Monday, 31 March 2008

God of War: Chains of Olympus Review

“Ten years, Athena! I have faithfully served the gods for ten years! When will you relieve me of these nightmares?”

This futile plea screamed by Kratos at the beginning of the first God of War is the foundation that Chains of Olympus is built on. God of War: Chains of Olympus is the second PSP game from Ready At Dawn, the developer responsible for the resounding success that was Daxter.
The game takes place before the events of the first God of War and follows Kratos through a small portion of his ten years in servitude to the Gods of Olympus.
Although the previous God of War games have placed a heavy focus on the narrative and overall story, in comparison Chains of Olympus is not as epic of a tale - however, the tale that it does tell is just as engaging and entertaining as in the previous two games and the welcome return of T.C Carson as Kratos and Linda Hunt as Gaia give the game that authentic God of War experience.
The game opens with Kratos being sent to the city of Attica to fend of a Persian invasion and kill a Basilisk unleashed on the city by the invaders, after dealing with the invasion Kratos witnesses something that forces him to embark on a journey through Hades and beyond., Kratos must once again face an evil threatening to destroy Olympus and the world with hopes that at the end the Gods of Olympus would live up to their word and free him of his torment.

While playing the game it can be easy to forget that this is in fact a portable title developed on a system that is relatively underpowered in comparison to the PS2, the game is a testament to the amazing care and effort put into development by Ready At Dawn, their familiarity with the platform and attention to detail has produced a game that looks and plays better than many console games.
You only have to glance at a screenshot to see that Chains of Olympus is pushing the PSP beyond what was thought possible, the game runs on an enhanced version of the Ready At Dawn proprietary engine used in Daxter and as a result graphically it is exceptional and unmatched by any other PSP game. The environments are detailed, the lighting is beautifully done and character models are rendered with painstaking detail, along with the magnificent sense of scale these visual touches successfully evoke the eye-catching aesthetic that God of War has become known for, and best of all – it all runs without so much as a single hiccup.The stability of the game is in large part due to the fact that the game is pushing the PSP’s processor to the limit by allowing it to run at 333MHz.

One thing that I found particularly impressive is the animation of Kratos, as well as his remarkably realistic facial animations Kratos now moves with a realistic fluidity, instead of launching into a run the animations show progression and momentum, his roll and jump animations all look much less rigid and awkward which makes Kratos much better to look at as well as control.

Chains of Olympus, like its predecessors is strictly a linear affair where the player is essentially asked to get from A to B while fending of demonic enemies and solving the occasional puzzle. In its simplest form Chains of Olympus is an arena based brawler, Kratos will enter a room filled with enemies and the exits will be blocked by a demonic barrier until the enemies are defeated, once defeated the player will be allowed to progress through a small platforming section usually involving the same lever pulling, statue dragging, or wall climbing that the previous games featured, you would think this process would become repetitive but through mixing up the environments and placing more of a focus on the combat as opposed to the platforming the game is perfectly paced and never becomes monotonous or a chore.

The deep combat the series has become known for also remains fully intact. Whereas in the previous games Kratos would build up an arsenal of weaponry in Chains of Olympus there are only two weapons, his trademark Blades of Chaos and the Gauntlet of Zeus, a huge metal boxing glove like weapon that allows players to get up close and personal with their enemies. As well as weapons Kratos also has a number of magical abilities at his disposal, although the abilities are just rehashes of those featured in God of War 1 and 2 they are still great to use and more importantly are effective in combat.

The most surprising aspect of the combat is the controls, although the PSP lacks the second analogue nub this is compensated for by utilising the shoulder buttons in evasion, whereas on the Dual Shock 2 the right analogue stick would control the evasive manoeuvres on the PSP pressing both the shoulder buttons and then moving the nub in the desired direction will make Kratos leap to safety in that direction, initially this seems cumbersome but in actual fact it is a surprisingly intuitive alternative which makes movements far more precise. This control scheme also allows for a more seamless transition from offence to defence.

There is no doubt that God of War Chains of Olympus is a remarkable game and a technological feat but it does have a few small problems.
The biggest problem is that the game does absolutely nothing new, if anything it actually cuts out some key improvements on the original God of War. Whereas God of War 2 introduced a number of new gameplay mechanics such as the grappling mechanic, the flying and the crazy Incredible Hulk jumping through environments, Chains of Olympus actually takes all of these out, although this doesn’t really impact that game significantly the experience is a little less exciting since it’s all familiar territory.

As well as this Chains of Olympus is quite a short game, most players will get through it in around 6 hours which is a little disappointing, however the game is full of bonus content including a God mode as well as a number of challenges which in turn unlock alternative costumes for use in the main game, so there is a lot of replay value in the game.

When all is said and done God of War: Chains of Olympus is an extraordinary technical achievement and an amazing game that is worthy of the God of War name, even when compared to its console counter-parts the game holds up remarkably well. The impressive visuals, familiar but excellent gameplay and thrilling story all work in unison to provide an experience unmatched by any other PSP game, it’s simple - if you own a PSP you need to play this game.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Points and their relevance!

Allow me to paint a picture, Microsoft has had incredible success with their first home console and is in the process of creating the next iteration of the Xbox, along with a new console they have visions of a unified online platform featuring online gaming, voice and video chat, arcade games and an integrated marketplace where users can purchase downloadable content including games, pictures, music and even feature length movies. Buried amongst these grand plans is the proposal for a simple concept revolving around awarding players points for completing tasks within games, these points would then be manifested in the form of a Gamerscore, a simple numerical total of all the achievement points the player has acquired represented by nothing more than a digit that can now be found on a players gamercard prefixed by a perfunctorily created symbol.
On paper, although novel, the concept doesn’t seem like anything gamers would latch onto, in its simplest form it’s just a number given to the player for completing the task. Upon unlocking my first achievement I was extremely excited at the prospect of accumulating a ridiculous number of gamerpoints but this was largely due to my mistaken belief that the points could be utilised in purchasing items from the marketplace, after realising that I was wrong and in fact the gamerpoints had no relevance or application outside of being a number underneath my gamertag I lost interest in the whole idea of gamerpoints.
It makes you wonder how vested in the concept of gamerpoints Microsoft really were, did they have the foresight to predict that gamers would attach a deeper meaning to the Gamerscore and so included it as a key feature of the Xbox 360, or was it something that they flippantly included believing its only merit to be one of novelty.

To this day I cannot understand why people spend so much time unlocking achievements with the goal of increasing their Gamerscore, I can understand approaching achievements as an additional challenge, for example I know of a number of people who spent hours attempting to complete the Mile High Club achievement on Call of Duty 4 but this was because of the challenge involved, I myself spent more time than I should have unlocking the various skull achievements on Halo 3, but my motivation was acquiring the Hayabusa armour as opposed to adding to my gamerscore and inflating my ego. The fact of the matter is that in reality most people don’t do it for the challenge or the added replay value, they spend copious amounts of time and effort playing games that don’t deserve to be played for the sake of acquiring these points. The question is – Why?
Regardless of how you feel about points and scores its hard to deny the satisfaction received from unlocking an achievement and this is something that Microsoft and the Xbox team should receive credit for, the satisfaction in unlocking an achievement is in my opinion derived in large part from the on screen popup notifying you that you’ve unlocked an achievement, the audio and visual cues are what put the smile on a gamers face, imagine if the notification of the achievement was just some unanimated text appearing on screen saying you’ve unlocked an achievement, in comparison how satisfied would you be, I’m betting not a lot.
You only have to look as far as the PS3 to see how true this is, if you’ve ever unlocked an achievement on a PS3 game you know that the notification is just a line of text which appears momentarily, the satisfaction gained from this is incomparable to the animated notification along with the now iconic sound accompanying it. After a while you can become addicted to the momentary satisfaction that you get from hearing the sound and watching the animation, maybe that’s what drives some of these fixated points gatherers.
I believe the success of the gamerscore / gamerpoints / achievement concept is largely due to the deeper meaning that gamers have attached to the points.
Gaming is competitive by nature, there’s always someone claiming to be the best at a game, in the old days the only way to settle such a dispute would be to sit down and have it out (virtually of course), however in the newer generation of internet gaming settling such arguments takes far less effort, in this sense gamerscore can function as proof of stature as a gamer, many gamers use gamerscore to gauge the ability of another gamer, the higher the score the more accomplished and formidable the player, in a way It serves as a way for gamers to judge ‘a book by its cover’, a simple glance at a players score lets you know what you’re up against, this compels people to rack up gamerpoints in an attempt to assert themselves in the upper echelon of gamers. Although in practice this makes no sense since usually the points aren’t awarded based on gaming ability it is reinforced through the relevance given to gamerscore in social integration on Xbox live. Although Xbox Live is an open network available to everyone in some situations social position and stature is judged by gamerscore, it isn’t widespread but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. I’ll provide some anecdotal evidence, I wasn’t an early adopter of the Xbox 360 so when I picked one up and jumped into a game of Gears of War online I had very little gamerpoints, the result was that it turned into a juvenile game of ‘harass the dude with 20 gamerpoints’, the players had used my gamerscore to decide I would be the one in the game to get harassed (unfortunately for them I’m quite apt with the shotgun and proceeded to blow chunks out of everyone), if this was a isolated case I wouldn’t bring it up but I was recently in a game of Halo 3 with someone who had a very low score and lets just say he wasn’t exactly welcomed into the online environment, as well as this I know of a number of people who have had similar experiences. Maybe the reason people spend so much time collecting points is to ensure social integration, as well as stature as a gamer, it would explain why sites such as are so popular.
Points serve as a persistent meta-game that can be played as apart of every other game available for the system and some points hounds would claim to be obsessing over points because they find enjoyment in devoting time to collecting the points but the social impact that points have online is also undeniable

Monday, 17 March 2008

Well, Live sucked!!

Upon hearing about Play.Com Live the gamer and budding video game journalist inside me worked itself up into crazed frenzy, after all, an open to the public event featuring playable versions of upcoming unreleased video games is something that every European gamer yearns for every time E3, TGS, Leipzig or any other acronymically named video gaming event kicks off. Live was ‘An Entertainment Extravaganza For The Whole Family!’ featuring high profile video games such as Lego Indiana Jones, Star Wars: Force Unleashed, Resident Evil 5, Rockband, Ninja Gaiden 2, Bourne Conspiracy, GhostBusters, Prototype and many more. I travelled down to the newly rebuilt Wembley Arena with hopes of checking out some upcoming
games, possibly getting some hands on time with a few triple A titles and writing about them for you, the dedicated readers.
Disappointingly the event turned out to be a gathering of trailers and gameplay footage all of which are readily accessible on the all-powerful internet.

While the aforementioned list of games is impressive the playable titles at the event were largely comprised of games that have been available for purchase for a while now, games such as Unreal 3, Gears of War, Guitar Hero 3, Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4 were featured prominently at the event, they’re all great games but at this point - not exactly worthy of coverage.
There were a few exceptions though; I did get some hands on time with Rock Band, The Bourne Conspiracy and Soul Calibur IV.
Although Rock Band has been out for a while now the game still hasn’t been given an official release date for Europe, I can’t figure out why it’s taking so long but If I had to hazard a guess I’d say either downloadable content issues or retail distribution procedures are holding it back.
When the original Guitar Hero game came out I was new to the rhythm game genre, I didn’t play Guitar Freaks, Amplitude or Frequency despite being recommended them by a number of friends, what can I say – my tastes were restrictively simple back then.

So when Guitar Hero came out the appeal of being able to play a Guitar without actually learning to play hooked me in and I made the leap into rhythmic waters. I loved Guitar Hero, it defeated my pessimism and did exactly what it claimed to do, made me feel like a rock star in the comfort of my own living room, but when Guitar Hero 2 came out I decided to give it a miss, the main change to the game was a new song list and since I wasn’t particularly enamored with the set-list It just didn’t appeal to me, the same goes for every other marginally different Guitar Hero release since the first one.
When Harmonix revealed that their latest rhythm game would let players play drums my ears perked up and I started to pay more attention, the most appealing aspects of Rock Band are the drums and the delivery method of songs. The gameplay of Guitar Hero is great but the novelty of guitar playing element wore of pretty quickly for me, but app
lying the gameplay style to the drums is something I’m definitely interested in.
I got the chance to play the drums at the event and it is pure unadulterated fun, it is extremely hard however, playing on medium right off the bat it not something I’d recommend. From what I’ve seen so far the content delivery method that has been implemented in the US release is also something to look forwards to, It’s good to see that Harmonix is taking the consumer friendly approach by treating Rock Band as a platform which they can update through downloadable content instead of the money hungry Guitar Hero approach.

I’m a big fan of the fighting game genre and have been disappointed by the consistent decline in fighting games over the last few years. Thankfully 2008 looks to be a good year for the genre, titles such as Street Fighter IV, Blaze Blue, King of Fighters XII and Soul Calibur VI are leading the charge in the fighting game renaissance. Everyone has ‘a game’, a fighting game which they claim to be a master of, mine happen to be Street Fighter and to some extent Soul Calibur, while I probably won’t be much competition in a professional capacity I can still hold my own in both of these games, so when I got the chance to play Soul Calibur IV I was more than excited – I was ecstatic.
Although the demo was clearly an early build it was still developed enough to be evident of how the final product will turn out.
The Soul Calibur games are known for being on the upper tier in terms of visuals and this game is no different, the character models are extremely detailed and features such as clothing and hair all animate realistically, a disturbing amount of attention has also been paid to the animation of what can only be described as the encumbering aspects of the female anatomy, seriously it’s a bit redundant at this point.
The gameplay of Soul Calibur is completely intact but it felt a little slower than the previous games, the movements felt sluggish which meant that battles didn’t flow as well as they did in the previous games and it was difficult to get combos going, this was also in large part due to the significant lag between the game and the Xbox 360 controller, the response times between a button press and the character execution were far too long, this is something which I have no doubt will be addressed before the release. The demo was restricted to Taki, Sophitia and Mitsurugi, although I don’t have much experience with Taki she did feel a bit overpowered, but again this is probably something they’ll fix during the balancing portion of the development. I’m still just as excited to play Soul Calibur 4 but it’s a shame they still haven’t fixed the series’ biggest flaw – there’s still no way to counter ringouts.

Lastly is The Bourne Conspiracy, I didn’t get the chance to play this for too long but the little I did play was pretty decent, I’m a little reluctant to give any sort of definitive opinion because this is a book/movie based game and we all know how those turn out (yes I know Riddick was awesome). The combat although not very deep was oddly satisfying; the little ‘Bourne’ moments appear in the form of God of War style quick time events and pack the same punch, watching Bourne beat someone over the head with a fire extinguisher in the game was just as entertaining as watching him lay the smackdown with a phone book in the movie.

Anyway, overall the event was a giant disappointment and I feel like a complete chump for buying VIP tickets, honestly, the only thing I got was the option to get in a different line.

How hard would it have been to get demos for Smash Bros, Little Big Planet or Metal Gear, they’ve all been playable at various events throughout last year so it’s just a matter of getting permission to use them. I guess the show just isn’t important enough – why does the industry hate us so....

Thursday, 13 March 2008

PC Gaming = Still Alive!

Over the past few months some wildly outrageous and somewhat unsubstantiated claims have been thrown about – a pimple faced kid on the train told me Spider-Man sucked, my brother bragged he could beat me at Third Strike, and my ‘friend’ told me to pass on Wii Fit because I was too heavy for the balance board, from my response to the Wii Fit comment it wouldn’t be a far stretch to assume that I was deeply hurt, but in actual fact it didn’t have much of an effect on me, firstly because IT IS NOT TRUE...ANY OF IT, and secondly because I was too busy nursing a pre-existing emotional wound I sustained from reading a number of disturbing articles featuring various industry figures RSVPing for a funeral – apparently, PC gaming is dead.

The first console I owned was a SEGA Mega Drive II (Genesis in the US) and since then my gaming has been almost exclusively on consoles but the PC still has a special place in my heart, it introduced me to first-person shooters and eye-strain through Quake and eventually led me to what would become one of my favourite games of all time - Counter-Strike, so forgive me if I’m reluctant to call time on the PC gaming industry.
The console gaming environment would not be what it is today without both the direct and indirect influence of the PC gaming industry, even the most rampant console purist would have a hard time arguing against this. Everything from genre influences to major developments in the way we play games (evident through the console internet gaming revolution) got their start on the PC, and if that’s not convincing enough...without PC gaming there would be no Xbox Live – come on, you know that hurts.
That’s not to say that PC gaming isn’t suffering, clearly it is and it all boils down to one thing - approachability.
If you’ve had any experience with PC games you’ll know that despite all the mind-blowing evolutions in technology getting a game to work on a PC is even more difficult than it would have been ten years ago.
The reason console gaming has become so popular is because of the simplicity involved, when you want to play a game you just purchase for the appropriate platform, put the game in the drive and watch it go, whereas attempting to do the same for the PC involves a whole lot more, take me for example, I love Counter-Strike but haven’t played it in over a year because I can’t get the damn thing to run on my pc. Despite upgrading my PC numerous times the game still runs like slideshow. At this point a consumer is usually faced with two options; spend a ridiculous amount of money buying a powerful new graphics card, realise that your existing components aren’t compatible with it and then sell some treasured possessions to pay for upgrades to the rest of the thing only to have it all become impotent a mere three or four months later.
The second option is to buy a home console where the only supplementary spending will be on the games, the hardware will remain largely unchanged for at least 4 years, 10 if you believe Sony.
As much as I want to play Crysis given the amount of money I would have to spend in order to experience the game the way it should be is just not an option, I’d gladly support the PC if I knew that I could play the game I purchase, but that just isn’t the case.
It is for this reason that smaller flash based video games have become so popular, even though I have Half-Life 2, Counter-Strike: Source and a bunch of other games installed on my computer Desktop Tower Defence got the most PC playtime in 2007.
This is where Steam comes in; I’m really excited to see what smaller games come out of the platform, so far Audiosurf has got me back to gaming on my PC and it’s the type of game that isn’t typically associated with PC gaming.This is where I think the future of the PC gaming is, sure there will always be the dedicated group of gamers willing to keep up with the constantly changing hardware in order to play the triple A title but gaming as an industry will develop through the little quirky games created by a small group of passionate developers thinking outside of the box and offering experiences that large developers wouldn’t think of or couldn’t get the green light for. Playing games like Audiosurf, Desktop Tower Defence and Fez, games that don’t require divine gaming rigs to play makes me hopeful for the future of PC games, PC gaming isn’t dead – it’s evolving.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Review: Army Of Two

Originally scheduled for release last year Army of Two is an intense third-person shooter developed and published by EA. In a surprising move EA opted to delay Army of Two for three months in order to allow their Montreal studios to add a final coat of polish to the game, although they missed out on the lucrative Christmas period the extra development time has clearly done the game good.
Army of Two departs from the usual third-person action shooter formula by placing a heavier focus on the co-op aspect of the game as opposed to the single player campaign. Everything from the gameplay to the story has been built from the ground up around the idea that the player would take control of one part of a two man team.

Although the obligatory single player campaign makes an appearance the game is clearly designed to be played co-operatively, the AI does a good enough job of executing the commands issued but the overall experience is drastically improved when playing with a real person.
When first unveiled Army of Two was pitched as a cooperative game featuring an unprecedented level of artificial intelligence, the AI would be integrated seamlessly into the gameplay to the point that it would be difficult to distinguish between playing with a human teammate and a computer controlled teammate, the AI would react differently according to the way it was treated by the player, adapt to the constantly changing situation and the condition of its teammate, and interact with the player in a lifelike believable way.

Unfortunately, with the exceptions of a few quirky character interaction animations the AI falls short and as a result what’s left is a derivative third-person shooter.
The story in Army of Two is heavily influenced by current events, the underpinning political and moral issues relate to the role of Private Military Companies and of course, big bad terrorists – it’s all too reminiscent of Blackwater.
The player takes control of either Elliot Salem or Tyson Rios, the predictable mercenary types given an aesthetic edge by sporting masks and armour that look like they were designed by the members of Slipknot.
Tyson and Elliot are recruited from the military to work for a PMC and are sent to various conflict zones to recover information, disarm weapons or rescue captured operatives, and more often than not kill a diabolical middle-eastern terrorist.

Throughout the game the battle scenarios change in relation to the political climate in the game, this is an interesting dynamic that has the opportunity to create a compelling narrative, but, disappointingly the game fails to capitalise and ultimately the story becomes a predictable afterthought. With narrative out the window the story is utilised as a method of setting up the various battle scenarios which all boil down to ‘this guy is doing bad things in this country, go and take care of it’, nevertheless the comedic interactions between Tyson and Elliot keep it entertaining enough to warrant sitting through the short cut-scenes.

The gameplay in Army of Two is nothing new; if you’ve played any recent third-person shooter you’ll feel right at home with this game. The combat is very much in the same vein as Gears of War, the player is expected to use cover and the over-the-shoulder precise aim to clear the various areas of hostiles.
The crux of the gameplay is the Aggro element, attacking the enemy causes a build up of Aggro, this is represented by a red aura around the character model, the Aggro attracts the attention of the enemy which leaves your partner free to cause some backstage mischief. The Aggro mechanic adds depth to the otherwise unremarkable combat; it provides the opportunity take a more tactical approach instead of the usual guns blazing modus operandi, most of the fun is had when one player attracts the attention of the enemies while the other heads behind enemy lines and takes them out.

At various points in the game the combat will launch into a back-to-back sequence where the two characters form an impenetrable wall and take down the enemies while covering each other, this is the most enjoyable portion of the co-op gameplay, but since the sequences are scripted they only occur a few times.
The combat has a number of shortcomings, the most prevalent of which are the long range combat in which it becomes difficult to hit the target and the close quarters combat where if an enemy gets to close it can become difficult to aim at them, the alternative to shooting is the melee attack but in a face to face confrontation the enemy usually gets the upper hand, this is probably to encourage the tactical use of Aggro.

The level design in Army of Two is uninspired, the environments although graphically stellar are often extremely bland and the progression is linear with some occasional branching paths thrown in.
The flaws in the level design usually results in running around aimlessly in a attempt to figure out where the next objective is, this is remedied by the inclusion of a GPS system that basically tells the player where to go; at any point in the game a quick press of the button reveals luminescent arrows that can be followed to the next objective, you’ll find yourself leaning on this very regularly since many objectives require you to scale a wall that you’d previously dismissed as an unimportant background feature, or interact with switches or buttons that aren’t visible to the naked eye.
The high points in this game are usually the scripted events such as the two man parachute sequences where one player guides the parachute and the other attempts to shoot eagle-eyed enemies on ground level, or the aforementioned back-to-back sequences.

Overall Army of Two fails to meet expectations; however it is a competent cooperative third-person shooter. Although the combat is ordinary it is nevertheless enjoyable and playing through the game with a friend makes the experience far more enjoyable.
The heavy focus on the cooperative gameplay pays off in the end but doesn’t deliver anything that you couldn’t get from the like of Halo 3 or Gears of War.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

An uninspired ramble

After coming to terms with the fact that my PC could no longer serve me in a functional capacity without a reformat I overcame my inhibitions and formatted my poor excuse for a personal computer – unfortunately for me my inhibitions returned seeking unholy vengeance and I spent an entire day trying to get my wireless internet connection back up.
After much hair pulling and regular fits of anger in which I swore to throw the ‘fudging’ (you know what I mean) thing out the window and immediately purchase a Mac I got it up.
During these fits of blinding rage I played some games to calm myself and ensure I don’t make good on those anger induced threats, since I’ve spent the last few days reading a large law book which I have a sneaky suspicion was written to encourage law students to commit suicide I thought I’d ease back into blogging by talking about some of the games I’ve been playing over the past few days, so here goes.

Since buying my Wii I’ve made a measly two purchases from the virtual console, the first was Ocarina of Time and I am more than satisfied with it – it’s Ocarina of Time for god’s sake, who wouldn’t be satisfied.
My second purchase was yesterday, while lazily browsing through the list of virtual console games I happened upon Gunstar Heroes (apparently I missed the release), after freaking out for a few minutes I put the game on download and watched the progress in eager anticipation.
A short play session later I found myself scratching my head and working myself up into a frenzy trying to figure out why I loved this game so much as a child, this was not the game I remembered it to be. I played this game through a number of times on my Mega Drive and enjoyed it more every time, but during my recent play session with it I was more than bored, I was frustrated and annoyed.
Back when I first played the game I was obsessed with the co-op, to the point that I ended up forcing everyone from my sister to my dad to play through the game with me, but I couldn’t even play through the first level this time -- mainly due to the annoying controls and gameplay mechanics , the most frustrating of which I found to be the throw mechanic, if you get too close to the second player while shooting it results in your character grabbing his teammate and throwing him across the screen which more often than not kills them but at the very least lands them in the middle of an enemy picnic. After beating the first boss I decided that my memories of playing the game as a child were too important to destroy so I ended the torture and gave up.
I’ll go back and play it again later, I owe the game that much but I guess I’ve learned my lesson -- I’ll think twice next time before playing a beloved childhood treasure.

As well as Gunstar Heroes I've been clocking up some serious hours on the Halo 3 multiplayer, nothing too exciting but it is surprising to me (and a number of people on my friends list judging by the messages I received) mainly because I’m not a big fan of the Halo despite buying all three games (don’t call me a conformist).
I forced myself to play through all three single player campaigns mainly to do justice to the thirty or so pounds I spent, but I only remember enjoying the first Halo campaign on co-op. Since then I haven’t taken much notice of the games, I understand why people like it but it just didn’t click with me. Halo fans and Xbox owners in general will preach that the multiplayer is the greatest thing since Quake but even after many wasted hours on the Halo 2 multiplayer I couldn’t see what the fuss was about.
It didn’t help that the yardstick I was measuring it against was Counter-Strike on PC, and let’s face it – there aren’t many multiplayer first-person shooter games that can stand side to side with Counter-Strike without soiling itself.
I felt that the Halo multiplayer lacked the finesse and refinement of Counter-Strike, when playing Counter-Strike there is a clear distinction between experienced and new players, if you had spent time playing the game, practicing and familiarizing yourself with the game mechanics luck would play a lesser role in the flow of the match, you could make it through multiple rounds without dying by simply relying on skills gained through experience. On the other hand after a few games the gameplay of Halo became perfunctory, I was simply running at people with the trigger held down and using the melee attack once I was within range, with the occasional grenade thrown in of course, I wasn’t having fun.
In case you hadn’t noticed I have been referring to my experience with Halo in the past tense, why you ask, well – er, H-H-Hi, my name is Tamz..a-a-and-and I’m a Halo addict.
After being totally engrossed in the Call of Duty 4 multiplayer I decided to give Halo 3 another shot and to my surprise I found myself having fun and remaining fully engaged throughout the lengthy play sessions. The simplicity I once felt hindered the experience was now drawing me in, sure it still doesn’t have the depth of Counter-Strike but I enjoy not having to be as precise and calculated, I can run in with my pants around my ankles and just shoot anything that moves, if I tried that in CS there would immediately be a bullet lodged in my head.
Needless to say I’m having a lot of fun and will definitely be playing more of the game.

I’ve also been playing a few arcade titles including Geometry Wars, Undertow and Puzzle Quest.
Again I’m a bit late to the Puzzle Quest party but you know what they say-- better late than never.
After spending a whole day trying to find the game on the PSP I decided to just buy the 360 version, although it’s the better version I would have preferred to have it on the go. It’s a great variation on the Bejeweled formula, the injection of RPG conventions gives the classic gameplay formula a new layer of depth which I am loving.

Other than that I’ve ordered a copy of Persona 3, I had the chance to play the game for a while when it first came out on a friends US console but since I have a PAL console couldn’t carry on, now that it has been released in the UK I’m looking forward to devoting my spare time to it.

Anyway I think that’s enough rambling for now, I promise my next entry will be something mildly interesting as opposed to this mindless dribble.

Thoughts collected!

Monday, 3 March 2008

Internet Gaming Michief!

Newsflash! Online gaming is no longer confined to the PC, if you own an Xbox 360, Playstation 3 or Wii there’s a high probability that you are or have in the past played over either Live, PSN or the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection for those dedicated enough to endure the ridiculous friend code system, although they all essentially take place in the same domain the experiences on each service is undoubtedly different. When I say experience I don’t mean the experience we have in terms of the performance of the services, or the usability, what I’m referring to is the social interaction that players have with each other, the experience of playing with complete strangers from around the world over the service. I have a number of friends with Xbox 360’s but the majority of them turn down my invitations to play over Live in favor of the PC or PS3 – why? No, it’s not because I like to break into verses of ‘I know a song that’ll get on your nerves, get on your nerves, get on your nerves’ while talking to them in private chat, it’s the experience they’ve had in the past with the Live service.

In addition to being the online gamers service of choice Xbox Live is also the most hostile and unfriendly social gaming environments in the history of online gaming, it’s pretty obvious that in any situation where a person interacts with others with complete anonymity there will be an abundance of… ‘douchebags’, for lack of a better term, but Live seems to have become the epicenter of internet douchbaggery, which got me thinking about PSN -- although there’s no comparison in the hours of time I’ve racked up in PSN to Xbox Live the experience I’ve had has been drastically different, my play sessions on PSN have been quite pleasant in comparison, the lack of profanity, name calling and general unpleasant behavior has made for a good change of pace. But why is it that the usual breed of internet hoodlums don’t seem to be as regular of a feature in Warhawk, Burnout or Resistance, the fanboy will say “coz PS3 is lame tbh, nobody plays the games and noone has headsets”, but being the drugged up optimist that I am I prefer to think of it as a reflection of the type of people playing on the PS3, that’s not to say that everyone playing on Xbox Live is a douchebag, saying that would be a false generalization and would amount to effectively painting a large target in permanent ink on my forehead but from my experiences with both the services I’ve found the random gamers I encounter on PSN seem less inclined to tell me I suck then spend the time to accurately position their crotches over my lifeless head and sit on it over and over again.

The fact that online games aren’t as widely played over PSN is a contributory factor which cannot be denied, which is why I am looking forward to seeing what happens when we finally get Playstation Home, the service encourages meeting up and interacting with other players and facilitates the social interaction through allowing users to communicate via the virtual on screen keyboard, Bluetooth or USB keyboards, e-motes and the good old headset -- the possibilities for mischief are endless. Home will be where the PSN users reveal their true colors and the Playstation Network solidifies its position as either yet another unfriendly network filled with wayward gamers or something a little more family friendly.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Tigger Uppercut!

In case you hadn't noticed - I! LOVE! STREET FIGHTER!
Although i usually play with Ken I have been seen enjoying some hot Sagat action in the past, he has the most ridiculous uppercut in the game, it probably does the same amount of damage as a shoryuken but connecting with a full on tiger uppercut just feels so much more brutal. Until now Sagat has not been announced for Street Fighter 4, but earlier today some footage (shot on a mobile phone by the looks of it) showing off Muay Tai master Sagat made its way to youtube.
Capcom later confirmed on the Capcom Blog that Sagat and Balrog (M.Bison in Japan) will be in the final game, the characters are currently only available in select arcades around Japan but cannot be selected via the character select screen, they show up as opponents under certain conditions.
As well as the two new/old characters Capcom Blog also confirmed that three new locations have been added to the game; North America: Drive-In at Night, South Asia: Beautiful Bay and South America: Inland Jungle.