Archive for January 2010

Blue Shells vs. Predator Missles

January 30, 2010

I’m back on the Call of Duty train.  Losing as per usual, but that’s fine it’s still loads of fun with the few kills I get per match.  I’ve logged a little over an hour into multi-player and I am currently level 6 for those interested.  I haven’t found a good steady stream of matches yet, I’ve only been able to play 1 or 2 at a time before problems of a various sort occur and I have to log out.

I’m certainly not the only one playing either, by last check I was ranked somewhere in the 7 millions worldwide and it’s probably dropped about a million or so since I did check.  Thats a crap load of people, and being that so many people are hooked on this game some chatter among podcasts, blogs and forum threads is inevitable.  One complaint I’ve seen often is the fact that in Call of Duty if your team is losing, you more often than not lose by a landslide thanks to killstreaks and the like.  This is something I can agree with and is nothing new.  In this Call of Duty and 4 many of my matches ended with the winning team doubling the score of our own, or vice versa.  But with all the new and more devastating killstreaks this gap in the scores just becomes wider even among more experienced players and not just scrubs like myself.

Now I’m not saying this is a bad thing, I’m just pointing out the Infinity Ward chose to reward skilled players with more advantages over the competition.  I can’t say I disagree, they earned that tactical nuclear strike and they should be able to use it.

But let’s flip the coin for a second and look at a multi-player game that hinders skilled players to give inexperienced players a chance, Mario Kart.  Back in April of 2008 when Mario Kart Wii came out the same types of chatter started appearing over various media forms but not as in much volume.  This is an issue as old as Mario Kart itself and those of us who have played these games before know it comes with the territory.  It seems like every race the leader of the pact will get absolutely demolished by blue shells, lighting bolts, and crazy characters in a star induced kart rage.  It’s common to be leading a race right until the closing seconds only to get demolished and finish dead last.  I think what really enrages the populace about this method is the sheer randomness of it all as opposed to Modern Warfare where you’ll always get that Nuke after a 25 kills.

Bear in mind that I’m not claiming preference over one or the other I’m just pointing out the differences and the obvious fact that you can’t please everyone.  If I had to lean towards a side thought it would probably be Mario Kart’s way, mostly because I can tend to take all that damage and still finish first if I’m playing with people my skill level.  Whereas it’s a red-letter day if I’m finishing first in a Call of Duty match no matter what the skill level of the players are.

I suppose there is no clear way of defining a method of leveling the playing field.  There will always be those crazy kids who do nothing but play a certain game all day every day.  And those kids will always dominate and cause other kids to scream obscenities and racial slurs over their headsets, or just drop out of the match.  And those kids will in turn infuriate the rest of us who just want to have fun playing the game.

New Look Inspired by Old Imagery

January 24, 2010

I’ve used some of my spare time here lately to try and craft a more cohesive look for the site and I think it’s gone fairly well.  The header image is from Super Mario World for those who don’t recognize it right off hand.  I was inspired to chose this after recently beating the 8th world of New Super Mario Bros. Wii.  That and I also love the art style of that game with the gigantic thumb shaped mountains in the background which I’m happy to see in the new game as well.

I think there’s a lot of things people see in that game that makes them happy.  The  original Super Mario Bros. was such a major touchstone for so many people, the result being that this game has so much to offer that people can look at and say “Hey I remember playing this” and get excited.  That being said it’s not too surprising that the game having been out only 3 months is already the 5th best selling Wii game of all time.  I find myself wondering about all those people who picked this game up with those thoughts in mind think  about the difficulty.  It can be really hard sometimes and I wonder how the average Wii, who hasn’t played many games, deals with this.  I’ve watched my girlfriend and her roommate try and cope with this difficulty be using no less that 50 continues each across 2 saves files to get to th 4th world.  They have admirable determination, but do others who picked this game up on a nostalgic whim have the same determination.  I certainly hope so cause in the end it’s a great game they should be experienced by all those who played and loved the original Mario.

My own experience with the game is hopefully not over.  I have beaten Bowser, but I hope to find the time to collect all th coins in each world to unlock all the levels of World 9.  This promises to be a time consuming task so I don’t expect to accomplish it any time soon.  But the very fact that there is a secret 9th world is very exciting to me it conjures up the sheer mythological aura of the Special World in Super Mario World.

I never owned Super Mario World as a child, but my brother did and he let me play it from time to time.  He got to the Special World and beaten all the levels, while I could barely putter through the last levels of the regular game.  I would often play his save file just to see the bizarre levels in the Special World which had crazy names such as “Tubular” “Gnarly” and “Way Cool”.  These levels, despite having easy going names, were ridiculously hard and even today playing them on my Wii’s Virtual Console port of Mario World I have significant trouble.  I just wish they hadn’t made the access to World 9 so tedious, I can see a future of many 4 letter words coming out of my mouth.

The Multi player element of the game is something I explored for the first few worlds playing with inexperience Mario players.  The type of players who’s natural instinct is to not hold down the right button of whatever controller their playing to get Mario to run.  I had a lot of fun but I can’t say that they did. You see I’m kind of a asshole playing this game, any opportunity I see to stop on someone’s face mid-jump, throw allies off ledges or balls out sprint  through the level leaving my cohorts behind I take without hesitation.  But any game is more fun with multiple people right? Sure and this is too, just a different kind of fun, it just makes the whole process a bit slower.

It is a great game the hearkens back to a simpler time when jumping on goombas and flagpoles was all we needed for satisfaction.  I just hope it will hold my attention in the coming wake of a big ole release I’ve been waiting for quite some time, Mass Effect 2.

It comes out in 3 days and I cannot wait.

Authencity of Assassins

January 19, 2010

The lamp posts in Assassin’s Creed 2’s Venice are strikingly accurate according to my girlfriend.  That’s the incredible level of detail put into this game.  I’ve made it a point to try and play it as much as I can with her around.  A few years ago she took a trip to Italy to study abroad and stayed in some of the very same locations featured in the game and since Italy hasn’t changed much in the past half a century the scenery is very familiar to her.  She just recently showed me some of her sketches she took while in Venice and I have to say those lamp posts are pretty darn similar.  She has also told me that many of the famous buildings in the game are almost picture perfect with her memory and even their adjacent surrounds are mapped out accurately.

This is something that has made me 100% more interested in what is already a great game.  Being a stealthy Batman-esque assassin is cool and all, but it’s made all the better by knowing that i’m walking down a pretty good recreation of famous Italian cities.

The artwork featured in the game is also another thing that has captured our attention.  She is also an art major and studied art while in Italy so a lot of the paintings you can by for your villa she recognizes and saw in person.  Me not being super into old art as she is has found something new  to get into by buying all the art I can so I can show it to her and not just increase the value of my villa, although that does help.

I can’t say that I’ve ever played a game with this much authentic detail to the real world or past events.  Well maybe I have but not one that has jumped out at me like this and I can say it’s because I have someone with the knowledge of these things to help me get excited about seeing them.  I can’t imagine how cool this experience would be had I been to Italy myself.  I know games like GTA: IV have tried to recreate a modern American experience akin to living in New York City, but have lived in the NC for most of my life that doesn’t really resonate with me.  Also I know that GTA is based in a fictional city and I’m fairly sure they don’t try to recreate any famous locations or small details about NYC.

I’ve often tried to imagine if someone tried to create a game set in familiar territory to me.  The back roads of North Carolina might not sound like a very fun experience, but I’m sure there’s an idea to make this setting a fun and interesting one.  I can almost imagine being a bootleg moonshiner in the 20’s smuggling alcohol down old back roads and avoiding the cops.  OK maybe that’s not the best idea in the world  but I still think these more real world locations that people can relate to in open world games should be explored further if for nothing else so I can visit far off lands while sitting on my lazy butt.

How Uncharted 2 Stole My Heart

January 18, 2010

I have a confession to make, I haven’t seen a single Indiana Jones movie.  Being a child of the 80’s this seems like kind of a big deal.  I can’t really say why I never did it just didn’t happen.  I was a big fan of the Stars Wars movies so would think with Harrison Ford being with both it would be a simple transition but nope I have zero experience with Indy and his exploits.  Perhaps this virgin territory explains why I loved just about everything in Uncharted 2.  This game was the recipient of many Game of the Year awards from several different publications, so I definitely wasn’t the only one who enjoyed it.  It’s not hard to see why, the game is drop dead gorgeous and is absolutely dripping with charm.  The Gears of War inspired stop and pop shooting combined with the wild acrobatics of Nathan Drake makes the action on par with any other game I’ve played in a long time.  It’s simple, it’s addictive and it’s flay out fun.  But I think the thing I liked most about Uncharted 2 was it’s characters.  They were great characters straight out of a Hollywood blockbuster and just made me smile while watching the cuts cenes.  But not only did they make the cut scenes enjoyable to watch they gave and extra bit of enjoyment to the action set pieces with their interactions with one another while everything was going down.  Nathan Drake is especially good for this. He is constantly reacting to the world around him whether it be a enemy tank and wondering why they would need one or commenting on the sound of a helicopter gatling gun warming up and how that’s not a good thing. It’s these little touches the give the game and Nathan great character.

The game is not without it’s problems though.  It seems like more often than not I was rolling when I wanted to go for cover and sure enough after that imprecise roll poor Nate would get shotgunned in the face.  Tragic really, if only the fine folks at Naughty Dog would have made the roll and duck for cover buttons separate I would have been saved from many a death screen.  Also the final boss battle was kinda tedious and not as fun as just fighting regular guys.  It was like they took all the fun cover mechanics from the other 99% of the game and made it a crazy game of cat and mouse where you couldn’t stand still for more than a second.  Finally the loading times were unlike anything I’ve ever seen, maybe even worse than the loading times in the Playstation port of Chrono Trigger.  But I imagine the price to pay for how gorgeous the game looks.

Despite these minor quips with parts of the game it was the best game I played in 2009 even if I did play the bulk of it in 2010.  It is simply a must play for anyone who enjoys games period.  Everybody and their mama should run out and purchase this wonderful game right now if they haven’t done so already.

Now that I’ve finished my broken and disjointed gushing over this game I think I’ll go and play some Uncharted.

Until next time kids!

Bombcast of Giant Proportions

January 5, 2010

I just wanted to write a short post to praise a certain gaming podcast that has filled a void of entertainment in my life.  Like many others I listened to and followed 1up Yours for quite some time and it was by far my favorite podcast, perhaps my favorite form of non interactive entertainment, for a while. And like many others I was devastated when 1 year ago this month a good portion of the 1up staff got laid off along with most of the cast of 1up Yours.  Sure Garnett kept it chugging along but without the smarmy attitude of Shane the podcast just wasn’t the same. All of this was topped off later on this year when Garnett decided to leave 1up and John got a job at Gamepro.  The podcast was then picked up by Dave which ,no offense to him, I have officially unsubscribed to 1up yours or as they’re calling now 4 Guys 1Up.  I just haven’t been as compelled to listen to each podcast even with the dry humor of Jeremy invading most of their episodes.  So what’s a gaming enthusiast seeking a funny podcast to do?

Enter the Giant Bombcast.

After reading about the Bombcast I decided to give it a try and I have to say I do like this better than the 1up Yours of old.  Jeff, Vinny, Ryan and Brad have the funniest chemistry I can imagine 4 nerds sitting around recording a show about talking about video games can have.  It makes me laugh harder than most things and I can appreciate that.

I don’t really know what else to say besides it’s great and everyone should check it out.

Really, do it now.