Fulltime Journalist for the daily newspaper "Letzebuerger Journal". Worked as a freelance Videogame 'journalist' for that same newspaper for 2 years beforehand. Also, I'm the former News Editor over at www.Sega-Addicts.com. I also wrote a few frontpage stories here on Destructoid....
I also wrote for several weeks for www.Gamersyndrome.com
You can follow me on Twitter, if you want: @SvenWohl
Holy Crap, I haven't done this in quite some time. I sure hope I'm not too much out of shape.
So, EUFNF is a thing that happens every Friday. People from all over Europe or indeed anywhere join up in order to shoot, punch and do other stuff to each other in order for their personal amusement. There are games played on every major platform (including the brand-new 3DS) and some people have terrible accents that will make your ears bleed.
So these are the games for tonight:
Platform: PC/Mac, Steam.
Game: Whatever you can get people to play. Steamtoid is a fun hangout.
Join the Steam group chat to find us!
Time: Anytime. All of the time.
Game: Super Street Fighter 4 3D
Gamers: Subenu (3523-2055-2417)
Time: 20.00 CET | 19.00 GMT | 14.00 EST
Platform: Playstation 3
Game: Red Dead Redemption (Vanilla)
Gamers: Ramalhera, jjMccallum, juani-arg, aurain, Foolishbean69
Time: 21.00 CET | 20.00 GMT | 15.00 EST
Platform: Playstation 3
Game: Socom beta
Time: 21.00 CET | 20.00 GMT | 15.00 EST
Platform: Xbox 360
Games: Halo Reach, BF1943, L4D, Rapelay 2, ODST, Halo Wars. Basically, TBA.
Gamers: Tarvu (The Kinky Ninja), The Guy with the Hat, Subenu, Death by Lumber
Time: 21.00 CET | 20.00 GMT | 15.00 EST
Civilization has been one of those series that never left my side since I first started playing them. I think I was 12 when I started playing the second one, with its somewhat simplistic graphics and unbalanced gameplay. It was terribly hard to get into at first: Mechanisms seemed complex and mystifying, but the appeal of leading your own civilization through time was so great, that I was able to surpass those starting problems.
That's what Civ 2 looked like, back in the day. Simple, but very easy on your CPU/GPU, unlike the newer ones...
Many years later, I got my first hours on Civilization 5 as part of a review I had to write on it for the newspaper I do my reviews for. I was quite skeptical in my review back then, stating that I was worried that the simplified mechanics led to an overly superficial gameplay experience. I wrote that review after 25 hours of gameplay, but I was not sure, if I my impression of it, as mixed as it was, actually holds true after more time. So, what are my conclusions after 100 hours of gameplay?
First of all, yes, mechanics have been trimmed down quite a bit, in order to make the game accessible. Of course, that is not a bad thing at all. Does it really reduce my enjoyment of the game? Not really. Or rather, not anymore. One thing I had to get used to is, that I need to set up a higher difficulty for the game, to find it as entertaining as I found the fourth game. The AI in the game isn't really the brightest up until Prince difficulty. If it came to a war, I had absolutely no problem defeating three different opponents at the same time and getting huge deals out of those following peace treaties. That was way too unchallenging, and made Dominance Victories too easy to achieve.
Alternative victories are way more interesting in that perspective. While a cultural victory is just a grind-fest, political victories are the most interesting and hard to achieve ones of the bunch. Countless options and the new DLC help a lot to keep the motivation high, and there are mods, conveniently placed into a separate mode. It's no stretch for me to assume that I am going to arrive at 200 hours playtime too. All in all, I am surprised how well the game keeps up, even after those difficulties at the beginning.
You know, it's somewhat unsettling and surprising to me that after six months, I'm still doing this job. Writing a videogame review week after week after week, just like any other daily routine I have. If I had a time machine and could tell my former self that I would be doing this while being a student, I'd slap myself in the face. The sheer thought that there are some crazy people, willing to pay me for writing down my opinion of a game for a newspaper is nothing short of mind-boggling. Yet, here I am, writing a blog about my experiences of the sixth month into this.
In my last blog, the descriptions of the review processes were shorter than before, and some requested having a more in-depth view into the review processes themselves. That wish shall be granted, but I want to open another topic first. This time, I want to briefly talk about social media and how important they are, if you want to get into the 'writing stuff about videogames'-business. I don't know about your stance on social media, but one thing is for certain: Facebook and Twitter are helping to bring down regimes in North Africa and the Middle East. Meaning, they can also be of great help, when it comes to promoting your stuff.
First rule of thumb here: promote everything you write everywhere where it makes sense. It's also important to be consistent about it, since some of your followers will only react to stuff you put on these platforms. Twitter is great, because it makes promoting stuff quite easy. Facebook on the other hand is a bit more complex: If you have connections to certain local stores that have their own Facebook page, ask for permission to share links on their walls. Are you member of a local or national gaming group? Do the same there. It helps your popularity and you are almost certain to get feedback. If you don't get feedback immediately, you can always ask for some constructive criticism. I have yet to check out Tumblr, so if anyone has experiences of that, feel free to share!
Alright, I think that is enough about that. Down to the reviews. Remember, I always include the links to the original reviews. If you want to read them, rune them through Google Translator or something similar, you'll get the gist of it. Feel free to tweet and like them too!
This review has been a long time in the making. I initially started playing the Beta right away, since I really liked the game on Xbox Live Arcade. Back then, it came out mere weeks before I started doing reviews regularly, so I couldn't use it in the first go. Fortunately enough this version came around. After initially mixed impressions of the Beta, which was kind of a mess, I waited until the game was released (after being pushed back twice).
Reviewing a multiplayer online game is always different, since your experience depends on other people participating. In a worst case scenario, you'll have problems to connect to any games or find good parties for co-op stuff. After having wrestled down initial connection problems, however, I was able to enjoy myself. The review benefited from me being able to draw comparisons to the Xbox Live arcade version, which always is a plus. I did spend around ten hours with the game before actually writing the review. It was then that I felt having narrowed down all the small differences and felt like being able to write something cohesive about it. All in all, the piece is fairly standard in it's writing, but effective and informative.
Speaking of reviews that have been a long time in the making, the week later, I published my review of:
I got that one on launch day and decided to play the whole free month that comes with buying the game in order to review it. After initially positive impressions and playing it regularly for about a week, I found out that I had huge problems with this game. Those huge problems led to one of my very best reviews I have written so far!
The thing is, I played the game for a week, and then didn't play it for two weeks. Not because of time schedule problems or anything like that, no. It was simply because it was not a whole lot of fun. It took me quite some time, to figure out why that is, but it was when I talked to Aurain, what the problems were that I had with this game: It reduces Superheroes (and heroine) down to the bare minimum. Which in this case would be, punching (among other things) Supervillains (and vice versa of course). By doing that, the whole point of superheroes having alter egos, daily lives, personal problems, you know, the interesting stuff, is just left outside. Heck, if I make a superhero, I want to have my personal equivalent to the Batcave!
This resulted in a fairly long paragraph of me describing why the game already fails in its concept because it can't get the essence of comic book heroes right. I got a lot of feedback about this review, and that makes me quite happy.
One of the first big games this year, Dead Space 2 certainly was different from the stuff I did in February up to that point: I only had a week with the game before writing the review and it had both a Single- and Multiplayer experience.
My biggest problem during this review was to determine how far I should judge the game on it's 'Horror'-premise. While playing the game, I was thinking to myself that it is a quite effective shooter, and that is actually what I went with in the end. Nice shooting, some ineffective horror elements and way too much splatter. It actually came to the point where I thought it was quite tasteless, and that element also found it's way into the review itself. It was more dominant in the first version than in the final one though. After several corrections, I told myself it was not that much of a problem to me, so I toned it down. Still, I wanted to include some ambiguity in face of the violence, hence the challenging title of the review (roughly translated: 'Overly violent?').
I was actually quite thankful to Bioware for releasing a port of Mass Effect 2 for the PS3. This is mostly due to the fact that it is my favorite game of 2010 and reviewing it was quite a lot of fun. I rushed through the game, since I had completed it already twice before, once on the highest difficulty. It was a breeze, I didn't notice any real big differences and could thus concentrate on the narrative and the like.
The review wasn't as positive as I suspected it would turn out. Having played the game so many times, I could narrow down some problems with it, that I would not have been able to if I had played it only once. The judgment of your moral choices by game is stupid, for the lack of a better word and the game has some lengths. I was happy about being able to point out some of these because else, the review would have been way too positive and unbalanced in a way.
Alright, that's it for February. I hope you liked it! If you have any comment or question, write them in the comment section. Remember, you can find me on Twitter (@Subenu), so feel free to add me there!
'No More Heroes' is definitely my Groundhog Day game. There are many reasons for me returning again and again to this game since it was released in Europe in March 2008. Considering that I've already written some blog-posts about this game, I will reduce some paragraphs in order to keep this readable and maybe even interesting.
The main reason why I love this game so much is that it's just fun to play. While the fight-system itself may involve quite a lot of button mashing, the finishing moves are fun to pull off and feel really satisfying thanks to the motion gestures. Yes, this actually is one of the few games where I think the motion gestures make it a bit more entertaining and fun. Enemies who explode into fountains of money improve that enjoyment too. Unfortunately, the European version is censored, so no blood for us. I still hope that the HD version of the game will be uncensored...
As I keep saying, the Characters are very... uhm... interesting!
The graphics are also a very important factor. Not because there are a whole lot of interesting effects going on (there aren't) or because there are a lot of polygons pushed by the powerhouse that is the Wii (which it most definitely isn't). Heck, even the textures look like something the Dreamcast could have pulled off. No, what I'm talking about is the Art Style. Cel-Shading has become a staple of the industry since games like Fear Effect or Wind Waker, and this game constantly reminds me why: It's simplistic, yet nice to watch, while it is not too demanding in processor power. The game could look crisper, but again my hopes lie with the HD version coming out sometime soon. In the end, the unique art style makes this game instantly recognizable.
This is artwork from the Hopper's Edition of the HD-version of the Game.
The music is unique, and I downright fell in love with some tracks. Especially the one playing while fighting Henry at the very end is really memorable. Sound-design overall is pretty solid and some voice actors are brilliant. Especially Travis manages to come across as somebody most 'gamers' can identify with.
But these are not really the reasons why I love this game or why I replay it at least once a year. I love this game, because it makes me THINK. Yeah, you read right: A game that makes me think... about what exactly?
There are some very obvious choices here, since the game is, at some level, about designing games. The whole thing is more or less criticizing the way how the videogame industry partially drives itself into death. It copies videogame concepts, throws them at you and gives you an opportunity to think about them. This is of course a theme that is very dominant in the sequel, but I'll talk about that another time.
Videogame concepts are not the only concepts that are present here. I already wrote a long piece about how No More Heroes also discusses certain gender constructions. The characters are actually the main factor for pulling me back into the game: They are, in themselves, concepts that hit their auto-destruct button during their introduction scene. Prime example? Bad Girl looks like a very stereotypical, idealized woman and sex-object, but behaves in very male, if not disgusting ways that are based on the very perversion of the concept. To a certain extend, all the characters in the No More Heroes universe are based on that very basic concept. It is just plain fun, to see how they give the counterconcept to the players perception.
To keep this from becoming way too long, I should stop here.
Tl;dr I love No More Heroes, and to most people this shouldn't be news.
This is probably not news to anybody anymore, but Activision actually decided to finish off its Hero-franchises. No more Guitar Hero, no more DJ Hero, and my guess is no more Band Hero too, because frankly, who bought that? So, here I give you some personal thoughts about the whole thing:
To be very honest here, it does not hit me as a real surprise that major parts of the music game genre are gone now, with some minor exceptions. The reasons for that are numerous, but my guess is the decline in sale figures is one thing. Oversaturation of the market? Definitely another reason.
The interesting question to ask now is: What did we (the industry) learn?
Well, the best response to that is: To not milk a franchise until it is dead.
How do we do that?
By not producing several titles in the franchise per year!
See, there is something perplexing about this whole situation: Activision sees that the whole Hero-Series died, because they oversaturated the market. And I can see the business logic behind releasing a new game in the franchise every year, since doing that turned out to be more profitable for them then just releasing DLC. Sale figures were high for all platforms and everyone loved it. On the other hand, the 'Jekyll' part of Activision, Blizzard, does the exact opposite, or at least for the most part: They take some time to release new games in their franchises. StarCraft 2 and Diablo 3 came and come out many years later than their predecessors. They sell well and are actually able to keep up quality or at least a certain amount of innovation.
How does Activision react? By releasing more Call of Duty Games! Unfortunately, consumers will most likely support this kind of action, because let's be honest: Those are the same people that bought the Medal of Honor reboot and are going to buy the numerous Resident Evil games that Capcom will bring out in order to raise their profit.
The sad and exceedingly funny part is, that we then turn our head to a game like Enslaved or your favorite underselling Wii-title du jour and whine about how those games get ignored. There is an easy solution to the whole situation. It's the thing we did to bring Guitar Hero and Rock Band down (two things we should at least partially rejoice about!) and would be able to stop the onslaught of military shooters and shovel ware:
It's already the fifth month in my videogame-reviewing career, and things aren't exactly slowing down. Sure, the review process takes less and less time, mostly because I'm now able to write a pretty nice review in about 20 minutes (excluding corrections etc.), but there is a new layer of the job that has become more important now and it mostly consists of writing mails and getting in touch with developers and publishers.
One problem about starting to do videogame reviews is, that in the beginning, you will have to pay for the games yourself, which significantly reduces the amount of money you earn from your review, so you will have to sell most of you purchases afterwards, in order to break even. This means of course that you will also love to review downloadable titles, since they aren't so demanding when it comes to the budget. Those titles are usually smaller and easier to review, which is why I liked to review them in the past few months, and also in this month. So, after a while, you start thinking: 'Gee, I really want to get some free review copies!'. Well, here is how you can do it!
I have to mention that up until last month, my reviews weren't available online. This basically meant, that my editor in chef had to make the contacts and that publisher would want hard copies of the review. Since they are now available online, I invested the last few weeks into contacting various developers. I don't want to go into the details, but I have none the less some interesting tips.
First of all, what your e-mail address looks like is really important. I'm sorry, but firstname.lastname@example.org just isn't going to cut it when you wanna contact a publisher. It doesn't have to be too fancy, most publishers react already to a gmail.com address with you full name in front. It has a certain feel of professionalism to it.
Second rule of thumb: Be polite! Really, this is totally basic stuff, but I mention it anyway: Say Hello, tell them who you are, tell them who you work for and what you want from them. You deal with people, not machines! Getting on to the media list is normally a good start. Say please. Write an extra answer just in order to say thanks. It's the little things...
Well, enough of that, on to the reviews. I will mention more tips in future blogs though!
I sure love Cave-games, and this one is no exception. I spend a lot of time with it before reviewing it, and I can safely say that it is one of their best efforts for the past few years. The first exclusive iPhone game from them, it's an interesting mixture of shmup and exploration game. It got a very positive review.
Somewhat of a reserve review, I really enjoyed the game and it was quite fun to review. It also got quite some reactions, which is unusual, because I normally don't get that much feedback. Seems that Back to the Future as a franchise really draws a lot of attention.
This was somewhat of an urgency review. I was lacking any kind of game I could review so I picked this one. Pretty much tore the game apart for being boring, repetitive and bringing nothing new to the table. And now, traveling back in time is not a new mechanic. Graphical design is terrible and the music is bland. In my opinion, the game just simply wasn't worth it, and by this it became an easy game to review. Pretty much the definition of a mediocre game. Yet, I was very surprised by the more positive reviews of the game. None the less, I stood by my own opinion and did not change the review.
It was quite stressful to complete this game under time pressure, but I still had a lot of fun and was able to quickly write a very positive review about this one. I would have had more time if another game came out in that week, but unfortunately, January up to that point was lacking big releases. That of course means that smaller releases get more attention, which in this case, is a great thing.
Well, that's pretty much it for this month. I'm open to comments of any kind and I can be found on Twitter (@Subenu).