January 31, 2010

Rolling the clock back to 1998

Erik Kubik says, 1998 was a great year to be a gamer. Gamers were trapped in a bubble of awesomeness: there was the N64, the Playstation 1, the dying Sega Saturn and the PC. I was a 14-year old back then and I finally had a decent PC. The N64 gave gamers true 3D with 4-player multiplayer. The Playstation continued to expand its library with the release of great games and greater sequels. The PC showed the world what people already knew; it was capable of gaming greatness.

The 1998 game list is dominated with classic titles like Banjo-Kazooie, Tekken 2, Rainbow Six, Fallout 2, Xenogears, Starsiege Tribes Unreal, Metal Gear Solid and Grim Fandango.

With so many great titles, it’s tough to list the winners and losers. The PC world alone had at least eight games that were major releases. The console market swelled with greatness in all genres, including action, adventure and RPGs.

Being a PC gamer back then I truly remember Starcraft and Half-life. Those two games are considered the most influential for the period. Starcraft is still played today, whether it’s in Korea or in college dorm rooms around the country. Half-life 1 was the first FPS to have a solid story. This game spawned tons of mods. But will Half-Life be remembered for the creation of Gordon Freeman and a story-driven FPS, which pushed an aging Quake 2 industry to its fullest, or the creation of Counterstrike?

There was one other PC game that kept me locked in my room even more than World of Warcraft, it was the PC game known as Baldur’s Gate. It was such a marvel of Western RPG elements. I hated AD&D at the time; I’m still not a big fan. But Baldur’s Gate was a 5-disc masterpiece, hours of hours of exploring and character customization. The original is by far the best when compared to the sequels and spin offs.

Console gamers were also treated right in 1998. How about Legend of Zelda OoT? This was the first 3D Zelda game. Some say it’s one of the greatest games ever made and it’s held up pretty well. I remember the game was a lot of fun, but I was captivated by the musical score.

I was a huge fan of Resident Evil 2 for the Playstation, so a sequel only meant good things: better and bigger monsters getting blasted by bigger guns. The plot twisted and turned more than the first one and introduced characters whose legacy would shine as the series evolved to the next level. Although Resident Evil 2 has held up poorly, despite numerous ports, the original is still the most fun to play.

1998 was truly a year for games, and it’s hard to say if there has been a year since then with so many good releases, maybe 2006? Who knows what 2010 will bring?


Digg!

January 30, 2010

Madd Moxxi is Maddening

Jason Trent says, Nearly a month after the release of Borderlands' latest DLC: Madd Moxxi's Underdome Riot, I still find myself trying to give it another chance. I wanted to love this add-on, but I'm convinced it doesn't want to be loved. Madd Moxxi's Underdome Riot tries to provide players with a more condensed way to enjoy killing by sending wave after wave of foes at your team (an homage to Halo: ODST's Firefight mode). As you progress, modifiers are thrown in to switch things up a bit (much like skulls in Halo), so you might find yourself fighting without shields, or enemies can regenerate health, but overall, things are pretty straightforward. Despite the idea of the content being simple, so many things went so wrong that time spent with the game proves to be unrewarding.

For me, the most glaring issue with Madd Moxxi's Underdome Riot is the fact that you do not gain experience from combat. You know those sweet sweet numbers that pop up when you defeat an enemy? They're gone. Sure, you still get experience points for turning in quests, but part of the stick on a carrot that drives me in this game involves constant progression, and that's missing here. Call me needy, but this omission is really enough to make me weary of investing a lot of time into this content. It wouldn't be quite as painful if there were interesting quests to complete, but as it stands, the quests are as vanilla as they get. They're as simple as completing each tournament, although that's a feat easier said than done. Speaking of that...

Tournaments within the Underdome Riot don't seem to scale for solo players. I realize most are going to play this with friends, but sometimes I want to play the lone wolf. Sometimes I don't want to be social. Shouldn't we be at a point in gaming where the difficulty dynamically adjusts to the number of players? Sadly, if you want to make a whole lot of progress, you're going to need real-life Internet people. The difficulty, even with four people, is certainly up there with the best (or the worst depending on how you look at it). Compound that into something for one person to deal with, and I wouldn't be surprised if you never saw the other side of the first boss round.

Ok, so it's tough. I'm an experienced gamer, and I can take it. After all, the developers obviously created this DLC with teamplay in mind, so I might as well enjoy the content as intended. If only there was some way to get into a quick game with complete strangers. Sorry. You're out of luck. No separate lobby for Madd Moxxi. You're definitely welcome to use the matchmaking already built into the game, hope you wind up with three other players that have also purchased this content (likely a mistake), then fast travel to the Underdome, but that really seems convoluted. Why wouldn't there be a way to facilitate group play a bit better? This should be a pick up and play game mode, and it doesn't seem like a whole lot of attention was given to that idea.

The fact is: I just don't have the time to try to play something I don't like. What should have been a no-brainer on the design end of things was not. I loved Borderlands and its first DLC: The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned, but Madd Moxxi is another monster altogether. It has charm, but not much more. Madd Moxxi could have been an excellent character to add to the Borderlands universe, but she, along with her arenas, fell flat. It feels like a waste of time and money. I'll cut my losses here and now. I'm shelving this game until something better comes along.

Digg!

January 29, 2010

No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle | First Impressions

Troy Benedict Says Somebody on Twitter made the perfect comparison to No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle. They likened it to the 2009 avant-garde, over-the-top action film Crank 2: High Voltage, featuring Jason Statham. The movie is essentially pure testosterone and adrenaline, hardly making any sense and not taking itself seriously at all. The events of the story fly by at a breakneck speed with super-stylized editing and color (im)balancing, and non-stop mixes of sex and violence.

As I was playing through the first couple of hours, the similarities between this game and Crank 2 seemed to run almost in tandem, to the point that the creators behind both products HAD to have appreciated and drawn influences from the others work.

Anybody who has played the original No More Heroes has a pretty good idea what to expect with the sequel. Travis Touchdown, a geeky, fowl-mouth, murderous, "normal guy," returns for more bloodshed, wielding his beam katana--a weapon taken directly from a popular George Lucas project and renamed to something less copyright-infringing.

There is no doubt that No More Heroes 2 is a mature-rated game. The game's opening sequence features a fair share of four-letter swearing, over-the-top fountains of blood, and characters with revealing clothing and long, close-up shots of their “supple” cleavage. There is also a lot of scatological, penile, and sexual references. When you save your game, you go into the bathroom, sit on the toilet, and "drop a save," to quote Travis Touchdown. My point is, this is not a game for kids and it’s not ONLY because of the the blood and gore.

The M-rating seems to be something of a Scarlett Letter with Wii games, and as much as I've enjoyed playing No More Heroes 2, I don't expect it to sell well. That is, if the history of mature games on the Wii has anything to say about it. While most M-rated Wii games have received surprisingly average to decent reviews, they can't seem to actually sell any copies.

I was actually surprised to know that a sequel to No More Heroes 2 was being released amongst a sea of poor-selling M-rated games like House of the Dead: Overkill, MadWorld, and Dead Space: Extraction. Perhaps, because the original game was well-received and sold a decent amount of copies, No More Heroes 2 will sell better than other mature-rated Wii titles. NMH2 is also a niche title, appealing to a more hardcore gaming enthusiast audience. I feel that the game’s “Desperate Struggle” tagline may apply to the game’s commercial success in an industry where M-rated games only seem to sell well on the Xbox 360 and PS3.

The story behind the game is both ridiculous and highly-entertaining. It's definitely a guilty pleasure kind of game, and right now I'm thinking about how much I'd like to go home and see what kind of oddball direction the game goes next. I actually appreciate how No More Heroes 2 is self-referencing, in that it recognizes that it's a video game, and it's literally pointed out in a discussion between two characters after the first opening battle.

For a "lightsaber" style game, I was actually surprised that with NMH2 there was not a lot of required shaking or swinging of the Wii-remote. The only time I had to waggle or shake one or both of the controllers was when executing a finishing move, or charging up the beam katana. Most of the controls require you to hit the A button and the B button for katana and melee attacks, respectively. The Z button on the nunchuck attachment locks on to your target, and the C button switches locked-on targets. It is also possible to play the game using the Wii's classic controller.

The game looks pretty good... for a Wii title. My wife at one point walked into the room and asked me why the game looked the way it did. She wasn't saying that in a positive way, either. She was saying it in the obvious Wii to 360/PS3 visual comparison. I had no defense, and my answer was simple: "It's a game for the Wii." She accepted that and went on with what she was doing. The almost cell-shaded style of the game helps give NMH2 a look that works well for the Wii, but I could only imagine how much more effective this game's visual flair would be if it was running in high definition.

One aspect of No More Heroes 2 that I really liked was the game's homage to the 8-bit days of video games. You see, there is more to Travis than just killing. He can also work and earn money. Money is earned through several different mini games, called Side Jobs. These side jobs are represented in throwback 8-bit style arcade games. Two of my favorites are the tile laying game that gives a nod to Tetris without infringing on its copyright, and a pipe laying game similar to Pipe Dreams. Money from these side jobs can be used to buy Travis new clothes, train at the gym to get more strength and stamina, buy upgraded weapons, and purchase cat food. [Insert record scratch sound effect here.]

"Cat food??" you might be asking. Yes, cat food. In perhaps one of the starkest contrasts to the game's dark sense of humor, the pee and poop jokes, the sexual innuendo, the bad language, and the gore galore, is Travis' overweight cat Jeane.

Jeane is a fat cat. Your goal when interacting with her is to help her lose weight in a series of mini games: play, jump, stretch, massage, and feed. The animation of the cat and the mini games that you participate in to help her lose weight are actually quite cute and add a little bit of endearment and heart to an otherwise savage and hyperactive game.

While the controls for No More Heroes 2 took me a little bit of time to adjust to, I have been enjoying this game tremendously. As I mentioned earlier on in this preview, I have been constantly thinking about ridiculousness of the game since I last played it, and can't wait to sit down with it this evening and see how the story progresses.

In other words, this game has made an impression on me, and it seems to be a lasting one. I am a bit worried about how repetitious the game might become, but perhaps the game's screwball storyline and cast of eclectic characters will keep me satisfied.

I’ll let you know my final take on the game in the next couple of weeks, after I’ve completed the game.


Digg!

Do Your Taxes in Your Underwear

Amy Nelson says, If you are like most tech-savvy adults these days, you have no doubt discovered the Internet's nearly boundless opportunities to do things in your underwear. Pay bills in your underwear? Yep! Order your groceries in your underwear? Totally! Christmas shopping in your underwear? Sure thing--they'll even wrap it and mail it for you! Buy a new car in your underwear? Maybe not your best idea, but sure! So as we enter that wonderful time of the year called tax season, know that we at The Goozex Report got your options covered. Do your taxes in your underwear? Yes, you can!

Now, if you are like me, you might feel a bit intimidated by the idea of handling complicated tax code on your own. As a small business owner, I paid the fine people at H&R Block Premium to do my taxes for years. But three years ago my epiphany came when I realized my "tax professional" was simply following the instructions on the screen. Ask her a question, and she would literally say, "we'll wait for the program to get there." Upwards of $200 to watch someone plug numbers into a program when prompted? I don't think so!

Daunting as it may seem, tax software literally walks you right through the process. Some, like the H&R BLock Online that I use, even imports your previous year's information for you--even if you used their offices previously.

There are numerous programs out there for filing online, such as TaxAct, TurboTax and H&R Block Online. The best part is that most allow you to try it for free. You can go through the entire process of preparing your taxes, and then pay when you file--so if you end up uncomfortable with the results, you are only out your time. Just go to the web site (make sure it is a reputable one) and start your journey to tax enlightenment.

There are options to buy tax filing programs on disc, but I really don't see any advantage to this for the average Joe. It costs more, and then you've got one more software box laying around your house. There are, however, distinct advantages to filing online rather than doing the old pen and paper routine. Tax code is always changing--it is nearly impossible for actual humans to keep up with it. And if you miss some new deduction, you could be left paying more than you have to. Or worse yet--miss out on a refund. (Horrors!)

Filing online is not just for your average single, works one job , no deductions guy either. Self-employed, unemployed, raising your lazy bum brother's kids? The online programs can handle it, and quite well. It really is just as simple as grabbing your forms and plugging in a few numbers when it tells you to.

So what are waiting for? Put on some underwear, grab those forms, and kick some tax code butt! May the refund fairies look kindly upon you.


Digg!

January 28, 2010

R.I.P. Daisuke Gori

Cole Burton says, Daisuke Gōri, known among Metal Gear series fans for his performances as both Marine Commandant Scott Dolph (MGS2) and Lieutenant Cunningham (MPO) passed away on Sunday, January 24, 2010.

He was found wandering the streets of Nakano Ward in Tokyo at around 3:00 PM with blood dripping down his arm before collapsing in the street. At the scene, they found a sharp object on his person as well as his last will and testament. Authorities are currently investigating his passing as a possible suicide.

Apart from his work in Metal Gear, he was also well known in a long list of roles in popular media including Heihachi Mishima in the Tekken series, Mr. Satan in Dragon Ball Z, and Bass Armstrong in the Dead or Alive series.

Below is a list of Video Games that Daisuke was in, as well as his parts.

  • Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War (Colonel Orson Perrault)
  • Baten Kaitos Origins (Wiseman)
  • The Bouncer (Volt Krueger)
  • Capcom Fighting Evolution (Leo)
  • Daraku Tenshi – The Fallen Angels (Harry Ness)
  • Dead or Alive (Bass Armstrong)
  • Dead or Alive 2 (Bass Armstrong)
  • Dead or Alive 3 (Bass Armstrong)
  • Dead or Alive 4 (Bass Armstrong)
  • Death by Degrees (Heihachi Mishima)
  • Dragon Ball Z: Budokai series (Mister Satan)
  • Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi (Mister Satan, Ox King)
  • Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2 (Mister Satan, Ox King, Drum)
  • Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 (Mister Satan, King Cold)
  • Drakengard (Manah, The Voice of God)
  • Final Fantasy XII (Gilgamesh)
  • Genji: Dawn of the Samurai (Taira no Kiyomori)
  • Garouden Breakblow: Fist or Twist (Rikiozan)
  • Jak II (Baron Praxis, Mog)
  • The King of Fighters XII (Raiden)
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (Scott Dolph)
  • Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops (Lt. Cunningham)
  • Namco × Capcom (Heihachi Mishima)
  • Ninja Gaiden 2 (Volf)
  • Quiz Magic Academy (Romanov)
  • Red Earth (Leo, Kongou, Valdoll)
  • Sakura Wars (Yokihiko Ōta)
  • Samurai Warriors (Takeda Shingen)
  • Shadow Hearts (Cardinal Albert Simon)
  • Shadow Hearts: Covenant (Cardinal Albert Simon)
  • Shining Tears (Lazarus)
  • Soulcalibur (Edge Master)
  • Soulcalibur II (Heihachi Mishima)
  • Star Fox 64 (General Pepper, Andross, Pigma Dengar, others)
  • Star Fox: Assault (Pigma Dengar)
  • Tales of Rebirth (Tohma)
  • Tekken 3 (Heihachi Mishima)
  • Tekken Tag Tournament (Heihachi Mishima)
  • Tekken Advance (Heihachi Mishima)
  • Tekken 4 (Heihachi Mishima)
  • Tekken 5 (Heihachi Mishima)
  • Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection (Heihachi Mishima)
  • Tekken 6 (Heihachi Mishima)
  • Tekken 6: Bloodline Rebellion (Heihachi Mishima)
  • Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven (Ganda)
  • Time Crisis 4 (The Head of the V.S.S.E., First Lieutenant Jack Mathers)

As you all can see, Daisuke was a huge Japanese voice actor. That was just his Video Games list, he was also in many animes, TV shows, movies, and OVA’s.

I wish I could say more about Daisuke, but, this was just about all of the reliable info I could find on him. Most of us Americans probably never even heard of him, but as you can see, he was in some huge games in Japan, so I know many Japanese are grieving his death. Perhaps he was in the Japanese version of one of your favorite games. Who knows, but one thing is for sure, he will definitely be missed in the video game world.

Digg!

January 27, 2010

Heavy Rain: Four Days

Shawn Lebert says January 26 was hit with not only one of the biggest sequels of the year already – oh, Mass Effect 2, calling you the “AVATAR of video games” – but a fun surprise of events with the reveal of Heavy Rain: Four Days. This is an online, interactive mystery that has little to do with the upcoming PlayStation 3 exclusive, but much to do with its storyline. If you’re a fan of the totally detailed alternate reality games – or ARGs for short – you will find yourself sucked in the very first day of joining.

For starters, you’re given an email that’ll prompt you to jump right into the madness. By madness, it means the mind of a psychopath. This isn’t some normal website mini-game where you have to push buttons and dodge death. This is a full-blown alternate reality game that has the potential of starting up some heat with other ARG-related rivals, from shows like LOST on ABC. Okay; it’s not as articulate – yet – but it surely has the potential to be the most intriguing murder mystery on the Net at the moment.

You’ll be hitting the Heavy Rain website and facing your first test. Hopefully, you have your thinking cap on by now because anagrams are the specialty on the first day. For the purpose of getting anyone and everyone into the viral marketing, there won’t be any revelation of information pertaining to the game. However, many will notice right away that they use social networks like Twitter as a very important aspect to the game. As a detective, you must do what you can in order to solve the left-behind clues the Origami Killer has left behind.

By God, it isn’t easy. Eventually, you’ll be coming up with theories and suspicions that reveal little to nothing about the things at hand, or perhaps you’ll go off on your own tangent. Hands down, David Cage gets a pat on the back for his creative insight on the viral workings of this mystery and how it brings everyone from all over, to help break the case. Surely though, no one is meant to solve it on the first day as not enough clues are present.

This is one case that you will need an actual bulletin board to link all the possible connections, if the connections are even correct. The fact that even the game doesn’t tell you if you’re on the right trail or not is what’s brilliant and realistic.

The game will take place for the next three weeks, four days out of each week, from Tuesday to Friday. That’s 12 days. Twelve days to outsmart the killer.

If this is your dream job, to be a detective, here is your unofficial training. Sign up right now.






Digg!

Flower | Playstation Network Exclusive



Digg!

January 26, 2010

Modern Warfare 2 Nuke Guide

Cole Burton says Chances are by now you own Modern Warfare 2, but have you gotten 10 nukes before prestiging yet? I really wanted that nuke emblem, and if you don’t have it yet, I am going to help you out. Below are some Classes, Killstreaks and Strategies to help you get your nukes!

Explosive Method:
  • Primary Weapon: AK47 with a grenade Launcher
  • Secondary Weapon: Thumper grenade Launcher
  • Equipment: Semtex
  • Perk 1: Scavenger Pro
  • Perk 2: Danger Close Pro
  • Perk 3: Steady Aim Pro
  • Killstreak 1: Harrier Strike
  • Killstreak 2: Chopper Gunner
  • Killstreak 3: Tactical Nuke
  • Deathstreak: Final Stand

Explosive General Strategy:
Use your AK grenade launcher killing as many enemies as you can, try to camp in a small area with plenty of cover (the plane in Terminal) until you get a harrier strike. When you run out of grenades for your AK, run over the corpse of a nearby enemy to get more grenades thanks to scavenger. If there is no corpse nearby, switch to your thumper and wait for another prey. You can try this strategy by running and gunning with a grenade launcher as well, sometimes it pays off, sometimes it doesn’t.

Stealth Method:

  • Primary Weapon: ACR with silencer and Heartbeat Sensor
  • Secondary Weapon: G18 with silencer and Akimbo
  • Equipment: Frag grenade
  • Perk 1: Bling Pro
  • Perk 2: Cold-Blooded pro
  • Perk 3: Ninja Pro
  • Killstreak 1: Harrier Strike
  • Killstreak 2: Chopper Gunner
  • Killstreak 3: Tactical Nuke
  • Deathstreak: Final Stand

Stealth General Strategy:
Find a nice place to camp and take out everyone you can. You are pretty much safe from enemy detection unless they see you on screen. Plus, the heartbeat sensor will warn of close enemies.

Those are the best two strategies that I used to get my nukes and I hope they can help you guys get that nuke emblem if you don’t yet have it!

Digg!

January 25, 2010

Microsoft is bringing the arcade back with game room

Jason Trent says Microsoft recently announced their plans to launch the Xbox Game Room in an attempt to bring a classic arcade coin-op arcade experience to the masses of gamers using Xbox Live and Games for Windows live services. For those not in the know, the Xbox Game Room is a new application for use on both the Xbox 360 and Windows-based PCs where you and friends will have the ability to take your avatars through your custom created arcades. Here, you can challenge friends for an all-out battle to prove once and for all who the best gamer is. The idea is interesting, but I feel some of the particulars are flawed. What is it going to take for this to succeed as a new way to deliver retro titles to the end user?

The first thing people want to know is how much it will cost to enjoy their old favorites in the comfort of their new virtual play room. The game room itself is free, but the virtual arcade cabinets are not, so unless you want to be lounging in an empty room, you'll need to invest a little bit. The most appealing option is to purchase a title for use on one platform. For a mere 240 Microsoft Points (3 real people dollars), gamers will have unlimited play on an arcade title on either Xbox 360 or a Windows-based PC. If you want the freedom to experience your game on both platforms, you'll need to pony up 400 points (5 real people dollars). Finally, if you just want to try a game, you get one play free with additional plays costing 40 points a pop (2 real life quarters).

I can understand the 240 point price for unlimited plays of an arcade title, but 400 points to play on both my Xbox 360 and PC? That's crazy. Microsoft should be convincing me that I want to give them my money. Letting one Gamertag access the same game at two places shouldn't cost me almost double the price of a title. Further, who is going to spend 50 cents for one play on a game that is designed to eat quarters? We live in an age of nickle arcades. With 1000's of titles planned for release, you need to give me a much better price on a single play. Something more in the neighborhood of 10 cents (8 points) per play would get my attention.

Most of these games are already available for free play on the Internet, so their success is really going to be made or broken in the additional features offered. Things like leader boards and achievements are definitely a step in the right direction, but if they really want to capture the feeling of an arcade and give people a real reason to keep coming back, they'd implement machine specific leader boards. Imagine being invited to your friend's arcade to have a friendly game of Centipede and having a way to view high scores of only those who had played on that cabinet. I think that could make things much more personal for something that is supposed to recreate the social environment of the classic arcade. This, of course, would be supplemental to global leader boards; not a replacement, but it's a little thing that could go a long way.

To me, the most interesting idea of the Game Room is the chance to design my very own man cave to enjoy with friends. According to the Game Room fact sheet released by Microsoft, we can arrange cabinets how we want, as well as decorate the room with themes and animated icons from our favorite games. Unfortunately, we don't have many more details than that, but, depending on the level of customization and ease of use, this could be the bang for our buck that pushes some users over the edge and into consumer bliss.

Game Room is set to release this Spring, so we don’t have to wait long to see the master plan at work. Hopefully, this will be a positive experience for gamers and Microsoft alike.

Digg!

January 24, 2010

Aargh matey.....It's A Pirate!

Amy Nelson says For Christmas, I was the proud recipient of a brand new, lime green Nintendo Ds. Not that I needed one, mind you, as our household already contains three of them, but it seems my children don't like to share them. My oldest son once hid his Ds under his pillow and pretended it was lost for three days because I "played it too long."

In my holiday glee with my new toy, I quickly went online to find one of my all-time favorite games:-TetrisDs. I found a new copy on an eBay-like site called eCrater. I was apparently suffering from a bout of stupidity that day, as I didn't really check the seller out as well as I should have, figuring using paypal would have me covered.

After nearly a month of waiting, my new game finally arrived at my door. My first clue that something might not be entirely cool was having to sign at my door for an international package from Hong Kong. But I didn't let this damper my excitement for too long. Surely not every game coming out of China is counterfeit--a place with such great food can't be all bad--right?

I opened the package and everything looked okay, except the case was a little different than I am used to seeing--it was a bit bulkier--and clear. My new game was packaged in a European case but the text was all English. Hmmm. My joy was starting to fade a bit, but I was still holding out hope that this was, in fact, a legitimate version of Tetris Ds. I took the cartridge out of the box, and compared it with another Ds game I had on hand. They were identical, with none of the issues various web searches had told me to look for (such as non-metallic pins and poorly placed stickers). If this was a pirated game, it was a good one.

After further research, I did find a prevailing theme among counterfeit games: incorrect cover art. So I did what all the world does when searching for a product: I went to Amazon. At first, I was delighted. The cover art on the Amazon version looked just like the one on mine. Maybe it WAS real! But wait! As I looked closer, I realized that my cover was close, but was missing a few key pieces. It did not have the symbols on the left-hand side for Nintendo wi-fi or touch generations, and the image of Mario jumping onto the screen was completely omitted. Aargh matey--me thinks you've found a pirate!

It is very difficult to tell the difference between a good counterfeit and the real deal. Many people never even realize that they own a pirated copy. It is a significant problem, but there are a few things you can do to protect yourself. A large amount of these pirated copies are coming out of China, and being sold online at sites like eBay and eCrater. So, obviously--don't buy Ds games from a Chinese seller--even if it's a great deal (it was stupid, I know). If you simply must buy from places like eBay, protect yourself with paypal. Sometimes it isn't so easy to avoid a fake, though. There are many reports of pirated games being sold in the used-game sections of stores, or being traded with other users at trading sites. One of the reasons this is so common is because so many people never even realize their game is a fake. If you receive a game that you suspect is a counterfeit, go online and do a quick search. Youtube has a variety of short videos on the topic, and most gaming sites have forum posts on it as well. A real quick way to check is to get your hands on a Dsi. The counterfeit games work just fine on a Ds, but won't play on a Dsi.

Counterfeit Ds and GBA games are out there, and many people do not know how to spot a fake. I wondered how much of a presence they are on game-trading sites and asked Mark Nebesky, the CMO of Goozex, some questions about how often this occurs on Goozex.com and how they handle it when it does:

Amy Nelson: How often does Goozex get reports of counterfeit games being traded?

Mark Nebesky: "Rarely. In the nearly four years of business we have seen it reported a handful of times and each time we make it a point to get to the bottom of the truth and disable any members that have sent bootleg games."

AN: What kind of process is in place to determine if a game is, in fact, counterfeit?

MN: "If it does happen, we ask the buyer to send us the claimed pirated disc. I can only think of one or two times it was a blatant burned disc. Most times it is the unfortunate case that a seller unknowingly sent a well made pirated GBA cartridge. These are easy to spot if you know what to look for like if it has "Nintendo" printed on the green board or not."

AN: Are there any games that stand out as most-often pirated?

MN: "GBA games by accident. This happens because the seller has purchased it used from eBay, Gamestop and such places and nobody knew it was a well made knock off. Otherwise, it just doesn't really happen."

AN: What kind of steps does Goozex take to protect it's users from receiving pirated games?

MN: "Our feedback system is there to protect members from all types of negative experiences including receiving a pirated disc. Once we receive the pirated item we refund the buyer the points and token used."

AN: Is there a particular pirate who keeps resurfacing?

MN: "No, there is no Le Chuck type of member on Goozex. If there was, we'd have already sent their info to the proper authorities. Piracy is something we take very seriously. Would be pirates should be warned, the Goozex community will not tolerate spending their points on pirated games and movies and it will result in trouble for you!"

Like Goozex, most of the reputable trading sites already have a system in place for handling pirated items. It is important to be informed about common signs of a counterfeit should you receive one, but it is equally important to know that Goozex knows how to handle the situation should the worst happen.

January 23, 2010

Darksiders . . . Is it more than a God of War clone?

Erik Kubik asks, is Darksiders more than a God of War clone? It’s a tough question all gamers had to ask themselves. Is Darksiders enough of a game to distance itself from games like GOW? Yes?!

Darksiders is an interesting game. Originally, the protagonist and dealer of death, “War” was going to be a kid with a robotic arm who could bounce off walls. Instead, War was shaped into a bad-ass Horseman of the Apocalypse who is sent to earth to kick some demon butt with the help of some awe- inspiring weapons. That is about as deep as the story gets in the first hour or so. The rest of the game is spent trolling through dungeons, collecting items, upgrading the weapons, and executing blood splattering, skull-splitting combos on a variety of enemies.

Darksiders is a good game, but there are a few things that push it away from greatness. The crawling through and backtracking in dungeons gets old fast. Much like the Zelda games, players start at one end and travel to the other end, only to find they must backtrack through a Boss or two to reach the real exit. And just like Zelda, there are instances in the game where walls must be destroyed by explosives.

The camera, which is a raised third party view, works well. Gamers can aim and move the camera, although sometimes it gets pretty crazy with multiple enemies. There is really no way to zoom out and track/center everyone, which can make moving and dodging attacks with War stressful.

The Boss fights consist of two styles: super-easy or rip-out-your-hair-and-smash-your-game-console-with-a-large-brick hard. This creates a nice variety, but it makes the pace of the game a drag. Gamers spend 10 minutes on a boss fight and within the next 30 minutes, they find a 35-minute boss fight. That does not count the number of times War dies trying to defeat the boss.

Although this hybrid Zelda-GOW game has its shortcomings, the game is still loads of fun. Darksiders has several well-executed parts. The combo system is deep, and the weapons are fun. Let’s go through the list: giant sword capable of gutting demons like pigs; ninja star/boomerang, which is designed to keep enemies at bay while War saws off their limbs; and an oversized Gauntlet capable of crushing undead skull. Those are just a few of the many weapons War has the privilege of using.

The surprisingly deep upgrade system for both the weapons and War’s abilities is extensive. War can be shaped to a gamers’ play style, whether it’s juggling enemies with air combos, or hitting enemies to build up a 30-count combo. The combos and sword moves are fun. There are patented executions similar to God of War. War rips off arms, heads, swords and often times pummels enemies with their own devices before decapitating them in a gore-soaked moment.

Graphically, the game is good. The dungeons, the outdoors, and the burning city look incredible. Light flickers off the walls and water. Shadows outline enemies from afar. There are lots of details on the enemies and War himself looks like he’s been ripped out of Dark Horse comics. In the end, the game is fun despite its few shortcomings. Although it’s on the shorter side and the replay value is minimal, it’s still a worthy for fans of the GOW series.

Final Grade B


Digg!

January 22, 2010

Bayonetta | PS3 Review

Chris Nitz says Bayonetta is quite possibly one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had on a console in recent months. Sure, there are plenty of over-the-top things in the game, but it does not shamelessly try to hide that fact. Bayonetta uses the Devil May Cry formula and to create an extremely enjoyable package. If you are still debating on this game, debate no longer, get it!

First, the bad things about the game. I played it on the PS3, which is my system of choice and the 360. After playing Bayonetta on both systems, the 360 does have the better visuals. The PS3 visuals are not horrible by any means; it’s just that the 360 has better color saturation and a much sharper picture.

Bayonetta also suffers from bad screen tearing. Moving the camera quickly often leads to several spots where the screen separates. The main culprit is often having a lot of enemies on the screen at the same time. Trying to do a fast camera swipe to take note of where all the monsters are is often met with these phenomena. After time, this inconvenience disappears into the recesses of your mind, but onlookers will notice it while they watch.

The biggest issue I have with Bayonetta on the PS3 are the load times, which are horrible. If you want to pause the game, you must wait 6 to 10 seconds, for a loading sequence. Now, most of the loading screens allow you to work on combos, but all I want to do is look at the options in the pause menu and I have to load that! This is just unacceptable in this day and age. I'd put up with a 20-minute install if I can just pause the game so I can skip a cut scene I have already watched.

Now, for the good stuff. This game shoots into the stratosphere in the gameplay department. The action is fast and furious. Though there are swarms of enemies to fight through, it does not feel like it is overdone or overly repetitive. The combat appears chaotic, but players will find it deeply satisfying. I was really amazed at how the game had me feeling so connected to all the action that was going on. You will lose track of time since you are having such a good time.

The controls are very solid. Combo-a-holics will be in heaven as there are a plethora of options here. Between the kicking, punching and shooting, there is never a dull moment. As you fight you will fill a magic gauge. This allows for devastating attacks. These attacks are fun little ditties like kicking an enemy into an Iron Maiden or setting up the baddie on a Guillotine and dropping the blade on their necks. This is all on top of the special hair attacks. Bayonetta will use her magical hair to stomp an enemy into the ground, or form a giant dog-like head and eat the enemy into submission. It all adds up to make one of the most enjoyable actions games out on current-gen systems.

Those who want to do all the combos, but don't want to learn them all right off the bat, have options available to them as well. Playing the game on Very Easy or Easy will rattle off the combos with nothing more than a mere set of button mashes. While this might be a bit of a let down on the difficulty side, it does allow for better timing, stringing combos, and full-button moves. Even though combos can be executed with nothing more than button mashing on these two difficulties, you can still perform the actual combos as the game does a decent job of distinguishing when you’re mashing and when you’re trying to perform a specific combo.

The music is going to be a love or hate situation. The soundtrack is heavy on the J-pop with a hint of jazz. I found that it fit the theme of the game rather well. I enjoyed it, though I would not pause the game and make dinner as the sound loop does get a bit old. I can't really complain though as I found the music helped make the game more entertaining.

Bayonetta is a game that strives on being over-the-top. Everything from story to characters (just look at Bayonetta herself) focuses around this theme. The story in Bayonetta exemplifies just how over-the-top the game can be. The story line is not going to win any Oscars, but its B-movie delivery just must might. The story is delivered in a mixture of cg scenes and stills that are portrayed as film strips. Over all it is ok, if not a bit odd at times as the game freely moves from CG to stills with no advanced warning.

The narrative through the voicing is highly cheesy. I often found myself laughing at the story delivery more than the actual story. It is not a horrible story, but the whole voicing with cheap one-liners makes for an interesting time nonetheless.

The cheese factor comes to a grinding halt when it comes to the enemies. Seeing how the whole game is a fight against heaven, the enemies come out with that holier-than-thou feeling. It works, and it works really well. There is a bit of mix and repeat in enemies throughout the game. For the most part though, the game does a splendid job of keeping the enemies feeling unique and interesting.

Bayonetta also has some of the biggest bosses I have ever encountered. There is a great feeling of size differentials here. The bosses only get bigger as the game progresses. The final stage is a real treat for those willing to partake.

One of the harder portions to get used to is the Witch Walk. This happens when the full moon comes out in the game. Bayonetta gains the power to defy gravity. It is a cool feature and really plays on the 3D world. Running on the side of a building feels badass and disorienting all at the same time. Luckily, this only happens in a few stages.

There are several weapons, booster items, and moves to unlock. This is one game that one or two mere play-throughs will not net you every item in the game. As for weapons: you can add shotguns, swords, rocket launchers and claws to your arsenal. The equipping of these weapons is limited to one item for the hands and one item for the feet. No, Bayonetta cannot kick ass with a sword strapped to her heels.

The last added feature to the weapon lineup is the enemy weapons. There are some enemies that will drop their weapons for Bayonetta to pickup. These weapons can be used for a short duration of time and provide even more great ways of angelic dismemberment.

The nice part about these new weapons is that it opens up a whole new set of combos. Fighting with a sword feels different from fighting with guns in your hands. The other nicety is that the animations also change. Overall, there is a lot to see and master in this deep, yet highly satisfying fighting system.

There are quick time events packed into this game. They are no God of War frustration events, but they exist none the less. The only times these quick time events got irritating was when they would happen with no real rhyme or reason. Most of these events can be foreshadowed, but some just happen out of the blue, and missing them will lead to your inevitable death.

The game can be beat in roughly 12 - 15 hours. That is if you play it on the easier difficulties and skip all the cut scenes. After the game has been bested on Normal, hard mode becomes available. The one advantage is that everything that was acquired on the previous play through will carry over to the second, third; fourth...you get the point. Those of you looking to make this game a bit easier, start out on very easy, move to easy, finish on normal and then try your hand at hard. If you find hard is not so bad there is another difficulty past that. Completionists will enjoy this run!

Though the game might come off as feeling there is a bit of free roaming at first, this is but a mere illusion. There is certainly a set path to go down. There are parts that help cover this up a bit, but there are set tasks and a set path to follow. I did not really find this at all hindering though as the action was constant and fun did not really stop.

I played this game twice within the first week. I have since started playing it again a fourth time. It is that much fun. Sure the PS3 version has its problems, but they do not deter from the overall sheer enjoyment of the game. I still stick by my advice of getting it on the 360 if you have one. Not having to wait to pause the game would be worth it alone. If you're looking for a hack and slash that nails the genre, then you need not look any further.


Digg!

January 21, 2010

Poker--Your New Online Game

Amy Nelson says With the ability to chat with other players, win real money--even at free-site tournaments--and cash in player points for items varying from teddy bears to luxury cars, Internet poker has something for everyone. Some join at the free sites but move quickly to the real money play, while others are content to play no-stakes indefinitely. For those who would not consider poker a "real" video game, look to the thousands who purchased such titles as Poker Masters, and the World Championship Poker games that feature Howard Lederer. There are poker titles available for virtually every console, including handheld versions. But why play alone, when you can join an entire community playing online?

There is such a variety of people playing online, and with the ability to chat with other players both at the tables and in forums, real relationships are formed. With such a variety of players and games, online poker has much to keep even an avid player interested. When you aren't playing poker, you can spend time becoming better at it.There are many sites that cater to the online gaming community. You can join an endless amount of sites relating to poker: everything from discussions of the latest tournaments to tips for improving your play. There are poker video sites, both free and for a fee, where you can watch other players play and pick up tips to improve your own game. Serious players may even enlist the aid of a "poker coach" to watch them play and give a play-by-play analysis of their game. Poker was once considered a very social game--whether in bars or home games--people had to get together and play. But the world of poker has changed drastically since those days. In fact, a significant amount of online players rarely, if ever, play "live" games.

There are quite a few places where you can find a good online game, but a few sites stand out, mainly due to their popularity and size. Pokerstars comes immediately to mind, as they had such a large ad presence when televised poker championships first became popular. They are followed closely in popularity by FullTiltPoker, Ultimate Bet, and Absolute Poker . Each of these has an option to play for free, and some free tournaments even come with the possibility of winning real money. These sites are also world-wide, which means you can play Hold-em with an Aussie, Omaha with a Brit, or 7-card stud with a Swede.

Online poker is fun, free, and easy to learn. If you are enjoying your online games, but looking for a bit of change, why not give poker a try?

Digg!

January 20, 2010

What is it about Achievements?

Jason Trent says Rewards systems are powerful things, and can help guide players in their purchases. Depending on which system you've invested the most amount of time on (the Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3), you might find yourself drawn to one or the other on multi-platform games. I, for one, find that I purchase all of my multi-platform titles for the Xbox 360. Because I've spent a lot of time earning Achievements, I'd prefer to continue to increase my gamer score on that particular rewards system. Others feel connected to the trophy system, in which case they're going to be bound to purchase their multi-platform titles for the PlayStation 3. Without a doubt, this is something consumers consider when purchasing a game. What is it about these little beauties that make us tick? Why do so many of us spend so much time earning them, and what is it about them that makes us seek them out?

First and foremost, they make us feel good. They satisfy a compulsion to be rewarded for our actions. Most of us mull through life looking to get a pat on the head when we do well at something. It might be school, it might be work, it might be a relationship, but whatever it is, we need to feel like there's a reason for doing what we do; a reason that can often be found in the praise we receive. Getting an "Achievement Unlocked" message upon reaching the end of a level is just the carrot on a stick I need to keep me going sometimes.

Beyond the obvious point that achievements and trophies make us feel swell, they also represent your gaming resume; a scrapbook of sorts. Much like looking at photos of your last vacation, viewing a list of achievements or trophies you've earned can serve to remind you of some great times. They're a way to say, "I've been there. I've seen some stuff. I've done great things." Because we have something to show ourselves and others, they're validation that the time we've spent gaming wasn't a waste. Much the opposite in fact. Achievements and trophies allow us to bolster our sense of self-worth.

Besides being a system of rewards, achievements and trophies also supplement leader boards by providing a new way to compete with friends. I remember the first time I got into a friendly competition with someone (a co-worker) through achievements. I noticed that he was playing a lot of Call of Duty: World at War on Veteran difficulty. He'd already beaten a few levels, so I had to intervene. I caught up with him, then came to work the next day to gloat. From there, we'd each rush home after work each day to try to outdo the other, and for a change, work became fun. We'd share strategies, experiences, and frustrations (grenade spamming anyone?); things that really took my experience with the game to the next level. Eventually he got stuck on Vendetta (the fourth level), and I on Blowtorch & Corkscrew (the 12th level), but even if I wasn't able to finish the game, I still won the competition.

Achievements and trophies may seem simple on the surface, but there's more to them than meets the eye. I leave you with these questions: What are some of your favorite achievements or trophies and why? Do you prefer the acheivements system or trophies system and why?

Digg!

January 18, 2010

What To Get Your Girlfriend That You Like Too | Valentine’s Day

Amy Nelson says Valentine's Day is fast approaching, and with it comes the inevitable question, "What am I going to get my girlfriend?" I know what you are thinking, "Don't worry about me, Amy. I got it covered. My girl is getting the Personal Trainer Fitness." I will pray for you when she opens this. You got just got your girl a gift that says, "I think you're fat." On Valentine's Day. May God have mercy on your soul. DO NOT, under any circumstances buy your girl this game, wii-fit, or any other item that implies fatness unless she has specifically instructed you to do so. You'll thank me later, believe me. This also goes for the new cooking games, like Personal Trainer Chef. Nothing says "I love you" like a cookbook. No, not really.

For those of you who think your girl will not appreciate a video game for Valentine's Day, don't forget to tell her that you are buying it so you can spend more time together. Hello, bonus points.

Now that you know what you shouldn't get, let's talk about what you should buy her. Guitar Hero is an excellent choice, and available on all the major platforms. Spring for an extra guitar so you can play together. There is cooperative mode, where you can work together on your tour, or competitive mode if things get a bit feisty. Put on a romantic song, pick up your guitars, and get ready to conquer the world of music--together.

For guys who want to show their significant other that they are ready to make that commitment, LittleBigPlanet may be the game for you. Show your undying love by creating an entire world together, and then nurture and care for it together. "No, honey. We don't need a baby. We have our sackboy." Aren't you sweet?

If you are looking for something a little more economical, Tetris and Dr. Mario are both great choices. Even if your girl isn't a big gamer, she will probably enjoy these puzzle games. The controls are super-simple, and at $10 per WiiWare download, they are a very thrifty choice. Tetris is also available in disc form for virtually every platform.

There are some new single-player games coming out as well, if you are looking to occupy your girl elsewhere so you can play in peace. Set to release January 19th, Bejeweled Twist is the classic puzzle game Bejeweled remade. Bejeweled is known to be highly addictive to many of the female persuasion. Beware, though, if you go this route your girl might ignore you for hours on end while she plays video games. Poetic justice? Perhaps. Romantic? Not so much.

You now have the tools before you to make your girlfriend very happy this Valentine's Day. Go to Goozex and request those games with plenty of time to spare. Believe me, if your girl is happy--you will be happy too.

Digg!

January 17, 2010

Top 10 Predictions for 2010

Jason Trent says The new year is only a couple weeks old, which gives us time to speculate on what we can look forward to. It's bound to be another great year for gamers, and I can't wait to see what twists and turns the industry will offer us. Some will be sure-shots while others will be nothing more than hopeful wishes. Discovering which ones fall into which category is where the fun is.
  1. The PSP was never the overwhelming success that Sony had hoped. I have a sneaking suspicion that this year we'll see an Uncharted title announced for the system. It's really a no-brainer. Sony needs to move systems and there are few better ways to do this than by giving gamers something they already love.
  2. Halo Reach will have no Natal support. Despite both Natal and Reach being released at similar times, I just don't see Bungie's final entry in the Halo series deviating too far from the already established formula. They're going to play it safe, which means not including what their fan base might see as a gimmick.
  3. Portal 2 will be announced alongside Half Life 2: Episode Three, and will be released this October, three years after The Orange Box. The past two years have seen both Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2. At this point, not even Valve can convince me that we need a third game in the series so soon.
  4. Microsoft will introduce a rental service for Xbox Live in conjunction with a day-and-date release plan for all new Xbox 360 titles. Ideally, discounts would be offered on the full versions of titles that were previously rented so that you can try before you buy without ever having to leave your home. Not only would this help encourage purchases, but Microsoft would also see increased revenue that would have normally gone to other companies like Gamefly. It's a win-win.
  5. Sony will release a teaser for the successor to the PSP. The major selling point of this new system will be how it interacts with the PlayStation network. We'll finally see friend lists, voice chat, and trophies available on the handheld. Titles will be download only, something that should help Sony better protect their content. This will also be the first hi-definition handheld available, with 720p resolution.
  6. Gears of War 3 will be announced for a 2011 release with first details emerging at E3 this year. I expect there to be minor Natal support, though nothing drastic. It seems like chainsaw duels and Natal were made for one another. With this announcement we'll also see another incremental update to the Unreal Engine 3.
  7. Twisted Metal will see the light of day this year exclusively on the PlayStation 3. The series will bring us another dark and moody chapter in the Twisted Metal universe. The best part? It will be here in time for Halloween.
  8. Super Mario Galaxy 2 will arrive this fall but Zelda and Metroid: Other M will not be released this year. Nintendo has a huge consumer base, but generally speaking, they're not going to buy three hard core titles for the Wii during one holiday season. They'd do best to space these out a little bit. I expect Metroid: Other M to be released next February at the earliest, with Zelda following shortly after in Spring.
  9. There will be no announcements of a new Xbox, Nintendo, or PlayStation this year. With the big three having hit their stride this generation, we're probably not going to see any new consoles be released for several more years. This has been a period of incremental upgrades, meaning that companies no longer need to develop new hardware in order to implement new ideas. Project Natal and the PlayStation Motion Controller tell us a lot about where we are in our current consoles' life cycles, and where we can expect gaming to take us in the near future.
  10. We're going to have fun. In the end that's what gaming is all about right? No matter which console you prefer, or what genres of games you enjoy the most, you can be assured that you'll be taken care of. See you on the other side.


    Digg!

January 16, 2010

Flashback to 1995

Erik Kubik says Let’s roll back the clock and look at 1995 in the PC gaming world. I was a measly, pale 11-year old kid sporting a i486 PC with Windows 3.1, around 50 mhz with 4mbs of Ram. This was the year Windows 95 was released, which would spell the end for DOS-based games. PC gamers saw the release of so many amazing games that year. I distinctly remember Command and Conquer, System Shock, Dark Forces, MechWarrior 2 and Warcraft.

At the time, I was blown away by Dark Forces. It was an fps Star Wars game. MechWarrior 2 was also incredible; gamers were forced to use everything on the keyboard just to move the heavy mechs through jagged battlefields. Warcraft, well that led to many sleepless Saturdays, my memory is tainted with the noises and grunts of the orcs and the clash of metal on metal through my SoundBlaster Speakers.

System Shock was my first taste of fear in a game. I remember my parents being gone for the night and I tried to play this eccentric-cyberpunk game with the lights on. I had to leave the room, granted I was only 11 and I had seen plenty of “R” rated horror movies but this was the first time I was truly terrified by a video game.

I never did play much of Command and Conquer. I preferred to play Warcraft.

All of the games have aged terribly, but the focus here is on the four that left the biggest impression on young gamers like myself and have legacies of some sort. Command and Conquer has spawned an infinite amount of sequels and clones, and along with Warcraft, both games contributed to the creation of the modern RTS genre. I would even say these two titles were also the partial evolution of tabletop gaming. Warcraft itself lead to Starcraft and World of Warcraft, two of the biggest games in PC gaming.

System Shock gave rise to the idea of horror/suspenseful action based video games. System Shock made it cool to kill things and try to survive in a truly terrifying environment. Today’s games like Dead Space and Resident Evil 5 have System Shock to thank.

Last but not least, is Dark Forces. This game gave rise to such titles as Jedi Knight, Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy. It gave us what all of us wanted: a Star Wars game that wasn’t about dog fighting or strategy. It was a run-and-gun fps where gamers could blast Storm Troopers and droids. The game brought in the fans of games like DOOM or Duke Nukem. The sequels let us pick good or evil and enjoy the rewards of the “force” based on our decisions. Although there has not been a sequel since 2003’s Jedi Academy, games like Battlefront 2 and the new KOTR game may draw inspiration from the legacy of Dark Forces.

Looking back, 1995 was an excellent year for PC Gamers. The hardware was evolving and we were blessed with quite a few memorable games.


Digg!

January 15, 2010

Gaming For The Family...or...How To Get Your Kids To Give You A Turn

Amy Nelson says My husband and I have five children, and we've noticed a disturbing trend through the years: if you teach your kids how to play video games, they won't give them back. We thought it was so cute the first time my oldest laughed while slapping my keyboard to make Elmo pop up and say "Peekaboo." Little did we know how quickly that would translate to "Hey, can I borrow your computer.......FOREVER!" We sadly watched as soon they began to out number us (and our controllers), and found ourselves saying things like, "Remember when we used to play video games?" Short of throwing ourselves on the floor and screaming, "I want a turn!" there seemed little else to do but to give up the controllers and take up knitting (or whatever it is people who don't play video games do with all that extra time).

Don't worry, don't panic, and please don't knit (nobody wants that sweater, really). There is hope--you just have to change your expectations. No, you won't be able to play Silent Hill until they go to bed, but there are a lot of options out there that lets the whole family get in on the fun. Bonus: most of them don't suck. Double Bonus: You are spending quality time with your kids....aren't you a great parent?

When we began our quest for games that all of us could play, two great titles showed themselves to be fun for all ages: Worms and Bomberman. These are old school games that have been released and rereleased, so that there are versions available for nearly every platform. Bomberman involves dropping bombs everywhere to try to break blocks, pick up bonus items, and of course, blow each other up. The upside is that even a preschooler can push random buttons and feel like they are playing. It is very possible to blow yourself up right away, but you can set it so that when you die you just fly around in a jetpack outside the board, still throwing bombs. Jetpacks are awesome--ask any kid. Worms is a little more difficult, in that it requires a bit of reading, but with a little help most kids can play. They will love the way the worms talk and try to kill each other, you will love the Holy Hand Grenade and sheep bombs. Win-win.

In the new era of the Wii, marketed to those who don't consider themselves hard-core gamers, there has been an explosion of games that are fun yet don't require a lot of gaming skill. When WiiSports came out, my husband's grandma was kicking butt on boxing, and even our 3-year old can bowl and play tennis. Simply swing the wiimote, and you're playing. There are many titles available for the Wii, some better than others. The Mario Party franchise has always been a winner, and is even more so now that motion control is available. Super Smash Bros. is multiplayer, allows many different types of control (wiimote with or without nunchuk, gamecube controller, even motion) and seems to be downright addictive.

The Xbox 360 and PS3 do not have quite so many games that are family friendly, but there are a few that stand out. Rock Band. is. just. awesome. Set it to no-fail mode, and your toddler will be wailing away on the microphone while your 4-year old plays bass. You will probably have to pull rank if you want a try at the drums (kids love to hit things), but if you pick up an extra guitar than four people can play at once. And the songs don't suck! You can even download your favorites for about $2 a song. The Sega Genesis Collection is also a lot of fun. You can't have a lot of people playing at once, but you can show the kids how gaming was back in the day and see if those games are still as fun as you remember.

Now that you have some great family titles in hand (goozexed them, of course), seize the day! Grab that controller out of those sticky fingers (kids always have sticky fingers, it's a rule) and show them how it's done.

Digg!

January 14, 2010

Is Gran Turismo Still Relevant?

Troy Benedict Says On January 13th, Sony announced through a press release that the oft-delayed Gran Turismo 5, scheduled for a March 2010 release in Japan, would see yet another delay. No official release date was given other than the game would be postponed an additional month.

Gran Turismo is a very popular series, selling over 50 million games, but I can't help but wonder if the series is still as relevant as it was 10 years ago.

According to Metacritic, critical reception to the series has fallen significantly with each consecutive release over the past decade.

1998 - Gran Turismo (PSOne) - 96%
1999 - Gran Turismo 2 (PSOne) - 95%
2001 - Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec (PS2) - 94%
2004 - Gran Turismo 4 (PlayStation 2) - 89%
2006 - Gran Turismo HD Concept (PS3) - 82%
2008 - Gran Turismo 5: Prologue (PS3) - 80%
2009 - Gran Turismo (PSP) - 74%

Granted, none of these review averages, even at the lowest with 74%, is by any means a "bad score." But it's hard not to see the significant downward trend following Gran Turismo 4's release.

The original Gran Turismo games were brilliant, because no other driving game at the time came close to offering the amazingly deep and involved aspects of a driving simulator that Polyphony Digital did with the Gran Turismo series.

The level of quality in driving games has changed significantly over the last 10 years, and a lot of it is probably due in part to Gran Turismo's strong sales and critical acclaim, with fine dash of good-old competition.

in 1998, there was a relative void of decent non-arcade style racing titles and Gran Turismo ruled the roost. However, new driving franchises have sprouted, touting some amazing games that have clearly outshined Gran Turismo's most recent offerings. Competition in the racing genre over the last decade has been quite fierce, but the results have been impressive!

Recent offerings from established racing series like Project Gotham Racing 4, DiRT 2, Burnout: Paradise and Need for Speed SHIFT have all received favorable review scores. Even newcomers like GRiD and Pure have garnered high marks. Microsoft's Forza Motorsport series has probably come the closest to unseating Gran Turismo as the reigning champion of console racing games, with 2009's release of Forza Motorsport 3.

Forza Motorsport 3's overall praise was not only in its ability to be an extremely competent racing simulator, but also in its ease and accessibility to the casual racer.

Accessibility has played a HUGE role in the success of the latest console offerings. For the last 3 years, the Wii has been clearly dominating the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in terms of sales, and a lot of that is due to the fact that the system, as a whole, is family-friendly and accessible to the mainstream gamer. While the 360 and PS3 each have more highly-reviewed games than the Wii, the Wii has consistently outsold both systems (sometimes even combined sales) year after year after year.

Only within the last year has Sony's PlayStation 3 started to really gain its own ground with a decent slew of high quality games. Who would have guessed, even back in 2001, that Microsoft and its Xbox console would one day be a powerful and well-respected competitor in the video game industry? Who would have guessed that Sony would limp along for the first year with its PlayStation 3 console? Who would have guessed that Nintendo's followup to the GameCube would EASILY outsell them both?

Does anybody remember many years back when Nintendo announced its new console, and how it would use a non-traditional, wireless, motion-sensitive controller, and people said, "Huh?". Remember when Nintendo said that the system would be small and compact, and wouldn't have HD output, or a hard drive, like the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3? Remember when they announced that the console would not be called the "Revolution" and instead would be called the "Wii"... and nobody could stop laughing at the whole ridiculousness of it all? And yet here we are more than 3 years later and Nintendo has almost sold more Wii consoles than the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 sales combined! Who's laughing now?

My point with the whole Wii, 360, and PS3 comparison alongside the Gran Turismo series discussion, is that things can change drastically over time, even over a very short amount of time. What was once great years ago, perhaps isn't quite so great today.

Perhaps even as a bit of irony, as I write this article mentioning the greatness of the Wii, it too is losing its popularity and luster. HDTVs are much more affordable, and the high definition experience that can be found with games and movies on the 360 and PS3 cannot be found on the Wii. The Wii is also getting criticized for releasing too much shovelware: games of extremely low quality that are pushed out in hopes that even a small percentage of the Wii install base will purchase it.

Technology is constantly progressing and improving, and the competition to be the best is at its fiercest in the gaming industry now. Today production companies are becoming less and less tolerant of games with questionable quality and, at a moment's notice, will not hesitate to shut down a development studio.

As it often happens, suffering from multiple release date delays can often sound the death bell for a game. Look at Duke Nukem Forever. Developers at 3D Realms have stated that part of the game's cursed history was that they couldn't keep up with the technology. New and better 3D engines would show up every couple of years, and the team would adopt it and have to start over from scratch. It was a constant downward spiral until the decision was finally made to close the studio doors.

Polyphony Digital's latest Gran Turismo console releases, HD Concept and GT5: Prologue, have been nothing more than sample tastes of what we can hope to see with Gran Turismo 5. These bite-sized console versions may have helped satisfy the hunger pangs from the huge lapse of a full console release since Gran Turismo 4 in 2004, they have also made us hungry for more. Will another month in the oven for Gran Turismo 5 really make a great difference?

Are these delays due to Polyphony Digital taking note of the best aspects of today's racing games and trying to incorporate them into GT5?

If GT5 is released in the coming months and doesn't offer a similar "accessiblilty" to a game like Forza Motorsport 3, will anybody outside of the hardcore simulation fans and Gran Turismo enthusiasts care? Will today's gamer care if Gran Turismo 5 holds on tightly to its traditional values and refuses to let go, despite the new things that current games offer?

Or will Gran Turismo 5 come out fighting and impress everbody? That would silence skeptical people like me, and setting (and raising) the new standard in simulation racing games, outdoing even today's best games and showing the world that nobody outdoes the Gran Turismo franchise -- nobody!

Sure, good things are sometimes worth waiting for, but if you keep something in the oven for too long, you may find that the end product is dry, overcooked, and unsatisfying, despite the quality of the chef.

I suppose we'll all find out if the wait has been worth it, sometime in April, when Gran Turismo 5 hopefully sees the light of day.


Digg!

January 13, 2010

We're Looking to Grow

Mike Rohde says The Goozex Report is ready to grow again. We want to add two new people to the team. We are looking for a Managing Editor who wants to help grow and develop the site. If you're an idea person who loves to get out there, network and socialize, and write a few blog posts every month then get in touch with us. We are also looking for a new Associate Writer. This position requires a passion for gaming and the ability to write at least three times a month. Let us know if you think you have the chops!

These are not paid positions, but we do offer worthwhile incentives that would have most Goozers drooling over. We are looking for serious folks who want to start a career in video game journalism, marketing and site development.

Contact Mike Rohde and let me know why you think you'd make a good fit with the team.

Managing Editor Description

  • Write at least three posts a month

  • Social network your articles

  • Help social network the other writers' articles

  • Attend gaming conferences and press events

  • Develop contacts in the game industry for the purpose of interviews, giveaways and contests

  • At times, help the Executive Editor work with the writers in editing and publishing their articles

  • Help recruit new writers

  • Develop ideas for the blog in terms of content and promoting the site


Associate Writer Description

  • Write three times a month

  • Social network your articles

  • Help social network the other writers' articles


    Digg!