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 http://arandomgamer.com/
Hope to see you there soon!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Background. 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.
Projection. 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.
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.
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.
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:
Quantum: an indivisible entity related to energy and momentum of an elementary particle such as a photon. AKA...really small! But I'm not here to give you a physics lesson and my roommate, the one who could actually explain this idea to you, is off grading freshman chemistry exams.
Mortal Kombat. Oh how the mighty have fallen. The fighting game that was so controversial that it birthed the ESRB, has slipped from the spotlight since its creation in 1992. Not to say that the series has been a failure, as 7 installments, several ports, and 2 movies can't be called a failure. Rather, in the explosion of the gaming industry, Mortal Kombat as become increasingly irrelevant.
Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe is an attempt to revitalize the series. So... what's been hot lately? Comic books! In a strange twist that none of us saw coming, Mortal Kombat has shed its legendary "M" rating and has added opponents in the likes of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Um... what?
I guess this isn't all that strange given the shenanigans of the fighting genre as of late. Gamers have seen Marval vs. Capcom for ages and Soul Caliber has featured everyone from Link to Yoda. Heck, Super Smash Brothers is built on fighters from extremely different origins battling it out. But why you, Mortal Kombat?
Who knows, this game could be a huge success. I am simply skeptical that Mortal Kombat can draw an audience after dropping it's token "M" rating, even if it is riding on batman's coattails. I guess we will have to wait and see if the fanboys can save the struggling franchise.
For those of you who doubt it, Laura is returning in another installment of Tomb Raider this week. And Chrono Trigger comes out next week. Admit it, if this line up was coming out all at the same time 10 years ago, you would be overjoyed. I'm still holding out for the Final Fantasy VII remake...
For those of you who might be interested in Sub-Zero's battle with Joker, here is a little trailer to spice up your appetite:
This has been another outstanding week of game coverage and we are ready to make our big announcement! We have banded together and purchased a domain name that we will be transitioning over to this week. Theses are exciting times that leave us anticipating all of our future growth. Please join us in celebrating our changes!
You will have to excuse me for being so brief this week, but I have to get back to the porting process. We will post more details by midweek.
We will keep you posted, but in the meantime, keep it tuned here for up to the minute coverage of the news that matters to you! Have a great week!
From day one, everyone knew that the original Gears of War was going to be a runaway success. Even before the game was released, Cliff Bleszinski, the games lead designer, had been selling the game as something that would be considered a defining title for the Xbox 360. Though Cliffy had the pedigree of creating great games, many wondered if he would be able to deliver on the grandiose vision that he had been promoting.
The game released on November 7th, 2006 to the sound of reviewers and fans alike praising the gorgeous visuals, perfected controls, and compelling coop campaign. Gears was one of the largest successes of the early Xbox 360 era, and the first “must buy” game of the console’s life cycle. As of September 18th, 2008 the game had sold over five million copies and left fans around the world salivating, eagerly anticipating the next installment in the franchise.
Despite having widespread critical and commercial success, Gears 1 was widely panned as having a mind numbingly awful storyline. During the press tour for the second Gears, Cliff Bleszinski was heavily emphasizing that the second installment had been given an intense new focus on story driven gameplay. Epic Games had even brought in graphic novelist and screenwriter Joshua Ortega to pen a script that would better lend itself to the Gears of War Universe.
Gears of War 2 launched in North America on November 7th, 2008, the two year anniversary of the original’s invasion. The response has been huge, selling over two million copies in less than a week. Much like the original, Gears 2 has brought a lot of new and exciting things to the table, but the real question is whether it is enough to live up to the expectations established by its stellar predecessor.
Taking place six months after the events of the original, Gears of War 2 picks up with the human forces in utter disarray. Several of the strongest COG strongholds have been sunk using giant emergence holes, forcing all of the troops to regroup at one of the last remaining human strongholds, a city named Jacinto. With their backs against the wall, the last remaining humans decide that the only chance they have is to take matters into their own hands, launching an all-out offensive on the locust stronghold.
While all this is taking place, Marcus and Dominic are dealing with problems of their own. In all of the chaos and confusion surrounding the war, Dom’s wife Maria has gone missing. A visibly distraught Dom is on a desperate hunt for the love of his life, with a little help from Marcus and Anya. Their search for Dom’s spouse frequently distracts the duo from their military objectives, but piece-by-piece the puzzle begins to fall into place, culminating in an emotional reunion between the long lost lovers.
Somewhere along this winding road of chaos and heartache, Cole and Baird manage to reunite with our main protagonists, reforming the Delta Squad that veterans of the series so fondly remember. Carmine also makes a valiant return from the grave via his younger and much less experienced sibling, Benjamin. Rounding out the cast is an Asian spiritual by the name of Tai, who acts as the rock and protector for the team through several of the early missions.
Even against the most impossible odds, Delta Squad bands together, fighting fervently for the cause of providing a safer world for future generations. The road ahead of them is tough, but it seems evident that as long as they can depend on each other, impossible just means they are going to need more ammo!
First off, Gears of War 2 took all of the extensively detailed and stylized graphics from the first game and turned it up to eleven. Every single object that appears on the screen has a level of polish and realism that pushes the Unreal Engine 3 to its very limits. Addressing complaints constantly leveled at the Unreal Engine, the standard palate of differing shades of black and grey has been fleshed out to give a more lifelike appearance to the environments.
Speaking of environments, there are numerous different settings that the player must fight their way through, including an epic firefight through a lush forest, a snow covered ascent up the side of a mountain and an entire city that has been decimated by its submergence below the earth’s crust. Each change of location adds new mechanics and enemies, instilling variety into what would otherwise be considered monotonous repetition. Expect to see something new and equally awesome in every location.
Knowing full well the piss-poor quality of the original’s script, it was hard to have high expectations for Gears of War 2. It was a pleasant surprise to see a narrative that seemed to have been given more thought than a note feverishly scribbled on the back of a truck stop napkin. While still far from perfect, there are great strides that have been made in both storytelling and character development.
Both Marcus and Dominic show immense personal growth as the story progresses. Throughout the search for Maria, Dom exhibits an emotional vulnerability that can only come from pure desperation. Along the same lines, Marcus seems to have also softened a bit, taking the young Carmine under his wing. The result is an evolution from frat boys with a bad attitude and a penchant for spouting mindless statements of unbridled machismo, into characters that you genuinely want to see succeed.
Lastly, multiplayer makes a triumphant return, bringing new maps, features and modes. Horde mode is the biggest addition to the multiplayer package, pitting five players against wave after wave of locust insurgents. Teamwork is the key to survival, encouraging communication, which has an equally effective influence over the other multiplayer modes. For the most part it is really just more of the same, but that is far from a bad thing.
It is really hard to be critical about games of this caliber, but there are definitely AI issues that become apparent at several instances in the game. If Dom is not being controlled by a coop player, he has a tendency to like to roam into the line of fire, normally resulting in his eminent death. Also, when Marcus gets downed during an intense firefight, the first priority of the AI should be to heal him. Instead, the player is forced to crawl to safety, while the AI only looks out for itself.
Another problem that makes a return appearance from the first Gears of War is sticking to the wrong piece of cover. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to take cover in a firefight, only to find yourself stuck against a solid wall, instead of the anticipated object strewn across the environment. When trying to roadie run, these same objects tend to reach out and grab you, which totally defeats the purpose of the technique, not to mention kills your momentum.
Publicly, the game has been plagued with matchmaking problems over Xbox LIVE. Some users have reported having to wait anywhere from twenty minutes to a full hour, just to be placed in a multiplayer match. For a game of this magnitude and budget, things like this are in excusable, but rest assured that it will be patched soon enough.
Epic Games needs to hire a dialog screener. Some of the statements that characters make are both nonsensical and downright distracting. If they were shouted out sparingly, many of these comments could be shrugged of as nothing more than inane babble, but when you hear gems like, “I’ve got your back like an ass crack,” there is something seriously wrong.
There was one nagging piece of the story that was never addressed in the game. During a cut scene Dom reveals that he and Maria had children together. Yet, while the entire game revolves around hunting for his wife, there is never any other mention made of his kids. Were they killed? Are they safely hiding somewhere? Could they be lost too? We may never know, but most fathers would be just as concerned about their own children as they are about their spouse, if not more so.
The search for Maria is a central conflict and emotional focal point for the game. So much of the plot builds up to that critical moment where Dom and Maria reunite, but it happens far too early in the game. For a title that is emphasizing the importance of plot, the emotional climax should not occur halfway though the game. Epic could have done so much more with what they had in place. Unfulfilled potential is one of the worst failures a developer can make.
Gears of War was a title that reset the expectations of what games could be on the current generation of consoles. People where blown away because there was nothing else like it available. After months of hype and excitement, Gears of War 2 ended up being exactly what we expected. It is an odd oxymoron to be disappointed by an exceptional game, but there was never that moment of awe inspiring amazement, that the original Gears displayed so prominently.
Gears of War 2 manages to combine outstanding gameplay, competent storytelling, and amazing visuals, to produce one of the best games available on any platform. The solid single player campaign will lure you in and the expanded multiplayer options will keep you coming back for more. This is a game that should be the cornerstone of every video game collection.
In view of the WOW expansion The Wrath of the Lich King, I feel it is my duty to blow hate all over MMORPGs like a zit on a mirror, or load on a porn star's face.
The lifestyle. If you get into an MMORPG, it becomes your life. You learn to sustain yourself on Hot Pockets and microwavable burritos, like college all over again, if you take the time to eat at all. Your muscles become jello because you don't move anything other than your mouse hand, which in some cases is your jerking hand, for hours on end and you don't stand up enough to realize your ass has become flat like so many teachers. You gain copious amounts of weight from the two minute meals, Mountain Dew, and sedentary lifestyle. You begin to breath like an asthmatic... who also happens to be a child molester watching anime... at a Toys R' Us... and most human interaction is degraded to heavy breathing and grunts over a headset.
Before you say, "Jimmy, I play MMORPGs and I'm not grossly overweight," first stop and think how much of a shit I actually give about you. It's not much, if at all, and maybe you should stop now before it's too late. The next thing you know all your friends will spell their names in leet speak, you have no idea what they look like in person, you haven't had sex in recent memory, you're skin is pale, you're riddled with acne, and your family has declared you legally dead.
The grind. South Park got it right with the episode Make Love Not Warcraft. Every MMORPG is based on mindless repetition or "grind," as it's so affectionately called. As long as you are willing to sacrifice your social life, and exposure to the sun, you can hang around in virtual forests killing boars until you hit the level cap. I understand there are some things that never lose their charm no matter how much you do them (sex) but I can't comprehend why anybody would want to sit at a computer all day and do the same thing over and over again. That sounds an awful lot like my day job. Why would I want to do work at home and not get paid for it? Not only would I not get paid for it, I'd have to pay to play my job!
Maybe you get really good at playing, or you've hit the level cap, or you have enough gold to buy everything in the game, is that something you want to be proud of, something you can brag about? Sure there are a handful of people who might look at you in admiration, but do you really want to be admired by those people, the people I described above? Let's say you do, congratulations, you are now on the same level as a robotic welder on a car assembly line.
Monthly fees. I read somewhere that in all the years WOW has been out, it has only cost Blizzard $200 million for upkeep. Even if it's double that amount to pay employee salaries, they still make obscene amounts of money. Let's figure there's an average of 8 million active players at any given time since the game was released, each paying an average of $15 per month. The game has been out for 4 years. Let's multiply all of those together and take that figure to the floor for botched averages and we have $5 billion dollars. Even after subtracting expenses, we still have over $4 billion. That's some serious burning money. The kind of money that would sustain a hefty cocaine addiction for your entire life, all 5 years of it.
I'm all for capitalism but I'm in greater favor of ethics and morality. Ethically there isn't anybody being hurt by them charging monthly fees, but they are hurting the environment with fields of discarded demo discs. The fee might discourage some people from playing, which saves energy, but they are offering a product which uses energy, negating any positivity.
I'm no business man, but with every technology or product, once you attain and maintain an install base and your budget goes green, you lower costs. I know I'm talking to the wall with this argument, because I have yet to propose a valid complaint about making money hand over fist, but something doesn't sit right with me. Clearly WOW, or any MMORPG, is addicitve and they're using the drug dealer mentality of "the first one's free," but that doesn't bother me. What bothers me is they aren't giving anything back to the hopeless reclusives they are perpetuating and inspiring every single day. Sure they've released an expansion, but that cost considerably less than $100 million to make.
I guess in the long run I don't really care. Enjoy paying your money to form meaningless relationships with virtual characters raiding fantasy camps in a superficial world, while I'm having sex with my wife in the real world.
In honor of the recent elections, I bring you Super Obama World. I happened upon this little jewel on Kombo.com last week. Thank you Phillip Levin! This game is created by Zensoft and is one of the better Super Mario clones that I have seen. After the ads (oh how I hate ads!) you get to play as Obama, fighting his way to the White House. Just a warning, don't start the the first level... there is no ending. You end up in No-Where Alaska after crossing the long bridge from Russia.
It has the normal flash Mario controls, arrow keys and the space bar for jumping. Goombas have been replaced with pigs (hmmm... a political jab) and depending on the levels you get some other enemies. To poke fun at the Republican Party's spending of $150,000 on clothing, the "For everything else, there's RNC" features luxury stores Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. You even get to squash those guys that follow you around whenever you're in the store to make sure you don't steal something! TAKE THAT! "I can see Russia from my house" features the Palin estate and snow machines or snow mobiles as they should really be called. Snow machines make snow, Snow mobiles teach drunk men that a large vehicle can only go over open water for a few seconds before the water wins. And it's Sarah Palin on the snow machine. So if you don't like her... there you go. Right now there aren't that many levels... mostly in Alaska, but Zensoft promises others in Arizona, Illinois, and D.C.
So go on and help Obama fight his way to the White House! There is no embed for this one, so go to the site above and check it out!
I finally cracked - I preordered Left 4 Dead (scratch it off my Christmas list), but I did it for you guys. Nevermind that I got early access to the demo (which is now publicly available) and $5 off (which I can now assert that it was well worth it), I wanted to provide you all with a look at what you have in store come next week! Let's dig in, shall we?
While trying to get my necessary fix of political agenda, I came across this amusing video. The tagline of the clip could not be more appropriate: Politics make so much more sense in 8-bits!
No matter what your party or persuasion, we can all agree that when Mario is involved, everything becomes much clearer. Be sure to stay until the end of the clip, for a special cameo from Sarah Palin. Check out hilarious clip below:
Well gamers, I often try to keep my personal life to myself, however, I could not come up with a topic that would be enlightening enough for all of you. So after talking to Andygoes, we decided upon a topic that seems technologically focused: Internet communication.
My parents were out this past week and my mom asked me if I had any stamps. "Stamps?", I asked. "You mean those little sticky things that you put on those white rectangles and stick in your mailbox once a month when the bills are due?" Of course she said yes, and I quickly replied, "Nope, don't have any."
We are in an age where the post office delivers more junk mail than relevant mail. This is also an age when we pay bills via online banking sites and buy many different things through online venues. Most critically, we are in an age where communication is switching over to the computer through various routes.
I wanted to talk to you briefly about two of these roots: iChat, for those Mac people around, and Gmail, for those of us that like a snazzy looking e-mail site with tons of storage. If I may say so, these two resources have become an integral part of my relationship with my girlfriend, who lives 8 hours away.
iChat is the AIM equivalent that is preloaded onto a Mac. The application can fish information from your AIM account, which is useful when you tend talk to people who are not on a Mac. It is a nice piece of software that provides an easy to use interfaces for talking with people. iChat even has cool little colors for the speech bubbles from your friends. Another useful feature is how easy it is to talk to someone via an audio link. I have spent countless hours on this, and other than a few Internet based goof ups, have had no major problems with it.
When using the audio chat there is sometimes a nasty feedback from the system that forces you to mute yourself momentarily, but this usually dies down after about 5 or 10 minutes. It sometimes flares up again, but it dies away with time. For those of you who are really computer savvy, there is also a video link that allows you to see the person who you are talking to. This can be nice both for work related applications where you need to have a short meeting with someone, as well as when you are talking with family and friends you do not often see.
Gmail, gmail, gmail. Provided to us by the dynasty that is Google. (Does anyone have that new phone that is Google based? I want to know how good it is). Logging into gmail is like logging into your life. Here you can do anything from Sending and receiving e-mails, filtering spam, and trashing all the junk mail that manages to sneak by. However, has anyone ever noticed that barely any junk mail ever gets into gmail? With over 7 GB of space, I wouldn't want to waste any precious piece on such a thing. (Currently my usage is at a measly 265 MB.) Recently, gmail has added a chat function that can connect with AIM. Not only can you chat with your friends when you are wasting time at home, but now you can do it at work too, all while looking like you are sending an e-mail to your co-workers scattered around the globe. There are even labels to sort your mail under, forwarding options, and so many available settings in the works at Google labs that I feel like a noob just talking about it. In fact, I am finding out more and more as I write about it.
Yes gamers, these were random thoughts this week. My brain is beginning to rot from the drought of good games available on Xbox 360. Not that there are none, it is just that I do not get to play any of them, except for when I steal the guitar from the 10 year old at Best Buy, so I can play Rock Band 2 on their 50" plasma with surround sound. Just be sure to play it on easy so that everyone in the store will think you rock. After all, everyone that knows better has already bought it and taken it home! Explore gmail people, I know its been out for a while, but there are a lot of good and new things coming out on a regular basis. And if your a Mac user like myself, consider iChat. You won't be too often disappointed.
Game on Gamers!
Not every blockbuster this season deserves the spotlight. Call of Duty: World at War is a sheep in wolf's clothing. Taking the good name that Infinity Ward built with Call of Duty 1, 2 and 4, Activision enjoys exploiting gamers by letting Treyarch play around with Infinity Ward's brand...
World at War is one of these pseudo Call of Duty games. The last such game, Call of Duty 3, was a disaster. All the game ended up being was Call of Duty 2 with some "added features." I use the term "features" loosely because all they consisted of was a hand to hand combat mini game that interrupted the game play and ruined the experience. World at War is nothing more than a repackaging of Call of Duty 4, but still set in World War 2.
To be fair, they are adding new things to the series such as the war in the pacific and making combat a little more dark and grim. Even so, this game is still sailing under another developer's flagship. Were this game given any other name, I might give it a fair chance. Unfortunately this is another case of a publisher attempting to take advantage of the good faith of gamers everywhere. I encourage you to ignore this title on Tuesday.
Once again the ingenuity of gamers show through! Some patient soul has figured out how to make a fully functional NES console that will fit in your pocket. Granted, this does employ the use of emulators, but it is an achievement all the same. Everything on the device has been repurposed from assorted other electronics, making this even more remarkable. Check out the demo video below:
Between Gears of War 2 and a project that I am not quite ready to talk about yet, I have been keeping very busy. We have had another great week and have transitioned the site into a new stage of growth, but more on that later on in the week. This week I am looking forward to sinking my teeth into the review for Gears of War 2 early in the week, as well as start my play through of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.
Upcoming this week from the rest of the team includes our Release of the Week, from Greedy Raven, PriestBeast's Random Thoughts from the Gameless Gamer, and AndyGoes where surely no man has gone before. To close out the week we will see Reluctant_Gamer's Damnit Game of the Week and another dose of something special from Jimmy the Greek. At the end of the week will have my review of Brother's in Arms: Hell's Highway.
Thanks for all of the support and have a great week!
Gears of War 2 is one of the most highly hyped and publicized game releases of 2008. After preordering and eagerly anticipating the release for months, I was finally able to sit down and power through the first three quarters of the game. So far I’m blown away by all of the new innovations that have been brought to a game that has already once redefined the third person shooter genre.
When I played the original Gears of War, I didn’t think that there was much room for visual improvements. Not only has Epic Games proved me wrong, they took it a step further, raising the bar for graphical fidelity and detail to almost unreachable heights. I was amazed to see that the grays and browns typically associated with the Unreal Engine have been replaced with lush blues and greens, painting the environment in a tapestry of realism that will be hard to match.
All of the weapons that you know and love are back again with vengeance, along with the addition of some new friends. Though the arsenal of weapons has remained mostly unchanged, the sound and recoil systems have been completely redesigned from the ground up. The result is a more satisfying and visceral experience, every time you pull the trigger.
After facing criticism for the laughable plotline of the first installment, the story has been made a key component, helping drive forward and progress the gameplay. While it is obvious that the script is not going to win a Pulitzer, it is a significant improvement over the original.
In direct contrast to Gears I, Marcus and Dom manage to muster an emotion other than blood soaked glee. You finally get a glimpse into their complex friendship, as Marcus attempts to help Dom deal with personal heartache, while still franticly searching for his wife. The humanity and personal turmoil that Dom displays helps drive home the tragedy that war can cause, tearing families apart, leaving only the survivors to pick up the pieces.
I am sure that this is just a taste of what is to come. Stay tuned for our full review, coming early next week.
In the meantime, check out this trailer for Gears of War 2 below:
Quality of Games. This might be a moot point with the recent statement made by John Riccitiello saying they will ax at least one title a year. Now I've gotten that out of the way, let's find a particularly raunchy floating turd on the list of shittiness.
Superman Returns. I love the Man of Tomorrow just as much anybody, if not more, and there hasn't been a single good game with Superman in it. It's a testament to their arrogance to think they could actually make one. They tore a page out of the book of Spiderman 2, who tore a page out of the book of GTA, and tried to make it an open world game... based solely in Metropolis. This is a serious design flaw to begin with. I'm going to flex my nerd muscles and say Superman is the protector of Earth and a decent portion of the galaxy, but add shitty graphics and character models, physics problems, repetitive fighting, and no real distinguishable threat to Supes and you have a recipe for tripe.
You know what? I can stop right there. They've released several good games and milked best selling franchises but when I think of EA published games, I think of the broken buggy pieces of shit they've released based on movie franchises. The games that take great movies and in a blatant dick move, ruined my memory of them.
They killed James Bond. GoldenEye is considered one of the best games of all time and brought FPSs to consoles with panache. To this day I still enjoy popping it in my 64. The next Bond game to come out was Tomorrow Never Dies on the PlayStation. Sadly since GoldenEye was released it has all been down hill. At best it has been on a plain after TND. It went from the franchise everybody was playing in the mid to late 90's to "why the hell did I waste my money on that?" No amount of implied sex and space age gadgetry could save 007 from the horror wreaked on it by EA.
Sports Titles' Yearly Releases. NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, NCAA, PGA, etc., etc. Are there really that many changes made in the PGA that merit releasing a Tiger Woods game every year? It seems that EA took the winning formula of Tiger Woods 06 and decided the best way to improve the franchise was to ruin it by changing the controls and needless additions of gameplay mechanics. Here's an idea that would cost less for EA and consumers. Stop releasing the same fucking game every year with only the number on the end changed. I can't reinforce that notion enough, STOP RELEASING THE SAME FUCKING GAME! Now that has been stated, make the updated rosters, teams, locations, stadiums, etc. available as downloadable content. If there's a company out there that loves milking money from it's consumers, it is definitely EA. Though DLC is not as expensive as a full blown game, they don't have to pay to print and distribute it and this model allows them to milk the DLC hind tit just a little bit more.
Exclusive NFL License. I'm not the biggest fan of directly competing against others because I usually lose. I can admit that, but it doesn't mean that the wrestlers who beat me so many years ago got the best of me. I have a well paying job, a beautiful fiancee, a nice car, and lots of cool toys. I can sleep soundly at night knowing in the long run I won, because they are now married to a witless slut, have dead end jobs, live on the wrong side of town, and have children that unsurprisingly look like the mailman, UPS guy, or their best friend.
Where was I going with this? Right, competition. Competition in business breeds innovation, lower prices, and quality products. I don't play Madden and never will, but I can still sympathize with its fans because if they want a football game, more specifically NFL, they have to buy Madden. Listening to friends who faithfully line up every year to buy Madden like lemmings marching off a cliff, the game peaked in 2005 and hasn't been all that great since. Am I wrong or was that the same year Take Two got a significant market share and instead of making a better product EA bought the license to eliminate competition?
They try to do too much. This one needs some clarification. Typically when EA publishes a title, they release it on everything, including mobile phones. There are very few developers who know how to program a great game using all the power of a single system, let alone several. To top this off they try to release each version simultaneously. That means that they have to dumb down the game engine for the Wii, so the fan base of the Wii don't mutiny when they realize they bought half the game for their half system, or one version is ready well ahead of the others and gamers have to wait for them all to be completed before it gets released. I understand giving equal choice for the game you want to purchase but couldn't they stagger the releases as each game in completed?
They bought Bioware/Pandemic. This was a smart business move on their part but that doesn't mean I have to be happy with it. Bioware has a cult like following and the same goes for Pandemic. Their merger sparked a unified cry of joy from the gaming community. We had one group of talented people over here and another group of talented people over there. Together we have one big group of talented people with enough capital to do greater things. Shortly after this, while we gamers were still smoking our collective victory cigars, it was announced that EA had bought them both. To me this was like smacking the victory cigar out of my mouth into a puddle of piss.
This complaint isn't limited to Bioware/Pandemic but extends to so many developers gobbled up by EA like white pellets to Pacman. Alone these developers might not have had multibillion dollar fiscal profits but they might not be closed because EA doesn't know how to expand their business model from within.
For all of you people out there who like to pop little kids balloons or have lost a ton of money at those rigged carnival games, this is the game for you. Brought to you by NinjaKiwi (which is an awesome name) this gem from 2007 is one of the top games of all time on Addictinggames.com. The whole premise of the game? To pop balloons of course. Even cooler, you get to be a monkey!
The controls are all very simple. You point your mouse in the direction you want you dart to go in, hold the left button until it is as powerful as you want it, then let go. It's that easy. Each level gets more challenging as you go on. You get special power-ups, like nails that fly everywhere or the three in one darts. Obstacles take the form of steel walls (which reach out and grab your dart sometimes... grrrr...) or black bouncy walls. The levels can get frustrating fairly quickly and I wouldn't recommend using a touchpad. It's an addicting game because you want to pop all those damn balloons and somehow one always sneaks away.
Try it here!
You have spoken, American gamers, and you have chosen well - in my opinion, anyway!
The Sonic the Hedgehog franchise had been murdered over the last few years. With the exception of the handheld games, every game has been as disaster from the moment you boot your console. When we first saw videos of Sonic Unleashed, I started to become hopeful that maybe they might be returning to the roots of what Sonic so successful.
The verdict is still out on the newest installment, but in the meantime I managed to snag a copy of a leaked video, featuring the game's opening sequence. Check out the video below:
Tuesday November 4th, 2008. Doomsday... wait... I mean... Election Day.
November means that the holiday season is revving up. Publishers are starting to roll out the big releases and gamers spend their holiday money on themselves. After all, waiting to receive games as gifts is for n00bs.
The big game coming out Tuesday for Playstation 3 owners is the much anticipated Resistance 2. Most PS3 gamers are familiar with the series as Resistance: Fall of Man, which was the only game worth buying on the system for several months after the PS3's launch. The second installation moves the fight against the Chimera to the good old United States. Gamers should be excited for this games ramped up eight player co-op and competitive multiplayer modes. All with graphics that only the PS3 can provide.
Those with an Xbox360 gizmo, whatever that is, have to wait until Friday for their big release. The somewhat eagerly anticipated Gears of War 2 is coming out late in the week, as opposed to the usual Tuesday release. The action will reach fever pitch as the Unreal Engine 3 is pushed to its very limits. GoW2 is also sporting an impressive multiplayer package for those of you who like paying a monthly fee to have racist 12 year olds yelling at you, as they hack you with a chain saw. Yummy!
As with everything is this day and age, it is nearly impossible to keep a secret, especially when the internet is involved. Today, leaked videos of the first ten minutes of Gears of War 2 began to float around the internet. Fortunately I have been able to round up videos of the first ten minutes of gameplay, one with the tutorial session and one without tutorial. Check out videos below:
After viewing these videos, I am even more excited for the release of Gears of War 2! I guess I will see you in line when the game launches on November 7th.
Sorry, I am going to have to keep things brief, because I have a secret project to get back to...
Things have been great around here as we have completed our first full week of our new posting schedule. I know I have loved hearing from everyone else on the team and look forward to more going forward. There are more changes in the pipe over the coming weeks, but in the meantime, enjoy our new wealth of fresh material!
This week you can look forward to a full week of great game coverage from our team, along with a few new surprises. Take care and have a great week.