November 30, 2009

Brink demo video now available

We've covered Brink before on The Goozex Report. First, in this preview of Brink from the show floor of PAX 2009, then, in an interview with Splash Damage Creative Director, Richard Ham.

Well, if you still haven't heard of it, Brink is a first-person shooter from Splash Damage and Bethesda Softworks which is coming to PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Set in the not-too-distant future, a floating, man-made city holds the key to man's survival until it's plunged into a bloody civil war.


Now, thanks to this video from G4TV.com, everyone can see what we saw at shows like E3 and PAX.



As the CEO and Game Director of Splash Damage, Paul Wedgwood, walks us through a small area, you can get a good look at the SMART movement system and see how this takes ideas present in a game like Mirror's Edge and builds them into a proper shooter. However, the movement system is only the least most interesting thing about Brink as it promises to blend single and multiplayer together into one, seamless experience. You can either play as a faction of Ark inhabitants on the inside, holding down the fort, or fighting your way in, completing mission objectives with your friends via the Internet against living opponents who will determine how the game turns out. It's an ambitious project and, hopefully, will be fully ready by Fall 2010.

November 25, 2009

A Day of Thanks

Erik Kubik Says To some, Thanksgiving is about the turkey and the pie. To others, Thanksgiving is all about football and gathering with the family. Thanksgiving is the time of year to give thanks to whoever or whatever. Besides stuffing my face with turkey and pie I think it’s time to reflect back on the year’s releases and happenings and to give thanks to the Video Game industry.

There are several things I am thankful for this year. Item number one is last spring’s Resident Evil 5. I have been waiting for a sequel to Resident Evil 4 for over 4 long years. In regards to Resident Evil 5, Capcom and the evolution of the series, the games have moved further and further away from head scratching puzzle solving games toward a more action-oriented feel. The in-depth story, the mission variety, the upgrades and the return of several favorite characters made the game a great addition to the franchise. The added co-op and multiplayer elements were icing on the cake to hardcore fans like myself. Who knows what Resident evil 6 will bring?

Secondly, Microsoft’s continued support of broken 360s. Although I no longer own an Xbox 360, I have to say for a company to man up and to continue to pay for the mistake they made is something gamers can be thankful for. Now if they would only admit the failure rate of their consoles is closer to 70% vs. their quoted 15%, I am sure everyone would sleep much better at night. Nevertheless, gamers can still get their e74 or RROD consoled fixed for free.

The third thing I am thankful for this year are the console price drops. Microsoft dropped the price on the 120 GB Elite to $299. And then Sony presents the PS3 slim with 120 GB Hard drive for $299. Nintendo finally dropped the price on the Wii down to $199. Out of the three, it seems the price drop benefitted the 360 and the PS3 the most; especially the ps3. The new edition of the console saw some record sales numbers. The price cut means more people can afford to go out and buy the consoles and therefore buy more games and ultimately keep developers in business.

In a non-gaming sense, I am thankful for the support of my family and friends in all that I do. I am thankful everyday that I have a wonderful wife that supports me and my hobbies. I am especially thankful for Goozex which has given me the opportunity to play tons of games for cheap. Where else can one receive new games and movies for next to nothing?

Last but not least, a big thank you to my fellow writers and friends at The Goozex Report who share my love of video games and Goozex. But the biggest thanks goes out to Mike Rohde for putting together the site and the crew, putting up with me, and letting me continue to write about video games for The Goozex Report.

Chris Nitz Says
Personal Front:
I am thankful to be newly married. I could not have asked for a more loving, understanding, and supportive wife. She has been by my side as I finally follow some life-long dreams. I couldn't have asked for such great support. I still believe I am one lucky SOB.

I am thankful to still be employed. No matter how much I might not like dealing with printers and phones on a daily basis, I am lucky to still be pulling a paycheck. The company I work at was on the verge of bankruptcy and has pulled back from the land of the red. There were times I had no idea if I would get to work and find the gates to be locked.

Gaming Front:
I am thankful that my 360 has not red ringed yet! I am thankful that I have been granted two awesome writing opportunities for two awesome gaming sites. Mike Rohde, thank you for allowing me to be part of the great people at The Goozex Report. Thanks to the guys at Games Are Evil for allowing me to be part of their site as well. I have gotten to play through a lot of awesome games and share my experience with a lot of people. I never imagined I would be on this path in my life.

This Thanksgiving, rock some awesome games over whatever your favorite Thanksgiving treat might be! I know I'll be playing some Dragon Age and Disgaea 2 while stuffing myself with Pumpkin Pie!

Dale Culp Says It would be pretty easy for me to be cynical and say that I don't have a lot to be thankful for this year. The last few years, in particular, have been somewhat of an uphill battle. Most recently, I got the bad news that I was going to be laid off for a while. I won't lie, I was happy. They'd done me a favor. They forced me to go out and seek employment a little closer to my passion rather than to continue in a job that was going nowhere. I'm thankful for the wake-up call.

Even though I have yet to break even and I don't know how the bills are going to be paid, I'm thankful. I'm thankful because, as cliche as it may sound, I really do live in a country where opportunities exist if you're willing to go out and get them. I'm thankful for the strong network of support I've built over the years, and I'm thankful that I was able to do that by merit, not mere words. I'm thankful for the opportunities I've been given and the rewards they've reaped. My friends, my colleagues at The Goozex Report - I couldn't have asked for more. I'm thankful to know these people exist.

I'm thankful that I can pretend to be a warrior on a virtual battlefield without ever risking my actual life. I'm thankful because I'm not out there, that I don't have to be. I'm thankful because they've made this life of convenience and pleasure possible, even though they enjoy very little of it. I'm thankful because I know how quickly it can all go away. I'm thankful because, even though I don't believe in a God, I understand the sentiment in the words, "There but for the grace of God go I." I'm thankful because I can do and say these things about who I am and what I believe freely, without fear, even though I know of many who cannot, and I'm thankful for the people who are fighting for them, as well, so that some day they can afford to play video games and exercise their freedom of speech.

In the end, I find that I actually have a lot to be thankful for. I'm thankful for that, as well.

Troy Benedict Says There is a lot that I am thankful for in 2009. First off, I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for my lovely wife, who has supported me and believed in me (and put up with all of the quirks with my gaming hobby). Secondly, I am thankful for my family. I have three beautiful children, and am especially thankful for my youngest who was born in September. I am also thankful that we were finally able to purchase our first family home back in July, and am looking forward to making the changes and improvements WE want to make to it (including a future upgrade to our family/entertainment room!)!

In the video game department, I am thankful for the opportunity to write for a publication like The Goozex Report, as well as being asked to review a couple of titles during my tenure. Many thanks to Mike Rohde for allowing me to write for his site, as well as the good friends I’ve made because of it! Also, during this economically troubled time, I’ve been able to save a lot of money, and still get some really awesome games through Goozex trading. Each trade only cost me a few dollars ($1 per trade credit and cost of shipping). I know this sounds like a commercial, but it’s an excellent service, and to me, Goozex really offers the best value for used games.

I have had a tremendously awesome time playing games like Disgaea for the DS and Disgaea 2 on the PSP, both of which were scored through Goozex trade. It is very rare that I can dedicate a lot of time with any one game, but both of those have had me investing countless hours into them. I understand that they’re not games for everybody, as they tend to be a bit too quirky, but the sheer depth has had be hooked for a long time!

This Thanksgiving, we’ll be out of town at my folks’ place and I’ll be doing something that I haven’t done in a long time – taking a break from the games well, at least from the consoles – to spend time with my wife and kids, my parents, and my brother and his family.

But I still have my PSP and my copy of Disgaea 2 to keep me busy, when I need some time to get away.

Mike Rohde Says This is a special Thanksgiving, as it is the first real Thanksgiving post The Goozex Report has published. In many ways, reading everyone’s entries confirms something that I already knew: this is truly the best team of writers anyone could hope for. Not only do I consider you guys talent, but I also consider you my virtual friends; if you were my neighbor, you’d be my real life friend as well. It’s been an absolute pleasure getting to know everyone through their writing, their tweeting, and from Xbox Live.

In addition to the writers here at The Goozex Report, I am thankful for the opportunities to virtually meet folks from other sites, such as Games Are Evil, The Portable Gamer, and Gaming Angels. The people behind the scenes of those gaming sites are the best and I truly appreciate the collaboration work we have done over the past year.

It goes without saying that I am especially thankful for the fine folks at Goozex. Without them, The Goozex Report would not exist, and in turn I would not have met so many great people. Plus, the Goozex service has allowed me to play thousands of dollars worth of games at a very little cost. These are games I would normally not have played, and so I am grateful to have the opportunity to use Goozex.

I also want to give thanks to my brother, for if it weren’t for him, I probably would never have bought an Xbox 360. Plus, it was him that once said, “Wouldn’t it be great if there were a way we could trade games with other people without having to spend so much money all the time?” That question prompted me to get on Google and figure out what was available. I checked a few sites out, seriously considered GameFly, and then ultimately choose Goozex. Yes, I have to admit that in the first few months of using Goozex I considered dropping the service and trying GameFly. But I have to say, in hindsight, that doing so would have been a foolish move. I truly believe Goozex is probably the best choice I’ve made in a long, long time.

Of course, THE best choice I’ve ever made in my life was to marry my wife, who supported and inspired the creation of The Goozex Report; she thought it would be something fun and creative for me to do. That was in August of 2008. We never guessed that the blog would grow to what it is today: a vibrant collaboration effort with passionate and dedicated gamers. And I can honestly say, this is only the beginning, which leads me to one more thing I am thankful for…

And that is you, the reader of The Goozex Report. In the past year, The Goozex Report has been read by 74,144 people who have viewed 84,341 pages. This blog continues to exist not only because of the special team of people behind it, but because YOU continue to read it. If you didn’t read this site, we wouldn’t be publishing this site. So, Thank You, dear reader and may you enjoy this very special Thanksgiving.

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November 24, 2009

Assassin's Creed 2: PS3/360 Review

Chris Nitz Says I enjoyed the first Assassin's Creed. Even with all of its flaws, I had fun running around and seeing what the game had to offer. I have been following Assassin's Creed 2 since it was first announced, and after playing the game, I can say that I am not disappointed.

The game is packed with a great story. There are the usual plot twists and turns. There are times when the story is extremely engaging and you want to see what happens next; but there are also times when the story drags on and on. Outside of the plot twists, Ezio trusts just about anyone he meets, so long as that person has the same goals as Ezio. While this is nice and all, it does take away a bit from the character development.

One major improvement over the original, is that the game almost never shifts out of the Animus. This is great as it keeps the game flowing and the action moving. The downside is that there is little interaction with third-party people. Interaction with these third parties is all done as if they were some sort of godly voice talking to Desmond. However, the pros of not coming out of the Animus definitely outweigh the cons.

One of the heaviest touted upgrades is the fighting system. Ubisoft promised a lot more ways to take out the bad guys: and they delivered! Ezio now has the ability to disarm his assailants. There are double assassinations, throwing knives, and even a pistol. Disarming a guard and using his own pike to impale him is just as entertaining as it sounds. Ezio can pull axes, swords, and pikes away from the attacking guard and use it in a counter kill. When this counter attack occurs in one smooth action, it leads to a highly enjoyable fight. Even with all the disarming fun, I found that I stuck to my hidden blades most of the time though. They were fast in countering, and are the only way to kill some of the guards. I often found myself looking for a high point to take out two guards at once with the double assassination technique. It just goes to show you, there is a killing technique for every fan!

There are now groups of people that can be hired to help Ezio as well. Prostitutes, thieves, and fighters are all at Ezio's disposal...for a price. Prostitutes will dance, thieves will steal gold, and fighters will start a fight with the guards. These groups are very useful in accessing a guarded codex page or a blocked-off treasure chest. The hired help keep the notoriety at bay, more on this in a bit, and allow Ezio to sneak on by with no problems. I actually found this addition to be useful in the game.

One of the biggest disappointments is how the guards fight. Some of the fights can include up to 15 - 20 guards at a time. The problem is that they all stand around taking turns trying to kill Ezio. This makes it easy to disarm, or counter kill, a guard. It would have been nice to have some difficulty setting that would have made the guards a bit more of a challenge.

There is a new notoriety system in Assassin's Creed 2. If you kill a guard and remain undetected, this yields no change in how people view you. Kill a guard and someone sees you, then your notoriety will increase. Get into a big scuffle with the guards and that notoriety will increase a lot. Keeping your notoriety low is key to keeping the guards off your back. When Ezio is anonymous, he can stand by a guard without fear of being chased down. If Ezio is notorious with the guards, his mere presence will have the guards chasing him down. The fastest way to become anonymous with the guards is to pay the heralds off. This will take your notoriety down to zero. If paying off heralds is not your thing, you can also rip down wanted posters that are scattered around the town; doing so will reduce your notoriety by 25%.

In Assassin's Creed 1, there were beggars that got horribly irritating. Every corner had one. Assassin's Creed 2 trades the beggars for musicians. They are not at every corner, but are in the larger gathering places. You won't be hounded every five minutes, but they are still annoying. Killing them seems to keep them out of the way.

Along with musicians, there are pick pockets and annoying criers. If a pick pocket gets close enough to Ezio, they will take a chunk of his change and make a mad run off. Chasing them down will lead to one of two options: kill them and get the money back; or chase them down and tackle them to get the stolen money with a bit of interest. It's nice to have options, but I found killing them to be the fastest way to get my money back.

The criers will yell for the guards to arrest Ezio. They will yell out, “Aassassin!,” and then start fleeing. If Ezio is anonymous, this is not really an issue. If that notoriety meter is at 50% or more, prepare for guards to start causing some problems. The same options as the pick pockets apply here. Chase the crier down and kill them, or hit them over the head and teach them a lesson.

Italy is huge. In fact, it is so big a horse just isn't cutting it here. There are now fast travel stations around all the cities. Make use of these, as traveling through the mountains on horseback is a 10-minute ordeal. The only pitfall is that there is no way to fast-travel within a city. To get quickly across Venice, one must travel to a different town, and then travel to where they want in Venice. It may sound like a long way about it, but it is faster than running through town.

There are a bit more mission types this time around. Still, there ends up being a lot of escort here, protect this, and eaves drop there. Some missions are even multi-part missions. For example, Ezio might have to take care of some guards before his new friends will help him with an assassination attempt. It still feels a bit lean on main mission types though. Following a target and eaves dropping is only fun for so long.

There is a lot to use for customizing how Ezio survives in this cruel world. Ezio has the ability to buy new weapons, armor, and miscellaneous tricks. Some of the armor looks fantastic in its detail. There are new swords and knives to buy for your arsenal as well. The game employs a sweet new device to help get out of sticky situations...smoke-bombs. There are doctors that sell health potions along with poisons. All this helps in keeping the game going and giving the player something to do. It was a nice touch.

Those of you who played the first Assassin's Creed will remember the imprecise controls. While running and jumping from rooftop-to-rooftop is highly enjoyable, the controls still lack in precision this time as well. There are times when precision is key to finishing a timed section, only to find the precision took a break. I fought long and hard with the controls in assassin tombs and rooftop races. It got frustrating at times. The controls are solid for open running, but when a jump calls for landing on the top of a log, it fails.

One of the most annoying parts of the CG scenes are the impromptu quicktime sequences. Having to press a button just to do a hug and nothing else feels really tacked on. Not catching these quicktime events does not have an adverse effect on the game, but their mere presence is just tacky. I don't really know what or why they exist in this game.

This game looks amazing. People are wandering around town doing business, the moon shimmers off the water, you can get vertigo at the highest points in the game, and the building details are amazing. I played this game while my wife watched. I heard a lot of "I've been there," and, "Oh wow, they have that being built." And, "I want to go back to..." The detail is that amazing. Scaling to the top of a tower still has an awe-inspiring view of the whole city.

The clothing is also very detailed. Ezio's robes will show all the embroidery on them, while metal armor will have detail work that is just stunning. I stopped a few times just to admire the outfits. When Ezio gets out of water, his clothes glisten and water droplets fall from the dangling bits of material. Jumping into a cart full of straw will have Ezio running around with hay flying off. This detail carries onto the weapons as well. I will say this is a huge improvement over the first Assassin's Creed.

With all the cool water dripping and hay flying touches that were put onto this game, color was somehow missed. The whole game has a brown color to it. I realize the first one was the same way, but there was hope that the sequel would have changed that. Italy is beautiful, and the renaissance should have been full of colors. Somehow the game misses that point.

For all the great things the game does with scenery and costumes, the close-ups are just poor. Most characters look plain, flat, or just ugly when up close in a CG scene. It is a bit baffling how the game can show so much detail in the open world, yet a small CG scene can look so poor. I hope by the third game, if there is one, Ubisoft puts some attention to this aspect.

The animations are also top notch. The climbing looks good, the fighting is smooth, and the normal walking around looks fantastic. It is a shame with all the animations the game gets right, sprinting is not one of them. I dunno if Ezio is carrying a load in his pants or what, but this is the one animation that could have used some work.

Ezio is a pimp with a Villa. The Villa starts out as a run-down town, but after some upgrades, it becomes a bustling center of free money for Ezio. Again, Ubisoft included nice small touches here as well. As the Villa grows and brings in money, more of the buildings look repaired, and flowers and trees start to grow throughout the Villa. It is just another small detail that helps to make the world feel as though it is growing and living as the game progresses.

The ability to upgrade the Villa helps it to grow. Investing all your money into the Villa at the start will get more money than necessary down the road. There are discounts to be had from the tailor, blacksmith, and doctor with each upgrade. Upgrading the Villa will rear the unbalanced economy though. Once the Villa is fully upgraded, money rolls in every hour. This does away with the need to loot guards or find treasure chests. Many times, I spent all of my money buying every weapon available at the blacksmith. Then, to get more money, I ran around for an hour getting glyphs and feathers; all I had to do next was visit my money chest to find 40,000 gold in it.

The game packs in a lot to do. Gathering quests did make a return. Feathers are the object of desire this time around. Assassination contracts also make their way back to the game. Ezio can play mailman by running courier missions. Rooftop racing is also here. Add in treasure chests to hunt down and glyphs to find and there is fun for everyone. These are all secondary to the main plot, but completion addicts will find a ton to do here.

With all the feather and chest hunting to do, there is yet another piece to collect. This collection comes in the form of secret glyphs hidden throughout the cities. Using eagle vision on these glyphs will bring on some puzzle solving goodness. Puzzles include deciphering a numerical code, putting a circular puzzle together, and finding small pictures within a bigger picture. There are 20 glyphs in all, and the puzzles accompanying them vary in complexity. Solving these glyphs will bring on a secondary story line.

There are assassin tombs scattered throughout the major cities in the game. These tombs are a series of challenges that test your jumping and navigation skills. Some tombs will have you chasing down a guard that ends with a small fight. All of them contain some sort of navigation test. It is well worth your time to do these tombs, as the end result is pretty awesome.

Assassin's Creed 2 was enjoyable despite its downfalls. The story was engaging, the side stories were worth the effort to get them, and the surprises added to an enjoyable play through. Those of you who did not enjoy the first game, just step away. There is nothing here that is going to change your opinion. Fans of the first game have no excuse not to play this game. There is a lot more to do this time around. Now, I have some feathers to go hunt down.


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November 23, 2009

Dragon Age: Origins | Review

Troy Benedict Says When I think of a "true" role-playing game experience, I think about the big daddy of all role-playing games: Dungeons & Dragons. It was a simple idea with a complex execution. With a pencil-and-paper game like D&D, your imagination was really the only limitation in the game.

It's no surprise that BioWare's new RPG, Dragon Age: Origins, feels like one of the most flushed-out and detailed RPG experiences on modern video game consoles. They've had a couple of tremendously popular PC-based RPGs using the Dungeons & Dragons licenses (Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights), and their storylines are so rich with details and character development that even secondary and tertiary characters, from their vast catalog of game releases, are still loved and talked about today.

As a disclaimer at the beginning of this review, the copy of Dragon Age: Origins for this review was for the Xbox 360 version and was provided by Goozex. The main quest was not completed at the time of this review, but I have logged enough time with the game, and feel comfortable sharing my praises and criticisms with Dragon Age: Origins.

The game begins, like most RPGs, with you selecting and creating a character of your choosing. However, Dragon Age: Origins really shines brightly in its execution once you begin the game with that character. There is no other experience quite like it! Most RPGs, follow the same storyline from beginning to end, where you play the hero who is destined to save the world, but the storyline really isn't impacted by the race and class of your chosen hero. Most of the time, choosing a wizard character type over a warrior meant very little in the overall storyline of the game. However, in Dragon Age: Origins, each race and class of character has a very unique opening to the game. Each origin story generally takes between 90 minutes and 3 hours to complete. I've even been told that certain characters in the game will react differently and offer different dialogue trees depending on the type of character you're using.

I began the game with a human warrior, and after playing with that character for more than a dozen hours, I decided to create an elf wizard. It was then that I realized that the two intro stories that I experienced couldn't have be more different. Apparently, there are about 5 or 6 different origin stories depending on the race and class of your hero character, which makes replaying this already long game even more interesting and exciting. Not to mention, Achievement/Trophy junkies will be rewarded for completing the variety of different origin stories.

There is no hand-holding in Dragon Age: Origins, which can be both rewarding and intimidating at the same time. Additionally, the game's story is long, with people reporting that focusing on the main quest took between 50-70 hours to complete.

My biggest recommendation to those who are playing Dragon Age: Origins? Always save your game!

Save and save often! The tides of battle can quickly turn against you at the blink of an eye depending on if the enemy characters can take out one of your support characters, and vice versa. There is a certain element of strategy that is involved in each battle that can dramatically affect the outcome. For example, while mage characters generally aren't strong in battle, they can cast spells that will immobilize your character, or heal up the strong warrior-types that are slashing away at your party. I generally try to take the mages out at every opportunity, and I try to make sure that my healers and spell-casters are at a safe distance and are constantly supporting my team.

Another intimating part of the game is establishing and setting up the computer-controlled tactics for each character. The battles play out in real-time, with you issuing different commands for the character with a simple button press. I generally focus on full-control of my hero character, and let the computer control the actions of my party. In order to tell the computer what to do, you have a certain number of query like commands that let you decide what a character can do. For example, you can tell a character to use a certain spell on the first enemy they see, or focus their attacks on a character whose hit point fall below a certain overall percentage, or even heal a team mate whose life falls below 50% or 25%. While there are preset tactical actions that a character can take, the most effective way to guarantee that they'll use certain abilities and attacks is to instruct set up the commands manually. The computer does a decent job of managing your party members, but it's not a bad idea to go through and tweak each member's tactics to your liking every few levels, to ensure that they're taking advantage of new abilities and spells, especially if you find yourself dying over and over during the same encounter.

Morality seems to be a big deal in more modern RPG-style games. Games like Fable II and Fallout 3 let you decide how you want to decide if you want to take the evil way or the good way. Dragon Age: Origins' way of approaching morality decisions is more interesting and realistic. There really is no "good" or "bad" way of playing through the game, it's all a matter of perception. What is good to one party member, might be bad or rude to another. You do build up relationships with the characters in your party, and certain actions that you perform can change how those characters will react to you. The old adage of "You can't please everybody all the time" is so true in Dragon Age Origins. Each character in your party's personality affects how they feel after you make an important choice in the game. There are even some choices in the game, that you can make that will turn a party member against you!

While on the subject of the party's personality, one neat little feature of Dragon Age is that at any time two of your members will begin chatting amongst themselves. Sometimes the conversation turns into an argument, or gives a deeper look into a character's history or their political point of view, for example. It all seems to depend on which party members you accompanying you at the time. The conversations are witty, too, and always bring a smile to my face.

Your hero is a silent protagonist and will never speak a line of dialogue during a conversation. I found this to be very confusing, because part of the character creation is the ability to choose a voice styling for them. This was also rather shocking after playing BioWare's Mass Effect, where the dialogue between your character and others made the whole cinematic approach to the conversation that much more interesting and appealing. I've never liked they way that games handle the silent protagonist. I've often felt it was a very lazy way of approaching the character design of the main character, and sort of puts in a very blatant disconnect between me and this avatar. It was just such a stark contrast to the exceptionally well-produced conversation system in Mass Effect. With the voice work of such a high caliber everywhere else in Dragon Age, it seemed sinful to not include a spoken response from your character.

The graphics, while decent, are also nowhere near the level of quality of Mass Effect. There are some really noticeable lower resolution textures, and characters will sometimes have an oddly plasticy-looking quality to their faces. I'm not sure if this was a difference between the futuristic stylings of Mass Effect, and the more earthy-natural look of Dragon Age's world, but it was a noticeable visual disappointment, especially considering that the screenshots and video clips of Mass Effect 2. The two games' release dates are only a few months apart.

Like I mentioned before, the game is hard. Sometimes frustratingly hard, especially if you don't save often. The real-time action of the game can often mislead your tactical decisions, making you think that rushing into the battle ready to button-mash the enemy to death will result in a victory. More than often, some strategy is involved in getting the upper hand. Also, I often found a lack of opportunities to quickly level up your character, but perhaps this was the result of playing the game for review and trying to work my way through this epic as quickly as I could.

Load times seem to be a bit long with the Xbox 360 version I played, which made restarting certain situations feel like ages. I'm not sure if this applies to the PlayStation 3 version or the PC version. I suppose copying the game to the Xbox 360 hard drive may have shaved off a few seconds here or there, but I can't imagine even doing this would have made much of an impact. Expect to have some patience with the load screen, especially if you die a lot.

As in most item-collecting games, the inventory system of Dragon Age had its strength and weaknesses, and unfortunately I found myself managing my items and constantly throwing away lesser important items to make room for possibly better ones.

There are a certain number of items and weapons that your party can carry at any one time, and for me that number was 70. During my time with the game, I was never able to increase the available slots from 70 to anything greater than that, nor was I ever able to find an item chest/warehouse at a party camp, for example, to store items that I wanted to hold onto, but didn't want to equip or use at the time. Games like Diablo II and Fallout 3 had extra storage options with which to store those miscellaneous items. Perhaps this inventory limit had nothing to do with increasing my hero's strength, but I was never able to find any additional storage or increase my already limiting party inventory, and I found that to be quite frustrating.

While a lot of the game involves some sort of skirmish, there are parts of the game where battles can be avoided by taking the right path during a conversation. There was a part of the main quest that I wasn't able to physically overcome - either my strategies were completely awful, or my characters just weren't strong enough. I must have attempted this scenario at least 20 times and no matter how I changed my approach, I could not defeat this group of characters. In order to win, I essentially lied to them during the conversation before the battle. I agreed to do something for this group of unsavory types that members of my party seriously disagreed with. This allowed me to pass to a new area where I not only betrayed the enemy in the end by not doing what they asked, but was I also able to physically defeat them because their numbers weren't as concentrated as before. Sometimes a quick wit and a little thinking can go a long way to avoiding those battles that can't seem to be won through physical feats!

Dragon Age does have its flaws, it's the detailed story, richly-developed characters, and the interesting dialog tree paths that make the game tremendously awesome. It is one of those games that you'll constantly be thinking about even when not playing it.

For anybody who loves action-RPG games, especially the more Western style ones like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, Fable II, and Fallout 3, I really suggest checking out Dragon Age: Origins. It might not be the prettiest game, but for the richness in story line and the sheer amount of quests and characters you'll encounter, as well as the completely original and unique origin storylines, it's hard to find a deal like this for $60.
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November 21, 2009

Holiday DVD Bonuses on Goozex

Erik Kubik Says Goozex is smoking hot with its promotions this month. In an earlier post this week The Goozex Report mentioned that if a Goozex user trades in their popular and newer DVDs and games within 30 days of its release, the trader receives a bonus of 200 points.

Recently, in the November newsletter, Goozex announced another promotion. Starting November 13th through January 31, 2010 all movie trades are free, which means users don’t need a trade token to receive DVDs, Blu-rays, UMDs, etc. for the next two-and-a-half months. A promotion like this should jump start movie trading. What more can I say, it’s time to stock up on some action movies and a few more box sets. To top off the already amazing free DVD trades there will be another trading bonus.

Here is the bonus: “From now until January 31, 2010 you can get a new movie for free from Goozex by trading out 10 of your previously owned films. So you get the points and a new movie! To be eligible you need 10 positive feedbacks on any movie trade completed by January 31, 2010.”

Here is the list of movies traders can receive by having 10 positive feedbacks: Star Trek, Transformers Rise of the Fallen, G.I. Joe, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Up, District 9, Angels and Demons, Terminator Salvation, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, or Inglorious Bastards.

The fine print states that each trader can only get one free movie, so if you trade 100 movies between now and January you still only get one freebie. This is a great opportunity to unload quite a few movies. Think about this with Black Friday and the Holiday sales coming up: there are tons of opportunities to get hot 100-200 point DVDs for less than $10. It is also a wonderful time to hit up your local Movie Store, such as Blockbuster, and check out their 5 for $20 bin. Grab some movies and start trading.


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November 20, 2009

Modern Warfare 2 | Review

Shawn Lebert Says You wake up to a blaze of gunfire around you. The smoke is thick in your nostrils as your lungs struggle to breathe fresh air. Your ears refuse to clear as sounds remain muffled. Men grasp and pull you to your feet. Your body feels momentarily helpless as your brain is no longer in command. Welcome to the battlefield that guarantees death for the majority; and living for the minority. Say hello to Modern Warfare 2’s Veteran Mode, which is quite possibly the only game you can brag over your achievements and trophies.

Infinity Ward is back with a prejudice and an extreme amount of pure adrenaline-rushing action on a scale of epic proportions. For newcomers of the series, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 doesn’t separate itself as a solo entry into the series, unlike the first Modern Warfare did to it’s World War II upbringing. Modern Warfare 2 is a direct sequel to its predecessor, creating a new franchise within itself. Infinity Ward attempts—and—succeeds in moving away from its historical World War II development, and delivers a modern-day escapade.

Before its release, there was much debate whether or not to drop the title “Call of Duty” entirely, as was assumed the title change would not affect sales or cause confusion amongst fans. However, in the end, for the purpose of continuity, the “Call of Duty” branding was tacked on the retail package. Infinity Ward is attempting, in this writer’s opinion, to branch themselves from their counter-part (Treyarch) who developed Call of Duty 3 and World at War.

Modern Warfare 2 presents a new caliber to the CoD series with a title that explores a controversial and hypothetically surreal storyline that leads inevitably into a possible World War III. Infinity Ward’s sequel pushes not only the physical buttons to traverse through a heart-pounding excursion, but also triumphs in presenting an emotional aftermath to Modern Warfare’s original game. Gamers who experienced the original, and perhaps claimed its campaign was one of the best-ever experienced, will truly appreciate Modern Warfare 2’s storyline in terms of creative storytelling and shocking events; both amazing and fearful.

The developers pull some emotional triggers. The game’s campaign can make many player’s question their own action, which can lead to a controversial ordeal over what’s simply offensive and what has strong purpose. Modern Warfare 2 presents a questionable mission (No Russian), which forces the gamer to decide how they want to play the game. The “No Russian” mission provides fuel for many political and debatable figure-heads like Fox News [Editor’s Note: read “Fox News” as “Conservative-Republican blowhards.” It also goes without saying that The Goozex Report is not quoting Fox News and they may or may not have actually stated the following…] to present the mission as a murder-simulator that is designed without purpose.

Infinity Ward creates this hundred-million dollar “simulator” with the intention of making the player think that the game is more than just a shooter. It’s an expression over the power of war and the frailty of life. People are tired of effortless shooting games, for the fact that they bring nothing to the table. Modern Warfare 2 brings everything to the table, in an effort to tell a message to the world in a brutal, yet educational, fashion. Granted, the game contains fictitious events and characters, but it conveys a powerful onslaught of ideals and moral decisions that isn’t too far-fetched from reality.

All that’s being said in this review at this point is vague, but it’s with the intention for you, the gamer, to play this title and learn for yourself the difference between a game and the real world.

Spec Ops
Modern Warfare 2, unlike the original, adds an extra mode that entices players to compete and complete everything that is un-lockable in the game. Spec Ops, separate from the campaign, gives the player a solo, split-screen, or two-player online journey through a myriad of mini-games that they need to accomplish. You can earn up to 3-stars with each game. To get all 3-stars in one mini-game, one must beat it on Veteran, which is the hardest difficulty. These mini-games are familiar events from the main campaign; plus, those who have completed the original Modern Warfare campaign will experience a familiar locale! Lots of these games center around elimination, timed events, and items to retrieve or disarm. These games do not provide a straightforward way to completion, and may take a few retries and solid strategy to complete.

Unlike the original Modern Warfare’s insanely difficult and arduous campaign–infamous for its Epilogue mission–gamers may feel disappointed that Veteran mode may not be as obnoxiously impossible, which is definitely a good thing for some. However, Infinity Ward has decided to put the extra heat on players through Spec Ops; some of which will make you want to rip out your hair.

If anyone experienced the grenade-spam storm that was Call of Duty: World at War, Modern Warfare 2 has conveniently adjusted the enemy frag tossing to a complete minimum [Editor’s Note: Thank God.]. You probably will not experience more than two grenades tossed your way at a time. Don’t quote me on it, but that’s what I experienced, and yes, I completed it on Veteran mode. Instead, the developers created a smarter AI who runs to different cover rather than remaining in one position until dead. Flanking is also observed, and as frustrating as it is to die a LOT, getting flanked is at least more commendable than blind-firing-100% accurate-enemies; although, that’s still apparent in this game, too.

While Veteran mode difficulty is a touch lighter due to the less fragging sort, it still is Veteran mode and you’ll be hitting retry often. Although, in the end, it felt a bit easier. Perhaps “easier” means I didn’t get as frustrated as spending three and a half hours one evening getting the Mile High Club achievement – which to this day, is my favorite un-lockable.

As epic as the events are from the first game, you’ll eventually grow to love what Modern Warfare 2 presents just as much: creating a slew of fabulous, monumental incidents that’ll leave your jaw open. As a personal experience, which I have not felt for years, an overwhelming sensation of goose-bumps and chills ran through my body during the first hours of the game alone. Ramp up your sound, and you’ll probably feel the same way too.

The Campaign
Call of Duty: World at War has co-op within the main campaign. While that might seem more positive than Modern Warfare 2, you should hold your tongue right there. Infinity Ward developed a campaign that was intentionally designed for the single player. One can’t recreate these powerful events with an added “ghost” character – especially in a specific event like rushing to your helicopter over rooftops while the enemies are firing from behind: a scene that felt reminiscent from “The Matrix.” I felt like Keanu Reeves running away from the agents at the end of the film. It was that good. Unlike Halo 3: ODST, which does indeed have a co-op campaign – the extra buddy playing in ODST is simply a mirror image of the first player, creating a non-personal experience for the sacrifice of having more players on the same screen.

Modern Warfare 2’s campaign may seem like you received the short-end of the stick, as it’s not longer than 10-15 hours, depending on skill. Casual players will find the story’s length fine, while hardcore players might be disappointed. However, with the addition of Spec Ops, the campaign’s length doesn’t seem too much of a letdown.

Multiplayer
Multiplayer is still an absolute must-have for such an addicting online functionality. Personally, Infinity Ward provides the best multiplayer experience for any console thus far; it didn’t need to steer far from the previous multiplayer as there wasn’t much to improve on. It includes deathmatch, team deathmatch, free-for-all; pretty much everything that was there from the first time. Rank your soldier up and get yourself more perks and guns! [Editor’s Note: Infinity Ward greatly improved the scoring system and the perks from the first Modern Warfare.]

The production value to the game is quite stunning, resulting in top-of-the-line graphics, smooth frame-rate, dynamic sound and amazing scripted events. The voice work is superb and is voiced from a familiar cast from the first game. The yelling characters boost my performance in hustling, that’s for sure. It’s effective, and not a single line feels out of place. It’s Call of Duty at its finest, and it’ll be difficult to top this one, until, well, Modern Warfare 3. Moments within the game leave unanswered questions within the plot and some may find that the antagonist is mostly off-screen, which might make the controversial segments feel pointless.

Modern Warfare 2 still revolves around faceless soldiers, and perhaps that’s the best way to do it. You might not be entirely sold on the feature that you play as multiple soldiers, whose lives aren’t necessarily free from death. Therefore, you never grow attached to a main character. However, with that makes it more surprising who lives on and who does not. It makes traveling around the globe possible with different faces.

There’s no denying that you should play the game, as there is no higher bar. Modern Warfare 2 pretty much exclaims that there will be a third, and I sure know we will all wait for it two years from now.

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November 18, 2009

Getting the Pit Boss Achievement

Dale Culp says: The Goozex Report's very own resident videographer, Shawn Lebert, has posted a video on YouTube showing just exactly how he aces the Pit Boss Achievement. To make matters even cooler, this is the test run of his new Hauppauge HD PVR and, hopefully, the first of many new video features we're hoping to roll out in the future.

Now, watch Shawn work it like a boss:


In the words of Cpl. Dunn, "That's how you run The Pit."
And now for some tips on how to unlock the Pit Boss Achievement from the man himself.
Shawn says:

So you want to be a Pit Boss, huh? General Shepherd's hawk-eye making you nervous? Don't expect to do the best you can within the first couple retries of the Pit in Modern Warfare 2. Sometimes, it just takes getting used to and where the enemies, separate from the civilians will show up.

I don't expect to reiterate my video technique step-by-step. Everyone has their own preference when dealing with combat. This is just a demonstration on the essentials on how to perform if you expect that achievement sound to beautifully resound into your ears after a long, stressful period of training restarts.

Use weapons that you're going to use until you get that achievement. Don't try one and get discouraged and try another. Get used to your gun chamber and grow accustomed to how many bullets you have left by getting an idea how far you can go before needing to reload it. I used the M9 and the Desert Eagle. I found that there's no need for a scope for either gun if you have auto-lock because you're going to be seeing it the same way through a scope. I can't tests milli-seconds, but it perhaps could shave off unwanted time on each aim.

At first, I was missing targets left and right because I always felt it was necessary to run as fast as possible -- and you will have to do that -- but your targets are obviously more important than getting to the next section. Control yourself and aim then go to the next one. I was persistent at first to shoot as fast as possible then go for the next one, but that builds up accidents because my feet weren't completely planted when firing. I was always thinking about what I had to shoot next. Just focus on shooting what's in front of you. Don't move around a lot when you're in an area of targets. Align yourself, settle and take them out. Of course, you will have to move within a section just to shoot other ones, but DON'T fire at targets while moving. Accuracy is a big deal.

The M9 and Desert Eagle were ideal for me in these respects.

I always consider walking up the stairs the half-way mark. Whether it is or it isn't to you, that's your preference. I make mental judgments on what times I should be at when getting up the stairs. For me, a good time to get into the first house would be roughly 10-12 seconds. Jumping off the roof, you should be at a good time around 22-23 seconds. The second half of my video may have seemed "lucky" because all my targets aligned. This isn't pure luck because the Pit training targets have only two alternative positions. Once you're able to understand which version of the Pit you have, no matter how many times you restart it, it doesn't change. If you fail getting the Pit Boss Achievement after running through the finish line, pause the game and go to LAST CHECKPOINT. Don't finish the Pit and just wait to do it again. This makes the Pit change on you with a possible target location change.

Next, always run after finishing a section. That may seem durr-durr-durr to you, but I don't know, people say reloading doesn't matter. It actually does because when you reload, your character can no longer run. He must slow down to perform the function of reloading. If you run in mid-reload, any Veteran gamer is going to know what happens next -- when you stop, he has to completely reload once more. Get used to your two guns. Get an idea on how much you have left in your gun chamber without ever having to look at how much you have left. Your focus is the Pit, not your HUD.

Lastly, get used to lining up multiple targets. The Desert Eagle is a mighty powerful gun, so I'm not surprised that it shoots through multiple ones. When you align more than one target, the less time you take to move on. Get used to that. Get used to restarting over and over with the LAST CHECKPOINT option. I can't stress that enough.

Accuracy is key and it doesn't matter if you pass the 30 seconds on your screen before finishing. If you have great accuracy, your time will be cut down due to your great, seamless firing.

Just follow those steps and make the Pit your bitch because very soon you'll be the Pit Boss and your crew will be HOOAHing. Probably even you, too.

November 17, 2009

Left4Dead2 | First Impressions

Mike Rohde Says: OK, Left4Dead2 showed up today, which means I had to put down Modern Warfare 2 and Forza Motorsport 3 to give this game a try. I gotta say, I went into this game with expectations of it being just like the first one, and that I’d regret not playing MW2. Well, for the first few games, my expectations were right on the mark, then I played a second round, and then a third. As they say, the third times a charm and Valve got themselves another fan.

The first online game I played was laggy as all get out. There were plenty of glitches and screen jumping. To add salt to the wounds, none of my teammates knew where to go and we stood around looking at each other a lot. When I asked if anyone knew where to go, one of my teammates started shooting me. The game eventually kicked us out to the main menu. I can’t say I wasn’t upset…

The second attempt wasn't much better. I tried to select a specific mission and saw there were only a few available games on each map. When I finally started a game, my character was already near death! I spawned into Coach who was on his death bed!! It didn't take long for me to die. Not a fun way to play. A teammate did offer a first aid pack, but by the time I ran back to him (he never left the safe house while the rest of us moved forward) I got jumped by a jockey and died.

And guess what: if you die, or the team needs to restart a level, you do not reset at full health. That’s a major bummer.

Here’s another newsflash: the Normal difficultly level is Hard! As in real hard. As in, I wanted to switch to the Easy level just so I could complete a map.

The third game was the charm. I played on the Easy level and started at the beginning. The team ran through some smokey rooms filled with fire, got some cool wepaons and we actually finished! Ding!! Achievement unlocked. This was the game in which I got into Left4Dead 2 and I actually forgot about MW2 for about 10 minutes.

I can’t speak for all of the maps, but at least for the first one, the way you get rescued is pretty cool. You don’t wait for a rescue vehicle, instead, you find the ways and means to rescue yourself. In this case, you need to find enough gas cans to fuel up a car. After the car has enough gas in it, then you have to get into the car and… well, you’ll have to see for yourself. And let me tell you, even on the Easy level, it wasn’t easy. The Zombies keep coming and coming and coming and coming and coming and coming and then just when you think they won’t come no more, they keep coming.

This is a game that should keep me entertained for awhile. I don’t think it will have the lasting appeal of MW2 but it’s a worthwhile coop shooter that contains plenty of excellent gaming moments.


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Assassin's Creed II | First Impressions

Chris Nitz Says Ubisoft finally put the long anticipated Assassin's Creed 2 in player's hands. There was a lot of hype surrounding this title: improved story line, better fighting mechanics, less repetition, and beautiful visuals. There are high expectations for this game. Here's my assessment after completing the first assassination.

AC2 starts off right where the first game ended. There is a brief review of what happened in the first game, so don't worry if you didn't get through it. Desmond is broken out of his holding cell and carted off to a new area. Here, Desmond meets some new faces and gets a glimpse of Animus 2.0. After the character meet-and-greet is done, Desmond hops into the Animus and it is off to the 1400's to relive his ancestors history.

Ezio is the ancestor Desomd will be playing through this time around. Ezio is a trouble causing womanizer. Upon entering the Animus, Ezio starts off with a fist fight. Here Ezio meets his brother. Fighting concluded, it is time for some sibling racing up the sides of buildings.

Ezio ends his night in the bed of a fine digital lady. Morning comes, the lady's father arrives and finds Ezio where he should not be. Comical escapage ensues. Ezio ends up running a few errands for his father. Ezio returns from one of said errands only to find his father and brother have been arrested.

Ezio runs off to the prison to find his father. Some brief dialog later, Ezio is now donning the Assassin's robes. The new stealthy Ezio is now ready to free his father and brother from their captors. Upon returning.....hahaha, time for fans to go out and play the game for the rest of this story.

The scenery in the game is stunning. Hopefully, brown is your favorite color, as it seems everything is some shade of brown. There's also some vertigo here as well. Climbing to the tops of bell towers yields an amazing view of the city. I was playing the game for a bit with my wife sitting next to me. She has been to some locations and started to reminisce about the places she has been. Ubisoft has done an amazing job of recreating the city. The place the graphic engine falls flat is in the cutscene close ups. Characters often look flat. This is a shame as Ezio's outfit looks stunning during normal game play.

The voice work is crazy awesome. Everything from the accents of the characters, to the mindless babble of the peasants on the street is done in ear-pleasing goodness. Looting a dead guard will have people cursing Ezio and telling him how horrible of a man he is. It is a nice little touch that helps with the aesthetics.

For those that played the first Assassin's Creed, the controls will be familiar. There is still some issues with precision when running and jumping from objects. Climbing is still done with ease, though Ezio is attracted to everything he can Spiderman off of.

The fighting still feels the same. This is a shame as it was one of the big things Ubisoft was touting as being changed. Hopefully, as the game progresses, more options become available. Right now, it still has a very familiar feel to it.

One of the biggest improvements is how often the charter comes and goes from the Animus. This took a lot away from flow, and story, in the first Assassin's Creed. This time around, Desmond stays in the Animus for far longer periods of time. The outside characters working with Desmond will communicate to him through the Animus. After three hours of play, I was never taken out of the Animus to do some sort of character interaction. This is huge improvement in keeping the story flow moving.

So, should fans pick this up? YES! The story is amazing so far. It is still fun to get to the top of a bell tower and see how much of the city is rendered at once. Jumping from those heights and landing in carts of straw is still as enjoyable as ice cream on a warm summer's day. Look for the full review in the coming days.

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November 16, 2009

Goozex.com announces point bonuses for trading hot games and movies

As a special Holiday promotion, Goozex.com is going to start offering bonus points on the latest games and movies being traded. If you've used Goozex.com in the past then you already know that they are offering you the best deal on trade-in games. They top most, if not all, of the major retail game stores out there and have an incredibly large selection that no major retail outlet can match. Well, over this past weekend they've upped the ante.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is probably the hottest game, right now. But what if you've played it and are tired of it already? You've finished the single player campaign and aren't interested in going online, so you want to trade it. As long as you do so within 30 days of release, as an eligible title, you will receive 200 extra points for it. As for the buyer, the original price -- in this case, 1000 points for the Standard Edition on Xbox 360 -- still stands. The buyer only pays 1000 points while the extra 200 points come straight from Goozex. Merry Christmas!

But what if you traded the game before the promotion? According to Goozex, that trade is still eligible. Once the buyer gives positive feedback or the system closes, you will receive the extra points. Even if you receive feedback later, the trade is still eligible as it occurred within the 30-day period.

There's no word, yet, on whether this is going to become a permanent part of the system or if this Holiday season is the last we'll see of this promotion, but it's a great idea that goes a long way towards stimulating further game trades. With games like New Super Mario Bros., Dragon Age: Origins and Modern Warfare 2 in extremely high demand, there's more incentive than ever to sell. Seller's get more points, buyers get the games they want for less and Goozex gets more people using the system. It's a win-win-WIN situation. For a list of eligible titles, follow this link. Keep in mind, this list will be updated to add/remove titles.

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November 14, 2009

The Disposable Console Era

Chris Nitz Says Atari 2600, Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Turbo Graphix 16, all of these are great gaming systems. Back in their heydays all there was to concern one's self with was what system to get. The Nintendo vs. Sega wars ran deep on many school yards.

When did consoles turn into something so disposable? At what point did consoles start becoming such a big decision on when and what to buy? PS3 40 Gig, 60 Gig, 20 Gig, huh? Xbox 360 Arcade, Pro, Elite what? Nintendo DS, DS Lite, DSi, DSi XL? Gamers should be up in arms over this.

Nintendo is really the culprit. They started the release-a-console, change-it-a-year-later, re-release it syndrome. Nintendo started this with the GameBoy, which was a thick, white brick and a battery hog. Yet, it was a huge success. A few years later, the GameBoy got a makeover with the GameBoy Pocket. This version was smaller, used less batteries, and really did fit in your pocket. This morphed into the GameBoy Color. The GameBoy Color was the same size as the GameBoy Pocket, but this new version sported a four-color screen.

The GameBoy redesign did not fix any issues. Sure, it was nice to have a smaller GameBoy, but there was nothing that it really fixed. Yet gamers flocked to this new design. It did not stop there though. Soon gamers saw more color options added. Special editions like the Pokemon themed GameBoy Pocket were released. Stores like EB/Gamestop had deals to get you to trade in your perfectly working systems to get a discount on the "New" system.

The Nintendo DS (DS) is the latest of Nintendo portables to go through revision after revision. When the DS was first released, it was rather large. It can also be argued that it was not the most attractive. The DS got its first revision in the DS Lite. This really got the DS off the ground. The DS Lite sold millions. It is still a leader in sales today. Not content with this, Nintendo released the Dsi, which was slightly bigger than the DS Lite. The DSi added a camera, but at the expense of removing the GameBoy Advance game slot. Yup, add a camera, but take away the backwards compatibility. This hurt those who bought Guitar Hero on the DS as there was no way to plug in the peripheral.

Still not happy, Nintendo recently announced the DSi XL. Really Nintendo!?!? It is bigger than the Dsi due to a larger screen. The DSi is not even a year old, and already they are releasing something new. Why not just release the bigger version right away? The people this hurts are those early adopters.

Sony has also joined in on this redesign fun. The PlayStation 2 (PS2) is their best selling system. When it was released, it was rather large. The PS2 came out with no hard drive nor network capabilities. Hard drive and ethernet accessories were later added so that users could get online and play Socom with their friends. Games like Final Fantasy XI and EverQuest Adventures also took advantage of both of these new accessories.

Then Sony released the PS2 slim. Again, this model really didn’t fix anything. It was a simple cosmetic change. However, the redesign made the hard drive and ethernet adapter obsolete. The PS2 Slim included an ethernet port, but no internal hard drive. This means those people who wanted to buy a PS2 Slim and continue to play EverQuest were SOL. Why do this?

The PlayStation 3 (PS3) is the newest of Sony's systems to get this treatment. The PS3 Slim was recently released. This system is 33% smaller than the original PS3. Yet again, it does not fix any issues except that it uses less power. Outside of that, there are no issues it really resolved. The one item PS3 fans have been asking for is to get PS2 compatibility. The PS3 Slim was not an answer to that hope.

Microsoft is not excluded from all this. The Xbox 360 has gone through several revisions and special editions. The 360 did not have an HDMI port when it was first released. This port was added on after the 360 received its first revision. In the era of HD gaming, the omission of the HDMI port is inexcusable.

There is one revision that does make sense though. The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) got a top loading redesign. The top loading NES took queues from the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). The days of blowing in your NES cartridges and finagling them to play had come to an end. This was a smart redesign choice as it resolved an issue. The issue that it fixed was fighting with your NES games to get them to play. It is just a shame that this revision came along so late in the consoles life.

Where does all of this end? If gamers are not cautious and start putting an end to this, the options on new consoles will get ridiculous. The Xbox 720 could come in two different processors, three graphic card options, and all that would become obsolete a year later when the Xbox 720 Lite comes out.

You don't need to buy the light or slim versions of consoles. But at this rate, consoles will start having options that will be obsolete after its first revision. The first PS3 Slim revision could lead to more memory on the console. This would make games load faster, or even do away with load times. More graphic memory could be added, thus causing this revision to have better graphics.

Innovation is a good thing. Innovation that screws the early adopters, well that is just screwing the consumer. While most of the changes listed here can be argued as good changes, they come with a bit of caution to the early adopters. Buy the new console at your own risk, the next iteration could contain something that renders the current generation useless.

Editor’s Note: This article was focused on gaming systems, but Apple could easily fall into this debate with the iPod’s and iPhones. The bottom line is, buy what you want with the knowledge that next year there will be something better. If you’re not happy with the features a current model has, then just wait for the next generation. If you can’t wait and you need to have the newest model as soon as it comes out, then it’s a simple matter of buyer-beware.

As for when the Xbox 720 comes out, sure, I’ll want it. And I’m sure I’ll want it right away. But before I rush out and buy it I’m going to play all the games for the 360. By the time I’m done with that, maybe a better 720 will be out.

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November 12, 2009

Too many guns - A look at Modern Warfare 2 weapons

Dale Culp says: While researching the necessary information I needed to write this article, I came across a serious problem: There are just too many guns in this game. Way too many guns. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2's weapons number in the dozens. DOZENS, I tell you!


Whatever happened to the days when all you had were a small handful of weapons to choose from? You had your melee weapon, shotgun, super shotgun, pistol, automatic rifle/machine gun and rocket launcher. Then you usually had 1 or 2 exotic, unbalanced weapons that everyone would camp in multiplayer but then complain about whenever someone else was camping it. I mean, count 'em -- there's something like 50 guns in Modern Warfare 2! I feel like a Republican when I play this game. Look out, Charlton Heston! There's a new king of the NRA, and if he's not working at Infinity Ward, meticulously going over the 3D models and making sure each one is a faithful, accurate representation of its real-world counter-part, than I'm sure he's feverishly rubbing his hands and drooling at this list I blatantly stole from some wiki site:


Pistols
USP .45 – Glock 18/22 – M1911 .45 – Desert Eagle


Assault Rifles
M16 – AK-47 – Steyr AUG A2 - FAMAS – Bushmaster ACR – Imbel MD3 – FN 2000 – G36C – M4 – MK. 14 EBR – G3 – TAR-21 – FN SCAR – FN FAL


Sniper Rifles
SVD Dragunov – Walther WA2000


Sub-Machine Guns
FN P90 – UMP .45 – TDI Kriss – H&K MP5


Light/Heavy Machine Guns
RPD – MK46 – AUG HBAR-T – MG4 – M240


Shotguns
Franchi SPAS-12 – W1200 – Armsel Striker 12 Guage – Remington 870MCS – Winchester 1887 – AA-12


That's a lot of guns! Plenty of ways there to put big holes in bad guys, and it doesn't even include all the attachments and other gizmos you can hook onto them to make them even deadlier. Then you've got rocket launchers, missile launchers, knives, ice picks, grenades, Predator drones and, not to mention, YOUR OWN TWO HANDS. Egads, man! Do you really expect me to go through all that and lay out the pros and cons of each? God, no. And the worst part is, there's hardly any difference between them! Oh, sure, some feature a larger calibre, different rates of fire and accuracy, and I'm sure I went through most of these at some point in the game which does give me some "hands-on" experience, but I can't be entirely sure about that because, most of the time, I abused the hell out of any assault rifle that came with a scope.


In the end, I'm afraid I have to admit that I break the ignorant stereotype of the typical gamer. I may be a pissed-off nerd who's tired of being picked on his whole life but I know absolutely zero about guns. In all, I've fired about 3 different actual guns and came away from the experience not entirely impressed. I played through "No Russian" and, despite the initial shock, I can't help but recall murdering thousands of innocent civilians in other games from Carmageddon to Grand Theft Auto and never once thinking, "Am I a bad person?" At least, in those games, I got extra points and bonus rewards every time I mowed down a God-fearing family of wholesome Christians. I also fondly recall gleefully bludgeoning scientists with a crowbar in Half-Life only seconds after employing their skills to heal me. Does that qualify me as a serial killer or a psychopath who's about to go on a rampage? No, not all. And if my experience with flash bangs in Modern Warfare 2 is any kind of indication of what I'd be like in the real world, than I'm most likely to end up doing more harm to myself than any of the bystanders around me. Even if that logic fails, all I have to do is point at my record: 30 years on and I haven't killed anyone, yet.


So, dig up Ronald Reagan, shake his hand, play some John Philip Sousa and fire up that DVD boxed-set of G.I. Joe because, while I don't know how to pronounce the word carbine - or even what that word means - I do know a lot about shooting virtual bad guys in the face as much as possible to preserve the American Way. Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. Hooah.


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November 11, 2009

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 | First Impressions

Shawn Lebert Says The behemoth has landed. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is ground-zero. The masses are finally able to withdraw the greens and cling to Infinity Ward's latest title on the market. A direct sequel to the original Modern Warfare, which takes place five years after the first conclusion, comes the brave and bold extra step for a worthy sequel. So far, Infinity Ward has not let down, preserving the golden features of the original Modern Warfare, but ramped up the action to the 110th percent.

Hands down, two years ago, when I completed the original, I was convinced that the campaign was my favorite first person shooter. It had everything. Action, story line, drama, suspense, I could go on. The value for the game was extraordinary and the substance actually had weight, it had actual depth. There are a lot of shooters out there that seem to fail beyond these proportions. There are many that do not capture the emotional intent that Infinity Ward seems to impress. For the time being, I have only experienced less than a handful of checkpoints in the first mission of the sequel. Just by that estimate alone, I am telling anyone that reads this that whatever memory you held dear for so long, whatever inspirational, epic experience you may have had, Warfare 2 might not only revitalize those memories to the surface, but capitalize on the already established content that the first game was so positively noted for.

After the explosive entrance into the campaign, I can not verbally express the sheer thrill of what was happening. Goosebumps that I have for so long forgotten came back to the surface. The only way to describe it is to compare the game to a heart-pounding ride at Six Flags. I fell right into the action. I was the actual soldier on the battlefield, hearing and seeing those bullets smashing into the environment around me. Infinity Ward definitely wants long-time fans and newcomers to experience an intense and powerful game.

Of course, without question, there is training before one finds themselves in the nitty-gritty of the campaign. It's standard obviously, but the developers put an amazing amount of detail into the prologue beforehand, with the help of beautiful graphics, really convincing voice acting, and dynamic sound. The yelling drill instructors were actually alarming and I was compelled to do a better job!

Infinity Ward knows how to hit the right buttons, investing in creating a world so deep and motivating with the right kind of enthralling characters who are both good and evil. You love the good guys and love to hate the bad ones. I have yet to encounter the controversial moments. Although briefly scanning over information on the net, I have completely kept myself in the dark about what I should experience other than the trailers. As far as opinion about the highly questionable and controversial content, I believe that Infinity Ward knows what they are doing and wouldn't tack anything on for the purpose of turning corporate heads. Their stories are motivational and important.

I briefly took a look into the Special-Ops mode, which gives one or two gamers the opportunity to play together in little mini-games to earn stars. This mode takes an ample amount of time as it varies between objectives, such as elimination, challenge times or both. I can't wait to get back into it to see what more I can do.

Of course, last but not least, is the multiplayer section of Modern Warfare 2. It doesn't steer clear from the previous multiplayer and keeps all of the good elements that keeps it addicting. The perks are still intact with a few extra tidbits. This includes the ability to take the image of the last man who killed you and use their weapon configuration. Although I don't know how or why this is beneficial or implemented yet, as I have not played more than an hour.

Admittedly, I wouldn't mind Achievements in multiplayer as it is very fun, but I understand their reasoning. The awards in multiplayer alone are rewarding enough for an achievement-less or trophy-less addition.

By far, Modern Warfare 2 is adding up to be the successor to its predecessor and I'm only in the midst of the first couple of hours! Keep watching The Goozex Report for the full review.


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November 10, 2009

GameStop Modern Warfare 2 Party

Erik Kubik Says The rumor on Monday night was that there were places in town having MW2 launch parties with pop and pizza. But I trudged off to the GameStop that is close to my house to see the much talked about Humvees and Marines who were supposed to be showcasing the game.

I arrived at the store around 8:30 pm. There were no Humvees or members of the armed forces. Instead there were 2 White H2’s from a local dealership, which were backed up near the front entrance. There was a line of people standing around the store and the H2’s numbered near 25. I took a few pictures, watched a few people playing on 42” LCD in the back of one of the H2’s, and chatted with another guy filming the event. He later told me it was for part of a college project on “Gaming Addiction.” By about 9 pm the crowd had grown to around 50, people of all ages were present, from 13 to 63. As expected I saw very few women, save for the mom’s and girlfriends who had been drug to the event. Some of the guys from Wearethegamerz.com announced they were setting up a FNG challenge inside the GameStop. Whoever got the best time received a sealed copy of Wolverine’s Revenge for PS3. By this time the GameStop employees were walking around letting those know who looked and were under 17 that they could not demo the game or participate in the FNG challenge without a parent’s consent. A few people whined and complained but GameStop stuck to their guns.

A few of the GameStop employees were handing out coffee, energy drinks, and pastries as we waited outside in the cold for a chance to demo the game or take a crack at the tournament. The time was now 9:30 and I soon discovered I was one of the only people there to buy the Playstation 3 version. Here I was the lone fish in a semi hostile sea of 360 fan boys. With the crowd swelling to 100 people or more I quickly signed up for the FNG run. My end time was 50 seconds, 25 seconds behind the future winner.

I stepped backed in line and I noticed someone had finally set up another 42” LCD in the back of the other H2. The crowd chatted among themselves eagerly talking about the game, the last midnight release party, and what some of their plans were for the night and tomorrow. As some of the gamers whined about the cold and their parents, I caught strands of conversation about taking work off and planned Monster-fueled- all- nighters.

As I was talking to a fellow PS3 gamer, one of the GameStop employees who recognized me from frequent trips to the store asked me how I was doing and what was with the tattered moleskin in my hand. I mentioned I was taking notes and pictures for an article on a website. He asked if I had gotten to play it in one of the back of the H2’s yet. I mentioned I had not and with that he led me to the front to get a shot to play Spec Ops.

11:30 came and went and by this time the line was wrapped around the building. Over 150 people had joined our ranks and were eagerly crowding the wall of the building trying to keep warm while the nervous energy and anticipation built. When 12:01 struck and we were let in the store there were muted cries of joy where I expected to hear screams of excitement. Everyone seemed relieved to get their copies.

By 12:45 the parking lot was empty. The H2’s were gone, and the GameStop employees were closing the store. I was headed home with my game in hand, eager for tomorrow.

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