Thursday, September 29, 2011

Gaming and Giving For Good LIVE Blog

Gaming and Giving for Good Love blog Marathon

This Saturday, I will be providing a running LIVE blog of my marathon gameplay session to raise money for the Shands Children's Hospital in Gainseville Florida. Check back here to follow the action, take part in polls and get a front row seat to the suffering one will go through for the sake of charity.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

MONDAY....NIGHT....COMBAAAAATTTT!!!

I have been waiting for Monday Night Combat to finally be released since I first caught wind of the game at PAX East. The mere description of the game as "Team Fortress 2 meets Defense of the Ancients" was enough to sell me. Defense of the Ancients (DOTA), is a Warcraft 3 mod that ranks in my Top Ten all time games. Well until League of Legends came out, but my point still stands.

Basically DOTA has two teams of 5 battling to see who can destroy the others HQ first. You're aided by a constant stream of minions, some ranged, some melee and a series of towers along three possible paths. Each side attempts to "push" their way through the towers into the other's base. Monday Night Combat's Crossfire mode is *exactly* like this, except that anyone on the team can spend cash to build and upgrade towers. You can also spend cash and get a slightly stronger wave of minions to spawn on that side.

The big difference is of course, that Monday Night Combat is a third person shooter. The cash you earn by killing enemies can be spent to upgrade one of 4 skills, 3 actives and one passive. The classes are all fairly interesting, though as of now, the Gunner is pretty Over-powered with Support right behind him.

The Gunner is like a Team Fortress 2 Heavy, complete with a minigun that has to keep spinning for full potential. Support is a Medic/Engineer hybrid that can lay down unique turrets called "firebases" which lay down a WORLD OF PAIN. Support can heal turrets, minions or teammates, the only class which can do so...oh, and he can call in an air strike. It's more like a direct bomb drop then a carpet bomb.

Assault is the token average character. Yes, I did do that on purpose.

Sniper is a sniper with a point'n'shoot style instead of worrying about wind like in CoD. Aim, and the bullet goes there. Headshots can one shot everything except a tank.

The Tank is a dude in an ugly egg shaped suit. With a blowtorch like weapon that's barely better then using a melee attack (especially since melee attacks do CRAZY damage.) The Tank can take damage, but he has issues dishing it out.

The Assassin can stealth and pull off one hit backstab kills. Fairly standard, but also a bit gimped as she can not handle enemy turrets at all and struggles against larger minions, such as the Jackbot or Brute.

I only played for a little over an hour today but it was a blast. Going to take awhile to get used to it and find which class/skills work for me. For those that care, the achievements are very easy.

Monday, August 9, 2010

(TrueAchievements Repost) Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper Review

In order to write this review I first had to find the address for a computer technician to fix my keyboard. I needed to go old school and use an actual phone book as my computer was out of order of course. Sadly, the only phone book in the area was up on the balcony of a third floor apartment. No one was home, so I had to mug a fireman and take his ladder. In order to mug this fireman, I had to first secure a hefty wooden tree branch for use as a makeshift club. This meant I had to distract the squirrel on the branch since I did not want to hurt him. To do this, I had to find my nuts.

Okay, so I did not actually have to do any of that, but if that was tough for you to read just stop right now and do not play this game. Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper is an old school adventure game. I am talking Myst adventure games here. Originally a PC Game in the U.K., now a 360 game here in the States (as well as the U.K.), Sherlock Holmes versus Jack the Ripper is an acquired taste.

Plot

You play as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, attempting to solve the infamous Jack the Ripper murders that took London by storm in 1888. The world's first sensationalized serial killer (Jack the Ripper stirred up media interest like no one's business) was never actually caught, making this an excellent case for Sherlock Holmes. The game, surprisingly, uses the actual timeline, locations and suspects of the Jack the Ripper murders. By playing this game, you will know the actual history of the Jack the Ripper murders.

ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED - LEARNED SOMETHING FROM A VIDEO GAME

Gameplay

Unlike the PC version, you can play in either a first or third person perspective. Third is easier to get around the drab rooms and corridors of 19th century London, but first makes it much easier to grab clues and items. Which you will be doing. A lot. The same scenario plays out over and over again. Sherlock and Watson will be in the office and then will get a clue. You rush off as one of the Dynamic Duo to investigate the clue but in doing so, must go on the sort of subquest hell not seen since Breath of Fire 2.

The solutions to most of the puzzles are quite logical. So logical in fact that I found myself missing an important clue right in front of my face. A few will most likely, require a guide, despite having one by my side I actually enjoyed figuring some of them out on my own. I know! this day and age, someone taking the time to figure out logic puzzles! Go figure.

Control

The controls will make a few of those puzzles significantly harder then they should be as this was originally a PC game, a mouse and keyboard is clearly the control scheme this was designed to use in the first place. Finding the right pixel can reach annoyance levels akin to finding the loose brick in the dungeon of Maniac Mansion.

Combining items in your inventory and flipping between menu screens is a bit convoluted, but you get used to it. There is a term for control schemes like this...Stockholm Syndrome.

Graphics

Horrible. Good thing you are not playing this for them.

Sound and Music

The voice acting is spot on and did not drive me to the brink of insanity. With the amount of British accents present, you would think it would be incredible grating and over the top, but no, the voice work actually enhances the story. Nuances can be picked up if you actually stop and listen to the plot advancing, one suspect at a time.

Music is nearly non-existent but the ambient noise is not intrusive either, so given the excellent voice work, we will just call this one a wash.

Achievements

With a guide, this is one of the fastest 1k's available. Only 4 achievements are miss-able and the rest you will earn naturally by finishing the story.

Conclusion

Well, the graphics are horrendous and the control will make you scream before you submit and accept it as your master, but to be brutally honest?

I found the game to actually be fairly amusing.

Granted, that is almost entirely because of the historical accuracy on display throughout the entire game and my own background in History. The old-school adventure gameplay is also charming once you realize exactly what it is you are getting yourself into with this game. Sherlock Holmes versus Jack the Ripper is such an acquired taste that I can not recommend this for everyone.

If the thought of old school adventure in a historical setting sounds remotely appealing to you, then grab this one on the cheap and have a fun weekend.

If the thought of having to read while playing a game confuses you, then stay away.

(TrueAchievements Repost): Alan Wake Review

Alan Wake is a very tough game to review. The major draw for this game is the storyline, which stands head and shoulders above most other 360 games. The influences of Stephen King and David Lynch are felt all throughout the game, in particular, the closing music of Episode 1 which is straight out of David Lynch's Blue Velvet, starring the late, great Dennis Hopper. Ultimately, as with the work of David Lynch, everyone will walk away with a different experience from Alan Wake.

Gameplay

The theme of light and dark is taken quite literally when it comes time to actually play the game. Using a flashlight, you have to remove protective layers of darkness before opening fire with a trusty sidearm. I for one, never got bored of this, not once environmental hazards such as loose power lines and red exploding barrels were introduced. The cast of enemies is very, very small and the constant need to shine light first, shoot second could get old for some people very, very quickly.

When you are not shining light on the denizens of darkness you are engaging in some very light puzzle solving. This is basic "hit a switch" puzzling and only serves to break up the gunplay. Vehicle sections also break up the action but they work nicely into the plot and when they do pop up, are a welcome diversion.

A major problem with the puzzle solving, running and gunning gameplay however is that at all times you are reminded Alan Wake is a video game. The ever present HUD always shows you where to go and as a result, the tension level is not as high as it could be had the game been HUDless. The option to turn it off does not exist.

Graphics

It is painfully obvious that the majority of the graphical horsepower went to the lighting effects. The lighting is amazing, easily the best I have ever seen. The character models on the other hand would not be out of place in a PS2 game. Do yourself a favor, and when characters are talking, try not to look at their mouths.

They did manage to make Alan's wife appear to be wearing painted on jeans, so that is a plus.

Controls

Clunky is a nice way to put it. The game demands tight control while playing on Nightmare difficulty but it will fight you. Alan turns slowly and the aiming can be very awkward, both with your flashlight and a gun. Alan is not a space marine, he is a writer, but moving *that* slow is just annoying.

Sound and Music

Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick is the soundtrack for this game amazing. Every chapter ends just as television episode would, with a closing song that accurately captures the mood. The song choice at the end of Chapter 1 is what hooked me, but it was one sequence during Chapter 4 that had the best dichotomy of music to in game action that I have witnessed in years. In fact, that moment gets its very own call out.

The Moment

Every game, no matter what genre or platform, has The Moment. That One Thing which happens and makes you sit up and go "DAMN!" Final Fantasy 7, with the murder of Aeris, is perhaps the easiest example to recognize. Alan Wake, towards the end of Chapter 4 as you're approaching an old, decrepit stage in the middle of a field....it has one of those moments. Gameplay and music meld and make you feel like you are an unstoppable force of destruction.

Achievements

Some of the collectibles in this game, such as the manuscript pages, tv shows and radio shows reveal bits about the world of Alan Wake and are worth your time to collect. TV shows, especially those that are showing "Night Springs", think The Twilight Zone, are really cool. A guide is recommended if you want all the achievements, and a second play through is mandatory, but if you skip the story completely it is a quick game.

Conclusion

Gameplay is fun and different but not for everyone as it can get old quick if the plot does not grab you around the neck like Andre the Giant. Music is amazing and an example of the right way to work it into a game. The abundance of collectibles can be daunting for achievement seekers but the real issue comes from the horrible character models and clunky controls.

The very best part of the game can not be mentioned, as that is the plot. If you are looking for something different, Alan Wake is an unique experience. It may just last you a weekend, but like a good book, you will go cover to cover.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Transformers Multiplayer: How I Learned To Sneak Up and Insta-Gib

Transformers: War for Cybertron has an actual, Call of Duty influenced online mode that shockingly, is quite good. It is class based with each class having its own abilities, weapons and vehicle mode. The Scout can cloak, use both a shotgun and the sniper rifle. They transform into very quick moving, machine gun packing cars. Oh, and if you sneeze on them, they die. Yup, each class has different health bars. The Scout only has 4 bars of health.

Now the Soldier, the bulky longest health bar in the game minigun packing tank (no really, they turn into tanks) is my least favorite class. They move soooo slow and with the exception of the minigun, their weapons are horrible.

The Leader is front line support with heavy, explosive weapons. Buff allies, shield allies and blow the crap out of things with grenades and a high powered ion cannon. Like Optimus Prime, they turn into trucks. I also hate this class. Again, slow, unwieldy and my aim is horrible with that Ion Cannon.

The Scientist, widely considered to be the weakest class with a health bar of 3 blocks, can be killed by being looked at funny. They turn into Jets, can fly (or hover really), heal allies, spawn a defensive sentry or, my personal favorite, disguise themselves as a Scientist on the enemy team. In a great touch, the Autobot/Deception emblem does NOT change. Easily the best part of multiplayer is disguising yourself, weaseling your way in close to an enemy, and blowing them away in one shot with the EMP shotgun. Your not invisible, so you have to play the part and "hide in plain sight" in order to succeed. The playstyle required is unlike anything, outside of course of the Spy in Team Fortress 2. Even then, the spy had to backstab someone, the Scientist?

Shotgun to the face. Much more satisfying.

Sadly Tranformers uses the Gears of War 2 ranking system. Halfway to level 25 is level 18. Yup. I'm going to spend a very long time playing this game in order to max out each class.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Dante's Inferno: From AWESOME to BLAH in 3 Levels

I have tried a few times now to put my thoughts regarding Dante's Inferno into writing. An essay on how the level design is a great strength for the first two levels, and a major weakness through the backend of the game. Starting off with the very first soul you can punish or absolve is Pontius Pilate really sets the mood. By the end, you're encountering such legendary historical figures as "Merchant from Florence." If you're going to adhere to the actual epic poem, well, don't. You already have Dante wandering through Hell using Death's Scythe to cleave demons in half. "Faithfulness to source material" is a Charon that has already sailed.

Again, after writing that paragraph, I had to pause for a few minutes and do something else (reading a WWE Money in the Bank PPV recap) before continuing. I am THAT ANGRY over what a WASTED OPPORTUNITY this game is! The great moments just...run out...and by the time you get Heresy, which has no boss....at all....it's like the designers gave up. Anger is another circle that is just dull. No boss, just a series of fights while dealing with a giant demon that in turn, leads to a fairly cool moment. For five seconds. Then poor design brings it right back down to earth again.

I can not fault the graphics or the control, which is tight like the backside of Emma Watson. (She's 18 right?) The music, well that I can fault. There is not much music to be found in the depths of Hell. What little is used, serves to highlight the action on screen which is cool and all but the ambient sounds gave the Wife of Thunder (WoT) a headache.

In fact, the ambient sounds are perhaps more annoying than the seagulls from Deadliest Catch. Climbable surfaces are made of screaming souls that DO NOT SHUT UP. Some of them shout things specific to that circle, such as "I'll slit your throat and feed it to you" in the Circle of Violence. Most though, are just moanings and wailings. Nevermind the disturbing noises of the evil demonic babies with razorblade arms.

This is a game that for the first two levels, I thought was amazing. Then merely good for the next two (Gluttony and Greed), but once it hit the fifth level, Anger, I just wanted to get it over with as soon as I could. The final boss fight against Lucifer was satisfying at least. The ending? Not so much.

Is Visceral really, honestly planning on a sequel for Purgatory? I've read that poem too, and unlike the Inferno which lends itself quite well to a video game translation actually, Purgatory does not. The essence of Purgatory is that it is a place of...well...waiting. Not good, not bad, just boring.

Which sounds an awful lot like a game they already made.