Feature, Video Games

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Review | Metal Gear Tuesdays

The day that all of the haters, skeptical fans, and Bayonetta fans have been waiting for is here, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is here! But is Revengeance the sharpest tool in the drawer? Come on, I’ll feed you, baby birds!

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360)
Plays Like: Devil May Cry and this cutscene from Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots had a baby.
Difficulty: Mid, with a well paced learning curve.  

Since the original announcement of Rising‘s existence as a spin-off series, I’ve been eagerly anticipating more Metal Gear, knowing well that the spin-off would be a twist on the traditional MG gameplay made me all the more excited. I’ve never been a huge fan of Cyborg Raiden Mk. II of MGS4 fame (preferring his weak and “normal” version from MGS2 personally), but I love me some Japanese hack-n-slash action games, especially from the boys over at Platinum Games.

For those of you that saw my gameplay time with the demo, you probably remember my fears about the combat system getting tiresome over time, or the lack of other weapons hampering the main title, well, all those fears were for naught! Rising is kick-ass, fast-paced, and a hell of a lot of fun! Crank up some cheese metal and let’s get to dissecting this game!

Revengeance starts off with a brief cutscene and then that’s it, the game starts and never really slows down. One second you’re fighting a gigantic Metal Gear RAY, much larger than any other RAY in a Metal Gear game, then you’re on a train fighting Jetstream Sam, Raiden’s rival and Antonio Bandaras impersonator. The game feels like Zone of the Enders, in the way that you swim around the game world drifting in and out of battles, except with loads more gore and a much more over-the-top mentality. It’s like every idea that was thrown out by the writing and conceptual team just stuck, regardless of how ridiculous it was, and it just works so well.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure if the game just was less ridiculous than I expected or if the game just presents the player with its view of “normal” so quickly that it just all feels right, but the game never really felt as corny as it really should have. I mean, the characters are all ridiculous and super stereotypes, and the plot seems to bend reality and the possible at every step of the way to make room for Raiden’s quest to be the best bad-ass to ever fight for justice and peace, but it’s never to such an absurd level that it makes you feel weird about it as a player. The world sets expectations and follows them, but not in a mundane way. It’s odd… like Adam West’s depiction of Batman, it all just feels… right. Really right.

And the gameplay fits just the same. It’s all just super fluid, fleshed out, simple yet complex, and so addicting, even if it doesn’t seem like it would be at first. Revengeance is the first game this year that I’ve stopped playing and craved playing it more while I was away. It just all makes sense. Platinum Games really pulled a number with this title, from the gameplay and performance to the pacing of the boss fights and reward system, all in a little over two years. Which brings me to my next point: this game is tough as nails as you progress into New Game+/higher difficulty territory. The tutorial level, in a sense, acts as a gut-check for all players, even in New Game+ modes, striping you of your power-ups and add-ons and forcing you to rely on your instincts and fighting mechanic expertise every time you start a new game. The game hits you with uneven odds sometimes, but every fight, besides the final boss fight, is fair. Nothing beats the feeling that you get after you’ve overcome a giant group of enemies, ranging from bigger bads to smaller foot soldiers, by parrying tons of attacks and chaining together blade-mode kills. Oh… sweet, sweet blade mode. Mmmmmmmmmmmm.

Overall, if you’re not into purely action based titles, or don’t like gore and massive amounts of violence in your video games, this one isn’t for you. However, if you miss a simpler time in video games, when the mechanics of a title were fairly easy to learn, but the mastering of the mechanics took hours and hours of practice and culminated in a triumphant endorphin release of glory as you destroyed the game’s big bads, then strap yourself in. This game is a blast! It’s a combination of the giant number of unlockables, VR missions, extra difficulty settings, enjoyable pacing, fast and addictive gameplay, and promise for actually interesting sounding DLC (involving playing as Jetstream Sam, some missions as Bladewolf, Raiden’s canine robo companion, and having a talking Solid Snake wooden sword) that make this game such a treat. Some folks may shy away from the $60 price-tag, but I definitely think that where the six hour or so campaign leaves you hanging as far as time x dollar spent, the number of extras and replay value more than make up for it.

PROS:

– A new Metal Gear game, and hopefully the start to a nice spin-off series or series of spin-offs.

– Goofy, over-the-top, storyline and music actually make this whole experience coalesce in a way that I didn’t think was possible.

– Super fluid, thought requiring, minimalist combat that is also extremely addicting

– Unlockables in a modern video game?! YES!

CONS:

– It ends.

– PS3 exclusive DLC

– Gray Fox Skin and Fox Blade only available through Gamestop pre-order

Video Games

The Phantom Pain | Metal Gear Mondays

As much as I would love to keep talking about Metal Gear Solid, I feel the need to turn your attention to something more current this week. We’ll be back to regularly scheduled MGM next week.

At this year’s Spike TV Video Game Awards 10, a trailer for a new game called The Phantom Pain (by an unknown “Swedish” studio, Moby Dick Studio) was shown.

This immediately set off many red flags within the gaming community. For starters, new game reveals and teases at the VGAs are normally reserved for AAA titles from well known developers or publishers, not unknown titles from a company that seemingly came from no where (Moby Dick Studio still has no social media presence, website, or online listings to speak of). On top of all of this, Moby Dick Studio representatives were seen in the Konami VIP section of the VGAs, and one of the Moby Dick Studio reps was confirmed via this Twitter picture to be none other than Kyle Cooper, the title sequence designer for Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.

As every other article on the subject has done, let me go ahead and plug a thread on the forum Neogaf which has been credited with citing and speculating almost all of the positive information on the title. As the thread shows, here is the evidence that we have so far:

The Phantom Pain looks to be either a teaser for Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes, which is a direct sequel to Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, or for Metal Gear Solid 5, to which Ground Zeroes has been discussed to be a prologue to by series director Hideo Kojima.

The Phantom Pain is either a reference to Phantom Pains that one feels when losing a limb or an eye and imagines that the limb or eye is still available and operational, or a reference to a Ground Zeroes trailer plug line “From ‘FOX’, Two Phantoms were born” which could allude to the burned figure from the GZ trailer and Big Boss (the confirmed protagonist of GZ) who may be the two primary “patients” in the Phantom Pain trailer.

– There are several cameos/easter eggs from the Metal Gear universe within the trailer for The Phantom Pain, which could either be literal or part of the fever dream atmosphere that the trailer exudes. These include, but aren’t limited to, a flaming figure reminiscent of Col. Volgin from MGS3, white flower petals reminiscent of the flowers from where Naked Snake killed The Boss, a scientist that bears a striking resemblance to Dr. Kio Marv from Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, and a shrouded figure that appears to be wearing a version of Big Boss’s sneaking suit seen in Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops and Ground Zeroes.

A majority of the internet has become quite speculative in theorizing about the contents of this trailer, and with that many theories have started making the rounds. Two primary arguments that I’ve seen are that the protagonist of the trailer cannot be Big Boss due to the amputation and that the protagonist of the trailer might be Frank Jaeger, aka Gray Fox. I must say that I completely disagree with both of these assumptions, primary because Gray Fox’s origins were covered in Portable Ops and because Kojima has been very good about always showing Big Boss as gloved in both MGS1 and 4.

I personally think that The Phantom Pain is actually more of a fever dream or stream of consciousness sequence, as punctuated by the abundant Metal Gear references, the unbelievable sperm whale eating a helicopter, and the extremely odd scoring of the video. I sincerely believe that there is a secret to be had in the audio for this trailer, particularly because it isn’t contributing much of anything to the video, as far as timing or tension building is concerned. I think that the audio track sounds almost as if it’s from another source, or that it could be paired up with another audio track to fill in some of the gaps. Also, if this is trailer is in fact the work of writer/director/producer Hideo Kojima, I have no doubt that he could pull off a new Silent Hill title.

[UPDATE 12/12/12 : The sneaky detectives over at Neogaf have discovered that this trailer takes place in a hospital that may belong to an RAF base and hospital in Cyprus. For more clues, hints, speculation, and an overall entertaining read, please check out the official Neogaf thread here. There’s also a recut trailer that follows the events chronologically available in the thread.]

Only time will tell, but I’m extremely hyped for Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes and Metal Gear Solid 5 now!

Film & TV, Video Games

Halo 4 – Forward Unto Dawn Episodes 1 & 2

In my honest opinion, movies based on games (and games based on movies at that) are an extremely over rated (if only a money grabbing) idea. Most of the time the idea goes nowhere, Hollywood doesn’t know what to do with a good video game story (or doesn’t know how to sell it), or Uwe Boll gets ahold of the project, and nobody wants that. But recently technology has changed things.

The “web series” has taken over. This, I like. After watching the Mortal Kombat web series that came out before the new game, though they weren’t officially related, I thought to myself, “why don’t more game companies get behind this?” They can creatively control their own work, it can be released at the company’s leisure, and the game’s plot can be presented in a cinematic medium without the prying/story destroying power of Hollywood (or Uwe Boll).

My wishes were granted.

It was only a few months ago that 343 Studios and Microsoft announced that they would be releasing a web series along side their new game, Halo 4. The best part? It will be released on YouTube, Machinima.com, and the Xbox‘s Halo “haven”, Waypoint, for free as 20 minute shorts for 5 weeks. I was skeptical, but I have been a Halo fan for quite a long time, thus elevating my standards.

But, after watching through the first 2 episodes and their preliminary trailers… it wasn’t enough. I WANT MORE PLEASE!!!

IMG: IGN.com

*SPOILERS AHEAD, I WILL TRY TO NOT BE TOO DETAILED*

“Forward Unto Dawn” follows a UNSC military school team of cadets preparing for the war against human insurrectionists. Though the entire team is the focus of the narrative, Thomas Laskey (Tom Green.. no not that Tom Green), a cadet who questions the war and the battle with the aforementioned insurrectionists, is the primary protagonist. Laskey is the son of a military commander, the brother of an ODST (Orbital Drop Shock Trooper) who he looks up to, and was top of his class. Needless to say, Laskey has some pretty big shoes to fill. Laskey’s lack of faith in the school and his negativity of the war make him an outcast among his peers and the faculty. But looks aren’t everything and with his family background and the conviction he has in his beliefs, there are those who believe there is a leader in him, including his squad mate (and possible love interest?) Cadet Chyler Sylva played by Anna Popplewell, of the Chronicles of Narnia films. His leadership skills shine in the end when he gets his squad through a game of capture the flag with some interesting tactics.

Img: IGN.com
Cadet Sylva

“Forward Unto Dawn” does a good job of showing how young soldiers in the Halo universe are brought up. It is even more interesting to see how they feel, cope, and learn in a universe at war. You really get to know these kids throughout their struggles. And in two episodes you can already see how they are growing into the soldiers that they will become. It shows that Halo doesn’t always have to be about the frontline.

IMG: IGN.com
Cadet Laskey in his Cryo Uniform

It’s really nice to see a live-action movie legitimately stand on its own in a world built by a video game. As a fan of the series I can’t get enough and “Forward Unto Dawn” gives me something to look forward to every week in my countdown towards Halo 4. 343 Studios and Microsoft nailed a way to promote their new game and made something really special for the fans. The previews for next week’s episode are teasing at Covenant and Master Chief. Needless to say, I can’t wait.

You can catch up on the series here. http://www.YouTube.com/MachinimaPrime

Culture, Editorial, Feature, Gaming, Technology, Video Games

XBOX Next: Our Potential Next Generation


In a month, the XBOX 360 will be six years old. It already has had a longer run then the original XBOX. I am expecting that by 2015, we will see a new XBOX console, giving the 360 a good decade long life. Now, nothing has been announced whatsoever about this “XBOX Next” console. But based on what Microsoft is doing with the 360, and what is happening in the world of technology, I have a few predictions about the next generation XBOX console.

Hardware Specs

The XBOX 360 has 512MB of RAM, a 3.2 GHz Tri-Core processor, the current standard hard drive size is 250GB and it supports up to 4 controllers. 512 megabytes of RAM is already outdated, I’m expecting at least 1-2 gigabytes of RAM on the XBOX Next, this will allow for faster loading, smoother playing, and better looking games. The processor probably won’t be upgraded very much, it’s already pretty good, but I can see a 3.5-4 GHz processor and a Quad-Core on the next one. The standard hard drive of the XBOX has grown by 140 gigs since 2005. With advancing technology, and the increasing use of digital downloads on the XBOX (more on that later) I expect the standard hard drive on the XBOX Next to be at least 500 gigabytes, possibly even 1 terabyte!

Based on how large the average television is, I think it’s also time for game consoles to support split screen for more then 4 players. For the XBOX Next, I think it is possible they will have support for 6 or even 8 player split screen game play. That’s an entire team on XBOX Live! Back when Microsoft and Sony were announcing the specs of their current consoles, Sony mentioned the fact that the PS3 supported up to seven controllers simultaneously, this initially got me excited for bigger split-screen parties. Sadly, its a feature that has never been used, but I think for the next generation it is a definite possibility!

Blu-Ray and Better HD

Blu-Ray is quickly becoming the standard video disc format; I am almost positive the XBOX Next will have a Blu-Ray player, and that the games will be on Blu-Ray discs(unless Microsoft still has their knickers in a bunch over Blu-Ray by then!) I am sure they will want to upgrade the graphics the XBOX is capable of rendering, which is why Blu-Ray will be essential on the XBOX Next.

For some reason, 1080p is known as “Full HD” these days. This is a mistake in marketing. Yes, 1080p is currently the highest definition HDTV’s come in in the US, but high end cameras (like RED Epic cameras) can record in 2, to nearly 9 times that resolution. I expect HDTV’s in 2015 to be capable of 1440p or even 1800p HD. Therefore, I expect the XBOX Next to be capable of output in this resolution. This is also a reason Blu-Ray will be crucial on the XBOX Next.

Kinect and Controller

Kinect will not go away. There are allegedly several “core” audience games coming out for the XBOX 360 this year. I am expecting it to really take off, especially once the Windows SDK for Kinect is out. Microsoft already wants to improve Kinect, and make it record and track in higher quality. I’m expecting “Kinect 2” to be HD capable, probably in 1080p. With that quality, Kinect will be able to track subtle finger gestures and facial expressions. I also don’t think Kinect 2 will be bundled with the XBOX Next, but rather it will be built in, moving parts included. This would optimize the XBOX experience for all users, and take up less space. It would allow for voice and gesture control to be defaulted on the XBOX Next.

Now, even with all this, I absolutely do not think they will discontinue the gamepad. I actually don’t expect them to modify the gamepad very much, except perhaps have an adjustable D-Pad on the default controller. I also think they could optimize the controller for Kinect tracking, so it could be used similar to a PS3’s “Sixaxis”. The controller being essentially the same will also allow for much easier backwards compatibility, which I expect will be key. I think that at launch, the XBOX next will be backwards compatible with all XBOX 360 games.

Software Features

The Windows Phone 7’s “Metro” UI has received excellent response. I expect by 2015, Windows Phone 8 will be out, but I think they will keep much of their current UI. I am expecting elements of the Metro UI to show up in Windows 8 as well as the XBOX Next. Especially since the XBOX 360 UI already has some elements of it (the Kinect hub looks similar to the WP7 “Start Screen,” and the XBOX’s Zune UI is Metro.)

Also like WP7, I expect the XBOX Next and Windows 8) to have an app marketplace with third party apps. This wouldn’t be too much of a step away from the Indie Games Marketplace, especially based on some of the Indie “Games” in that marketplace (anyone seen the “Massaging Controller” game? )

Another thing I expect to see, is a web browser. Both the Wii and PS3 have web browsers, and web browsers are already an essential part of everyday life (in America). It is logical that the XBOX next will have one. An XBOX version of IE 10? I can see how that could work quite well with and HD Kinect sensor…

I also don’t believe Avatars will disappear, in fact, I think they will become a larger, even more important part of gaming. I think the XBOX next will have more realistic avatars with much more customization, likely integrated with Kinect’s facial recognition. Microsoft has already been talking about the possibility of more lifelike avatars, and I’m fully for it; I can see how they could be used in games as characters, and more than just the fun arcade-like games we have in the marketplace now.

Cross Platform and Digital Download

Another thing Microsoft has already been making noise about is cross-platform games between XBOX, Windows Phone and PC. I think that by 2015 this will be a reality. Every game will be on those three platforms, and maybe even one purchase will get you a game that plays on all three. This will be very easily achieved with digital downloads.

I believe digital download games will be much more popular by 2015 (sooner actually) all games will likely be downloadable to XBOX at their release. Beyond games, I also think Zune music and video downloads will also be cross platform, and available on XBOX, Phone and PC with a single download. I mentioned apps before, why couldn’t they also all be a cross platform, single download to all devices? With all these things it just enforces the fact that the XBOX Next hard drive will have to be 2-4 times larger than the current one.

Conclusion

So there you have it, what I think the next generation XBOX has in store based on current technology and how it and the world of gaming is advancing. I have noticed that my predictions or things I think are a good idea usually come to be. I guess we will all find out together if I’m right!

Feature, Gaming, Video Games

Looking forward: The Mass Effect Franchise


There is a holy grail that game publishers seek, the metaphorical crack that sucks a gamer in and holds them to its breast like a frisky bear embracing an unfortunate hiker. That crack is “Expanded Universe.” It is the books, the comics, the figurines and the half-baked web games that go with a title that the publishers get all warm and fuzzy about and, presumably, have them changing the bed sheets in the middle of the night.

The reason for this is not because they want to sell you a tie-in novel, or a crummy figurine – though I’m sure they appreciate the extra dollar-pounds generated from them – the reason is because they know, really know, that if they can get you to buy the special edition with eleven inch statue, authentic fire damaged case and gas mask, they can get you to buy anything.

Precisely two games have achieved this effect over me, and one of them is the Mass Effect franchise.

I have played the games, I have bought the books. I haven’t gone in search of a replica N7 helmet, because I have a child and girlfriend who are already borderline ashamed of my gaming/Internet addictions, and I’d like to continue to be able to look them in the eye, but if there was ever a “Mass Effect live action role playing game” involving laser tag and N7 armour, I’d probably be there… with an emergency change of underwear.

We now know that the next major title (and final in the Shepard story arc) in the Mass Effect series will be out towards the end of 2011, and I’m already rubbing my hands together in a suspicious and somewhat pervy manner.

With this being the last in the main trilogy, we can look forward to a diverse and plentiful gamut of endings. The fact that they were willing to give you the freedom to balls up the final mission and kill Shepard at the end of ME2 leads me to believe that the complete destruction of humanity, and all other advanced races in the galaxy, is a very real possibility for the end of ME3. That should be a given, but the fact that the end of this game does not need to tie in to a fourth game means that there should also be a whole range of different ways in which you can cock things up for the rest of the galaxy.

There is, however, the uncertain matter of how Bioware will deal with the characters – from both games. Take Ashley, for instance. In my main play-through (that is, the one which I imported into ME2, and will be carrying through to ME3), I played slap and tickle with Ashley in the first game, and I resisted the urge jump on Miranda at the first available opportunity in the second game, even after Ashley got all hormonal on me! Will Ashley come crawling back to me in the third game? Or will my Shepard be doomed nights alone in his quarters with the latest Asari porn?

Likewise, Garrus came to be a firm favourite of mine, and I actually felt pleased to see his familiar, if somewhat reptilian face in ME2. Will he be the constant of franchise; The only member of the supporting cast to play a major role in all three games? (Joker really just sits around making wise-cracks) I certainly hope so.

On that note, how much can they really fit into this game? Will Wrex make an appearance? Can they cram the necessary assets to give all the characters from the first two games screen time? Will there be dialogue around those who didn’t make it out of ME1 or ME2? In my main play-through, Wrex survived, and I managed to keep everybody alive on the suicide mission, so I would like to see all of those characters play some role in the final part of this story, be it for good or bad.

What about gameplay? Well, it seems that most gamers are mostly happy about the combat, mission structures and story progression.

Oh, yes; the mining.

So here’s my thoughts on the obligatory mini-games that need to be in these types of RPG’s in order to generate currency; I wouldn’t mind the planet mining so much if it wasn’t the only way of getting currency (materials, in this case). The mini-games in Fable 3 were hardly enthralling, but at least you could choose whether you wanted to listen to some fat wench from Bristol telling you how bad your pies were, or some country bumpkin telling you how poorly you played the lute.

If ME3 has planet mining, but also gives you alternatives, like the Mako sections in ME1 or even some kind of gambling option, like in Red Dead Redemption, then mining wouldn’t be so dull, because it would be just one way in which you could get those all important minerals.

As I mentioned at the top of this article, I’m hooked into the Mass Effect franchise, and will buy, and probably love ME3 however they handle the different aspects mentioned here. The game will be pre-ordered long before it is ever released, I will lose a lot of sleep over the first week of owning it, and I will buy all the DLC they decide to put out, because I am, for all intents and purposes, a Mass Effect fanboy.

But I will not be buying any £60 special edition, just because it comes with an eleven inch vibrating Shepard!

…maybe.


The views of John Bullock do not necessarily reflect the views of GeekTime, or its staff. For more of John Bullock’s work, visit jbullock.co.uk