Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Stay Tuned

    UPDATE (2/14/2008): Yeah, I'm still alive. Yeah, I'm still going to be making a comeback. The gears are in motion. The ball is rolling. You get the point. Bottom line: Yes, this is happening. When? Soon. I'd say probably early March would be a good estimate. The reason why it's been taking so long is for a variety of reasons I won't bore you with because they essentially boil down to "shit happens," but the main one is that I want to make sure that I've thought far enough ahead into the future that I'll be back, better than ever and won't crash again.

    ORIGINAL: Hey, just wanted to let everybody who still checks the site occasionally know that I'm toying around with the idea of making a possible comeback. I'm hoping that I'll be able to sort out my life well enough that I'll have time to start putting things out this year, but just know that if I come back, I'm doing it right.

    See, before, I would just write an article, then publish it immediately, even making edits long after publishing. That was pretty much when I did my proof reading (though obviously I read my stuff a couple times before clicking "PUBLISH POST"). Anyway, that was a terrible system of doing things.

    Now, it's bad not because my articles were so badly written or anything (though I looked back at some of my oldest stuff and I'm noticing errors and ways I could improve, etc) but because I'd never have anything just ready to publish for deadline. I'd just sit down and write it before I needed to post it; I didn't have any stuff written in advance.

    And therefore, especially during the decline of WID, I'd keep missing deadline and publishing things days late. Now I'm smarter, so I'll have a handful of things pre-written and will be able to just publish them slowly, always keeping a few things behind-the-scenes until I need them. That's a much more efficient way of doing things.

    Well, I just wanted to let you guys in on my writing process a little bit and to let you know that I'm actually itching to write some more stuff. There have been new developments in both the general gaming world and my personal gaming world that I'd love to discuss, as well as some features and other articles and things I'd like to write.

    So, to sum up that whole huge spiel, stay tuned for more (hopefully before 2008, but I can't promise it).

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Apologies... and also Street Fighter IV!

    So... yeah, sorry about the huge delay. I just lost the urge to keep writing because my life was becoming more hectic, (still is), so I had to make the decision. I realized that I was actually pretty irrelevant anyway, considering that I don't have enough money or time to buy every new system and game that comes out, so the reviews that came out were sometimes for games years old, and that's not exactly much of a help to anyone but me.

    And besides, now I'm writing for my school's paper, and that takes a toll on me too considering that it's pretty much up to me and a couple of my friends also on the staff to edit everyone's work since they all write like 5-year olds. I seriously have to sit there and reread people's sentences over and over just to get what the hell they're even talking about so I can start to edit it. In addition to that, pretty soon I'm going to be getting a job again and trying to get an internship at my city's paper, The Roanoke Times. One of those friends I mentioned has an internship there already, so I'm hoping he'll be able to put in a good word if/when they've got anything open.

    So what does that have to do with what is delicious? Well, it means that maybe I'll post every once in awhile if I'm feeling up to it or something big happens in the gaming world, but it's probably safer for you guys to just assume that I'm not going to be really doing much and check back maybe... once every couple of weeks or so to see if I'll be doing anything.

    But whatever. On to something more interesting: Street Fighter IV was just announced.

    Just go ahead and consider all other fighting games irrelevant, because SFIV is going to kick their asses... literally figuratively. I would just like to thank Capcom now for bringing the series back (unless they fuck it up somehow, in which case I'll strike out that thank you).

    I've been playing a lot of Super Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting (wow, long title) recently and it still holds up as way better than most of the fighting games out now, even the 3D ones. It's so fast and fluid and requires so much strategy. I can't go back to any other Street Fighter after Hyper Fighting because of how slow it makes everything else feel. I really hope Capcom jacks up Street Fighter IV to be a freaking blur, else I'm going to be severely disappointed.

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Monday, August 6, 2007

In The News (7/29-8/4)

Sony Sued Over Alleged CELL Infringement
    Either Sony's just under fire from lots of frivolous lawsuits, or they're just really bad at getting away with plagiarism. Yep, they've been sued again, this time over their CELL processor chip that's used in the PS3.
    Regardless of whether or not Sony is guilty, they've got to be feeling pretty nervous right now. Last time they were in this position, they were forced to pay up $90 million. This time, if they lose, they'll have to cease production of all PS3s and redesign it completely.
    That would be a devastating blow to Sony. At that point, I really don't know what they could do to minimize their losses other than just buy out the company that's suing them, Parallel Processing, and keep selling PS3s.
    Good luck to Sony, I suppose.

Rockstar Appealing Britain's Ban on Manhunt 2
    Good for Rockstar. Their deadline's nearly up to appeal the BBFC's ban of Manhunt 2, they've probably made some changes to the game, and now they're back to see if they can't overturn that appeal.
    At this point, I hope Rockstar just does the bare minimum to get the M rating, then releases a special uncensored AO rated version for the PC.
    Hopefully they can successfully get their game through and maybe even set a precedent for the industry, provided they haven't stripped out too much of the game's "questionable" content.

Xbox 360's Price Drop Is For All SKUs
    So... This is kind of weird. We knew the 360 was getting a price drop. Then we finally got some details and found out that $50 was getting cut from the Premium SKUs tag. But now we know the whole truth.
    All 360 SKUs are getting a cut- Core by $20 to $279, Premium by $50 to $349, and Elite by $30 to $449. Weird. Doesn't really make a whole lot of sense to me, but then again, it's their product and they know more information about which SKUs needed a bigger price cut than others.
    However, it's curious as to why they didn't slash the Core down to $249 and bundle in a memory card with it so that it directly competes with the Wii. They really had an opportunity to capitalize on that I firmly believe they squandered- Average Joe would walk into the store and see the Wii and 360 at the same price, and all it would take is one look at the 360's graphics by comparison to the Wii's and it'd be over: 360 bought.

WEEKLY SAMPLER: AWW: GTA IV Delayed / LOL: Uwe Boll Sued / HARSH: Here Comes The Fuzz / WHA?: Guitar Hero-Band?

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

In The News (7/22-7/28)

Nintendo Raises Profit Forecast For The Year
    I may not like some of the decisions Nintendo has made in regards to the Wii, but I can't blame them- first and foremost, they're a business, and therefore, they're in it to make money, not friends. It seems like they're doing a fantastic job in that respect.
    They've increased their net income predictions by 40%. That's insane. The Wii and DS are just unstoppable beasts at this point thanks to Nintendo's decision to expand their market to non-gamers.
    Right now, all Sony and Microsoft can really do is fight over who gets to be the king of hardcore gamers, and all Nintendo can really do is keep counting their money from the casual and non-gamers.

Microsoft's Entertainment Division Losing Billions
    Ouch. In stark contrast to Nintendo upping their profit forecasts, Microsoft's entertainment division has suffered a $1.9 billion loss thanks to the red ring of death scandal, disappointing software sales, etc.
    This makes me wonder whether or not they'll be able to get out from under it all before the next generation hits. Microsoft still says they will, but I'm not too sure. Ever since the first Xbox came out, it's all been losses for Microsoft. It's almost confusing as to why they're still even staying in the games business if all they've done is lost billions of dollars.
    Besides, this couldn't have come at a worse time: Peter Moore just left to go to EA, the disc-scratching 360 issue just reached courts, and the red ring of death scandal is what causes this huge debt. Microsoft just can't seem to catch a break, can they?

Xbox 360 Getting A $50 Price Cut?
    Exactly the way the PS3's price cut was leaked, some retailers' ads have shown a $349 Premium SKU 360. Now, this is by no means confirmed yet, but it seems likely. Really the only issue here is to decipher what's actually happening.
    There are a couple possible explanations: This could just be a by-the-book price drop for all 360 SKUs even though only the Premium was shown, and this possibility would likely just be a response to Sony's temporary $100 price cut. Or it could just be a way to make room in the SKU lineup for the Halo 3 edition 360, so they drop the Premium's price to $349 and introduce the Halo 3 SKU at $399.
    Regardless, if this is true, Sony might want to prepare for another price cut, perhaps to $399. Otherwise, they might just find themselves even farther behind Microsoft and Nintendo. Let's hope this is confirmed/denied soon.

WEEKLY SAMPLER: 360 HD-DVD Price Drop / Gears PC Content Never On 360 / Eat, Sleep, Play / "Complete" GTA IV On 360

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

In The News (7/15-7/21)

    I don't know what to say. Life just keeps catching up to me, you know? Hopefully, starting now, there can be a return to form and I'll post more. I've got my E3 reactions feature and a few reviews to write up, so it's not like I've just run out of things to write about or anything; it's just about finding the time to write them.

Mario Party 8 Pulled In UK For Being "Spastic"
    This is the second game in the UK to be pulled to remove the word "spastic," since that word is apparently more offensive across the pond than here in the States.
    Tell me this, though: When did it stop being OK to offend someone? When did the change happen in the world where everything has to be politically correct? It used to be where, if something offended you, you'd just shrug it off and ignore it. But now, if something offends you, you work to get it removed from your life outright, no matter how much money it costs or how many people will be affected.
    Now, I get that Mario Party is supposed to be a "family" game and appropriate for everyone, but I think it's still pretty ridiculous to completely recall the game from store shelves just to remove one word that isn't even that bad- apparently the equivalent here is "retarded," which still doesn't strike me as justification to pull the game.
    Whatever. I guess asking people to just shrug something off and go about their day is simply too much to ask...

Microsoft Sued Over XBOX 360 Disc-Scratching
    Man, Microsoft just can't catch a break, can they? First, they get hounded about the red ring of death scandal until they're finally forced to confront the issue and pay up a billion dollars, and right when they think they're in the clear, BAM! Another lawsuit is slammed on their desks, this time over disc-scratching.
    Of course, this one isn't quite as bad for them, and if they lose, it won't cost them quite as much; I can't remember where I read it, but I think it's only a couple million, which is like a drop in the bucket at this point.
    It's still curious though, why the XBOX 360 has so many technical problems. I just don't understand why they released it if they knew it had those problems; and if they didn't know about them prior to launch, then they should have done better product testing, period.
    By all rights, this is still their fault, but I almost feel bad for them at this point.

Microsoft's Jeff Bell Calls Out Message Board Poster
    So this is actually a pretty funny story, but at the same time, it's pretty sad. Apparently a guy on the NeoGAF message boards, "a Master Ninja," was very critical of Jeff Bell's performance at Microsoft's E3 press conference. If you haven't seen it, just know that it was hilarious because the guy has no charisma whatsoever.
    In response to this, Jeff Bell himself sent a private message to "a Master Ninja," asking him, "and your contribution to society is... what?" It really was from Jeff Bell, which makes the whole situation that much better, especially when you consider that Jeff Bell's contribution to society is: Not a lot.
    This fiasco really illustrates why executives should always be on a leash from their PR people. Plain and simple, Jeff should've ignored "a Master Ninja," but seeing as how humorous the situation is from a bystander's point of view, I'm glad he didn't.

WEEKLY SAMPLER: Peter Moore Leaves Microsoft / Silicon Knights vs. Epic Games / Take Two Execs Plead Guilty / Bully Revamped For Wii/360 / I Will Kryll You

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Monday, July 16, 2007

In The News (7/8-7/14)

Rock Band To Offer Full-Length Albums
    Rock Band is going to absolutely destroy Guitar Hero. I almost feel bad for the poor bastards at Activision. They shell out lots of money buying Guitar Hero, make a quick buck, and then the old Guitar Hero guys decide it's time to take down their old franchise. It's an interesting situation.
    Well, for those of you who don't know, while Guitar Hero lets you solely play the lead/bass/rhythm guitars, Rock Band also lets you play the drums or sing, and all simultaneously to allow a group of four friends to simulate playing in a rock band. Rock Band has MTV and EA helping Harmonix, the original creators of Guitar Hero, so they're using all their weight to get the best songs they can. And they've gotten a lot.
    Rock Band is going to offer full-length albums for download, starting with The Who's "Who's Next." Not only that, but they plan on releasing new content every single week; Harmonix says they're looking at Rock Band more like a platform than a game.
    Guitar Hero III will get sales, sure, and I would imagine that Activision will try to milk the last few bucks out of the franchise before hanging up their guitars, but nonetheless, Guitar Hero is on Death's doorstep.

PS3 Price Cut Only Temporary
    If you've been doing any sort of monitoring of the community's reactions to gaming news, you know how easy it is for the general consensus to sway from positive to negative, like some emotion-powered pendulum. Well, it seems that Sony's pendulum just swung back to negative.
    The PS3's price drop and new 80GB SKU is apparently only a temporary thing- after they sell out the stock of the 60GB SKU, that's it; they're gone. Then they'll be back to a single $599 PS3 SKU, followed by an eventual price drop back to a more stable $499 for the 80GB SKU.
    If that all sounds confusing, it's because it is. To make it simple, let me put it to you this way: If you want perfect backwards compatibility, buy the 60GB SKU while it lasts, because it's your last chance to get a PS3 with the PS2's Emotion Engine built-in. Also, you shouldn't buy the 80GB unless you really want that extra 20GB, because the pack-in game, Motorstorm, can just be bought separately of the cheaper 60GB SKU, saving you $40.
    Personally, I had planned to keep my PS2 when I bought a PS3 anyway, so it's not really a big deal for me; it just means that when I do buy a PS3 (more details tomorrow or the next day), I'll be able to get one with an extra 20GB for $100 less.

Sony's Still Denying Rumble
    Ever since Immersion and Sony patched things up, people have been spreading rumors about when rumble would be put back into the PS3's SIXAXIS controller. Since E3 2007 has come and gone with no word, predictions have shifted to the announcement coming this September at the Tokyo Game Show.
    The thing is... Sony flat out denied that they had plans to put rumble back in, but that seems to mean nothing. After all, they did the same thing with the price drop: They denied that they had any plans of dropping the PS3's price, then a few days later, they announced that they were dropping the PS3's price. So Sony's word may not mean that much.
    Honestly, this is still good news for me, because that means that when I buy a PS3, it'll be $499 with 80GB and a rumble-enabled SIXAXIS controller. Sweet. My only question now is whether or not they'll be incorporating Immersion's "next-generation" rumble that Immersion announced last year that was supposed to revolutionize the rumbling word.

WEEKLY SAMPLER: Sony's GTA Plans / PSP Redesign! / PlayStation Marketplace? / Killzone 2: Then and Now

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Monday, July 9, 2007

In The News (7/1-7/7)

    Sorry for the delay. Combined with all my real life distractions, sifting through the extra load of E3 stuff made it harder to pick out the stuff I thought was worthy. Hopefully the new format for E3 will allow for some more organized news reporting, but probably not.

Red Rings of Death Nearly Kills Microsoft
    So it's not exactly a secret to anyone that the Xbox 360 isn't the most reliable of systems. Problems seemed isolated at first, but as the months went on, they kept stacking up, and Microsoft kept shrugging them off. 1UP even reported on a man who was on his 12th system.
    Well, it finally caught up to them, and so they've decided to own up and finally do something about it. They've extended every Xbox 360's warranties to three years and promised to reimburse those who have already paid to get their consoles fixed. It's going to cost them about a billion dollars.
    This is a bold move by Microsoft, and one that should have occurred a lot sooner. However, I don't want to focus on any negatives that this story has, because ultimately, it is good for everyone involved.
    Kudos to Microsoft, for (finally) owning up.

Sony Slashes PS3 Price, New SKU Added
    Well, that link leads to the story where Sony denies that there is a price cut, and this is the story from Sunday where Sony confirms it. Now, since this In The News is coming late, I'm just going to go ahead and talk about the price cut even though it technically happened the day after that week ended, just so I don't have to talk about it later.
    This is great news for anyone looking to buy a PS3- the current 60GB version dropped to $500 and a new 80GB version with Motorstorm packed in took the 60GB's previous price of $600. So, would I recommend you get the new SKU? Not really. You can buy Motorstorm for $60 and you probably won't need the 20GB of space.
    What's the benefit of adding this new SKU then? Well, it's because Sony didn't want to drop the price, but they were under too much pressure from retailers and developers. They simply had no choice but to drop the price. However, they also need to satisfy their stockholders right? So they introduce another SKU where they don't lose quite as much money per console as the 60GB version.
    Overall, it's a smart business decision. People get the price drop they wanted, and Sony doesn't lose quite as much money as they probably would've without the extra SKU.

PSN and XBL to Offer Free E3 DLC
    Aren't abbreviations fun? What that all means is that the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live are both going to offer free downloadable content to gamers who own a PS3 or 360. So while you're sitting at home during E3, you can download game demos, trailers, documentaries, press conference footage, and more.
    Honestly, it's stuff like this that makes me love where the this newest generation of gaming has taken us. Rather, it's taken the content straight to us in our homes. It gives us an inside look at things we probably wouldn't have gotten to see before. It allows Microsoft and Sony to deliver their messages directly to us.
    I guess my only gripe with it is that I've only got a Wii and a PS2, and neither of those offer those kinds of services. Obviously the PS2 wouldn't, but I'm really disappointed (though not surprised) that Nintendo failed to deliver that kind of service.

WEEKLY SAMPLER: Nintendo: 6, Sony: 1 / Hail to the ESA Chief / Capcom's New Fight / T. Hawk!

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Thursday, July 5, 2007

Fight For Your Right!

Adults-Only Games And You
    The Manhunt 2 controversy revealed something that many gamers, myself included, did not know: That Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft all refuse to even license Adults-Only rated games on their systems. I had assumed that developers at least had the option of making AO games, even if most stores would refuse to carry them.

    The reason why they don't allow AO games on their systems is so they can maintain the image of being "family-friendly." However, in keeping this policy, these companies are hindering the videogame industry as a whole, preventing games from becoming a respected art form.

    Whether or not you agree with or even like Manhunt 2, you should at least be able to see why banning AO-rated games is wrong. Why can't a game be appropriate only for adults? Why can't a developer make the game they want to make without it being censored? Why can't there be a market for adult games? Other entertainment mediums have healthy growth in that area, and by refusing those games, Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft are only limiting the industry.

    Therefore, if you feel that it is wrong to ban Adults-Only rated games, you are obligated to voice your opinion. You are obligated to send a message directly to Sony and Nintendo, just as I have. Write a calm, intelligent message expressing why you disagree with their anti-AO policy, then send it to Nintendo and to Sony. (They both have very convoluted contact forms, so send it to as many departments as you think are appropriate. I sent 3 copies of my message to Nintendo and 5 copies to Sony.)

    This is my message that I sent to Nintendo (obviously I edited it before sending it to Sony):

    I disagree with Nintendo's policy to refuse to license Adults Only-rated games. To help videogames be taken seriously as a legitimate art form, we have to accept their content as an extension of the creator's mind, whatever that content may be and regardless of whether or not we agree with it.

    Therefore, I must request that Nintendo reconsider their position to refuse to license Manhunt 2 in its current state- an AO-rated game. There is no conceivable reason why there cannot be a market for games that are appropriate only for adults. As evidenced by movies of extreme content like SAW and HOSTEL, this market can be profitable.

    Videogames are still in their infancy, and must be allowed to grow freely to develop and flourish into a true art. If we give in to those who wish to hamper this progress and who do not take videogames as art seriously, then we have done nothing more than prove to them that they are right, and that videogames are not art.

    Furthermore, with Nintendo's renewed commitment to shedding its "kiddy" image and becoming more mainstream, there would be no better way to show that Nintendo is serious about branching out to a more mature audience than having the first console to allow an Adults Only-rated game.

    Nintendo is in a position to show the world that videogames are something to be taken seriously. Please do not let this go to waste.

-Thomas Ella

    Please support the cause. Hopefully they'll listen.

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Sunday, July 1, 2007

In The News (6/24-6/30)

1UP's GTA IV Trailer Analysis
    So I've probably watched it at least 20 to 25 times... Seriously. I love this Grand Theft Auto IV trailer that Rockstar released last week. The energy and flow of it is perfect, and shows a lot of new little play mechanics. I just keep finding new details every time I watch it. Here it is in case you haven't seen it:
    Now, to get the analysis of the trailer, just click here. It's really interesting. They point out stuff like the added draw distance, some interesting graffiti, the way Nico is always checking the mirror when driving, etc.
    Honestly, there's not much industry analysis that can be done here; I just thought it was a badass trailer and felt stupid for not having made a news post the day it came out. If you want an analysis of the movie, again, click here, but if you want one of my typical analysis where I connect it to the industry as a whole... Eh. Just pretend like I just talked about the sales of the game being crazy or how the PS3 and 360 versions will differ or something like that.
    By the way, the song in the trailer is "Arm in Arm (Shy Child Remix)" by The Boggs.

WiiWare: Original Downloadable Wii Games
    So, you know how Microsoft and Sony have been giving you new, original games that you can download? Well, the Wii's finally going to start doing that... next year. That's right folks; it's not in that particular story, but it is in this one- WiiWare won't be happening until early 2008.
    What I want to know is why this is taking so long. I've heard die-hard Wii loyalists say that I shouldn't complain because of the Virtual Console, but let's face it... Those are all old games. You can't use those as an excuse for why there haven't been new ones- why not just release only old games from now on, huh? Who needs new games?
    But that's just taking a positive story and finding the one negative thing about it. I'm really looking forward to this, even though when I first read the start date, I was pretty upset. The possibilities of what independent developers can do on Wii compared to the PS3 or 360 should be really impressive, even if they won't look that great.
    Besides, maybe now some of these mini-game collections can just be downloadable and we won't have to pay full retail price for them.

ESRB Cracking Down on Violent Game Trailers?
    It's official: The ESRB is fully in survival mode now. First Manhunt 2, and now this? Hm. Trailers that have been up for months of such violent games as Gears of War, Dark Sector, and The Darkness have been given notice that they need to be taken down. As 1UP points out, the Gears videos had been up since January. Meaning half a year had passed. Wow.
    So why is this happening now? Again, the ESRB is in survival mode, and they're prepared to do anything to make it look like they can police the videogame industry. That includes censoring trailers which may have offensive content.
    But should they be? I really don't think that they need to be censored to that extent. For instance, in a trailer for Manhunt 2, I don't think they need to show you cutting off a man's genitals and force-feeding them to him before decapitating him to let you know what this game is all about. But they certainly shouldn't just show fluffy bunnies hopping around. You have to know what kind of a game you're getting. If they show something that doesn't look too bad for Manhunt 2, someone might get the wrong impression and buy it for their son.
    It's one thing to censor a game's content. It's a whole other thing to censor the footage from that game.

WEEKLY SAMPLER: Republicans & Democrats Stand Together / Games Shouldn't Be Singled Out / Gaming Addiction Not A Disorder / WiiSaber In The Works?

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Shadow of the Colossus Review

    I'm going to be frank- when I first started Shadow of the Colossus, I hated it. I hated how the character, Wander, was so very awkward as opposed to the normal badass I'm used to controlling in a videogame. I hated how the controls felt needlessly unconventional. I hated the horse, Agro, because he was so stubborn and hard to control.

    But then, something changed. I started to appreciate how Wander was so different and felt more...real. I started to appreciate that the strange controls only added to that feeling of awkwardly trying to find a way to fell a massive beast hundreds of times my size. I still hate that goddamn horse though, but I'll get to him later.

    In most games, you fight hordes of mindless drones, maybe a sub-boss or two, then take on the main attraction, the big boss. And when you're done, you move on, no big deal- you've slain plenty of baddies before, so why should he be any different? In Shadow, that doesn't really apply, and thank God for that.

    At first, I was pretty skeptical at how it all would work. I mean, 16 boss fights and no grunt enemies? Didn't really make a lot of sense to me. But, as with a lot of Shadow's unique qualities, they take some time to fully appreciate. Each boss fight felt absolutely creative and epic. You're just a scrawny teenager facing off against a huge and daunting creature, and you actually win. It's a feeling of accomplishment that is severely lacking in most games- when you finally fell a's a rush. It's one of the few moments where a videogame has made me feel literally proud of something I've done, something I've accomplished.

    But Shadow did something else as well: It made me feel guilty. Some of the Colossi will just outright attack you the moment they lay eyes on you, and I took an admittedly morbid pleasure in slaying those few. But some of the Colossi ignore you until you attack them. Some of the Colossi refuse to attack you, even when you're stabbing them to death. They'll cry out in pain, writhing around, trying with all their might just to save themselves from this little parasite that's killing them.

    And that's what you are to them- a mere parasite. Imagine if you saw an ant crawling on your toe. Do you honestly consider it to be any sort of threat? Of course not. But what if that ant just kept crawling? Soon it's on your leg, now your back, and now it's on the back of your neck at your brain stem. Now it bit you, and you're in searing pain, trying in vain to shake and claw and do whatever it takes to get that ant the fuck off of you. That's what the Colossi are going through.

    One of the best moments I've ever had in gaming to date actually came from Shadow of the Colossus for that specific reason: One of the Colossi has you dangling from his hand, examining you as though you were a fairly amusing insect. It's just an utterly captivating moment. And the game's story, while minimalistic, is actually pretty moving, something rare in videogames. Without giving too much away, I've never been a big fan of happy endings where everything just conveniently all works out in the end, so I loved this one.

    It'd be a crime not to at least mention some of the sweeping and powerful melodies that play as you deal with each Colossi. To be perfectly honest, they made me feel like a hero- here I am, hanging on for dear life on top of a beast hundreds of feet tall, stabbing it in the head with a shining sword, trumpets blaring and drums pounding. It's truly amazing. I'm proud to say that I own that soundtrack. And the land, characters, and environment all share a gorgeous art style that really accentuates those feelings I just mentioned.

    But let's go over some of the negatives now. Yeah, those graphics I just talked about? The PS2...has a bit of a hard time keeping up. The frame rate suffers, though never enough to significantly affect your enjoyment, but you will notice it at the very least. And the limitations of your character? Yeah, those can get a little annoying at times. Also, one Colossi is like a bull and just a really poorly designed fight- I got knocked down almost immediately, then the moment I got up... BOOM! Knocked down again. Rinse and repeat for about half an hour. Yeah, not fun. (The two bull Colossi in the game were the ones I took morbid pleasure in killing, by the way.)

    Finally, Agro, the horse, is just DUMB. I get that it's supposed to be more realistic that he doesn't come to you all the time because that's apparently what real horses do, but dammit! This is supposed to be a game first and a horse simulator never. So out in the field when we're just chilling, that's fine, I don't really mind. But when I'm about to become nothing more than a small splat on the bottom of a Colossus' fat foot? Not so fine. And the last thing I feel it's necessary to mention about Agro is that he tends to pull one way or another, guiding himself (like a real horse would I guess), which is actually great on narrow, windy bridges because you don't have to steer him at all, but going through areas full of trees is a different story- the idiot heads straight for a tree, rears back and turns around, so I'll try to take over, but with him pulling every which way, I'm still going to end up with nostrils full of bark.

    All in all, Shadow of the Colossus is a fantastic and moving game that is one of the rare few to give you a sense of accomplishment and question your actions.
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Sunday, June 24, 2007

In The News (6/17-6/23)

The Road to Manhunt 2
    Even if you never played it, like me, you've probably at least heard of Rockstar's Manhunt. It was one of the most violent, savage games around, and didn't exactly get the support of politicians and angry white-haired lawyers. Many wondered how Rockstar could top itself if/when a sequel would be made. Well, they have. Manhunt 2 was just banned in Britain, in America, and in Ireland.
     I find it completely ridiculous that the movie industry practically has free reign to do whatever they please, releasing unrated movies and having X-rated theaters, but the videogame industry isn't even allowed to have games made specifically for adults.
    So now Rockstar has to rework Manhunt 2 to get a Mature rating so that it can actually be published, considering Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft's policy that forbids an AO-rated game to even be made for their respective consoles.
    The whole thing is absolutely ludicrous. I'm not disputing the legality of the situation, since Sony and Nintendo have every right to ban it from their consoles, but I just don't understand why we can't have games that aren't appropriate for minors. But you know what the kicker is in all of this? 1UP and GameSpot both agree that Manhunt 2 isn't even the most gruesome game they've ever played.

Microsoft Is Suing Immersion
    Immersion, the guys who put the "shock" in "Dual Shock 2," had just wrapped up their little $90 million legal matter, but now they're back in court, but this time, they're the defendants.
    Apparently, Microsoft made Immersion sign a deal that Immersion would pay Microsoft a certain amount of money in the event that Immersion and Sony settled. Immersion doesn't feel like that's necessary since they never technically settled with Sony; they've just got a new business deal. Microsoft obviously feels otherwise.
    Immersion doesn't really have much of a defense, and they know it considering how uncertain they sound in whether or not they'll win. So what does any of this mean for us gamers? Potentially nothing, potentially everything. On one hand, we as gamers realistically won't be too affected. This is a business thing- something that probably won't affect us, the end-users.
    But I'm just saying... If I were Sony, I would wait until Immersion loses the case, then buy them up and refuse to continue licensing rumble out to Microsoft. It'd be poetic irony.

Blacksite: Area 51 Gets Political
    Most games don't bother trying to convey a message, especially a political one. Most games would rather not offend anyone or have that sort of controversy. But occasionally, a game comes along and tries to deliver that message. Generally these are received with mixed results- sometimes it's too heavy with its message, sometimes too deep, and sometimes so incredibly convoluted that you almost didn't even know there was a political message like Killer7.
    But that's not to say that games should just avoid political messages. I mean, movies, books, and TV shows have plenty of themes to influence the audience. So why not games? Well, it's hard, to be frank. Games have to worry about sacrificing gameplay to have a message. A game can have something incredibly to say, but at the end of the day, if it isn't fun, gamers aren't going to be listening.
    Therefore, it's nice to see Blacksite: Area 51 trying to incorporate a political message. Hopefully, this will be one of the first games in recent years to say something about politics, and still be a successful game underneath.

WEEKLY SAMPLER: Shock Market / 380 Games / The Stratocaster / Mini-Master Chief

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Difficulty Issues, Part II

    Yeah, so... I'm lazy. I think that's pretty obvious considering Part II of my Difficulty Issues feature is dropping 23 days after the first one when I meant to write it a mere week after. Oh well. Let's just skip any more theatrics and just get started:

    Let's cover the merits (and demerits) of a challenging game with no shortage of "GAME OVER" screens compared to a game that strives to be more story and character-driven. In the last Difficulty Issues, we explored this a little bit. On one hand, you've got a game that's trying to just be a game- it challenges the player to try harder, punishes a lack of skill, and offers a very real reward (that feeling of accomplishment) at the end. Those kinds of games typically don't place too much emphasis on story elements.

    Then you've got your other kind of game: The game that doesn't push the player too hard or worries too much about skill because the experience is all about being story and character-driven. This type of games strives to tell a tale that can capture the player's imagination and immerse the player in the experiences of the character on-screen.

    Each side has a valid argument. Most games fail to offer any sort of reasonable compromise: By trying to appeal to the folks who want motivation and character-development and a powerful story, the mechanics probably aren't going to be as good as they should be. By trying to appeal to the folks who like a challenge and just want to skip the pointless cut scenes and play the damn game already since it's not a movie, the story is probably going to appear forced and unnatural.

    But for those games that try to appeal to both, what are they to do? Challenging the gamer interrupts the story, but making it too easy to promote the story removes any challenge. It's a tricky thing to do.

    For times like this, I like to call upon my favorite game franchise, God of War, to settle things. God of War offers both experiences: Easy and Normal modes if you just want to blaze through the gameplay and have an amazing and cinematic story experience, and both a Hard and unlockable Very Hard mode if you don't mind a lot of those "GAME OVER" screens.

    Something I think I haven't done so well in the past on my blog is that I've tried to be impartial on these features, very much unlike my reviews. That's going to change: I'll tell you straight up, when it comes to choosing between a difficult, but rewarding gameplay experience with little to no story elements and a game that has a badass story that captivates me throughout, even if it is a little too easy... Well, I'm going with the story.

    Truly great videogame stories are hard to come by, but offer so much more than a typical movie experience- you can connect and relate with a character much better than when you're simply watching that character. Videogames truly are amazing in that respect.

    Again I'll bring up God of War- I absolutely loved the story. It was dark, violent, compelling, and epic in scope. It may not be as deep as a true Ancient Greek mythology tale, but I'll be damned if it isn't more entertaining. Kratos is such a badass in that game that it's not even funny. For Christ's sake, he's already died and crawled out of Hades twice, killed his god half-brother Ares, taken Ares' place as the God of War, and now he's trying to kill his father Zeus, the King of the freaking Gods! Can it get more badass than that? NO.

    Now, the gameplay itself is amazing, but on that Very Hard mode, I simply couldn't stand it. After hours of frustration, I'd finally get to a part that sets up a big, dramatic moment, but it's simply too hard and I've got to do it over and over again. Any dramatic, "holy shit that was awesome!" feeling you get is diminished after seeing it six times in a row.

    That's just me, and I'm unapologetic in that view. I value a good story over a lot of things in a game, even though I can't bring myself to skip cut scenes, even if the story is terrible. For instance, read Reverend Anthony of's quasi-review of Call of Juarez and tell me you wouldn't sacrifice a little gameplay finesse for that story.

    You know that moment when you first see a kickass boss, right? Maybe he used to be your friend, maybe he's fucking huge, maybe he just looks awesome; it doesn't matter- seeing him the first time is awesome in the truest sense of the word. After he kicks your ass sideways about eight times, is it still as dramatic and "no way!" when you see the "big reveal" again? In my experience, never.

    So, if you think I'm wrong, convince me. Which is more important to you, story or a challenge? And is it worth it to give up that "holy shit!" moment to get that challenge?
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Sunday, June 17, 2007

In The News (6/10-6/16)

GTA IV Episodic Content Exclusive to 360
    GTA IV is probably going to be the biggest selling game this holiday season, especially since it's being released from day one on both PS3 and XBOX 360. Many gamers have wondered which will be crowned the superior of the two, with the PS3-loyalists arguing that the lack of a standard hard drive or "next-gen" disc format on the 360 will make the PS3 version superior. Well, it appears that XBOX 360 loyalists have the ammunition they need: GTA IV on 360 is going to have exclusive episodic content.
    Apparently Microsoft paid Rockstar a cool $50 million for two episodic releases, one in March '08, and the other later that year. That's great for 360 gamers, but what incentive can there possibly be now for on-the-fence gamers to side with the PlayStation 3 version? Will they get their own exclusive episodic content or other extras?
    Sony's going to need to pony up the dough if they want GTA IV to help them sell some systems, period. If they leave this unchecked, then Microsoft's small army of AAA exclusives, (Halo 3, Bioshock (for now), Mass Effect, Too Human, Ace Combat 6, etc), and bevy of multi-platform titles, (GTA IV, Blacksite: Area 51, Half-Life 2: Orange Box, Guitar Hero 3, Rock Band, Kane & Lynch, etc), could just overshadow the PS3 this holiday season.

SIXAXIS With Rumble In Development
    Finally. After the messy lawsuit Sony had with Immersion cleared up, everyone predicted that the PS3 would be getting the spring in its step back; even Cory Barlog, director of God of War II, unofficially announced it months prior. But now there are whispers, rumbles if you will, of a new SIXAXIS controller being in development, with added rumble.
    That's excellent news, even if it can't be verified (we'll have to wait until E3 in July for that). Now, two good points that blog points out are how Sony can re-introduce rumble back after declaring it to be not a "next-gen" feature, and the best way for Sony to go about replacing the old SIXAXIS controllers.
    As for the first issue, I think all they need to do is just trot Phil Harrison out there- I remember watching an interview between's former news editor Luke Smith and Sony's Phil Harrison where Luke asked specifically about that. Phil smiled smugly and replied with something to the effect of "well what did you expect us to say?" Marvelously put.
    And for the latter issue, that blog outlined their plan, where they would pull the old SIXAXIS controllers from shelves and offer consumers a free upgrade. While I completely agree with the first sentiment, and appreciate the second from a purely consumer's point-of-view, that could get extremely costly for Sony, who already went through something similar with laptop batteries. Charging consumers $10 a pop to upgrade would be more reasonable.

XBOX 360 vs. PS3 Graphics Comparison Round 2
    One of the reasons why I've been gravitating away from GameSpot and towards over the years is that doesn't do stupid stuff like that. GameSpot is obviously just trying to stir up some controversy by sicking the 360 and PS3 fanboys on one another.
    First of all, these games aren't going to push either platform all that much- they're multi-platform, after all. The real test is between games that have been built from the ground up for their respective console.
    Second, the XBOX 360 is on its second-generation of games. It's been out for a year and a half now, whereas the PS3 only has half a year under its belt and was only released very recently in Europe and Korea. So the fact that the PS3's graphics look almost as good or better than the 360's graphics is a testament to the system, no thanks to the increasingly irrelevant GameSpot.
    Finally, who honestly cares? Do you buy a system because the games look marginally better on that system? No, of course not; you buy a system for the exclusives. This comparison is completely moot since these games have to be compared frame-by-frame (and sometimes zoomed in) just so you can pick out the most minute little differences.
    Again, who cares?

WEEKLY SAMPLER: Halo DS? / Wii = XBOX / L.A. Noire PS3 Only / Guile HD Remix

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Friday, June 15, 2007

God of War: Betrayal Speculation/Significance

    Honestly, what gamer seriously plays games on their cell phones nowadays? Do you? I don't.

    That could be set to change when God of War: Betrayal is available within the next few months- this is a AAA franchise branching out to grace cell phones with its presence, and that could just be enough to get people to take cell phone gaming a little more seriously. Betrayal could just be the catalyst in popularizing the cell phone as a true gaming platform.

    I don't think so though. I think that this is an amazing achievement and it looks surprisingly faithful (and fun) to its console roots, but I don't see it helping cell phones that much. There are simply too many problems with cell phones as a viable platform. It's not like the console or handheld market, where every system is the same. It's not even like the PC market, where they're all different, but not so radically that games can't be produced. Many cell phones are capable of playing games, but their owners are either confused as to whether or not their phone is capable, or they're simply not interested.

    I don't see Betrayal changing that, though I'm still excited for it.

    The game looks great- the graphics themselves aren't fantastic, but the animation is excellent, especially for a cell phone. It's still as incredibly brutal and over-the-top as ever, and this might just be me, but the simpler, more to-the-point graphics actually make the game seem more violent. I know that probably doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but seeing someone get ripped in half when the graphics are more basic just shows you exactly what's happening in a clearer picture. I just feel like if I play this on a public bus, someone's going to look over my shoulder and go, "did he just... just rip that guy's... BLARGH!" and just throw up all over me. By no means should they tone that down though.

    Now, on the story, I've heard a rumor that it takes place between the first and second games, and involves Kratos being framed for killing the goddess Hera's favorite pet. I suppose at that point, once the gods turn their back on him, Kratos has to go on a lengthy journey to find the real killer or something. Apparently the gameplay is sort of shallow, yet still fun (it looked to me like there would be only one, maybe two attack buttons), so the story is supposed to be the real selling point.

    I really need to find out if my phone can play this.

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