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1:07 PM on 10.21.2012

Retro City Rampage Review (PS3)

When I saw her, the first thing that went through my mind was that she doesn’t belong in a place like this. She’s leaning up against the bar, drink in hand and facing the crowd, oblivious to the mass of people. Her blood red dress contrasts against the dull woodgrain of the world around her.

Her curves. Every line on her body forms a flowing curve. Her shape forces your eyes to make the journey from floor to ceiling. My eyes take note of each destination. Legs. Hips. Chest. Face. It’s as if she was created from the molds of the women I’ve known in the past. The best parts of them sculpted into the work of art thats taking inventory of the room from the bar.

It’s a methodology shared by Brian Provinciano, who has taken iconic traits from legendary games and managed to form them into a fun, expansive title that can be as deep or as straightforward as the player wants. There are the obvious nods to well known classics like Duck Hunt, Contra, and Frogger. But there are just as many influences from lesser known but just as deserving games like Bionic Commando and Top Gunner. From the moment the opening title screen appears, Retro City Rampage makes it clear that its about to take you on a ride into the past.

Her legs. The thin red fabric of the the dress outlines the long supple shape of her legs. Her pose accentuates their tone, creating an angle that allows the slit in the dress to do it’s job, exposing a single, tanned thigh to the world. Exposed is the wrong word. Revealed is better. The cloth separates and is replaced by flesh. It’s an immediate and yet barely noticeable transition. It’s revealing.

Hidden in each section of Retro City Rampage are layers of reasons to replay each level. Not so that you can get extra power ups or max out your point total. Instead you want to make sure that you’ve seen every little in-joke and bit of pop culture that was crafted into the area. Provinciano has taken his time in dotting the game’s landscape with layers of memories from gaming history.

The dress. It was from a different era. A vintage relic from the past that made me question why things had to change. Sheer skirts, low cut blouses, tight jeans, they are all just pretenders to the throne that this dress reigns over. Its fabric hugs her body without being greedy. Instead of being skin tight and trying too hard, the cloth just kisses her skin, tracing the form that nature sculpted for her. The neckline dives down her chest, just barely promising a glimpse at the arc of her breasts.

Like that dress, Retro City Rampage is a piece of the past that has been forced into the modern era. It calls itself ‘retro’ and proclaims that it’s a parody, but thats not true. It’s not a mockup of what people think gaming used to be like. It actually is a game from those times. Its nonsensical story, exacting controls and multiple gameplay styles have created a game that doesn’t parody gaming history, it celebrates it.

Her face. Everything else was just a prelude. Her hair cascades over her shoulders, catching what little light that was in the room and framing her cheekbones. Her pursed lips show only a hint of a smile. It’s a sly expression that lets you know that whatever she’s about to say, it will be about you. Long lashes cast shade over her eyes, and yet their sharp, silver tone still flashes through. She’s scanning the room, like a predator bored with the hunt.

The seconds that I’ve been mesmerized by her feel like hours. It’s as if I’ve been standing in a museum, examining the brush strokes of a Matisse, with more details uncovered every moment. She wasn’t perfection. But she stood there with a smoldering confidence that dared you to notice any perceived flaw.

The faults with Retro City Rampage may be there because they’re inherent in the style of game it is. But they’re still there. No matter how detailed the pixel art is, it’s still pixel art. The reduced color palette may be authentic, but after spending a lot of time with this game (and most likely , you will be spending a lot of time with it), it drifts into being gaudy. But those are shortcomings that can be happily tolerated. Because in return you get a rare title that even though it takes pride in being wholly unoriginal, is one of the most original games released in years.

Score 9/10   read

10:22 AM on 01.09.2012

Forza Motorsport 4 Review (Xbox 360)

Every year, a couple of the local Mercedes dealerships get together and rent out the Richmond International Speedway. They then spend a full day attempting to convince ‘VIPs’ to buy a new overpriced luxury car. They do this by letting you speed around in an assortment of Mercs on an assortment of courses specifically designed to make you want one right now. And being a VIP just means that they’ve sold you a car in the past or they’re pretty sure they’re gonna sell you one on the next week or so. Today, I was a VIP. So that there’s no suspense, I’ll jump to the end. I didn’t leave that day with a new Mercedes. I’m very happy with my Crown Vic, thank you very much. But I did leave with the knowledge of what it means to love driving.

Forza Motorsport 4 sells itself as a game for people who love cars. That’s accurate. With it’s gorgeous graphics and nearly 500 different vehicles to choose from, it’s a must buy simply to scroll through the specs. And the near pornographic Autovista mode that allows you to get up close and personal in the motoring version of a peep show, could be sold on it’s own. But what Forza has lacked in the the past is to ability to convey a love of not just cars, but of driving. While the physics model has continually improved, it has always been wrapped around a bland racing experience.

On the autocross course, each 'VIP' took a turn flinging an AMG sedan around a series of cones. The course was set up so that you never got up to any real speed but we all still immediately started keeping times. You can’t stop people from competing. Forza 4 realized this and corrected the mistake it made in it’s last version by letting players create their own public multiplayer games. What’s the point of having a collection of customized, painted cars if you cant show it off to strangers?

The finale of the day is a full lap around the Richmond Speedway’s NASCAR oval, chauffered by a professional racer. To be honest, by this point I was tired and the constant sales pitches had worn me out. I sat in the passenger seat of an SLK roadster with it's top down. I looked over at my driver and I could tell he was as bored with the day as I was. He was an older man who had spent the better part of his career on ovals like this driving cars with 3 times as much power as the convertible we were in. This must have been be hell for him. Driving a bunch of would be customers in a circle all day for a check. As I closed the door I said, ‘Two questions. How fast does this thing go, and how fast does it really go?’ He smiled and replied. ‘Let's find out.’

He pressed a series of buttons on the dash and the traction control light blinked off. Then he pressed even more buttons on the dash. Suddenly, the gauges flashed and an angry BEEP BEEP BEEP filled the cabin. ‘What was that?’ I asked. ‘There’s a secret sequence to turn all the computerized shit off..for real’, was the response I got.

The tires lit up and I was pressed back in my seat like an amusement park ride as the car blasted down the pit lane/parking lot. I thought we were taking off like a rocket, but as soon as the car reached the exit, a sleek AMG SL 65 walked by us, as if it was on a stroll. My driver was instantly annoyed by this, growling, ‘Guy thinks he’s hot shit because he’s in the 65. 600 horses and all of a sudden he’s a rockstar’.

I pointed at the offender and spoke the only words I would say for the rest of the ride. ‘Can you catch him?’

Forza 4’s biggest new addition isn’t the throwaway Kinect interface that you’ll use once and never visit again. It’s the Rivals mode. A seemingly simple way to compare your laptime against not only your friends, but against the entire world. But not all at once. Instead, a single person is matched against you. Just one. And that makes it personal. Now, it’s not a faceless mass of people with times and scores better than yours. It’s just one driver. And you know you can catch him.

A grin spread across the driver’s face. He shifted down and the car bolted forward. The black exotic that had committed the crime of passing us, loomed ahead, steadily growing larger as we chased it down. My driver didn’t lift his foot from the accelerator as we headed into the turn. The high banking held the car in place, almost. Even the laws of physics pressing it into the road couldn’t stop it from slowly creeping closer and closer to the wall. We were so close, going so fast, that I could actually hear the cracks in the white concrete. The buffeting of the wind following the texture of the barrier.

The enemy was directly ahead of us, now. And just like that, we’re in the draft. The wind noise drops and even though I’m not driving, I know that the car is lighter, less stable. It’s floating from side to side ever so slightly. I’m worried. But the driver’s foot never left the floor.

The black SL 65 must have felt the breath on the back of his neck. The car hunched down as more power was delivered and it started to slowly, quickly pull away.

‘Oh no you don’t’. My driver wasn’t going to give up. Our car was outmatched. But that’s no reason not to win. He dipped out of the draft and goes low into the next turn. I could tell by the constant scream of the engine that he still refused to lift his foot off the gas. Not an inch. Our little roadster shot out of the corner and with the added speed pulled up back behind the 65. Both cars hugged the wall, daring it to touch them. I don’t turn my head to look for fear that any shift in balance will push us into it.

The entrance to the pits was ahead, signalling the end of the run. I brace myself for the shift in momentum that’s coming when he hits the brakes to pull in. But it doesn’t come. His foot stays planted. The engine continues to wail. The black SL is reeled in a little closer.

‘Two more and I got ya. Two more, pretty boy.’ The driver explained his gameplan to me. ‘See, he’s got the power on us. But he doesn’t drive ovals. He’s scared of the wall. Power’s no good if you don’t use it’. He wasn’t trying to sell me a car. He wasn’t trying to show off. He wanted to win.

That’s what Forza has been missing. For a while it got lost in the allure of coveting automobiles, and trading decals like baseball cards. It had forgotten that in the end, the cars are simply a means to an end. That’s what the Rivals mode brings back to Forza Motorsport 4 along with the return of a robust multiplayer setup. Not the drive to collect dozens of exotic vehicles. The drive to compete. Because when you get behind the wheel of a sports car, the most important question isn’t how much it costs or how powerful it is. The only question that matters is, ‘Can you catch him?'

Score 9/10   read

2:43 AM on 11.19.2011

NASCAR 2011: The Game - Review

I’ve driven on two NASCAR tracks in my life. And by driven, I mean I’ve sat in a car, pressed my foot to the ground, and went around those ovals as fast as my nerves would let me. The first time was at Richmond Raceway, a high banked oval designed for the fastest race cars in the world, and I was driving a high powered AMG Mercedes coupe capable of 155 mph, courstesy of the local dealership. The second NASCAR track I drove on was Langley Speedway. A small quarter-mile oval that looks like it was paved in someones backyard. And I was driving my own car, a bone stock Crown Victoria LX Sport. Guess which time was more fun.

To call Langley Speedway a ‘Speedway’ is kind of like calling Snookie an ‘actress’. That’s being a little unfair to Langley, but not by much. Unlike it’s heyday in the 70’s and 80’s, where the track was a haven for short track racers on their way to the ‘big leagues’, now it’s mostly used for Late Model and ‘Legends’ races. The term ‘stepping stone’ would be a fitting caption for most of the divisions that run at Langley now. A few times during the summer though, they open the track to anyone with a license and a helmet for what’s called ‘Wacky Wednsday’. That’s where me and the Crown Vic come in.

NASCAR 2011 for the Xbox 360 and PS3 doesn’t have the lower tier racing divisions that Langley specializes in. Instead, it focuses on the biggest baddest level of racing the sport has to offer, the Sprint Cup. And unlike other racers, it doesn’t force you to work your way up to the fastest cars. As soon as you press start, you’re at Daytona in a vehicle capable of doing 200+ MPH beside 42 other cars just a quick as yours. That’s called ‘diving into the deep end’.

Langley Speedway is a long way from Daytona. But when I put on the helmet, pulled onto the track, and saw the green flag wave, any differences escaped me. Even though it was just a timed qualifying lap, the adrenaline made my hands shake. I dove into the corner and accelerated out onto the back straight. For a split second I wondered if I could make the next turn without braking, and the idea is chased from my mind by the bright white wall that was described earlier by a track worker as ‘the widow maker’. I qualify with a time that places me in the middle of the scoreboard and the announcer proclaims over the PA system, ‘Well looky here, that cop car ain’t that slow...It ain’t quick, but it ain’t slow!’. That was -my- car he was talking about. And that made me smile.

NASCAR 2011 does it’s best to make you feel like you own your ride. With a fairly deep sponsor system in the career mode and the ability to paint and add decals to your car, it almost works. But it’s a far cry from the ease and elegance of Forza’s paint system. After an hour of work, the best I could do was a black and white car with a lightning bolt and my name on the side. But to be honest, the cars I see on SPEED every weekend don’t go too far beyond that. Hell, Tony Stewart’s actual racecar just has the words ‘Office Depot’ written on the hood.

After the qualifying is done, the officials at Langley pair up the would be racers for a two lap ‘shootout’. Somehow, they figure that my rival for the night would a white 2002 Chevy Camaro Z28. Now, if you know something about cars, you’re giggling right now. And if you don’t know much about cars, do a google image search for 2001 Crown Victoria then do another for 2002 Camaro Z28. I’ll wait. Done? See what I mean? The Camaro goes to the line and I pull up slowly beside him. Very slowly. Because to be honest, I was waiting for the official to realize he made a mistake and wave me off so that I could be paired against the Volkswagen Rabbit that I saw sputtering around earlier. But instead, I make it to the white line and wait for the red light to turn green.

NASCAR 2011 The Game isn’t a sim, but it’s far from an arcade racer. You can go through practice and qualifying before you race, and you’ll need as much practice as you can get. Although most of the time you’re ‘just turning left’. You quickly realize that turning left is a lot more involved than you would imagine. Especially when you’re sharing the road with over 3 dozen other cars. NASCAR 2011 is the first game I’ve played that does a good job of letting you know how difficult and exciting it can be to race on a high banked oval. And with a decent damage system, it puts the NASCAR section of GT5 to shame.

The light switches to green and race is on. I hear the Camaro’s tires light up. It’s very impressive. But not as impressive as the miracle of modern technology called ‘Traction Control’ that allows my car to jump out to an early lead. The lead lasts almost a full 100 feet before the 5.7liter, 16 valve V8 of the Chevy takes over and pulls ahead. As we enter the first turn, I have a full view of the musclecar’s taillights and take notice as they go wide around the corner. The Camaro’s driver had went in too fast and was forced to slam on the brakes to make the turn. I tucked the nose of the Crown Victoria underneath and by the time we came around the corner, the two cars were side by side. It’s not long before the Camaro remembers it has 100 more horses under the hood than I do and pulls out in front. But this time, we’re halfway down the straightaway before it walks past me. But again, the Camaro takes too much speed into the next turn and slams on the brakes, it’s nose dipping and tail shaking as it scrubs off speed. And again, I dip into the inside of the corner underneath the tire squeal of the Chevy.

When we come out of the turn, we’re not side by side. Now, I’m in the lead being steadily chased down in front of a crowd of dozens. Once we hit the next corner of the oval, I’m back in second place, but not by a lot. I realize now that the driver of the Camaro isn’t the type of guy that learns from his mistakes. He was going to fly into every turn too fast and rely on 4 wheel disc brakes to claw the beast down to a manageable speed. There are only two turns to go and like clockwork, I’m back in the lead, thanks to a steady left foot and knowing what the term ‘apex’ means. I forget that finesse and technique only beats brute force in the movies and think that maybe, just maybe, I can win. As the two cars make it to the final turn, we are side by side for the last time. He slams on the brakes, I turn down to the inside, and we both floor it.

I can see the finish line ahead. I can see the guy in the Langley Speedway T-shirt waving a tattered checkered flag. I can see that I’m in the lead.

But I can hear the Camaro. It’s engine roaring so loud that my Crown Vic seems silent. It’s gaining ground by the fistful. Each fraction of a second bringing it closer to stealing my victory.

This is the part in movies where the underdog wins. Where we are told that if you do everything right, even if you’re outmatched, you can still win. Hey, I ended up liking NASCAR 2011 more than GT5 and Forza 3 even though it’s a niche game aimed at a niche market. But this wasn’t a movie or a game. This was real life. And in real life, a 325 horsepower muscle car will chase down a 230 horsepower four door sedan every day of the week. You can’t beat the laws of physics. And this was no different.

Coming down the final straight, the 2002 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 flew by my 2001 Ford Crown Victoria LX.

But it didn’t pass me until we were 6 feet past the finish line.

Score: 8/10   read

6:39 AM on 04.14.2011

What A Gamer Is

[embed]198810:37707[/embed]   read

1:15 PM on 04.09.2011

Review: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (PS3)

(Please Note: I thought I had posted this months ago, but I was mistaken. I'm posting it now for the sake of completion.)

The best part about video game conventions aren’t the games on the show floor, it’s the parties afterward where a bunch of geeks can hang out and be themselves. Its not like going to the neighborhood bar where the smell of cigarettes and alcohol is outmatched by the cheap cologne of men talking to women with cheaper perfume.

An industry party is different. Mostly you’re just standing around with a drink in your hand talking to someone about how the big name actors like Patrick Stewart are showing up more and more in games. There’s not a lot of cheesy lines or male bravado because to be honest, there’s not a lot of reason for it. The women at a gamer party don’t have a lot to fear from guys who spend a good chunk of time retracing levels to find that one last health gem.

This party was no different. I had come with my friend who just happened to fit the role of a stunningly attractive woman. She may not have officially been my date, but that didn’t stop me from feeling just a little bit good about the approving nod I got from the bouncer at the door. As the night progressed we slowly drifted to opposite sides of the room. Every so often I’d see her out of the cornier of my eye hanging out by a Mrs Pacman machine. Even though I’m deep into a discussion about whether the migration from 2D to 3D in classic remakes is a natural evolution or a just money grab, I can still pick out her laugh across the room amongst the background noise. I looked past the blogger blocking my view and see that she’s talking to a guy we had interviewed earlier that day on the show floor .I also notice that he had ditched the lanyard and controller based accessories he was sporting at the show and swapped them for a shiny dress shirt and jacket topped by a gold chain that would be more at home on an MTV reality show than a bar filled with podcasters. I knew the look on his face from experience. He was on the prowl.

She waves me over and I make my way to their chairs as she sips her drink and he lounges as if a posing for a mid 80’s rap album cover. He offers to buy her another drink and she asks what he’s drinking.He responded with “I see my body as a temple and I choose not to soil it with any type of alcoholic or caffeinated beverage.” What the fuck? I immediately recognized the line as an old standby in clubs and dive bars around the world. It’s purpose is two-fold. 1 - Make the girl you’re staring intently at think you’re a deep and spiritual person. And 2 - Give yourself an excuse to stay sober while you ply her with drink after drink. It’s a move that most guys toss out of their repertoire early. I myself hadn’t used it since one memorable weekend at Hammerheads in ‘99. But I guess he figured in a room full of people who could name every Castlevania hero from Simon to Gabriel, it was a safe bet.

The Player notices me for the first time and sizes me up. I’ve already done the same. This isn’t what I was expecting tonight, though. I was looking forward to getting into heated battles about the importance of plot in an action game while downing a German ale and not engaging in the Mexican standoff of guys circling around the same woman. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. Times have changed. Many of the bloggers and gamers arguing the merits of retracing levels after gaining character abilities were now also attractive women. With that evolution, what used to have been a fun get together between gamers had become the familiar hunting ground that I thought I had escaped.

The Player is going into “Phase 2” of his spiel. He’s telling her how sees games as ‘just one path to exploring your capabilities’. It’s like he’s reciting lines from an old Bill Bellamy movie. I’ll give him credit where credit is due, he almost makes it sound sincere. I give her a look to see if any of the salvos are making a dent. She shoots me a smile letting me know that she’s been on to him for a while. She escapes by asking me if the VIP room is open. Why yes, yes, it is. And it’s a shame but the Player doesn’t have access. We walk away as he resets the table, a spider quickly rebuilding his web so he can try his skills on the cute podcaster who’s just arrived in a short black dress.

There’s nothing wrong with the pick up game. It’s played by men and women alike. Guys pretend to be really impressed by the color of nail polish a girl has chosen. And women pretend to have worn the low cut V-neck because it’s unbearably hot outside and not because it shows off a spectacular amount of cleavage. At some point though, too much cologne seems desperate and too much boob sweat becomes slutty. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow dances dangerously close to that line. The over dramatic narration by Patrick Stewart makes you wonder if they are trying to seduce you into thinking you’re playing more than just another God of War clone. Robert Carlye’s emphatic portrayal of the hero, Gabriel seems genuinely Shakespearean coupled with the epic proclamations of Stewart backed by an orchestra worthy of Carnegie Hall. Its an enthusiastic build up that leads to what seems like a routine series of repetitive actions. Much like many one night stands.

As the night moves on I end up talking to a guy about whatever guys talk about near the end of these evenings. I motioned to my pseudo-date swaying from side to side in her flower patterned dress while singing off key into an X-Box microphone. He smiled knowingly and pointed out a dazzling woman with long onyx hair who was playing guitar on the same rhythm game. We realized that we had both come to the party with women that we weren’t actually ‘with’. We lament about the hell that is the ‘Friend Zone’ and if it was ever possible to dig your way out. When does being a protective friend slide into just being a jealous cock blocker? We reunited with our non-dates as the bartender yells Last Call. The girls excitedly inform us about an after party that’s about to happen. One of the ‘E-Celebs’ has a huge hotel room and has invited just a few people. It needed be kept secret so that it didn’t get too crowded. It sounded great. The celeb in question was riding a pretty big wave of fame and I’m not immune to partying with a big timer.

The bar closes and everyone was herded outside. My non-date spots the E-Celeb and pulls me over to meet him. I may as well been invisible as the Champ greeted her with ‘Hey Roses, long time no see’. My instincts are put on alert for the second time tonight. Did he just pull the ‘Give a girl a nickname’ trick?

Once again, this move has dual purposes.1- It stops you from having to remember a woman’s name as you bounce from target to target all night. It’s easy to mix up Karen and Katherine. But a rose on a dress is always a rose on a dress. And 2 - It establishes a false familiarity with her, making it seem like you’re old friends even though you’ve known the woman in question for 20 seconds. I admit, its a great move.In the past I had seen my friend Tim maneuver from ‘Polka Dots’ to ‘New York’ to ‘Diamonds’ to ‘Goldy’ in one night without missing a beat. But maybe I was over thinking this. The run in with the Player earlier probably just made me hyper sensitive.

I introduce myself. ‘Hey Champ, I’m looking forward to the after party’. He looked puzzled ‘After party’? He’s eyes had yet to move from the chest of the women who was linked to my arm . She tried to help jog his memory through slightly slurred words. ‘You invited me and her’, pointing to the raven haired beauty from earlier. ‘Don’t worry, we know you said you wanted to keep it small so we didn’t tell anyone except our friends’

On hearing that, his eyes finally rose enough to catch mine and you could almost hear the bricks falling as his plan collapsed. It seemed the ‘after party’ the Champ had planned consisted of a guest list of only him and 2 very attractive, fairly intoxicated women. He backpedaled, “Yeah..actually, it’s kind of late. And I have to catch a flight in the morning. I better just call it a night”.

Castlevania lures you in with flowery prose and slick looks while featuring solid, if derivative game play. A lot of people will be happy with that. If it didn’t work for other games, the techniques would’ve died out long ago. The simple puzzles, quick time events, and weapon upgrades all have a satisfyingly familiar feel. Almost like a guy running through all the different pick up lines he’s collected until he finds the right combination of half truths and gin that will help pull a girl out of a club. “Hey, if it worked for someone else, it’ll work for me”. But instead of copying the current flavor of the industry, I would’ve been happy if Castlevania: Lords of Shadow had seemed more sincere. There are benefits to just being yourself.

The night ended with the Champ retreating back into his suite, presumably to prepare for his appointment with the airport and reuniting with his family. The Player was trying to convince the short-dressed podcaster to share the cab which he ultimately left in, alone. The woman I was with (but wasn’t ‘with’) leaned against me as we made our way back to the hotel. There was no trace of regret in her voice when she said ‘Damn, too bad the after party fell through. Hey, lets watch a movie instead.’

Score 7/10   read

11:00 AM on 03.04.2011

Gran Turismo 5 Review (PS3)

You really don’t have to go very deep to find the truth about someone. And because of that, no matter how much you change on the outside, the essence of you is still there. It’s a blessing and a curse, because it’s comforting to know that in the end, you’ll always be you. But on the other hand, there are times when that’s not who you want to be. But the fact is, people don’t change. After a certain point in life, you are who you are. Lose weight, new hairstyle, new clothes, new lifestyle. It’s just an exterior that can quickly turn transparent.

When I think about it, I must have known from the beginning that this wasn’t going to work out. When she first offered the invitation I was hesitant and hopeful. In my mind I was declining the dinner invitation even as I heard myself asking the time and the place. The past experiences of arguments and vicious attacks had somehow faded in my mind. And sitting across from her now, those days seemed far from reality. The years have been better to her than they have to me. Her features are softer, her eyes are brighter, and her voice is buttery smooth.

The Gran Turismo series has survived over 3 different generations of the Playstation. It started out as competent, if flawed driving simulator that thrived on it’s good looks. But it wanted to be more than just a pretty face. Underneath lay the foundation for greatness. The wide assortment of cars were upgradable, the tracks had an impressive amount of detail, and the driving was solid. But the graphics were always the real draw. The original PS1 soared when it had a GT disc in the tray. The PS2 became legendary with paired with the game. And Gran Turismo 5 only adds to the impressive resume of the PS3’s visual power.

The woman ordering from the menu in front was also more than just an attractive face. Not far from the carefully sculptured surface lived a competitiveness and intelligence that knew few equals. But there was also a cruelty there. Her sharp tongue shows no hesitation in pointing out a fault. Her quick wit never failed to criticise a decision. But the hypnotic effect her swaying hips had when she moved always seemed to wash away any misgiving.

Once you became acclimated to the impressive images on the screen, the flaws of Gran Turismo 5 rise to the surface. The AI has always been blind to other cars on the track. The damage model was all but nonexistant. Car selection, while numerous, was ultimately shallow. The result of multiple iterations of little known or undesirable cars. Gran Turismo 5 promised to change all of that. Instead it piled on the makeup.

As the night wears on, cracks begin to appear in her facade. A sly comment here, a snippy jab there, and each time it happens, her eyes light up as if remembering a forgotten pleasure. I try to shift subjects, still holding on to the wish that people can change and that the night isn’t about to tumble into a well of backhanded compliments and sideways remarks. She’s laughing now. Enthusiastically retelling the misfortune of someone she never considered her equal.This is when she’s at her peak, at her most beautiful.

Gran Turismo 5’s supermodel looks make a career out of seducing you. They tell you not to worry about the ancient AI. The caress of a spectacular interior view takes your mind off of the user interface that would’ve seemed dated a decade ago. The glimmer of light on the hood of the few ‘premium’ cars entices you not to linger on how the majority of the offerings don’t come close to that level of detail. For every graphical highlight there seem to be twice as many missed opportunities.

As we leave the restaurant, I catch a glimpse of those swaying hips once more. And for a second, I’m mesmerized. But it passes quickly as she points out another of my seemingly endless shortcomings. Part of me missed this. In that regard, I haven’t changed. But its a part of me that’s become smaller and pushed to the side. Much more prevalent now is the part that understands that being attractive on the outside can only hide what’s underneath for so long.

Score 6/10   read

9:53 AM on 05.03.2010

10,000 Microsoft Points to the Highest Score in 'You Will Die'

Dead Pixel Arcade, the developer of the critically acclaimed Xbox 360 Indie title, You Will Die, is announcing the You Will Die 10,000 MS Point World Record Bounty. You Will Die is the first ever Xbox Indie title to be included in the Twin Galaxies International Scoreboard and to celebrate that accomplishment, Dead Pixel Arcade has set a 'bounty' on the You Will Die World Record. 10,000 Microsoft Points will be awarded to the person holding the World Record as of August 1, 2010. Second Place will receive 1600 Microsoft Points, and the 3rd highest score in the world for You Will Die will receive 400 Points.

'We wanted a way to say thank you to all of the people who have supported You Will Die, even though the game has utterly humbled everyone who has dared to play it." said Derrick Hopkins lead developer at Dead Pixel Arcade. 'As far as we know, this is the largest contest prize ever awarded by an Xbox Indie developer and we hope it'll bring some interest to the vibrant Indie community."

Prizes Include:
1st Place on the You Will Die Twin Galaxies Scoreboard : 10,000 MS Points card
2nd Place on the You Will Die Twin Galaxies Scoreboard : 1,600 MS Points card
3rd Place on the You WIll Die Twin Galaxies Scoreboard : 400 MS Points card

All score submissions must follow the Twin Galaxies guidelines and must be received by August 1, 2010. Prize cards will be for U.S. based Microsoft points only.

For the Official List of rules, visit
Contact: [email protected]   read

9:33 AM on 03.11.2010

Battle Before the Big Battle Tournament

The Battle Before the Big Battle (BBtBB) has begun. This is a 2 week long High Score Tournament designed to do 2 things.

1) Be a trial run for a cross-community gaming tournament.

2) Divide the strong from the weak.

It spans 3 platforms with multiple games per platform. You can participate in as few or as many of the competitions as you choose.

Tournament Info:


XBox 360:->Send a friend request to Xbox Live-ID 'deadpixellive'
You Will Die - (Scores must appear on the scoreboard.)
PacMan Championship Edition - Scores must appear on the (deadpixellive) friends list

PS3: ->Send a friend request to PSN-ID 'deadpixellive'
Shatter (StoryMode ->Granule Extractor)- Scores must appear on the (deadpixellive) friends list
Zen Pinball (El Dorado) - Scores must appear on the (deadpixellive) friends list

Asteroids Deluxe - (name must appear on the leaderboard when searched)

Players Entered:

To enter, announce that you wish to participate in the DPL forums ( and you'll be added.

The winner of each competition will win a selection from the DPL Prize Wall. The overall winner will also recieve a pair of Gunnar Optiks glasses and Zappy's copy of Sacred 2 for the Xbox 360

7:38 PM on 02.12.2010

The Games of 2009

Here's a Video I did of the games released in 2009 for the 360, PS3 and Wii.

[embed]163541:27386[/embed]   read

11:51 PM on 01.13.2010

You Will Die : Xbox Live Indie Game Released

Dead Pixel Arcade has released You Will Die for the Xbox 360. Unlike many current games that encourage the player with achievements, hints, and other devices designed to make game play easier, 'You Will Die' refuses to help the player in any way. Instead, it not only taunts the player at the start of each level with phrases such as 'You're pathetic' and 'This is just sad', the game play itself goes against the current trend in video games by not giving the player any powerups or weapon enhancements. The only assistance given the player is a shield, that when used, subtracts points from the player's score. Also, no achievement points are awarded at any time.

Lead Developer, Derrick Hopkins says 'This game is evil. Period. We've brought together an incredible pool of talent that stretches beyond video games. From the graphics, to the voice work, to the music, I was continually impressed by the level of artistry that was put into a game that will most likely anger those who play it. We're redefining the term hardcore. Although we included 32 levels, only the best players will ever get past level 8 and we doubt anyone will ever see level 15."

Developed by Dead Pixel Arcade, creators of the indie hit, 'Revenge of the Ball' , 'You Will Die' features a single player fighting against a single enemy. Each time the enemy is defeated, it is reborn bigger and meaner than before. High scores are distributed over Xbox Live to allow players to gauge their skill against gamers worldwide.

You Will Die is currently available for 80 MS points
on the Xbox 360 at, and
via the Xbox Live Indie Games section.


1:57 AM on 12.09.2009

You Will Die - Teaser (Xbox 360)

Here is the teaser trailer for my Xbox Indie game due out 'soon'

[embed]157351:25599[/embed]   read

6:40 AM on 11.05.2009

Review: Forza Motorsport 3 (Xbox 360)

The Nurburgring is a 13-mile-long race track in located Nurburg, Germany. Nicknamed the "Green Hell", it was built in 1927, has 72 corners, constant elevation changes and is considered one of the most dangerous race tracks ever constructed. And for about $15, anyone can drive on it.

A lot of games have included the Nurburgring on their list of locales to simulate. The latest is "Forza Motorsport 3," which claims to be the most "realistic racing experience ever." "Forza 3" gives Xbox 360 owners the option of taking on the Nurburgring and dozens of other tracks in a collection of SUVs, exotic sportscars and purpose-built racers.

My brother and I had flown to Germany for the express purpose of driving on the legendary track. And we'd do it in a rented Mercedes C230 sedan.

Once you arrive at the public section of the Nurburgring, also called the Nordscliefe, there's an unassuming booth that stands between you and the track. I walked up and handed the attendant 75 euros and received a license that allowed me four laps on the track.

That was it. No lengthy safety lecture. No car inspection. It would have been harder to get on a roller coaster at Universal Studios.

Safety lessons weren't needed, though. On the drive up to the track, we crossed paths with a tow truck carrying the remains of a Porsche 911. The front end was nonexistant, and the roof was crushed from an obvious rollover. While Turn 10 Studios has improved the collision model in "Forza 3" over the previous installments, even on the highest setting, a rollover won't result in the carnage featured on the back of that tow truck. That's the sort of damage Forza 3 doesn't simulate.

I drove to the entrance of the Green Hell and waited for the yellow-clad track worker to give the "go" signal. The gate lifted and I headed down the first straight. This was it. I was on the 'Ring. My brother sat in the passenger seat as we sped by the series of cones that guide the cars down the first part of the track. After I left the coned area, I was tentative about speeding up. Part of me didn't believe I was actually driving on my dream course, and another part kept picturing the metal carcass of the Porsche.

When I got to the top of the first incline and headed into the initial collection of twists and turns, I began to feel at home. I knew the corners well. Games like "Forza 3" take pride in how closely they can recreate real-world tracks. A long downhill straight opened up in front of me and I pressed the accelerator to the floor. The 2.3 liter engine of the Mercedes pulled the car up the hill, gaining speed. The curve at the top looks a lot less severe than it actually is, a lesson learned from "Forza." I lifted off the throttle and eased the car into the corner. It hugged the road perfectly, the body rolling to the outside while the tires stayed planted on the tarmac.

"Nice," my brother said. I agreed. That gave me the confidence to launch into the next corner, a sweeping right-hand 90-degree curve, at full speed.

I aimed for the inside of the turn. What happened next was a sharp reminder of the difference between a game and real life. "Forza 3" gives you the option of putting a colored line on the road, telling you when to hit the brakes. There's even an option to let the game apply the brakes for you, making it accessible to just about anyone who can hold a gamepad.

I didn't have those helpful lines here. Nothing was going to step on the brake pedal for me as I hurtled towards the trees that bordered the turn. I heard the screeching of the rear tires as they struggled for grip. I heard the sound fade away as they lost that struggle and began to slide toward the outside of the corner. The sensation of unexpectantly facing one direction while your body travels in another is eye-opening. Thankfully, the C230 regained its composure quickly. While it doesn't have all the driving assists of "Forza 3," it does have traction control, and that stepped in to cut power to the rear tires, ending the slide.

The sequence only lasted a split second. But for a split second I was drifting on the Nurburgring. For a split second I was out of control on the Nurburging. For a split second -- I was terrified on the Nurburgring.

I maintained my speed down the decline and back up into a set of 'S' turns that I looked forward to tossing the car into. A motorcycle was ahead of me, and I had to rethink attacking the corners. I was right up on his tail as we entered the turn and there was little room to manuever around him. Instead of risking an incident, I decided to just follow his slow lead into the section. When we exited, I pulled out beside him and passed. At anytime, there can be dozens of other vehicles on the Ring. Even though "Forza 3" excels in allowing diversity in its multiplayer offerings, the fact that a maximum of eight racers can share the road is disapointing. Add to that the fact that unless you have enough people to create a private match, your multiplayer experience will be limited to the scant few modes available in the game's matchmaking system.

I sped around the cyclist and headed into the next set of curves. I glanced to the left and was greeted by a bright blue sky. It was a beautiful scene. "Forza 3" has some of the best graphics ever seen on the Xbox 360, but even they wouldn't have compared to the vista that spread out from the edge of the mountain. Then it dawned on me that I wasn't just driving on a road or a track. Beside me was a cliff. A cliff elevated a few hundred feet into the air. And there wasn't a lot to stop me from going over the side of that cliff.

I checked the rental car's rear-view mirror and saw an A-Class Mercedes storming up behind me. I figured I'd just need to stay in front of the minuscule vehicle for the next few turns, and once we hit the upcoming straight, I'd easily pull away. I was wrong. The nimble car was on my bumper before I reached the final turn entering the next straight. My ego tried to convince me that the tiny A-Class had more than the standard 100hp that it's born with. Maybe the owner had taken a page from the "Forza 3" book and modified the engine with a large turbo, added racing tires, and tuned suspension parts, transforming what was once a normal automobile into a fire-breathing racing machine. But it was more likely that the Mercedes A160 was simply being driven by a better, more experienced driver. I clicked on my right turn signal and moved over to let him pass.

Up next was the Karussell, a banked section of the track that almost begs you dip into it. It's a turn that can do one of two thinggs: Help you traverse it's hairpin radius at an insane speed aided by centrifugal force, or launch you up and over the guardrail like a ramp.

I knew this turn was coming, and I knew how dangerous it was. I told myself earlier that if I didn't feel comfortable, I could always stay on the outer, non-banked section of the turn. I didn't feel comfortable. Still, I dove into the banked section of the Karussell. I could feel the suspension compressing and pushing the car into the road as it was cradled around the curve. My brother and I both let out a scream of joy. "That was awesome!"

Again I checked the rearview mirror. In the distance, I was able to make out the distinctive white silhouette of the "Ring Taxi." The Ring Taxi is a service run by BMW, where for 200 euros, you can be a passenger in a 500hp V10 BMW M5 driven by a professional race driver. Currently, the Taxi was far behind me, but the race-prepped M5 would be on top of my borrowed C-Class grocery hauler soon. I concentrated on the sharp corners ahead, hitting the apexes and accelerating out of each one. The motions were smooth and fast. I checked the position of the Ring Taxi again, expecting him to be a few corners behind me. Instead, the shark-like grill of the BMW loomed impossibly large in the mirror. It was right behind me. How fast was that car? I knew I had to get out of the way as soon as possible.

The next turn was a narrow left-hander and afterwards was a fairly straight section that would make it easy for the Taxi to get around me. I planned on taking the corner as fast as I dared, staying wide, setting myself up to end the turn on the outside edge and thus, giving the fierce BMW a lot of room to pass. But halfway through the maneuver, I looked to my left. There, I was surprised to see the white and blue markings of the BMW M5, taking the inside of turn at twice my speed. I didn't see the driver, or the passengers. I was looking at the rear of the M5.

It was going through the corner sideways.

I can't explain the feeling that went through me. What I can do is describe how my brother and I both yelled as we saw the BMW beside us. I can explain how the instant rush of adrenaline felt and how my accelerated heart rate made time seem to slow to a crawl. But the feeling itself? I was in Germany, on the Nurburging, in a Mercedes, on the edge of traction, and less than 3 feet beside me was a roaring BMW M5 with the combined power of 500 horses harnessed by a professional driver going double my speed, sideways.

It felt ... incredible.

And we still had 5 miles left to go in the lap.

"Forza 3" has a lot to offer driving enthusiasts. It's as close to a simulation that you can find on the Xbox 360. It goes to great lengths to welcome players in with numerous assists and customization options. Theres still something missing that I don't believe any game will be able to capture -- the visceral look and sounds of driving on the edge. I doesn't convey the fear of knowing that you cant lose concentration for a second. For many people, that's probably a good thing. But I remember the feeling of losing control for a moment while heading toward a tree, glancing over the side of a cliff and knowing only a quarter-inch thick guardrail was protecting me, and seeing that BMW sliding past me close enough to touch. You can't simulate that.

We drove a total of four laps during the trip. We had flown 4000 miles, and driven another 150 miles on the autobahn, just to go around a 90-year-old stretch of road four times.

I would do it again.

Score 8/10   read

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