Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Game Review: SSX3

Back when the PS2 assumed the throne from it's predecessor there was one game from Electronic Arts BIG that snuck under the industry radar. SSX yet another Xtreme sports title for an already flooded market, this gem was judged prematurely though, touted as "yet another addition to the extreme sports genre". Well when SSX fell into the hands of reviewers they sang a different tune, no longer was the genre confined to ultra cheese 1 liners and horrible B band music, SSX broke the mold and created uber un-realistic terrains with gorgeously animated surroundings, fun characters and a fitting sound track with a DJ with witty commentary.Boost forward to Oct 2003 and EA BIG does it again, and not a simple sequel either but in some respects a brand new BIGer game! With SSX3 you no longer travel around the world from one venue to another, now you live on one mountain with three peaks! This new system makes the whole experience more cohesive and adds a new exploration aspect to the game (much like GTA3) which is fantastic with the absolutely breath taking environments that seamlessly flow together from section to section. And this mountain is BIG, seriously, unlike SSX1 just freeriding from the apex of peak 2 to the bottom of metro (mercury) city will take a good 30 minutes! And the width of the mountain means more variety and freedom to choose your own path. Another nice addition to the environment is the occasional avalanche, strong gusts of wind, collapsing glaciers, and falling trees. With all of these effects the game still runs as at a smooth 60 fps even with our favorite character (Elise) going for the gold.Now to the characters of SSX3, this game is a veritble family reunion for all EA BIG characters! All of the boarders from SSX1, Tricky, and the noobs from 3 are in this game along with some fan favorites like strech from NBA Street. SSX3's characters are a tad more realistic this time around but retain all of their personalities..... Elise is still an uber hotie-self absorbed border X bitch, Mac is still a punk, Kaori is still a bubbling wok of cheeriness, you get the point. With all these varying personalities EA BIG still found room for some new editions like Griff (based on a real life pint sized protege), Allegra (the fiery red head out to de-throne Elise), Nate Logan (brawny man on a board). And if you really want to get every character there's even a cow that rides a fence, a sumo wrestler who rides reeds of bamboo and a snowman who rides a flexible flier sled! I love the way EA BIG has taken the unique music style and boosted it to the next level, before you had tracks interlaced with sound clips from a DJ, now you have a full time radio station show hosted by DJ Atomika! You get weather updates, music, event updates, music, town announcements, music, SSX competitor updates, more music, commercials, and more music. This new system lends itself heavily to grand theft auto in this way and it does just as good a job at adding another layer of emersiveness. While riding off line and boosting your characters stats DJ Atomica spins and talks like a real life radio station host, helping add to the feeling you're really at the mountain. And the selection of tracks is BIG (sorry ), varied and well worth a CD release of it's own!But why should you bother completing all the BIG Challenges and going back to defend your title and go freeriding all over each of the three peaks in search of $nowflakes? To win money of course! And what you do win your cold (pun intended) hard cash is up to you, buy new gear for your rider like:gloves, beanies, baseball hats, helmets, tops, bottoms, new boards, brown paper bags, tiaras, halos, butterfly wings, angel wings, bunny ears, new boots, googles, sunglasses, bandanas, collectible cards, toys figures of the SSX characters, posters, videos, music collections, and character attributes which will help you later when you challenge someone online!Ok here's the payoff for all that hard work I mentioned before.....You've maxed out your characters attributes offline to 11 and hooked him/her up with some sweet threads (your choice) and hot accessories, now go represent your bad ass self online baby. This is the real payoff in my mind, being able to play others with your own unique character in all the levels that are available to you offline from Freestyle comps like slopestyle and half pipe, to racing anything from the "Throne" to "Happiness". I only have a few gripes with the online setup, first, after completing a challenge you can't simply play again, you have to back out to the lobby and send that person another challege. Second, why bother letting the 56Kers play? They lag soooooo bad it's impossible for a BB or DSL player to win! Third, why only 2 per challenge? I understand the half pipe but why on a race on such a BIG mountain?OK those are my gripes, here's my kudos for what was included in the on line game, the buddy list (now featured in SOCOM2) this handy dandy tool lets you find your snow buddy anywhere in the game. It will tell you if your friend is offline, challenging someone, or in a specific lobby, and the use of the mic. Nice to see support for a "cool" peripheral! Talking trash never looked so good!

10/10 offline and 9/10 online

Friday, December 5, 2003

Game Review: SOCOM II US Navy Seals

Some times a quality game sneaks by you, this was the case for me with SOCOM. I forget what game I was all wrapped up with when SOCOM was released but thankfully my friend CJ picked it up, when I came over to check it out I didn’t know what to expect….after playing just once was hooked! This game has single handedly lead the PS2 online gaming revolution.Zipper Interactive’s little G.I. Joe simulator has taken online console gaming to a new level, very few games have spawned such a fervent following which can been seen all over! Do a google search for SOCOM clans and you’ll have at least 10 pages to sift through. SOCOM II took all the great aspects of the first game, gave them a makeover, then read the suggestions/criticizims from us (the ones who “made” zipper a top tier publisher) and went to work. The result…..a worthy sequel to great game. The online levels truly show that Zipper Inc. listened to what we said and that they have a great deal of pride in their flag ship title. Each new level is jaw dropping in the sheer scope of detail and vastness. For example Enowapi (a breach level) has the Seals trekking thru a swamp, across some of the most lush landscapes with an abundance of plant-life. These new levels are simply amazing, and Zipper has added nice little touches like the ambient sounds of various wildlife, tall brass blowing in the wind, the thundering of a waterfall, and the sound fades and grows as you move further away OR if someone or something moves in front of you! All these additional effects truly add to the overall “covert ops experience” and in effect transforms the style of game-play away from run and gun to a more tactical one. Aside from the aesthetic upgrades, there are also new additions to the Seal/Tango weapons cache such as the infamous PMN mines (the gift that keeps on giving), shotguns (do I hear birds chirping), rocket launchers, and few new assault riffles. It also seems that Zipper has tweaked the guns to reflect their real life counterparts more realistically and now offer optional attachments such as therm-optics and the M203 grenade launcher. Zipper has also given players more incentive to play off line by rewarding good players with additional goodies to use online, just like SSX3. Other worthy additions to the online game are the friends lists, which allow you to find your buds easily, this is a great feature more online games have adopted.....unfortunately not all your requests make it to the intended person. Personalized taunts....nice little extra feature....funny if not abused.S2 also has assigned clan tags which show in orange, the new clan system gives more power to the clan, but only the leader has the ability to "clan" someone. The new clan system is another way to find the people you play with on a regular basis, which is very useful when trying to find 1-8 people out of the average 15,000 a night in the North American Universe! As great as this game sounds I'm actually a bit disapointed. There are problems in this game that we never had problems with in S1, like the mics! I can't figure why we're having problems with this since they worked fine in SOCOM1. The only thing I can think of is perhaps some security firewall is affecting the mic functions. At first I thought it was affecting only people utilizing routers....Then we have the abundance of glitches poping up each day like invisible players, disapearing hostages, super speedy players, etc.Another headache is the frequency of times I've been booted.....twice as many times as S1. Last but not least is the ranking system for this game. Just when you think you've unraveled the mystery of the ranking system a new aspect enters the equation! Overall the game is great, but I feel it could've benefitted from a few more weeks of beta testing.

online: 7/10 Offline 9/10

Saturday, November 1, 2003

Game Review: CastleVania: Lament of Innocence

Welcome back to the 12th century, time to go to work cracka Belmont! Konami brings us the next instalment....the supposed origin of the Belmont legacy. Leon Belmont surrenders his title as knight and disobeys the church mandate in order to rescue is kidnapped love Sara (coughsupermariobroscoughcough). News of her kidnapping is given by long time friend Mathias Conqest (sp?) who has gone bedridden after the loss of his love Elizabetha. Our hero to be sets off to a castle said to be cursed by a Vampire (lets lay it all out in the first 5 minutes and leave no surprises for later) to slay the Vampire.....Ok I have around 50% of the castle explored and I have only fought 1 boss! Either Ikuaragii has a SOTN surprise up his sleeve (50%=25% ) or this game is seriously lacking in the boss fight department! I guess since this IS the true begining of the CastleVania Legacy Drac hasn't recruited to many beasties yet I remember back when the original CastleVania came out I was in 8th grade and some kid had a graduation party at his house, later in the evening we slid the cartridge into the 'ol NES and played till the sun came up! We played till we died then passed the controller to the next guy, we finally got to Dracula at like 3am! Back then the 2 sprite Simon Belmont was amazing! The castle seemed enormous and the bosses were tough! Next to SOTN the original castle was like a Burger King play pen for the kiddies! Each new CastleVania has outdone the prior in size and depth. So how do you outdo SOTN?! You go where no Belmont has gone before..........the 3rd dimension! This isn't the first time CastleVania has entered the 3rd dimension, Konami ventured there years ago on the N64.....but lets try and forget those dark days Lament of Innocence is a tremendous first step into the 3D realm for the series which feels so right in 2D. The environments are alive (so to speak) with all the aspects that make this series so great, the ambient sounds, the haunting soundtrack, the attention to detail for each of the hundreds of minions, and the authentic look and feel of the castle. The game plays smoothly and control is tight and responsive, but there are a few problems with the control setup in my opinion. First off using the right analog stick to bring up an items menu doesn't work well, I don't know how many times while in the middle of a fight against hordes of badies I accidently opened a real time menu. Being that it's a RT menu I'm still being attacked while I fumble to close the menu and not use an item by mistake. Then we come to the relics and orbs.....hard to find? yes! Confusing interface? Yep. Fun to toggle while playing in RT? Nope. To set your relic (I've only found 2) you use the R2 button in RT to bring up the window then the right analog stick to rotate to the relic of choice, and for magic orbs the R1 button.... There is no doubt in my mind this castle is enourmous, and that even though it says I've explored 50% of it, I expect to find plenty of secret areas once I've collected the remaining relics and orbs. Now this may have me returning back to previously explored areas, and slaying hordes of lizardmen and skeletons, which in the past wasn't an issue. But now that the castle is broken up into "levels" thru a central hub you lose the feel of exploring one enourmous castle but that's really a minor issue. Lament of Innocence is a great game that may be dismissed prematurely by hardcore Vania fans looking for the next Symphony of the Night, beautiful environments, spectacular soundtrack, classic gameplay in a new 3D realm done well.


Saturday, September 27, 2003

Game Review: SoulCalibur II

Transcending History and the World, A Tale of Souls and Swords Eternally Retold!
Fighting game enthusiasts rejoice! SoulCalibur II was well worth the wait! When the original Soul Blade came out on the PS1 I picked it up not knowing if I'd like it, you see I am a diehard StreetFighter fan, and this whole 3D thing didn't really impress me. The first generation of 3D fighters looked horrable, the rubix snake had more curves! Well Soul Blade was a pleasant surprise to say the least. Seven years later Namco does it again, b166er and better than it's predecessor! Soul Calibur II takes everything that made the original good and takes it to the next level! The game is great for any skill level, those new to the franchise will be able to pick it up and play without feeling lost and confused by the control scheme, while veterans will tear SCII apart to memerize each characters [i]abundance [/i]of moves. And let me tell you there are ALOT! From all the moves/combos beginning with A (horizontal strikes) to all moves/combos starting with B (vertical strikes) and K (kick moves/combo) and throws, specials, unblockables, guard breaks/impacts...the point is there is near limitless variables and no two people may play any of the 23 brilliant characters the same. I was pleased to see that Namco not only retained the cast from Soul Blade but added just enough to make their return fresh yet familiar. The new additions to the game fit perfectly ( :angry: all but 1 for me-more on that later) and are absolutely jawdropping! Xianghua for me is the most mezmerizing character to ever grace a fighting game hands down...sorry Chun Li. I'd swear Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) was used for the motion capture of this character! Each of the characters is 100% unique and are equally balanced against each other, IMHO there is no one character that can be labled cheap. The level of detail for each character is unbelievable from the slightest details in their outfits to their multitude of facial expressions to their unique re-enactment of real life fighting styles. Voldo being the exemption....That's all good and nice but how's the gameplay you ask? Tight man...tight! The collision detection is pin-point has to be for a weapons based fighter! As I stated earlier the game is perfectly balanced, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Your ultra powerful opponents weakness is speed and vice versa. The single player game has plenty to offer with the usual array of modes from arcade to survival to team battle and time attack, but Namco doesn't settle for the status quo, oh no, they include the ever popular quest mode! Know in the world of Soul Calibur as weapon master mode. This is your tale of Souls and Swords.....Thru this story driven mode you will not only uncover long lost secrets of Soul Edge, the polar opposite of Soul Calibur, you will begin to unlock the tons of bonuses and secrets Namco has tucked away for those diligent fighters. Some of the goodies include:Extra- arcade/Vs battle/time attack/survival/team battleMuseum- including multiple art galleries, a battle theater, character profiles, a weapon gallery which shows how many of each characters 12 weapons you have collected/purchased and a brief history of that weapon, Collection History-which shows how many of the other 86 secrets you've unlocked such as extra outfits, weapon demonstations for each character,and extra arenas.All these easter eggs also add to the multiplayer experience, I haven't played a first to 20 tourney in a long time but the other night my fiancee and I were up till the wee hours of the morning playing till she had a blister! Now that says novels in and of it self!My only quam with SCII is Heihachi, yeah he's from another Namco fighting game, but it's like ripping Cloud Stife outta FFVII and sticking him in Hyrule :blink: But that's just me, maybe you like the old fart, I'd rather see Crash Bandiccot whupin ass with a sword or hammer. Soul Calibur II may reignite the souls of (sorry) many a fighting game fanatic. If DOA or Tekken has left you feeling empty and you can't take another incarnation of Street Fighter I urge you to go check out Soul Calibur can thank me later.


Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Game Review: Downhill Domination

Are you equiped for the challenge? Incog Inc. brings the yet another extreme sports title to the PS2, but this isn't another Tony Hawk, Dave Mirra, Kelly Slater clone, welcome to Xtreme mountain biking! Awesome dude :lol: Incog has now churned out 3 top quality games all completely different from each other all gems in their own right. As with all Incog titles you have a wide array of characters to choose from, my fav is T-Bag!Multiple pick-ups on your race down,energy boost/combat upgrade/adrenaline boost/ X-tra points, and plenty of bonuses, from cool videos, real pro mountain bikers to unlock, to better bike accessories and real life sponsors like SoBe/ O'NEAL/ebay/Oakley/snapple!First impression I had when I played was, "wow this is SSX on mountain bikes" then I started tooling with the weapons and thought "cool, SSX + Road Rash" then after earned some dead presidents I brought my ride to the shop and thought, " oooh upgrades, SSX+Road Rash with a dash of Gran Turismo". DD's tracks are looooooooooooong, like 4 times longer than SSX! One track, Mt. Konawaki takes you from the summit over and thru an observatory, thru a volcano, alone the edge of a 500 foot cliff and down to the beach below. DD's tracks are exactly what I wanna see in SSX3 (but with snow) You have so many spliting and intersecting routes to choose from that you trully feel like you're in control of where you go and you're not stuck on a predetermined path. When you're riding down these trails at breakneck speed you can see the amount of detail Incog put into each level from the vegitation to the hikers and wild life which you can run over and be attacked by! (watch those bears). It's also here where my biggest problem with this game lies, there are more than enough opportunities to catch BIG air but alot of times you'll find yourself plummeting into oblivion because what you though was a jump.....wasn't :( The music selection is typical extreme sports genre tunes, nothing special but not as bad as some games. The character voice over's are above average, but still steriotypical....dude. DD has weeks of replay value with the pleathora of additional games modes like career, specailized career, freeride, freestyle, moshbowl, arcade, versus. Completing each of these modes and earning cash will help you in unlocking the Xcellent bonus's, secret stuff.Overall DD is a solid, clean, well designed addition to the flooded genre of Xtreme games from the folks who introduced us to car combat all those years ago. The major flaws with the game are really minimal, awkward control scheme with no option to rearrange the controller, and some abyss's of doom that intially appear to be opportunities for BIG air.


Thursday, May 8, 2003

Game Review: Final Fantasy Origins

My obsession with playing every numerical Final Fantasy title continued with the release of Final Fantasy Origins! This compilation was a must have for a few reasons, first and foremost it would be the first time Final Fantasy II would be released in the west and with this compilation I now can say I have played and completed FF, FFII, FFIV,FFV, FFVI, FFVII, FFVIII, FFIX, FFX, FFXI, and FF Tactics!
As with FF Chronicals and FF Anthology the two games in FF Origins come with updated graphics, new cinematics, beastiary, art galleries that include some fantastic work from Yoshitaka Amano.
The games are 15+ years old and for newer gamers that will be an instant turn off, I for one look at these as classic games in video game history that are worth playing to understand and appreciate our hobby and especially if your a fan of the Final Fantasy franchise.

Monday, March 17, 2003

Game Review: Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven

Live by Honor. Kill by Stealth.That's the name of the game with Tenchu:WoH, the third installment in the series. When this game first appeared on the PS1 it was overshadowed by another stealth game, Metal Gear Solid, unfortunately Ayame & Rikimaru couldn't compete with Solid Snake. A few years later and a new console This ninja duo reappear in a game that from title screen to ending credits is simply beautiful!I'm not gonna give you the synopsis of the story, but basically you choose one of two playable characters and thru stealth you kill your enemies to reach Tenrai an evil ??? who is trying to conquer 16th century Japan by collecting three mysterious stones (Earth, Heaven, Fire).I was extremely inpressed with Activisions attention to detail! The level designs are gorgeous, with incredible partical effects such as glowing candles in caverns, snow falling in the bamboo forest, and the way leaves danced around in temple courtyards. The sound and music are right on and add to the entire experience.Tenchu also does a great job with your Ki meter (stealth meter), this little meter is crucial if you plan on getting any where in this game! I tells you which direction your foe is walking, what pace he is moving at, and how aware or unaware he/she is of your presence. Your Ki meter will help you perform stealth kilss on those poor unsuspecting guards around a corner, speaking of stealth kills....WOW Now that is COOL! I've leapt off a cliff wrapped my legs around a guard a twisted his head around 180 degrees then launched off his corpse while kicking in his head! Here's where some people have issues with the game.....enemy AI (some bosses have pathetically obvious patterns) , personally I found the game well rounded in this area I only wish there was a greater variety of "human" enemies. Those undead zombie dawrves are insanely eery! As you progress thru the game you collect new ninja items like caltrops, poison rice balls, shurikens, new daggers and swords, fireworks (distraction), and new ninja abilities like cling to ceiling (limited time) new killing techniques and more! The game has more than enough replay value with mission scoring and 3 versions of each level, 2 different characters and 1 unlockable character with intertwining stories, a co-op mode for you and your ninja buddy, and a versus mode as well! All in all well worth the 50 bucks.


Thursday, January 30, 2003

Game Review: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

After playing my friend CJ's copy of GTAIII I knew I wanted to get GTA Vice City! GTAIII's open world was amazing, escaping the fuzz using the L, Chatterbox radio with Lazlo! Ahh fun times not to mention all the killing and trying to get 6 star wanted and surviving as long as possible!
GTA Vice City takes te same game engine from GTAIII and amps up just about every aspect, more cars bigger map, celebrity voice actors: Ray Liotta, Tom Sizemore, Burt Reynolds, Dennis Hopper and Jenna Jameson , More "real" music like Twisted SisterMötley Crüe, Quiet Riot, The Cult, Ozzy Osbourne Iron Maiden, Michael Jackson,Laura Brannigan, Wang Chung, INXS, Bryan Addams, The Fixx and so much more!
 And Lazlo is back on V-Rock baby!,
Vice city adds the ability to buy properties or "assets" which unlock addition missions and help build your wealth in Vice City. Vice city also offers plenty of "side missions" taxi driver returns, also there's firefighter, ambulance and police side missions too.
This game is from start to finish a huge homage to the 80's culture, the clubs, the music, the movies and TV.
The game's story feels like your playing a Miami Vice-Scarface-tini...and it's delicious!
GTAIII was revolutionary for gaming! As for Vice City.....wish you were here ;)  


Game Review: War of the Monsters

The folks at Incog Inc (formerly Single Trac) have brought us another gem that reminds us why we fell in love with Twisted Metal 1 & 2 on the PS1. When you were a young boy you'd take that Tonka truck and smash it up with the police car in the for kids and adults alike. It's also common practice for young boys to pit spiderman against Megatron or Godzilla vs a storm trooper. Again fun for for adults.
War of the monsters seeps with Sunday afternoon monster B-movie goodness, everything from the main menu being projected on a drive in screen to the options menu found in the concession stand and saves are in movie reel tins in a cardboard box. The over dramatic soundtrack totally fits with the theme of giant monsters battling it out all over the earth.
The game offers plenty of variety with regard to character selection, Togera (Godzilla), Congar (King Kong), Ultra V (Jet Jaguar), Robo 47 (Robby the robot), Raptros (King Ghidoraish), Preytor (giant preying mantis), Agamo, Magmo, Kineticlops (an eyeball with a body made of electricity), and Zorgulon (Mars attacks).
Each monster has two unique special attacks one close range on long range.
The game plays similar to Twisted Metal in that you choose your monster and fighter other monsters around the world like Atomic Island, Rosdale Canyon, Tsunopolis, Century Airfield, a Volcano, on board Zorgulon's UFO and the Capitol.
Each stage is highly interactive buildings can be scaled, knocked over blown up, all the citizens running around crunch when stepped on, any cars, trucks or planes can be picked up and thrown, but the best projectile is found in the debris of destruction! Some debris can impale your foe and opens the opportunity to cause additional damage.
After you beat the game and use the points you've acquired you can unlock mini games like dodge ball, free-for-all, and endurance. There's also new costumes, monsters, and stages to unlock. The game is even more fun when played with friends, the VS game is split screen until you and your friend are in close proximity, then the split screen becomes one screen.
War of the Monsters is a great game that's totally fun for over the top destruction and monster madness!