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

Editorial, Feature, Gaming, Video Games

Old News… Bungie has Revealed Destiny

On a sunday, the seventeenth day of the month of February of the year two thousand and thirteen, Bungie, the all powerful developer, under the allowance of the much revered publisher Activision revealed unto thee the game of Destiny.

And Bungie sayeth, “be this not merely a first person shooter”. But this taketh from the greats of beyond: Halo, Borderlands, Planetside, the World of Warcraft. “We shall construct upon thee a shooter where thall shalt share the world and universe with friends and players alike to take down evil and allow the race of humanity to grow and persevere”.

Ok, so now that I have had time to let that sink in and I am not all like “OMFG BUNGIEZ MAKZ NEW GAMZ” or something of that sort, I can actually sit back and analyze my thoughts on Destiny. Here is what I got out of all of the information, including video, Bungie released to commemorate their new game.

This Game is Not a Normal First Person Shooter Translates to: this Game is Not Halo.

It is a first person shooter, but it isn’t Halo, I think is what Bungie wants to tell us. Nearly everyone I spoke to about the game so far is saying that it looks like Halo. Comments on news sites and blogs are constantly reminding us that Halo was also a sci-fi first person shooting game based on Earth’s future. But Bungie clearly does not think so, and they clearly state that this game will not be another Halo. I do believe them. I do not think it is going to be another Halo, but my question is this: will the universe, story, and lore of Destiny be able to drag me in like Halo‘s did? Obviously we won’t know that until we can play it, but Bungie seems quite confident that they can capture the crowd once again.

This Game is not an MMO but There will be MMO-like Gameplay.

Now this is the part that really starts getting confusing. Bungie is calling Destiny a “Shared World Shooter”. What the hell does that mean? Well, no one really quite knows yet, but it seems that it will be a huge, ever changing, world where you can travel to virtually anywhere even through out the solar system. People can play together and do missions together, but even when you aren’t playing with your friends you will be with people playing the missions at the same time like in an MMO… or something like that. And I believe there will be Guild Wars 2 (Editor’s Note: instanced) style events that happen… maybe? Bungie wants the players to create their own story-lines through a mixture of missions, player interaction, world interaction, customization, etc. I have not completely wrapped my head around the whole idea just yet, but it all sounds really cool. It also sounds like a whole lot to promise.

Bungie Wants Destiny to be Around for a Long Time

Ten years to be exact. This whole thing boggles my mind. Bungie has plans for ten years worth of content for Destiny. First off this means that the game will be carried through to the next consoles (one of which may or may not be announced by the time this is posted). Activision and Bungie both say it will be available for Xbox 360 and PS3, which is fine because these systems still have a little bit of life in them. The thing that gets me is that Destiny will not be out this year. With a game of this scale, I can easily take a shot to the wind and say that there is a good chance it will be pushed back past next year. I am not saying that the developers at Bungie don’t have the talent to get the job done by next year, but I am just saying that this is a really, really, tall order. On that note, next generation consoles will be starting to pick up steam and the Xbox 360 and Ps3 might be on their way out the door by Destiny’s release, so releasing on those consoles would probably be a misstep in my opinion. Activision did say that the game is prepared and capable to be played on next generation game systems, so this raises interesting questions about the next gen consoles in question. Will there be backwards compatibility for a big title like this, or will I ultimately need to buy myself a new copy once I upgrade? Will my character be able to change systems with me, or will Bungie and Activision ultimately nix the old for the new since this game is clearly going to need a whole gob of horse power?

The “Plot” of Destiny Sounds Cool

The golden age of human civilization was practically wiped off of the Earth until a sentient, extra terrestrial, all powerful being called the Traveler saves a small group of humans who grow and thrive and are ultimately able to get back on their horses and traverse the world once more. Once they do they find all types of baddies that want to kill them. It actually sounds pretty generic. But what I really like is how open this idea actually is. Bungie wants the players to create the story and the world. The best way to do it is to give a great big open-ended world where the player is not restricted in the least. Bungie has not given away a ton of back story, but I feel like they won’t really have to. This game is about the future and not the past. I am sure that we will learn more about it, but in this sense I am actually quite satisfied not to know a whole lot more.

This is all I have to say on the subject for now, even though there is so much more to talk about. Bungie.net will have an all new social system installed to text you game related news, you will be able to create a space craft to travel between worlds, and so much more has been said and not said it is so hard to even contemplate it all at once.

I am really interested to see where all of this is going to be heading. Destiny sounds like a fantastic game on paper, and I hope Bungie can pull it off. There are just so many questions floating around right now that it is so hard to not look at Destiny in a very confused way. Hopefully the awe-inspiring ambition will still be there the day we pop that disk in the tray and many years after.

Feature, Gaming, Video Games

Better Late Than Never | Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Review

The collaborative Playstation 3 JRPG project from Studio Ghibli and Level-5 has been out for mass consumption since January 22nd here in the United States and I’ve had plenty of time to tear into this gorgeous game. How does it fare compared to previous work from both contributing studios? Is it as fun to play as it is to look at? Let’s dive in and take a look!

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (Playstation 3)
Plays Like: Dragon Quest VIII, Chrono Trigger, and Pokemon had a baby together. A three-way baby.
Difficulty: Low – Mild

Ever since the first announcement was made for Ni No Kuni in Famitsu magazine in September of 2008, I’ve been lusting over how the game might handle. I imagined a fully interactive Studio Ghibli film that played like the best JRPG offerings of the last two decades. In some aspects Ni No Kuni is that game that lived inside my imagination for the last three years, but it isn’t necessarily what we were all promised. I don’t plan to nitpick the title, because honestly, I love it, but it isn’t all pomp and fanfare.

The game handles like a love letter to all of the greatest JRPG traditions. The overworld is absolutely gorgeous, the hand drawn mini-map almost brings a tear to my eye, the musical score is some of the best videogame music I’ve ever heard, and the battle system completely seals the deal and makes the game an addicting romp through several successful JRPG battle systems (borrowing from the likes of Pokemon, Star Ocean, and a hint of Kingdom Hearts). In a lot of ways Ni No Kuni is a spiritual successor to Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana. And more than any other title Ni No Kuni completely reflects one of my other favorite JRPGs, and one that Level-5 worked on, Dragon Quest VIII. The art-style and the pun filled enemy names scream DQVIII, but, sadly, so does the simplistic narrative. That’s where my primary issue with the game lies.

For those who are listeners to GeekTi.me’s weekly podcast, Controller Freaks, you’ll probably hear my sentiments towards Ni No Kuni‘s narrative and plotting echo in episode 10, but allow me to articulate myself in writing. Much like Dragon Quest VIII‘s story revolving around the simple premise of a kingdom being frozen in stone by a shadowy figure and an archetypal hero must set the world straight, Level-5 went the less complex route with Ni No Kuni.

Ni No Kuni features a young boy, named Oliver, from “Motortown, USA” who finds himself transported to mirror world, of sorts, through the help of a stuffed animal turned sidekick. Oliver discovers the duality of the two worlds, ours and the other, as he travels back and fourth from each solving puzzles and discovering ways that they affect one another. That being said, this is the extent of complexity that the game plays with. A majority of the title involves traveling across wide open world maps, going from town to town, fighting monsters and talking to NPCs all while trying to defeat the big bad and set things straight. When I first heard that Oliver’s travels were centered around him trying to resurrect his dead mother I could’ve sworn that the game would have a far darker undertone than it does in the finished product, as my imagination raced through all of the possibilities for a narrative touching on such topics, but the game went for a very strong general audiences feel and in doing so missed an opportunity to touch on many big ideas, in my opinion.

Most players, myself included, were under the impression that Studio Ghibli’s involvement would run a bit deeper than character design and animated cutscene production, thus disappointing those who expected a Miyazaki flavored narrative, as it would appear that Level-5 was solely responsible for the game’s story. Honestly, even Ghibli films run the simplicity gamut, especially films such as Ponyo, but I personally felt that the lack of attention given to Oliver’s mother and the circumstances surrounding her tragic decline into lifelessness in the initial act of the game made the moment seem far less emotional and far more like a plot device to set the rest of the narrative into motion. A fair number of my friends, my fiance included, desired time with me to watch me play, but after a few hours of observing they seemed turned off by the lack of Studio Ghibli’s style of storytelling. It’s surprising that the Studio Ghibli name isn’t presented in the opening splash screens as the game begins or even on the physical box for the game itself, which really makes me think that the over advertising for Ni No Kuni as “the Studio Ghibli game” was part of a marketing ploy. That being said, the plot does open up some as the game progresses, primarily after you fill out your battle party, and even though it isn’t industry shaking material it’s still a fun ride.

So, if the plot isn’t the most cerebrally engaging one, what drives one to continue to play this lengthy quest? Well, the gameplay is a blast! Many have claimed Ni No Kuni is the saving grace of JRPGs this generation, and while I won’t make so strong a claim as that, especially since I personally feel that Shin Megami Tensei games, and their spin-offs, have been the JRPG’s savior for the last few years, I will say that Ni No Kuni is one of the most fun times I’ve had playing a JRPG since Persona 4.

The gameplay hits all of the right pleasure centers, with each battle being quick and engaging, and the system is deep enough for players to really get tactical if they spend the time learning all of its ins and outs. It’s easy to see that the game was play tested quite a lot during its development cycle. This is a title that follows the philosophy of style over substance, but damn if it isn’t one of the slickest looking and playing experiences I’ve had this generation.

Overall, I’ve adored my time with Ni No Kuni. I look forward to playing more of the game, even following the end of its lengthy story. I can only hope that its sales reflect the quality of JRPG that current-gen players would like to see and that the industry takes a page out of Level-5’s book and decides to keep occasionally putting out throwbacks to SNES-era games such as this one from time to time.

PROS:

- Super engaging visual style and presentation
– Great voice-acting, scoring, and sound design
– Addicting and fluid battle mechanics with a focus on grinding, collecting, and puzzle-solving
– Length of the main game is at that sweet spot between too long and just right
– A homerun for the Japanese teams (take that Phil Fish)

CONS:

– Studio Ghibli not as involved as was advertised or hoped for
– Narrative falls a bit short early on
– Battle system doesn’t hit its peak until all of the main party members have been collected

Feature, Gaming, Video Games

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty Pt. 1 | Metal Gear Missed MLK Monday Monday

I missed deadline… yet again, and on a national holiday to boot. I apologize. And, to show how apologetic I am, let me postpone my Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty discussion even more! Kidding! Mostly… This week we’re going to take a look at the “real” Metal Gear Solid 2. And by that I mean the pack-in demo disk that came with Zone of the Enders on the PlayStation 2 when it was released on March 1st, 2001.

The demo disk of Metal Gear Solid 2 that shipped with the original Zone of the Enders PS2 release was a bit of an experiment on Konami and Hideo Kojima’s part. Konami didn’t just want to help a new IP prosper by packing in a demo for what was considered at the time to be one of the most hyped video game releases ever, they also wanted to boost expectations and sales for MGS2 in the process, but Hideo Kojima’s design document shows evidence that this pack-in demo was supposed to be Metal Gear Solid 2, with the Plant portion of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty being released as Metal Gear Solid III, just to add another twist to the narrative structure and the self-referential nature of the game, which we will discuss in full later.

Apart from that tidbit of information, the demo is fairly straight forward. For those of you who have played the full retail release of Metal Gear Solid 2, the demo was simply the Tanker portion, or first chapter, of the main game. The demo shipped on a CD instead of a DVD, Solid Snake could actually procure a FA-MAS (a fan favorite from MGS1) in the demo, and some of the posters are different than the full release. Other than that, it’s essentially the first chapter of the same game.


I remember playing the demo over and over and over, just being completely and totally blown away by how something could be leaps and bounds more robust than its predecessor, especially one that I held so near and dear. I was pumped. Little did I know that Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, and later the ironically titled Substance version, would end up being one of my favorite games of all time. As we continue discussing the legacy of MGS2, how it could easily be considered one of the first truly postmodern video games, and how Hideo Kojima desperately didn’t want to continue working on the series following his magnum opus, I just want to remind all of you to keep an open mind, check out my citations, and comment below. These next few articles will simply be me expressing my views and opinions based on the evidence that I’ve seen, as well as presenting a few other arguments, in a manner that is primarily rooted in interesting observation and analytic discussion. Seeing as I’ve almost gotten into a fist fight at one of my previous places of work over Metal Gear Solid 2 and my interpretation of it, I just felt that I should preface myself with a fair warning.

Let the flame wars commence next week!

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!

Feature, Gaming, Video Games

Assassins Creed III Review

Since I have had ample time to play through it, I am going to look at Assassin’s Creed 3, but I am going to try something a little different. You see, I am slightly bored with the old way of laying out a review of a game: plot points, goods, bads, and give it a score, picture here and there. Boring. So I am going to lay this one out a little differently than the norm and see how everyone likes it. I am going to give different opinions and thoughts on it starting with something good about it, and then follow that up with something that is bad, or something the game needs to work on. Think of it more like a job review than a game review! I will have six points going back and forth then give my final verdict of whether the game should be fired or not.

Good – Graphics

Assassin’s Creed 3 is pretty. Good thing this is not a real job review cause a lawsuit would be on my hands. Because this game is hot! But in all serious the graphics in Assassins Creed 3 are really impressive. From the character design to the sprawling mountains and forests, to the towns of Boston and New York the detail is astounding.  This is not new to Assassin’s Creed games. Like the others, you might find yourself getting off track and just exploring every nook and cranny just to see everything.

Bad- Glitches

Assassin’s Creed III is really, really, and I mean really glitchy. It’s a shame that a game with such a long development cycle is so unpolished. Graphically this game is a wonder, but look closely and you will see the evil underbelly of crunch time. And we are talking about stuff that is so unmistakable in the middle of the main story missions. Such as guards getting stuck on the wall and dancing around, pop in npc’s, and voice/mouth syncing that just does not fit together. These are only a few things that Ubisoft needs to check out in their next patches if they aren’t already taken care of.

 

Good- Story Arc

If there is one thing I look forward to in the Assassin’s Creed games it’s the story arc of Desmond Miles. Our Assassin in white is merely the cover on top of a much more intricate and outlandish story based in todays world. Assassin’s Creed III is no exception and continues this trend without fail or disappointment. We are brought back from the Animus (machine to let people live out ancestors lives) intermittently to check in on Desmond and his little group of Assassin’s trying to foil the evil Templar order. This is also where some of the biggest twists in gaming happen. Not to mention some frustrating cliff hangers at the end of games.

 

Bad- Unlikable Main Character

Ok, so Connor Kenway is not COMPLETELY unlikable. But he is no Ezio Auditore. For 3 games we got to step into the shoes the suave, driven, and capable Italian Assassin. In my opinion Ezio is one of the most likable characters in video games. Its hard not to fall in love with him and really WANT him to succeed in everything he did. Connor is anything but. He is depressive, brooding and rough around the edges, and makes decisions without thinking of the outcomes. Sure he is new to being an Assassin and is learning on the fly but he just does not seem to have the whole thing down at all, even after he grows up. What really drove me to his cause was his situation. I wanted him to succeed because of his mission, but not because of him.

Good- So Much to Do

Assassin’s Creed III is as good of a sandbox game as they get. It is really easy to get lost in all of the side missions and games that it offers. It reminds me so much of Red Dead Redemption. Hanging out in the wilderness lets you go hunting, which you can do in many different ways (trapping, shooting, etc.) along with fighting dangerous animals like bears and cougars. You can hang out with Daniel Boon and hear all types of fun stories (including finding out about the real Sasquatch.) You can help people in the wilderness and hire them to live and help on your home stand, and so many more things while you are traversing the mountains and trees. In the cities you can chase down almanac sheets, help liberate the cities by doing different assassin missions, and bring on new trainees to train up to master assassins, and more. Oh yeah I almost forgot the ship missions are AWESOME! You can do different missions on your ship and upgrade it (cannons, speed, crew) it is really intuitive, unique and a whole lot of fun.

Bad- Free running/ Chase missions

I put these two together because they intertwine so much. First off the free running is broken in so many ways. Not so bad as to make it unplayable but it is very annoying. So many times I am chasing or being chased and all of a sudden Connor will go running up a wall, or a fence, or a tree, or anything that I don’t want him too. It is all done with the right trigger/R2 versus the right trigger + A/X which in my opinion already gives the right trigger too much to do. Which brings me to chase missions. Free running makes chase missions hard. Whether you are being chased or you are chasing someone, it is almost inevitable to restart a chase mission X amount of times because of getting stuck on something. It makes life really frustrating. On another note, I feel as a “Master Assassin” there should be much more stealth to kill important enemies instead of MANDATORY chasing. Which was a big change from old to new Assassins Creed. I feel if I screw something up, and a chase scene happens, so be it, my failure. Please do not force me to chase someone down. It is just no fun, and I don’t feel like an Assassin.

Final Assessment

Assassin’s Creed 3 is a fine game. It’s always on time and will stay late. It is always dressed well, but sometimes it seems like it may have forgotten to shower in the morning and sometimes doesn’t have it’s desk very well organized. So Assassin’s Creed 3 will not be fired today. But its shortcomings are going to keep it from getting that promotion it has been after. Maybe once all of that little stuff is fixed or it proves itself with its DLC will it truly show it can blow everyone away. That being said, with all of its hiccups and flaws, Assassin’s Creed 3 is not a game you should pass on. The story alone is a reason for everyone to give a play through once. Even after the story, all of the side missions and quests, all of the exploring, and people to talk to is a reason to keep coming back to it for hours on in. It even has a really robust multiplayer mode which I have decided to leave out of this review (barring this sentence) because I haven’t had a chance to really dive into it yet. So go play Assassin’s Creed 3, you won’t be disappointed.

Video Games

MLB 12 The Show: My Road to the Show

Baseball season is back and I am excited! What? Who says geeks can’t be sports fans? I have designated myself as a certified baseball geek. Sometimes I would rather sit and watch baseball over playing video games (and that’s saying a lot)! On that note, the best way for me to savor my baseball fandom with my obsession with video games was to pick up this years MLB® The Show for my Playstation 3.

Unfortunately I haven’t had time to play (though I have played quite a lot so far) The Show enough to give it a full-fledged review as a whole. In a nutshell the game looks great, plays great and gives the player a ton of options and game types to fit their play-style. With the usual Franchise, Home Run Derby, Season, Online and Road to the Show modes, the show gives you enough game types to provide for more than enough playtime to get you through the season and beyond. Today, though, I am going to talk about the Road to the Show mode. Which lets you create a player and move your way through the ranks to the majors. Think of it as a baseball themed RPG.

First off in RttS (Road to the Show) we get to create our own baseball player. You get loads of different options to customize your player. Choose what he looks like, his play style, batting/throwing left or right, to the colors he has on his glove. The player creator is very intuitive. I did a pretty good job (if I do say so myself) making my player look as close to me as possible. You can then mess with his stats and start to make him the player you want him to be. If he’s a batter/position player you can choose between contact, speed, and power stats to get started. Pitchers can mess with their pitch speed and accuracy. These are all dependent on the player you want to become, and all of these stats can be added to while you are playing the game.

I decided to go with a fielder (3rd baseman to be specific, but I moved to 1st occasionally) Picking a fielder/batter gives you a bit more flexibility on what you want to be and gives the game a slightly more rounded feel, instead of constantly pitching over and over. It also gives you the option to hop around the field if you decide you don’t like your position. On that note, as a batter you have many more chances to rack up training points and my goal (as I’m sure is everyone’s) is to make it to the majors as quickly as possible.

Getting to the majors is hard. Just ask anyone who has tried, (if you know anyone who has, of course) and RttS definitely provides you with that experience. Your first season in the minors is going to be bad. Very bad! You have no experience and it will show. I ended my first season hitting a horrid .198 and was a usual sitting on the bench, pinch-hitting occasionally by the end of the season. A lot of it had to do with my own experience. I swung at pretty much everything pitched to me. I soon learned to be much more selective. But that, in itself, took time to get good at. It wasn’t all bad though. My player went through training sessions, gained some valuable experience, and became a better player all around. I was drafted by the Padres, and played for the Mountaineers (the Padres AA team) and about mid season was traded to the Reds (my favorite team by the way) and finished up my first season on the Blue Wahoos. (Reds AA ball club)

image- gamespot.com
Padres Drafted me, but i didn’t stick around very long

My second season in AA went much smoother. My player had better stats so his swing was much better, and his power went up (ultimately hitting the first of many homeruns, which were naught in my first season). The better I played the better my stats. I cleared advancement goals quicker, and hit a very solid .310. It’s nearing the end of my second season now, and I still haven’t got the call up to the AAA Louisville Bats, but I can feel it coming. It is going to happen. Though I’m sure once I do make the grade the pitchers will be smarter, and the other teams better as I move up. And I’m sure my advancement goals will be ever harder as well. But I’m ready for the challenge. Getting to the majors is a long and enduring goal. Only the best make it. And that’s what I plan to be.

For those out there who are interested here are a few tips for you on your Road to the Show.

Don’t swing at everything!!!

Be selective. I know it’s hard, but when your player doesn’t have a good eye yet, he will swing and miss more often then not. A high strike out rate doesn’t help anyone (no one likes a strikeout king). And a really bad at bat will get you 0 to negative points, and that just sucks. Wait for the pitch that’s right for you. It may take a while but you will get it. Don’t get frustrated, be patient, everyone goes through slumps.

Steal a base every once in a while

You will get thrown out. But you will also snag a few. These will add to your point total, and it makes the game more interesting. There is a lot of standing around if you just sit and wait for your other teammates at bat. And a good base runner makes the pitcher sweat a little which can turn a loosing ball game into a winner in a snap.

image- gamespot.com
Stealing makes the game way more interesting

Goals first, Hitting second, everything else can wait

First thing you want to work on is getting those goals taken care of. When management wants you to work on your arm accuracy, do it. Once those are done and out of the way you can work on your hitting contact and power. Once I started doing this my game turned around very nicely, and my player was starting more and more games. Which means a soon to be call up (hopefully).

Patience, Patience, Patience

You will be bad at first. Very very bad. But you will get better. Don’t let it get to you. You will turn it around. Every player goes through their highs and their lows. Just keep working hard and good things will come. The difficulty of getting there is all part of the fun. If you are getting frustrated, put it down for a little bit and come back. I learned that when I got anxious I had more bad games. Relax, take a breather and wait for the one in your wheelhouse.

MLB® 12 The Show is fun and addicting. Any and all sports (especially baseball) fans should pick it up. I’m having a blast playing Road to the Show (I have barely tried any of the other game types yet). For all out there willing to take on the challenge of making it to the majors, take my advice, be unrelenting, but be patient. The day will come, and it will be great. Have a blast!

Video Games

Review: Soul Calibur V

No more than a year or two ago I would have never thought that the fighting game genre would be making such a huge resurgence. Thank goodness I was wrong. With the return of many great fighting games like the reboots of Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, to the sequels of greats like King of Fighters and Marvel vs. Capcom, fighters are back in full force.The latest product of the fighting genre to hit shelves is Namco’s weapon based Soul Calibur V. Sporting sharp visuals, a host of new and returning characters, a deep character creator and a whole new story, Soul Calibur V is a game that will excite old fans and new players alike. Soul V’s approach is to take what it already does well, tweak it just a bit, and add a little new flavor to keep players interested. Even after not having played a Soul Calibur game for a good while, everything was right where it should be. Vertical attack, horizontal attack, kick and block are the main button combinations (mapped to each of the face buttons), making it easy for a newcomer of the series to be successful, as well as making sure veterans of the series don’t have any problems jumping right back into the action. The addition of a power meter (a la MvC, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat) makes it easier than ever to pull off the huge flashy finishing moves that were once a bit clunky and harder to pull off with just a roll of the joystick and a press of the three attack buttons.
Ezio appears! (IGN)

A fighting game is nothing without memorable characters to back it up. Unfortunately I have always felt that this was Soul Calibur’s biggest weakness. It has never had those one or two characters that people fight over who is the best/most favorite in the game (ex. Scorpion vs. Sub Zero). A friend didn’t even realize Yoshimitsu was a SC character! To fight this, Soul Calibur brings in a popular character from other series (to help drive sales?) In SCV it enlists the talents of famed assassin Ezio Auditore da Firenze from Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed. Alongside Ezio, SCV brings back familiar faces (like Ivy, Mitsurugi, Voldo, Nightmare, and Siegfried) and brings along some new characters (like Patroklos, Pyrrha, Xiba and others) for the ride.

Ivy: Less bounce, more power (IGN)

One of Soul Calibur V’s biggest strengths is its character creator. No other fighting games gives you so many options to build a fighter from scratch. It even gives you the ability to change the characters that are already in the game. The tools SCV gives you to make your fighter are easy and intuitive to use. It allows you to play with almost all aspects of your creation from what type of hair, to what kind of underwear your fighter wears. The only downfall of the creator is the fighting style choices. It only gives you the options to choose which character yours will mimic and when the announcer introduces your creation as the character it’s mimicking (for example, introducing someone as “Soul of Mitsurugi) my excitement turned to slight disappointment.

Soul Calibur V has done a lot of things to fix up what was wrong with the older iterations of the series but it is not without it’s problems. SCV is as fast and fluid (maybe more so) as its predecessors, but there were many times in my flurry of button presses that I found my fighter getting lost and throwing jabs of his weapon into thin air, literally stopping the fluidity dead. I know this is definitely user error, but even as I found myself more comfortable with the controls I still could not figure out what I was doing to get my character to not jab after a nice burst of a combo, thus leaving myself very vulnerable to my opponents attacks.

Your worst Nightmare! (IGN)

Another issue with the game involves the difficulty jumps through out the story/arcade mode that almost all fighters are guilty. For the first couple fighters you feel like you can defeat anything with great ease. Your opponents practically stand there for you to destroy, giving you a little peace of mind before you hit that midway point when that gets completely thrown out the window. After three straight rounds of almost perfects, I hit the fourth fighter in Arcade mode who made me want to chuck my controller through my TV. I do not believe that the game should hand it to me, but I feel like a more gradual approach would be much more acceptable, especially on easy and normal difficulties.

Soul Calibur V is a solid next step to an already storied franchise. It looks great, it is fun to play, and has so many options to keep players coming back to it until SCVI hits the shelves.

 

(Banner credit: www.soulcalibur.com)

Video Games

Game Corner: Catherine Review


At long last, my review for Atlus’s latest publication, Catherine, is here. This article also marks my first ever full blown game review for GeekTime, so with no further ado, let’s go!

First Impressions:

Upon first booting up the game, I thought that I had done the research and knew exactly what I was getting into, but I couldn’t have been more incorrect. On the surface, Catherine, seemed to blend “daytime” events and “dating sim” gameplay styles with “nighttime” action oriented gameplay segments much like the Persona series as of late. Persona 3 and Catherine both feature towers that the protagonists must ascend in order to achieve their goals, and the art styles are very similar, albeit Catherine is much more fleshed out and polished since it is on a more current-gen console. But the similarities ended there. As the days went on, the game presents its plot in its entirety over a course of eight days and nine nights, I felt myself getting sucked into the nuances of the story and the intricacies of the gameplay more and more. And much like the main character, Vincent Brooks, I found myself actually growing more and more anxious. During an animated cutscene, courtesy of Studio 4°C, that occurred roughly half way into the game I found my heart racing and my palms sweating simply because of the situation Vincent found himself in.

Story:

I won’t go too far in detail, for fear of ruining pivotal points in the game’s story arc, here, but I will say that this is certainly the driving force of the game. If you aren’t very moved or driven in games to progress simply by narrative alone, this game may not be right for you. Now, that doesn’t mean that the gameplay isn’t addicting, because that it certainly is, but the way the gameplay portions are divided and the actual amount of time you spend in the “main” gameplay mode itself during the story mode is rather minuscule compared to what you might be imagining.

Vincent Brooks is a 32 year old software engineer who has been dating his girlfriend, Katherine McBride, for five years. Just as Katherine is prodding Vincent about the idea of marriage, a strange girl named Catherine appears and makes Vincent question his loyalty. On top of all of this, Vincent is tormented every night by nightmares that he must over come, in the form of block pushing puzzles to get to the top of a tower littered with traps and creatures, or else he will die in reality. In between each stage there is a sanctuary in the form of a landing. At each landing you can save, speak with other trapped men, and purchase items from a shop. Before progressing to each new stage however, the player is asked a question that determines Vincent’s reactions to events in reality. My favorite of these questions appears about mid-way through the Normal difficulty story: “If you found a ghost attractive, would you have sex with it?” (Yes, that was real, and yes the questions change for each difficulty. I know). After being asked each question the game presents a pie chart showing the popularity of each answer with other Catherine players as well. (The ghost-sex question actually had a majority of game players saying “yes”).

The game boasts nine different endings- with each set of three being related to a common moral alignment.

Gameplay:

The gameplay can be described as a mixture of Intelligent Qube, Tetris, and The Blocks Cometh with an Atlus and Persona Team coat of paint. During the reality portions of the game you watch cutscenes and speak with denizens of the local bar, The Stray Sheep, and during Vincent’s nightmares you scale a tower that is constantly collapsing behind you along with other unlucky inhabitants and some truly eerie subconscious concoctions. I STRONGLY suggest that you play through the game on Easy mode first, make sure you speak with ALL of the bar patrons when given the opportunity, and consume as much alcohol as you can whenever you are in the bar. If you do these things you will learn quickly, be proficient enough to get through Normal mode no problem on a second go through, and will have a ton of achievements/trophies just after your first play through.

Follow me to the next page of the review where I’m going to go a bit in depth with some things that other reviews seem to have been lacking: “Babel” mode, the Co-op, and the competitive multiplayer modes.

Film & TV, Video Games

Exclusive Content With a Minuscule Audience: Season 3


Sony has unveiled the third season of their PSN-Exclusive reality show, The Tester. For those of you unfamiliar with the show, The Tester is well known for being the first show distributed exclusively via a video game console. The premise of the show has Sony picking 11 contestants (with the public picking a 12th) to go through the standard fare of reality TV situations. These contestants live together, sleep together, argue with each other, and compete in a variety of “challenges” to see who will come out the victor. In this case, the winner of the show gets a $5,000 signing bonus, a very large Sony Bravia 3D television, an exclusive The Tester Season 3 PlayStation 3, and the opportunity to work for Sony as a Quality Assurance Tester.

I’m not quite sure what the actual statistic is as far as viewers of this program (and its much smaller sister statistic: the voters on the The Tester website), but I’m fairly positive that the number isn’t very high. That’s not the point of the show, or the point of winning, but, to be quite honest, I didn’t even know that the program existed until last night. It seems that all Sony aims to do with this show is please its fans and present another gimmick to put them above other game companies. If you’re at all interested in signing up to be a voter or a contestant, visit this link. Here’s the link to my contestant profile. Hey, don’t judge, alright? Clearly I’m not going to watch the show, so what’s the harm in trying to get in on the prize?