I’ve seen all that I need to see.

Honestly, I wasn’t terribly excited for this year’s E3. Interestingly enough, last year had me covering E3 on a relatively daily basis. I called E3 the superbowl of the gaming industry. And honestly, I still think that’s the case. However, there wasn’t anything really driving me to this year’s E3. Yes, Nintendo is probably announcing their new console and Sony is announcing their handheld. Other than that, I foresee nothing but sequels.

The two things that I was most anxious about was Assassin’s Creed and Battlefield 3. Assassin’s Creed brought me a ton of excitement to see, as it’s now my favorite game series – having toppled CastleVania after its 20+ year streak. While the gameplay trailer looked very familiar, I did see some new things that have me excited to play this game. The trailer is also very interesting, which I’ve embedded below.

In all reality, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is my big game of the year. If it’s going to be one game that I preorder, this is going to be it. The question is whether or not I’m going to buy it on the PC or the PS3. And below is exactly why.

Incase you didn’t see the text in the lower-right hand corner, DICE is saying that all of this is 100% gameplay footage … and it’s pretty damn impressive. Maybe it’s because I’m tailored to console gaming or because my video card isn’t very high powered, but all of the trailers that Battlefield 3 has presented has been absolutely beautiful – down to every last detail. If DICE can really promise on this, then they have just taken the top spot of the FPS world, no questions asked.

But, on the other hand – it begs the question … exactly what do you NEED to have the game run like that? There are a lot of rumors floating about, and I’m hoping they release the specs soon because I think it’s going to be a hefty investment for a lot of people. First off, almost everyone is saying this is going to be a game that runs optimally on a quad-core processor. All of the rumors floating around say that it can run on a dual-core, but ideally you’re looking at a quad-core.

The kicker is going to be the video card. The rumors are more split on this one – some say that what DICE is demoing on is roughly a $500 video card, so if you’re wanting to run it smoothly, you may have to invest in a device that could probably buy you TWO consoles. However, other people are saying that because this is merely an improvement on the Frostbite engine, that all of the optimization is really done in the engine. If that’s true – then you can probably run it on a $150 to $200 video card as opposed to a $500 one.

In my previous blog post, I questioned whether or not I was going to give up on my PS3 and invest in PC gaming. And to be 100% honest – the result will come when I see the official specs for this game. If this game can be optimized to run smoothly (that being between 30 and 60FPS) at a decent resolution and my upgrade will cost, at most, $300 – then I am pretty much sold to the PC market.

However, if I have to invest in a $500 video card, then the winner goes to the PS3. I’ve long stated that my issue with PC gaming is that it requires frequent upgrades. And it’s not 2002 anymore where you can get hardware cheap – hardware is pretty expensive now and most people can’t afford to do yearly/bi-yearly upgrades.

I understand that DICE is pushing graphics to the next level. And that’s great – and it’s also why this game is the decision game in whether I move to PC gaming – but if that leap is going to cost me at least half a grand, then DICE is unfortunately doing a huge alienation of their fanbase, in my opinion. Am I going to want to run Battlefield 3 at 1920×1080 with every setting put to high and have it run smoothly? Yes, but I know it won’t happen, and don’t expect it … but if I’m going to have to dumb it down ridiculously low, then I probably would have a more enjoyable experience playing it on my PS3.

So, to wrap everything up – let me say firstoff that DICE has done a phenomenal job with Battlefield 3 – the graphics are simply amazing. Stunning. I’m really impressed with how the game works, sounds and runs. I’d even argue it’s damn near flawless for today’s gaming environment. Let’s just hope the everyday consumer can experience what they see on the trailers on their own personal rig that’s hooked up with some fairly decent hardware.


Is it too late, Sony? PS3 vs. PC

About three years ago, I’d be saying that PC gaming is ultimately not worth my time. But here I am, actually thinking about selling my PS3, getting a new video card, a BluRay player with Netflix and going strictly PC gaming.

Why? Because of Steam. Steam has become a bit of an addiction for me. I look forward to their weekend, mid-week and sometimes week-long sales. Let’s not forget their big market of games that’s less than $20. Additionally, this almost month-long outage of the PSN has really put the dust on my PS3 as I play online games on my PC. Since then, I’ve further fallen in love with Steam, and I’d probably still be on my PS3 had it not been for Valve’s gaming hub service.

But now, the PSN is (as I’m writing this) on it’s way back into the online world. With this slow, eventual rollout, is it going to change my perception? Or am I still potentially lost to the PC world?

See, I have a bit of an OCD with gaming – I can only really contribute to one thing … I can’t balance between multiple systems, which is why I no longer have a Wii and don’t want a 360. Maybe it’s a lack of time … or maybe it’s an investment thing – but if I’m playing on one system, I feel like I should be playing on the other.

What does PC gaming have to offer? Well, the best thing is the idea that with Steam, all your games are tied to your account. You won’t lose them, documentation is online and you can easily play with your friends. It also acts like a portal (heh) to the bigger publishing companies like EA and Activision. I really like the idea of launching a gaming hub and being able to play any game I want with a mere click of the button. No physical media, easily join a game with a friend – and I’m right at a computer if I need to multi-task.

Sony’s bad reputation. Sony’s reputation is damaged for me. Throughout their time with the PS3, they’ve had bad luck – with BluRay pirating, the ApocalyPS3 and now the “It only Does Offline” scenario … Sony just does not seem to know how to protect their stuff, or they seem to half-ass it everything they do (they REALLY should have figured out that Leap Year bug). So, should I continue to invest in a company that may drop the ball again in the next six months? Or, heaven forbid, the PSN gets attacked again after nearly a month of downtime?

What does console gaming have to offer? Well, console gaming’s big benefit is the lack of having to toy around with video settings to get a nice smooth animation – it just works. Any game you put in – will work pretty smoothly. I also think console gaming is favored over PC gaming due to modding/cheating restrictions. PC gaming also has poor controller support – and I don’t care what anyone says … as controller is more comfortable than a WASD keyboard setup. Finally, consoles don’t require upgrades. You could quite possibly be upgrading your PC numerous times over the years. With a console, it’s ultimately a one-time purchase and you’re good until the next console comes out

Trophies/Achievements. I know this part sounds bad – but I love this aspect of gaming. Sony enforces it. Microsoft enforces it. Valve does not. With Steam, it’s entirely up to the discretion of the game company. It’s nice that game companies can bypass achievements if they’d like to, but I won’t lie and say that’s not something I look for in games. It offers me a reason to play the game again once I’ve cleared it. If I finish a single-player game, that’s essentially it – unless there’s a reason for me to go back … such as achievements.

So, what do you people think? In a rare occurrence, I’m asking feedback for people who read this blog to let me know what their console of choice is and why. Should I sell my PS3, controllers and games and go all PC gaming? Or am I just being tricked by this whole PSN debacle?

Things don’t look pretty for you, Sony

Look out for the PSN intruder! He’s climbing in your windows, snatching your information up, try’na rape ‘um …

I kid, I kid. I’m hilarious. Honestly, though, 2011 has been a terrible year for Sony’s online network. Sony has been hit with a tsunami of bad press and has probably permanently damaged the trust of many of their PSN subscribers.

I’ll even admit that I’ve been battling a PS3 vs Steam battle in my head, but ultimately I think the PS3 will win, because it’s hooked up to my bigger TV and when I try to hook up my PC, the text is all jarbled (any assistance about this in the comments would be greatly appreciated.) Plus, I’ve invested years in it with trophies, purchases and games, so completely abandoning it sounds like a stupid choice.  However, the fact that the PSN has been down for half a month and we got information that our personal data may have been compromised a week after the attack makes me wonder exactly how smart Sony is with their online network.

Of course, both Sony and [in my opinion] the hacker, Geohot are to blame for this. Sony’s crybaby fest about how all PS3’s shouldn’t be modded sparked this. In my opinion, once you buy the hardware, what you do with it is up to you – if you break the ToS, then so be it. You did it on your own accord. However, the elitist hacker Geohot opened the floodgates for Sony. On top of a massive fight between the two, Anonymous attacked Sony’s sites with DDoS attacks, pulling down most of the sites but not the PSN. And in my opinion, this attack is at the hands of some of the remaining Anonymous users who didn’t want to back down once they realized they were ultimately hurting the people they were “supporting.” And we have news reports that say that Anonymous was and was not part of this attack. And the thing about Anonymous is that there is no figurehead, no leader. It’s a band of … you got it … anonymous people all working together. So while it’s very possible that when Anonymous backed off like they said they would; it’s also possible that a band of people from that attack stuck around and plotted to do something even more drastic.

In the end though, this whole debacle would have been avoided if Geohot kept his discoveries personal AND Sony didn’t have a crybaby fest over the whole OtherOS thing.

But is Sony really to blame? Sure, and no.

And are the hackers really to blame? Sure, and no.

Continue reading

Review: Enslaved – Odyssey to the West

Enslaved – Odyssey to the West, from what I recall, got great reviews. Unfortunately, I just don’t agree with them. I think Ninja Theory have done some great things – but ultimately the combat is what destroys it for me. I was eager to finish the game – because the storyline, dialogue and presentation got me interested, but the combat alone is what made me throw in the towel – it’s just piss poorly done.

  • Cutscenes are great – Facial animations are exceptional and voice acting doesn’t seem overdone, either. This was the game company that made Heavenly Sword and it appears this company pays particular attention to facial detail. I ultimately did care for the characters at the end of my playtime.
  • Platforming is enjoyable – if you know where to go, then you can easily maneuver yourself to your next location. I wish more platforming games followed their style – of course, with the idea of the main character being a primal creature, it kinda’ fits.
  • The game is pretty – and it’s cool to see what appears to be city landmarks in ruins (the imagery of the two bridges in New York) come to mind.
  • The combat is terrible. I didn’t care for it in the beginning but hoped it would improve. The attacks feel clunky – and when you’re being swamped with enemies, you feel like you’re just moving too slowly – which is ironic for someone who can jump around like they’re a superhuman acrobat. Each attack seems like it has a little lag before you see it executed, making this a button-mashing game when it probably didn’t have to be. When being bumrushed, unless you do a ranged sweep attack to prevent the droids from getting close to you, your [already slow] attacks will be interrupted.
  • Targeting with your staff for ranged “gun” shots is also terrible. Many times I’ve pointed the crosshair right at an enemy in front of me and it just seems to pass right by them. I then get attacked and killed.
  • The areas where you had to maneuver through patrols without the assistance of Trip was more of a nuisance than a challenge – especially considering the shield doesn’t last long … even when maxed out.
  • I did not enjoy the jerky camerawork. The best way to describe it is that if the camera were controlled by a mouse, the sensitivity would be at around 90 out of 100. And it would often switch to a “viewpoint” style, where you could just move the camera to look around you … which is actually a bit frustrating when you’re trying to find out which platform to jump to so you can activate a switch.

Positive Points: 3  |  Negative Points: 4  |  Final Score: -1

I gave the game a few days of so that my review wasn’t based on frustrations, but ultimately in the end, I felt like it was pointless because the same problem was always there. As stated before, I found myself button mashing when I ultimately didn’t have to. And I wasn’t button mashing to continue a chain attack, I was button mashing to make sure my sweep attack hit.

I have no doubt that had the combat system been designed and executed more properly, the my review would have turned out much different and much more positive. Unfortunately, it wasn’t – so it is what it is.

Review: Little Big Planet 2

Little Big Planet 2 is a coin toss for me. While I do like the additions that have been made to the game … I still ultimately feel like there was nothing extremely new brought to the table. Of course, when you see people creating levels that imitate first person shooters, you realize that the functionality of the game has expanded greatly. Kudos are in order to those who can utilize the creativity and once you watch some tutorials and see some user-created levels, you will be amazed at what you see.

  • There are much more flashy effects in this game. Suits have a bit more style and uniqueness to them. The disco outfit comes to mind.
  • The various new items are a welcome addition. Grappling hooks, Creatinator, amongst other items help bring variety to the game.
  • Having created another level, the things you can do once you figure everything out are amazing. You can even create Sackbots that will have their own attitude, conditions, etc. Again, when you get a good understanding of creating levels, you’ll realize that outside of maybe specific development tools, levels created by Media Molecule could have been made in their level generator.
  • New mode styles – versus mode, movies, linked levels add a nice touch to the game. People can now literally tell stories that link from one level to another as well as create movies, now.
  • I have seen first-hand that this game has the tendency to rope in people who otherwise may not be completely interested in video games. And in an era where video games may be overwhelming to learn, that’s quite a feat.
  • The game still feels and moves the same. Honestly, I think this game could have been released as a variety of expansion packs.
  • It’s still very difficult to get your level seen. Even selecting newly published levels are hidden amongst a variety of choices. I really with Media Molecule would have come up with a new tiered setup for helping get new levels published. After a five minute window, your level could be thrown into obscurity fast.
  • I wish there were more levels made by Media Molecule. While there are some really unique levels created by people, MM are the experts with level creation.

Positive Points: 5  |  Negative Points: 3  |  Final Score: 2

2010 – The Year In Review

Instead of being out partying it up like all the young folks do, I’m actually at home typing this up while my child sleeps in the other room. As you can tell – I live life on the edge! 2010 was an interesting year for video games. A lot of things came out into the open, series got reboots and predicted titles still came out. All-in-all, I think it was a pretty good year for video games. Nothing major happened at E3, except for the 3DS and no new real IPs were announced except for a few that ultimately flopped. However, as I’ll describe in my review of the gaming year, new IPs aren’t necessary if the game companies can still churn out champions.

Game of The Year: Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood
Game companies, if you want to know how to continue to keep a series successful, do what Ubisoft Montreal does. Every year, the company has come out with an Assassin’s Creed game, and each game has triumphed over the other one. Even keeping the same engine, character and weapons – the game was able to tackle the industry and impress yet again. It’s the only series where commenters at various forums say, “If Ubisoft will continue to create the games they’re creating, I don’t care if they come out every year,” and that’s saying something – most people don’t like yearly releases of games. AC:B is able to take a era not used by many games (the renaissance) and incorporate a GTA theme to it – in the sense that there is just a lot of stuff you can do. The game’s multiplayer – while heavily flawed in my opinion – is a breath of fresh air for the multiplayer genre. Instead of zerg rushes and capture the flag, it’s a game of cat-and-mouse that lets you know that you could die at any second while you stalk your prey. Multiplayer gets frustrating in the later levels unfortunately with the skills you get – but when first starting out and you have nothing, it’s really fun to play the guessing game.

Best Multiplayer: Battlefield – Bad Company 2
If there’s one multiplayer game I’ll look back at fondly – it’s Battlefield:  Bad Company 2. I love games that require teamwork, and Battlefield’s setup was perfect. With vehicles and four different classes (that each contribute), Battlefield offers a unique multiplayer that places emphasis on vehicle use and not just rush/zerging enemies, but helping replenish ammo, repair vehicles, scout for enemies or revive team-mates. I’ve logged roughly 120 hours in on the game and don’t really regret it. Is there a reason I’m not playing today? Sure – because unfortunately the leveling plateaus, so you find earning the big-point awards far and few inbetween. I was hoping the recently released Vietnam expansion pack would bring in new big-point awards to gain, but that doesn’t happen. Will I still pop it in every once in awhile? Sure, and I’ll have fun – but I’ll often find it going back into my library. Here’s hoping Battlefield: Bad Company 3 is just as good as Bad Company 2.

Biggest Disappointment: Medal of Honor
A game reboot that not only was gloating to be the Call of Duty competitor, but also had the developers behind Battlefield fueling the multiplayer. I was excited that this game really could have been a good competitor for Call of Duty. Unfortunately, what I got with multiplayer was Battlefield Easy Mode. Things were just too simple and compared to Bad Company 2, it felt empty. The storyline wasn’t the most memorable either, but after reading what the developers were trying to do with it, I can admire it.  As stated in my review, I didn’t hate the game – but I didn’t love it, which was really unfortunate. I was really behind this game when it was being advertised, but it unfortunately fell short on me and made me glad I didn’t preorder it.

Biggest Surprise of 2010: Just Cause 2
If there’s one game that took me by surprise, it was Just Cause 2. A game that didn’t have much press – to my knowledge – was an insanely fun game to play. Using the grappling hook and an endless supply of parachutes, there was just an insane amount of stuff to do. The story line and presentation was deliberately cheesy, which just made the game that much better. Was it repetitive – sure; but it was still fun to go around and blow up massive structures and cause chaos all over the place. My only hope is that with Just Cause 3, they give us more opportunity to blow things up.

Biggest Letdown of 2010: CastleVania – Lords of Shadow
I should explain this one in more detail – I don’t think this is a bad game by a longshot. I really enjoyed the game, the graphics, the mood and atmosphere of the game. Why is it the biggest let down? Because of the ending and the direction they look to be taking the story. People though the ending was amazing – I though it was disappointing. The direction they look to want to take the series will pull me right out of the lore of the game. I can accept that they are looking to re-invent the series, but the direction they’re going to (as hinted in the ending) doesn’t bode well for me.

That roughly sums up 2010 for me. The game had a lot of good games and a lot of letdowns. While this review is rather short – you do have to realize that this year was pretty much a year of sequels. Not to contradict what I said in my opening paragraph, but when all you are looking forward to are sequels with a new IP here and there, there’s not much to write about.

Enjoy the rest of 2010, kids. While you’re out doing whatever you young hooligans do, I’ll most likely be playing Assassins’ Creed … or Call of Duty.

Review: Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood manages to do two things. The first is to take the top spot of my favorite gaming series (which was a big chore considering it was CastleVania for the past 15 years) but it also manages to improve on a game that also improved on the original. While it doesn’t fix everything – Ubisoft deserves massive credit for being able to step up the series yet again and improve on an already great game. And it also introduces a new style of multiplayer. Flawed, but still fun and addictive.

  • The game is massive. You have a lot of stuff to do. When you clear all of the main missions, you’re a mere 50% of full completion.
  • The game adapts a Grand Theft Auto mindset – meaning that there is a large variety of things to do. Whether virtual training, helping out your various factions or renovating the area or playing the main missions … AC:B offers a lot of variety.
  • The music is astounding. Assassin’s Creed and Jesper Kyd have been able to pull off an amazing and emotional soundtrack. Guaranteed, if it’s not bought off my wishlist, I’ll own all three game albums by 2011.
  • The structure of the game feels solid. That sounds weird, but it’s a living, breathing world and Ezio is handled [for the most part] with relative ease. I also love the detail put into his outfits and love the fact that every weapon has a place on his suit. (He doesn’t just pull a dagger out of nowhere … it’s next to his sword.)
  • Multiplayer brings a new mode that I’ve never encountered before … essentially cat-and-mouse where you are hunting someone, while being hunted at the same time. The game also has two other modes … alliance, pitting three groups of two against each other (Group 1 is to kill Group 2; Group 2 is to kill Group 3; and Group 3 is to kill Group 1) and Manhunt, where you play two rounds – one as the attackers and the other with you blending into the crowd to try and not be killed.
  • Ubisoft has been able to pull off fast-paced platforming with relatively low frustration. It’s not 100% perfect, but there are many objects for you to choose from that lets you jump from place to place with relative ease.
  • Fighting has been improved. You now have the option to do numerous executions back to back instead if beating someone down or playing the “block/kill” game with five enemies. And given your large arsenal of weapons, the deaths are creative.
  • The idea that the story is blended into real-life events is a fun take on the era – an era that wasn’t really touched in gaming until the second installment of the series. The fact that you talk to Leonardo da Vinci and Machiovelli is just kinda’ cool. And the idea of conspiracy and whatnot makes it fun. While Ezio may not have existed, the Borgia family did. And the main antagonist, Cesare Borgia is portrayed in the game as he was portrayed in real life.
  • As stated before, Ubisoft – for the most part – gets fast-paced platforming done well. However, when you’re in a chase or when you really need the platforming to be spot-on, it seems to fail and you often find yourself missing that jump that you KNOW you should have made.
  • The game’s “tutorials” are done poorly. For the most part, I found that I was told what to do in certain situations in the heat of the moment. If games are going to insist on in-game tutorials, they need to be taught when you have time to practice … not when you’re running after someone.
  • While the concept of the multiplayer is great … it seems that the backend of it isn’t. I will often time find my target beneath me, but I’m unable to do an aerial kill … yet when in the same situation – just reversed – I am easily killed. So I avoid aerial kills when necessary because they’re unreliable. Getting a game going is a huge pain. It’s bad enough that it takes forever just to find a full group – but the game doesn’t force players to select their preset attacks via a countdown – meaning someone can be away from the game and everyone else will be waiting on just one person. I really, really hope this gets patched soon.
  • Load times aren’t that great – and a hefty install doesn’t make it any better. When the game is running on the open-world, the initial loads from starting a major quest or major sidequests is a bit too much.

Positive Points: 8  |  Negative Points: 4  |  Final Score: +4

Again, considering the grand scope of the game – this is still a very impressive game in my opinion. Ubisoft was able to come through again and take the series and improve on it instead of just sitting where it was at. Don’t get me wrong – most game controls and graphics remain the same … but they have essentially taken everything and improved on it. Personally, I think this game deserves to be Game of the Year.

It’s argued that Ubisoft is taking the Activision route and making yearly installments of the game and not giving the series some breathing room. But like most commentors have said … if Ubisoft continues to improve on the games like they have with AC2 and AC:B, then I welcome yearly games from this series with open arms.

Luckily, another game has already been announced.