I'm a PC gamer by nature, looking to see what's good on the console side of things (plus I'd rather not pay hundreds each year to upgrade). I love finding classic games, and will take any chance to tell you about an underdog.
I'm Currently Playing PS3 - Mercenaries 2, Lair, Soul Calibur 4, SFII Turbo HD Remix
PS2 - Final Fantasy X, Digital Devil Saga, Haunting Ground
Wii - De Blob, Okami, Twilight Princess
VC - Donkey Kong Country
My Favourite Games Planescape: Torment
Realms of the Haunting
Shadow of the Colossus
I'm not a High-Def nut (Edit: Am now in High-Def, but won't go nuts over Brown and Gray, just yet), I think there's plenty of Low-Def stuff for me to catch up on for a good long while. So if you think I might like a particular game, tell me about it!
I've been playing on my PS3 almost non-stop since I got it. I've amassed quite a few games for it (NO GAEMS, indeed) already, because there's a large amount already discounted heavily (or re-released in budget range), more so than even Wii titles that were released around the same time (Zelda is still £30!?).
I've said before, some games fair better than their review scores might indicate, some of them far worse (I've decided I hate Ninja Gaiden Sigma... with a passion. More on that at a later date, maybe). And any fears I may have had that I'm missing anything that's only on 360 have dissipated. Nope, not even GoW2 can win me over to that turbine.
Having said that, there are a few things SONY need to do to catch up with, or improve on the impressive (albeit depreciating value for money) MS Live service. None of these issues are major ones, and don't prevent me from enjoying it on the whole. They're just bloody annoying!
1 - Patches
Patches are a way of life. Anybody from a PC background can appreciate this. Sure, they encourage a quick testing and QA process, but I'd rather have a working game eventually, rather than never (or a re-pressing of disks in the case of Twilight Princess' Canon Room Bug).
My gripe is the way the PS3 currently handles patches. Everything stops : "Don't play your game, I need to update it". Why can't I play the game, whilst the patch downloads in the background, and then installs the next time I start it up, or before I shutdown (or any time I'm not actually playing it)? If anything, Sony have been consistent in their inconsistency. They allow the background download of game demos and the like, even when playing pre-installed games, so there's a lot of IO going on. Yet it puzzles me that for the majority of games, the first thing you'll be greeted with a screen demanding you download a 100mb+ patch.
2 - Latest Version Online
Something that will annoy you more than the un-hidable, unavoidable patching of games, is the fact that many of the games on the PS Store, are not the latest version. This is quite frankly inexcusable, and something I've only ever witnessed with the MS Windows OS ("Thanks for downloading SP1, now please wait while we download the real SP1", GRRRR).
PAIN is one of the better drinking games out there, and surprisingly skilful and addictive. I can't wait to start throwing the Hoff around. But after downloading it (200mb), Installing, and running it for the first time, I was informed that there are updates. At 300mb. 300mb is not something you should have to watch downloading. I would have rather have downloaded 500mb in the background. I know it must have something to do with the Sony approval/certification process, but I'm shocked if they charge developers to submit a more recent version of their product.
3 - Retry Signing In
It's cool that the PS3 will sign into my PSN account in the background, as soon as it detects a workable network. But why does it only try once? More often than not, I'll get a connection error during a game I've just started. It's because I have a separate Modem and Router. The router gets going, because I bought it myself, and isn't some crippled and fragile bit of kit like most ISP provided modems. So the PS3 tries to log on and declares there's an error with the DSN because the modem doesn't get a chance to connect.
I have to then (using the XMB) go sign in manually, which can't be hidden, or done in the background. Interrupting gameplay for a minute. Why can't it retry after 5 mins? This is network programming 101: Networks aren't always there. So why it can't try again in 5 mins, then give up after 3 or 4 tries, is beyond me. I can't imagine it would use a lot of resources.
In fact the annoying part is that my downloads will often start once the modem does its job, but it won't try signing me into PSN! I though a quick way might be to disable, then enable again the Internet Connection in the Network Settings; no, you can't do that, not without exiting the game. Well, it looks like I'm left with 3 options:
a - Turn on the modem 5 minutes before turning on the PS3 b - Wait five minutes after turning on both PS3 and modem to disable/enable the Internet Connection c - Sign on manually, in the middle of a game
4 - XMB Limitations In-Game
Accessing the XMB in-game was a well welcome recent feature, but it could still go further. Part of the sign-in problem, is that you can't access certain settings from the XMB whilst doing anything but idling on the XMB. Why can't I just turn my internet off and on again? It's come in handy when my Downloads get stuck in pending and refuse to go any further.
I'm not suggesting letting me do something detrimental to the stability of the running program (like messing with the display resolutions), but it would be nice if the game was paused, and I could dip into the PSStore, or the web browser. They can't be such a burden on the mighty Cell, can they?
I know with the limited main ram (256mb, and 256mb graphics ram), it wouldn't be feasible to have loads of programs running at the same time, but one large (a game) and one small (web browser), or even a tiny one (adjusting a setting). At the moment it seems to be hit and miss as to whether the game you're playing will actually pause when you hit the PS button.
5 - Controller Number Assignment
I have 2 controllers, and 1 wireless (receiver plugged in to USB) keyboard. As the PS3 boots, the Keyboard is always set to Controller 1, and the dualshocks take a second seat. This is fine for most things, but there are quite a few games that will not register any controller but No.1, even though they have no 2nd player option.
It irks me a little that every time I start up GTA IV (and too many others), I always forget I need to hold down the PS button, and change the controller assignment to 1. I don't know why I need to do this (the only other player in GTA is over multiplayer), when it should just pick up any controller that is currently being used. I'm not sure if it's just to stop more that one controller tearing Niko apart in different directions, but I can't see how it became such a problem that they'd want to put an end to it. Games like Resistance, I can forgive: they have a splitscreen co-op.
This might be a problem that game developers need to be aware of, rather than the team behind the PS3s firmware, since you can't just permanently assign a No. to a particular controller: Setting all USB controllers to a higher designation would screw around with the Dualshocks as they charge.
Wow. That's it. Like I said, the PS3 hasn't got any major issues, with it, it's just those 5 that crop up on an almost daily basis. I'm not too worried. Sony have added some very cool features in updates over the last 2 years, and I'm sure even these problems will get sorted eventually.
I had an early Christmas present in the form of an 80gb PS3, from my lovely girlfriend. Whist I was looking forward towards finally playing some of the games you lot keep going on about, I was interested in trying some games that might have missed being ported to Wii (pause for laughter).
Since they were quite cheap, I thought I'd give Lair, and Kane & Lynch a try. Both scored abysmally across most reviews, leaving the developers pulling their hair out, racking their brains as to why. I've ignored reviewer advice before, and consequently found an excellent game in Dewy's Adventure: Too cute for adults, too difficult for kids.
It's been discussed before that perhaps Hype is a monster trickling honey into our ears at night: GTA IV had nearly perfect scores all around, and yet as Saints Row 2 is released, I can't help but wonder at all the "Why SR2 is better than GTAIV", or "Yeah, GTAIV was a bit pants, wasn't it? articles floating about. It can go the other way too: issuing a How To Review guide, or watching and invested magazine zealously fire a reviewer, are good starts.
Even so, what happened to objectivity? I know we all consider our opinions to be objective, but this is why we often need a second. If a game was so fantastic, why do we suddenly prefer a game that received a significantly lower score (SR2s 83 to GTAs 98)?
Lair, and K&L scored 53% and 64%, respectively. And yet, playing them, it seems way off the mark (they should have been higher, in case you never actually played them), in the same way GTA IV is in no way a 98%. Perhaps we need re-reviews after 6 weeks, without the hype, after any teething problems have been fixed. After years of as a PC gamer, I certainly don't see patching as a bad thing, but giving a score a higher mark because you were caught up in the moment wont win you over with the late arrivers either.
How about a depreciating system? Where a score is lowered regularly as time goes on (up to 10%?). Surely this would allow for newer games, that try something different, but didn't get in there first to be at par with the older games?
Why not give up scoring all together? Since quantifying 6-50hours of gameplay across umpteen genres and a dozen platforms into a nice round number is ill-fitting. Famitsu have a nuanced yet sensible approach, with 4 reviews in one. It's not perfect, and subject to the same hype, but it's better than one man's view.
There's too much of "I can't believe I did that" in the world of reviews. More so with well scoring games (GamesDaily just had their 10 ten games they can't believe scored well); we don't seem to care as much about games we've fobbed off as another derivative clone, or have pissed us off for other reasons.
Personally I'd be happy for a trusted reviewer to give a game the thumbs up. "Yes it's good, buy now". "Yes it's good, but not worth the asking price". But they need to be consistent.
There are things reviews often ignore. The price, for example, is neglected all too often. Yes, Rock Band is fun, but paying off the whole kit isn't. Surely this must come into consideration. It certainly a major point of scrutiny with downloadable games.
That's it. I've had enough. I'm gonna have to come up with my own review system that'll make chaos theory look like paint by numbers. It'll be segmented into everything that make the game, both obvious (graphics, sound, controls) and obscure ("Do I actually like this?", "Any nice touches worth mentioning?", Price, Recommendations?).
Back in 6 months of getting fit running up an Icy mountain, pouring beakers of blue fluid into a test tube, and nursing a sick animal back to health, all in montage put to 80s pop!!
In the mean time, give Lair, and K&L a go. If anything, they're anywhere between 7.5 and 8.7 in the true "out of 10" scale. But then I've just pulled those numbers out of my ass. I wonder how many others do the same?
Whilst most of you will scratch your heads, shrug, and return to not-caring, I am back from Japan. Tokyo more precisely.
It's a fantastic City, as busy as London or New York, but at the same time calmer. I love the place, even if I can only manage the odd Arrigato, Gomen Desai, or Des'. And I'm sorry, I should have offered to buy some TGS tickets whilst I was there.
But I had some much more exciting news to me personally. Over there I was annoyed and frustrated that even Tokyo (often mistakenly believed to be one of the most expensive places on earth) get games cheaper than us in the UK.
Take WiiFit. I've said I'd get it if it were reasonably priced, and it was... in Japan. Â£44 over there, Â£70 here. I saw it for Â£39 in Akihabara, but I'd be damned if I had to lug 4KG of that back to my hotel in Ginza. Now yes, it's in Japanese, but for the cost of a Japanese WiiFit, and getting my Wii chipped to play a Backup (no, really) Disk in English, I could have bought a WiiFit in the UK.
This is where I think Nintendo, and many other companies are going wrong. Instead of wondering WHY people might want to copy games, they're far too busy wondering HOW people copy them. If the prices were fairer (and release dates synchronised), there would be even less of a reason to import from another region, or to pirate.
Mario Kart is another example. Over here you'd still be lucky to get a copy, you'd be a miracle man if you can still get it for the Â£35 I've seen in Supermarkets. Over there, brand new, Â£20 pounds. I don't mind it in Japanese because most of it is either in plain English, or in Katakana. So as long as I'm willing to learn another alphabet, it's not an issue.
Using the Homebrew Channel (which comes with the Region Free Geko thing), they play fine. And now I'll probably get most of my Wii Games from the States, where they'll be released 6 months earlier, and half has expensive.
Boom Blox, Blast Works for Â£10 (currently at amazon.com) each in the US of A? Â£20 and Â£30 pounds over here, and BW won't be released until late September.
I think Nintendo have made the decision for me.
Bah, I want to go back to Tokyo. I didn't know what the hell everyone was saying, but they were polite; and except for the odd stabbing, it's still about a 100 less stabbings than here. Here the only thing that's cheaper, it seems, is someone's life :(
EDIT: Amazon's Boom Blox is now back to $50, or Â£25 quid... still, the offers are out there.
One of my all time favourite games is one that nobody bought, less played, yet for some reason everyone seems to love it. BGE Syndrome is what I call it, after the better known (yet equally neglected), Beyond Good & Evil. The game I love so dearly was released before that, in a wonderful pocket of time for PC gaming that saw a swell in RPGs: they were more accessible; better looking, with sweeping soundtracks; and didn't feature random encounters, oestrogen-riddled emotionally-inept characters with great hair, or long-winded dialogues about how random everything was, but that their hair was still great.
Planescape: Torment is just about the finest example of how story telling, character development, and player interaction should mix. Because the characters are the story. What starts of as a simple (hah!) amnesiac story deepens into a philosophical and spiritual conflict. The main protagonist in this maze is the Nameless One, and that's the only thing he'll ever be called.
There are spoilers below, but I doubt you'll want to play a near-10 year old PC game, in a whopping 640x480 resolution. Though it really is worth it.
Images from MobyGames.
We first find the Nameless One laying on a mortuary slab. Shredded with scars, tattooed and appearing very much dead, he awakens with no memory and no possessions. He isn't the lump of clay to be shaped most characters are, just waiting for some event to convince them they're really a prince, a god incarnate, or that something forces him from his home, or he finds a magic sword. Nothing like that.
We've essentially stumbled in on this fellow half way through his normal day. In fact he's had a hell of a day, because he was actually dead. For some reason, he never stays that way, or so he's told by a floating skull he befriends. This is a man with already a lifetime (several of them, as a matter of fact) of achievements, conflicts and relationships. But because he's forgotten it all, we're invited to learn as he does. Its all very well in playing a pre-established character, but we'd have to go through all manner of forced exposition to learn why he is the way he is. Not so with the Nameless One. He is us, and we are him. Everything is as new to him, as it is us.
This makes him a very comfortable character to play. We can all relate to having situations we handled badly, people we didn't get along with, and wished we could go have another go at doing right. Well the Nameless One gives us that chance, in how we handle situations as he (re)visits people and locations. He's a character that melts into our own style regardless of how you play, and because of his past encounters, we never feel special or privileged to have all these adventures and events happening to us, because according to the game, they've been happening all along, and will continue to do so after we stop playing.
The game world is one of nuanced steam-punk and fantasy. It seems like a world that could have existed, and indeed the design of Sigil, City of Doors, was modelled on merry ol' London. Think From Hell, or Sweeney Todd without the singing. It's a crass, uncaring world, with it's own dialect of English, and it feels like home. This isn't a world where everyone is out to either help or hinder you. Whilst the game engine certainly couldn't provide day and night cycles or similar Artificial Intelligence, the rich interactions of the NPCs makes you feel wanted, or rejected. These NPCs could be off getting drunk, or having sex, or anything had you not bothered them. The point is that it makes you feel.
The games goal is a selfish one, compared to other "save the world" RPGs, as we only want to know who we are. Whilst other events seem important (like the vanishing of a town from the current plane), its almost insignificant to the Nameless One and his companions. This negates the feeling of "why am I playing this game? What's the point?" that appear in other games. We're playing to understand who we are, what kind of gamer, and what kind of character.
The other characters help to immerse you inside this scarred man. There's banter yes, but also real dialogue. Dialogue that unravels who you are, and tragically loved. You are this man who's lived a thousand lives, slain a million beasts and men, loved hundreds of women. And in all this, your life, you discover has been circling itself. You chase your former selves in diaries, tombs, parchment scrawlings and in memory receptacles, never knowing which incarnation was insane, evil, twisted, or a saint. You know nothing of previous lives, save for what you want to find out. You want to know if the sassy Tiefling that accompanies has followed you before, is lying to you now, feels the same love for you, that you do for her.
I've never felt more involved in an adventure as much as I had with the Nameless One. But it's not just because he's a fascinating character, he isn't: He has no past, or future. It's the game world the brings it to life, the characters we fall in love with, or hate, and ultimately our submission in finding out what happened and who we are. The Nameless One is the most transparent character I've played, without baggage, and expectations.
I've been hateful, shocked, curious, fascinated, fallen in love, and terrified to loose it all. All through The Nameless One. "What can change the nature of a man?" Ravel, the witch, asks. Throughout the game l asked myself that same question, adapting to the kid of person I needed or wanted to be; whether or not I wanted to play out the same life as the last. It's not so much the Nameless One that is the character I adore, but the game world as a whole. It really is a powerful experience, as exciting as a great film, and a stirring as the best novel. Play it, and ask yourself, what would change your nature?
I've just be trawling through a huge page on Nintendo's site detailing what we lucky Europeans will be getting on the run up to Christmas (Link).
I am in awe, and not just at the total disregard for XHTML and CSS Standards; why bother putting using doctype? anyway... No! There's just too many games to comprehend. Go ahead, look at them all, it's beautiful. I can't wait to get my hands on...
- Space Chimps (W.T.F.), or
- Jeep Thrills (Hahahaha, I see what you did there, give the man a raise -- Oh, now I'm doing it!), or
- Carnival Games: Mini Golf (because that collection of mini-games was so amazing the Palestinians and Israelites put down arms for a day, just to play it).
Oh right, it's the summer line-up. The line-up where we EUs wish for the Christmas line-up we won't even get until February, the year after. Oh well, guess I should just sit back and relax for 7 months.
It was like this, this time last year, wasn't it? A drought? Were I had to make do with the games I'd bought between December and June; the pickings were slim, even then. I'm trying to contain my excitement for 3 year old PC leftovers like De Blob (which is free on PC), and World of Goo. But its difficult, you know?
I can't be the only fool who thought Nintendo would deliver on better gameplay, surely? The Wiis white casing stood for a purity of gaming. It didn't matter what the graphics looked like, it would bring us all together to play, anything. We didn't need the latest High-Def grays and browns for innovation. So why does the whiteness of the Wii now look like make-up, caked on to disguise the infections of shovel and casual ware?
The only original game I've seen in a while has been the Â£7 Lost Winds. This should shame every games development studio. A little UK developer has done with a few short hours of gaming, what others fail to do with 10 times that amount: A feeling a discovery, an immersive (that's not even a word is it?) world with only 2 Dimensions, and a true urgency to complete it. This could have been the Avatar: The Last Air Bender game, But that was a dumbed down Diablo clone.
So whilst I might check out Wario's mysterious new game, or Skate Its control scheme, I can only see our promise of innovation this year coming from WiiWare. And the only obstacle there is Nintendo, who apparently have over 100 games either nearly or are ready to be released, but wont. It doesn't matter anyway, since my Wiis 512 is full, and it would be rude to ask for more, wouldn't it?
Oh, and I see Baroque is on this list. It'll be released July 18th, whilst Rising Star still reports it as August 1st. Does this mean we'll have a rushed, half-localised game? Will German sentences end abruptly in American "Yeeh Haw!", "Dawg", and "Do the chickens have large talons?". That's the only way I can see how it could take so long to "localise".
Whilst Nintendo, and any quack can crank out a conglomerate of mini-games, propagating some new-fangled, patent-pending miracle cure for whatever ails you, 20 years ago, no one cared. In a dream like decade, where everything electric for the consumer that wasn't a television or a radio was reserved for the nerds, geeks, I had a cassette-tape reader, chubby keyboard, a one-eyed joystick, and enough innuendos to put a therapist's kids through University. This helped me develop the patience of a monk on ketamine. A lot of ketamine.
The Commodore 64 was a Christmas present one year, and whilst it resembled neither HAL, nor let me play a deadly, international and naive game of tick tack toe, it was my introduction to three important aspects of life:
1 - Games are freakin' sweet;
2 - Good things come to those who wait;
3 - Whilst Death and Taxes are certainties in this life, Computer reliability is as the other end of the spectrum.
Before you even got to play a game, you had to figure out how to load it. This single flaw is one, I believe, of it's more important features:
If you couldn't figure out what to do here, go play a NES. None of your "blow on it to make it work" business here (Nintendo nurturing other skills). If you wanted to do something, you had to type in an instruction, or hold down a series of keys. Which leads us to the best part of some games: the loading.
You never could tell what you'd get. Sometimes there'd be music, other times a whining rhythmic screeching. A blank coloured screen was as equally informative as one with scrolling bi-coloured lines. Sometimes, you'd even get a mini-game to play. Ghostbusters is one such game, which let you play space invaders for the 10-20 minutes it took to load.
It was these waiting screens that helped me develop my patience. In this time, I could read a book, make a sandwich, go to the toilet (if I held it in for a few days, prior). Of course I spent most loading screens sitting, waiting, anticipating the noises of the cassette loading, and being mesmerized by the flash-flashy light show. I'm sure my parents worried, but it kept my glazed-eyes from looking for trouble, the screeching sounds and jarring imagery having disabled the speech-centre of my brain. Thankfully, waiting for a game to load has taken a bit of a nose dive, in recent years:
There were times when everything wasn't A-OK. Of course it took a trained eye to know something was amiss. The equivalent of the RROD or BSOD on the c64 was a sudden change in the loading animation (block colour to flashing, visa-versa), and possibly a new sound effect. Many a parent tried to load a game, only to have it die mid-load without their realising, and give up after 90 minutes.
Unfortunately, I don't remember much about the games. Only a few stood out. It didn't help that they were about Â£3.00, which was manageable even for a child. Though I did suffer the same affliction as Emulator gamers: Spoilt-For-Choiceitus, which manifested itself as stuttering of speech, hair in places there wasn't before, breaking of the voice, greasy skin. Thankfully, it was time for puberty, so I blended in with the other non-gamers.
I remember something about an anthropomorphic egg that couldn't swim; probably explaining my aversion to furries. Street Fighter II made an appearance, and for buying something that looks like a precursor to every Lego Game, I got a Ryu pin for my troubles, and a large poster of Blanka (Chun-li would have been better, but a green, hairy fiend was good, too). Xybots is the only game I can remember with any clarity. It was a co-op corridor blasting game, defeating robots around every corner. It was fantastic, and well worth the wait.
That's it. My beginnings. I hope it's shed some light on the dark ages, where we could easily count the colours on a screen, and danced merrily to chip-tunes. You kids call them polyphonic today, and look down at them from your iBricks and interwebs. Good Day, Sir!
(images taken from various sources. They belong to whomever, cheers!)