Writer at Another Castle. Only original content on my Destructoid blog.
Games I like a lot:
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Jagged Alliance (series)
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles
Super Mario World
Mass Effect 1 & 2
Resident Evil 4
Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour
Phantasy Star IV: End of the Millennium
River City Ransom
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest
Super Mario Galaxy
Command & Conquer (series, not 4)
Gears of War 2
World of Goo
Streets of Rage 2
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 2: Rogue Leader
The Revenge of Shinobi
Duke Nukem 3D (and yes, Forever)
Plants vs. Zombies
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Splinter Cell (series)
First of all, let me just say you are great. I mean really. You have given me so much joy and happiness over the years. You are one of the only game publishers and developers that still make colourful fun games. Sure you make some mistakes but I actually enjoyed Alpha Protocol so Iím glad you published it.
Iím writing because recently you have been releasing some gaming collections on XBLA and the PSN Store. Games I love like Alex Kidd, Wonder Boy and Streets of Rage are seeing re-releases with some nice enhancements. You even released Sonic CD with both soundtracks! Thatís great and you have made a lot of people happy that they can experience your fun, colourful games and Golden Axe 3.
I still havenít got to the point, have I? Well here it is: Since you have re-released so many of your great games, isnít it time you released Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder? I mean how is it that you havenít already? This paragraph is full of questions, isnít it?
I have played this game once and it was really, really fun. Not many people have and I didnít even know it existed until I found out about it on the Internet. It has cool characters, branching paths and the fun Golden Axe gameplay. It is the true sequel to the original and more people need to experience it. It is also a FOUR PLAYER GAME!
The other reason you need to release it is because Konami is beating you. They released TMNT, The Simpsons and X-men despite the obvious problems with licensing. Who owns the license to Golden Axe, Sega? It wouldnít be Sega would it? Not everyone knows that Sega is just as good, if not better than Konami at beat-em-ups and GA:TRODA is what you can use to show everyone that. And Konami hasnít released Vendetta yet so you have a window of opportunity. In Vendetta you can throw a bucket and if it hits an enemy, they walk around with a bucket on their head. Golden Axe is still better but itís hard to compete with something like that.
So please Sega, give us Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder in exchange for money.
After just beating the single player campaign in Modern Warfare 3, I have played through every third game in the major releases this generation. I also havenít blogged about any one of them so doing them together seemed like a good idea.
Gears of War 3
Gears of War 3 is one of the only games here that I bought on launch. I was not much interested in the first game when it launched but enjoying the second game and then going back and playing the original with my brother, made me very excited to play the third and final entry in the story arc.
The only thing really wrong with Gears of War 3 is that there is little players will not have experienced before. It has a well-paced, entertaining campaign that gives a satisfying conclusion to the series. As far as the previous games go, it has a better campaign than the original but the second is still the best. What really makes the game stand out is the significant change in colour. The first one is famously dark and grey with the sequel including some lusher environments. I can only describe Gears of War 3 as yellow. With the seemingly ever present sunlight to the lambent liquid spewing all over the scenery, there is a lot of yellow. There are times when it isnít yellow, but if I was forced to use one word to describe the game, it would be ďyellowĒ. This isnít a criticism, just an observation.
Gears of War 3 was also the first time I had a good chance at trying the multiplayer. Since I played the first two well after the prime of those online communities, I didnít really want to invest in DLC for the sequel or patient enough to wait for a game on the first one. So I was keen to jump right in for GoW 3 and for about a month I found it very entertaining. I think the inclusion of TDM helped a lot here as the other modes didnít interest me nearly as much. As I wasnít prepared to pay for any of the MP DLC, my interest soon waned and I moved on.
Overall, a solid sequel only held back by being a sequel. Even though there is a new title in the works, I kind of wish theyíd retire the series for a while. Iíd like to see what else Epic could do.
The Uncharted series is a love/hate one for me. I remember being really excited about the original when I first heard about it and I quite enjoyed playing the first two chapters at a friendís house before I ended up getting the game myself a few years later. When I actually played through it myself, I found that I didnít much like it at all but still went back and got all the trophies. The second one I disliked even more but Iíve even replayed part of that. So I imagine that my problem is that I want to like the series but I donít really. The main reason is that I hate the protagonist; another is the way it looks like an adventure game but is really mostly a cover shooter with the occasional exciting set piece.
I wasnít going to get Uncharted 3 but when I found the game bundled with a controller for little more than they would cost individually, I decided to bite. And I have no regrets that I did because U3 is easily the best in the series. U3 plays to the strengths of the first two games and is just a whole lot more fun. It was easy to overlook that U3 is re-treading a lot of U2 because of this. I think the main improvement was the improved melee combat along with the reduced difficulty. For mainly these reasons, I found the game a whole lot less frustrating than the first two and thus a whole lot more fun. The multiplayer is also quite good and as I hadnít tried it in U2, was surprised by how entertaining it actually was. The only criticism I have is a few parts that play out like unskippable but interactive cutscenes. They make sense within the story but I found them a bit self-indulgent, especially on my second playthrough.
So despite being very similar, it is a sequel I can recommend to gamers not won over by the first two.
I only just picked this up a few weeks ago and I kind of wish I had grabbed it earlier. I was surprised by how much I actually enjoyed the original two Resistance games because I wouldnít have expected either to be as good as they were. I played the original split-screen with a friend over about six months, every other weekend with drinks. It was great fun and a good way to relax after a week of work. The second one was played alone but still a whole lot of fun and unlike many games Iím writing about, really felt distinct from its predecessor.
Resistance 3 is its own game yet again. Part of it reminds me of the first game with the obvious such as the return of the co-op campaign, non-regenerating health and the ability to hold as many weapons asÖ there are weapons. But the game feels distinct and in some parts seemed to be borrowing from Half-Life 2 and other big shooters. There are plenty of great set-piece battles and a lot of variety right up until towards the end where the developers seemed to have run out of ideas and just left enough for a predictable, yet satisfying finish. I have also played through about half of the co-op which makes the game significantly easier but also a lot more fun. Overall, a satisfying finale for the series.
Mass Effect 3
Mass Effect is hands down, my favourite series this generation and is even right up there with my all time favourite series. I donít want to gush anymore than that as I know Iím far from alone. I was, like many, disappointed by the ending. I was even more disappointed by some respected critics that automatically assumed fans were complaining for the wrong reasons or assumed to have subconscious reasons or didnít understand or appreciate what BioWare was trying to do. The ending controversy actually did a lot to cloud what is otherwise 99% fantastic. Iíve installed but have yet to play the directorís cut so I donít know how Iíll feel after that but I do still love the game despite my creative departures with the Mass Effect writers on the ending. In short, Iím over it and I donít want to think about it anymore.
The multiplayer was fun for about two hours and I was really annoyed that they tied it to the single-player despite promising not to. Also, why do all these games have multiplayer? I just want to play the campaigns.
I only wish that BioWare took my advice. They seemed to do the opposite but still had a mostly good result.
Modern Warfare 3
This is the most recent game Iíve played and while good, is definitely the worst of the lot. I doubt given the sales that my opinion much matters though. I should start by talking about Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. My first experience with Call of Duty was the original but only online. I used to be a big fan of Medal of Honor: Allied Assault on PC (which I recently discovered was developed by many who went on to create Call of Duty). I loved MOHAA and wasnít really interested in COD so that was all I experienced of the series until a friend brought around his copy of COD4 for me to try out on my new (now old) gaming laptop five years ago and was blown away. Without exaggerating, COD4 has probably the best single-player campaign in its genre. I have never played a more exciting, better paced FPS game than COD4 and I canít imagine I ever will. I still like Duke 3D, Half-Life and GoldenEye better but for different (partially nostalgic) reasons. In short, COD4 was awesome and as I havenít played it for a few years, I probably will have to again soon.
When talking about MW3 and even MW2, ďpacingĒ is certainly the key word. The problem with MW3 is that the developers seem to think that taking all the exciting bits and putting them in every mission without end will make it better and more exciting. What it did instead was blunt the excitement almost completely after about the third time my avatar was knocked down and pulled to his feet after an explosion. The ending was satisfying enough and there were still a few moments of brilliance but ultimately by trying to be the most exciting one ever it ended up being the least exciting and fun of the Modern Warfare games.
My recommendation to IW is that they sit down each of their developers with their preferred vice, have them repeatedly indulge in it until they collapse and then ask them which beer/chocolate bar/round of black jack/tequila/shot of heroin (maybe not) was the nicest. Then they should start work on MW4.
Also, am I alone in just not knowing what is going on in COD anymore? Nearly every time I died, and it wasnít a grenade, it was because I was shot by an enemy who appeared right next to me or I shot an ally who ran right into the enemy positions. COD4 was fine but I had no idea what was going on in MW3 most of the time and it often hurt my eyes trying to spot who was shooting at me. I had the same problem with Black Ops. If it is just me, Iíd like to know.
OK, so I am cheating here but if you include the Bad Company games, it kind of works. I just want to talk about this game since Iíve been playing it pretty regularly since it launched and I still love it now. Battlefield 3 is part of a series that has so many sequels that the number is nothing more than a marker that fitted in well with all the third in the series games being released late last year.
The single-player has a couple of really awesome set pieces that are still not as good as more MP maps would have been. The co-op is worth experiencing once or twice but again, I would have gladly traded it for another two MP maps. Battlefield is a multiplayer game, the only SP that should have been included is something to let players practice using jets, choppers and other vehicles which is sadly not in the game at all.
Iíve written before about the appeal of the Battlefield series and a major one was accessibility. I think BF3 is probably the most convoluted game in the series. This is mostly due to modern gaming's heavy focus on stats, unlocks and the chest-beating nonsense that rages through microphones and message boards. While the earlier games I played strictly for fun, not really caring what my score or K/D was, BF3 has got me addicted to fighting statistics which is not a good thing. As Iíve largely reached my goals now, it is less of a problem but this isnít good for a series that used to be just crazy fun with an optional tactic-heavy side.
Luckily most of what makes the series so fun is still present in BF3. The random craziness you witness with a jet suddenly exploding on top of you or a lucky tank shell destroying a helicopter. There is also the immense satisfaction you get when stumbling upon an oblivious camper or flanking an enemy squad. So the game is still a whole of fun despite being heavily monetized and statistic heavy. It will just take new players a while to get to know the game.
I do hope Battlefield 4 is actually Bad Company 3.
Electronic Arts, Inc. today announced a new retail edition of their popular Battlefield 3 video game. In addition they have announced that there will be a Battlefield 3 server shutdown on July 25th. The new retail edition known as "Battlefield 3 Premium" will be released the same day as the server shutdown and will retail for $49.99US and include the Battlefield Store and five in-game dog tags for player avatars.
EA has announced that current premium subscribers will be able to migrate over to the new Battlefield Premium servers for 39.99 instead of the normal 49.99 for new players. Players renting servers will also be able to migrate to the Premium Servers for a small transaction. EA has also announced that a new Premium Battlefield Online Pass will be required in addition to the Premium service. The service will be a one-off payment that must be renewed after 12 months.
Among other announcements were a series of new upgrades to the Battlefield Store. In the store players will be able to purchase the single-player story from last year's release, custom dog tags, and unlockable equipment and upgrades. One new feature that the Redwood based company was very excited about was the new Premium Win service which enables players to tie their credit card to a button and instantly purchase in-game perks. Examples include, "Instant Death" which for $1.99 will enable Premium players to instantly kill the avatar of a player of their choice. Another, retailing for $9.99 enables any player to win a match through the use of a "Tactical Nuke".
Rumours of this new release and server shutdown were leaked last week which angered many current players. The main complaints were mostly from users who had only just purchased the new Premium service on last year's release. Claiming the original service promised a series of downloadable releases, only one of which will release before the new retail game is available. A spokesman for EA responded, "We are pleased with all the excitement for this great new release in the Battlefield service. We just want to assure our current loyal subscribers that the promised Premium releases will all be available on the new release and current players will easily be able to migrate. Look forward to more great announcements on the Battlefield Premium service in the near future.
Other reactions from gamers have been more positive. A user going by the screen-name "xXxHardfrag41xXx" told fellow gamers that "thay shud stop complaining and thay dont have to pay for it if thay dont want it [sic]". This among many heated user posts from a furious debate on the Battlefield official message boards.
It is understood that other large publishers will be announcing similar services soon. Companies including, Activision, THQ, Ubisoft and Square-Enix are among those rumoured to be developing new gaming services for popular and new gaming franchises.
The Battlefield series has been engaging millions of gamers since the first release in September 2002. Developed by Digital Illusions Creative Entertainment (DICE) a Swedish software developer, the games were popular on the PC platform before moving on to multiple platforms over the last decade. DICE were unavailable for comment.
After my suggestions for Mass Effect 3 were completely ignored by Bioware, I thought it would time to have even more of my suggestions ignored by a completely different company.
I wrote most of this article before the official reveal of Splinter Cell: Blacklist at E3. A lot of things I was going to suggest have either been confirmed or turned out completely different. So based on what we know now, I want to make five suggestions for Ubisoft that they can take on board if they are in the habit of listening to unsolicited advice from someone with no experience in game development.*
There will be some spoilers for people who havenít played through the series.
1. Make it a prequel.
I know that itís not a prequel but it should still be a prequel. It should be a prequel (unless my second suggestion is heeded). The main reason is that the series can then return to its roots. The plot direction of Conviction meant that the more aggressive and murderous Sam Fisher made sense but the game did cross over into too much of an action game as a result. Making a prequel is the best way to go back to the way it was while still making the game fresh.
If it is a prequel Lambert could come back too!
2. Michael Ironside IS Sam Fisher.
As stated, if you follow step one, this suggestion can be overlooked. Michael Ironside has a unique voice and he has been with the series since the beginning. It makes no sense to make a direct sequel with a younger looking and sounding Sam Fisher. Anyone who has followed the story knows that Sam Fisher lost his daughter, killed his friend and colleague and then found out the same friend had lied about his daughterís death during the course of a murderous rampage through the capital of the country he swore to protect. It makes no sense for him to come back younger and ready to work as a Splinter Cell again, even in a leadership capacity. He would quite logically be done with it all.
This doesnít apply if it is a prequel and wouldnít apply if they used this game to introduce a new protagonist perhaps having the aging Fisher as a mentor instead.
3. Bring back Spies Versus Mercenaries PROPERLY.
The key word is capitalized and thatís because merely telling fans itís back is not enough. I want to see the multiplayer mode so fondly remembered by fans that there is a project on to remake it on PC. I personally never got to experience it and Iíd like to without it being turned into some monstrosity full of unlockable weapons and experience levels. You know the kind of mode that so overwhelms new players that unlocks are monetized by the buggers responsible for making it like that in the first place?
At the very least, make it customizable enough for players to experience it how they want.
4. Stealth must always be an option.
I loved Conviction and as stated, the plot may have necessarily made it more of an action game but it doesnít mean Blacklist has to be the same. There were a few moments in Conviction that forced the player to get in firefights with the enemy, one involving a helicopter revealing Samís position while raining down machine gun fire and a few other times when Sam had to hold off enemies in a confined space with no option to avoid combat. Generally speaking, killing every enemy in each room was usually encouraged over avoiding combat as in the previous games.
There are moments in the earlier games when Sam was put in similar "kill or die" situations but never as extreme as in Conviction. So enemy avoidance should be an option and if not, is it really necessary for Sam to stick a serrated blade in their throat or pop two bullets in their thighs before breaking their neck? Sure it looks cool but canít it be optional? Bring back the option to knock out and relocate enemies.
5. Listen to the fans but donít listen to the fans.
It is understood that for games to do well, they have to sell well. It is also understood that to do this in a sequel you have to keep current players interested while also grabbing the interest of new players. It is very hard to do this right without compromising your vision for your audience, the market or both.
I canít think of any good way to do this. The clichť ďyou canít please everyoneĒ seems to cover it. Indeed you wonít. One way that could work and is often overlooked is having options. Lots of options if need be. For example, many long-time Splinter Cell fans didnít like Convictionís ďmark and executeĒ feature. So let them turn it off! Offer an easier mode with fewer enemies and no alarms but call it ďNormalĒ. Then have a hard mode with the opposite and call it ďExpertĒ. Add additional control schemes and options for carrying more gadgets and weapons. Include the classic Splinter Cell outfit. I donít know a lot about the development process but it seems to me that the above suggestions are among the easier things to do once the engine is running, texture artists are finished and the mo-cap, scoring and voice work has been completed. At the very least you will disarm a lot of the critics on message boards unless they complain about things that they donít have to experience.
I remain excited for the next entry into the Splinter Cell series despite my particular disappointment with the absence of Michael Ironside. Iím not a long-time fan of the series and have only quite recently played through the series over the last year. Iíll be happy to see and hear more about the game as it is developed and I hope some of these ideas are taken on board.
*Well that is not completely true. I did make an excellent eight scenario campaign for Jagged Alliance: Deadly Games when I was a teenager.
I haven't blogged here since October last year! Glad to be back!
Splinter Cell: Blacklist
This game actually recently became my most anticipated for this years E3. I have just played through all the original games this year after having a great time with Double Agent and Conviction. Chaos Theory was the most recent one I played and it feels like I saved the best for last and I am hoping that despite how it looks, that Blacklist goes back to basics. After playing through all games, I noticed that they have never been consistently one thing, all having their flourishes but Conviction really did end up being a bit too much of an action game for its own good.
The most disappointing news has been the apparent replacement of Michael Ironside with a voice actor that sounds absolutely nothing like him. As silly as this may sound to some, this is kind of a deal breaker for me. Ironsideís voice is so distinct and has been part of the series from the beginning. Given that the character is the same aging Sam Fisher, it makes little sense to have a younger actor doing the voice work. I hope the developers either bring back Ironside or just give Splinter Cell a new character or at the very least make a prequel with a younger Sam where the lack of Ironsideís gravelly voice will make more sense.
No matter what happens, the game looks interesting enough for me to check out at some point, even if it isnít one I pre-order.
I was really annoyed that Nintendo didnít release a Wii sequel to PikminÖ until now. I now think that it makes a lot more sense to release a new Pikmin that we can enjoy in HD on a large television with graphics that really show an improvement. It does look like more of the same but given how striking so many of the environments still are on GameCube and the Wii ports, I can hardly wait to see what can be done with HD graphics.
Nintendo in general
I am still skeptical about the Wii U as I found myself very disappointed with much of the Wii library by early 2009 and ended up buying an Xbox. I still canít see myself buying the console on launch but I am more interested than I was. Nintendo was really on to something holding back HD until now. Even though HD gaming has now been around for years, it feels fresh and exciting again just because Nintendo is finally doing it. Theyíll also be able to do it with far less of an investment in the technology than their competitors. So this is good but I really hope Nintendo can bring the software and I really hope that there core games let you use a normal controller this time.
Only Nintendo can get people excited about current technology like its new.
Outside of this, there isnít much more to say. I still kind of want a 3DS, I want to try out the Wii U. I donít care about the family stuff.
Outside of the announcement of a new Gears of War, I was really not impressed. Even then, I wouldnít have minded too much if there was no new Gears of War. I also donít really like Halo.
The Last of Us
The first trailer for this had me interested and I was relieved that Naughty Dog are giving Drake a rest. I have a love/hate relationship with the Uncharted series and most of the hate is with the protagonist but I also dislike the way it passes itself off as an action/adventure game with a wise-cracking hero and then you play it and kill hundreds of people while beingÖ heroic and wise-cracking. Iíve just never been able to be comfortable with all the clichťd lines the characters come up with while being in a warzone. I am pretty sure you kill as many people in the average chapter of an Uncharted game as you do in any shooter. This has always just felt wrong to me, and especially so in the first two entries.
That said, after watching the gameplay, this feels like more of the same with a less annoying protagonist. If Naughty Dog are going to continue to make games like this, can they at least find more things for the characters to do besides murder? That or make their characters more Marcus Fenix than Guybrush Threepwood. Just a suggestion.
Sony in general
Like the MS press conference, nothing really grabbed me. I donít really like God of War and there doesnít seem to be much else on the horizon.
So far, I am just happy with a few trailers and announcements. All the games I am excited for like the new Tomb Raider, I already know about. I am starting to get a little sick of all the sequels and franchises everywhere. This is probably why Iíve spent so much time playing older games recently. There seems to be more new for me in the old of late.
This year has gotten me thinking that there really is little point in having a big E3 outside of a relatively low key journalist thing. The vast majority of us get our news from the same websites anyway. There are just a lot more on Destructoid and others than normal.
What has grabbed my attention is Sonyís home service which has a pretty neat virtual booth set up with trailers and prizes. It also has a video of an attractive woman pretending to like you, just like we can experience at E3! I just spent about an hour with it before finishing this write up. So why not just make it more sophisticated and have one on all consoles? Much cooler and easier, in my opinion.
I recently got the Gears of War 3 Limited Edition Xbox controller and the codes for the Infected Omen downloadable weapon skins that come with it. When I got out the card with the code I took a look at it and went to claim it on Xbox.com. I had just finished entering it when I stopped, put the card down and went to eBay. Searching on eBay for the same card, I found a couple of auctions charging up to $30AU for the code and one that had twelve bids for nearly $10. I decided on a potentially profitable experiment and put my own code on eBay, starting at $10. I thought, if I get that then itís worth it. It sold for just over $13 and it honestly feels like money for nothing.
There has been a small market for this stuff for a few years now; the biggest and earliest one I can recall is the pets with the collectorís edition of World of Warcraft. Last year in particular players were given many pre-order bonuses for games such as Mass Effect 2 and Red Dead Redemption. Most of these codes just provided players with a couple of different skins that were otherwise unobtainable. Itís a good idea as it rewards early adopters with a small bonus for their purchase and indeed encourages players to buy early.
The problem I think with this is the extra market it has created for people that just have to have it all. Iíll admit I was quite obsessed with obtaining the bonuses that arrived with Mass Effect 2 though never enough to pay $20 for a single character skin code. This was rectified with later DLC but I couldnít help but feel sorry for the people that had spent the money on something so small. Like most, I think these people are silly and will likely ultimately regret their purchase but it would be much easier if the publishers just provided a way for these people to get all the bonuses at a small price without going third party. This would obviously serve to benefit the company and the obsessed consumer too.
Sure, give early adopters a free skin on something and sure differentiate the bonuses between businesses but also offer everyone the chance to get these other bonuses for a small fee if they want them. Rockstar later offered the RDR skins as a cheap download but it wasnít quite soon enough. Itís not hard; it will get the company a bit more pocket money and stop these people buying these things at absurdly inflated prices. And I suspect a lot of these sales are just from sneaky game store employees anyway.
By putting my own code on eBay, I have made myself part of the problem, now I want to be part of the solution.