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7:34 PM on 10.17.2008 MASSIVE UPDATE

Some of you may or may not know that Harmonix launched the brand new a few weeks back.

While the site is still in beta, some of the more awesome features they announced have become available. Namely, the ability to take pictures of your custom rockers and bands, and to use said photos to make your own merchandise. T-shirts, buttons, key chains, posters; all are available at your fingertips.

Supremely Subpar L-R: Fumiko Yoshida, Rupe, Franz Grüber

All you need to do is create an account, then link your profile to your copy of the game (I did mine a few weeks back, but I remember it taking less than a minute).
Once you're set, pick a character or band, choose their body and facial poses, a background, a filter (b&w, sepia, etc), and you're good to go.

Needs moar crane kicks

This is one of the greatest community features ever implemented in a game (imo), and i can't wait to see all the virtual Dtoid rockers out there.

Post script: I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Cutie Honey for being born with an excess of awesome. The custom Rock Band cards he created are so full of win, my head hurts just thinking about it.

I gots mine   read

2:29 PM on 06.17.2008

Comic Book Readers: A Request

As with what I would assume to be a majority of the Dtoid community, I have a past with comics. I was introduced to them by a friend in the early 90s, and read-slash-loved just about every book I got my hands on. The problem was that as a child, I didn't really have any source of income. As such, I was unable to stay current or keep up with story lines.

Flash forward some 15 years: I want to start reading comics again, but haven't the slightest clue of what's good these days. My roommate loves Iron Man, Daredevil, Green Lantern and Batman. I've been leaning towards some of those, but I would love to hear the opinion of the aficionados of the community.

So I'm looking for 2 or 3 books to read on a monthly basis. What would you recommend?   read

8:10 PM on 06.11.2008

That SLiFE 006: Camo Toe

Guess what suckers? I'm already playing Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. I'm only a few hours in, so I only have some very basic impressions to relate. The game is drop-dead gorgeous. It seems every 8 months or so, I play the best looking game I've ever seen. MGS4 is the new contender. Sure it's got all the tech, but like previous entries in the series, the little details are what make it.
The cut scenes are back with some sort of vengeance. I haven't any doubts that Konami made the subject of their length taboo to talk about. Fortunately, the acting and direction are top notch (with the exception of a few over the top moments). Watching the opening cinema, it could easily have been mistaken for modern war drama. The music and cinematography could only be described as haunting (the new acoustic guitar theme is phenomenal). Especially awesome during the cut scenes are the short bursts of interactivity. At certain points during cut scenes, typically when previous events are mentioned, you will be prompted to hit X. Quick glimpses of Snake's past missions will appear. It's a nice touch, particularly since Kojima intends to tie everything up.
The gameplay has seen some vast improvements. It is definitely more in line with its 3rd person action-adventure contemporaries. The camera, which first made the switch from overhead to 3rd person in MGS3: Subsistence, has seen further refinements, while the controls are no longer the abstract, convoluted mess that they've been in the past. Hold L1 to aim, R1 shoots, and triangle toggles between 3rd and 1st person views. No longer will you find yourself scratching your head over button combos while an enemy shoots you full of holes.
Two aspects of MGS4 have stood out to me so far: gun customization and urban warfare.
The weapon aspect is the one thing that held my attention in Army of Two. Thankfully, it plays a much larger role than simply blinging out your gun in this game. After meeting gun launderer and Sisqo look-alike Drebin, you have the option to customize your guns with laser sights, suppressors, grenade launchers, etc. The attention they pay to detail really gives you an idea of how much of a gun fetishist Kojima really is.
Urban warfare comes into play during the first act, as you must find your way through a battle between a PMC and a woefully out gunned local militia. You can choose to sneak through without interfering, but why? Letting loose, without worrying about stealth, was the most fun I've ever had in a Metal Gear game. With the new camera and controls, I was picking off PMC troops left, right and center. The mortars also provided a great distraction. I will definitely be playing that part multiple times once I beat the game.
So like I said, I'm only a few hours in, but I've enjoyed the hell out those hours. Metal Gear Solid 4 is well worth your hard-earned space bucks.
Oh, and you can pause during cut scenes.

And I think that's it for the week. I wanna get back to Metal Gear reeeal bad, and I can't think of anything but that.

You wanna know what Konami didn't want to tell anyone about the install?
There's an install at the beginning of every act.   read

8:18 PM on 06.05.2008

That SLiFE 005: Slow Poke

It's done. My Wii is gone. Tina, if you're reading this, take good care of her.
Also, I'm sorry about the length of the post. I haven't had much time to game this week, let alone write.

Nothing new this week, unfortunately. Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions has consumed more of my time than any other game in the past 7 days. Every time I play, I am more and more impressed by this newest version. I know I've mentioned it a few times before, but the new translation is just great. I also can't get over the awesome visual style of the cut scenes. Akihiko Yoshida's character designs are modeled and animated in 3D, are given a hand-sketched appearance thanks to cel-shading and a cool "scratchy" effect. It's a bit tough to explain, but hopefully this will help:


For those not familiar with the gameplay of FFT, it is a tactical RPG. Battles fold out on a 3D landscape between 2 teams. During each character's turn, the order of which is based on an individual's speed attribute, they may move and perform one ability (or vice-versa). Movement and action ranges, as well as equipment and abilities, are determined by the job you have assigned to a character.

Imagine this made out of squares

The game utilizes a character class (job) system. It allows you to customize your characters through the use of 5 ability slots (2 job-skill slots, reaction, support and movement). Jobs, which run the gamut from knights and archers to summoners and ninjas, each have their own unique abilities. The first skill slot is reserved for the the character's current job. You can assign the skills of another job to the second slot. Reaction abilities, such as counter attacks and evasive skills, are triggered when you are attacked. Support abilities are passive, and can allow you to equip non-standard items (ie. a black mage may equip a sword with the aid of a proper support ability), or enhance physical or magical strength or defense. Finally, movement abilities can increase your movement range, restore HP or MP when you move, or allow you to find hidden items on the battlefield. Of course, there are many more options available for each ability slot, as there are 20 jobs, each with their own unique skills. To unlock each skill within a job, you spend job points, or JP, which are earned each time you successfully complete an action during battle.

The many job classes available to use

Ultimately, it is this customization aspect that has kept me hooked for the better part of a decade. I'm always trying to make the ultimate warrior. My latest creation is a ninja (who attacks with 2 weapons), with the monk ability of Martial Arts as a sub job. Her reaction ability is Reflexes, which makes her damn near impossible to hit, and the Dragoon movement skill Ignore Elevation allows her to scale any height. To top things off, the Geomancer support skill Increase Damage boosts her already formidable attack power. I find this combination makes for a warrior who is capable of long range attacks while being devastating at close range. She can close any distance quickly, and is able to heal herself should she fall into danger. I'm sure I'll create a better warrior eventually, but this one works wonders for me right now.

I finally completed GTA IV over the weekend. Quite frankly, I was disappointed by the ending. It provided a great character arc, but the story felt unfinished. I do appreciate the fact that it was not a happy ending, as I believe tragedies are much easier to relate to. I am aware of the 2 possible final missions, as well as their outcomes. I intend to experience the other one in the next few days to see what type of emotional impact it has on me. I'll be more prepared to go into greater detail at that time. Until then, I highly recommend Reverend Anthony's article, Deconstructing GTA IV's Ending.

Over at GameSetWatch, Tadhg Kelly discusses the pitfalls of Microsoft's decision to delist under performing arcade titles.

*SPOILER ALERT* 1up counts down the top 5 videogame spoilers. Aerith dies. Deal with it.

Leigh Alexander rebuts an argument that GTA IV is overtly misogynist.

2P Start gave me quite a chuckle with their take on Dr Mario. A couple of the jokes are heavy handed, but the payoff is worth it.

Just What The Doctor Ordered   read

9:35 PM on 05.28.2008

That SLiFE 004: Cheap Thrills

Greetings True Believers. Some fairly big personal news to get through before I continue with standard business.

First, and perhaps most distressing, is that I've decided to sell my Wii. "But Jordan, you love Nintendo!" Well, I did. Our relationship has been kinda rocky the past year or so.
The Big N has not been good to my ilk and I. With their focus on expanding the market to non-gamers, they have been ignoring us more and more. Well, maybe not ignore, but they aren't giving the faithful their due. You think you can toss me Smash Bros. and a half baked Mario Kart and call it a year? There is nothing, literally nothing, on the horizon that interests me (except from maybe Sam and Max, but I can get my fix elsewhere).
Don't get me wrong, I've had some great times with my Wii. Wii Sports was a blast to play drunk with my friends in the months following its release. Twilight Princess and Mario Galaxy, while not as revolutionary as their 64-bit predecessors, were still deep, engaging, and most of all, fun. But Nintendo sorta blew their load early this generation. What else is left to excite the 20+ year Nintendo die-hard?
So it is with heavy heart (and hopefully soon an equally heavy wallet) that I am selling my Wii. Perhaps one day our paths will cross again, perhaps not. But I'm hoping they do.

The Wii and my breakup is not the only one I have to tell you about, but the second one has a considerably happier ending.
It all began on a sunny autumn day in 2002. I checked the mail that fateful afternoon, only to find the instrument of my financial ruin lurking inside the box. I speak, of course, about my first credit card.
I raced back to my computer, eager to exercise my newly found spending power. Before eBay, before Amazon, I wanted to get an IGN Insider subscription. IGN was already my home page. What harm was there in spending a buck seventy every month for exclusive features, high resolution videos and ad-free navigation? How could I say no? Especially when subscribing to a similarly themed print publication in Canada was prohibitively expensive (particularly to this frugal Canuck).
The arrangement between IGN and myself worked fine for nearly half a decade. It wasn't until the spring of 2007 that I started to question my annual fee. After all, don't Game Trailers and Game Videos offer high res videos for free? And I love the writers at EGM. I can read their stuff any time over at 1up. To top it all off, I grew tired of the immature and unprofessional antics of the IGN staff. There was no way they were getting another years subscription out of me.

But it wasn't til I came across a relatively young gaming site by the name of Destructoid
that I knew what I was missing: community.
Here was a site that not only offered every member a place to voice their opinions, but they promoted the work of the community and interacted with them as peers.
I was instantly hooked. I met some incredible people (the first people I added to my XBL friends list since the inception of the service are Dtoiders). I read amazing and hilarious articles. I was even included in one of Ron's epic credits videos (right between dyslixec and -D-).
In short, Destructoid is now my first stop on the innerwebs for anything. You guys all rock hard. You deserve this:

This past week saw the release of the first chapter in the long awaited series, Penny Arcade Adventures: On The Rain Slick Precipice of Darkness. Being a huge Penny Arcade fan (not to mention having been at PAX when the game was announced), I couldn't wait for this game to come out. I have not been disappointed.
It combines aspects of a few different genres into an easy to swallow 8 hour package: some very light adventure parts joined with a fast paced, albeit shallow, RPG combat system.
As the game progresses, your customized character teams up with the members of the Startling Developments Detective Agency (Penny Arcades own Gabe and Tycho) to track down a giant robotic menace that has been plaguing the 1920s-era city of New Arcadia. Along the way, you encounter several familiar faces while battling a variety of villains, both old and new.
I dug this game immediately. From the moment the intro begins, Jerry Holkins' writing style simultaneously mocks your inferior vocabulary and assaults your funny bone, while Mike Krahulik's art translates beautifully into three dimensions.
The combat is especially great. It's a very streamlined system that incorporates only 3 commands: items, attack and special attacks. You must wait for each command to become available before you can use the next. First, your item icon fills, enabling you to heal members of your squad or boost their stats, then your attack icon fills. Once it is accessible, you must decide to either attack immediately or wait to use one of your character's 3 devastating specials. Once a special is chosen, a short skill based mini game is initiated to determine the extent of the damage. If 2, or all 3 of your heroes have their special attack at their disposal, you may combine them to demolish your opponents. The quick nature and hands-on approach to traditional RPG combat is very reminiscent of the Nintendo/Square classic, Super Mario RPG. And just like in Mario's adventure, you even have the opportunity to soften blows from your enemies with timed button presses.
If I had one reservation about PAA:OTRSPOD, it would be its sometimes frustrating difficulty spikes. On a few occasions, I would enter a new area, only to have my ass handed to me a new foe. At this point it becomes impossible to understate the importance of defense.
Overall, it's an easy recommendation to any fan of the comic. I can understand why people would be on the fence, particularly given it's $20 price, but with a demo available for 360, PC, Mac and Linux, there's no excuse to not atleast give it a try.

With my return to Xbox Live, I've been putting some serious time into Call of Duty 4 and its online component. Of special note is that I finally picked up the map pack.
Unfortunately, not every map has come up in the rotation, but I'm loving what I've seen so far. They epitomize the attention to detail, balance and polish that the game is renowned for.
I give you my word that this map pack will be the best 800 MS points you've spent since Worms.

1up's Jeremy Parish provides a preview of the highly anticipated DS tactical-RPG, Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift.

Leigh Alexander (one of my favourite gaming writers) presents this great Yahtzee-esque video, discussing the relationship between gaming and sexuality, via her blog Sexy Videogameland.

EGM EIC James "Milky" Mielke tales a look back at some of the best opening strategies from Blizzard's legendary RTS, Starcraft.

Penny Arcade really stepped it up this week with their interpretation of a press release for "Ponystars."
Seriously, Gabe's expression in the second panel tickles me in a way that most religious types would find offensive.

The Unhorse   read

4:38 PM on 05.21.2008

That SLiFE 003: Army of Poo

I'd like to open with some great news: I am back on Xbox Live. With this came a flood of games I hadn't touched in months, in particular Call of Duty 4 and Team Fortress 2. I'd forgotten how ridiculously well balanced, polished and fun they were. So if anyone needs a squad mate or a drummer, hit me up on XBL (SLiFE).

This week brings with it perhaps the worst retail boxed product I've played in years. I speak, of course, of EA's third-person co-op shooter, Army of Two. Plenty has been said of the 2 main characters, and while I am inclined to agree, the basis of my criticism is far simpler than a disdain for their crude personalities (or latent homosexual undertones): the game sucks.
Now don't get me wrong, not everything about this game was produced in a dog's digestive tract. It's a very pretty game (at least in screen shots). I have nothing but praise for the modelers and texture artists who worked on Army of Two, not to mention the great lighting. The problem comes in once everything starts moving. In this day and age of procedural animations, the canned stuff just doesn't cut it.

The game takes a turn for even worse once you start shooting. Aiming feels weird. It's difficult to explain, but where my character's gun is pointing and where the targeting reticule is are often not the same. The enemies themselves are bullet sponges. They soak up damage without flinching until their invisible health bars are depleted (cue canned death animation).
I can't say too much about the co-op (seeing as I would never subject someone I considered a friend to a game this bad), but I didn't much care for my AI teammate. The commands are simple enough (follow, stay, advance, each with a passive and aggressive variant), but too often I felt I had to baby sit him. The co-op maneuvers aren't much better. While the 360-degree back-to-back is fun, it's only triggered at specific, scripted parts of the stages. Whenever my partner would boost me to a platform, I knew there would be a group of enemies waiting. Otherwise, there would be no need for the raise and lower commands. The one trick these two had up their sleeves that impressed me came when my character was incapacitated. My partner came to my aid, dragging me to safety while I fired on our pursuers. Anyone who has seen Zack Snyder's 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead knows how awesome this little move is.
In addition to the technical highlights, there are a few other compelling aspects of the game. I did like the weapon upgrade system. Though I should mention that while I enjoyed spending money on new barrels, stocks and larger ammo clips, I never felt it made a huge difference during missions. I won't even subject you to the idiocy of the “pimped” versions of the arsenal (primarily because I can't locate any images), but trust me; they're an insult to your intelligence.
The enemy AI also impressed me. More than once, I found myself surrounded after the enemy had aggressively flanked my position. I'm not saying the AI is super smrt, but it certainly makes for some challenging gameplay.
It's a shame Army of Two wasted so much of its potential. This could have been the shooter of early 2008. Instead, it will languish as the butt of an industry wide joke.

Surprise, surprise. GTA IV remains my most heavily invested game this week. I was actually shocked by this more than anyone, as I set out to complete the game over the weekend. My bad on that one.
I can't overemphasize how long this game is. The story just keeps going and going. New contacts keep appearing. More side missions reveal themselves. Also, taking Brucie out to the scrip club is always hilarious.
Hopefully I'll be telling you all about the genius direction of the ending this time next week.

I had a revelation regarding Mario Kart Wii. I set out to finally enjoy the game, and I did once I played it with a Wiimote and nunchuk. I immediately felt comfortable with the controls and started whomping the AI controlled karts.

Unfortunately, this is where one of my previous gripes reared its hideous mug: the item balance. I was getting hit by 2, 3, sometimes even 4 blue shells every race. It's very frustrating, particularly when a sudden, last second barrage of items costs you a race.

With my return to Xbox Live came access to a glut of demos. Fortunately, I'd played most on my PS3. Two of the 360-exclusive trials that interested me were Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit and Kung-Fu Panda.

Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit was not my first exposure to fighting games based on the series. Years ago, I was introduced to the PS1 “classic” Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Battle 22 by a “friend” of mine. It's pretty amazing that in the subsequent 13 years since its original Japanese release, little has been improved upon. Sure, it features what could be considered the best cel-shaded visuals in the industry (this from someone who considers Wind Waker a franchise highlight), but underneath the shiny veneer lays a very basic, mash-happy brawler. I do like that the scenarios are taken directly from the show's plot, but it's ultimately not enough to sell me on even a rental.

I was pleasantly surprised with Kung-Fu Panda. While nothing about it will turn heads, it's a competent 3D beat-em-up. It carries a level of quality that belies its summer-movie-tie-in roots. It features some great (albeit non-interactive) environments, some solid character design and legitimately funny dialog. The combat falls on the easy side, but given the overall kid-friendly nature, it's to be expected. If you need to keep the kids entertained for the weekend, or if your old lady has a panda fetish, definitely give it a try.

I know I'm late to the party on this one, but I need to throw in my 2 cents on the recent Guitar Hero 4 announcement. WTF is Activision thinking? I can get behind drums and vocals in GH4. Anything less would feel like an incomplete experience in 2008. It's just that I already own a set of over sized plastic peripherals. There is no way I'm buying another set of drums to play your game, especially when I feel Neversoft has no chance of matching the set list offered to me by Harmonix.
It's true that Guitar Hero 3 outsold Rock Band this past holiday season, but lets take a look at some of the facts: Guitar Hero is an established brand. It was released nearly a full month before Rock Band. It cost roughly half of what Rock band did.
Going into Christmas '09 though? Most of those advantages will be lost. Rock Band has been picking up steam for 6 months now, and Guitar Hero will cost at least as much as Rock Band once it includes comparable accessories.
The only solution would be to develop Guitar Hero 4 to include support for the Rock Band drums. Of course, we know this will never happen, but I can't help but feel they're shooting themselves in the foot.

And then we've got Konami and Rock Revolution. I don't know what these guys are thinking. I know they pretty much invented the genre and all, but from early previews this game looks as though it will lack the polish to go toe to toe with the big boys. At times I feel bad for them, but they're committing the same fault as Activision by releasing proprietary drums. In any case, I'll be sticking with Rock Band.

I need to start reading a more diverse selection of web comics. Nothing has tickled my fancy these past few weeks like Fanboys.
If you can suggest anything, please do. I'd hate to discontinue this section simply due to a lack of competition.

Can I Keep It?

Part 1 here
Part 3 here

Thanks for reading. See you all in a week.   read

8:14 PM on 05.14.2008

That SLiFE 002: Beat Bloxing

Another week, another batch of games. Let's get down to business.

For the most part, I've been playing the same games as last week.

GTA IV continues its streak of brilliance without breaking a sweat. I spend my days at work longing to return to Liberty City. Since I covered the game mechanics last week, I'd like to discuss some of the finer points that make the game what it is.
The music has impressed me like nothing has since Tony Hawk 2 (Powerman 5000 ftw). I know the boys at Rockstar North have always included an eclectic mix of tunes in the series, but there's something special about this one, something I can't quite put my finger on. I think it just fits the personality of the city. Of course, it doesn't hurt that my 2 favourite stations, Liberty Rock Radio and Classics, feature Iggy Pop and DJ Premier at the respective helms. Oh, and The Seeker rocks hard tasty abs.
I'm also very happy with the pacing of the game. The story is considerably lower key than anything in the series' history; a byproduct of its more refined writing. It's refreshing that Niko isn't the head of some crime syndicate at this point. He's still just trying to get by, taking any job he can. I mean, it kind of broke the fiction when CJ was robbing casinos, dealing with government agents and flying jet packs, only to return to Los Santos to confront comparatively petty problems at the end.
With all that said, I am starting to see a few cracks in the game. As odd as this may sound, especially for a series championed for its variety of activities, I'm getting a bit bored of the missions. No matter what I'm asked to do, it typically ends with a shootout followed by a police chase. Lose your wanted level, drive to the hideout, mission accomplished. Don't
get me wrong, they're still fun to play, but I wish something would come along and shake up the monotony.

I put a little more time into Mario Kart Wii this past week, coming away with less favorable impressions than last week.
I'd just like to say first that the track design is great. Without question some of the best of any Mario Kart. Coconut Mall is not only the fun to play, but fun to look at. Its integration of Miis into the billboards is all sorts of awesome. Admiral "Soon-To-Reside-On-SLiFE's-Ass" Ackbar was showing off some of the latest fall fashions, while My Buddy Greg shilled for what appeared to be coffee (not my fault, its only 480p).
I dislike the wheel now. The novelty has worn off, and I see it for its gimmicky nature. It's not necessarily the fault of the design. It's more of a slight against Wii controls in general. They are incapable of detecting precise motions. How else could I explain a silver on a 50CC cup? And it's not just Mario Kart. Twilight Princess suffered the same problem. Mario Galaxy was acceptable, but only because the spinning attack was easily engaged and the cursor was almost unnecessary. I intend to try controlling the game with both a Gamecube controller and a Wiimote/nunchuk combo in the next week. Hopefully one of these will render the game playable.

The one new game I tried this week was Boom Blox for the Wii. I was so apathetic to this game for months. Only in the past few weeks, after hearing Shane Bettenhausen (of EGM and 1up) raving about how much fun it was, did I develop an interest.
Shane was right.
This game had me hooked in minutes. The play mechanics are simple, intuitive and well implemented within the puzzles. And besides, who doesn't like knocking shit over?
The challenges presented in the game run the gamut of puzzle design: disassembling towers, Jenga-style, knocking them down by throwing as few possible balls as possible, creating paths to allow characters to reach a goal. The bevy of blocks, characters, tools and rule sets make for a ridiculous amount of game play possibilities. A few of them fall flat, but it doesn't detract from the experience too much.
Boom Blox features, hands-down, the best implementation of Wii controls to date. Aiming, motion sensing, the accelerometer: all are used, all are great. It's curious why it took a 3rd party developer to realize them as well as they are. Nintendo should have had a half-dozen such titles by now.
If I had to fault Boom Blox for one thing, it's the physics. Don't get me wrong, the physics model is an incredibly well written piece of simulation software. It's just that in the context of a puzzle game, it can make for a frustrating time. Even after you have figured a level out, where to throw the ball, which piece to remove, the physics can still come out and bite you in the ass. One puzzle comes to mind (knock the gems down in as few throws possible), where one particular gem would always land errantly on another block, requiring a second throw to complete. I wanted gold on that level, and so I spent the better part of an hour retrying. It was frustrating to the point that my eventual victory felt hollow.
The game features an in-depth editing tool. In addition to creating your own levels from scratch, you also have the ability to edit any pre-existing one (an option they present you at the end of every level). While my time with this mode was very limited, I believe it to be the most open-ended editing software available on any home console (at least until LittleBigPlanet). It's just a shame you're limited to exchanging your creations with friends; a community feature would extend the life of this game almost infinitely. We can only hope a 3rd party will step in to fill the void (a la IGN's SSB World).
Overall, this is an easy recommendation to any Wii owner.

Finally, I've been putting more time into Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions.
I'd like to retract my statements from last week regarding the translation. While it took some time to become accustomed to the new dialog, it is far better than the previous release of the game. The style fits with the setting, and the story could be described, for the first time ever, as compelling. By comparison, the previous game was just embarrassing.

I tried out a trio of demos this week on PS3, with mixed impressions.
First up is GRiD, the follow up to last years DiRT (itself the successor to the Colin McRae rally series). Not being a huge racing fan, I booted up with no expectations. egardless, I was very impressed. You can really tell they put the time in to polish this game. It doesn't hurt that it's one of the better looking racers out there. The damage model is incredible, and there are assistance options for novice racers like myself.
Above all, you get to pick from a list of names at the beginning of the game. You will be addressed on menus and by your pit crew as such for the rest of the game. How awesome is it to have someone tell you personally how bad you're doing?

I played the demo for the highly anticipated, oft delayed FPS, Haze. I know of their legacy as ex-Rare staffers who made Goldeneye before separating to create the Timesplitters series. They are renowned for their contributions to the genre. That doesn't mean that I agree with it though. Sure, they created what is considered to be the granddaddy of console first-person shooters, but every game they've released since still controls like its goddamn 1997. Did they never play Halo? There should be courses, taught by Bungie-certified rofessors, on how to program FPS controls. I would say it's not rocket science, but it must be approaching it since so many developers mess it up.
I was really disappointed in Haze. The weapons were boring and uninspired, enemies acted predictably and were not fun to fight, I wanted to shoot my squad mates every time they opened their mouths (I know you switch sides later in the game, but it was still terrible). The Nectar aspect, where you juice yourself with a performance enhancing substance, was interesting, but mainly only because you can overdose on it.
When is this game coming to retail? Doesn't matter.

Last, and most definitely least, comes The Bourne Conspiracy. This game is straight up terrible. It's the worst looking Unreal Engine 3 games I've ever seen, and that includes XBLA games. As part of a larger game, the 3 game play aspects (shooting, hand-to-hand combat, driving) would be passable. But that's it. That's all you do, and all 3 are just awful. If this were a movie, I'd get a bunch of friends together, drink some beer and have a great time laughing at how bad it is. If I were the developer of The Bourne Conspiracy, I'd be ashamed of myself.

Microsoft held their Xbox 360 Spring Showcase earlier this week, and while there were no earth-shattering announcements, everything they showed off is high on my list of anticipated games.
However, the announcement of Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise did get me excited. I was late to the party for the original, but it was one of the best games I played in all of 2007. Its laid-back nature, classic Rare charm and "gotta catch 'em all" design made for one hell of an addicting experience. The sequel doesn't look like it's going to rock the boat too much, but I'll still be picking it up Day One when it drops in September.

The 1st game play footage of Gears of War 2 was shown on Friday, and hot damn, it looks good. The tech demo from GDC did little to prepare me for the visual onslaught.
The action has been ramped up significantly from the original, with promises of even more intense fire fights later in the game. I just hope they put as much effort into reworking the multiplayer, which was, and let's be real here, sorta broken. And if their solution to the chainsaw conundrum is simply a button-mashing contest, I'll be pissed.

The guy behind Fanboys took a month-long sabbatical earlier in the year, but everything he's done since has assaulted my funny bone with reckless abandon. Since this weeks comic is a little large, I must resort to posting the link.

Roleplay About Nothing

Thanks for reading. I'll be back next week.   read

12:29 PM on 05.07.2008

That SLiFE 001: Big American Teetees

Hello fellow Dtoiders, and welcome to my new weekly blog.
Every week, I'll recap what I've been playing over the past 7 days, offer my opinions on recent news, and hopefully provide a few chuckles along the way (though I'm not making any promises).
So I guess I'll hop right in.

The game the entire planet has been waiting for, Grand Theft Auto IV, finally dropped on April 29th, and I was among the roughly 8 goddamn hojillion gamers who contributed to its massive 1st day sales.
It's been just over a week, and I've put in the hours, and I'm loving it.
After finishing San Andreas, the subject of the location of the next GTA popped up in a discussion with my friends. Where would they move the action, and how could it possibly eclipse the scope of an entire state? Without trying to sound like too much of a smug asshole, I just want to say that I got it right on the money: one city, of moderate size, but amazingly detailed.
Let me just start by saying that these are some of the best written characters I've seen in a video game. Not necessarily the deepest or most complex, but best written. I rarely experience true lol moments, literally laughing out loud, but Brucie had me in stitches. Niko's past and quest for revenge make him a much more compelling character to me than Claude, Tommy or even CJ (who was a tad too brash to really endear himself to me).
When it comes down to the game play, the tried-and-true formula is back with some subtle tweaks: cars handle more realistically (ie. riding the handbrake around a corner at 70mph is no longer a viable escape method), drawing the ire of law enforcement now creates a perimeter that you must evacuate unnoticed to lose the heat, and combat has been improved with the help of a cover system.
I've heard complaints about each of these new systems, but I've grown to love each of them. The new driving model was perhaps the toughest to accustom myself to, but each car chase feels much more cinematic now. The AI always seemed to play it safe on the road, and now that you're forced to do the same, chases are more methodical and rewarding.
That seems to be the name of the game now. A slower, more tactical approach is required to overcome challenges. While this is obviously true of the cover system, I feel that statement also applies to evading the police. Scanning the radar, plotting routes to avoid detection while escaping the search area; in previous games, I just gunned it in one direction until I spotted a Pay n Spray on the map.
I haven't had a chance to get online yet, and while it's not a huge priority, I'm hoping to put a few matches under my belt by this time next week.

While GTA has been stealing just about every headline in the known universe, another long running franchise saw a new sequel recently. Mario Kart Wii has also been on my play list, though (and I feel kinda guilty over this) I've played it just once since purchasing it with GTA IV. Given my limited time with the game, I have only limited impressions to offer.
My feelings on this particular entry in the series are a mixed bag, so I'll just list in point form what I do and do not like about it.
-I love the wheel (which handily trumps any previous 3rd party attempts). It's straight up fun to use.
-Item balance is worse than ever. Back in "The Day," lightning bolts were rarely seen, even by the worst player. Now every asshole in the bottom half gets 3 each race. And don't get me started on blue shells. Punishing someone for winning? That sickens even this self-proclaimed socialist.
-I'm torn over the change to 12 racers. While I'm happy to see the formula mixed up, it just means I've got that many more blue shells hunting me down.
-Call me crazy, but I dislike having so many karts to choose from. It's bad enough that most of them are straight up ugly, but it seemingly relegates your choice of driver to, well, nothing. It doesn't really matter who you pick any more, and that just doesn't sit well with me.
Like I said, I haven't had much time with the game yet, so I'll be sure to follow up once I've logged in a few more hours.

The game that has taken up the majority of my time this past week is a game that has taken up more time than any other in the past decade. Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions has been my commuting companion since picking it up on the weekend.
First, a brief note about my history with the series. My first tactical RPG, Final Fantasy Tactics was a subject of obsession during the summer of 1998. I rented it nearly a dozen times (failing to realize a purchase would have been only slightly more expensive) over the next year. In early 2004, I purchased a GBA to play its spin off, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. A few months later, by chance, I happened upon a Greatest Hits copy of the original game, which I certainly did not play on an emulator. Between the 2 games, I've lost around 400 hours of my life.
So it was with great anticipation and excitement that I started playing one of my favourite games of all time again. New translation? Job classes? Cut scenes? Awesome!
Only, not so much. While I can't comment on the new job classes (I'm simply not far enough to have encountered them), and while the cut scenes are phenomenal, other aspects of the game leave something to be desired.
First, and most disappointingly, the games has some issues running on the PSP. I never thought it would have a problem reproducing a PS1 game, given its somewhat deserved reputation as a PS2 port machine. However, the game slows to a crawl whenever a spell or skill is used. It's not a game-ending problem, but it does taint the experience.
I'm also having a problem adjusting to the new translation. Don't get me wrong, it's well written, and I have a feeling that the story may make sense for the first time, but the style is just so different from what I've known for a decade. Names of characters and locations have been changed. It's very jarring. I imagine as I get deeper into the game it will be less of an issue, but it was enough to warrant noting it here.
After that, it is the same, incredibly deep game that captured the attention of my 14 year old self.

I'd also like to mention a few demos I played. Echochrome (specifically, the PS3 version) really delivered on an amazing concept. While a tad short, the demo sold me on the game play. I will definitely pick this one up, particularly with the recent Canadian PSN price drop. The only question remaining is what system do I get it for? I'm leaning towards PSP, as I feel it would lend itself better to short periods of play.
Iron Man was a licensed movie game that I thought might come through. With Sega at the helm, some amazing early screenshots and fan service to spare, I had expectations that matched those of the movie. My bad. The experience was just awful. Sure, flying was sorta ok, but combat (that thing that comprised the other 80% of the demo) was not fun in the least. The spastic controls could only be salvaged by the inclusion of retard-proof auto aim. Sorry Sega, better luck next time.

I want to end my inaugural post with my favourite web comic from this past week (this will be a regular feature).
I don't know if any of you are familiar with Fanboys, but it is consistently funnier than anything out there (including Penny Arcade).

I Has A Mount   read

1:43 PM on 11.14.2007

Super Mario Galaxy (and other) Cameos

So I'm finally playing Super Mario Galaxy (and loving it), but I couldn't help notice this cameo in the 1st level.

Fresh off his victory in the GameFAQs Character Battle, I present to you, the L-Block:

But wait, there's more!
Today only, I present to you this uber-special Viva Pinata cameo by Destructoid's own Snaileb.


1:35 PM on 11.12.2007

On Tattoos and The King of Koopas

Gonna keep this short.

I got a new tattoo yesterday. It is of Mario's nemesis and victim of that cockteasing bitch Peach.
I present to you, the Dtoid crew, Bowser:

The work was done by Cat at I-Kandy Tattoos in Langley, BC.
It was done on the back of my right calf and took approximately 80 minutes to complete.   read

1:10 PM on 11.09.2007

The (un)Official Dtoid Guitar Hero 3 Tour Group

I'm sure many of you missed this when it was 1st posted (seeing as there are currently only 16 members), but velcroman created a tour group for all the Dtoid rockers out there.

I present to you the DToid Also C0CK Rockers

So, you know, you should probably join up.   read

11:29 PM on 10.05.2007

"Sharks" by Cadence Weapon: The Best Music Video EVARS

Caught this video on The Wedge on Muchmusic tonight.
It blew my mind how many games this video explicitly references.

[embed]47868:3071[/embed]   read

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