November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

For those of you celebrating Turkey Day, have a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving, and don't forget to get some gaming in between helpings of sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie!


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The Future of Video Games?

Andrew Weymes (aka MrWeymes) Says: Nintendo obviously went in another direction, deviating from what gamers expect from a next generation console. I'm sure most gamers assumed that every 5 or 6 years, we would get an upgrade of our current console with a slightly reworked controller, better graphics, and more features such as online capabilities, and Blu Ray. Sony, and Microsoft knew what was expected of them, and delivered. I don't think that many people thought that the Nintendo "Revolution"(as was the Wii's code name) wouldn't have a standard controller, but in fact make use of motion controls, and that it would have a small emphasis on graphics.

Technically, both the Xbox 360, and the Playstation 3 are superior machines. Both support HD resolutions up to 1080p, both have a more robust online community, both are able to rip music off of CDs, both are able to play DVDs, and the Playstation 3 is able to play Blu Rays. From a core gamer’s perspective, the PS3 and 360 should be head to head, fighting for the top position, while the Nintendo Wii sits in third place. This obviously isn't the case, though. There are many places around the world where it is still very difficult to find a Nintendo Wii, and with titles like Wii Music, and Wii Fit high on casual gamers lists, this Christmas will no doubt be another huge success for Nintendo.

Of course, most core gamers could care less about Wii Music, or Wii Fit and will be stuffing their stockings with the likes of Gears of War 2, Left 4 Dead, Resistance 2, Little Big Planet, and Call of Duty: World at War; but the reality is that Wii Music will probably sell more than all of these games individually. This current console war should be worrisome to core gamers. With the success of the Nintendo Wii, and the high sales of games such as Guitar Hero, and Rock Band, it is clear that there is an enormous casual market in the video game industry. This current surge of casual gamers has prompted Microsoft and Sony to advertise their casual titles much more than they used to, such as the above mention Guitar Hero, and Rock Band. It is clear that Sony is also trying to appeal to the casual crowd with the recent game Little Big Planet, but it is still unclear as to how that will work out until the holiday season is over.

The Nintendo Wii has changed the video game industry forever. It has proven that the game with the better graphics won't always sell more, and that the console with the most high quality games won't always be number one. The Nintendo Wii has the most games that have received a low score, as well as the least amount of exclusives that appeal to the core gamer, yet the Nintendo Wii is still outselling both the Xbox 360, and the Playstation 3 easily each month.

Sony and Microsoft may have done what was expected of them this generation by releasing an obviously superior console to their predecessors, but what about their next consoles? Will Sony and Microsoft be confident in releasing another console geared towards the core gamer that will be over $500 at launch? It's entirely possible that Sony, and Microsoft will try to make their consoles appeal more towards the casual crowd. Core gamers often forget that Sony and Microsoft are companies. Companies want to make money. If the video game industry has shifted towards casual gamers, then more games will be developed for the casual crowd. It's the game developers that want you to experience games like Shadow of the Colossus, for example. Game developers want you to interpret their games as art, however the Corporate Heads of companies such as Microsoft and Sony couldn't care less about how amazing a video game experience is.

If a game like Wii Fit sells more than a game like Shadow of the Colossus, then it is going to be promoted a lot more. Developers are going to be encouraged to make games to appeal to the largest crowd. Don't be surprised if the next consoles are geared more towards the casual crowd. This may be the worst possible news for the core gamer, but it also may be a harsh reality.

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November 24, 2008

Don't Let Madden Intimidate You

Goozer (aka Jimmy James 70) Says: If you’re like me, you probably like football, and you turn the games on Sunday morning and keep them on till Sunday night. When Monday night rolls around, I at least check to see who’s playing and more often than not, I’ll turn the game on regardless of who’s on. But watching the game is really the extent of it. I don’t paint my face when I go to a game, I don’t scream and yell while in the sports bar, and if I miss a game I really don’t care much. I’m a sofa-fan.

When EA releases their latest iteration of Madden NFL, it might pique the interest of sofa-fans enough to check the reviews and to see who’s on the cover, but football sofa-fans are more likely to purchase an FPS or an RPG over a sports game.

And plus, isn’t Madden NFL an extremely complicated game that requires the smarts of a professional coach? The idea of choosing formations, routes, and knowing the difference between a pitch and sweep versus a trap play can makes me want to curl up on the couch with a bag of chips and check to see if the Vikings are on (being born and raised in MN gave me purple blood).

A little over a year ago, I was browsing through Target’s game department, and I see a rack of books with a title something like, Madden NFL 08 Strategy Guide. I picked this weighty tome up, must have been 500 pages, and I started flipping through the pages. The book contained the most in-depth descriptions of more plays and more options than I could ever want to know. I quickly put the book down and walked away slowly, thinking, I’ll never play Madden NFL. Ever. Way too complicated.

Recently, I had a couple thousand points burning a hole in my Goozex pocket, and I thought to myself, you have to at least try the game. If it’s too far over your head, then just trade it back and get your points back. No problem.

After playing Madden NFL 09, let me just say right now, I’m partially addicted to this game. I also recently received Mercenaries 2, and the two games are competing for game time. I really kind of thought Mercs 2 would make me forget all about Madden, but it didn’t. I can’t wait to get back on the field. It’s tough to beat the feeling of completing a 20-yard pass and running another 30 yards for the touchdown, and then topping it off with a dunk over the goal post. It’s fun. It’s thrilling. And at the intermediate level, the play calling is exactly at my level of football intelligence. I’m recommending this one.

It’s value on Goozex dropped to 950 points the day I received it. So, I might be taking a loss on this one. But hopefully as the playoffs approach, interest in the game might revive and the point value will go back up to the full 1000 points. But I’m not too worried about it. I might even hold on to this one for a while. You can get it off of eBay for under $40.

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Multiplayer or Single Player?

Andrew Weymes (aka MrWeymes) Says: The Playstation 2, Xbox, and Gamecube era was primarily focused on single player gaming. Of course, Socom and Halo had many online players, but the majority of gamers were still playing games for the single player experience. However, it is apparent that multiplayer gaming is on the rise over the past few years and much has changed within the current generation.

Many games that have a solid single player experience—but no multiplayer—are often slammed for this alleged short coming; and even have points deducted in their review on gaming websites. An example of this is Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. While Uncharted didn't receive terrible scores, the inclusion of a multiplayer experience akin to Gears of War would probably have helped.

There are many gamers who don't enjoy multiplayer, and are concerned with this growing trend in the industry. Single player campaigns are getting shorter and shorter. While the quality of the campaigns is high, it's hard for a single player gamer to spend $60 on a six-hour experience; especially when developers focus their efforts on making the online run smoothly, having a good amount of maps, as well as weapons, and having a good selection of game modes. It's almost as if the single player experience has become secondary, which is backwards compared to previous consoles. Treyarch provided a prime example of this trend by releasing a Beta version of the multiplayer for Call of Duty: World at War as compared to a demo of the single player.

This generation is also seeing a rise in multiplayer-only games such as Warhawk, Socom: Confrontation, and to a lesser extent Left 4 Dead. While you can play Left 4 Dead by yourself, it's clearly made for cooperative play. If games like this become top games in the industry, developers will start to look at single player games differently. There is no sense in making an epic single player experience if it's not going to played by 1/3 as many people as this months multiplayer game.

There are pros to playing single player games, as well as multiplayer games.

Single Player Pros:

  • Storylines can draw you in, and make you feel for the character.
  • A good amount of single player games have a solid frame rate throughout the game.
  • Texturing and lighting effects are always better in single player campaigns.
  • Scripted moments that are shocking during your first playthrough.
  • The feeling of beating a boss by yourself.
  • Exploration.
  • A good soundtrack.

Multiplayer Pros:

  • Playing with people you know is usually fun. For people that live far way from each other, it's nice to socialize again.
  • If there is no lag, competing fairly against people from all around the world, or just competing against your friends can be thrilling.
  • Talking to real people during cooperative gaming brings a new level of strategy to the table when compared to AI team members.
  • Replayability. Many people only play the single player experience of a game once. Multiplayer gives you a lot more hours for the money you spent on a game.
  • Winning. It's always fun to beat someone else.

It's obvious that multiplayer is now a vital part of the video game industry. If you were to ask the average male, age 10-25 what Call of Duty is, he would probably know the answer, regardless of whether or not he plays that particular game, or video games in general. If you were to ask that same man what Lost Odyssey is, or Dead Space, or Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, he probably wouldn't know. The question is, what do gamers that spend their days playing video games, and talking about them on message boards think? Which kind of games brings you more satisfaction, single player or multiplayer? Which is more fun to play? Most importantly, where is the video game industry heading? Will single player campaigns become secondary to their multiplayer? Have they already?

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November 20, 2008

SEGA Shows Signs of Life

Andrew Weymes Says: The last generation of consoles wasn't very kind to SEGA. When the SEGA Dreamcast launched in 1999 in North America, it's only competitors were the Nintendo 64, and the Playstation 1. While the Dreamcast launch was a failure in Japan the year prior because of a small library of games at launch, and the looming shadow of the Playstation 2's launch, the North American launch was a huge success. The Dreamcast had an impressive lineup of games, and had an obvious technological edge over the current competition. The Dreamcast had some amazing launch titles such as Powerstone, Soul Calibur, the classic Sonic Adventure, the forgotten Blue Stinger, Trickstyle, Hydro Thunder, House of the Dead 2, NFL2K, and Ready to Rumble among others.

The Dreamcast sold an impressive 500,000 units its first week in North America. SEGA continued this momentum all the way until the launch of the Playstation 2 in 2000. Despite releasing critically acclaimed titles such as Shenmue (an incredibly deep action adventure game for it's time), Jet Grind Radio (the first cell shaded video game), and Sonic Adventure 2, the interest in the Dreamcast dwindled after the Playstation 2 entered the scene. Debt, fierce competition, and some clever marketing on the part of Sony put an end to the glorious era of SEGA video game consoles.

By 2002, the mighty SEGA had fallen, and became a third party developer releasing games on the Playstation 2, the Gamecube, and the Xbox. This came as a shock to many SEGA loyalists that never imagined Sonic would be on a Nintendo console. SEGA had minor success with games such as Virtua Fighter 4, Super Monkey Ball, as well as critical success with Jet Set Radio Future, but the majority of SEGA titles released on either the Playstion 2, Gamecube or Xbox such as Sonic Adventure DX, Sonic Adventure 2 Battle, Shadow the Hedgehog, and Sonic Heroes were met with mediocre reviews. Sonic Heroes was the most successful of these titles, selling over 2 million copies.

The current generation of consoles started off a little rough for SEGA with the release of Sonic the Hedgehog for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Sonic the Hedgehog was met with less than stellar sales and mediocre reviews. However, SEGA is showing an upward trend since then. SEGA published Condemned 2, which was met with mostly positive reviews. Golden Axe: Beast Rider received some rather poor reviews, which was upsetting to many fans of the series, but SEGA's more recent games such as Valkyria Chronicles—a Playstation 3 exclusive—and Sonic Unleashed, a multiplatform game were met with generally positive reviews.

Many people have lost faith in SEGA after the slew of average Sonic games that plagued the previous generation, but they shouldn't abandon hope just yet. With an unexpectedly deep strategy roleplaying game—Valkyria Chronicles—and a true next generation Sonic title, faith in the resurgence of SEGA is at an all time high. Before the fanboys start clamouring for a Dreamcast 2, they should realize that SEGA's place is in third party development. If SEGA entered the console market again, they would most assuredly be crushed by the intense marketing of Microsoft, the excellent quality of Sony, and the innovation of Nintendo.

An interesting idea for SEGA is to align themselves with either Sony or Microsoft and make exclusive games. This could attract more attention to SEGA, as well as help the console of their choosing. An exclusive Sonic title may not sound like much right now, but if the next Sonic game were to get a 9, or higher, exclusivity could definitely help move a few consoles, and get SEGA back in the limelight. SEGA is trying to succeed this generation, and for the most part they are. SEGA fans should be very pleased this holiday season. With SEGA showing signs of its former self, one can only hope that this trend continues.

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November 19, 2008

3 Months Later, Too Human is 50% Cheaper

Goozer Says: The woes for Too Human aren’t over yet. Everyone knows the background story and how it took forever to release, and how the critics slammed it. The latest story is the plummeting price point…

On September 2, The Goozex Report ran an article detailing how Too Human hit the Most Offered list 15 days after the game was released. Now, three months later, Too Human can be bought from eBay for $24.99. The Goozex point value has dropped to 950 points and I expect it to keep dropping.

Goozex traders have bought and sold Too Human 173 times since August 23. That’s a lot of trades. The frenzy began four days after the game released. That doesn’t bode well for the game. It’s one thing if the critics pan it, but if gamers grow tired of something brand new after four days, well, that’s a whole other story.

Thoughts of a Random Gamer reviewed this game back when it was still relevant. Check out Part 1 and Part 2.

I’m sure I’ll still check it out one day, when it’s worth 150 points…

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November 17, 2008

The Goozex Report Reviews Little Big Planet

Andrew Weymes Says: Little Big Planet is a Playstation 3 exclusive developed by Media Molecule. It's clear that Sony wants to propel sackboy onto the same platform as Kratos, Drake, and Sergeant Hail when it comes to character recognition. While it's still unclear as to whether or not this will happen, it is clear that Little Big Planet is a very good game. Gameplay in Little Big Planet is simple, much like old 2D platformers. You can jump with the X button, and grab objects with R1. While this may sound too simplistic to many core gamers, it is anything but. Levels created by the developers, and user created levels test the patience of even the most loyal 2D platformer fan. That's not to say that all of the levels are difficult. Some levels are very simplistic, while others will challenge even the most adept gamer.

This is what makes Little Big Planet shine. It appeals to almost anyone. People can pick this game up for young children who will love the simple control scheme and warm art style, while the adults can enjoy the nostalgia of a 2D platformer and challenge themselves to acquire every trophy, and get the high score in some of the more challenging levels.

If you're the creative type, making your own level from the ground up can be a very rewarding experience. You aren't just limited to the objects given to you. You are able to create almost any object, or enemy that you can think of. The interface for creating a level is rather simple as well, and there are tutorials for everything, so if you're truly interested in making a level, the interface shouldn't put you off. Little Big Planet has only been out for a few weeks, and there are already too many user created levels to play, many of which are well done. The replayability is through the roof because of this, and with the inclusion of trophy support, many gamers will be playing Little Big Planet for quite some time.

The graphics are technically sound. The art direction is very warm, and inviting. Environments vary dramatically, keeping the game fresh. Hazards such as fire, electricity, poison gas, and explosives all look very nice. The texturing on every object and hazard is very clean. The animations for sackboy/girl are all done well and add to the cute atmosphere of the game. There are no real complaints here besides some odd glitches. If you grab on to a spinning object that is going too fast, sackboys/girls arms and legs will appear elongated. It's quite odd, but not game breaking.

Sound in Little Big Planet is excellent. Everything from the music to the sounds your sackboy/girl makes as they navigate through levels fit the look and feel of the game perfectly. However, there isn't a huge collection of songs, so expect to hear them over, and over again.

Overall, Little Big Planet is a must own for PS3 owners. There is something here for everyone. It's as simple, or as difficult as you want it to be. It may not be difficult for a core gamer to play through the story levels once, but acquiring all of the trophies is a different story. 2D platformer fans don't need to worry, Little Big Planet certainly lives up to the hype.

Score 9 out of 10

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November 14, 2008

Is World at War Worth the Full Price?

Goozer Says: Call of Duty 2 was one of the very first games I played on the 360 and there was no turning back. Call of Duty 3 never made me question whether I should try Rainbow Six Vegas. Call of Duty 4 solidified my stance on the entire series: it is simply the best. And now Call of Duty: World at War is available.

I wanted this release to be a reason for celebration. However, after playing the beta for World at War, I came away feeling like I’ve been there and I’ve done that. This really isn’t anything new except for the maps. Sure, there are attack dogs, and I could see the mortars popping off in the distance; I’m not saying the game wasn’t updated, I’m just saying I feel like I’ve played it before. I’m not so red-hot on picking it up like I was before. But then again, I’m not red-hot on paying full-price for my video games these days.

It’s like someone said in the comments to an earlier post, video games drop faster in value than any other commodity out there. It’s not uncommon for a video game to drop 50% in value after just a few short months. So why pay $60 for a game now that will be worth $30 in a relatively short amount of time?

I’ve heard the arguments that buying games brand new supports the industry and blah and blah. But guess what? It’s a multi-billion dollar industry and my $60 is not going make or break the system. Besides, like another commenter has stated, people buy used homes and used cars all the time, and those industries aren’t exactly going under (whoops, bad examples considering the current state of the economy).

Regardless, despite my ego wanting to join the cool kids playing Gears of War 2 and World at War, I’m simply going to hold out. I really don’t see the need for it. Besides, I’m getting my copy of Madden 09 shipped to me now, and I still need to finish Rainbow Six Vegas. Yeah, I looked into the Tom Clancy titles after seeing CoD 4 helicopters in my nightmares.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, this is a Call of Duty discussion. If you’ve never played the series, it comes highly recommended. And if you start with Call of Duty 2, it’s dirt cheap (just like World at War will be in six months).

For an excellent review of Call of Duty: World at War, read Games Are Evil’s review.
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November 13, 2008

Left 4 Dead Demo Underwhelming

Andrew Weymes Says: It seems no matter which website you go to, they all shower praise on the latest game by Valve entitled Left 4 Dead. As a zombie—and video game enthusiast—I assumed this would become one of my favorite games. It sounded like a match made in heaven. Unfortunately, I came away from the demo very underwhelmed. Sub par graphics and average gun play killed my enthusiasm pretty quickly. I did find the gun play enjoyable in Left 4 Dead, but I really wasn't overwhelmed by how good each gun felt. They felt appropriate. The guns sounded average. Nothing praise worthy, but nothing to whine about, either. I don't want to offend anyone, but if you're going to tell me that this game has amazing texturing, lighting effects, environments, character models, and animations then you are probably one of those people that think Turok is a great looking game. The environments themselves looked appropriately drab but they weren't very inspired or pleasing to the eyes. As for looking like a zombie, I better not have messy hair, or a little ketchup on my chin if I'm living in the Left 4 Dead universe, or I might be confused as one of the undead. Yes, it's impressive that Valve managed to cram a massive horde of the undead onto the screen without a dip in frame rate, but I would have preferred 20 less zombies for the sake of the zombies actually looking like zombies—and not very angry people without napkins.

I noticed a couple of graphical glitches as well. I didn't think that in 2008 I would see enemy body parts coming through doors and walls, and various other objects, but I did. The draw distance was a bit of a joke as well. I couldn’t see the other end of a hallway at one point, which was kind of a "silent hill fog" effect that unveils the rest of the hallway as you walk further. I also don't like how you are able to walk through, and in to, each other’s character models. I know this had to be done to accommodate smooth multiplayer, but this is why a solid single player campaign would have been nice so that I don't have to be reminded all the time that I'm "just playing a game." Things like that have always pulled me out of the atmosphere that a game tries to create.

From the moment I heard about this game, I was hoping it would have above average graphics, and an enjoyable single player campaign. The single player campaign is nothing more than the multiplayer levels with AI bots to assist you instead of real people. The AI is good, and doesn't run into the wall or get lost behind you, but I was hoping for more than AI bots. I was hoping for something similar to Gears of War, Rainbow Six Vegas, or Resistance where there is an epic single player experience as well as some excellent multiplayer. I enjoy a cinematic experience when I play through a campaign, or story mode of a game, and for gamers similar to myself, I don't think Left 4 Dead is going to be very impressive.

That pretty much covers what I didn't like about the Left 4 Dead demo.

As the graphics are only passable, it makes sense that the main emphasis is obviously on multiplayer. I did enjoy the "AI director" that I have heard so much about. Basically, the AI director places enemies in different locations each time you play through a level, so each level has a huge amount of replay ability. This feature is excellent for a multiplayer game, because no matter what difficulty setting you are on, knowing where the enemies are going to be is always an advantage. An advantage that Left 4 Dead doesn't give you. The focus on teamwork is probably very appealing to a lot of people as well. I'm more of an independent gamer, so having to rely on other people to watch my back is a little bothersome. I find the teamwork aspect of the game to be its greatest strength, though. Some enemies will hold your character down and claw them up, and the only way to get them off of you is for another team member to shoot them. In most multiplayer games, letting your team members die is frequent, but in Left 4 Dead, you want to ensure the survival of everyone, because some of the monsters such as the witch—and the tank—are very hard to take down. I can see this game being very fun with a few friends over Xbox Live.

Despite the plain graphics, the sheer number of undead that you will encounter is intimidating at times. Watching 50 zombies flood the screen, and mowing 10 of them down within a few seconds with a shotgun is definitely rewarding. I didn't really care much for the "special" zombies such as the smoker, or witch. I'm a zombie purist, and I had the most fun just gunning down the horde. I'm sure this will be the best part of the game for most people. Another positive thing about Left 4 Dead is the death animations. Every member of the horde that you kill falls in a different way. There is no predetermined death animation, which is nice. I think of games like Turok where you stab a raptor for the 100th time and it gets dull to watch.

Overall, I think the demo for Left 4 Dead was passable. It wasn't what I was hoping for. I knew there was a heavy emphasis on multiplayer, but I was hoping for a decent single player experience that it does not have. Zombies are supposed to be ugly, but in this game the ugliness is mainly due to the lack of detail. Poor graphics really make it hard for me to immerse myself in a video game. I see this game as a gem for the budget gamer. For people that don't buy or rent a lot of games, and absolutely love multiplayer, Left 4 Dead is gold. The AI director and decent amount of levels gives this game near infinite replay ability. Personally, I like multiplayer, but I don't see myself playing for more than 40 hours if that, so to me Left 4 Dead just isn't that great. When I play a game, I'm hoping that it rivals a good film in the same genre such as the Silent Hill Series, Resident Evil, and even the Condemned series. If all you're interested in is killing decent looking zombies with people over Xbox Live rather than a good story and atmosphere, Left 4 Dead is probably the game for you.

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November 12, 2008

Unreal Tournament III Drops in Value

Goozer Says: Some game values have recently changed. Most notable is that Unreal Tournament III has dropped from 1000 points to 950 points. A quick scan on eBay shows the best Buy Now price is $18.88. So, once again, the Goozer recommends sellers to sell and buyers to hold out. A tough paradox I know, but I’m sure it’s one you’ll manage to handle.

Ninja Gaiden II is now down to 800 points on Goozex. This one is dropping like a rock. Buyers, definitely hold out for this one or you’re risking buying high and selling back low.

Lost Odyssey also continues to drop in value. It’s down to 650 points from 750 points at the end of October. Buyers, you know what to do, put this one on the Watch List.

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Mirror's Edge: A First-Person Revolution?

Shawn Lebert Says: The world is a playground at your feet. The freedom is yours in an industrial metropolis, high above ground zero. A pristine cityscape, unobstructed by busy streets and unmarred by the public display of filthy ignorance. Everything is flawless. This is paradise.

This is superficial, believe it or not. Surprised? I didn’t think so. In a future of a totalitarian government controlling the millions by storm, a band of individuals, called runners, respond in a different light to the government’s calling. This is the premise to Mirror’s Edge.

The idea alone gives certain shout outs to some particular and inspirational literature that perhaps most of us have grown up with. If Oceania were truly a living and breathing country, and Big Brother was somehow involved, this location in Mirror’s Edge would certainly be a sibling to it. It catches my interest right away when I see other inspirations molded and crafted into something new. History will repeat itself in ways for a new generation to see and explore. They will explore a story that is new yet somehow manages to cling to historical ideas from the past in some form or another.

Mirror’s Edge is fresh, yet clings to the ever so popular first-person perspective, a perspective in which gamers have been doused with for so many years. Is the gaming world sick with first-person perspective games by now? You could say so, but I think this element is finally beginning to evolve, twist and somersault, and revolutionize the first-person perspective in games.

To explain it very briefly, in Mirror’s Edge, you control Faith, the female protagonist of the game. Your role is to send information back and forth secretly from one location to another without government interception, which has the city under surveillance. They certainly don’t like people who attempt to work against the government’s tight control. The government especially despises the kind of “freedom” that Faith and her friendly runners abuse. Faith’s only way to fight back from the government’s stronghold is to become a runner and deliver messages to persons that generally shouldn’t be receiving any information. It isn’t allowed. What’s Faith’s reason to disobey? What would you do if the government killed your family during this change of totalitarian policy? I’d disobey too.

This is what makes Mirror’s Edge so novel: it contains elements of the first person shooter genre that we’ve come to love yet shooting is secondary. Games that maintain the aspect of countering a confrontation, instead of shooting your way through, provides an extra boost to the different approaches to battle; you genuinely have to think your way through it. There are numerous instances in previous titles in which the player lets the gun do the talking. Less thinking, more shooting. This creates a linear, one-dimensional experience. Mirror’s Edge provides reinvention and rebirth to the first-person perspective by making each battle more of a challenge, even if each enemy is frivolous and expendable.

Most first-person-shooters never really emphasized that the player becomes the physical embodiment of one’s character. For some time, the camera of the first-person-shooter remained dynamically lacking, not prominent in much detail for the gamer to become a full-fledged character on screen. We never felt truly fastened to these protagonists as we explore intensifying moments in a game. Perhaps it’s because we consciously acknowledge that this is a video game; therefore, we never recognize that we’re “human beings” in a game.
We favor games that we can attach to emotionally. The painstaking amount of development time that each title goes through before hitting shelves nowadays is painted with much heavier undertones that the gamer can connect to. We’re fond of feeling a surface of thrilling dynamism that speaks to us, that may change us, that enlightens us in a way we’ve not experienced thus far. Whether it’s the charismatic storytelling, or the compelling game play elements, when we like something, we are attracted to it on a level that may be so personal to us, that someone else could never replicate the same feelings. People don’t want to just experience it; they want to be a part of its history. They don’t want to feel like they’re consciously controlling a character that expounds on limited freedoms through the use of button pushing. We simply want to feel something more, and games are quickly acquiring much more sophistication that years past couldn’t pull off.

One of the major selling points to Mirror’s Edge is the intimacy between camera perspective and the player. That we do feel like we are part of the action. Not only do we see what’s happening before us, but we also feel the actual sensation behind every quick move: whether it’s sliding along the ground, rolling to recover from a big fall, or running across a wall. We constantly see Faith’s limbs move into the frame. She breathes like one of us. This is one of the fresh dynamics that we want. While it may exist in other categories for other games, such as narrative, we have an aesthetic that people just want to experience.

Is Mirror’s Edge an evolution or a revolution to the first person style? I think it steers clear from being too much of a first-person well-known aesthetic to even place it in a category like Halo 3. There are way too many elements to even consider it a shooter. Its emphasis definitely isn’t on using weapons. It’s a smart game that gives you a second chance to think things through during enemy confrontations while figuring out the best means to leap over a forty-foot gap between buildings, a new thrill to leave you jaw-dropped.

In a world of a national, oppressive force, very similar to ideas with that of the loosely inspired elements of 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, Faith must rely on her Prince of Persia-like acrobatics as a means of survival mentally and physically from a tyrannical onslaught. And in return, makes the gamer think about what and how they should carry one’s self rather than mindlessly take an easy way out. Mirror’s Edge will be a one of its kind.

Watch Shawn's personalized trailer.

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November 11, 2008

Callin' In Sick

Goozer Says: It's been a tough couple of days in my household. The whole family is sick and no one is doing much of anything. I really wanted to post my Call of Duty Round Up and a story that describes how I played Soulcalibur IV for $1.68. But those things are going to have to wait until I have the energy to do some more typing.

I have heard from Shawn, and he's busy writing a couple more articles and a video, and hopefully we'll hear from Andrew again. So, stay tuned, and don't get discouraged with the lack of posts. There's only a few of us here, and when one of us goes down, well, things can get a bit slow.


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November 9, 2008

First Impressions of Left 4 Dead

Shawn Lebert Says: A helicopter sweeps over the thundering skies like a whip in a rainstorm. Someone screams that there’s rescue at the hospital, leaving you in a momentous decision to find a way to the haven or to stay right where you are because of safety. You gaze out over the roof ledge of a tenement, staring at the burning streets below, and smelling nothing but rain and gunpowder. Everything seems unnaturally quiet after the helicopter roars away. Would you take the scoop and head to the new sanctuary and risk to experience new horrors that wait? Or will you confide in this apartment house as refuge?

Either way, the truth is: You’re never safe. And Left 4 Dead makes you completely aware of that fact. Wiping out a building with the undead doesn’t mean anything. It just means you managed to survive a few seconds longer. You’d be wiser to reload your current weapon, rather than take that sigh of relief. For a long time, games have always been about What’s behind that corner? Stop thinking that way completely. L4D starts making you think What could be in front of us as well as behind us? That creates a new fear for us as we journey from one place to another. This idea alone keeps you constantly on your tippy-toes. This game is scary and intense.

The demo gives the player only two chapters to play from one level and this one is titled “No Mercy.” It gives a brief introduction to find a means to get to the hospital. Each chapter begins and ends with the characters finding a safe house where you can restock your ammunition and health packs.

Right from the beginning of the level, you’re given the opportunity to test your skills with either a submachine gun or shotgun as a primary weapon. Your handgun is secondary, with unlimited ammo, and forever fastened to your character.

When they said that working with your teammates was essential for survival, they weren’t lying. It is imperative that you stick very close to your partners in this nightmarish battle or consider yourself zombie bait. Remember how I mentioned that not only did you have to wonder about what was lurking ahead of you, but also behind? This is what makes cooperation with your teammates so important. Not only do you have to worry about running zombies smashing their bloody, undead fists into your back, but let’s also introduce other baddies like the “Hunter” and the “Smoker” to make things start to tingle a little bit more.

Don’t let the Hunter hoodie fool you. This guy is super fast on all fours and shows no mercy. He can leap tens of yards from his original position, just so he can pounce and scratch the living hell out of you. If this guy ever connects with you, you better hope your partners are close and friendly enough to load a few rounds into this sucker as you are completely vulnerable to the Hunter’s attacks.

In fact, you’re pretty much vulnerable to any of the attacks that these special enemies have, rendering you helpless and absolutely depending on your friends that are in the battle with you.

The second guy we’ll come to love is the “Smoker.” His scary move is the ability to lash out his unbelievably huge tongue, to grapple and squeeze his prey into submission from a distance. Once again, you are completely vulnerable to this, so watch your back at all times, even your front.

The Boomer makes a more obvious presence in the game. His huge, rotund figure is so much easier to spot, however, don’t assume due to his size that he can’t chase you down. His special ability is to vomit on you. And if you think that’s bad, imagine not being able to see for a matter of nearly 10 seconds as well as attracting a horde of zombies right to your position. That’s right. This vomit is no ordinary vomit. Its pungent smell will alert other undead and hunt you down within a few seconds, so get ready for a group of the undead before you can say ah-na-man-ah-pe-ah. Yeah, I timed it…

Fourthly is the Tank. He is nothing but brute force and he will do nothing but destroy things in his way. His favorite thing to do is Hulk-smash you to kingdom come, so if you got some nerve with him, make sure you’re packing a lot of heat.

Lastly, is the Witch. This creature is the deadliest of them all as one swing from her long claws will leave you sprawled out over the ground, open to any further hits as she so desires to dig into your flesh.

In the demo, you come across each one of these special creatures. There is a chance you may see only a few, too. I suppose consider yourself lucky that you don’t encounter the Witch during one play through. But if you do, be prepared.

Left 4 Dead’s experience is never the same exact thing twice. The developers heavily emphasized that every single play-through is always different. So far, from what I’ve seen, it’s very true. As an example from the very beginning of the level, sometimes zombies would mindlessly stand in a living room of the apartment. Another time, the living room would be absent from anything that moves. And even after playing through and going a second round, you can no longer figure out what’s behind that corner. That alone is what keeps us coming back for more, and what ups the intensity.

What’s more frightening than hearing more than a handful of undead horde screaming and hissing as they grow closer to your location and not knowing which way they’re coming? With every play through, the creatures are randomized and tossed in other locations, and along with that, your ability or perhaps, inability to play the game smartly, creating a literal difficulty change in real-time. Also, don’t think for a second that you can just get distracted by something else while playing. Things will always manage to break in, craving your blood.

Rooms have never been darker; alleyways have never been so ominous. The music soundtrack for the game melds into the events of the game as light piano keys resound and echo in a moment of grief or even silence. The music doesn’t seem to be scripted when getting to a certain point of the level, because what you experience is never the same, so the music is obviously different. If one player is in mid-battle with a few of the undead, the player may hear a distinct music track of turmoil, while the other player, who happens to be in another room, may hear no music at all. It’s all based on what you’re exposed to. It’s minimal, enchanting, and downright spooky.

Everything feels realistic. There’s a plethora of zombie death animations that mix with other animations according to the environment, presenting something new and refreshing every time. Killing a zombie has never been so satisfying. There’s actual weight to the firing of your weapons; meaning, they react to an actual shotgun blast. If you have a 9mm handgun, they react to that differently, as well. Gone are the days of obvious animations no matter what gun you chose to use against the ill-fated zombie before you. You’ll have fun just watching how zombies react and fall. Zombies aren’t impenetrable forces either. One could take just a few rounds into the chest and they’ll go down, while others may take even more. You just can’t know, and there’s no obvious zone (head, chest, limbs) that tell you how many shots you can pull off before they go down.

The visuals were astounding with character models that look nearly photorealistic, as it ran perfectly and smoothly in frame-rate, in a horrific world that felt genuinely disturbing. And that’s what I like. To know there can be twenty zombies flailing on screen and beating the pulp out of me, but knowing that it still runs just as smooth makes me retain that smile. The game uses dialog in game to make sure your partners are aware of what other characters are doing. Covering someone as they reload is essential, and announcing that someone is healing himself or another character is a definite plus. For once, I couldn’t actually complain with the A.I. I never felt like “Oh, silly computer controlled teammate,” as he kept running into the wall. Nope, none of that ever happened.

These are one of the very few games that I could say I thoroughly enjoyed from start to end. From the beginning to the rooftop of the apartment complex, through the murky subway station, there were lots of wide open spaces, but still somehow felt claustrophobic and caught in a world that I seemingly could never escape. You’re never safe and you have to move forward.

I could say the demo was a good length, yet, of course, I always wish for more, and when November 20th hits for the release of this game, this could seriously be up there as one of the best first person shooters I’ve experienced in a damn long time. From Valve, what more can you expect? It’s a damn fine game and I want more. If I was the little kid walking down the street, licking my lollipop, Left 4 Dead would be my candy.

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Project "Get me off these shelves!"

Andrew Weymes Says: When you think of Square Enix, space combat doesn't exactly come to mind. I think of turn based battles, and feminine leading male protagonists. While Project Sylpheed does have the latter, it's not a turn based RPG. It's a space combat simulator, and it's really not as bad as you may have heard.

When this game first came out in 2007, it interested me simply because of it's affiliation with Square Enix, and because of the anime art style. Most professional reviews of this game weren't very favorable, and the demo confused me more than anything, so my interest in the game quickly faded.

A few months later, I noticed that Project Sylpheed had dropped in price. It was now $39.99. I still had bad feelings attached to the game, and figured I could get a much better game for another $20.

About two months ago, I was browsing through an EB games, as I usually do on the weekend, and I noticed that Project Sylpheed had dropped in price again, but this time, it was down to the incredibly low price of only $9.99. I may be wrong, but I'm pretty sure this is the cheapest game of this generation of consoles. The only game I've found around the same price is Dark Sector for $19.99. I didn't really have to think too much about it, I quickly bought Project Sylpheed for the budget price, as well as a few other games.

When I finally got around to playing Project Sylpheed, I wasn't too content with the game itself. The first thing you will notice about the game is that it has very well done cutscenes in the vain of almost every Square Enix game. The gameplay however, was still very confusing. There are icons all over the screen that may overwhelm you at first. Even if you think you're doing the right thing by attacking the enemies highlighted by red icons, you may be ignoring the objective of protecting your base battleship. This is what I found confusing in the demo, and this is why I waited until it was $9.99 to purchase it.

I almost feel bad now, because after you pass the first few missions, and get a feeling for the way the game plays, it's actually quite enjoyable for the price. The combat is pretty smooth, and each mission has a lot of replay value, because there are several sub-objectives in each mission. The graphics won't blow you away compared to today's standards, but they're colorful, the art style is nice, and the explosion effects aren't bad.

Project Sylpheed allows you to customize your ship. There are many weapons to buy, as well as defensive items, and you will definitely need them, especially on the hard difficulty setting.

Personally, I enjoyed the story, and the cutscenes. They aren't hand drawn anime, but they have a definite anime style to them, and this is probably much of the reason I liked the characters and the story. It reminded me of something like Vandread. If you hate anime, the storyline, and the characters, then this game probably is not for you; but if you're like me, and you're starved for a space combat simulator, I don't see how you can go wrong with Project Sylpheed.

It's a good game, and it should really appeal to budget gamers. The price point is insane, and there is plenty of replayability, especially if you're after all of the achievements, as some of them are really hard to get. If I had to assign Project Sylpheed a score, I would give it a 6/10, and I think that's pretty good for $9.99. There are much worse games you could play for about 4x the price.

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November 7, 2008

Gears of War 2 Release Day

Goozer Says: The Goozex Report is observing the release of Gears of War 2 by going silent today. Next week, we hope to debut a new author, Shawn Lebert, who has some great new ideas (including some video).

Also, you can look forward to Andrew Weymes review of Project Sylpheed, possibly one of the best games you've never heard of.

Last but not least, we'll have a Call of Duty Round Up in anticipation of the release of World at War.




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November 6, 2008

Alone in the Dark: Inferno Demo Review

Andrew Weymes Says—I went into the Alone in the Dark demo for the PS3 thinking I was about to play something terrible based on all of the bad things I've read and heard about the Xbox 360 version of Alone in the Dark. After my first play through, I felt that my original thoughts were right. I didn't really like the controls, and felt that they were sluggish. I thought the graphics were decent, but nothing amazing, especially the fire, and the character models, and I thought that the voice acting was awful.

I got to the driving portion of the demo, and I wasn't too impressed, but I didn't find it awful, either. The driving controls must have been greatly improved for the PS3 version, because I didn't find that the car handled too badly at all.

I finished the demo thinking that I would never buy this game. I then went to a forum for Alone in the Dark: Inferno to see what other people thought of the demo, and I was suprised that the majority of people thought it was good. After a few conversations on the forum, I decided to give the demo another shot. This time, I had a more enjoyable experience.

While I don't think the demo is good, I think it is decent. I think this game is probably going to be worth a play for survival horror enthusiasts, and I'll probably pick it up myself when it reaches the $29.99 price point.

The things I liked about the demo are the environments, the combine items mechanic, and the atmosphere. What I didn't like about the demo was the character facial animation, the dialogue, the clunky combat mechanics, the fire, and although I feel that the driving portion wasn't terrible, I didn't find it very enjoyable either. Overall, I don't think the demo was terrible, but I don't think it was very good, either.

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Tomb Raider: Underworld Demo Review

Andrew Weymes Says—Lara Croft is a part of video game history. Many of us have fond memories of her original large breasted adventures on the PS1. The Playstation 2 wasn't as kind to Lara. Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness was a good game in my opinion, but it suffered from a lack of tombs, and decent gun play.

The current generation already has one Tomb Raider game entitled Tomb Raider: Legend. I thought it was an alright game. The graphics were decent, Lara was placed in a more classic environment for the series, and once again the gun play was decent. Tomb Raider: Legend wasn't a failure, but it's not very memorable. It just seemed like a fun game to play for fans, or for people with few choices on what to play next.

I feel that Tomb Raider: Underworld is going to suffer from the same fate as the previous game. There was a lot to like in the demo. The platforming was rather clever in my opinion. It didn't seem too painfully telegraphed, and I would say that once again the platforming will probably be the most enjoyable aspect of the full game. You are able to shimmy from ledge to ledge, jump from small platform to platform, and there is even a grappling hook this time!

Sadly, the gunplay in this game is almost exactly the same as it's always been, and for 2008-2009, that's pretty bad. I don't think every game needs a cover system. If every game had a cover system, an enjoyable run-and-gun genre would die. However, if you're not going to incorporate a cover system, at least make the gun play exciting and stylish. There was none of that. Just a simple bang, bang, do a flip, bang, bang, the tiger is dead.

The graphics in the game were decent. It's hard not to compare this game to a little game called Uncharted: Drake's Fortune for the Playstation 3. The graphics are no where close. Textures, and effects in Tomb Raider: Underworld are all around average, while Uncharted excelled in these areas. It's a shame really, because without Tomb Raider, we wouldn't have Uncharted. Oh well.

It looks like Tomb Raider: Underworld is going to be another average outing for Miss Croft. I had a good time with the demo, and I wouldn't mind picking up the full game if it drops in price for the platforming alone, but I'm in no hurry, and I don't think anyone besides the Tomb Raider die hard fans are going to be in a hurry, either.

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Mirrors Edge Demo Review

Andrew Weymes Says—The Mirrors Edge demo is fun. Plain and simple. I've played alot of first person shooters, but this game is clearly trying to stand out. As opposed to killing every enemy you come across like most first person games have you do, you run away from most of your enemies. As cowardly, and annoying as this may sound, it's actually quite fun. I love to see a development studio try something different.

Of course, platforming has been around for years, but I've never played a first person game with such strong platforming elements. The first person view point makes the game very exciting, and the climbing mechanics worked very well in the demo. There isn't a lot of things that you can't climb.

However, there are a couple of downsides to the demo. For one, the demo is incredibly short. On a speed run, knowing exactly what to do, I cleared the demo in under 1:30. If you choose to take the tutorial, and don't know exactly what to do after that, the demo may last about 10 to 15 minutes. This doesn't say anything negative about the final game, I just wanted to play more.

My main complaint with the game is the graphics. Based on the demo, I would say that Mirrors Edge is trying to focus more on gameplay than graphical power. Nothing looked bad, and I'm sure the lack of detail is due to the art style, but I still couldn't help but notice that the graphics were rather plain, and there didn't seem to be a lot going on in the game world. The character models of the enemies weren't very impressive, either. Besides these graphical complaints, I'm very excited to play the full game of Mirrors Edge. It's unique, it's thrilling, and hopefully the levels proceeding the one in the demo will have a sharper look to them, and be equally as enjoyable.

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November 5, 2008

Banjo Kazooie Demo Review

Andrew Weymes Says: When I heard there is a new Banjo Kazooie game for the Xbox 360, I was reasonably excited. I'm not a rabid fanboy that thinks Banjo Kazooie, and Banjo Tooie for the N64 are the best platformers ever, but I found them to be enjoyable games.

In the new Banjo game, entitled Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, you are still in control of Banjo, but the dynamics have changed. Of course, everyone interested in this game knows the emphasis on using vehicles instead of old school platforming. Based on the demo, I really don't think this is going to help revive the series. This generation has been treated to a few solid platformers, but none have been too great besides Super Mario Galaxy, and a new Banjo Kazooie platformer could have really put Rare back in the spotlight. Instead, Rare has opted to have you driving around in a rather good looking world going on a variety of fetch quests, and doing vehicle based challenges such as pushing soccer balls into a net while rolling enemies try to roll away with them, and pushing an odd yellow creature past a certain point to attain a jiggy from him.

Personally, I found these challenges dull. It's a pity really, because the art style in the game is actually pretty nice. I don't really like Banjos new more boxlike look, but besides that the environments themselves are pretty nice. The graphics aren't very technically impressive however. I found some texture pop in, which annoys me, and the water and environmental effects were pretty average. Of course, Banjo can hop out of his vehicles and run around a bit, but I didn't find any real reasons to platform.

Mainly, Banjo runs around and grabs an object to drag back to his vehicle, so that he may bring that object somewhere else.

You can customize all of your vehicles however you like by equipping them with flotation devices, propellers, and weapons, but I found no reason to make my own vehicles as blueprints for vehicles are given to you for completing certain challenges.

Overall, I hope the demo doesn't represent the entire game, because I just didn't find it to be very enjoyable, and that's a shame for a Banjo Kazooie game. Perhaps the challenges get a little more entertaining as the game continues, and maybe there is a decent amount of platforming, but based on the demo, the challenges were dull, and the platforming was almost non-exsistent. The only positive thing I came away from the demo with is that the art style looks nice, and colourful.

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November 4, 2008

Time to Sell Your Copy of Gears of War

Goozer Says—The Goozex Report is joining the GoW bandwagon and is posting our requisite article on Gears of War: that little talked about game that almost no one knows about.

If you haven't played this title yet, and want to get in on the action before picking up the sequel, now is a good time to pick it up.

The cheapest Buy Now price on eBay is $16.99. The Goozex value is holding steady at 450.

Do the math and sell it on Goozex for the better value. Or, buy it on eBay, burn through it real quick, and sell it on Goozex and make a profit. I just did that with Battlefield: Bad Company. I bought that title for $30 on eBay and just sold it on Goozex for 1000 points. Not bad, huh?














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Goozex Offers New Feedback System

The Goozer Says—A big part of joining a video game trading community is trust. You need a lot of trust in your fellow gamer to follow through on sending what they say they are going to send. You also need to trust that people will report back accurate and fair feedback. A gamer's feedback score reflects how reputable a trader they are. Does a trader send filthy, scratched discs and forget to send the manual; or does a trader promptly ship their games in pristine condition? There's no way to tell without a feedback system.

Until November 6, the only way to try and resolve a feedback dispute was to contact Goozex customer service. And you could consider yourself lucky if they responded in a timely manner. Luckily, I've never been victimized by a Goozex scammer. The worse that happened to me was that I got Neutral feedback from someone claiming all I sent them was the disc and manual and not the full package. In reality, I not only sent them the whole package, but it was in like-new condition. This situation didn't hurt me or any future trades, but the potential for harm is out there. That's why I was very pleased to read in yesterday's Goozex newsletter they are improving the feedback system:

From the Goozex newsletter:
Starting November 6, 2008 Goozex will introduce an improved feedback system that includes the possibility for sellers to dispute feedback, and for both parties in a transaction to find a friendly resolution to any issue.

The first major change is that neutral feedback carries a negative feedback score. Sellers will still receive the points for their games, but their feedback score will be negatively affected, and they may face further restrictions on trading.

The new dispute system will come in effect for any neutral or negative feedback given by buyers. At that point, sellers will have the option to accept the feedback (although they can still leave a message), dispute the feedback, or attempt to finding a friendly resolution with the buyer. For example, a seller that may have forgotten to ship a game manual, may offer to follow up and ship it to the buyer. A buyer may then choose to change the feedback to positive.

These changes are intended to give more control to you—our members—on the outcome of each trade. Also, they allow sellers and buyer to provide more organized information to Goozex, in case a negative trade issue needs to be escalated to our customer service. In turn, this simplifies our investigations and allows for faster resolution of problems.

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November 2, 2008

Tom Clancy Round Up

The Goozer Says—Ubisoft is about to add another Tom Clancy title to their library tomorrow. This makes for perfect timing to round up all of the titles: including current values on eBay and Goozex, links to reviews, and a mini-discussion on the franchise and the EndWar demo.

The Tom Clancy titles never got the full respect they deserve from me. I’ve only played Splinter Cell and Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. I loved Splinter Cell and I cannot wait for the 2009 follow up. The game was a good change of pace after playing the CoD franchise religiously. On the other hand, GRAW was a bit difficult, but it was still fun to play, although I never finished the very last mission. I’ll probably still play GRAW 2, but it might be sometime in the distant future.

Rainbow Six Vegas is currently sitting on my shelf. I’ve been holding off playing it until I’m done with GRiD, Saints Row, and Battlefield: Bad Company. Currently, RSV is getting the shaft and collecting dust. But I’ll get to it, eventually, and I’m sure it will be a solid play. Yes, the Tom Clancy titles are good, but there are better games out there.

As for EndWar, I asked two other gamers their opinion of the demo, one replied back saying they couldn’t play it because he didn’t own headphones. While it’s true a good set of headphones enriches the game, you can bypass this option and still play, it just won’t be as fun.

The other gamer I asked to comment on the demo said, “Played a bit, but didn't understand really how to play. It didn't suck me in—the only thing I thought was fun was doing the voice commands. I've since deleted it and have no plans to ever play it again. BAD DEMO.”

He was right about one thing, the demo is not intuitive, and it takes several tries to figure out the game play. I really wanted to like this game. So I gave it several chances. At first, I liked it, then I didn’t like it, then I decided, yeah, I like it enough to trade for it down the line. It’s not a $60 purchase in my opinion or the opinion of the two dudes I asked to comment on it. It appears that Real-Time Strategy games on the Xbox 360 and PS3 have a very uphill climb.

But still, the TC titles are worth playing. And you can get them cheap. Dirt cheap. 

EndWar: Releases November 4

Splinter Cell: Conviction: Coming in 2009

GRAWeBay $5.00; Goozex 350; Metacritic 90

GRAW 2: eBay $9.99; Goozex 450; Metacritic 86

Rainbow Six VegaseBay $10.00; Goozex 450; Metacritic 89

Rainbow Six Vegas 2: eBay $20.00; Goozex 550; Metacritic 82

Splinter Cell: Double AgenteBay $8.99; Goozex 400; Metacritic 85

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