Review: Soul Calibur IV

Filed under: , by: Grundy the Man

In preparation for this review, I decided to get a little refresher and play through the last real Soul Calibur, Soul Calibur II. Before you flame me, just try to remember how bad Soul Calibur III was. If you can't remember it, your brain has just done you a huge favor and repressed a series horrible memories.

Ten minutes after I turned on my 360, I was sitting on my couch looking at the credits. I found myself thinking that either the game got much shorter, or I was just getting a lot better, and trust me, I sure as hell was not getting any better. After several more playthroughs, I was back in peak form and ready to take whatever that demented sword wielding universe was going to throw at me.

From the first strike, Soul Calibur IV feels like something familiar, but with an added layer of depth that hasn't been present before. The first few matches are like getting back on a bike. At first things are a bit wobbly and unstable, but eventually you get the controls under your fingers.

Amazingly, the transition between the Soul Calibur II and the newest version is fairly smooth. It feels almost like a natural iteration on an already refined control scheme. Fortunately, this is a control scheme that has a fairly low barrier to entry. Any player will be able to pick up the controller and feel like a badass, while at the same time the experienced players will be satisfied with the depth and precision.

As a side note, this game, like all fighting games, should be bundled with an arcade stick. The experience is greatly diminished if a gamepad is used. A controller sacrifices precision in favor of a compact size. This normally leads the player's to fingers being tied into knots that would make a Cirque du Soleil contortionist cringe. As a basic recommendation, Hori makes a solid arcade stick for both the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Soul Calibur IV is a game that is infinitely more enjoyable and replayable if it is played using the traditional arcade controls.

Many of the staple characters of the Soul Calibur series make a successful return to the consoles, along with the addition of several new fighters and the currently console specific feature character. The feature character on Playstation 3 version is Darth Vader and the Xbox 360 version's is Yoda. Public consensus is that these characters will be available via Downloadable content at some point, but when interviewed, the developers said they had nothing to announce at this time. Also, as mentioned in the preview, the Apprentice from the upcoming game The Force Unleashed, is also playable.

When fighting with an assortment of different characters, similar move sets seem to become evident. Sometimes it even seems as if moves are recycled altogether, but everything happens so fast it is hard to tell for sure. One new move that is available for every character is a revamped Critical Finish. These seem to have little influence on a match, because the requirements for the move are very difficult to attain. Overall, each fighter has a very detailed, polished an refined look, that animates in a way that would bring a tear to the eye of any Pixar employee.

The online multiplayer is a seamless experience as long as there is a good ping rate. Most matches seem like a slightly slower version of the single player experience, which is something that fighting games have traditionally struggled with over Xbox LIVE. Interestingly enough, unlike most games that slow down even more if lag is encountered, Soul Calibur IV instead comes a complete stop until there is a persistent connection again. This is a commendable approach that keeps the experience consistent for all players involved.

There are three single player modes that are available. The arcade mode is the standard best out of three deathmatch, that has been a staple of the franchise since its inception. Many players will use this as an area to become familiar with a new character.

Story mode is a series of matches that pits the player against overwhelming odds. Most matches are at least a one vs. three affair, sometimes even going as high as one vs. four. A name like story mode is a bit of an overstatement, because it is essentially the same plot for every character, with just a different final cutscene, upon successful completion of the mode.

The third mode is called "Tower of the Lost Souls." It is very similar to story mode, where you will face a series of enemies that will have a significant numbers advantage over you. The goal of this mode is to clear each floor of resistance, so that your character can climb to the next floor. You can both ascend and descend the tower, in an effort to level up your character.

Leveling up your character has a direct effect on the character creation mode. Here you can create the most some of the most diversely odd characters ever conceived. It is actually amazing the amount of detail you have at your disposal, with a level of complexity that will satisfy even the most hardcore character designers.

There is not much else I can say about this game without starting to get anxious to play again. This is a game that truly sets the bar for fighting games in the new console generation. I do not say this often, but this is a game that everyone should own. Soul Calibur IV is a game that is truly a crowd pleaser, that will be an active part of your gaming collection for years to come.

Rumor: Diablo III Demo Defrosting BlizzCon 2008?

Filed under: by: Grundy the Man

Druids, Necromancers, and Zerglings around the globe cried foul, when Blizzard botched the launch of ticket sales for BlizzCon 2008. How could the frosty fellas over at Blizzard ever redeem themselves? Many have said that an early demo of Diablo III, just might do the trick. Representatives for Blizzard couldn’t offer any conclusive confirmations, but this may be an example of actions speaking louder than words.

We got one of those non-answers that was very telling. "We haven't announced anything about what will be playable at BlizzCon," a Blizzard rep told us. Inconclusive, yes, but delivered with one of those smiles that one frustratingly can't print. -- Kotaku

I don’t know about you, but it sure seems like there might be a couple of surprises in store for BlizzCon attendees this year. Now, if only I could commandeer a ticket. If you are one of the fortunate few who will get their hands on this classic in the making, I envy you. As for myself, I am going to sit over in the corner and sulk, along with the rest of the poor bastards who couldn’t secure tickets.

Failure to launch: Recipes of a random gamer

Filed under: by: Priestbeast

Grundy the Man and I were talking tonight about the increasing number of posts we each place on the blog every week. I realized it had been a while since I filled everyone in on the genius of my nerdiness. We know that's what this is all about anyway, the important information to make you a better gamer. Well, Grundy was quick to shoot down my newest idea and that led to the birth of a new category of posts: Failure to launch.

Failure to launch. A collection of posts about stories that really should never be talked about on a site like this (or any site for that matter!) For starters we decided that as gamers, we probably don't need recipes for easy food. We need meals that can allow us to stay focused on the game, rather than the stove.

Nachos: Simple. Grab the salsa out of the cupboard. While your in there, grab the bag of stale chips too. Throw a block of velveeta in a bowl and then microwave for a bit. Eat and enjoy.

Soda: How long is a can of soda supposed to be in the fridge for the perfect drinking temperature to be obtained? Well...can't tell ya, cause everyone likes theirs at a different temperature. And you can always throw ice in it.


Popcorn: Set the microwave to popcorn setting for a few minutes and go back to pwning noobs at the other end of the yard.

Macaroni and Cheese: While you will sacrifice some of the flavor and personal preference, go with the Easy Mac. It really is easy.

Get the gist? So what is the point of an article like this? It would be a waste of too much time to search through cookbooks for important recipes. It's far more important for me, and all of you, to be out watching the movies and playing the games that make our lives tick on. So tick on gamers.

And realize that it's ok, because we will keep all the crap off the front page for you.

Damnit Game of the Week: Torn City

Filed under: , by: Greedy Raven

This weeks Damnit Game is a little different. Generally we highlight a game that can quickly steal hours away from your life. This week’s game can quickly steal months, even years!

Torn City is a free browser run text based game created by Chedburn Networks. At its heart it is a MMO crime simulator. Torn City is a criminal infested city where you have to fight to survive. When you first start out you live in a wooden shack and are stuck searching public places for dropped cash.

As you progress, however, the possibilities are vast. You can get a job anywhere from enlisting in the military, bagging groceries or working for the local TV station. You can even become the director of your own business, hiring and firing other players. In the shadier side of business you can sell copied CDs, shoplift and even commit internet crimes. If you wish, you can ban up with other players and rob a bank while in a turf war with other organized groups.

But crimes aren’t the only thing in Torn City. It has a full Casino with 8 different games at the time of this writing. There is a version of the “Big Brother” reality TV show that players can try out for. There is an online radio where different players are DJs. At the race track you can race your stolen cars against other players or make bets on other player’s races. An auction house complete allows you to buy and sell everything from seasonal and rare items to first aid kits which lower the amount of time you spend in the hospital. A full attacking system gives you the opportunity to beat other players to a bloody pulp and then either rob their wallet or make sure they spend a long time in the hospital. The mail system allows you to send letters, money or even items. The often updated newspaper with contains property listings, a hall of fame, classified ads and more. You can even go to school and take classes to learn how to program a computer virus!

The best part of Torn City is that as expansive as it is, the casual player can simply log in once a day for 5 minutes and still have a blast doing some crimes, hitting the gym to raise your stats and wondering the city for a few minutes. At the same time, a hard core fan can Hit the forums, IRC chat and spend hours hanging out at the casino. Almost ever part of the game is player driven, new content is being added all the time, and the community includes 20,000 people who log in daily. Torn City isn’t just a game, it’s an entire social network that’s fun or both the casual and the obsessed.

If this sounds fun to you, check it out here:
Torn City

Review: Unreal Tournament 3

Filed under: , by: Grundy the Man

When I review a game like this, it makes me feel like an old man. Though I am only 22, I have seen and played every iteration of this game since its inception. Some would consider that a good thing, while others would say the exact opposite. No matter what side of the fence you fall, one thing is for sure: damn near anyone who has ever played a PC first person shooter, has played an Unreal Tournament.

If you are an old school fan of the series, you will not be disappointed by the 360 offering. The twitchy, lightning fast gameplay is back, and in glorious HD. The graphics just pop on a high definition monitor making all other games pale in comparison. As mentioned in the preview, the draw distance for objects on the battlefield is, well...Unreal.

Literally everything on a the map can be seen from afar, with very little distortion. This benefit comes with an obvious cost as well, the dreaded pop-in. Like every other Unreal Engine 3 powered game, there is a definite texture redraw that takes place when you approach any object in the environment. While many would consider this to be a minor problem, it has a tendency to be a distraction, and can pull the player out of the gaming experience.

Unreal Tournament's campaign turns out to be nothing more than a glorified tutorial. Different fights are strung together by cut scenes and a series of repetitive, regurgitated dialog. The plot revolves around a settlement that is attacked by a force from a neighboring galaxy, you know, the typical cookie cutter science fiction synopsis. If there is any semblance of a story, it is not portrayed with enough conviction for it to be intelligible. Every part of the campaign only inspires a feeling of, "Meh, is this it?" When the campaign came to a close, all I took away from it was the bad taste it left in my mouth.

The multiplayer component is where the game shines. There are a wide variety of gametypes at your disposal, along with several maps that are exclusive to the Xbox 360. The action and breakneck pace will leave your head spinning. There is a gigantic difference in skill between the newcomer and the experience Unreal veterans. This is a discrepancy that becomes further evident, when you get dropped into a match against teams that routinely play together.

Lag is the major detraction from the multiplayer scirmishes. Even the smallest lag can be enough to ruin an entire match. The best method for enjoying online play is to team up with your friends, while playing over a local network. But couldn't you do that on PC six months ago?

I would rather team up with my PC buddies for a game like this.

This brings up the biggest issue with the game. Why would you pay sixty dollars for an Xbox 360 game, when you can get it for half the price on PC? After all, Unreal Tournament has always had a loyal following among the PC audience. The other sticking point is that both the PC and PS3 version of Unreal Tournament support community made mods, but the Xbox version does not. Thanks a lot Microsoft...

If the Xbox 360 version of this game had been available at launch, this might have been a different story, but instead it looks as if Epic games has dropped the ball. You would be better off saving the money and purchasing the PC version.

Instead of feeling disappointed about Unreal Tournament 3, you can look forward to Epic's next blockbuster. Gears of War 2 will be coming exclusively to the Xbox 360 in November.

Featured below is the teaser trailer for Gears of War 2:

What I Hate About Horror Movies

Filed under: , by: Jimmy the Greek

The formula. Let's look at a specific genre of horror movie. I'm not sure of the name but there are enough out there to merit a genre subset. Teenagers, it always involves teenagers or college students, are on their way some place with or without friends and family and they get lost or take an ill advised shortcut. Their vehicle breaks down or they get pulled over and then all but one or two are killed by inbreeds, hicks, or unstoppable evil forces, occasionally it's all of the above.

The bad guy usually gets away, or there happened to be many unknown, which leads us to...

Crappy wannabe cliffhangers. Some movies are so epic they're entitled sequels simply to encompass the massive scope of the characters and world. Others well, I imagine there's a machine with "Sequel-O-Matic" printed on the side, manufactured by Acme. No matter what script it churns out, the requisite is a cliffhanger the-bad-guy-gets-away ending... Oh, and it only produces scripts and story lines inked in shit and printed on toilet paper. Remember what happened to Wiley Coyote every time he bought something from Acme.

The supermodel main characters. Don't get me wrong, I love beautiful women and have nothing against male underwear models, but it's pretty much guaranteed that if you're an attractive person in a horror movie, you're going to die. Apparently only ugly people decide to pick up knives, hoes, axes, or chainsaws to bring pain and suffering to their fellow man.

This scene is before Sloth tortures Chunk.

Less is more when it comes to attire

Since there are beautiful people all over, why not help some sweaty palmed awkward teenager viewers toss one off? Because it completely fucks with real life. So the teens who were going camping in the middle of nowhere, presumably not for the first time, all decided to wear next to no clothing, flip flops, and high heels. The hell with that, when I go camping I have boots, jeans, and maybe even long sleeves and a jacket. I'm also with someone who has a gun and if I hear weird noises I run.

Gore over story. I liked Hostel. Generally I hate horror movies because they have no substance. I liked Hostel because it told a story I've heard so many times before but made it more personal and intriguing. I liked Saw for the same reason. What I don't like is the sequels. It seems that at the end of the day, somebody said "Thank goodness we wrote a good story for the first installment. Now we can just mindlessly display gore and rake in the cash." It's like the underwear gnome business model in South Park. "1. Show gore. 3. Make money." Where the hell is the "Tell Story" step between the gore and money?

Horror porn. Generally I can give a few gore allowances in movies. So the director thinks my mind can't visualize what it looks like to sever a head, fine show me. Now it's when a director thinks I actually want to see what it looks like to cut somebody in two with a chainsaw, or that I want to see what it looks like to have an arm cut off over and over, that I take issue. Who the hell are these appealing to? Maybe there are a passel of Se7en's Kevin Spacey's who masturbate in their own feces while reading Guns and Ammo, that have to see gallons of blood and innards before they can comfortably go to sleep at night. This is certainly not me.

A bound and bloody Elisha Cuthbert doesn't sell me a movie quite like a naked one.

PG-13 theatrical release and then an unrated DVD. I have to ask, where is the artistic integrity in Hollywood? I understand that likely it was never there, but if you shoot a movie one way and only cut scenes if there is a congruity issue with the story as a whole, then the movie should be complete. Why the hell are there movies being shot one way, and then cut down to bare bones to release to a wider audience? It's like eating a piece of cake and deciding you don't need the frosting just yet, you'll eat it later. It might still be good cake but for me the frosting makes the cake.

Punishment for loose morals. Smoke cigarettes or drink? That's a stabbin'. Have premarital sex? That's a stabbin'. Do drugs? Oh, you better believe that's a stabbin'.

Unstoppable hacker slasher. He walks with a machete, walks, and nobody can seem to get their keys in the ignition fast enough to say, "That wasn't even close." I guess I've never had Jason walking after me, so I can't say for sure if I'd have problems starting my car like I do every day. Let's say you can't get your car started, you can still run. Run and find a legion of goth kids to slow him down, they want to die anyway, and at least one of them has a gun or knows how to make a bomb.

Remake after remake. This speaks for itself, there are no original horror movies.

On My Soapbox: Xbox 360 Price Cut, Inevitability or Necessity?

Filed under: , , by: Grundy the Man

Here is exhibit A, in a long line of press leaks hinting at a permanent Xbox 360 price cut. Rumors of said price cut have been making their rounds on the Internet, since May of this year. It has almost become an assumption that this will happen, in order to kick start lagging sales of the console.

I would argue that this is not something that is inevitable, but rather something that is necessary. In June, the cumulative sales of the Nintendo Wii eclipsed that of the Xbox 360. Lets just stop for a second and process this. Microsoft had a full year head start on both Nintendo and Sony consoles. They had an extra year to build up a strong game library and establish a grassroots fanbase.

This lead was then decimated in a matter of a year by a demented little plumber, who has a penchant for enjoying the use of pipes? I mean for Christ sake, the key to the success of the Wii hinges on waving your arms in front of a television screen like a retard on acid! Is that really what is selling consoles in today's market?

While amusing, this is sadly relevant now.

Sony is even starting to gain on Microsoft. The Playstation 3 have had better sales that of the 360 in three of the last four months. This is even after Microsoft announced a temporary price cut, in order to make room for new supply. shows that over the past six months, the Xbox 360 has only shipped 3.8 million consoles. This is quite the inverse of Sony, which is seeing sales in excess of 5.1 million Playstation 3's and the obvious outlier of Nintendo's 10.6 million Wiis.

The Microsoft marketing team might as well shutter their doors and put a big sign out front of their offices that reads, "On leave, back in November!" Cruise control has been initiated and they are coasting into the holiday season on an empty tank of gas. I am no marketing genius, but I can see trouble from a mile away.

J. Allard was the visionary behind the design of both Xboxes

Ever Since J. Allard left the Xbox team, there has been no unified vision to get behind. This has lead to the tailspin of the last few months. By the way Allard went on to helm the Zune team, or as I like to call them, Team Failure. If something is not done soon, The Xbox 360 could end up being this generation's purple lunchbox. Hell, at least the Gamecube wouldn't break every two days...

As I wipe the lather from my foaming fanboy mouth, here is an ironic reflection on the last console generation:

Starcraft 2 for Christmas?

Filed under: , by: Greedy Raven

Could you be playing Starcraft 2 for Christmas? Blizzard's official release date for the game is "When its done". Most gaming websites list it as TBA. Yet even without an official release date you can already pre-order the the game on the Best Buy and Game Stop websites, among others, which ships at the not-yet-official date of December 3rd. That means pending any balance issues, you could be roasting zerglings for the holiday season.

On a related note Diablo 3, which has only recently been announced, is not yet available for pre-order. For now, it seems, we will not be spending the new year with Deckard Cain.

First Impressions: Soul Calibur IV

Filed under: , by: Grundy the Man

Fighting games are like a fine wine. They are deep, come in a wide variety of flavors, and can only be appreciated by pompous assholes, who have a high opinion of themselves. Luckily, I am a card carrying member of that exclusive, self appointed society. So here I dive, arcade stick and all, into the world of Soul Calibur IV for the Xbox 360.

To continue on the wine analogy from earlier, if a fighting game like the Virtua Fighter series is an expensive 1800's vintage Merlot, then past Soul Calibur games would have been the cheap boxed variety you can buy at your supermarket. Sure, it can get you drunk as hell, but it is not something that you went around and bragging about. The same could be said about playing these mediocre classics. The real question is, can Soul Calibur IV make the changes necessary to earn a place in your wine cellar?

The graphics have seen a significant upgrade in their jump to the next generation consoles. Every character is very unique and has a vast range of different body and facial features. Fighters seem to react accurately to the velocity of different strikes and the breast physics are unparalleled. Trust me, that is the kind innovation that guys can really get behind.

George Lucas has even whored out his signature Star Wars franchise, all in the name of a little ass-kicking. Yoda makes an appearance as an overpowered playable character, with a knack of evading even the most obvious damage. I have a feeling that most competitive circles will quickly ban the use of him, because of his tiny hit box and over-the-top special moves. All of the complaints aside, he really is a thrill to fight with, allowing me to cross another item of my bucket list.

In the name of shameless cross promotion, The Apprentice from the upcoming The Force Unleashed game is also an unlockable character. He is one of the most difficult characters that you will encounter in the Arcade mode, but once he is unlocked, you will find that he is just as unbalanced as Yoda. I look forward to being able to really dig into this game in the upcoming week.

Don't worry, there will be more to come, as I blast through this game at full bore. You can catch a full review of this game on Friday.

Until then, take a peek at the trailer for Soul Calibur IV:

Random Video: Kevin Smith Hosts Dinner for Five

Filed under: , , , , , by: Grundy the Man

I know that this is an old set of videos but I enjoyed it, so I figured it was worth posting. I am a person that worships at the alter of Kevin Smith films. He was given the opportunity to sit down with four other luminaries from the arenas of television, film and print. The line-up is a classic group that includes comic mogul Stan Lee, actor Jason Lee of Mallrats and Chasing Amy fame, Star Wars legend Mark Hamill, and director of Mission Impossible III and Lost, JJ Abrams.

The round table discussion took place over three years ago, but is a nerdgasm nonetheless. Enjoy:

The original source of this video can be found HERE

Upcoming: Weekend of Gaming Edition

Filed under: by: Grundy the Man

This weekend I experienced something that I haven't in a long time. I was able to sit down and totally immerse myself in games for an entire weekend. It was amazing, no road trips, no phone calls, just me and my console of choice. Other then my fantasy football draft, I was in my own little world of firearms, tennis rackets, and gigantic swords. An intersting combination to say the least.

The result of my weekend of bliss, is a week that will be chock full of reviews. You can expect to see the final judgment on Soul Calibur IV, Top Spin 3 and Unreal Tournament 3. Boy there are a lot of sequels there...creativity? Anyone?

If we are lucky we may even see the appearance another "What I hate about..." list. The floor will be open to the rest of the team and I am sure other posts will materialize as the week goes on. Suprizes will surely be around the corner as we roll into the labor day weekend.

Take care and enjoy your week!

When Fanboys Attack

Filed under: by: Grundy the Man

Fanboys are amusing individuals. No matter what, they stick by their console through thick and thin. We actually have a similar conflict here at Thoughts of a Random Gamer. As you can tell from any of my posts, I am a strong Xbox 360 supporter. On the other hand, Greedy Raven is a staunchly in the camp of the Playstation 3. The common link shared is that we are both hardcore PC gamers by nature, but console gamers by necessity.

Anyone who has stumbled into a gaming forum knows the pissing matches that occur between the different factions. Greedy Raven and I have a similar method to exercise our personal demons, Instant Messenger. Below you will see some of the highlights of a summers worth of multi-platform throw downs.

Regular blog business would frequently degenerate into potshots. Here is a perfect example:

Grundy the Man: so are you going to write a new top ten list for next week?

Greedy Raven: Thinking about it

Grundy the Man: top 10 things you hate about xbox 360's?

Greedy Raven: lol, no... I don't hate 360's. I am just more into the high end systems

Greedy Raven: The 360's cheap, but the Walmart market needs its toys too

Grundy the Man: says the guy who can't afford to buy games, because he had to buy the console

Greedy Raven: I CAN afford, I just don't like to if a game isn't worth it

Greedy Raven: $60 is a lot for a game... it better earn every penny

Grundy the Man: so you only buy games if they are worth it...hmmm that explains why your ps3 game collection is so small...

Grundy the Man: :P

Greedy Raven: =/

Grundy the Man: those were your words... not mine... btw

Greedy Raven: Grand Theft Auto IV, Heavenly Sword, Rainbow Six: Vegas, Resistance: Fall of Man, Assassin's Creed, PixelJunk Monsters, Burnout: Paradise City...

Greedy Raven: Not bad for less then a year.. thats a new game every two months

Greedy Raven: That means I alternate monthly with my PC..

We each have our own unique take on the Diablo screenshot controversy:
Greedy Raven: In the fans vs Blizzard screens, I tend to prefer Blizzard

Greedy Raven: but I wish it didn't look so much like WoW... WoW's style really bothered me, one reason why I stopped playing so much sooner then most

Grundy the Man: well I have never ventured into WoW so I cant say either way...

Greedy Raven: It would be the end of you... We would never hear from you again

Grundy the Man: probably

Greedy Raven: Thankfully it doesn't have achievements

Grundy the Man: actually, they are getting added... read it and weep,

Greedy Raven: Suddenly I think WoW has outlived itself...

Greedy Raven
: I am waiting for SoS

Grundy the Man: ???

Greedy Raven: Stars of Starcraft! w00t!

Grundy the Man: that would be amazing

Greedy Raven: One world? BORING! I want raids to be planetary INVASIONS!!!! 40,000 man PvP raids!!!

Greedy Raven: Imagine, you and 99 of your closest zerglings charging a couple stray vultures!

Greedy Raven: Then the spider mines pop up and leave you with only 20 people to finish the attack!

Grundy the Man: Then of course, like always, the protoss come in and wipe the map of everyone

Greedy Raven: Of course...

Ninja Gaiden 2 was another unfortunate casualty of our conversations:
Greedy Raven: Why did they make NG2 exclusive for the 360?

Grundy the Man: because they want to sell their game

Greedy Raven: Right... so why not release it on both...

Grundy the Man: see last answer :)

Greedy Raven: ...but with the PS3, they could have a better looking game. I mean, the only advantage the 360 gives them is a broad multiplayer base. Does NG2 have multiplayer?

Grundy the Man: only single player

Greedy Raven: Exactly

Greedy Raven: This doesn't make sense.... Are they going to simply port it and add a greek letter later?

Greedy Raven: Ninja Gaiden 2:Iota

Grundy the Man: most likely

Grundy the Man: but the letter would have to be Beta

Greedy Raven: lol

Grundy the Man: after all, that's what everything on the PS3 is anyway...

Next on the hit list was the Microsoft's addition of avatars to Xbox LIVE:
Greedy Raven: By the way, Xbox avatars? Really? SUCK

Greedy Raven
: not only an obvious Nintendo rip off, but Xbox fanboys are too old to even want them!

Greedy Raven
: I mean, really?!? WTF?

Grundy the Man: We don't want them either

Greedy Raven

Grundy the Man: they are worthless Wii ripoffs that Microsoft is using to try to appeal to grandma's and housewives

Grundy the Man: who needs that demographic anyway!?

Greedy Raven
: Just Nintendo

Grundy the Man: Exactly... That is, until the check clears...

In passing we touched on Achievements in games:
Greedy Raven: I think the new Mortal Kombat will be a rental, purely due to curiosity and trophies.

Grundy the Man: sounds like you are becoming an achievement whore

Greedy Raven
: lol... When in Rome... Pwn like the Romans!

Greedy Raven
: Its a brilliant marketing scheme... it didn't make me choose a console, but will make me more likely to take a chance on games

Grundy the Man: it has worked on me

Grundy the Man: over 24000 gamerscore later...

Greedy Raven
: lol

When a conversation could not rationally discussed, all etiquette was discarded, in favor of Jack Bauer vs. Chuck Norris quotes. Here is my favorite exchange:
Greedy Raven: Jack Bauer can beat every Final Fantasy game in a single day

Grundy the Man: and Chuck Norris just finished a speed run of life... then kicked father time's ass

Greedy Raven: lol

Grundy the Man: a Grundy the Man original

Greedy Raven: I hand typed mine as well! We are both brilliant!

In one last display of nerdery, this is a conversation that only a Computer Science major would appreciate, or understand:
Greedy Raven: Right now I am working on Regular Expressions

Greedy Raven: Except they aren't that regular

Greedy Raven: And they aren't really expressions

Grundy the Man: maybe they are irregular statements... You know, sentences that don't sh*t enough

Greedy Raven: I don't believe it is anatomically possible for sentences to actually poop at all...

Grundy the Man: hence the fact that they are irregular

Grundy the Man: I believe that there is a concept for a really nerdy web comic here

Greedy Raven: Exactly...

After it was all said and done we have agreed to disagree on many topics, but as you can see, humor can bridge even the largest divides. I would like to publicly thank Greedy Raven his for his participation throughout this piece. You can look forward to more contributions from him in the future.

Have a good weekend!

On My Soapbox: Yearly Sports Games

Filed under: , by: Grundy the Man

As you have read in some of my reviews and previews, I am a big fan of sports based video games. However, I am not a fan of purchasing the same game every year. Luckily on the PC, where I used to do the bulk of my gaming, there were dedicated fans who would create mods to the game that would update the rosters and stats for each team on a year to year basis. This saved me precious money during my adolescent years.

Is it really necessary to do this EVERY YEAR?

Fast forward seven years and here I set looking at the receipt for Madden 09, shaking my head in disgust. I am not bitter about purchasing the game, in fact I haven't been this pleased with a new Madden game in years. The problem is that over the last three years I have spent $180.00 on the same essential game with a different year stamped on it. While that may be a bit of an exaggeration, consider that there have been very few rule changes to the sport itself, and none that would warrant a complete reissuing of a game.

So what do the suckers like me get out of our yearly Madden update? In all honesty, very little. I try to justify it to my wife by pointing out a slightly glossier graphics, smoother animations and roster updates, but she just ends up nodding her head saying, "Alright honey, whatever you say..."

New features are also added frequently, but they tend to add more unnecessary complexity to a game with an already extreme barrier to entry. I swear that I spend more time hitting buttons before the ball is ever snapped, then I do during the running of the play. But that is a topic for another day.

An interesting solution to this problem was suggested by Bryan Intihar, formerly of Electronic Gaming Monthly, now with Insomniac Studios. His suggestion was to do a major release of Madden every three to four years. This would allow for extended development times on these games, so that truly game changing innovations could be made. Problems could be addressed like a traditional console game, instead of starting on the next version, before the current version has even shipped.

EA Sports President, Peter Moore was a DLC pioneer while at Xbox

The next logical question is, "What would EA do to make up for the lost revenue?" Actually the solution is simpler than you may think. Yearly versions of sports franchises could be replaced by a $20-$30 full roster update. They could also throw in a new feature here or there, just to sweeten the pot. In the end, fans would jump at the chance to get the game for half of the price and the publishers would save millions in costs to develop, market and manufacture game discs.

I know that I would definitely be open to a Downloadable Content solution in the future. The trick is whether Electronic Arts is willing to risk the Madden cash cow in the interest of the consumers.

I wouldn't count on EA CEO, Darth Riccitiello letting this happen anytime soon...

The Damnit Game of The Week: Desktop Tower Defense

Filed under: , by: Grundy the Man

Desktop Tower Defense is a game that exploded on the scene several years ago and never looked back. It has inspired imitators across all platforms, but none have been able to capture the simple charm of the original... I'm looking at you, PixelJunk Monsters!

The concept of the game is very rudimentary. Bad guys will walk from point A to point B. Your goal is to prevent that from happening, using whatever means necessary, only using the weapons available in your armory. The game is so simple that people have been known to drop their kids in front of the computer and use the game as a babysitter, just so that they could get work done.

Desktop Tower Defense is the marijuana of web games. It is an engrossing experience, that everyone has to try at least once. However often you play it, just remember one thing, what time it was when you started. Before long you will be looking at your watch going, "Damnit, how long have I been playing this?"

As always, keep an eye over your shoulder, and try not to have too much fun!

If you are feeling lucky and want to try it in full screen click HERE.

First Impressions: Top Spin 3

Filed under: , by: Grundy the Man

Hello, I would like to tell the group that I have a problem. I am addicted to tennis games. Admitting you have an addiction is one of the first steps to recovery, but here is the problem, I have no desire to get better. Whenever I pick up a digital racket, it is like my inner, Ritalin-addicted five-year-old self comes out. This is my personal heroine.

Ever since pong, virtual tennis games been destroying the lives of gamers everywhere. I can not put my finger on what it is, but tennis games have mystical powers. These are powers that make you ignore faults in the gameplay, graphics, and AI, because of one simple fact: it's a friggin' tennis game. The number of hours in my life that have been stolen away by these cursed creations can't be counted, only regretted. Whew... Now that I have that off my chest, lets get to the preview of Top Spin 3 for the Xbox 360.

I have been fortunate enough to have played every installment in the Top Spin franchise. The quality of the game improved with every version, highlighting new features to add to the immersive experience of intense tennis competition. This years new additions include a new and innovative control scheme that utilizes flicks of the right thumb stick to perform specialty shots.

New controls have always been tough to grasp, especially from a series that I have been so familiar with, but I had a particularly rough experience. In areas that would have been simple in past titles, I am struggling immensely. That said, the Top Spin games could never be perfected overnight, so I will continue to put in time in hopes of figuring it out!

Another reason that I may be struggling is that I am going through the career mode using a created player. Creating a player is a very deep process, that Top Spin has pioneered since the original. Tons of customizable options are at your disposal, as you try to create the next world champion. You have the typical design a face mode, that is comparable to EA's "Game Face" technology in both depth and variety. Anything you can imagine, you can create, all the way down to the personality of your player. Really, it is quite impressive.

The other major addition to Top Spin 3 is the introduction of "Tennis Legends." The legendary players that are featured include Boris Becker, Monica Selles, and Björn Borg. With a wide variety of different modes and a fresh new soundtrack, this is a game that has a lot to offer. The withdrawal effects are starting to get the best of me, I need to score another hit of Top Spin 3.

You can look forward to a full review soon... If I can ever manage to pull myself away.

Below is the trailer for Top Spin 3:

What I Hate About Anime

Filed under: , by: Jimmy the Greek

I'm an ill tempered cynical little man. It's either a gift or a curse to find so many shortcomings with various media. On my list this week is anime. I'm mystified by the Japanese. The smaller faster take on technology is phenomenal but then they pump out shit like anime.

9. Seizures. If you have to display a warning before a television program because it may or may not pass the Harding Test and cause you to bite off your tongue while fitting on the floor, there's a serious problem.

8. Big eyes little mouths. The animation doesn't have to be Disney golden era material, look at "South Park." The only time I've seen a living person that remotely resembles any character in anime is a junky with half dollar sized eyes looking for their next fix. On the same topic, how is that junky supposed to suck dick for their next fix with such a tiny mouth. I figure they're more likely to get shived in the face than get a hit.

7. Big mouths little eyes. You might be wondering, "how can you say they have big eyes and little mouths and turn around and say they have big mouths and little eyes?" First off, shove it up your ass, this is my article.

Secondly, have you ever noticed that during the terrible joke at the end of Pokemon how everybody laughs at its stupidity? I'm assuming it's the same forced uncomfortable laugh when a hot chick at a party tells an awkward joke and you don't want her to feel dumber than she really is. Now notice how the character's eyes seem to disappear and you're attacked by their teeth? Teeth so large they couldn't logically fit them in the tiny maw they had a second earlier. When they're angry their eyes stay big and their mouths get huge but that goes without saying.

6. Comedy that's not funny. This is tied to number 9. I can give them some credit for the shitty joke at the end. I watched "Duck Tales" and "Darkwing Duck" growing up and I loved it. They had end jokes that made even my 7 year old self scratch his forehead in bewilderment as to what was supposed to be funny. The difference is their duck bills didn't drastically change shape implying a serious and instantaneous jaw injury and ocular cave in. End joke aside, when the characters laugh and you figure you're supposed to laugh with them, I instead picture someone putting on a straight face, shaking their head no, and then scribbling in a legal pad. Now that makes me laugh.

5. Anime culture. This is not Japanese culture but anime culture. I'm a nerd and I have some questionable unhealthy obsessions. I'm capable of seeing the problems with intelligently debating who the most powerful, not best mind you, super hero is. It's Superman by the way, but I dare you to tell an anime nerd that anime is in fact, shit. You'd be lucky to get out of there without a wound inflicted by the replica sword sitting on the mantle. They just don't see any faults with their obsessions and will proudly wear a "Dragonball Z" t-shirt and strut around like they're the Fonz.

4. Hentai porn. I don't know where to begin with this. Porn is great. Cartoons are great. Porn in cartoons is disturbing. This is not peanut butter and chocolate, a situation where two individually fantastic entities come together to make something even better. If you actually whack off to anime porn, do the world a favor and get sectioned. Also, don't be surprised when you start molesting children or feel a strange impulse to sniff a 6 year old's bicycle seat.

3. Stupid samey convoluted stories. So a person with huge spiky orange hair is a master of an ancient martial art and has to get a diamond to a mountain in a land far far away by walking and shooting fire out of their wrists. Along the way they encounter some sort demon that wants to bring about the end of the world by stealing the diamond so they can place it on their mountain which is not so far away. You find out the spiky haired fop had some parent issues and has friends with similar abilities but the demon, through reincarnation, is actually the main character's father but blah blah blah. I just made all of that up but does it sound familiar?

2. Cheap animation. The character jumps in the air and delivers a kick or fireball or something stupid but all you get to see is the character grunting with an I'm-taking-a-shit look on their face, flashing lights, and lines moving behind them. A final light flash states the attack worked. The enemy is now horizontal with their huge mouth open and tiny eyes closed, things are clearly moving in slow motion because the lights and lines are slower. After 10 shit sniffing seconds of the characters standing still in various positions in front of an abstract flashing background, one attack has been delivered and the fight will go on for another 5 minutes.

1. Dubbing. I hate watching dubbed movies. I can read subtitles all day but I don't like watching the character's mouth move when there isn't dialog. It seems more like a ventriloquist act than action. They could say anything and fit it into the animation in one way or another. What is entertaining is muting the anime and then playing music or audio from another television show. Try watching "Dragonball Z" while listening to "The Golden Girls" and you'll get to watch Blanche beat the stupid out of Sophia.

Geometry Wars: The Song

Filed under: , by: Grundy the Man

[UPDATE: This article is now appearing on the front page of both Joystiq and Xbox360Fanboy!]

I was surfing on the internet and came across this web gem. If you are a fan of Geometry Wars, you will be able to enjoy and relate. Good Work to Matthew McCarthy on this video. Check it out below:

A link to Matthew McCarthy's personal website can be found HERE.

First Impressions: Madden NFL 09

Filed under: , by: Grundy the Man

Now that Brett has left Lambeau, will he become the next victim of the "Madden Curse?"

My belly is painted, I am wearing ridiculous afro, and I am doing the wave in anticipation of the arrival of everyone's favorite obese, turducken laden, football franchise. Madden NFL 09 is ready for kickoff. I know, I hate myself for using the obligatory turducken reference, but it would not be a Madden preview without one...

As with every Madden released in the last ten years, Madden 09 is not an update, as much as a revision of last years game. The winning formula of fat oily men, rubbing up against each other and grabbing in places that would make a rapist cringe, remains very much the same. So how can Electronic Arts bring life to something that has been the same for over twenty years? The answer is the new Madden IQ feature.

Madden IQ consists of a series of minigames, testing each player's abilities and skills, allowing for the AI to create a custom balanced difficulty level. Gone are the days of playing offense, only to simulate your defensive possession. These customized settings should provide challenging, yet enjoyable gameplay for people of all experience levels. From my overall experience thus far, everything seems to be spot on and the computer is hard, but at the same time hasn't made me want to throw my controller through a window in disgust.

Playing in the snow separates the men from the boys

Visuals have once again been given another layer of spit shine, achieving a level of polish that would make Vince Lombardi do a double take. As part of those changes, a large overhaul has been done to the environmental systems, allowing for weather to have a greater effect on the the players on the field. If you are playing in the rain, players will start to slip and fall as the field deteriorates to near unplayable conditions.

The scoreboard has also been moved to the middle of the screen, which is a huge difference from last years buggy score ribbon. It is a welcome change that frees up more of the screen for playing the actual game.

The play-by-play commentary seems to also been vastly improved upon. The crappy radio announcer from the last two seasons has been replaced by Tom Hammond and Cris Collinsworth. There seems to be a genuine camaraderie between the two announcers, that is displayed in the interlocking dialog trees, never before seen in a Madden game.

There is a lot more to be said about improvements from last year, so be ready for the full review coming soon.

Below is a trailer for Madden NFL 09, featuring the Madden IQ:

Upcoming: Addicted Edition

Filed under: by: Grundy the Man

Damn all these sports franchises. I think that I have finally kicked the habit, in favor of more substantial games. Then it happens... the next season of every single sport franchise is released. Don't worry, I am still making time for review games, it is just a whole lot later in the night by the time I get to them!

This week you can look forward to that "When Fanboys Attack," article that I alluded to last week, a brand new "Things I Hate" list, and the previews for both Madden 09 and Top Spin 3. At the rate that I am going, you may end up seeing a review of Top Spin as well. Either way, it is going to be a sporty week. So lace up your cleats, because the coach is about ready to send YOU in.

Have a good week!

Review: Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2

Filed under: , by: Grundy the Man

My wife was curious the other day and asked me to describe Geometry Wars. I was at a loss. The best description I could muster was, "Imagine what it was like to play the old school Asteroids game... Now imagine playing it on acid!" Playing the game on acid is a fair description, because it is so damn addictive. As I mentioned in my earlier preview, I was absolutely amazed that I was enjoying myself playing this game. After many more hours of thumb and mind numbing action, my opinion remains the same.

There are numerous twin-stick shooters available on Xbox LIVE, but Retro Evolved 2 is the only game to have perfected the feel of "controlled chaos." While the formula hasn't changed much from the past Geometry Wars, the addition of "geoms" from Geometry Wars: Galaxies on the Wii, has completely changed the way the game is played. Geoms are green crystals found in remains of eliminated enemies, that will add to the score multiplier.

A widely accepted approach to Retro Evolved revolved around making a panicked retreat, while blindly firing at the following enemies. This worked well because destroying enemies would build the multiplier, as long as the player stayed alive. Strategies like this still work in the sequel, but do not yield the high scores of the past.

Geoms force the player to return to the sites of dead enemies in order to build the multiplier. Aided by the fact that the multiplier no longer resets when you die, advanced players are taking a more aggressive, head on, attacking approach. Now you will see obscenely high scores in the five hundred millions or higher!

This game is far more then a rehash of the original title. The game has expanded to include six different modes:


The player is under a three minute time limit, to accumulate as many points as possible. The best part of this mode is there are unlimited lives. This was the mode that was included as part of the demo. As a person who was fairly new to the series, the fact that you don't have to worry about lives, was a brilliant way to market the game.

This is what the folks at Bungie Studios would refer to as a "re-imagining" of the original Retro Evolved. The addition of the geoms, as mentioned earlier, really change the dynamic of how the game is played. It is just as fun the second time around!

A rehash of the mode included in Project Gotham Racing 4, will overwhelm even the most experienced players. Ships will fly in from all directions, until the player has nowhere to go. The key to success it to try to stay in the center of the map for as long as possible, but good luck with that!

Imagine a speed dating version of the Evolved mode. There are twenty different sets of enemies that have a predefined position. The goal is to clear each set in thirty seconds. If a player dies, they just move onto the next grid, until either all grids have been attempted or the supply of lives are exhausted. Modes like this remind me how bad I am at games in this genre, but when it was all said and done, I still wanted to try it again.

For a game that made its name with fantastically blinding firefights and mayhem, it is refreshing to play a mode that gives you no ammunition whatsoever. The main object is to pass though these barbell-looking gates that cause a small explosion, killing the ships chasing you. Eventually things become overwhelming as hordes of baddies keep regenerating.

Players must frantically navigate from orb to orb, all while gathering geoms and avoiding enemies. The kicker is that ammunition can only be fired from inside of orbs that act as shields. To make things more difficult, the orbs begin to collapse after the first shot is fired. Claustrophobics need not apply!

Many game sites have been heralding Pacifism as if it were the second coming of Christ. I disagree wholeheartedly, in fact, I think it is a little bit cheap. It seemed that whenever a decent multiplier was built up, I would get taken out by an enemy spawning directly in front of me. This phenomenon is responsible for a couple near death experiences on the part of my controller.

Reviewers need to remember that a single game mode does not make a game worth purchasing. But six solid modes, that's a different story all together. At a ten dollar (1600 spacebucks) price point and a offering a variety of different styles of play, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 is one of the best values available on Xbox LIVE Arcade.

The Damnit Game of the Week: Bowman 2

Filed under: , by: Grundy the Man

During my college years I spent many hours in the computer science lab, attempting to get some kind of work done. Then I was shown this evil little game. Instead of spending late nights finishing programming assignments, I would find myself fighting the compulsion to play this. Well, needless to say, assignments were hardly ever submitted on time.

Now that I have a job, I had to put that irresponsible stage behind me.... that is until I was reintroduced to this game! All I can say is good luck breaking the spell it will cast on you, game after game. Just remember, the best way to avoid addiction is to never start... but where's the fun in that?

Be careful and enjoy!

You can play a larger version of the game here.

Facebreakers-on with Facebreaker

Filed under: , by: Andy Robinson

Ever since it was announced, I've been looking forward to getting my grubby little hands on Facebreaker from EA's relatively new Freestyle line of games. Reminiscing of my experience with EA's Fight Night series, I knew I'd be in for a treat with the cartoon-theme of Facebreaker. EA released a demo on the Marketplace for the 360, so I downloaded it and gave it a whirl. Let me say that, so far, I'm a little less than impressed.

I'll start with one of the least important factors of a game; the graphics are a little lackluster. Wait. Okay, the graphics are downright Wii-level. I understand that this is a cross-platform title, and given the control scheme, perhaps the target with this game is the casual gamer who has seemingly called the Wii home. For those of us that have a higher graphical standard for our games, please use the processing power that is available.

In the demo, you get your choice of three different characters named Ice, Sparrow and Steve. They also included two custom characters - Peter Moore, EA Sports' big chief, and Kim Kardashian. You also have the option to upload your own ugly mug to to create your own custom fighter. While the three default characters are subtly politically incorrect, the ring girl is a little much. First of all, she wears an unclosed robe covering just the necessary bits and then you throw in the jab at the intelligence of a ring girl, perpetuating the stereotype. EA, any chance that with your sphere of influence, you could possibly help American society from becoming increasingly ignorant?

I suppose my biggest beef (even bigger than the unnecessary suggestive themes in the game) is the control scheme. Fight Night introduced a very unique control system where the right thumbstick was used to swing your meat mashers and the left thumbstick was used to lean all around while blocking. With Facebreaker, EA decided to make it a little bit more accessible for the casual gamer, as well as household animals. That's right, it's a buttom masher. You get three options for punching - high punch, low punch and the face breaker. True, you get to use a few other controls like block; you can also charge your punches which, if you're charging your low punch and your opponent swings you, then you will dodge their punch so you can unleash hell on their gut. I searched and searched to find a way to revert to some controls ala Fight Night, but to no avail. Just to drive home the button mashing nature of the game, if you get stunned, guess what you get to do. That's right - mash the X, Y, A and B buttons at the same time. AWESOME. In case I am in another horrific bagel slicing accident, I'll still have hopes of success with this game.

The only redeeming quality of this game in my opinion is the ability to create your own fighter using your face. It takes a while to do in the game and isn't exactly automatic - it requires a bit of configuration like setting dots on your eyes and cheek bones - but the results are actually pretty good. With this whole "your way, right away" theme that our society has latched on to over the last seven or eight years, the ability to adorn your favorite video games with your beautiful face appeals to even the most jaded of gamers. Again, however, the demo falls short. Maybe the full game will correct this, but I could only choose the body types of Ice, Sparrow and Steve to put my head on. While it might be nice to be jacked like Ice, jacked like Ice I am not. Sparrow is a woman, so she's out instantly. Though I may once have looked most similar to Steve, I've been working too hard for the last six months to NOT have his physique, so he didn't really apply either. It'd be great if - and I hate to keep going back to Fight Night or nearly any other EA Sports title - we had a little more customization with the body of our fighter as well.

Bottom line: the demo is decent. It can provide some entertaining moments, and perhaps would be alright to box against a friend on the same screen (not enough games offer two player action on the same screen). However, if button-mashing isn't your thing, or you're looking for a slightly more genuine boxing experience, stay away from Facebreaker or it may make you want to break your own face.

*note: Yes, this is all based off of a demo, which misses a lot of key components to the game, like the story mode. However, it has been my experience that gameplay mechanics don't often change from demo to release, so I stand by my commentary!