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