New Digs

Filed under: by: Grundy the Man

Well after a couple of weeks of teasing, here it the big news. We have secured a domain and starting Monday it will be the new home of Thoughts of a Random Gamer.

You can check out the new site at

Hope to see you there soon!

Review: Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway

Filed under: by: Grundy the Man


The Brother’s in Arms franchise has been one of the wildcards in the World War II shooter genre since its inception back in 2005. Back in those days Gearbox was looking for a way to try to bring squad based gameplay to the trenches of Normandy. Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 was a fairly competent series debut, successfully transplanting Rainbow Six mechanics into World War II. The game managed to snag an average Metacritic rating of 87, easily securing a sequel.

A follow-up came much faster than one would expect, releasing a mere eight months after the original. Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood once again proved to be a critical success, pulling down an average review score of 84 and once again showing that the market was ready for more expansion in the squad based genre.

For Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway, Gearbox has gone back to the drawing board. They decided to redesign this installment from the ground up using the Unreal Engine 3 as the backbone. Though the core concepts of the game remain the same, it was shocking to have to wait over three years to get the next installment in the franchise, especially considering the fairly short gestation time of the first sequel.

After such a significant waiting period, has the console game world passed Brothers in Arms by, or is it the shot to the arm that is needed to kick start the next generation of squad based shooters set in the Second World War?

The Story

As in the first two games, the story places you into the shoes of Matt Baker, a war hardened squad leader of the 101st Airborne Division. This is a true to life squad from World War II, just with different character names. You follow the events of Operation Market Garden which was an offensive operation where the allied forces where actually defeated. But as the saying goes, “the outcome doesn’t matter; the story is in how you get there.”

Baker is tasked with leading his man into battle while also dealing with his personal demons. Between levels, Matt goes through a series of flashbacks that tell the story of how he managed to sacrifice his own personal beliefs and integrity, to protect a fellow squad member. This continues to eat at him throughout the game until it comes to a critical climax.

The actual missions themselves are the standard story of a small squad of twelve to fifteen men, being given the job of opening up a hole in an area heavily fortified by the enemy. There are several twists as members of your squad begin to dwindle, succumbing to both physical and mental wounds. As the accomplished leader that you have become, it is your job to rally your troubled troops and prepare them for the biggest fights of their lives.

The Good

Straight out of the gates, it becomes very evident that you are outnumbered by enemies. In some games this is a hindrance, but in Hell’s Highway it provides a chance to see what the enemy AI are capable of. The bots seem to react semi-intelligently, taking cover when necessary, even flanking and forcing the offensive at key choke points in the map. In rare moments it almost seems as if you are in the heart of all of the action, but those are few and far between.

Even though the World War II genre is starting to show its age a bit, the plot is engaging enough to make the player want to progress, just to see what happens next. At first the story seems rather scattershot, but as you get deeper into the game, the pieces of the puzzle begin to come together in very interesting ways. What truly makes the plot shine is the voice acting, which is top notch. Each voice actor portrays the situation and hardships of war with a grace, while still giving the characters an emotional edge.

Between stages, the story smoothly transitions from scene to scene with comparative ease. The story is cohesive enough that all of the different environments seem very logical, while at the same time not using exaggerated storytelling to explain a shift in location. Though may of the art resources are reused numerous times throughout the game, battlefields have several different layouts, which brings about a great deal of variety to the action.

One of the features that Gearbox was heavily promoting was the destructible cover. It is a nice added tweak to the gameplay that forces the player to pay attention to what is going on around them. This helps add to the immersive aspects of the game.

The Bad

When a game like Call of Duty 4 has so clearly defined the proper control scheme for a first person shooter, it is hard to learn a new set of controls. Hell’s Highway not only forces the player to learn new maneuvering and shooting techniques, but also the controls necessary to command the troops. Giving orders to the troops are the some of the most unwieldy mechanics of the entire game, which is tragic considering that this is a supposed selling point of the game

Along the same line of the uncooperative troop commands are the abysmal attempt at vehicle controls. There is not a single mission that involves a motorized that does not end in controller mashing frustration. The worst part about these missions are that if you failed it was not due to lacking skill, it was the lack of precise controls.

If there was one criticism that diminishes from the game more than anything else, it is the lack of commons sense on the part of the AI squad mates. When they are not babysat at all times, there is a high potential of running directly into the line of fire, refusing to use cover that is right in front of them and aiming at the furthest possible enemy from themselves. It is depressing to create the perfect battle plan, only to have it ruined by an AI that is suddenly overzealous with their shotgun, blowing everyone else’s cover.


Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway is a mediocre game with a schizophrenic balance of interesting storytelling, countered out by lackluster and inconsistent gameplay. Unfortunately the flaws take a significant toll on the overall experience, preventing the player from being able to fully commit themselves to the story. Hell’s Highway would be a good weekend rental, but not something that you would be faulted for missing out on.

Score: 6.8

What I Hate About Fanboys Part 1

Filed under: by: Jimmy the Greek

I'm going to break this down to 3 parts. Trilogies are in these days, or so I hear, and who am I to try and write one long arduous editorial of meaningless hatred? I've had several requests to put N4G under the chopping block, but I am currently unwilling to bite the hand that feeds. However, N4G is on my list, shit list that is, and will get their day very soon.

You might be able to call this section ammunition, feel free. This is my console history. I had a Sega Master System for 5 months before it broke and my parents decided to get an NES to put a stop to my siblings' and my bitching. I saved my $5 a week allowance to buy the original Gameboy. I later upgraded to the Gameboy Color and Advance but kept both of them individually for less than a year. I refuse to purchase a DS not only because of its poor ergonomic design, but also I'm not a teenage Japanese girl. After the NES I skipped the SNES and went with the Genesis.

By the the time I got my Genesis, my older sisters had discovered the remarkable appendage between men's legs called "the penis" and the Genesis ended up being completely mine. After the Genesis I moved back to Nintendo territory and got the N64. This was a time during my discovery of the almighty vagina and since I'm a nerd,
I thought I could have both... I was wrong... mostly. The 64 was also, in my opinion, the greatest innovation Nintendo offered the console gaming industry with the joystick and rumble pack add-on.

From the 64 I went with the Dreamcast and handhelds aside, the Dreamcast was the first system I paid for. It was ahead of its time but after playing Skies of Arcadia and Jedi Power Battles I had to pawn it so I could eat. Damn my body and it's need for more sustenance other than beer and pot. I recovered
financially a little while later and bought a Gamecube at launch. I enjoyed the time I spent with my Gamecube but I wanted to expand my horizons. I recall the frenzy, stabbings, and hardware issues surrounding the launch of the Playstation 2. On top of that, a friend of mine had a Sony TV and receiver that both crapped out within months of their purchase.

Due to the problems plaguing the PS2 and Sony in general, I went with the Xbox. That motherfucker died within a year. I reverted back to my GC for several months before I replaced my Xbox with a refurbished model. I traded that refurbished model in at the launch of the 360. I'm on my 4th 360 thanks to the RROD and within the last 6 months I've purchased a Wii. I thought "man what a great find." Now it gets the same attention as a bastard step child. My Wii sits in my entertainment center unplayed and unloved acting more as a social symbol than a gaming machine.

I've played the Mario, Legend of Zelda, Halo, Fable, Elder Scrolls, KOTOR, and Grand Theft Auto franchises, among a few others. Most of my time was spent with Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, San Andreas, and IV. I figure I've got over a hundred hours logged in each, that's almost two weeks of my life I'll never get back. I've long since abandoned the Mario and Zelda franchises and most of my friends play Halo and in order to continue playing with them online, I can't graduate to any better FPS.

Let me set the record straight. I am not a fanboy. I spread the hate equally everywhere to not be biased. I hate the Xbox, the Wii, and the PS3. Obviously I own a computer, but I don't play games on it and I don't give a flying shit about handhelds anymore. I find more reasons to despise franchises than to embrace them. As listed above, with a few I keep coming back for more disappointment like an abused spouse hoping that if I could just get pregnant, the franchise would change and stop beating me after a long night of drinking and infidelity.

In the memory of Gold Five I'm going to try to "stay on target." I don't particularly care for one genre or another. RPGs can be fun, so are FPSs, adventure, platform, puzzle, rhythm and music, the likes. I don't really care for sports titles because I don't feel the need to line the pockets of the NFL, MLB, or NBA. If I'm going to support someone's drug addiction, trust me, it's going to be mine. Baseketball comically enforced an opinion I've had for a long time, athletes should be treated like indentured servants.

"Stay on target," that's beside the point, I've displayed my tastes, or lack thereof, so do I really fit the definition of a fanboy? When I say "fuck Mario," someone always says "you're just an Xbox fanboy." Then I follow up with "fuck Master Chief," they continue "you're just a Sony fanboy." "I've never owned a piece of Sony hardware in my life." "You're just a Nintendo fanboy." Never mind I've proclaimed my hatred towards Nintendo on multiple occasions, including the beginning of my argument. Typically when I smell bullshit, I call it. If you learn to recognize bullshit, even from yourself, it will usually stop when you call it... except with fanboys.

I know it's been a tedious read to get to this far but bare with me. Most fanboy bullshit can be summed up by the title of this section: projection. Do you know what projection is? It's not the magic that happens in the booth at a movie theater, but if that's what you guessed you're very close.

It's a psychological term used to refer to the tendency of somebody to cast (project) their shortcomings onto someone else. I'm not calling you, Mr. or Mrs. Reader a fanboy(or fangirl to keep with political correctness), but if you read "fuck Mario" or "fuck Master Chief" or "I'd like to shove my friend's faulty Sony receiver up Howard Stringer's ass" and your blood started to boil, you're a fanboy. Now if you're first response to those statements was "I'm not a fanboy, you're a fanboy," I've got news for you, you are clearly projecting... dick.

That should suffice for now. Stay tuned next week for Part 2 in my weekly "What I Hate About..." series. I'll hate on a few other mannerisms characteristic of your garden variety fanboy. In Part 2 I will also extend to the medium of film and explore language and lifestyle of this common parasite.

Damnit Game of the Week: Super Mario World Flash

Filed under: , , by: reluctant _gamer

Since I paid homage to one of the many clones of Super Mario, I suppose I should pay homage to the little mustached Italian Man himself. I present you with Super Mario Flash! While in one of my stirring librarian classes, I stumbled upon this little beauty.

This is an amazing re-do of the Super Mario World that we all were geeked about as kids... Ok, not me... I was only 5 when it came out. It's your typical Mario style game. No crazy controls here, just jump, left, right, and run. See, no thinking involved. However, you can configure your own buttons, but the default keys are very natural to use. I do find myself wishing that I had set up the controls like an SNES controller... I keep pressing the wrong button to pick the shells up.

Honestly, if I wasn't trying to play this on an slow-ass iBook G4 that my college gave me, I probably would think I was playing this on an SNES. The levels look like they could be levels in the game. Many of your favorite enemies make appearances (Goombas, Koopas, that damn dino that tries to make you into an Italian sausage). The gameplay can be challenging, especially if you have to keep minimizing it so that your professor doesn't catch you trying to keep yourself awake. It isn't exactly Super Mario world, but pretty damn close! There are some quirks... like dying when you are far away from an enemy, but I think its many virtues more than make up for that.

So if you're like me and listening to a professor extol the many virtues of his research, take a stab at this game. At least you'll get something out of the class!

I just have to say that I got the person next to me playing too! MWHAHAHA!!!! This is another one that won't embed without starting automatically, so you can play it HERE.

Mutilated, Decaying Hands On: Left 4 Dead (PC)

Filed under: , , by: Andy Robinson

Left 4 Dead opens up with the beautifully done intro cinematic (posted last week in the preview), which sets the tone for the pace of the entire game. You start off with a sense of security, you and your teammates, and then the zombie horde comes rushing in. You crap your pants, shoot your team a couple times in the back, but manage to survive the onslaught. Everybody patches themselves up if necessary and then you push on.

The Good

Single Player

As far as a story, however, don't play L4D looking for one. I was really hoping for a good zombie story to go along with the cooperative play, but instead what you get are four seperate scenarios to play through. These seperate scenarios are broken up into several chapters. If you're going to play solo with an AI team, you have the option of selecting one of the four characters or letting the computer assign you a character before jumping in to the game. You can choose a story and a chapter within it, and join the fight for humanity. Though this obviously doesn't fulfill my desire for a true single player story (I guess I'll have to get Dead Space after all), it is a fresh way of looking at a single player component.

In spite of no actual story, replayability is high for the single player component of the game because the computer will randomly generate spawn locations for just about everything in the map. Did a Tank kill you while you waited for the door to open? Well, if you thought you'd just grab the Molotovs that were laying on the ground in the room before, you might be out of luck. However, the Tank might also not spawn in the same spot (or it may not spawn at all). This makes it a new gameplay experience every time, and still keeps the tension high as you creep through the map, wary of what might be coming your way.

In addition to the waves of zombies that come rushing in, there are several boss zombies in the game. First off is the Boomer, a bloated zombie with little health that vomits blinding bile over its targets to attract the zombie horde, and also explodes when killed sending bile everywhere. The Smoker, a zombie that must not have kicked the habit while living, can latch on to survivors with its tongue to drag them closer, causing them to become incapacitated. The Hunter, a creeping, stalking zombie, lunges at survivors, pinning them to the ground and then thrashing them to pieces. The Tank, a strong, fast, disruptive zombie that tears things apart and throws survivors all over the place. There is one other boss zombie, the Witch. If you hear the cry of the Witch, turn off your flashlights and sneak around her - unless you like losing.


Jumping online has been a bit of a challenge for me so far, but I can blame my ISP for the most part. Some of the connection problems seem to have carried over from the demo; I've asked a lot of people that I've played online with. However, after finding a good server, I was able to get a solid experience.

There are two modes of online play: cooperative and versus. Cooperative is pretty obvious; you and three friends or strangers fight through one of the storylines against the zombie horde. What is nice is, if someone drops out of the game, the computer takes over that character seamlessly, so you don't lose a survivor - the more guns the better!

Versus mode is an almost completely new element of gameplay and is an awesome take. Rather than having four survivors pitted against four regular zombies that drop like a sack of bricks from a bullet between the eyes (as they should), those that aren't one of the survivors get to play as a boss zombie. The two teams switch between sides for each of the chapters within a scenario and receive points at the end of each round based on the number of survivors, time completed, health remaining, zombies killed, etc.

The Bad

The game is still a little buggy. Playing as the Hunter in versus mode will be quite frustrating at times. His lunge attack isn't very reliable, especially if you have even the slightest tick of lag. Also, if you get pulled off a platform, your character will grab on to a ledge. You have to have a teammate help you up, but that only works if they are still above you. If they've already dropped down, you are pretty much helpless and you have to hang there until you die - even if there is a playform three inches below your feet. That's right, there isn't a way to just let go and drop on to the next lower platform.

Another bug in versus mode was when my team was dominating round after round, the other team would get a Tank when they were infected, but we never got that option when it was our turn as the undead. This might be just to balance the game out a little bit, but I think a little more continuity would be better than balance.


Though not exactly what I expected, Left 4 Dead has exceeded my expectations in a few ways. As far as just sheer entertainment, this is definitely a great game. The game reinforces teamplay and cooperation by allowing you to heal teammates, help them up when they get knocked down and making it necessary to stick together. The sound design is well done and the graphics, though built on the aging Source engine, are still good. With the high replayability, this is a game that I certainly recommend. Get a few friends together and put the hurt on some zombies!

Score: 8.5/10

Random Video: Zune Painters Prefer to Use Their Asses

Filed under: , by: Grundy the Man

I came across a video this morning and didn't know what to say. This may very well be one of the biggest, "WHAT THE HELL!?!" moments in advertisement history. Check out this ad for the Microsoft Zune and draw conclusions for yourself. Personally I thought of it as more of an editorial statement. Check out the video below and you will see what I mean: