Why Can’t I Play Community Games Offline?

•April 7, 2009 • 2 Comments

I’ll try to keep this short and to the point because it’s something that kind of peeves me and I don’t like to rant. Last week we had something of a bad storm, and low and behold, my Internet was down. I’m not sure if it was storm related, and if it isn’t, the storm at least helps to set the mood.

Anyways, I was playing Prince of Persia when I’d decided that I’d had enough of  trying to find lightseeds and wanted to go for something a little bit different. You see, just days before I had purchased Philip Muwanga’s: Hexy Trench, and figured that I could try to finish its campaign mode. Once in my community games section, I found Hexy Trench, and attempted to start. I don’t remember exactly what appeared, but I believe it was to the effect of:

Ha Ha

Maybe exaggerated

Umm… what? Excuse me? I have to be online to play. Why? I moved over to my arcade games. No problem playing Alien Hominid, another game that I payed for. After searching around the web, I’ve found that not only have other people been hit by this too, but Microsoft hasn’t given a solid reason as to why this measure is even in place. And I’m guessing that’s what it is. Some kind of security measure.

I wouldn’t be upset if I just couldn’t play the demos for the Community Games offline, it still wouldn’t make much sense, but it’s not like I payed for those games. As a person who feels like Community Games should be supported fully, I can’t help but feel a little betrayed. Every demo comes with a little something that sets a time limit. I don’t fully know how these things work, but I imagine that once you buy the game, that piece of code is removed or de-activated. So why can’t we just have my Xbox check and see if I have that piece of code before not letting me play my game that I OWN. It is on my console, and it’s not as though the second I hop off Live it disappears. I can see it. It’s taking up space on my hard drive.

So why can’t I play it?

I suppose an almost no-name blog like myself can’t hope to achieve much, but it’s really the principal of the thing. It’s not like I’m offline a lot, but shouldn’t I be entitled to play the game that I payed for if something, such as a thunderstorm, occurs? If I take my Xbox over to a friends house, should I be forced to connect to his Internet in order to play a local two player game? Something just doesn’t add up here, and I would hope that perhaps we can get some answers.

Community Games Round-Up: 12 Games

•April 4, 2009 • 9 Comments

Community Games Round-Up

Every so often (from now on), I’ll go through the list of new Community Games and play them so you don’t have to. As I play through them, I’ll sit by my computer, and keep the thoughts that I have about them in writing. This will allow me to sample plenty of community games and decide which ones are deserving of being bought. Hopefully I won’t have the problem of not finding a game worth buying, but if I do, I’ll find an older community game worth your money. There’s quite a few games here, so I’ll try to keep it interesting. The worthiest of your money is at the bottom, and has a full review to go along with it. Other games may also be worth your time, but only one game got the works.

We’ve got 12 games, so we’d best get going.

Dromedary

Price: 200 mp

DromeDary

Do you feel the excitement?

I just stepped into something of a text adventure. The background is neon orange, and I can feel my eyes beginning to bleed. After pressing start I’m shown a picture of my camel in the corner, along with a bar at the top showing my camel in relation to an “Oasis” of sorts, and by that I mean a palm tree. I’m given the choices of: “Drink”, “Walk”, “Run”, “Sleep”, “Status” or “Wait”. I opt to walk. A picture shows up next to stationary camel showing a vibrating camel… okay, my camel likes this pace evidently. How about a little run? A harder vibrating camel showed up. This is weird. The camel in the bar at the top has moved closer to the tree, my goal is to reach it.

Uh oh, I’m thirsty. The excitement’s ramping up already, I take a swig of water and continue on. Something just showed up behind my camel. I think it’s a fat headed midget. I honestly don’t know what to do, so we’re gonna book it. I select “Run”. Hmm… I rode my camel to death and died in the desert. That was fun.

Recommendation: Try it – If only for the novelty

Little Racers

Price: 400 mp

Little Racers

Little Bastards

The title screen is much less abrasive than neon orange, and I’m given more options than just “Press Start”. While I was typing this a demo screen showed up, a couple of cars are racing around a half circle track, bumping into each other and zipping around corners in excess of 20 mph. I get out of the demonstration and consider hitting the exit button. I man up and choose “Quick Race” instead.

A “U” shaped track is what I’m given, and the countdown begins. I paused the game to type this, and I feel I must point out the rather extreme music that is gracing my ears right now. Of course by extreme I mean “Pop” and by gracing I mean “Assaulting”. I unpause.

Before the first lap is finished, I’ve been shoved off the track twice. The saddest part about this is that I was shoved off the track by the token loser car who’s only there make sure you win by at least one. The tracks are evidently covered in some kind of space age concrete that while being neigh frictionless, will allow skid marks and screeches to happen all over the place. I’m now in third place and try to cut across one of the tracks. A little cross appears over my car indicating a “no-no”, so I say screw it and just start driving backwards along the track.

The demo ends with the asshole loser car getting second because I stopped in front of Senior Firstplace’. I felt like I’d accomplished enough, and shut it off.

Recommendation: Ignore It – There’s nothing here you haven’t played before, and probably better.

NextWar: The Quest for Earth

Price: 200 mp

NextWar

Not Shown: On my TV with tiny unreadable text

Up next is a Tower Defense game, mostly found on computers. Let’s see if that’s for a good reason. I could read the instructions, wait no, actually I can’t. I find that the text is too small for those of us with puny standard definition televisions to read. I won’t hold this against the game though, because rich people deserve to be catered to.

I hop right in and due to my eyes only having 20/20 vision, I can’t decide what to put down. I begin randomly laying out towers to kill the… let’s just call them enemies because I haven’t the slightest clue what they are. I laid out a bunch of little red squares that are evidently lasers. They go about killing the little asteriks that float by. It’s like a slower version of Geometry Wars. The waves come by and I don’t have to do squat. Now would be the time to point out that if you enjoy actually playing games, Tower Defense games likely aren’t for you. One thing I do like about the game is the menu. It’s very intuitive, and I’ll give it that. I may not buy it, but if you like Tower Defense games, I’d recommend this for your console TD needs.

Recommendation: Try It – I can see the merit in TD games, I just don’t like them. Especially try NextWar if you’re a fan of the genre.

Battle Havoc

Price: 400 mp

Battle Havoc

It looks exciting, but that little ball moves at about .2 mph


This is a game that I was actually counting on. It looked intriguing when I saw the screenshots, and while it remained intriguing throughout my playthrough, it wasn’t necessarily intriguing in a good way. As always, I say “Screw you tutorial” because I’ve played many-a-game and I know my way around a controller. The description said something about jetpacks, so I figured everything would work out fine in the end. Oh contrare said the… ball. I went into singleplayer and found my self playing as a small, what I assume to be metal, ball, and I can roll around using the Right and Left triggers.

Through more experimentation, I found out that X lets me use the jetpack, and A lets me fire rockets. There’s little targets around, so I start firing rockets off at them, I destroy them, and I move to the exit pad. I repeated this process again, and also discovered that by pressing the Left and Right buttons, I could switch my weapon. I may have only had two, but rocket launchers and grenades have always gone good together. Of course, there’s a catch to all of this that I haven’t mentioned yet.

Battle Havoc is another shameless Worms rip-off, albeit a real time Worms rip-off. You move around at a snails pace, and your weapons are fired based on trajectory and power, i.e. point and decide how far you want it to go. I don’t  mind the trial and error of it all, but I do believe that this type of game is better off in a Turn Based environment, as opposed to everybody’s firing off at the same time (Insert: That’s what she said).

Recommendation: Ignore – Just download Worms off of Xbox Live for a similar, yet more entertaining experience.

Solar

Price: 200 mp

Solar

This is exactly as terrific as it looks


I normally like sandbox games. Let loose to do what you want in an open environment. No holds bar, just go about your business. Solar takes this idea to whole ‘nother level, letting you loose in a galaxy. The main difference between Solar and say GTA though, is that Solar just wants you to relax.

I see the merit in games like flOw and flOwer. Take what you’re given, and grow it. Just have a good time, unwind. No worries, no goals. Solar is much the same way. You’re a sun, and you go around collecting planets. The tutorial was rather lackluster in its explanation, and it took me about 7 minutes to find out that I don’t want to consume every planet that I get to orbit me, but I can forgive that, because I had 3 solid minutes of just floating around the galaxy, collecting planets, and having them collect asteroids. As the planets collected asteroids, I could either leave them be, or have the planets consume the asteroids, making them larger.

There’s no enemies in Solar, and there’s no way to lose, but you can most definitely extend your game time. If an asteroid chose not to be taken up by one of my planets gravitational pulls, it could instead smack into my planet, reducing it back to its original rocky/ dilapidated state. There were also other solar systems floating around that would threaten to ram into me, though not by their own devices. Perhaps what I liked most about the game was that I wasn’t the only sun going about this. Once when I had two planets orbiting me, I passed a fledgling sun getting pelted in a rain of asteroids, and I stopped to laugh.

It seems like a good way to unwind, but would you ever really need a game like this for more than 10 minutes at a time? I suppose that would be for you to decide, but if you don’t, you can just play the demo whenever you want to.

Recommendation: Try it – I recommend downloading it at least. If you like flOw, you may even buy it.

Fish Racer Arcade

Price: 200 mp

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Yup, that’s a ninja fish.

This is a pretty colorful game. Instead of being given a menu, I’m taken right to a screen with 8 different fish. One looks to be injured and in a cast, one appears to be Jason Vorhees, ones a punk, there’s also a ninja, baby, pirate, cat, and clown. I’m gonna play as Jason for now. I’m also given the option of deciding how many A.I. fish I want to play along with me. I’m going all out and having 3.

It’s me against catfish, baby fish, and clownfish. We’re all taken to a screen where we commence to bump into each other. In the background is a screen detailing the games goal and collectables, and before I finish learning about starfish, we’re all thrown into the ocean. There’s rocks and hazards, and all I know is that I don’t want to run into them. A pirate ghost is ahead of us, and we all do our best to avoid him. As we go by a rock, I shove the clownfish into it, and he floats belly-up to the top of the screen. As we glide along, I see a can near the ocean floor, I make for it, and so does catfish, but unfortunatly baby fish gets it. It turns her/ him into a puffer fish with long spikes, and due to our proximity, catfish and I die.

Baby fish won, and a short video plays of baby fish sucking on its pacifier.

Recommendation: Try it – I actually had a decent amount of fun with it, and I could see it being more fun with actual people.

Rocket Fart

Price: Anything is too much

Rocket Fart

If you want to avert your eyes, I won’t blame you.

Very few games have actually made me believe that had I not played them, I would be living a happier life from then on. Rocket Fart, on the other hand, beats subtly to death with a lead pipe, and instead tells you to fly around eating tacos thanks to your incredible flatulence. The story is a flimsy one, where our hero has fallen into a volcano, and the only way to not die is to let loose. Of course, you have a fart meter off to the right, and you must eat food thrown from all directions (except from the magma below you of course) in order to refill said meter and stay afloat.

No other game, none, has actually managed to give me a headache through sound alone, and had you told me that Rocket Fart would be the first I… well actually, I may have believed you. Every press of the A button propels the protaganist upwards, and also causes a sound of a flatulent nature to occur. The only goal of this game is to not fall into the magma. It isn’t a difficult game by any stretch of the imagination, and I finally offed myself after getting 30,000 points because I wanted to retain some level of self respect.

Recommendation: Try it – I want you all to go through the hell I just endured.

Go Go UFO Smackdown

Price: 400 mp

Go Go

I suppose they could be giant crabs holding signs at each other and bouncing a ball.

But what do the signs say?

Four-way Pong in space. That’s my description of Go Go UFO Smackdown. It was entertaining enough I suppose. It at least got the bad taste of Rocket Fart out my mouth (eww). Anyways, like I said, this is basically four way pong. You play an alien with a paddle, there are 3 more aliens with paddles on different sides of the screen. You can move left and right (or up and down depending on what side of the screen you inhabit), and you have to block meteors from getting behind you. Behind you is a planet, and if it gets hit enough times, you lose. A special catch to this game though, is that you can affect the gravity of the planet that is behind you.

I was at the bottom, and before I knew what was happening, meteors were flying all over the place at rapid speeds. I found that if I increased my planets gravitational pull, I could have a meteor hit my paddle going very fast, and it would bounce off and become the other players problem. As more meteors showed up, things became more hectic, and to make a long story short, I lost, like always.

Recommendation: Ignore – I played it once and it was okay. I can’t really imagine it getting better as I continue.

The Exterminator

Price: 200 mp

Exterminator

No, you can’t “win” anything by hitting the most flies.

Before I begin, I’m just going to apologize for even including this game. I haven’t even played it yet, but because I have eyes and have looked at the screenshots, I know it’s going to be a bug swatting game in the vein of what you can play for free if you find the right banner ad. Although it does have one thing going for it, and that’s that from far away, the exterminator kind of looks like Doc from Back to the Future. Kind of.

(Minutes Later) I… I don’t understand what just happened. I was playing this “game” and swatting bugs, when I was suddenly told that I had lost. I began again and decided that swatting the bugs must be morally unjustified, and the game saw this, so I didn’t hit anything. Once again I lost. I tried smacking them again, and lost again.

(Reads instructions) Ohh… okay. Apparently all bugs are not created equal, and I’m only supposed to kill the black ones.. I mean flies. I go back and do this, and quickly become bored with the game and disturbed with the racist over-tones. I quit.

Recommendation: Ignore – Please, for the love of god. Ignore.

RBR – Fading Memories

Price: 200 mp

RBR

This is the most difficult simple game ever

RBR stands for Red Box Reality. I don’t know what that has to do with anything, but seeing as this game has a story, I would probably have to play through the whole thing to find out. From the screenshots, this game looked interesting, though I didn’t quite understand what the point was. I now do though. The point of RBR is to make you feel like a complete imbecil. Video games help your hand eye cooridination huh? Really? 3 minutes with RBR and you’ll feel like you only just got your thumbs.

I don’t blame myself though. I blame the developers of this game who obviously knew that this game was nigh unplayable when they released it (unless the creators are robots or something). You have two glowing balls, one green, one red. Your goal is to collect green “memories” that are leaving the girl’s head, while using the red ball to destroy incoming attacks. The green ball is mapped to the right analog stick, and the red one to the left analog stick. You’re then forced to control both of these at the same time, keeping track of hitting red balls coming in, and green balls heading out. It sound simple in theory, but really, it’s not. This game only served to bring my fart induced headache back.

Recommendation: Try it – Maybe I just suck at this game. It could be fun in theory, but in practice the controls are just too complicated, and that most definitely means something’s wrong when you’re only using the analog sticks.

SLAM

Price: 800 mp

Slam

Why… is it called SLAM?

Cruel fate, why must you do this to me? Why could you not have me play Slam earlier, when hopes were high that Community Games would be a goldmine of fun? For now I have reached the second to last game and it is actually fun. Why not after Rocket Fart? Or at least The Exterminator. Oh well, I am glad that you at least brought us together.

The fun you attain from Slam will be directly proportional to how much you enjoy games like Breakout!. I happen to think they’re pretty fun, and at least a good way to waste an afternoon. Of course, this isn’t just a Breakout! game. Slam takes place on a circular plane that your paddle can rotate completely around. All bricks are located in the middle, and often times they’ll be jumping around and rotating as opposed to just chillin’ in the same spot. Your paddle comes equipped with two features at all times. The first being the ability to tilt it, and the second being an almost game breaking magnet which will attract the ball to the paddle and keep it there. The magnet will re-charge fast enough there’s almost no time when you can’t use it.

There’s the standard power-ups here too, and 100 levels to enjoy. Not to mention 2 more difficulty levels, and some pretty slick 3d backgrounds and objects that are of a higher quality than I’ve found in other Community Games.

Recommendation: Try It – I would have gladly said Buy It, but at $10 Slam costs just a bit too much for most. And when other Community Games (including the next one) run for 1/4th the price it’s hard to recommend a purchase.

Philip Muwanga’s: Hexy Trench

Price: 200 mp

Hexy Trex

Feel the POWER!

This game got a bad rap from me from the start, if only because I’m not a fan of people staking their claim in any title of anything. Such as say, Clive Barker’s: Jericho. Of course, the difference between this game and Jericho is that Hexy Trench doesn’t blow. I was happy to find completely readable text this time, and the game even had me calibrate the screen size so it would fit right on my TV. After that was over, I opted to heed the lesson learned from Battle Havoc, and used the Tutorial to my advantage.

The basic goal of Hexy Trench is this: Your map is a simple geometric map, made up of hexagons. You will randomly be given tiles or “trenches” to lay out which can range from simple lines, to tiles that let you branch off in all six directions. There are bases scattered throughout the map that you must connect to. You must then place various units down that you will use to destroy your enemies homebase. Sounds simple enough, and it is.

Tutorial level 2 had me facing off against an opponent. This is were things became complicated in that I was supposed to place turrets that would fire off “grunts” at his bases, but if they weren’t timed just right, the bases would heal themselves and I would be s.o.l.  Once I got the timing down, I defeated him and made my way through the final two tutorials.

I feel I should now tell you that Hexy Trench is the game that has a full review.

Explosion

BOOM!!!

I went into a skirmish match this time, and it was a mad power struggle. The map was a hexagon this time, and it was me against Red and Blue. Red got out quick due to some crafty war play on Blues part, and it soon became a two way blow-up-athon between Blue and I. Bases were changing sides at rapid speeds, and there were as many turrets as trenches by the time we were halfway through. Unfortunatly for me, I was still a noob at this point, and Blue decimated me with its intelligent layout. Evidently I should have gone with easy mode the first time.

Hexy Trench’s concept is simple, yes, destroy the enemies “Home Base”, but my description does not do the game justice. The playing field is so chaotic (in a good way) that you may even face troubles beating a medium leveled opponent. After purchasing the game I found the map editor, which allows you to create levels of various sizes. You can set up the maps any way you please meaning that if you are particulary mean/ weak, you can create an already established network of trenches for yourself, and diddly squat for your opponents.

As you play your intricate trench systems will become something of a liability.  This can be remedied though by adding turrets to each one of your trenches. The turrets protect you from “Grunts” which will come out of a different type of turret that you lay down. The grunts are what you use to destroy enemy bases and trench systems. The final unit to place in your trenches are the “artillary” units, which will unleash missles at your command. Artillary is mainly used to weaken turrets before your grunts attack and destroy them. The occasional pick-up item will drop, which will range from helicopters to bomber planes to the devastating, last ditch effort, the nuclear warhead. While playing against an A.I. opponent, I found that he had picked up a nuke. As I was about to defeat him, he used the nuke to completely decimate the battlefield, destroying mine and his: trenches, grunt dispensers, turrets and artillary. Leaving us with only our bases and “Home Base”, and back at square one.

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Grunt Assault: As Simple As It Looks

As an added bonus, there is a mode called Grunt Assault. A basic Geometry Wars clone which keeps a leaderboard of the top players. Some more bonuses include a “Tournament” mode where you can create a league of up to 9 maps for 1 to 4 players (A.I. or human). There’s a 15 level campaign, a 4 level tutorial, and you can skirmish mode into infinity. To top it all off, you can take Hexy Trench online. Unfortunatly, you’ll have to speak with people ahead of time from what I can tell, because there is absolutly no one online as of this writing. But to me, that’s okay, because this game is really much like a board game, and therefore is better suited to the boardgame enviroment of playing with other people in the same room.

If you don’t have anyone to play it with though, don’t let that stop you. I’ve played multiple matches against the A.I., and have had them last upwards of 20 minutes. It’s not a difficult game to learn, so the A.I. will obviously not have problems being excellent at it. Once you get the hang of the controls you will find that they’re very intuitive and easy to use quickly, as they should be. They beauty of Hexy Trench is that it can be fiendishly heady, and/or ludicrously random.

If you get the game and find yourself doing terrible, I’d recommend sitting at the menu screen for about 30 seconds. A match between 2 A.I. opponents will start, and that will give you an idea as to some strategies to take while playing the game.

Recommendation: Buy It – It has the simplicity and depth of board games, but in real time! Plus, I mean, it’s just fun.

Phew, that was a long one. Over 4,000 words in fact. I hope that you found a new game to play, because Community Games really should be supported. Until next time!

-Dylan Nelson

My First Zombie Attack

•April 1, 2009 • 2 Comments

Zombie Attack Series

 

Not long ago, my dog had just come back inside. He appeared to be covered in maple syrup. “Delicious” I said to myself as I approached him. But then I looked at his face, he was sad. This made me sad, and I frowned. “Do you not like being all sticky?” I asked him, “Here, let me help”.

 I began to cook up some pancakes, intent on rubbing the syrup onto them for a delicious snack. Scruffy (I do not want to disclose his actual name for fear of privacy issues) laid himself down near the wall and began licking the syrup. “No Scruffy don’t be a pig, save some for me” I said.

My pancakes were nearing completion when I heard a sound at my back window. This was strange, because as far as I knew no one lived in my backyard. I began to get excited at the prospect of a Keebler Elf perhaps living in my backyard. How else would Scruffy have become covered in syrup? I quickly made my way to the back door and was happy to see a small person standing outside.

As I approached the door, I grew weary. The little person appeared to be covered in maple syrup as well. I had only made enough pancakes for Scruffy and I, so I was worried that he would be insulted. I got to the sliding door and slid it open. The elf bolted inside and latched himself to my leg. I closed the door and pulled him off, setting him down off to my right. I made my way back to the kitchen.

“I’m sorry Mr. Elf, but I’m afraid that I only made pancakes enough for Scruffy and I” I said. I then heard a slightly muffled bark and ran to the dining room where Scruffy was lying down. It appeared as though the Elf was hugging scruffy. But then I saw that his teeth were in Scruffy and became confused.

I told him, “Sir, you are already covered in a sufficient amount of maple syrup, I am going to have to ask that you please tend to yourself, before eating Scruffy and mines”.

He pulled his head away from Scruffy, who now had a considerable bite on his shoulder. Maple syrup was pouring out of him.

“Scruffy” I screamed, “Why didn’t you tell me your insides were a veritable oasis of syrup?” He did not reply. It was at that time that I realized neither Scruffy nor the Elf was covered in maple syrup, but that it was blood. Although this did make more sense to me, I was upset that my pancakes would now go to waste. The Elf turned its evil eyes on me and began running towards me. I turned around and ran into the kitchen.

I stopped and surveyed my surroundings for a weapon. I looked at the stove, my pan with two pancakes in it lied there. I needed a weapon. The imaginary gears in my head began turning. The pan. THE PAN. Of course. I wouldn’t want to ruin the pan. I gently rotated the pan so that my pancakes fell into my open hand. I then delicately placed the pan into the sink and turned on some warm water. I turned around with my new weapons. Pancakes. Or should I say PAINCAKES!

‘Zombies hate pancakes’ I thought to myself, and threw them at the Keebler. They appeared to have no affect, though I suspected this was merely zombie trickery. He continued to advance. It then occurred to me that he was small, like a ball. I kicked him and he flew through an open window. I closed the window, for fear of zombie birds.

Scruffy doesn’t eat with me anymore. He does not like pancakes as much as he used to either. I am upset that I have to keep him caged all the time, but it is the price to pay for having a zombie dog I suppose. I often look back and wonder how such a seemingly perfect day, one where my dog came inside covered in delicious maple syrup could have turned into such a catastrophe. Oh well, at least I can continue to eat pancakes and know that as long as I do, I am not a zombie. Because zombies hate pancakes.

 

To Be Continued…

Ode to Uwe

•March 31, 2009 • 3 Comments

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Guess Who’s Next. C’mon. Just guess.

Orson Welles, Stanley Kubrick, Stephen Spielberg. Each of these men changed cinema in their own way. Welles showed us what a masterpiece truly is. Kubrick showed us that space could actually be boring, and Spielberg showed us how to destroy a franchise and a reputation in one fell swoop. If there is one man whom deserves to join these three directors in the annals of history, it is indeed Germany’s own Uwe Boll. A master of his craft, Boll manages to capture the hearts of movie goers every time one of his films stumbles like a drunk man into theaters. Other times, he entertains with his direct to DVD movies and direct to DVD sequels.

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You Guessed It!

Of course, Boll stands tall as the worlds most adamant games-to-movies translator, earning himself a special place in the anals of gamers. He is our knight in shining armor. The hero that Gamers deserve, but not the ones they need. Oops, I slipped into “Dark Knight” mode for a second there. Did I mention that Boll’s first video game film “House of the Dead” is better than “The Dark Knight”? Because it really is. It features actual gameplay footage from the video game that it calls father, House of the Dead. Isn’t that just swell?

Two years later in 2005, Uwe Boll raped both the minds, and hearts of gamers (in a good way) with two new movies. “Alone in the Dark”, perhaps the most faithful of video game movies, featuring Tara Reid as a Scientist Lady and Christian Slater as a sex offender. Immediately after “Alone in the Dark” gamers were treated to another cinematic abortion (the good kind of abortion) with “BloodRayne”. Those who played BloodRayne were likely not surprised to find that “BloodRayne” far surpassed anything the game could offer, although they did manage to find a lady even less attractive than polygons.

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Yes, we know. Now put down the clipboard before you hurt yourself

2007 will from here on be known as “The Year of the Boll”. First up to bat was “In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale”. This movie starred Jason Stathom as a farmer named Farmer doing un-farmer like things such as jumping around and running. Then came “Postal” which very prominently starred Dave Foley’s junk. Dave Foley’s junk did not win the Academy Award though, which unfortunately went to Forest Whitaker who played a king or something. Finally, video game wise, “BloodRayne II: Deliverance” hit store shelves to a large shout of “FINALLY!” from the gaming community. Once again, the actress is lackluster, but the acting, as in all of Boll’s films, was superb. NOTE: Those were just the video game movies he released in 2007. I KNOW RIGHT!?! AMAZING!

Last year, 2008, we were treated to 2 Boll masterstrokes. One was the sequel creatively titled “Alone in the Dark II”. AitDII thankfully starred a cast of people whom nobody has ever heard of. At least now viewers didn’t have to stare at that guy who actually kind of resembled the pixilated mess that was Alone in the Dark’s protagonist. “Far Cry” was released on DVD, unfortunately all copies left in stores self-destructed after 5 days due to pure awesomeness. This is why a copy cannot be found anywhere.

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How did they NOT know that putting helicopters on

there would be too awesome?

And now we find ourselves at (kind of) the beginning of another year. We, as film-goers are once again looking down the barrel of Uwe Bolls enormous rocket launcher that he has pointed not only at us, but at culture itself. So far as IMDB can see we’ve got only 2 video game movies flying out to assault our senses this year. Luckily for everyone alive at this time (and in the future) though, there will be 7 Boll movies AT LEAST within the next 2 years.

One is forced to ask ones self, “How can someone continue to create movies of equal quality, and not realize that they are something truly special”. And looking back at Boll’s movies, it’s plain to see that Uwe Boll is very, very special. Special in the most special sense of the word. Uwe Boll is special, and he seems to be completely oblivious to this fact.

Bolly

Do you want me to once again re-iterate how special he is?

Because I will

So now, let us all rejoice at the many Uwe Boll movies to come in the future, and hope against hope that he doesn’t ever die due to a very violent set accident. Very, very violent.

Oh yeah. Happy April 1st!

Pick Your Prey: The Perfect Enemy

•March 19, 2009 • 3 Comments

Video games allow us to enter worlds and scenarios in which we couldn’t possibly take part in in the real world. You may battle aliens on a distant planet. Or you may fight the Reich in a WWII shooter. The possibilities are endless, because what can be done in the realm of imagination is endless. So why do we continue to return to the same enemies that we’ve killed thousands of times before? The straightforward answer? Because they’re safe.

Games like Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row take a lot of flak for letting you murder innocent civilians. Put ski masks on all of the civilians though, and you’ll likely hear nothing of controversy. Unless of course the game takes place on a ski resort. Never the less, it’s the fact that the people you are eviscerating are bad guys. Or are at least dressed up as bad guys. Ask anybody who hasn’t played GTA 4 what they know about it, and you’ll likely get a response akin to, “That game where you kill cops?”. But if you ask people who don’t play video games about, say, F.E.A.R. 2, and you will almost assuredly be met with a blank stare, because people don’t mind when you shoot the bad guys.

But who is the perfect villian? Through much deliberation, I narrowed down my choices to three, standard enemies that you will likely find in a given video game. Two mentioned above (Aliens and Nazi’s) and the third, increasingly popular choice, the Zombie. All have been around for almost as long as video games themselves, and all have proven themselves to be staples of the industry. Most important of all though, and undeniably one of the largest reasons for their staying power, is that as mentioned above, they are safe.

I’m going to go out on a limb here, and put my very small (very, very small) reputation on the line, and say that Zombies are in fact, the perfect enemy. I leave the categories open for interpretation, so while I will include both George A. Romero style zombies and 28 Days Later style zombies, I will likewise include Call of Duty Nazi’s and Mecha Hitler’s as well. Of course, none of this would mean anything if I didn’t have a solid set of reasons to back up my claim that Zombies beat both Nazi’s and Aliens. As far as I can tell, it’s obvious, but just in case, let us dissect the issue into three parts shall we? Alphabetical order even.

ALIENS



Most of us can appreciate the inherent awesomness of anything that comes to us from out in the cosmos. If they reach us first, then they are light years more intelligent than us. On the flip side though, if we reach them first, then we should probably just leave them and their feces fights alone. 

If I am correct in my assumption then I would say that Space Invaders marked the first appearance of little green men in video games. If I am wrong then they most certainly marked the first mainstream success of a video game centered around aliens. People could appreciate the skill involved, and crowds would gather to watch the spectacle. As time wore on, more advanced games appeared which shoved Space Invaders out the door. Gamers became captivated by such distractions as Alien Vs. Predator, Half Life, and even modern games, such as Destroy All Humans and Resistance: Fall of Man. What was once a novelty became a sensation that has become common place, as is bound to happen with any novelty.

What intelligent life will probably look like

Aliens come in 3rd on my list of “The Perfect Enemy” because they are, in fact, too safe. Gears of War has skirted along the line of saying that the fictional war is the humans fault, but even if it is, would ever root for the aliens? Yes, they may have morality on their side, but would you honestly want their species to succeed while humanity is left to die? It would just go to show that even when the “bad guys” have the moral high ground, people will side with their own kind. There’s no sense arguing that the other way when it comes to Aliens attacking people first. If the aliens started it, we would be rip roarin’ across the Milky Way to kill em’, no questions asked. Because the questions only serve to complicate things, and why complicate things when you could just shoot something in what is probably the face?

NAZIS



Good ole’ B.J. Blazkowicz showed us first the almost perfect, yet irrefutable equation.

Kill+ Nazi = X

It’s a simple formula, but like every equation, it has an answer. Unlike every equation though, this one has a variable. Killing Nazis could equal fun. Or awesome. Or justice. But one thing is for sure, the answer is never a negative one. Killing Nazis is considered bad by no one who isn’t a Nazi. After the atrocities they inflicted, it’s acceptable to mock them, shoot them, and in extreme cases, even tea bag them.

So why do they come in second place only? It is the enemy that is (virtually) universally reviled, and whom no one has qualms with taking around back and pulling an Ole Yeller on their asses. Unlike the Aliens, Nazis are actually people, no matter how much many would like to refute it, which makes them hit closer to home as an enemy. We are forced to think about them, because unlike aliens (which we’re all still kind of up in the air about) the Nazis are a part of our history, and we can’t just make them go away. Despite this, the Nazi is also not only a bit too played out, but they are also very mundane enemies.

Nazis are confined to human limitations in 90% of the games we play that involve them. The other 10% being games that use the “Nazis were obsessed with paranormal” to put a new spin on them. But even then, what do we get? Zombies. Undead creatures from the netherworlds, and occaisionally Nazi zombies. Zombies, none the less. In Wolfenstien 3D, we were introduced to Mecha Hitler, which paved the way for outlandish Nazi enemies that very few game developers have chosen to follow. Except for Pokemon evidently.

 

ZOMBIES



(According to Wikipedia) The first Zombie game appeared in 1984, and it was creativly titled Zombie Zombie.  After that, about 8 years in fact, Alone in the Dark hit store shelves, and evidently those things were zombies too. Resident Evil helped to solidify zombies as a acceptable enemies, Dead Rising ran with it years later, and Left 4 Dead blew the theme away a few short months ago. They have steadily become one of the most used enemies in video games, and I for one, am happy about it.

Zombies have variety. They can be fast, or they can be slow. They can be horribly misfigured, or they can look like they just walked out of the coffee shop. Many purists were shaking their heads in that last paragraph, muttering to themselves that the enemies in Left 4 Dead were “Infected”, not zombies. I say, “Who gives a crap?”. Do they attack people, and avoid their own kind? They’re cannabalistic right? Then they’re zombies.

Zombies are on the cusp of humanity. The thing about “Infected” zombies is that there may be a hope for a cure. You can craft a story around the fact that you are killing all of these potentially normal people. When it comes to the undead, there is no morality, so you can get rid of the story all together and have a kill fest. The zombies can mutate, creating many forms and varities (though Aliens can vary as well, so this isn’t necessarilly a unique trait) ala the special infected in Left 4 Dead. They can be everything you want in an enemy and more. Hard to kill, fast, maybe they can’t die unless you make a head shot. They can be cut in half and each half will continue to live on. Their numbers added create a deadly combination, seeing as if everyone but you were turned into a zombie, you would have no problem keeping yourself occupied, assuming you don’t mind killing thousands of already dead people.

 

————————————————————–

 

Two great tastes that taste great together!

It’s simple really. Aliens are fun and all, but there’s never a question as to who you’re gonna root for, their foreign species, or your familiar one. Nazis hit closer to home not only because we are dealing with real people, but because it is a part of our history, and a fairly recent and often hard to deal with part at that. The fact that they are pretty much universally despised makes them almost as safe as aliens. The zombie has the a close relation to us. They were once people, like you or I, and we can craft interesting stories around them. Create a moral imperative where the protaganist must deal with an undead loved one, or let us loose in an amusement park filled to the brim with infected. Either way, my bet is that you will have a hard time not finding something to enjoy.

So there it is. Aliens, then Nazis, then Zombies. Not just listed in descending order, but in alphabetical order too. Of course certain tastes may differ, and I concede that, but this is what I think and I’m sticking to it.

The BSAA Solution: Kill Everything

•March 15, 2009 • 3 Comments

Resident Evil 5 Review

That Sinking Feeling

Instant Death Awaits You

Instant Death Awaits You

Sheva and I are in the marshlands, and the feeling that something lies beneath is palpable. Exactly what lies below the surface, I can’t be sure. We’re searching for fragmented pieces of a plate which will fit together to unlock a door. I am captain of the small vessel that is our transportation right now. We head north, and come upon a half submerged village. We hop off the boat and make our way to the ramp that will lead us into the murky water. A cursory glance will tell us that this can’t be good, unfortunately, there are no warning signs, and we must continue on. We venture forth, guns, as always, at the ready. I opt to go right, around a large wooden wall that has somehow found itself in the center of this sunken settlement. I think I see movement further to my right, but it is only Sheva.

We move forward, I take out my M3 shotgun, it’s served me well in the past. Something surfaces out of the depths. A crocodile. I imagine that it’s of average to above average size, yet it seems a giant under these tense conditions. I take aim and tell Sheva to attack. I fire off a shot, and realize that a shotgun won’t do me any good at this distance. The croc is a good 10 meters from me, and I don’t want to close that distance. I take out my pistol and fire a couple of shots at the beast, it’s now I realize I should have reloaded everything before entering the swamp. I see movement to my left, and write it off as being Sheva. My mistake. I finish reloading and take a couple of steps back. Sheva is to my right. I turn just in time for a crocodile to jump at me, mouth wide open. It takes hold my upper half to drag me below the surface. Dead.

Fear That’s Hard to Find

chainsaw-manjini

Chronicled above is one of the few times when I actually felt that twinge of fear. The tightening of the stomach at the realization that I had been wrong, and that I was going to pay for it. This happened very few times for a game that’s billed as “Survival Horror”. As you’ve undoubtedly heard elsewhere, it doesn’t pack the scares. It has the Survival portion down to a tee though, so in the end I can forgive the lack of fear.

While you will rarely be frightened, you will go through the game with almost perpetual dread. Dread at what will come next. What enemy can possibly be worse than the last one? I just killed a chainsaw wielding masochist, and you want me to do it again on such short notice?

Yes. Yes it does.

The tension that comes with every moment of your first play through in RE 5 is almost palpable. I had my controller gripped every time I thought I was safe, and I will admit that more than once I jumped when a split-headed dog pounced out from around a corner.

Where many people revile the quick-time event, I’m fine with them. Perhaps I’m too forgiving, but especially from a first play through perspective, it manages to keep people on their toes and paying attention. Perhaps near the end it becomes a bit over-used during actual game play in boss fights (that is if you count button mashing as a quick time event), but when employed in a cut scene it’s difficult to cry foul of something that lets you play even when you normally wouldn’t.

For Want Of A Better Partner? Actually, No.

sheva

Much has been made of forcing players to play through the game with a partner, be they A.I. or real. Any sense of tension one may feel can be taken away altogether when another person is thrown into the mix. While during cutscenes I found that Sheva can make a questionable decision (i.e. shooting a chain instead of a person…), in the game she was as helpful as can be.

I played through RE 5 the first time by myself. This was mainly because I didn’t want to get used to playing with a human, only to find out that our schedules conflicted, and I would have to downgrade to an A.I. partner mid game. Fortunately, my fears were unfounded. In fact, they were quite the opposite to what actually happened. It is rare to find a player online who is as great of a partner as Sheva. She will heal you when your almost dead, she’ll stick by your side, and best of all, she makes the best of what she has.

For instance, one of the new weapons in the game is the stun rod. My personal new favorite weapon, I bought one for Sheva and myself, and found that it is indeed much better than the silly knife. When we found ourselves being accosted by an unusually large amount of “Lickers” (I’d hazard about 7 or 8 of them) in a small room with no means of escape other than the door on the other side of this veritable sea of enemies, Sheva pulled out the trusty stun rod. I found this to be an unwise decision at first, seeing as she had almost a hundred rounds for her AK-47, but I pulled out my shotgun and let her have her fun. Eventually, thanks to Shevas stun rod, we managed to funnel them outside of the room, which allowed us to deal with them on our own terms, resulting in victory. Any human player would have likely gone with the machine gun, resulting in almost inevitable failure.

*Gasp* An Actual Boss Fight

bat

I’m not going to focus too much on this, but I must thank Resident Evil 5 for bringing in some actual boss fights. In proper Resident Evil fashion, each boss fight is foreshadowed by a supply of ammo and probably an herb or two. Most boss fights will rely on the standard “Shoot the orange bulb” strategy, but the bosses are varied enough in their attacks that despite this (and the fact that they all really begin to look alike towards the end) you’ll have fun with them. My only wish would be that there was some kind of loot after defeating the bosses, but beggars can’t be choosers I suppose.

And thank you Resident Evil 5, for giving me a final boss fight that isn’t either pure button mashing or a one hit kill (I’m looking at you Fable 2 and Gears of War 2).

Playground of Destruction

mercenre5go1

After beating the game, you’ll unlock a slew of bonus items. Ranging from infinite ammo for all weapons you’ve completely upgraded, to alternate costumes, to filters, to action figures, to the creme de la creme: Mercenaries Mode.

You’ll begin with just Chris, Sheva, and a single level at your disposal. You will be tasked with entering that level and killing as many infected as you can within the time limit. You will find grenades of course, but other than that, you are stuck with the load out your character has been given by the developers. As you proceed to kill everything in your path (or as you proceed to die… a lot), you’ll find bonus time throughout the level. The longer you last, the harder it gets, and the game has no qualms with sending chainsaw manjini’s and other mini-bosses your way.

As you do better, you’ll unlock new characters and locations. Every location is taken straight out of the campaign, albeit slightly modified to close off any escapes and to make things more balanced. By the same token, there are only four characters Chris, Sheva, and well, that’s all you really need to know, but each character has multiple costumes, and with each new costumes comes a new loadout, so there is definite incentive to play through all of mercenary mode. Not to mention you can play through it with a friend as well.

A Couple of Things

TRUST ME, YOU CAN HANDLE IT

TRUST ME, YOU CAN HANDLE IT

I’ve come this far without bring up the controls. In fact, I had gotten all the way through the next section before it even crossed my mind that I should say something. The controls don’t ruin the game, but they also don’t make the game better. If you think they should change, then okay, but that doesn’t mean they have to change because you can’t wrap your head around an older way of playing a game. Yes, it’s outdated, but the game doesn’t suffer because of it. If you don’t think the controls should change, then it’s likely that you’re fooling yourself. Games looked at what RE 4 did and took great leaps and bounds to improve upon it, namely moving while shooting.

It’s a give or take really. On the one hand, no moving and shooting will frustrate people, but we are gamers, and we can adapt. We always have, and we always will. Capcom could have easily made it so that we could move and shoot at the same time, but they didn’t. They haven’t backed down from what they chose, and while I don’t feel that RE 5 is better for it, it doesn’t suffer either.

On a lighter note, every now and then (maybe 5 times in total) my game would go to the loading menu and would just stay there. I was treated to the entirety of Resident Evil’s history before I just restarted my console. Not many people have experienced it, so don’t let this deter you from buying the game. It’s just something that you should be aware of, that will likely be patched in the near future.

So, In Conclusion

re5pic


Resident Evil 5 took me about 12 hours to beat. I knew that the more money I collected, the more I could buy, so I explored every level as thoroughly as one possibly could. Even so, after beating the game for the first time (on normal) I had only found 5 BSAA tokens and hadn’t achieved an S ranking on any level. I went to the bonus features and found that I’d unlocked some costumes, and that since I’d upgraded my pistol all the way, I could purchase infinite ammo for it. Sweet, I thought to myself as I dreamed of having infinite shotgun ammo.

The filters are pretty cool, and I was happy to find a “Horror” filter that has the same affect as if you turned the color setting on your TV all the way down. I’m lovin’ it, as it really does change the mood of the game. There’s action figures for almost every character in the game, if not all of them (I have yet to purchase all of them), and each action figure has a snippet of dialog that it’ll rattle off if you so choose.

Immediately after searching through the myriad of bonus features, I hopped right back in to start the game all over again. I’m happy to say that Resident Evil 5 will likely keep me occupied for as long as RE 4, which is to say until RE 6 comes out.

Resident Evil 5 – Buy

(I chose not to cover the racism issue here, because I already covered it in a previous blog post. After playing through the game completely, I still stand by what I said. With everything in context, I still feel the same way.)

Score Sores: Or How Reviews Had A Hold On Me

•March 3, 2009 • Leave a Comment

[Disclaimer: I don’t think I really need to do a disclaimer, because it somehow insinuates that I have something in my article that I’m afraid will be contested. Well, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is personally. I’m only putting this here to say that I know not everybody has had the same experience as me in the review department. I grew up with the internet and have been effectively spoiled by never having to take a guess on what game to buy, as most people of the past two console generations or so have. I’m not saying that scores for reviews are bad, just that I believe they’re often put on an undeserving pedestal, even by myself previously, and getting rid of them could help solve this problem.]

The Anecdote

A few months ago, my dad purchased Mario Party for the Wii. When we were younger, we all used to play Mario Party as a family on the Nintendo 64, which I suppose is what spurred the purchase. He isn’t one to look at reviews before he buys a game either. For those who don’t know, Mario Party 8 was met with lackluster review scores for the most part. So needless to say, I wasn’t very thrilled to play it. He popped it in the ole’ Wii and off we were to Mario Land. Everything was familiar and, for the most part, solid. I had a good deal of fun that I otherwise would have avoided. The next night he wanted to play again. “Why not?” I said to myself, and once again we engaged in some minigames madness. And then we played it again. And again. And again. He continued to find entertainment in Mario Party, where I grew tired of it after about the third “again”.

Fun…?

Next up, it was my turn to choose. I went for the better rated Wii game that is Zach & Wiki:  Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure. A linear, one time through, game that I was sure we would both enjoy. We played it over the next couple of days, finding the answers to the various riddles and using our logic to head onward. He liked it, but he didn’t love it. I was fairly dumbfounded. I was gonna have to agree with the reviews on this one. Mario Party got old after a while, while Zach and Wiki was fun all the way through. I just wasn’t interested in Mario Party anymore. I immediately dismissed him as having poor taste in games. What other explanation could there be?

Next, we rented Boom Blox. THIS was a game that we both enjoyed. HERE was a game that I completely agreed with my dad on. It was fun, it stayed fun. It wasn’t a casual game either. I could no longer immediately write my dad off as having bad taste in games. He agreed with me, he agreed with the reviews, all was good in the world.

FUN!!!

It was then that it hit me. Why was I placing so much stock in review scores? If my dad disagreed with the common consensus, he was wrong in my eyes. I went back into my personal game library for the Xbox 360 and found that only one of my games had scored below an %82 on Metacritic. Thinking back on all of my game buying decisions, none of them was made without consulting a review first. Well, none but one.

The Reasoning

The one game that scored below an %82 is the one that I didn’t consult reviews on. That game scored a %66. That game was Shadowrun. For this particular article, I was forced to go back and look at my various games and I was honestly surprised, and humbled, to see the Shadowrun review scores. Shadowrun is an entertaining, Counter Strike with Magic game that I still pop in to this day. I used to be one who would trade in games (I’ve gotten over that terrible habit now), and the fact that I still have Shadowrun is a testament to the fact that it’s fun. I’ve owned it since May 29th, 2007. The day of it’s release, and haven’t looked back since.

Enjoy the Awesomness

I’ve heard people say that they don’t listen to reviews anymore. I usually write them off as people who no longer like a site because they’ve given their favorite game less than an 8, but I’m beginning to see the merit in their actions. My dad has followed this method to a tee all of his life without even realizing it, and is happy with his gaming life. A year ago I would have called him a casual gamer, but now he plays games like Portal and Grand Theft Auto 4. Yet, despite the fact that he has played these fantastic games, he still enjoys playing Mario Party 8. One could say Different Strokes for Different Folks, but my friends feel the same way about Mario Party, or at least some of them do. And like my dad, they play the big name games like Gears of War and Left 4 Dead.

I believe that I’ve allowed reviews to actually hold too much sway over what I play. I’ve liked most of the highly rated games I’ve played, so like Pavlov’s dog I jump at the chance to play any game with an 8 or higher rating. Yet when a game gets 7 or below, I immediately pass because of a few rotten games from the 7 or lower group. I can’t afford to buy or rent every game out there, nobody can, so the lower rated ones will slip through the cracks most of the time. This is where Shadowrun comes in, in that I would be greatly upset now if I had never picked it up.

It’s hard for me not to wonder what other games have slipped through the cracks. Potential favorites that were written off by people who can play every game out there as mere “toys” or  temporary distractions. Would Full Auto have been a new favorite racing game? I don’t know, I never played it. How all of this information comes together is one simple question. Do reviews affect people too much? Through all of this self realization, I came to realize that my dad was enjoying himself regardless of low review scores.

Hidden Gem?

Now I ask, who among you can remember buying a game last year without first consulting a review? A spur of the moment kind of thing. I don’t doubt that it happens, but can you remember doing it more than once in the past year? With reviews showing up farther and farther out from the actual release of the games their speaking of, it’s almost impossible to not get a whiff of a review score. I mean, it was still over a month out when Resident Evil 5’s first review showed up in OPM, and tell me you that didn’t affect you in some way. Just a little bitsy review score (unless you found some review scans of course… or received the magazine…) . Some were happy (such as myself I’ll admit), some were confused, and some didn’t give a crap. Oddly enough, I now wish I could count myself in the last group, but probably for different reasons.

Jumping to Conclusions

I review games myself, so I feel a bit odd saying this, but I think that game reviews have too big a hold on the industry. I’m not the first to say it, and I won’t be last. Reviews are one man’s opinion, and this fact is easy to forget. People always refer to the review scores as “IGN gave “x” a 9 out of 10″, as though the larger entity that is IGN’s combined employees have decided upon the review score.

Not a “Collective Conscious”

There’s no way to “fix” the way reviews are done, but one remedy would be to read what the reviewer says, and not just jump straight to the score. In fact, perhaps it would be best to get rid of numbers altogether, because %90 of the time that’s all people look at outside of the ending “mini-scores” for graphics, sound, ect. Things should be simpler. I want a review to tell me about a game, without having the constraints of fitting it into an arbitrary review number.

When was the last time you read a review just to find out what kind of TV it will run best on? If a game looks beautiful, tell me that, don’t run on about 1080i or 720p. If a game sounds wonderful, don’t tell me that I need a fantastical audio system just to get out of it what you did. I’ll be able to enjoy it regardless. I want to know what’s in the game. Is it in any way broken? What’s the story? How does it play? Oh, and of course, is it fun? Leaving numbers out of the equation altogether. I’m not saying that recommendations shouldn’t be made, but perhaps that’s all it should be, a recommendation.

Agree? Disagree? Please, do tell.