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3:22 PM on 05.20.2009

Trailer Review: Darksiders Story Trailer

Gee, I sure do love the bible! Using it as source material for a video game plot is probably the most creative idea I've heard in the past five minutes. And bro, as soon as I heard that demonic choir belting out broken Latin, I knew shit was about to get real. And by "real," I mean laughably pretentious (if you're convinced that Darksiders is going to be a good game, there is a 95% chance you don't even know what that word means).

Let's face it: the bible is outdated. How could you trust the writings of a civilization that hadn't even invented the iPhone yet? And pitting heaven against hell in a video game is like adapting a young adult novel about vampire abstinence into a film, in that both make me want to jump off a cliff and land on a switch which makes all the creators involved jump off a significantly higher cliff.

"But wait," you tell me, "the main character's name is War! That's pretty fucking deep!" No. Naming characters, like children, after abstract concepts, is a good way to get people to pick on them for the rest of their lives. In storytelling, hardly anything is more obnoxious than going out of your way to spell out symbolism. The trailer convinced me that, as is the case with the first one hundred pages of The Sound and the Fury, that the narrator was literally retarded.

The graphics are OK, I guess. But giving everyone epic level 80 World of Warcraft gear is the visual equivalent of going to Arby's and ordering food; just because you can, it doesn't mean you should. And for some reason, like Arby's, it appears that everything is covered in melted cheese for no reason. By the same token, I venture that anyone who buys this game will feel the same kind of soul-crushing remorse as someone who has just ingested a Bacon Cheddar Roastburger.   read

3:32 AM on 05.26.2008

(NVGR) Speed Racer Review

Judging from a few trailers or isolated clips, Speed Racer may appear to be a veritable cornucopia of visual delights. On closer inspection, the film relies on a very limited number of tricks and milks them beyond any conception of dry. Every possible object is used as a wipe, so that the film often folds in on itself in a jumble of images, with totally unnecessary flashbacks peppered throughout the entire affair, probably confusing the hell out of the kids in the audience. The inspiration of the color scheme for the film seems to be not any particular aesthetic but the rainbow itself, meaning anything could be pretty much any color for no good reason; thus the screen ends up looking the way I imagine unicorn vomit to be. Between the frantic transitions (it's not the speed of the cuts or the action that gives you a sense of vertigo) and the eye-gouging palette, my eyes actually felt reality-challenged as I tried to readjust to the world outside the theater, which I suppose is something the film could be proud of.

While the races have the potential to be exciting, there's so much visual excess that the real drama of the contests become obscured in the CG candy coating. However the biggest problem might be the plot, which takes itself entirely too seriously and eats up too much precious screen time (the movie is well over two hours long). I'm a fan of a good narrative, but the amount of brooding about the past and stilted character development here just drags the entire experience down, especially for those of us who wanted to see an action film (read: everyone). And if you hadn't gotten the drift already, the plot is bad, and thus not worthy of such a colossal effort on the writer's part. The huge potential for having some good campy fun is only partially realized and snuffed out by the constant attempts at gravitas (oh my beloved dead older brother, I must avenge you! etc). What's worse is that the annoying fat kid and his monkey pal are in pretty much every fucking scene doing something retarded, instilling a ravenous desire to wreck theater property like you would Scarlett Johanson's asshole if given the chance. Too bad she wasn't in Speed Racer, because at least then there'd be some real eye candy to write home about.

32%   read

2:06 PM on 05.22.2008

Guitar Hero 4: Choose Your Own Rant!

The overwhelming amount of bile that people are spewing over GH4 lately is simultaneously maddening, confounding, and hilarious. Reading through the comments on various blogs and trailers lately, I've found so many blatantly uninformed arguments that I didn't even know how to start writing about them. But now I've devised a means by which I can rant and you guys choose to read only the statements that apply to your own stupid opinions! Sounds like fun, right?

Protip: These are ordered from most to least stupid

Guitar Hero 4 is copying Rock Band!

Actually, Rock Band stole their idea from the Drummania/Guitarfreaks series of video games. But then again it's not like it would have taken a genius to come up with the idea of a networked band game. It's just a natural part of the evolution of rhythm games. Guitar Hero is copying Rock Band to keep up with the market and is attempting to win back their userbase, just like any sane capitalist would do.

Guitar Hero should be just about the guitars!

This is the next big thing in rhythm games, and Activision has to follow Rock Band's lead in order to remain competitive. Many people prefer the guitar note charts in the Guitar Hero games to those in Rock Band, and that's why they stick with GH instead of playing RB. But guess what, if GH doesn't properly compete, the franchise is going to go under. Also, is it really a question of integrity or honor if a game isn't exactly the same as its predecessors but carries the same name? "Oh man, in Super Mario Bros. 2 you can play as Peach and Toad too? Why are they even calling it Super Mario Bros.?"

I don't want to blow my money on a lot of new peripherals

If you knew anything about rhythm games outside of, oh say, Rock Band, Guitar Hero, DDR, and Elite Beat Agents, maybe you would be able to see that this new drumset is pretty much guaranteed to be vastly superior to Rock Band's. You were willing to spend money on Rock Band's peripherals just to play the game, even though they were mediocre, and honestly didn't complain enough about the price, considering what you got for it. Now I think you're all just worried you're going to be bullied into paying a lot more for the game you wish Rock Band was in the first place. And besides, the hardware/software bundles haven't been worked out yet, so we don't know for sure that you're going to have to buy everything en masse.

Guitar Hero 3 sucked, so this is going to suck

We don't even know the tracklist yet, which is really the backbone of these kind of games. In terms of the hardware, things look extremely promising right now. Then again, Guitar Hero 3 wasn't even that bad, and was extremely popular. The Metacritic rating of 83 is below the series' usual average, yes, but that's still solid. Also, one of the main complaints people had about Guitar Hero 3 was that it didn't deliver enough new content to the franchise. With Guitar Hero 4, we're getting features out the ass! We're getting a veritable diarrhea of features (in a good way)! You've got customizable rockers and instruments, the Music Studio, "the largest on-disc set list in a music-rhythm game to-date," (I'm admittedly skeptical about that one) and 8-player online play. You've got to be blind not to see that the devs are working hard not only to one-up Rock Band, but to improve the Guitar Hero franchise. The need to compete may end up being the saving grace of the franchise.   read

10:38 PM on 05.19.2008

Rock Revolution: Doin' it Wrong

I have a love/hate relationship with Konami, because they make a few amazing rhythm games here and there, and then just totally fuck up all the localized versions of them.

In the case of Rock Revolution, Konami doesn't seem to realize that the "band game" craze is really about an arms race of sorts: Guitar Hero brought rhythm gaming to the casual console crowd to a magnitude DDR had only flirted with; Rock Band one-upped the game by networking guitar with drums and vocals: Guitar Hero 4 looks to up the ante by releasing similar game with an arguably better drumset (ok, "objectively better"). However Rock Revolution's failure to deliver the vocals means it will necessarily fail to compete with the "big boys." The sad thing is that in a developer interview, they said they didn't include vocals "for whatever reason." No really, they thought that was an acceptable answer. Whether or not they think it will make for a better game or not, the truth is they would be able to compete much more easily by including it in the total package.

Of course, there is the silver lining of the Rock Revolution drumkit, which will have six pads and a bass pedal (oddly enough I can't find all of these pads represented in any of the screenshots so far). Also, I love that the notes are presented in overhead perspective, which is clearly superior. And yet, those are just about the only positives I see. One thing that's truly unfortunate is the absence of note judgments a la every other Bemani game ever made (ie perfect, great, etc). Not that casual audiences care, but if the devs made an effort to include just a few small things such as judgments, display mods, and higher difficulty levels, they could successfully attract both the casual and hardcore rhythm game players (beating "Through The Fire and the Flames" on expert has nothing to do with this kind of "hardcore," by the way).

So by once again failing to please both hardcore and casual players in their approach to marketing a new rhythm game to Western audiences, we'll just have to hope that the one thing we don't know about yet--the quality and difficulty of the note charts--may be able to outshine the competition. Otherwise, things look dire for Rock Revolution.

Hands-on Preview   read

1:30 PM on 05.18.2008

Dead Space: I'm Buying the Hype

Why does this game get me wet? I love that it tries to be a little bit of everything, taking the good parts from several closely related (sub)genres and creating a beautifully eccentric yet easily digestible mashup (Girl Talk, anyone?). How do I love thee, unfinished game I've never heard of until this morning? Let me count the ways:

1. "No HUD or Cutscenes." This sounds perfect for a survival horror game, and I agree with the developers that it would make for a more immersive experience. Narrative shouldn't be about words; it should be about experience.

2. Gravity-based puzzles. We can squeeze a few more years out of the gravity puzzle gimmick, so for now I honestly don't mind milking that teat just a little harder in the games of this generation. Hopefully this survival game will have real puzzles, unlike the laughably easy key-finding endeavors of the usual titles in the genre. I also got pretty excited when the developer rhetorically asked, "what is fire like in zero-g?"

3. Limited Ammo and Health. Fuck yes, challenge.

4. It reminds me System Shock 2, Silent Hill, and Metroid Prime. This one just speaks for itself.

The Interview I'm referencing can be found here.   read

12:09 PM on 05.17.2008

MadWorld devs: "games aren't something to be used as educational tools"

This saucy and slightly controversial quote brought you courtesy of Official Nintentdo Magazine UK, in a recent interview with PlatinumGames.

Combining games and book-learning has always been a sticky point, generally because people seem to think that it's a battle over "fun" and "not fun," which isn't necessarily the case. First of all, the word "education" sounds more official than "learning," which makes the quote harder to pin down. Learning happens in all video games, because gamers have to adjust to control schemes, enemy attack patterns, and so on. On the other hand, "education" sounds a bit more formal and applicable to every day life, right?'s first definition is: "the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life."

The key words here are reasoning and judgment, things I believe many games develop. But where do we draw the line between a game that makes on learn, and an educational game?

In Myst, players often resorted to taking page upon page of notes to keep up with the game's demanding puzzles. The kind of knowledge the game tested could fall under logical ability, as well as "common sense." In its sequel Riven, players had to figure out which written characters equaled which numbers, and that puzzle involved some basic arithmetic. Would someone draw the line here? I think that definition would be too narrow.

The problem with "educational games" is that they want to bridge the gap between interactive learning tool and video game. Games that ask for the application of too much real-world knowledge seem to invite tedium and repel new players (besides some anomalies like Brain Age). And yet, many people devote years of their lives to studying and mastering every aspect of a game like Starcraft, which requires a huge deal of memorization, pattern recognition, and strategic thinking. The weird thing is that most of them enjoy it.

Despite the huge variety of "learning styles" out there, it seems that the best learning still happens in the classroom. While games can be good at sharpening our senses and shaping abstract reasoning and behaviors like resource management and pattern recognition, part of the reason why games are so enjoyable is because we get to keep them separate from "education." The work/play dichotomy helps people structure their lives.

So, should games try to teach you math or foreign languages? No. But should they be stimulating and enriching? Yes. Hopefully PlatinumGames agrees with me.

EDIT: I don't understand how that comment got there.   read

6:10 PM on 05.15.2008

A Better Analysis of the Mirror's Edge Trailer

No, seriously. I was a bit disappointed that this lauded video played it safer than a traffic instructor playing bumper bowling with a lifejacket on. I wanted more wild speculation, so that's what I'm going to provide here myself.

First off, let's return to an important source of information the internet has seemingly forgotten about: the interview with producer Tom Farrer. Perhaps the most important thing he notes is that your character builds momentum, and that reaching your maximum speed can't happen instantly. Here we can contextualize what the trailer analysis calls a "sprint" as the maximum speed you achieve by running for a certain period of time, signified by the peripheral motion blur. I would assume therefore, that there is no "run" button, and that you can keep up your sprint until you have to climb something or reach a dead end. Farrer notes that any weapons you pick up will hinder you, so I'm assuming anything more than a pistol will make sprinting impossible. It's also likely you will only be able to carry one weapon at a time, and since Farrer says the number of bullets is limited, you may not even be able to reload your weapon.

Farrer hints that any brightly colored objects can be used for your free-running stunts, and judging from the footage, I would say that it isn't just red objects, but also orange, blue, and green ones, like the blue ramp and the orange wall we see Faith run across, that can be interacted with. There are some green objects seen below Faith in the scene where she is hanging on a railing and looking down.

Another thing he mentions is the inspiration of Prince of Persia, and I think that will inform a lot of the gameplay elements in Mirror's Edge in terms of context-sensitive controls. The way faith jumps and instantly vaults over the fence in the beginning of the trailer suggests that for the sake of intuitive gameplay, there is no separate "climb" button, and Faith will do this automatically.

In combat, Faith often uses her legs to attack, and can disarm foes this way. However she can melee with a gun in her arms as well. There appears to be one button for leg attacks, and another for arm/fist-based ones, which turns into a pistol whip or rifle butt if one has the relevant weapon in hand. The sheer variety of leg motions might mean that moving the analog stick in conjunction with the kick or punch button can result in different attacks.

In conclusion, I would expect the controls to be set up accordingly:

Face Buttons: Jump, Crouch/Slide, Punch, Kick

Trigger: Shoot

There would also have to be a button for dropping the weapon, but it's hard to say what other functions that would share, or where it would be on the controller. If there's no aiming reticule, does that mean there's auto-aim?

Lastly, Farrer's constant references to the game's linearity reveal more possibilities. He says "we want to move you through it," and mentions there are no sidequests, but also reassures us that "there's a lot of choice within the different routes and paths." I would expect the flow of the game to be like Prince of Persia, although slightly less linear. While there could be different paths, they would all lead to the same save point eventually. I also expect the game to be set in one continuous world with no separate missions or levels, but some distinct areas.

What do you all think?   read

10:52 AM on 05.15.2008

Disney Launches DS Online Service, I Facepalm

1up reports that Disney is beginning a new online service called DGamer, which will network all players on Disney games together. That's right, just Disney games. Features include customizable avatars, "honors" (achievements for toddlers!), and chatting functionality.

The avatars look downright creepy. One in particular seems to be a digital 5-year old who just dropped E while trying to cosplay as Sora. All of the haircuts are more or less weeaboo indoctrination propaganda.

I think it's hilarious, because all of these features are going to be wasted on terrible games. And are kids really willing to do random pointless chores in-game to get new virtual clothing? Judging by the success of Gaiaonline, yes.   read

3:43 PM on 05.14.2008

Gears of War 2 Interview Reveals New Gameplay Features, Homosexual Overtones

In this new interview Cliffy B is back, and with a very tasteful, slightly tousseled, short hair cut. Oh, and some new insights on Gears 2. I gotta admit, he's one of the few game developers that actually give entertaining interviews, as he's full of unbridled energy. The accompanying gameplay footage impresses with subtle motion blur, believable explosions, and photorealistic environments that thankfully use a few non-neutral colors.

However the real fireworks in this clip can be found within whatever sort of bizarre chemistry is occuring between Cliff and his interviewer. Describing the theme of Gears 2, he says, "It's also about this idea of intimate violence, where players can get really close to their foes and chainsaw them." A boyish smile creeps across his face while his grey-blue eyes light up coyly. He later explains with great excitement, "You can chainsaw someone from behind, from their taint to their throat." He then continues to blather on about the chainsaw duel mechanic for another minute or so.

Having piercings on both ears means you're Bi, right?   read

10:17 AM on 05.14.2008

Too Human looks kinda dumb

I don't really understand this game. It looks like the devs tried to make a game that was equal parts Gauntlet Legends, Mass Effect, and Phantasy Star Online. Yeah, I threw up in my mouth a little too. This unholy combo is somewhat like trying to make a supergroup out of Pantera, The Mars Volta, and Creed. On their own they're pretty good, excpet for Creed obviously, but together they're going to sound the way orange juice tastes after you've just brushed your teeth. Don't get me wrong, the game looks fun, but twenty hours of it seems excessive.

One thing that seems futile at this point is trying to one-up anyone in creating a futuristic aesthetic, because it's all been done before. The "unique" look of the game is actually very familiar, despite the obvious effort put into it. The obnoxious "The Sharper Image"-style HUD is emblematic of the design philosophy here, which is, "make everything shiny." We don't even have a future to look forward to at this point, because we already have a massively networked space-age doohickey that automatically generates porn of everything that ever existed. When you can find a picture of Hobbes boffing Calvin's mom in about two seconds, you can pretty much call science fiction obsolete.

But yeah, I think I was writing about a video game a while back, so I should probably get back to that. One thing I noticed immediately from the first bits of gameplay footage is that the characters animate like Max Payne, which hasn't been a compliment since 2001. Another thing is that while the attacks are fun to watch, a lot of them do exactly the same thing, which is slice through waves of identical enemies at long range. The smaller enemies are nearly devoid of AI, simply attempting to surround you and melee. Gamespot adds, "When we weren't pulverizing huge androids, we were whacking waves and waves of their smaller kin; this called for less strategy, and way more violence." While they claimed the boss took a bit of thinking to take down, I felt like I had already half-figured out its attack patterns by watching the new co-op trailer. This hammer-wielding foe appears to have been built by Doctor Robotnik, politely waiting for you to violate his weak point while he dicks around. In such an absence of strategy, our heores will end up with a ridiculously redundant arsenal of glowy neon attacks.

That said, Too Human looks like a romping-good shitfaced-with-your-friends couch-rocking rental bonanza. But oh wait, the co-op is online only. This game now officially sucks.   read

3:50 AM on 05.13.2008

GH4 Drums: First Impressions

The design of Guitar Hero 4's drumkit has just been revealed in the latest GameInformer, which was leaked on powerglove's c-blog ( It has six buttons in total, including the bass pedal.

At first glance, the kit looks like a carbon copy of the one used in Konami's Drummania games. The placement of the hi-hat, cymbol, toms, and snare appears almost identical, although the colors have been slightly remixed much like the sort of "original" characters you'd come across on DeviantArt. On closer inspection the hi-hat and cymbol pads are more elevated, and between the snares and toms. This means that players won't be bullied into crossing over their arms to play the faster hi-hat/snare patterns as often happens in Drummania. Also the tiered pads should allow players to move and roll between notes with greater fluidity, which is definitely a plus. Another nifty inclusion is the ability to accept velocity data, which I'm guessing will lead to a wider range of drum sounds. The bass pedal is the only thing that looks like it belongs in a Rock Band kit, but hopefully won't be as stiff and frustrating to use.

In the same article, the project director reveals that these drums will be much quieter than Rock Band's primitive hard plastic ones, and the GameInformer staff reported an "very positive" first hands-on experience with them. The devs also make the bold claim that, "This thing is not going to crack."

A few things bother me about this article. Firstly they say that Activision now owns all the patents to the technologies created by John Devecka, which were used "in all following music games, including Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and Konami's Dance Dance Revolution." ALL following music games? What is the exact technology that he pioneered, anyway? This misleading passage makes it sound like Activision now owns the right to make whatever rhythm games and peripherals they want in the US, no matter how derivative. The way things are going, that seems to be exactly the case.

Despite all that, the most offensive thing to me is that Drummania is not mentioned once in this article. GameInformer acts as though they haven't seen anything like the GH4 drumset before, saying Activision took inspiration from "professional electronic kits." Obviously, the inspiration came from Drummania, whose kits were made by Yamaha. Yes, Devecka was responsible for the first Drum simulation game, but the kit from MTV Drumscape looks very different from Drummania's.

In short: GH4's kit is more similar to Drummania's, than Drummania's kit is to Drumscape's.

What this really shows is that the patent laws are a complete mess. As the wikipedia article says, "MTV Games holds the US patent for "drum simulation games", which MTV took full advantage of with the release of Rock Band" ( How can such a broad category of game be restricted to one company? It's not like Microsoft is the only developer that can make flight sims!

Despite all the bitching, I have to admit that this drumset looks good, nay great, and perhaps even an improvement over the Drummania home version peripherals (though not likely their expensive arcade counterparts). The only thing I'm worried about is the bass pedal, which could ruin the whole experience if it's not made right. But then again, Rock Band was good enough for America, so I guess it'll sell either way.   read

2:39 PM on 05.12.2008

The Haze Hype Machine is Bananas

What do bananas have to do with first-person shooters, you ask? Well, nothing, if you don't count the wonderfully rendered tropical fruits in Crysis (see for five million percent of your reccomended daily dose of digital potassium). However, after thoroughly watching various promotional materials surrounding the new "Halo-killer," I can't help but associate this game with bananas because it's so goddamn YELLOW. I can understand having the costumes feature strong yellow accents, but Free Radical just had to beat the motif into your skull by making the "nectar," its molecules, the protagonist's iris, your helmet's HUD display, etc all a ferociously cornea-raping shade of lemon yellow.

Okay, so maybe I'm being unreasonably harsh on a game that simply has a crush on green's next-door neighbor. Haze's unique gameplay features are really the star of the show, right? Unfortunately, after looking through all the cinematics, previews, tv spots, and an interview with Jonathon Davis, I found myself hard-pressed to give a damn about anything but my sudden craving for bananas.

Let's start with's preview ( "Haze...proves that perception and reality can be two very different things." Woah. Excuse me while I have a Keanu moment here. Once you get to the gameplay footage, one thing really stands out. Or rather, doesn't: the muddy color palette we've come to expect from every "gritty" current-gen action game like Resistance, Killzone 2, Gears of War, and even Metal Gear Solid 4. This makes the yellow (and red) come to the fore in a rather obnoxious way, as though someone had spilled mustard on a dull Persian rug. Next we're introduced to the gimmick of Nectar, which allows you to see enemies glow bright purple (just kidding) to enable easier fragging. But honestly, who wants that? Half the challenge of an FPS is finding your enemy before she finds you. This feature doesn't look fun or exciting, and instead feels like something you'd conjure up from a gameshark.

The preview drops another bombshell when we find out that the rebel underdogs are the REAL heroes of the story. These guys must have hired Shyamalan to write the plot or something. However it's also revealed that the gimmicks of the Mantel are short-lived, and that after switching sides you'll be without those toys, though you will be able to administer overdoses to the mantel soldiers. A crack insinuating an anti-drug message gets a groan not because of its corniness, but because the previewer's probably right.

So what's left? Vehicles, such as a jeep-looking thing. Computer-controlled AI. 4-player co-op and online multiplayer modes. Namely, everything we've come to expect from the genre. Between these standard features, the nearly pointless "unique" features, the drab graphics, and the facepalm-inducing frat boy dialogue, what really stands out about this game is its use of the color yellow. Even Korn's theme song sounds uninspired and muddy, like Davis is just going through the motions to produce another cash-in (it's not like anyone could tell the difference anyway after Untouchables).

What bothers me about this whole bamboozle is that people actually seem to be falling for it. I guess it just goes to show that slick marketing can accomplish anything. Although I'm afraid in my case they seem to have targeted the wrong audience, because instead of considering purchasing a PS3, all I wanted after seeing Haze in action was a nice, big, juicy dickfruit.   read

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