January 27, 2009

The Goozex Report on Twitter

You might have noticed a slow down in new posts. There are a few reasons for this. For starters, I'm a full-time Senior Editor and Dad and that eats up a lot of my time. Also, Andrew Weymes, our most frequent contributor, has started his own new venture: http://www.thenightlygamer.com/

The rest of the Contributors have dissappeared into the great expanse of the never ending InterTubes.

I'll leave The Goozex Report online as long as it recieves visitors. However, the posts might be far and few between. With that said though, I do Tweet daily. So, you can start following me there. After all, Twitter is considered micro-blogging. My Twitter name is JimmyJames70. I also added a widget to the right. See you on the other side.

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January 21, 2009

Revisit Classic Co-op Games

Kube00 Says: Techradar.com has an interesting piece about co-op games. The article mentions Left 4 Dead and scratches the surface of games like World of Warcraft and Team Fortress 2. When I think of co-op games I think back to the 90’s, a glorious time full of wasted afternoons dumping quarters into machines. I fondly remember spending time in the arcade playing games like Metal Slug 3, The Simpsons Arcade game, X-men, TMNT, and of course of the greatest co-op game I’ve ever played: Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow over Mystara (if you’ve never heard of it I understand). The mention of co-op gameplay also brings me back to games like Double Dragon on the NES, Streets of Rage on Genesis, or Mario Kart 64. To me, co-op means two or more people playing on the same machine working toward a common goal.

As the Techradar article points out, and it’s something I agree on, co-op games have slowly faded to the back of gaming much like simulation games. What was once a thriving industry with a purpose has given away to each of us owning a 360, Wii, PS3, or a PC and playing with and against our friends scattered all over the U.S. With the exception of music-based games such as Rockband and Guitar Hero, co-op play in one room is unheard of.

Most co-op games have become fps’s or MMORPGs. And many of the last gen so called co-op games have made it so easy to play without a partner that when it comes time for someone to jump in, you would rather have the computer continue to fill that role. I am looking at you X-men Legends, Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga, and Marvel Ultimate Alliance. So much easier to have the dumb computer tag along than a human counterpart, they don’t die as much or complain when I kill them.

This doesn’t mean all co-op games are dead. Some of the classics are being re-released on the Wii’s VC, Sony’s PSN, and the Xbox marketplace. There are still a few games from the last generation worth playing for co-op. Let me suggest a few:

  • Time Splitters FP (PS2, GC, Xbox). Although it is an fps, playing through on co-op makes the game 10 times more fun. The studio recently went out of business so I doubt we’ll ever see a 3rd game.
  • Twisted Metal Black (PS2). It is a short game, I would say the single player is maybe 6 hours? Still, with a partner, things are so much easier. Double the firepower equals double the punch, a sorely needed element in the boss fights. You can thank me later.
  • Gauntlet: Dark Legacy (PS2,Xbox, GC). It may be lacking on ideas, but it’s a kick back to the old school with fourlayer support and voices yelling “Player 3 is getting low on health!”

You owe it to yourself to try at least one of these. Most of these games are readily found on Goozex for less than 300 points.


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January 17, 2009

Skate 2 PS3 Demo Impressions

MrWeymes Says: Many console owners and critics greatly enjoyed the original Skate. If you've never played the original Skate, and are coming from the Tony Hawk universe, then you may be a little put off at first. Based solely on the demo, Skate 2 isn't very similar to the Tony Hawk games at all. It's more like a skateboarding simulation. At first, this may feel a little annoying, because even simple tricks can be difficult to pull off; but landing the perfect trick is very rewarding in the Skate 2 demo.

You can call Tony Hawk skateboarding games many things, but realistic isn't one of them. Pulling off 10 trick combos is commonplace in the Tony Hawk universe. Skate 2 is much different. When you get past the initial character creation screen and begin the actual gameplay in the demo for Skate 2, you're instructed on how to push your board, and then you are told to make your way to a warehouse. From here, you're told that you can walk in Skate 2 by pressing the triangle button. You walk up the stairs, and meet your next objective. You are faced with a reasonable gap that you must ollie over in order to proceed. For veterans of the original Skate, this may seem like a simple task, however for people coming from Tony Hawk games, or rookies in general, it's not entirely simple and may require a couple of tries. To ollie in Skate 2, you must push the right analog stick down, and flick it upwards. You are also able to hold the right analog stick down, and flick it in a variety of other directions to do other tricks such as a kick flip.

After you jump over the gap, you're instructed to hop off your board once again, and move a garbage bin that is blocking the entrance to the skate park. You move objects by holding R1 and moving with the left analog stick. After this is accomplished, the real fun begins. After you enter the skate park, you are on a large ramp. You are instructed to create a "session marker," which allows you to warp back to that exact spot. You go on to meet Slappy, the owner of the park, and you're told to go back to the session marker to jump the gap while doing a grab with L2 or R2. After you complete this relatively simple task, you're instructed on how to do several tricks such as the ollie, and kick flip as explained above. The next objective is to do a couple of manuals by slightly pressing forward or backward on the right analog stick. You're then asked to flip out of it by doing any trick. You continue, and meet a photographer who wants you to get on top of a large platform by moving a ramp in to position. You can do a variety of tricks such as grinding a rail, or simply landing on the platform to complete this task. The same photographer then asks you to grind across a rail, which can be difficult at first, because unlike Tony Hawk games you have to land on the rail perfectly rather than pressing a button to hone in on the rail. It's somewhat difficult at first, but is ultimately satisfying.

The entire demo of the career mode is timed. You are given roughly five minutes to play the demo, but after completing each challenge mentioned above, you are give a little extra time to skate around the skate park, and work on some tricks. After you've completed the challenges, you'll probably have about six or seven minutes to enjoy yourself. For many, this may be the most enjoyable part of the demo, because you can challenge yourself by attempting difficult tricks, grinds, etc. It really captures the essence of skating.

The demo also features two multiplayer modes. One is called Spot Battle and the other is Hall of Meat. In spot battle, you take turns with other players trying to land a trick over the same gap. The player with the highest score wins. In Hall of Meat, you again take turns with other players attempting to inflict the most pain on yourself going over a gap. Once again, the player with the highest score wins.

The Skate 2 demo is fun and rather frustrating at the same time. For those that assume that Skate 2 is going to be similar to the arcade style that the Tony Hawk series is known for, they may not enjoy the demanding technicality that Skate 2 requires. However, fans of the genre that have grown tired of the Tony Hawk series may enjoy the difference in style. Landing a difficult trick in Skate 2 gives players a very rewarding feeling. If you're interested in skateboarding games, you should download the demo, and play through it a few times to form an opinion. Based on the demo, it's certainly a rental at the very least.


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January 16, 2009

Graphics or Multiplayer: What Gives a Console the Edge?

MrWeymes Says: Almost every day I hear that the graphics for Playstation 3 exclusives are better than Xbox 360 exclusives. While this is debatable, there is some truth to it. Exclusive Playstation 3 games usually have very impressive visuals, and can handle a lot simultaneously. It's obvious from games like Metal Gear Solid 4, and Resistance 2, that the Playstation 3 has the technical edge over the Xbox 360; however slight it may be.

The Xbox 360 is no slouch when it comes to graphics either, but its real selling point is Xbox Live. The Playstation Network (PSN) has a long way to go before it's up to par with Xbox Live. Although PSN is free, Xbox Live still has more subscribers, which says a lot: people are willing to pay for quality. Until PSN has cross game voice chat, among other things, Xbox Live will continue to lead when it comes to multiplayer games.

Technical prowess doesn't always sell game consoles. SEGA learned this with the Dreamcast, as did Nintendo with the Gamecube, and Microsoft with the Xbox. The Playstation 2 was the weakest of the three last-gen consoles, yet it sold the best, and in most peoples opinion had the best library of games. The Playstation 2 continues to sell well, and the Nintendo Wii is pretty much a joke in the graphics department compared to the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, so it's become quite apparent that better graphics aren't a huge selling point for gaming consoles.

Blu Ray
Another strike against the Playstation 3 is the general publics refusal to purchase high definition television sets. Blu Ray is an excellent format to watch movies on, and completely trounces DVD if you have HD, but without an HDTV, it's not really worth having a Blu Ray player. Most people would see little difference between a DVD and a Blu Ray on a standard definition TV. This is probably the reason that the inclusion of a Blu Ray drive didn't do for the Playstation 3 what the inclusion of a DVD drive did for the Playstation 2. The transition from VHS to DVD was a lot easier for most people with a modest income. You weren't required to buy a brand new television set to get the most out of DVDs. This is the downside to Blu Ray. Blu Ray is one of the main selling points of the Playstation 3, and as it stands, DVD is good enough for most people when it comes to film.

If Blu Ray movies become more popular, then this would no doubt benefit the Playstation 3 as well. People may use it as an excuse to buy a Playstation 3, because what is the point of buying a stand alone Blu Ray player for a little less when they could have a gaming console, and Blu Ray Player?

Developers have already shown that Blu Ray is useful when it comes to video games. Metal Gear Solid 4 took up a little over 30GB of a 50GB Blu Ray disk. A DVD has 9GB of storage available, so Metal Gear Solid 4 probably would have released on 2-3 disks if it were on DVD. To people that have a large interest in the progression of video games, Blu Ray seems like it should sell PS3s with relative ease, but to the average gamer, Blu Ray doesn't offer enough over DVD to warrant the purchase of an HDTV, and a Playstation 3.

Multiplayer
The Playstation 2 had a modest online community that primarily consisted of SOCOM fans. Apart from that, the Playstation 2 was well known as a single player gaming machine. The SEGA Dreamcast may have pioneered online gaming with consoles, but Microsoft grew it substantially with Xbox Live. While online multiplayer may not be for everyone, it is certainly very popular among the majority of gamers. It's almost impossible to recommend PSN over Xbox Live, and this is a major selling point for the Xbox 360. Cross game invites, and cross game voice chat, are two features that Xbox Live holds over PSN. Most people want to socialize while they play their favorite games—and love to play with their closest friends—and as of right now, Xbox Live is the best place to do it.

Exclusivity
One of the many things that made the Playstation 2 so popular last generation was the amount of exclusive games. Games like Devil May Cry 1, 2 and 3, as well as Final Fantasy 10 and 12 were exclusive to the Playstation 2. This just isn't the case any more. Almost all of the exclusives for the Playstation 3 are developed by first or second party developers. The third party loyalty that the Playstation 2 had is a thing of the past. Most third party games that come out now are released on both the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3. This doesn't help the Playstation 3 to differentiate itself from the Xbox 360, which makes consumers question why they should buy the more expensive Playstation 3. If they're not interested in Blu Ray, then the only real selling point is the first or second party exclusives.

Better Graphics and Reliability
The Playstation 3 is an excellent machine. As game developers continue to get used to developing games for it, the quality of games will increase. Depending on how much longer this generation lasts, gamers may really see the Playstation 3 pull ahead of the Xbox 360 in terms of technical prowess and graphics. Games like the much anticipated Killzone 2 look amazing, and judging from early reviews, and previews, it plays almost as good as it looks. Reliability is another factor that may help the Playstation 3 in the future. With warranties expiring on the Xbox 360s, gamers might see the Playstation 3 as the safer choice, despite the superior online service of the Xbox 360. Granted, new units of the Xbox 360 are supposedly more reliable, but that has yet to be proven.

To sum up, the Playstation 3 has better graphics, and the Xbox 360 has a better online service. If you're a single player type of gamer, then the slight edge in graphics and the reliability factor make the Playstation 3 look more appealing; but if you're hardcore about your multiplayer gaming, then the Xbox 360 is probably your best bet.

It's a shame there isn't a hybrid of sorts. Until then, you have a choice to make, or just buy both.

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January 15, 2009

Jack Thompson, Parents, and Gaming

Jimmy James 70 Says: In the following article, Kube00 maintains that some extremists, like Jack Thompson, like to use video games as the reason for violence in today’s youth. He continues to say that parents are responsible for their children’s actions.

As the founder and Executive Editor of The Goozex Report, and the father of 2-year old twins, I feel it necessary to throw my opinion into the ring.

To tackle the issue of characters like Jack Thompson, I must state that people like him are solely in it for the publicity and to make a name for themselves. It’s always the extreme radicals that grab the headlines, and in the process, make some money and a name for themselves. Back in the 1980’s, rock n roll and Ozzy Ozbourne were the equivalent of video games. There were several court cases in which Ozzie’s music was held responsible for teenage suicides. The cases were dismissed, much like Jack Thompson.

There have been study after study about violence and sex in the movies and on television and that we must protect our children from such horrors. The basic arguments are, does the media reflect society, or does society reflect the media? Which came first, the chicken or the egg? I’ll stop here before I start re-writing my old college papers… I will say this though, there will be another Jack Thompson, and there will be another target, but they will be dismissed just as all their predecessors were.

Society is responsible for the welfare of one another. In the United States, we happen to live in a warrior culture, and that is reflected in the movies we watch and the games we play. Perhaps one day that will change and there will be peace on earth. Maybe. One day.

To tackle the issue of parenting, well, that’s a whole other story. Parents are responsible for the safety and well being of their children and to teach them right from wrong. Teachers also share in this responsibility. Friends and neighbors share in this as well. Anyone and everyone that is an influence in your life helps shape your perspective on this world. After a child leaves the house, they become responsible for themselves and those they care for. At this point, when the child leaves the home, hopefully they have learned the lessons taught to them. That’s all anyone can hope for.

Kube00 Says: Jack Thompson is a name that strikes fear into gamers. He is the lawyer known for going after video games and their connection to juvenile crimes for a variety of reasons; mainly to highlight the “evils” in video games. He is best known for going after gaming giant Rockstar and its publisher Take-Two Interactive for the Grand Theft Auto series. He’s also gone after Midway for Mortal Kombat.
He tried to change the ESRB ratings, and ban the sale, for such games as Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, Bully, Manhunt 2, as well as a few others.* He was fascinated with the idea of preventing retailers from selling some of the games listed above because they “glorified violence, made it pleasurable,” and contained sex, nudity, drugs, as well as several other mature themes. Thompson sees violent video games as an outlet to blame people’s actions upon, especially those of young teens who steal cars, shoot up schools, and act like the laws don’t exist.

One of the oddest things he tried to place blame on dealt with trying to connect the Virginia Tech shooting and the shooter Seung-Hui Cho with the game Counterstrike. Thompson stated Seung-Hui had learned to kill from the game because it, "drills you and gives you scenarios on how to kill them [and] gets you to kill them with your heart rate lower.” Seung-hui hadn’t played the game since high school and there was no connection. It’s like blaming Marilyn Manson for the Columbine Shootings.* Right….

Well, let me ask this question. Where were the parents in all of this? Shouldn’t they be teaching their sons and daughters right from wrong? Most people understand what takes place in video games is not possible in real life. You can’t commit a carjacking, rob a bank, or run down pedestrians in a delivery truck and get away with it. And besides, I’m sure most of us have seen “R” rated movies and played mature game before we were 17, and most of us function normally in society.

I may be preaching to the choir, but honestly, parents need to take some time and do some “parenting;” and lead by example. Pay attention to what is going in your sons’ and daughters’ lives. Video games are fun and full of senseless violence, but they don’t teach gamers how to kill, and they should not be teaching what is right or wrong. The parents should be teaching their children and not video games. If anything, the average gamer learns how to improve their hand-eye coordination.

Society can’t blame GTA III for what little Tommy does in his daily life, that’s just an excuse. The parents need to be held accountable for their children. If anything, I didn’t mean to preach, I just wanted to shed some light on something I think gets swept under the rug or miss directed. Also, I’m sure gamers haven’t seen the end of Jack Thompson, although it seems the Florida Bar has imposed sanctions on him. Until then, just remember, it’s just a game.

*Information taken from Wikipedia.

Disclaimer: this is just the opinion of one writer, kube00, and does not reflect the ideals or opinions of The Goozex Report.


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January 14, 2009

Revisiting Mercenaries 2: World in Flames

Jimmy James 70 Says: Has anyone achieved $1 billion in Mercenaries 2? I’m not talking about earning $1 million. That’s easy. I’m not even talking about earning $20 million. That doesn’t take too long either. I’m talking about $1 billion. Dollars. That’s one more dollar than $999,999,999.00. That’s a lot of completed missions, successful wagers from your comrades, and bonuses. How long does it take to earn this milestone in gaming? What does it take to earn $1 billion? This is the quantity of money the US Government spends . If you earned this Achievement, I would love to hear from you.

While grinding away at my billion dollars (currently at $11 million with 58% of the game complete—pathetic—I know), I still love this game. I have no idea why. It’s simple. The graphics are good to decent. The game play is a bit repetitive, but there’s enough diversity to keep things moving. It does take a long time to go from point A to point B, but if you hijack a helicopter, you can move along a little quicker. The one-liners and quips are limited, but for some reason I don’t really seem to mind. I just keep having fun with this game no matter how many hours I put into it.

I started playing this game several months ago when I got it from Goozex for 1000 points. A couple weeks later, I accidentally traded it back, and got my 1000 points back. I decided I wanted to finish the game, and own a copy, so I bought it off eBay for $30. This is the second time I bought a game off eBay, and both times I received games in excellent condition. Mercenaries 2 is still worth 900 points on Goozex. The game is keeping its value, and it should, it’s a good-to-great game.

No matter how many times I hijack a helicopter or a tank it never gets old. No matter how many times I borrow a sport bike from a civilian, and travel at high speeds on the highway, it does not get old. Grabbing a light machine gun off a dead UP merc doesn’t get old. And best of all, launching air strikes against ground targets is awesome: fighting your way to the building, planting the artillery beacon, booking it out of there, and then turning around just in time to watch the mortars fall, ultimately bringing the building down in a cloud of dust and explosions. Awesome. Simply awesome.

My only real regret is that I did not start with the first Mercenaries, which is backwards compatible with the 360, and is currently worth 150 points on Goozex.


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January 12, 2009

Sex and Extreme Violence in Video Games

MrWeymes Says: Without a doubt, video games are one of the most heavily censored forms of media available. If the ESRB feels that a certain scene or gameplay segment is too violent or sexual, it either gets cut, or heavily edited to secure a mature (M) rating. Sure, a developer could always decline changing their product in anyway and opt for an adult only (AO) rating, but that would pretty much be financial suicide for that game. Most major retailers refuse to carry games that receive the AO rating, which in turn persuades developers to tone down their games. If a game were to receive an adult only rating, it would most likely be limited to online sales, which would undoubtedly not make as much money as it would were it released in retail stores as well. Should the ESRB be more lenient when it comes to mature games, or should major retailers relent and carry adult only games?

As far as most of the media is concerned, video games are for children. Granted, children do play video games. However, there is also a very large adult gaming population that contributes tremendously to the video game industry. Films have had full frontal nudity, sexuality, mature themes, and extreme violence in them for decades. Video games haven't been as fortunate. There have been adult only games around for over a decade, but they are rarely anything more than interactive porn. The production values are low, and the intent to sell to horny gamers is obvious. Over the past few years, game developers have been pushing the envelope when it comes to the mature rating. The ESRB does allow frontal and rear nudity, extremely tame sex scenes as seen in Mass Effect, considerable gore, and plenty of foul language. There is no denying that there is progression in the adult content allowed in mature rated games.

Although it's clear that many adults play video games, a good portion of the media just can't seem to grasp that these games with sex, nudity, gore, violence, and foul language are not meant for children to play. These games are intended for adults, and will only be sold to adults in major retailers because of store policies. If the media could grasp this concept, then we wouldn't be seeing every news station covering "violence in Grand Theft Auto 4," or "sex and nudity in Mass Effect." There is rarely a media explosion of sorts when a film has a couple of naked people having sex throughout the storyline, or a young girl getting mutilated by some random psychopath. However, video games just don't get the same respect. It's engrained in most people’s heads that video games are for children. There needs to be a change in the way the media perceives video games as a whole. Much like the film industry, there are games geared towards children, there are games geared towards teenagers, and there are games geared towards adults. A man or woman that is eighteen years or older should be able to see, or participate, in almost any sexual act that a developer sees fit to include in their game; as well as seeing, or participating in any brutal, violent act that a developer sees fit to include in their game.

It's ignorant to believe that because a movie gets an R rating, or a game gets an M rating that it won't be watched, or played by under aged people. At the end of the day, the MPAA, and the ESRB aren't going to march in to a person’s home, and scold underage people for attempting to watch, or play media with adult content. It is a parent’s responsibility to monitor what their children are watching and playing. If they feel that an underage person is mature enough to watch or play media with adult content, then that is their business. If they are not doing their parental duties by monitoring what their children watch or play, then that is not the fault of the film maker, or video game developer for creating such content, but the fault of the parents.

Adults do not want, or need the ESRB forcing cuts and edits on developers because there is a chance that a minor will play a mature rated game. Adults do not need to be protected from adult content. It's silly to have a mature rated game edited because it's "too violent" or has "too much nudity and sexuality." If a game is meant to be played by people seventeen and older, then it shouldn't have to be edited to be more appropriate for children. Perhaps that is the loophole to the M rating that keeps adults from getting the content they are entitled to. An M rating concerns people "seventeen and older," which is odd because at the age of seventeen, you are still a minor legally. Perhaps the M rating needs to be revised so that only people eighteen and older are able to purchase them. By doing that, it's possible that adults can enjoy the content they are entitled to.

Apart from an M rating revision, there is only one way to get the content that adults deserve, and that is for most or all major retailers to start allowing the sale of adult only games. The problem with this is that by allowing adult only video game sales, retailers can’t discriminate against the adult only games that are strictly porn. So, major retailers carrying adult only games is not likely. Game developers deserve the right to have artistic freedom. Hopefully, this isn't just a far-fetched dream, but a soon to be reality.

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Stretch Your Goozex Points with a Few Cheap Titles

Kube00 Says: The economy’s downs are affecting all of us in some way or another and we still need fresh and cheap entertainment. Here is a look at some 100 points games on Goozex, which are worth picking up, even if your only reason is to spend some of your excess points. I’ve owned all these games at one time or another and what can I say? They are well worth 100 points or more.

The Chronicles of Riddick, Escape from Butcher Bay for the Xbox: If you like the movie Pitch Black or Chronicles of Riddick, than this game is for you. Nah, scratch that, I was not a fan of the movies and I still liked the games anyway. Personally, I think it is a decent FPS game that has some deeper, overlooked elements, such as stealth, fun face-bashing melee combat, Vin Diesel’s reputable voice acting, and a decent story line that keeps most gamers hooked. It’s readily available on Goozex with plenty of offers.

Shenmue II: A port of the European and Japanese Dreamcast game, Shenmue II at its core is an adventure game. The Xbox version has a few changes, there is a bit of a graphical update, the ability to take screenshots anywhere, and the bonus DVD. The 3D fighting is incredible and one of my favorite parts. There is plenty of it and the combat engine is based on Virtual Fighter. The ability to unleash moves and combos never grows old. As I did, you can spend hours wandering around the city doing odd jobs, gambling, talking to random strangers, arm wrestling, and playing games in the arcade. The storytelling is a masterpiece from Yu Suzuki and sucks you into a universe that is at least 40-hours long, and for 100 points it’s a bargain, although you may have to wait a little while to get it from Goozex.

Onimusha: Warlords: A frenzied action adventure game from the makers of Resident Evil. No zombies in this game, instead, its a lone samurai battling demons in 16th century Japan. The game relies on action and all of the puzzles are quick and easy, you won’t be moving something to pick up another key or emblem for a later puzzle much like the early Resident Evil games. Nope, you just run around and slash tons of enemies in a combo-soaked blood bath. The overall length of the game falls around 20-hours and is perfect for hungry action fans. Onimusha Warlords is 100 points on Goozex and readily available with plenty of active copies.

Pick up a few of these games as the cold winter weather keeps you inside. You’ll do yourself a favor by stretching your Goozex points, and furthermore, you will be playing games you might have forgotten about in the flurry on next-gen console holiday specials.

Sign up for Goozex now and receive 100 points and a trade credit.

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January 9, 2009

Current Prices for Last September's Xbox 360 Releases

Jimmy James 70 Says: Over the past year, I’ve become fascinated with how quickly video games start dropping in price. If you’re a gamer on a budget, or if you’re just stingy, then you’re like me and you don’t want to pay full retail for a game; especially if that same game costs half as much three months later.

Of the 16 games that I tracked, which were released in September 2008, half of them now cost $35 or less (if you buy them used at GameStop). I realize that GameStop is the evil empire of the video game business, so I also tracked their current value at Goozex as well.

Here are some interesting observations:

  • Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is the only game that did not receive positive reviews, but is still worth its original retail value.
  • Out of 16 releases, only 4 games are still worth their original retail value.
  • Half of the September releases dropped to $35 or lower.
Click the graph to make it bigger.


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January 7, 2009

Slashing and Hacking the Hack n Slash Games

MrWeymes Says: The hack n slash is one of the veteran genres in the video game universe. Games such as Golden Axe, Gauntlet, and Diablo are all classic examples. There has always been something very satisfactory about felling an opponent with a simple x, x, x, or a, a, a combo.

Current hack n slash games have evolved to the point where they feature huge storylines and excellent cutscenes unfold as you play. The biggest innovation to hit the hack n slash genre is probably the ability to dodge and parry. These actions are available in such games as Heavenly Sword, Devil May Cry 4, and Ninja Gaiden 2. The ability to parry or evade has added challenges to more recent games and they take time to master. Anyone who has played Ninja Gaiden 2 on a higher difficulty knows the skill that is needed to time defensive maneuvers. These moves may be bothersome to some old school hack n slash fans, and for them there are still many hack n slash games with a more classic approach to choose from, but if gamers want the video game industry to grow, they should never shun innovation.

Aside from shooters, the hack n slash genre is still one of the most popular. Most action RPGs are simple hack n slash games at heart. Kingdom Hearts 1 & 2 are probably two of the most famous hack n slash games available. Regardless of how many times you "cast heal" on yourself, or level up, the combat in the Kingdom Hearts series consists of pressing the X button repeatedly to disperse your foes. Perhaps the action RPG genre is so popular because its fans simply do not have the patience to play through several turn-based battles featured in games like Lost Odyssey, Final Fantasy 10, and the Disgaea series. It's odd that these action RPGs are often praised for their "innovative" or "unique" battle systems, because as mentioned above, the hack n slash genre is a veteran.

Tales of Vesperia, and the rest of the "Tales of" series is an example of a very popular action RPG with heavy hack n slash gameplay. The battle system is very simplistic and requires simple combos to fell your opponents. Other examples are the recent Xbox 360 exclusives Infinite Undiscovery and Too Human along with Rise of the Argonauts, which is available for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.

In closing, the hack n slash genre is still one of the most relevant genres in video games. This is evident by finding bits and pieces of the hack n slash in several other genres. As long as video game enthusiasts still get their thrills from both hacking and slashing enemies, it's assured that the hack n slash genre has a long life ahead of itself.

Jimmy James 70 Says: As MrWeymes just explained, the hack n slash is a tried and true genre with a long history and a prominent future. So why do hack n slash games get slashed and hacked by the critics? Looking at the hack n slash games available on the Xbox 360, only one has a Metacritic score of 85 or higher, and that is 2006’s Dead Rising. Hack n slash games are innovative, unique, and intelligent and are very well done with beautiful graphics, and challenging enemies; and yet, they are treated as the equivalent of fast food for games. You know it's bad for you but you eat it any way. Cause they're fun. So, the critics need to step off their pedestal and start giving the hack n slash genre a fair review. It’s about time they did.

I played two hack n slash games that released in 2008 this past year and I liked them both for very different reasons. While both games have great graphics and relevant cutscenes, that’s about all they had in common, except that they are not exactly keepers; which makes them great titles for game trading.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed has a great story, is a beautiful game, and after you painstakingly learn the controls and combos, you can fight off dozens of enemies at once. But the game requires a very steep learning curve that takes a lot of fun out of the game. Star Wars might be the first game that I like that isn't fun to play. For example, there is nothing more frustrating than to watch your Jedi stand there paralyzed, unable to move and fight back, while enemies grind you up with combo attack after combo attack. You would think a Jedi could bounce back from taking a hit a little faster than that. Or, when your Jedi is knocked down, he takes his time standing back up, and by the time he is standing, that big giant Robot looking stormtrooper is sending another blast to send you right back to your knees. After three times in a row of not being able to stand up I am ready to throw my controller out the window. Is this Lucas’ way of adding realism to video games? Please. You can leave realism at the door as far as I am concerned. And what about when you finally climb to the top of something, only to get immediately blasted and knocked down a chasm to your immediate death? What fun is that? And fun has always been my number one defining factor for a game... So, I’m kind of torn on this title… I love the story and the graphics, and when I do remember how to execute a combo move, it’s like fine art unfolding on the screen; but all the unnecessary deaths, the paralyzed-Jedi routine, it’s just downright frustrating. Only two more missions to go and I can trade this one back. Thank goodness I didn’t pay for it and if I can trade it back for 1000 points, then I will have played the game for free. And that makes it worthwhile.

A stark contrast to Star Wars is Viking: Battle for Asgard. While it is light on story and suffers from repetitive game play, it is heavy on great cutscenes and is very easy to learn and master the combo moves. That’s what I loved about this game: the sheer simplicity of it made it tons of fun to play and you can literally hack and slash your way through the hordes. While this is a title you’ll want to trade as soon as you’re done with it, it’s still very worthwhile to play through, even if you don’t finish it.

Kube00 Says: In my opinion, games that meet the requirements of hack n slash are usually action games, sometimes dungeon crawlers, but more often than not they have little, to no puzzles and consist of killing enemies that keep on coming. Most of the games I would consider hack n slash have a top down camera of some sorts.

The best-known hack and slash game that is still played today is the infamous Diablo II. Although it could fall under Action RPG, the Diablo series is more aligned with that of hack n slash. There is a limited story line and the action gets very repetitive as you face off against wave after wave of similar enemies. There’s fun class and skill development, with several unique characters, and the multiplayer consists of playing co-op through the single player levels or dueling. Despite its age, Diablo II still has a semi-strong following and the Lords of Destruction expansion is available for cheap on Goozex (both the expansion and Diablo II are available for 100 points).

A few other hack n slash games worth mentioning are Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance I and II as well as Fallout Brotherhood of Steel. I would even go and argue that X-men Legends and Marvel Ultimate Alliance are at their core hack n slash games. Hack n slash games are still fun and they are at their best when played in co-op. Most of them have a fair amount of replay value even if their length is a bit on the short side.


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Sony May Never Have a Halo Killer

MrWeymes Says: It seems like every time an exclusive first person shooter is announced for the Playstation 3, it is instantly dubbed as a "Halo killer" by anticipatory Sony supporters. The original Resistance: Fall of Man comes to mind. While it may have sold well, and established a respectable fan base, it in no way "killed" the Halo franchise. Haze is another game that was hyped up beyond belief, and was also given the title of "Halo killer." That game was met with average reviews, and didn't seem to slay the mighty Halo series, either. Along comes Resistance 2. It looks promising. The graphics have received a considerable upgrade. The scale in the campaign is much larger, and the multiplayer supports up to 60 players, and is very addictive and fun. If anything could kill Halo, it would be this game, right? Nope. Halo lives. Halo hasn't even received any wounds, let alone died. Finally, we have the upcoming Killzone 2. It looks excellent. The graphics seem to push the Playstation 3 further than ever before, the campaign looks exciting, and the multiplayer looks very enjoyable. On top of all of this, the early reviews have been positive. Is this game finally going to slaughter Halo and leave it's children without a daddy? Not a chance, and here is an explanation of why.

On November 15, 2001, the original Halo: Combat Evolved was released for the original Xbox. The game was met with excellent scores, and established a large online community. Without a game like Halo, the original Xbox may have not done as well as it did. Halo: Combat Evolved has sold more than five million copies worldwide. Because the Halo series already had an established fan base by the time the sequel came out, it sold even better than it's predecessor. Halo 2 has sold over eight million copies worldwide. The already established fan base continued to support the Halo series when Halo 3 was released for the Xbox 360. Halo 3 has sold a little over eight million copies as well.

The point of the little history lesson above is to show that calling any first person shooter a "Halo killer" is silly. It's actually becoming quite ridiculous. The Halo series has a very large fan base. These fans have established a large online community, and love to play games of Halo 3 with their friends. Regardless of how much better you think a certain game is, they will be happy playing a game of Halo 3. There could be a huge news story on a respected gaming web site about how Killzone 2, for example, is superior to Halo 3 in every possible way. The graphics could be better, the sound could be better, the controls could be better, the campaign could be better, and the multiplayer could be better in the eyes of professionals, but at the end of the day, Halo fans enjoy playing Halo games. Video games, like films, are a matter of taste. Just because you like something does not mean that other people like it. People may not like the gun selection in Resistance 2 compared to the gun selection in Halo 3. You may think they are insane, but that is their personal opinion, and they are entitled to it.

If Halo 3 received very low scores because it was broken technically, then yes, a game like Resistance 2 would be a "Halo killer" because it's not technically broken. Aside from games that are plagued with terrible controls, and other technical issues, no games are really better than other games in the same genre. Everyone has an opinion on what is a good game, and what is a bad game. There were probably many times that you bought a game that got a high score from some web site, and you got it home, and didn't know what the fuss was about. Another example is a friend telling you how awesome a certain game is, and when you play it, you just don't feel the same. Everyone has a different perspective on what is good, or bad. People have been getting upset about people having different opinions forever, and it's quite silly. For example, Dead Space is a survival horror as is Silent Hill: Homecoming. Critics seemed to enjoy Dead Space more than Silent Hill: Homecoming. Does this mean that Dead Space is a "Silent Hill killer?" No, it doesn't. It means that in most critics’ opinion, Dead Space is a better game. Perhaps some people enjoy Silent Hill: Homecoming more because of the setting, and the storyline. Regardless, it's all a matter of opinion. An old school example is the classic Sonic vs Mario debate. Neither "kills" the other. Some people enjoy one, and not the other, or perhaps both.

In conclusion, Sony will probably never have a "Halo killer." When it comes to media, no one is ever wrong for enjoying a game. No one is ever wrong when they say that one game is better than another, because it's their personal opinion. Regardless of how many people enjoy the upcoming Killzone 2, it will never kill a series with an established fan base. The only "Halo killer" would be a prohibition of the playing of Halo games in general, and that may not even kill the beast. There would be an underground resistance of sorts. It's obvious that this is not an anti-Sony article. All of the games on the Playstation 3 mentioned above are excellent games. Are any of them "Halo killers?" Well, that's a matter of personal opinion.

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January 6, 2009

Review of Saints Row 2

James Holmes Says: I received Saints Row 2 for Christmas and I beat it. Here's my review on it.

Saints Row 2 is about a gang named the Saints (obviously) and they are building themselves back to be the strongest gang in town. You encounter 3 rival gangs who give you a hell of a lot of stress when going through the game. During this game you complete missions and strongholds. Strongholds tie in with the missions, so in all there are 56 missions in the game (42 missions + 14 strongholds).

The story line is somewhat kind of hard to follow seeing as it's in no particular order and each gang has their missions separated. I wish it were more like Grand Theft Auto in that it's easier to follow. In my opinion, the game should have revolved more around Ultor, who is trying to take over and rejuvenate the city blah, blah, blah. The gangs could have come together or something, but it took a whole different turn. Let's call this San Andreas with slightly better graphics.

Saints Row 2 has many features and side missions. In order to do the missions and strongholds you have to do side missions to gain respect. Yes it's annoying, but that's the way they make you come back to play it more and more.

You make your own character and he has no name. It made me laugh, but whatever. Your comrades are Johnny Gat, Peirce, and the lovely Shaundi. They get involved in a lot of your missions. Johnny is your right-hand man. Peirce is the back-up buddy. Shaundi is the one who gets the 411 (information) to lead you to taking over the city.

I played the game on Hardcore and I must say it's what I liked; however, I tried Casual (easy) and Normal for a few minutes and I must say the AI is horrible. I mean, you can be surrounded by 20 gang members and walk right by them. On Hardcore I doubt you would get past the first 10. If you're going to play the game, play it on Hardcore as you get the most out of it.

This game had a pretty interesting soundtrack. Minus the rap that is. I enjoyed listening to The Mix 107.7 as it had my kind of music on the stations from the 80's. Hall & Oates, Europe, Tears for Fears, Psychedelic Furs, Duran Duran, and more. I also liked the Ultor station, it featured Jet, Paramore, and Plain White T's. The soundtrack was a little better than Grand Theft Auto IV's.

Game Play is Pretty Fun

It was realistic in some ways like when you wreck your car it gets dented bit by bit. When you are traveling at high speeds and run into something then you go through the windshield. You have the climbing physics. If you run for a long period of time you can hear your person breathing very hard. If you walk into a car it takes time to stop and little bumps actually hurt you. Some times if a person is in your way and you hit them they go through the glass and they will stay in your car; that stood out. What I didn't like was how the damned cars blow up just because it's getting rammed over and over. In GTA IV that never happened; your car just stopped working. Also your car blew up like totally quick and you had almost no time to move out of the way. I have a question, how in the hell can a tank explode? That really ticked me off when it did.

There are a lot of extra activities that you can do to gain respect and money. Fight Club (UFC Fighting) was my favorite, Suwage Control (you spray crap onto others houses), PIMP, FUZZ (you dress up as a police officer and you let your buddy get footage of you being a bad cop for ratings), Escort (you drive others around while they have sex in the back of your car), Pleasure Fulfiller (you have sex with women and make sure you do the sex positions they want you to do), Hitman, Races, and many more.

Comparison to GTA IV

I preferred GTA IV as it renovated and did some things that Saints Row 2 does not. The driving in GTA IV was better, but hard to get used to. Saints Row 2 had some things that GTA IV didn't, such as house buying, buying businesses, car buying, planes, player customization, and car customization. It seems as if Saints Row 2 went back to San Andreas for its ideas. The story was almost the same as San Andreas to be honest. GTA IV's graphics were more polished as Saints Row 2 took more of a cartoony look. Saints Row 2 had more weapons and that's something I liked. Throughout the game my favorite weapon was the Tombstone (shotgun); it was awesome. I liked that if one of your buddies died you could revive them (revive your homie) instead of failing the mission because someone died. When it comes to map size they both seemed about even. I liked Saints Row 2 map a little better than GTA IV's for some odd reason. If we combined these two together you would have a swell sandbox game.

Saints Row 2 is not a perfect game at all. I never got a freeze or frame rate drop, but this game suffered some ugly glitches. Like when I am in a plane and I have a homie (funny right?) when I get into the air he some how glitches into the plane. Another was when I was on a ship for a mission and I was shooting this guy in a boat and he glitched right into my face and was shooting me. Another was my car got stuck into the ground. There are a lot more, but that's just some.

IGN gave Saints Row 2 an 8.2 for some reason that I do not know, but it would last you a while if you ask me. It's not Vice City or any GTA (3D Versions) for that matter. IGN was comparing it too much to GTA IV. Yes I know I compared the two, but not like IGN was.

The game in my opinion deserves a 8.8.

Story - 8.0
Game Play - 8.9
Graphics - 7.0
Sound - 8.8
Lasting Appeal - 9.2


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January 4, 2009

Trophies Reflect Skill More than Achievements

MrWeymes Says: It was inevitable that gamers would compare Playstation 3 trophies to the Xbox 360's achievements. While it's true that both reward systems add a considerable amount of replayability to games, it's still unclear which is superior. The main thing that Xbox 360 fans can boast is that achievements are mandatory for every game available on the Xbox 360 and it has been that way since the launch of the system. It is a shame that the trophy system Sony implemented in many of its games were not available at launch and was not mandatory throughout most of 2008. Hopefully, trophy support becomes mandatory in 2009, so that gamers aren't torn between buying games based on whether or not they support trophies. Regardless of which was around longer, trophies and achievements are very similar, and are in direct competition for gamers attention. Here are the reasons why trophies should motivate more gamers to collect them all rather than collecting achievement points.

Almost everyone that owns an Xbox 360 wants to have a high gamer score to boast about. While it's obvious from a high gamer score that a person has a love for playing video games, it usually doesn't mean that this person is a particularly skilled gamer. Most gamers that have a high gamer score have simply played a lot of games. That person usually doesn't have a 1,000 out of 1,000 on any of their games. Perhaps this person only has an Xbox 360, or perhaps this person only buys multiplatform games for the Xbox 360. Whichever the case, it's clear that a gamer score doesn't say too much about a gamers skill. However, the trophy system for the Playstation 3 says a lot about the way a person plays a game, and their skill level. The trophy system can embarrass gamers accustomed to playing a ton of games on the Xbox 360 and only completing them once or halfway through. If you were to play every Playstation 3 game that supports trophies like this, you would probably gather a nice collection of the lowest trophy you can earn, which is a bronze trophy. 100 bronze trophies with no silver, gold, or platinum trophies to accompany them makes a gamer look a lot more amateurish than a gamer with a gamer score of 10,000 on the Xbox 360 with most of their games only having 300 out of 1000 points awarded. The reason for this is that when you pull up someone's personal information on the Playstation Network, you are not only shown the level of that person, and the number of trophies they possess, but the kind of trophies they've earned as well. This person may have more trophies than you, but because the majority of his are bronze, and the majority of yours are bronze and silver, you may be a higher level than him. It's obvious that the trophy system rewards skill with prestige more than the Xbox 360's achievement system. Yes, you can look over a persons games on Xbox Live to see how many points they've accumulated in each individual game, but it's not mandatory when looking at someone's profile. You are simply shown the gamer score itself. If it's high, you're impressed, if it's low, you're dismissive. Meanwhile, this person with the 3,000 gamer score may have 1,000 out of 1,000 on all of his three games, and is probably the guy out-killing you 5 to 1 in a match of Call of Duty 4 for example.

The achievement system of the Xbox 360 may be a better business decision, because it can make a gamer with average skill feel like a gaming god because of his tremendous gamer score, thus persuading him to buy more games to increase his score. However, gamers that want to flaunt their true skill in the faces of others cannot deny the draw of the trophy system on the Playstation 3. You can guffaw at a gamer’s 45 bronze trophies, while he ogles your much sought after platinum trophies. In conclusion, the trophy system is a much more effective way of showing off your gaming skill than the achievement system. Any person with a good amount of money can pad their gamer score, but it takes a lot of hard work and skill to earn those platinum trophies. This article is not meant to be insulting to Xbox 360 gamers, because there are many that complete their games fully to earn all 1,000 points. However, this accomplishment is often overlooked if their overall score is low. The trophy system motivates gamers to fully complete their games to earn more trophies, because most gamers do not want to look like a well-paid amateur with his or her not-so-impressive collection of bronze trophies.


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