Friday, June 26, 2009

Whose Side Are You On? A Left 4 Dead 2 Preview

Left 4 Dead 2 could have possibily been one of the biggest announcements at E3 this year. With the original still a few months away from being a year old, no one was really expecting it, especially given Valve's long history of making us constantly wait. It was quite a surprise. Whether or not it was a pleasant surprise, is left up to the gamer.

It seems as though the gaming world is a bit torn on the issue of Left 4 Dead 2. Players are upset at the prospect of having to dish out an additional $60 ($50 for PC gamers) for what they perceive could easily be achieved in DLC. Players are also upset at the prospect of Left 4 Dead being well, left for dead due to the addition of the sequel. On the other hand, it’s a sequel to Left 4 Dead and it’s unheard of for Valve to release new content this soon. Plus, Valve has a long standing history of releasing excellent games, so can anyone truly be let down? The real question is, will the sequel pack a big enough punch to get players excited and justify the hefty price? Personally, I say yes.

A week or so ago I received the August issue of PC Gamer Magazine. Right smack dab on the cover was Left 4 Dead 2. I got very little new information about the game from small blogs across the web post E3, but the PC Gamer review gave me the entire spectrum and I must say that I am very much excited. I’m honestly a little bit late to the game in regards to L4D. I bought the game on release day for my PC, but never really played due to my lack of friends who are fellow PC gamers. It was until I recently purchase an Xbox 360, that I discovered the true glory of the game.

After reading the PC Gamer article, it seems that the developers of the Left 4 Dead series sat down and actually listened to the complaints about the game given by the players. One of these complaints is predictability. While L4D’s AI eliminates predictability and strategy better then any game made previous, there are still some predictable aspects. Strategies such as crouching in the corners are common among L4D players. The Tank in L4D2 will eliminate this strategy by being able to hit multiple survivors if they are hiding in a corner. One of the best features of L4D is the AI and the fact that every single time you play, you get a different experience. That isn’t common among a lot of games today and that definitely drew players in. They are also updated the types of infected in the game. They are adding a new Charger that seems almost like a combination of all the infected in L4D. There will be variations of infected from the previous game; however, this time they will have mutations that work to your disadvantage. No longer will the witch be easily avoidable as she huddles on the floor sobbing. This time she’s going to wander and it’s most likely that she will wander directly into you. So have fun getting that achievement for not disturbing the witch in L4D2.

One of the bigger changes that has been known about since E3 is the additional of melee weapons. There will be an addition of a frying pan, an axe, a chainsaw and some others. This was added in an effort to prevent friendly fire in closer quarters. I’m quite confident in saying the chainsaw will most likely become everyone’s new best friends. The only downside to the addition of these melee weapons is that you will not be able to hold a melee weapon as well as a gun at the same time. That means, you can use the chainsaw for a bit, but you’re going to have to drop it if you want to use that shotgun. There will also be additions to the types of throwables you get and the types of guns available. Special ammo clips such as incendiary rounds will be provided. You’ll be capable of dual welding different types of handguns instead of the set standard that was provided in L4D.

Another large addition to L4D2 will be a storyline. With L4D you were dropped into the game without much knowledge of the characters or what is really going on, minus the cinematic in the very beginning of the game. L4D2 will begin with the characters meeting outside a mall (hello Mr. Romano!). There will be more interaction with the characters and more storyline. You’ll learn more about what is going on, the help that is being provided (or not provided) and you’ll also get more interaction with the world around you such as FEMA, the military, etc. Not only is the storyline new, but the setting will be different. This time the carnage takes places in the south with most of the maps taking place during the day. It’s expected for zombies to be wandering the streets and woods at night, but it gives a completely different feel when you’re encountering zombies while the sun breaches the horizon. The campaigns will also be larger then what we saw in Left 4 Dead. Valve has stated that these will be the biggest maps they have ever made distance-wise.

One of the things I am most looking forward to is what has been termed “enhanced dismemberment.” This time around when you riddle a zombie with bullets, it will actually show. You’ll be able to shoot off limbs and tear bodies apart. Instead of trying to guess how much HP the Tank has left, it will come quite obvious as his body is slowly torn apart by your bullets (or your chainsaw!). I’m imagining the fun that will be had when I can shoot off the legs of a zombie and watch it try and slowly drag itself to me. I mean, they’re zombies right? They’re best served with pieces of their body hanging from their side.

So all in all, where do I stand on the L4D2 debate? I’m excited and I will definitely be picking it up on release day. I trust Valve as a gaming company to create a magnificent product. They have never let me down before and I don’t expect them to ever do so in the future. However, Valve, I do have one request. Before you spring a L4D3 on us, could you please oh please release Half Life 2: Episode 3?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mass Effect Galaxy Review

Let's quickly establish how big of a Mass Effect fanboy I am. I am a huge Mass Effect fanboy.

With that said I was surprised with the high production values that this game had. It looks like Bioware had their hands in this (okay maybe just one hand). The stylized cut scenes are worth playing the game for alone. The story is your basic, run of mill, "Batarians are trying to take down the Citadel," type of story and it is funny because the Batarian ambassador, who we are introduced to rather quickly, looks like a stuffed animal (but perhaps that was the point).

You then, quickly, get into the combat and realize that what you are playing is a high production value cell phone game. Everything has nice animations and it works well but it is the same rinse and repeat gameplay throughout the entire game.

The combat takes place in "combat scenes" where you must kill every enemy in order to pass through to the next one or to the next conversation. You typically get 3-5 combat screens before you get to your next conversation (I would honestly take a stab at it and say that there are probably only about 25-30 combat screens in the entire game).

The gameplay is not hard (it might take you five minutes to learn how to play) and I only died about 4 or 5 times throughout the game and that was just because I was seeing how far I could push Jacob.

All of this is not to say that I did not have fun while playing the combat scenes but I do not see myself playing this more than once more. It is missing the addictive driving point that most addictive cell phone games have and in the end the entire game might take you anywhere between 2-4 hours to complete [and 4 hours is being pretty generous].

Other than the cut scenes the other place where the game shines are the conversation pieces. Usually you are given between 3-5 different things to say and they all have varying responses (ala ME1). Your facial expression changes based on each selection and you can also avoid conflicts based on what you say (also akin to ME1). But like everything else in the game, it still feels watered down. You can threaten people or you can be their saving grace but in the end it is all for naught because there are no Paragon or Renegade attributes rewarded. Essentially you could tap through all of the conversation pieces, without changing anything you say, and you would end up with the same ending that I recieved.

Ending Thoughts: The game was fun enough to play and I'll get my five bucks worth out of it, if just for the reward that it gives you for Mass Effect 2, but overall it was disappointing. I didn't go into it expecting to be disappointed but at the very least there was some decent addition to the Batarian (albeit very short (maybe the length of one or two Sci-Fi book chapters)) backstory. Only the hardest of core Mass Effect fans need apply and still then you are stretching it pretty thin. I have read both books and played through the game 4 times and I still think that this game was bare bones (very pretty bare bones).

"Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hey Look (Brutal Legend) Box Art!

I know that this is box art and I am fully aware that it is not news but have you gazed at its Schafey glory? Can you feel its majesty?

IT REMINDS ME OF ROOOCK [Done in my best heavy metal scream which is virtually nonexistent.]!!!

I'm ready to rock!

It has also occurred to me on more than one occasion, in recent time, that my two most anticipated games are EA published games. I heart EA.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

MASS EFFECT GALAXY comes to iPhone... right now!

So as far as I know there was no release date for this game and if there was I missed it but it is here regardless and that fateful game is Mass Effect Galaxy for iPhone and iPod touch. It cost five dollars (that I will not have until Friday... at least I think so) and I want it now. Sorry for the lack of tack in this post but I was just enjoying myself playing Ghostbusters (and passing 20,000 gamerscore in the process) when I decided that it would be time for a break. I clicked on over to my TweetDeck window and... BAM... there it was. Now I must have it. These are the days of announcing things on Twitter apparently... or at least for Bioware.

And apparently you can unlock something for Mass Effect 2 at the end...

Expect a review as soon as I get it/beat it.

Bioware's Twitter hints at more ME1 DLC (finally)

If you did not know that I have an unhealthy obsession with Mass Effect by now (I just beat the game for a fourth time yesterday and already started a new character) then you:

  1. Don't care.
  2. Don't really read this blog or more specifically Mass Effect posts.
  3. You are a new reader.
So naturally when some nameless company mentions on Twitter that a Mass Effect DLC announcement could be forthcoming in the next week I might be inclined to be excited. I was going to save another playthrough for later this year but it looks as though it might be coming later this week.

This is really a long rumored piece of content and I really hope it is worth all of the hype (does anyone remember when Bioware added a planet to KOTOR as DLC but never did anything with it, well this is feeling the same way). If it is this fight club thing that has been talking about, I do not know how I will feel about it. I do think that I will probably end up being disappointed but in the end I'll just have another excuse to play Mass Effect again sooner - which for me is never a bad thing.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday MUpdate: Happy National Day!

Edit: While inherently unrelated to video games, I decided that I want to start a holiday in honor of beating up Perez Hilton. Even if it isn't true, I think it's worth celebrating. I've never been a fan of the Black Eyed Peas, but I think I might start listening to them now with this amazing event.

So, as anyone who read my last news post probably knows, Sam and Max came out this past week on XBOX Live! and I have been playing it like crazy. The thing is, I don't want to overly run through it, so I decided one episode a night is all I will allow myself to do. However, since there is so much to see and do in each little episode, I usually get to spend 2-3 hours playing, solving puzzles and laughing at all the little jokes. It is some of the best $20 I've ever spent.

If you are not convinced that Sam and Max is a worthwhile purchase, allow me to help: this game is frakking awesome. First off, it's Sam and Max. In my mind, that's enough to pick up any peice of shameless merchandise! Steve Purcell managed to create two of the greatest characters of all time, who have featured in previous games as well as comics and a TV show. But if you're not familiar with the characters and need a better reason, this game is actually challenging. I feel that with a lot of the games I and my friends have been playing as of late, the real challenge is just figuring out where to go and who to shoot. There might be some slight puzzles, but nothing on the scale of Sam and Max Save The World. With this game, I have found that you need to talk to everyone in your environment before starting your adventure, because otherwise you'll be lost. You also need to check repeated locales for possible things that you may have missed on your first go around because not every bit and piece of the puzzle is readily apparent. I have found myself absolutely stumped on many occasion while playing so far, to the point where I'll either need to go do something else for a bit so I can sit down with fresh and creative ideas in how to solve a puzzle, or I need to give up and look online for a clue of where to go. You don't find that in a lot of games these days.

The adventure genre is something I sorely miss. This is primarily what I played when I was a kid, games like Indana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Day of the Tentacle, Sam and Max Hit the Road, and The Secret of Monkey Island. The game not only serves as a great entertainment (considering how hilarious the two main characters are, let alone the plots) but also a tough brain teaser. I haven't spent this long trying to figure out a puzzle since last year's Braid. Granted, the Sam and Max games have been out for a little while now, but I don't have a PC so I can't enjoy in the same revelry most PC users can, what with their Star Craft II and their Diablo III. To be blessed with such a treat is a welcome vacation from all the shoot 'em ups and RPGs that I consistently play. This comes with the highest recommendation that I can possibly give, the " Acknowledgement of Excellence" award.

Other than that, no other games have been getting the attention they may or may not deserve from yours truly. As much as I do need to do more play throughs of several games, I find that I'm too busy with other things to devote my attention to more than one game at a time, and the game that stole me is Sam and Max. I need to put more attention to my DS and play throughs of Mass Effect, Fallout 3, and Penny Arcade (because, since losing all my memory, I need to build up my character before episode 3 comes out). I also really need to get out and pre-order Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2. I was going to do it when an Assassin's Creed 2 pre-order was announced, but apparently only the Brits get it, not us lonely statesmen, so that's out of the picture. Either way, as I begin to chew out all my other responsibilities to nerd-dom, I hope to free up more time for gaming in the next few months. We'll see.

Game Diary: June 22, 2009: Another Week

I promise you that the blog did not go anywhere. It is still here in grand fashion but I have not yet adjusted to my new work schedule so I have not been on my computer at all for the past week or so. The RSS feeds are stacking up and I need to find a way to catch up - pronto. This will be my third week with this schedule so with any fortitude on my part we should return to some semblance of a normal post schedule (at the very least one a day).

This week I - barely - worked on Mass Effect but I did finally manage to nab the Krogan and Sentinel Ally achievements which puts me at 955 (gamerscore) for the game so far. I am at the very end of the game so hopefully I can manage to nab the Assault Rifle Expert achievement. The reason I have not nabbed it earlier is because I was thinking that since I am not proficient in the weapon then why should I even try. Then someone at work told me that just because I am not proficient in it did not mean that I could not try for it. This is true apparently although I will not be that upset if I do not get the achievement on this playthrough.

The other game that I have been playing is Ghostbusters: The Video Game. Right before I started playing I prepped myself by watching the first movie for the gajillionth time. So far everything in the game feels so right from catching ghosts to the time relevant Doritos vending machines (the old bag, not the new ones). I plan on writing some sort of review when I finish so look out for that.

Gaming Diary: June 22, 2009 - It's Been a Little While!

Apologies for my lack of updates as of late. I was on a fantastic vacation last week and didn't play any games while I was there, so there was no update last week. This past week, however, I got in lots and lots of gaming!

There have been four games that I have been rotating lately: The Sims 3, Peggle, Battlefield: Bad Company and World of Warcraft. During the week I spent most of my time on The Sims 3, Peggle and Battlefield: Bad Company. The Sims 3 has been pretty enjoyable. There's a significant amount of customization available in creating a character compared to The Sims 2. It goes so far as to even customize the voice of your sim. Thus far I've recreated myself, my girlfriend, Nate's wife Cindy and Nate as Sims. Nate and Cindy are my neighbors and Michael (my gf) lives across the street and as of this last Friday, her and I are officially a dating couple on The Sims! Ahhh, to live life vicariously through animated computer game people! My sim is on the professional athlete career path. The game has some new personality trait features that allows you to pick 5 traits for your sim that influence their behavior. It makes things nice because when I don't want to tell my sim what to do, it just sort of does it on it's own. Thus far my overall opinion of the game is that it has a lot of great improvements on the previous game. I'm enjoying it thus far and it hasn't really lost its appeal yet. It probably helps that I only play for an hour or two, then go play something else so I haven't gotten burnt out from it yet.

I've finally beaten the master's section of Peggle! It took me long enough, right? I've since started working on all the challenge levels. I've made it past all the 35, 45 and 55 orange peg challenges. The 300k and 350k ones are giving me a bit of trouble, but I'm getting through it. I'm honestly quite surprise at the playability this game has. I was honestly completely unaware of all the challenge levels past the adventure mode. For $10-$12 this game is honestly a steal and it's a ton of fun. I'm definitely a Peggle fan now.

My favorite game (aside from Peggle and L4D) on my Xbox 360 is currently Battlefield: Bad Company. I love a good war/military shooter and this one is providing tons of fun. The unlimited amount of health you receive as well as the ability to blow buildings to smithereens are definitely the highlights of the game and that set it apart from other FPS games. It's the first game on my 360 that I've honestly been a bit addicted to and wanted to get in as much playing time as possible. I'm working through it right now on normal and most definitely getting my ass kicked constantly. Like I've said before, I've never said that I'm necessarily "good" at video games, I just love to play them. I die and I die a lot, but the fact that it "resurrects" you and saves all the kills you have made is fantastic. It makes life a bit easier for people like me. I think this will definitely be my first 360 game that I play all the way through. Now the question is, what to work on next after I finish this? Hmmmm...

I got a bit of WoW gaming in this weekend. I dinged 63 yesterday (w00t!) getting my closer and closer to 80. This is the furthest I've ever gotten in the game. I have another level 60 on a different realm that is just waiting in Outland patiently for me, but I've neglected her for the most part. I'm really enjoying the content in Outland. I played a tiny bit of it on Walker (my level 60 Tauren warrior), but not enough to get a good feel for it. It's nice to be playing new content. When I leveled Christilena (my level 63 blood elf pally), I played in places and did quests I had already done on Walker. Nothing was all that new. Now in Outland, I have all kinds of quests I've never completed before and that's fun and exciting. I'm enjoying all the new beasts and demons in Outland and I'm really anxious to get to 70 and head up to Northrend for more new content. In fact, all this talk about it makes me want to play right now! Hmmm, if there was only way to discretely install WoW on my computer at work at play....hmmmmmmmmm...