt, Doom, Monkey Island, and of course, Wing Commander. Being allowed to play was always kind of tricky, my brother was very territorial about most things, and I had to fight to be allowed to use "his" games. Booting up the computer and then typing the correct lines in DOS (I think there was some kind of password or something), and then it was time to kill some Kilrathi.

I could never get very far in that game, I just didn't have the skills it took. Still, talking to the different pilots afterwards (my favorite was always whatisname, Loose Canon or Mad Dog or whatever), and of course they could die permanently, which always happened to me. Best of all, even if I sucked and did badly at missions, I got a different, more depressing cutscene. I loved losing all the way to the end, just to watch the second ending.

Nowadays I'm a little better at such things, although I play less space sims. I can't think of a game I've played more than Baldur's Gate II. You all know how long it is, and I figure I've taken about 4 or 5 characters all the way to the end, completing every single mission (with dozens of other characters that got abandoned after 2 or 3 acts).

Seriously, I have played this game too much. Still, when I'm bored, and need a new game, all I have to do is find those old CDs. There is always a combination I haven't tried yet (next time, I figure it's gonna be a shapeshifter druid, just to make things really tough), and I never get tired of the party intrigue, plot, or graphics. This game literally sucks me in every time, and there hasn't been an RPG since that has even come close. NWN, NWN2, the KOTORs, they don't stand a chance. I love them all, but Baldur's Gate II will always be the best one of them all. This all kinda makes me want to go start that druid.

Other Blog Banter Articles :
Boffman22's Memorable Gaming Moments(Boom Stick Brigade)
I love you Intellivision! (Boom Stick Brigade)
Just how much fun LAN can be! (Cat's Blog)
Memoirs of a Young Gamer (Gaming with Baby)
Memorable Gaming Moments (Hawty McBloggy)
Play Your Station (Play Your Station)
Hit the Reset Button (Thoughts and Rants)
Memorable Gaming Moments (Zath Games Tech)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

PS3 Time!

So, as part of Black Friday pain-time, I bought myself a PS3, Motrostorm, Assassin's Creed and Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. Unfortunately, now that I'm back at college, I have no TV, so I have to wait till I can get my hands on a monitor to play. When I do, I'll let you know how good those 3 games are, even though they have all been reviewed to death.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Cat Related Post!

So apparently Catz 2 for the Wii is an adventure game where you play as an adorable kitty... How is this not the game we've all been waiting for?
(thanks to Kotaku for the link)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Exciting New Feature!!!

So, starting today, on the right of the page, at the top, there will be a "Screen of the Day/Week/Month" album. It's a link to my Picasa album, so all of the screens will build up, and you'll be able to see the backlog of screens as I add more and more. I'll update it whenever, so if the date next to the picture changes, their is a new picture in the album. This weeks is of Drake's Fortune, and I think it looks pretty awesome (the picture is obviously courtesy of IGN, and will be from them most of the time, their access to screens is slightly greater than mine).

Drake's Fortune Makes Me Want Enough Money to Buy a PS3

I know I already posted a Drake's Fortune trailer, but if you head on over to IGN's video page for the game, they have some pretty awesome stuff on display. I'm still not sold on the gameplay, but then I can't be, haven't played it. On the other hand, the cutscenes really look good. It's not exactly perfect writing or acting, but somehow they've got a kind of summer action movie feel going for them, and I don't mean a shitty Die Hard 4 feel. Kind of like Romancing the Stone, but 2007 silly, as opposed to 80s silly (and thank God, think of what their hair would have looked like!). That main guy really reminds me of Nathan Fillion. Now I just need a PS3. Crappy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Bourne Conspiracy

I gotta go read some Frederick Douglass, but I thought everyone should see this. I have no idea how good it will actually be, but the combat looks vaguely like the movies. I just miss Matt Damon I guess. He's so thuggishly large.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Joy and Happiness in the Form of Mark Wahlberg (and Mass Effect)

Yeah, so here I am again, The Witcher and work have been keeping me busy. So, whats new these days? Well, first off, all of those lucky bastards with 360s who managed to snag a copy of Mass Effect are probably very happy right now.

Also, for all of us who love us some Mark Wahlberg, check this out. Seriously, Marky Mark as Max Payne? This is so awesome, everyone who saw The Departed knows he can be a moody cop. Lets just hope it only sucks a small amount, as opposed to a huge amount.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Witchy Enough for the Witcher?

Yeah, so I haven't been posting much recently, due to massive working, and my purchase of The Witcher. It's pretty damn good, despite some amazingly juvenile design decisions regarding "mature" content. Those options (and I am of course referring to having sex with practically every single woman in the game... Whaaat?) are entirely optional, so if you want to, you can play the entire game without following through on this idiotic game mechanic. I suggest you do so, because underneath that weirdness is a great, fun CRPG, the likes of which I haven't seen in years. Oh yes, and watch out for the fucking load times, they hurt so bad.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Cool Massive Attack Drake's Fortune Trailer

So I still don't know if this game will amount to anything good, but this latest Drake's Fortune trailer has some awesome music in it. It is way to early to be awake and blogging, and yet...

As always, thanks to Gametrailers.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Shameless Self-Promotion, I Believe

I'm not going to beat about the bush on this one. If you enjoy my writing, and would like even more punishment, the newspaper I write for has a website which can be browsed. Look for my name on an article, in the Life and Style section, if you feel so inclined. I love myself, obviously.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Mario Galaxy is Crazy

I know video posts are boring, but it's Sunday and I have two midterms soon, so too much of the worky right now. Still, I came across this rather alarming video today. That is one of the scariest little creatures I have ever seen. I wish I could play this game.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Jericho, Painkiller, UT3... So Much Gritty Futuristic Stuff!

Well, I just played through 3 demos, so I thought I'd let you in on what sucked and what didn't.

First off, Clive Barker's Jericho, a supernatural super-horrific (supposedly) squad-based shooter. In the demo, you control three members of the squad, and through a ghostly gameplay mechanic, are allowed to jump between them on the fly. Your three characters are two Sexy Goth Girls, and one chunky heavy weapons guy. Isn't original character design great? They are all horribly voiced, as is the narration. My favorite bit was about the Blood Scribe character: "she first learns of her powers as a blood scribe when she attended her local church." Hey, thats how I learned about being a Blood Scribe!

Anyway, the shooting mechanics are alright, each character has one to two weapons, and one to two supernatural powers. These can actually be pretty cool, with one of them including the ability to guide a bullet into three different enemies. So far it sounds silly, but it could be fun, right? No, actually, it isn't. For starters, I am SO tired of Super Dark Bloody Medieval Magic Horror bad guys. Every enemy looks the same, and they all have Totally Evil stitches in their eyes or face or spleen. Plus, they rush at you extremely fast, and are hard to shoot. Luckily for you, your teammates couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, let alone enemies who are literally in their faces.

Finally, the scary factor is seriously lacking. F.E.A.R. did a better job at startling me, and Boshock did a better job at making me tense and genuinely scared. Isn't Clive Barker supposed to be the master of horror?

So, stupid enemies and companions, bad writing, plot and dialogue, tired and cliché art design... whats not to like?

Next we have Painkiller Overdose, the newest in the Serious Sam/Doom knockoff series. These games succeed by throwing tons of guys in your face at one time, and having interesting environments and weapons, hopefully. Unfortunately, Painkiller fails on all of these levels. The graphics are dull, brown and uninventive (oooh, undead Civil war enemies!), and the levels are so drab and dull I couldn't believe I was spending the time to play through them. The weapons are a mixed bag, with some being fun (I enjoyed the laser eye skull and the spinning knife), but you only find ammo for a few of them, so you'll end up using the "Biogun" (a shotgun) and the "Bonegun" (also a shotgun, but with bones?).

So, this is another dud, mixing terrible elements all across the board to craft an experience you'll be trying to forget soon. Oh, and it wouldn't let me take screenshots, so it annoys me a little extra bit in that way.

Now, on to Unreal Tournament 3. I knew my computer wouldn't run it well, but I spent so many hours playing UT2004 I practically owed it to myself to play this game. To be honest, the game hasn't changed much. Some of the weapons do a few new things, some look different, but the real change is the graphics. Kinda sad huh?

Really though, the graphics are incredible, screenshots don't do them justice. True, the art direction has moved in a very "chunky gritty space guys fighting" direction (it looks like Gears of War, but with colored armor), but I still like the look overall. Gameplay-wise, what can I say, if you liked UT2004, you'll love this. It's fast-paced team-based shooter gameplay, with a very arcade/sports feel, including Deathmatch, Team DM, and CTF (and that is just in the demo). In the full version, there will be loads more. It's fast and fun, and very solid feeling.

So, I suppose you could get Jericho for cheap from Gametap , definitely skip Painkiller, but pick up UT3 when you can. If you can run it that is...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Totally not game related: LOLcats Bible

Alright, all of you have to look at this, if only to think how this website would affect your Bible lit studies teacher. Essentially, it is the entire Bible translated into the hideous English of the LOLcats. My favorite term has to be the changing of "God" to "ceiling cat."

Also, check out this picture of ceiling cat.

Soldier of Fortune Looks Childish, Has Dumb Advertising

Hey, remember Soldier of Fortune II? Yeah, I bought it because I could blow off a Russian terrorsit's leg and watch him crawl around. I was young, and stupid, and not creeped out by the alarming pro-imperialist/gun activist/macho American mustache-guy overtones.

This new game looks so much better than the old ones: set in a Vague Middle-Eastern place, a Vague Asian Jungle place, and a Vague African Village place(Yay!), full of creepy bald white guys killing lots of people who are less white. Plus, the Evil forces of darkness scream as you shoot off their left big toe or whatever. The icing on the cake is this trailer, which says something at the end that is kinda like "no girly men need apply." I love gamers, and I love how stupid and racist they can be. Magnifique!

Thanks to Kotaku and Gametrailers for links.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


So apparently that news post I put up has nothing to do with a new Psychonauts... There are no plans for a new Psychonauts. Crappy.

Exploding Robot Wombat Team

If you don't pay attention to the ludicrous music, the new Ratchet and Clank game actually looks really cool. Now I just need about 700 dollars to throw away on a game system. Blarg. This is what happens when I do thesis research, I start wandering the internet looking at random stuff, and then realize I have to go back and read boring letters about Forster, written by D. H. Lawrence. Aaaaargh!

Monday, October 22, 2007

More Psychonauts!.... Maybe

Wow, check this out. Here is the page that Kotaku references. I hope this is true, I hope it so much. Although if it really is going to be a simple Wii port of Psychonauts, I don't care, I can get the original for next to nothing on Steam. Obviously, we need a sequel.

I hate sucky Engineers

Ok, this is a bit random, but it's time for a TF2 rant:

Why is it that on maps where offense is needed, people suck as engineers. I mean, I know that Well and Granary can be fast, assault based maps, but a sneakily placed turret or teleporter can turn the tide of battle in your favor. Two teleporters are easy to set up, and then your team has a fast way of getting to the front. They need this support!

Why is it that I see engineers building turrets in the base on Granary, when their team is doing some heavy fighting for the middle checkpoint? Half of these people build a base turret, and then proceed to stay in the base, instead of going to fight! Yeah, that turret might be helpful, if we were losing, dumbass.

If you are going suck, play a soldier or heavy, that way you can be sucky and cause some actual damage. Also, medics rule.

Portal is so mean

I can't beat those stupid time challenges in Portal. The second map insists I can beat it using just two portals. This is a lie. Oh, and if you have ever had to deal with the bowel movements of a cat, go check today's Penny Arcade out. Finally, Remington Steele kicks a whole lot of ass, in case you were wondering.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Betazoids in Mass Effect

Ok, I know this is the second video link post in a row, but if you wait untill just under 2 minutes into this video, you find out that Marina Sirtis, aka Deanna Troi, will be playing (and I swear this is true) "Matriarch Benezia." I'm not good enough to make that up.

I think that there must have been some planetary alighment for her to play a part in this game. Plus, she is so serious about that "Asari commando unit." Really though, I love video games and all, and I would be an awful voice actor, but it must take some guts to speak those lines and still be able to look at your face in the mirror.

Now we just need Jonathan Frakes as a sexy younger man who rocks an awesome beard and totally doesn't have a big belly. Seriously, guys, he's in shape. Also, note the presence of Lance "I am scary" Henrikson.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Back to "Work"

So, after that rather silly blogging yesterday, here we are with some very serious stuff... Video links!

First off, Unreal Tournament 3, which looks like it will play exactly the same as it did a few years ago. Which is alright, I loved that game, but seriously, when will I have a computer that can run this game?

Next, more awesome daring-do in Acre. I love all of the animations, but that combat looks kinda silly. Each guy takes his time, letting you duke it out with other guys? But, you look like a total badass, so maybe it will work out.

Finally, I wish I had a Wii, cause Mario Galaxy looks rocking. Too bad that kid playing looks like an idiot. Still, really cool.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Hugh Laurie IS Gordon Freeman

Also, I know that this is kind of ridiculous, and some of you might not get what is so awesome in this picture, but it amused me.


I just finished Episode 2, and I have to say, that was one of the coolest final battles I have ever seen in a game, very epic. Also, the ending (ooooh, secret!) was great, Valve really beats everybody else when it comes to meaningful storytelling. Well, I guess it's time to go fill out those achievements. How long till the next one?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sunday Fun

So I beat Portal yesterday (awesome), but I am still working through the bonus missions, the last bonus mission is crazy hard. I'm a chapter into Ep. 2, and it is as awesome as I hoped it would be. Finally, this comic amuses me, especially the strip in the link. Portal review might be up soon? Dunno.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Surviving Rapture

Bioshock has to be one of the most hyped games to come out recently for any system (not counting Halo 3’s over-the-top campaign). Microsoft and Take Two want us all to think it’s a badass shooter, and 2K and Ken Levine want us to think that it’s the spiritual successor to System Shock 2, and that it is going to change gaming (or at least show how gaming should change). These are pretty amazing claims, but this game is also receiving scores in the neighborhood of 100 from just about everybody out there. In the End, Bioshock falls well short of the hype, but is still a very impressive game.

Bioshock takes place in a sprawling underwater city named Rapture, sometime in the 1930s. Andrew Ryan, the creator of Rapture, built and ran the city following a cutthroat economic and social rulebook. Essentially, Rapture is a haven for the brilliant minds among us, who cannot bear the world as it unfolded around them. So, they built a sanctuary where they could pursue science and questionable moral and societal paths completely unchecked. Soon, the city and the lives of its inhabitants come to revolve around a substance called ADAM, a gene altering miracle that can make people into demigods, splicing various new abilities into their bodies.

Of course, many different things go terribly wrong, and all of the inhabitants eventually turn into genetically altered nut jobs, capering and crooning their way through one bloodbath after another. Enter your character, a nameless man whose plain crashes into the ocean miles above Rapture. From there, you’ll take a bathysphere (tiny submarine) down to Rapture proper.

Our hero progresses through the world of Rapture killing, collecting and splicing, turning himself into something less than human. At the same time, he gains various powers, which allow him to cope with the raging psychopaths he will encounter. The player is guided by ghostly visions (fueled by your own foolhardy genetic modifications) and audio diaries, which introduce us to a host of characters. Luckily, every character is represented well in the voice-acting department, excepting some over the top accents which fit in with the game’s thick atmosphere.

The core gameplay is shooter-based, as promised by Take Two, but just as important as weapons are your genetic powers, or plasmids. You’ll find plasmids that range from lightning bolts to scent glands (for fooling or distracting the enemy) to portable cyclones. They are all inventive, and all of them have an appreciable effect on Rapture or its denizens. There are other brands of plasmids, most of which will buff the character’s health, hacking ability or other random attribute, but to list them all would spoil the surprise. Sadly, the actual level of customization to be had here is minimal at best. You’re really just choosing different ways of killing people, nothing more.

These powers are collected through vials of ADAM, which one acquires through Little Sisters. These small children (along with their hulking guardians, the Big Daddies) are the center of the moral quandary Kin Levine claims will change the way you game. Whenever you defeat a Big Daddy (which is a hell of a lot of fun, any conflict involving a Big Daddy is literally earthshaking), you can choose to harvest Little Sisters for a large amount of ADAM, or save them, receiving a small chunk of ADAM, but with the promise of long-term benefits.

This is the situation that is supposed to stop gamers in their tracks and make them think, and to a degree, it works. The Little Sisters are creepy and arresting (and are lacking the clichés that many Scary Little Girls come with in movies and games), as they wander from body to body, stabbing each corpse in search of some trace ADAM. The Big Daddies are equally well drawn, and after Little Sisters are killed or saved, the Big Daddies will bang on portals (from which the Sisters emerge) and moan forlornly. Even more impressive, when one saves a Little Sister, the swell of music and her reaction to your kindness are strangely pleasing, you actually feel good about what you did.

Sadly, Harvesting Little Sisters has little emotional impact (due to a less than gripping “harvesting” cinematic that quickly darkens the screen, saving you from confronting your own actions), and your impact on the world itself is negligible, emotionally. Later in the game the developers up the ante a bit by showing you the impact of your actions, but they never manage to retain that one moment of pleasure one feels at helping an innocent. As a result, there is no great moral quandary; the results of your actions are two different ending videos, one of which feels silly and hackneyed. In the end, like so many other games, “moral ambiguity” and “choices” end up in two endings, one good, one bad.

So, if the main selling point of Bioshock has been completely exaggerated, can it still be called a great game? Bioshock is incredibly well made, despite its severe shortcomings. The leaking, dripping, amazingly creepy halls of Rapture scared me to death the first time through. When all the lights go out and weird voices start breathing heavily in your ear, and something runs past you with Gollum-like feet, you won’t be knocking the game design. Aside from creating an amazing sense of foreboding and tension (completely different from F.E.A.R.’s jumpy scares), the designers managed to imagine a beautiful, crumbling, Art-Deco inspired underwater city, and bring it to life with amazing detail and fidelity. The levels feel connected in a way that is hard to describe: it’s the kind of unifying art design that I haven’t seen in many other games, except maybe Half Life 2 or Shadow of the Colossus.

Speaking of which, Bioshock’s story is pretty good, and while it is basically an undersea version of System Shock 2, it’s not necessarily the story itself that matters, but the way it’s told. I actually dislike the whole “story told through diaries” method of storytelling, but in Bioshock, the narrative is literally at higher level from your average game. It’s that sense of unity and craft that makes the story stand out, just as with the art. Every audio diary is interesting, or scary, or original, and they make you believe in and relate to these characters in ways that games with full cutscenes often miss entirely. Creeping through an abandoned surgery ward and listening to the head of surgery mutilate a subject because he wanted to make her more unique and special is something that really has to be experienced to be believed (especially when you know that in a minute you will encounter that very same head of surgery).

Ultimately, the story can’t keep up with the art design, and about two thirds of the way through the game lost its intense, urgent feel, and turned into a silly revenge quest. As a result, I started caring less and less about enjoying the design, or audio tapes, or little art details, and more and more about finishing the game. This made me so sad, because the game was really engrossing until that point. The fact that the game’s final “boss” was boring and slightly ridiculous (especially when compared to the bosses one meets throughout the game) only made me less satisfied with my purchase.

In the end, Bioshock is a great experience, despite its huge flaws. It gave me new faith in the ability of games to tell a cohesive, entertaining narrative, in a credible and original way. Just as importantly, it proved that some developers can still use violence and dark themes in ways that aren’t infantile or amazingly demeaning to the player’s intelligence. This game was mature, intelligent, engrossing, and the game world was its own kind of brilliant narrative force. Despite Bioshock’s glaring faults and over-hyped reputation, I would still recommend it to all gamers, after the price has dropped a bit, that is.

Friday, October 12, 2007

I'm Back

So now that the imperial oppressors here have let me use the internet again, I can post an update. The Bioshock review should be up some time today, so that should be fun, I guess. Oh, and I hate that there were two huge bugs in Portal and Ep. 2 (I couldn't hear any voices!), but I love that Valve patched it in about 2 days. Good for them. Oh, and Portal rocks, it'll just be nice to hear the voice now. Episode 2? Holy shit, I'd forgotten what a great game world Valve has created. I'll be doing that for a while, see you there.

Also, happy birthday to Will, I would buy him a drank, but I can't right now.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Awesome Videos

I feel like a broken record here, but this one isn't from Gametrailers. The trailer for the Demoman is up. This is the fourth in a series of short videos introducing characters from Team Fortress 2. Watch them all, they are pretty hilarious.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Orange Box = No Sleep, No Work

So, it looks like the Orange Box will be coming out after midnight tomorrow (Tuesday) night. Too bad I have work at 9:15 am. This is gonna rock. I dunno which I am going to play first, but it'll have to be at least an hour session, to properly get into whichever game it is (via Joystiq).

Workie workie

So, just finished for the night, kinda, saw a bunch of new trailers at Gametrailers. Let's see, first off we have Drake's Fortune with some stilted dialogue between some stupid White Action Hero guy and a Hot Blond Girl. Fantastic. Next, Too Human with some epic sci-fi viking stuff? But the combat looks boring. Um, Mass Effect looks badass, again, and of course jaded space doctors are very cool.

Thursday, October 4, 2007


So I think my copies of Worms and Zelda just got here in the mail, but more importantly, check out this newspost

Holy shit. This would be so cool. Um, maybe I'll write about the games later?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

More Mass Effect, because it's late and I just finished a really bad two page paper

So, I was longingly staring at the latest Mass Effect videos on Gametrailers, when I spotted a user video that actually turned out to have some very cool conversational interaction on display. Oh, it has spoilers in it, so be warned. It looks so much better than those old, awkward videos, there's way less of those weird mood-breaking pauses that appeared in a lot of the early movies. It actually looks like their "revolutionary" conversation mode might be close to revolutionary. Amazing.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Meh Demos and Overpriced Games

Yeah, so I just tried out the Enemy Territory Demo, and I dunno... Controls seemed alright (although those are some shitty grenades there), graphics were good (aside from the fact that everything is BROWN). It was generally underwhelming, to tell the truth. After the awesomeness of Team Fortress, this seems so cliché, although I like the stabby Strogg "medics." Whatever. Oh, I also just bought Worms Open Warfare Two and Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass. There goes the paycheck I'll be getting Friday! Rocking.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Passage to India and Major Problems in African-American History

So, I figured out how to make Bioshock a very fun game instead of an overrated kinda fun game! Turn up the difficulty to hard. It basically turns it into an Underwater Survival Horror game. I never thought I would miss ammo hoarding this much. Also, reading sucks.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Exciting Links

So from time to time I'll put up links to cool stuff, that you may already have seen. In these cases, if you haven't seen this stuff, you should look at it, right now.

A kinda badass Assassin's Creed video showed up recently. Sam, you should check this out, it is amusing, but still, you know this will be awesome:
Assassin's Creed Video.

Also, Mass Effect is supposed to be very groundbreaking and serious, but when it comes down to it I just want to be a hardened space-pirate who does totally awesome (but morally ambiguous) stuff. Seriously, these videos look very cool (in a silly, sci-fi way):
Mass Effect Video 1.
Mass Effect Video 2.

Also, I am the Shadow Broker, I don't now what ugly guy there is talking about. Oh, and these are from Gametrailers, so they are awesome.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Galactic Civilizations II: The Dread Lords (or, how to build really, really pretty ships)

If you have always wanted to conquer the galaxy with large flotillas of spaceships (and had your hopes squashed by Rebellion), then Galactic Civilizations II: The Dread Lords is the game for you. This game has such a weighty name; you wouldn’t believe that it is such an interesting and epic strategy game. It sounds almost comically dark and dangerous. In actuality, Galactic Civilizations II (GC 2 from here on in, that’s just a huge name to write) is an extremely complicated 4X space strategy game, so-called because there are four main ways controlling the galaxy: expansion, exploitation, extermination and exploration. Sounds like fun, right? It is, and it’s a testament to how fun and deep this game is that I have played multiple campaigns, each of them lasting many hours (the longest one I finished after playing off and on for about two weeks), and the thought of starting up another game is still an exciting one.

When you start a game of GC 2, you have the option of picking from a number of preset races or of making up your own. The races run the gamut of societal values: warlike, trade-obsessed, robotic (and therefore logical), human, technologically advanced, etc. Despite this roster, I created my own race, and was delighted with the result. Not only could I pick how my race would be represented (slimy green guy or crystalline monster?), but I also chose the color scheme of my spaceships, the method of government I would start out with, and the various specializations my race would have (I chose to make them brilliant traders and economists). From here, you pick the number, type and skill of the various opposing space faring races. Then, you are dropped in on a galactic star map with a mother ship and a colony vessel, and the game is all yours.

From here, you will colonize planets, send out scout ships, research various technologies, manage each planets economy, and manage your entire civilizations spending and production in general. In fact, you can win by trading exclusively, researching the most technologies, making the most allies, culturally brainwashing enemies, or by simply blasting them to bits. There are a slew of options, from allocating various amounts of your surplus money to research as opposed to military production, to terraforming, to universal translators, to espionage spending, to trade and negotiation. And honestly, that is a miniscule fraction of what you could do. You can set up trade routes, you can build secret space stations behind enemy lines, and you can send invasion fleets to take over other planets.

Despite all of these options, not everything is perfect. Each tech tree (for each civilization) is exactly the same, so while you might research different stuff as opposed to what the Drengin Empire researches, you get the feeling you are all racing towards the same tech tress. Some variation in technology would have been nice (in the expansion, race-specific tech trees were added), as well as the condensation of some humongous tech trees

Speaking of fleets, GC 2 has what may be the most impressive ship designer ever created. Not only can you outfit each ship with the appropriate lasers, shields and the like, but you can customize the look and size of these ships to an absolutely ludicrous degree. I’m not joking when I say I spent as much time in the ship generator as I did actually playing the game itself. I made my own U.S.S. Enterprise, a Star Destroyer, and a Borg cube. The catalogue of ship parts and add-ons is immense. They might as well be limitless.

So, with all of these toys to play with, does GC 2 provide the player with an adequate set of opponents and interesting gameplay? First off, the enemy A.I. can be as easy as pie on the lowest settings. You’ll be pulling dodgy trade moves under their noses, and snapping up prime planet real estate without a problem. Turn up the difficulty, and you’ll be in for a rough ride. At higher difficulty levels, opposing races will expand at a lightning pace, drive cruelly hard trade bargains, invade your territory if you give them an opening, and in general make the easy setting look like a joke. This is perfect, because after a game or two on lower difficulties, you will want to face off against an almost human level of competency, and GC 2 gives you that option. Still the options for espionage are not too deep (you control how much you spend on spying, that’s it), and since mid to end game power is based almost entirely on how many planets you gobbled up early one, the first couple of hours of gameplay de-evolve into a mad rush for planets. If you don’t do this, you will lose.

Sound and graphics-wise, GC 2 is pretty enough with nebulae and strangely hued planets making the blackness of space slightly less black. Ships are pretty detailed (the game’s engine allows for an endless increase in polygon level, as long as you have the computer muscle), in fact the only complaint I have about the graphics brings up another problem: the ship battles are intensely boring. Basically, you watch your ships swerve around each other firing off unconvincing collies of lasers or missiles. I understand that victory is dependent on ship quality and fleet construction, but did the battles have to look so bad? There are only so many times I can watch ships explode in the exact same way.

There are problems with Galactic Civilizations II, but in the end it comes down to this: the game is huge, and most aspects have been developed to perfection, excluding a few shortcomings. The game is deep, involving, and fun, and the fact that I just won a game by creating a culture so powerful and influential that other planets simply up and joined me is a very cool and rewarding victory to experience. There is already a sequel out, and another in the works. If you want to throw away weeks of time with a truly epic space conquest, get this game.

I'll just go back to playing Bioshock now, I guess

So I actually need to read now, but before I do, a quick question for you all (err, that's like two people, maybe?). What happened to the players in the TF2 beta? For a week there it was bliss, the kind of dumbass heckling and trash talk that pervades CS servers (among others) had not made an appearance. Then recently, I'm guarding 2Fort with my Engineer, his sentry gun and his dispenser, and I kill this guy. He then precedes to tell me to "get the fuck out of there you porch monkey." I'm sorry, how did we get here? What the fuck. I mean, yeah, you died, that makes people angry, I get it. But... How incredibly racist and stupid. Does this mean all of my TF2 games will be full of hateful mouth-breathers, or was he an anomaly? Forgive me for assuming it was a guy, but if it had been a girl, chances are someone else in the game would have been asking her for sex in under a minute (and then using an ugly sexual epithet to punish her for not responding). Chances are, my newly-beloved TF2 is about to see its clientèle hit rock bottom (unless they have been keeping silent to trick me for a week). And I was just starting to get my hopes up. This kind of thing really makes me wonder why I play these types of games, where I'm subject to The Theory:

Then again, if a "normal" person thinks its Hi-larious to say that to a stranger, why would I ever want to meet that person in the first place?

Peggle: First Demo Review

Ok, so honestly, I got this game as part of the Orange Box deal, so I can’t claim to have known anything about it beforehand. Whatever, we’ll call this the first of my Demo Review Series. That makes it sound like it’s official in some way.

Ok, so right away I like the presentation, cutesy classical music mixed with a headcrab impaled upon a unicorn horn. Nice. Now time to review the actual game. Each level is a collection of “pegs,” all of them arranged on a drawn background that feature an amalgam of Team Fortress 2 characters and weird creatures (Pegglites?). Gameplay involves hitting as many of the pegs as you can, with some pegs giving you more points and others special powers (the full version has many other types of pegs). It’s a pretty basic game, but it can be a fun one too.

How does it stand out from other small games of this variety? The game is physics based, so after you launch your ball, it will arc around the screen, bouncing off pegs, until it falls off the screen. This means that every shot is a careful calculation of angles and rebounds, and if you are good, you can set up some amazing shots. Second, the challenges (get 300,000 points, don’t lose a single life, etc.) are fun to try and beat. Also, the different maps are cute and weird, and the way the pegs conform to each painting is clever.

The problems? Peggle's "physics" can make your ball bounce in some pretty weird ways, so you basically have to rely on the special "guided shot bonus pegs" to accurately predict the ball's progress. Also, some of the verbal cues (the "you lost" sound clip in particular) can get pretty annoying.

Peggle is extremely basic, and it is pretty up front about it. It’s fun, but I can see that fun wearing out in time (it has already started to wain a bit for me). So, try the demo, ten dollars is a lot to spend on a game like this, even if you love physics based ball bouncing games.

Titan Quest and Titan Quest Immortal Throne

Titan Quest and its expansion pack (Immortal Throne) owe so many things to Diablo II, it is almost pointless to list them. A point and click attack interface, little to no environmental interactivity, silly plot, gradations of magical items, potions of the blue and red variety, and fast paced action RPG gameplay all hearken back to when Diablo II first hit the gaming scene. Yet to be honest, I enjoyed this game much more that Blizzard’s very popular game. Titan Quest streamlines things Diablo didn’t, and in general creates a gaming experience that I really enjoyed. It adds a unique “Classical Greek” flavor I found oddly attractive, and is pretty to look at, an aspect that makes more of a difference than you would think. It also is free of the slavering Diablo II communities, who re-build characters at every ladder reset, and are generally so hardcore they make me want to stop playing. Despite this praise, in its original format, Titan Quest was practically unplayable for me. Why? One inane design decision was all it took.

The story is barely there to notice, but here it is: you are a Greek warrior, and Titans have escaped their prison and are wreaking havoc throughout Greece. You will chase the Titans from Greece to Egypt to Asia to the Underworld. You are tasked with stopping them, and along the way you will help or kill various denizens of the aforementioned areas. Still, the settings are adequately presented, and even if they don’t inspire, they do give you a sense of being wherever you are supposed to be. Plus, it allows for some cool and disparate character models. I especially liked the Raptors in Asia (because, obviously, there were lots of Raptors hanging around the Great Wall back then).

Let’s get the bad out of the way, so I can get back to telling you to go get this game. Originally, in Titan Quest, you would auto-pick up items, regardless of their worth or magical nature. This wouldn’t be a problem, but your character has a tiny inventory and organizing it is a pain, while there can literally be hundreds of items on the ground in any area: cue hours spent rearranging crummy items you didn’t mean to pick up in the first place.

What does Immortal Throne do to alleviate this problem? It allows you to choose what you pick up, it gives you more item space, and it allows you to use buttons to filter items on the ground, a godsend in the areas where 10s of monsters drop a batch of items each.

Now, to what Titan Quest and its expansion did right from the start. This is a classic action RPG, where combat consists of clicking on (re: killing) offending skeletons, satyrs, tiger-men and cat-women. There are 7 classes, counting the expansion pack Dreamer class, and every character can be duel-classed at a point. This results in a multitude of combinations, from Necro-Druid to Ranger-Elementalist. Needless to say, it would take a long time to explore all of the options. All of the classes are fun to play, with some focusing on melee and some on long range attacks. In a nice touch, the higher-level unique items come tailored to specific classes. It feels really cool to find items not just tailored to the Warrior half of your character, but to the mighty Warrior/Defender combo you have created. Luckily, using these skills is easy enough: most of the time a right click or a numeric key will either set off a power or prepare that power for use. Still, having to press "6" to ready lightning, and then use the mouse to unleash the spell can get you killed in the more hectic encounters.

Speaking of items, there are quite a lot of them and every item changes the appearance of your character. Another small thing about TQ that makes more of a difference than you would think is the inclusion of a DPS (damage per second) readout. This is a godsend; it lets you instantly discern which weapon to pick as opposed to using an item for 10 levels that secretly disappoints. Items change their appearance appreciably as one traverses the 4 (counting Immortal Throne) acts, and it’s always nice to change out of that boring Greek circlet to an exciting new Egyptian headdress.

The spells and abilities on display all pack differing amounts of punch, and a few of them are quite impressive, but Titan Quest is more about the item collecting, gameplay and cohesive art presentation than it is about one-upping Oblivion or the like in the graphics department. Most people will probably find the graphics pleasing, if not spellbinding. Unfortunately, the voice-acting is pretty poor, and the accents border on the ludicrous. I practically turned the sound off in Asia and parts of Greece, so I wouldn’t be embarrassed to play the game. Another problem appears in the form of an often confusing dialogue/quest system. Honestly, after I get a quest to find some ridiculously named Greek, it really annoys me that the game refuses to tell me which town he is in. There are a lot of towns in each act, and this problem worsens when you are ordered to return some bauble to a guy in the middle of nowhere.

This might not sound like a game that can topple Diablo II, but I haven’t mentioned what has sucked away hours of my life: multiplayer. Titan Quest isn’t as fully-featured as Diablo, but as a result it’s much calmer, more sedate community. It changes how you game, and while boss runs are still prevalent, this game never made me feel rushed or hounded like Diablo did. Blazing through Greece on a 6 hour gaming run with 3 friends is truly an experience to be savored, and its one that can be repeated, with different characters, and still retain its fun factor.

In the end, Titan Quest is just a whole lot of fun. I could say that if you like Diablo or Dungeon Siege, you will like this, and I would be right for the most part. To be honest, even if you didn’t like those games, give Titan Quest a try. It’s fun, really fun, and its overwrought atmosphere makes it fresh in a way you wouldn't expect. Plus playing it with friends really makes the experience one to remember. So, give it a try, and buy the expansion, for your own sanity’s sake.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Team Fortress 2, or how I just spent all day not reading about E. M. Forster

I guess I should start out this review by saying that I only played the original TF a bit; I didn’t have regular access to a computer back then. This means that I came to this game knowing only what everybody else said (the original was totally awesome!), and that I really liked the look of Valve’s character and gameplay design from what I could see in videos and previews. I trusted Valve when it came to Half Life 2 and Half Life 2: Episode one, and it looked like they were going to deliver again with this game. Every preview I’d seen showed a game that had so much style it really put all other games to shame. Something about the psychotic Heavy and the bizarrely jolly Austalian sniper (all wrapped up in a violent, Incredibles-inspired art style) just caught my imagination.

Team Fortress 2 (TF2 from hear on in) is a class based FPS multiplayer game, with 9 classes in all. They range from the brutally simple (the Heavy) to the subtle (the Spy). In between those two come the Scout, the Soldier, the Pyro, the Demoman, the Engineer, the Medic and the Sniper. Each class has a part to play in the 6 maps released so far, whether its sniping a helpless Heavy from long range or keeping back a horde of enemies with one upgraded sentry gun, a supply depot, and a carefully placed teleporter. The maps include capture point maps with a few variations. Some are large, single maps with 3-5 capture points, and others are segmented maps that require multiple victories over 5 different areas. Of course there is a capture the flag map to spice things up a bit, but each map is solidly designed and balanced. There isn’t that one awful map (think good old Dust from the original CS) that gives one team an almost instant win due to unfair bottlenecks and the like. There isn’t much downtime, as the longest wait for a respawn is about 15 seconds. As an added bonus, Valve added pseudo-achievements and character stats that are part of your new Steam community ID, so now I know how many Backstabs my Spy got, or how close I am to getting a certain amount of revenge kills (which are immensely satisfying, by the way).

The gameplay on display in this first beta is extremely fast: when 15 or so combatants from both sides converge on a chokepoint, the blood starts flying pretty quickly. Despite the chaotic nature of this combat, the game never feels rushed or sloppy. If you want, you can play it slow, building up defenses or offensive bases with an Engineer. On the other hand you can play as the blindingly fast scout, who can cross the largest map in a minute or two. This kind of flexibility is apparent throughout the game: all classes have a place, and all can be incredibly fun to play, once you get the hang of them. This is where the only tricky bit of TF2 comes in. If you don’t take the time to figure out how to play a Medic or a Spy, you will get nowhere. Every class works for a different situation, but each class can just as easily misused. But to be honest, the learning curve is an hour to three hours tops, so if you want to have fun with this game, it won’t be hard. This was actually my favorite part of TF2. The amount of pleasure delivered by actually doing really well at an FPS like this is surprising, and it is all due to the sometimes entirely unconventional character designs.

The visual design for TF2 cannot go unmentioned; each map is meticulously designed and rendered (all in a beautiful cel-shaded fashion) albeit in an industrial, dusty sort of way. Hopefully, there will be some maps coming out soon that don’t look like western junkyards. The characters really steal the show though. Each character moves, looks and fights differently, and each one has their own set of custom moves that can be triggered with the G key: a bow, a juggling act with rocket rounds, or a wild scream. It all fits in with the crazy, retro look and feel of the game. This attention to detail is everywhere, from the increasing size of a Heavy’s grin and maniacal laugh as he racks up more kills, to each class’s distinct accent and personality (my favorite is the Pyro’s muffled shouts, but the Sniper and the Demoman are equally amusing and alarming). There are a lot of single player “story driven” FPS’s that could use these little touches.

So, how great is this game? Pretty damn good. It runs smoothly, with hardly a hitch in the fps or connection speed. It’s infinitely more enjoyable than Counterstrike or Half Life 2 multiplayer and lacks those game’s racist, sexist, and generally stupid atmosphere and trash talking (although that won’t last for long, chances are). This game provides a ridiculous amount of fun, and it does so by creating diverse needs for every map. On every map, there is a character I can select who I know will allow me to do well and more importantly have fun. This is the only thing that matters, when all is said and done.