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Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

How fare thee on this day? I just watched the homestarrunner yearly halloween toon which was better than I expected. Not the top quality stuff they used to have but some good moments some bad.

How are you guys celebrating halloween? Or do you even celebrate at all? I personally am not sure what to do. First halloween where I'm not at a friend's house raiding his building (of 3 towers) for candy (which was almost got us around 11 lbs of GOOD candy). I'll probably think of something.

Yes, I know I've been neglecting this place for a while. Sorry. I'll get right into motion tomorrow. I've got an anime review set up already and am thinking of a game to review. Maybe a second anime one...

On another note: I'm thinking of adding another label to my posts known as Zerreth's Picks. They're things I believe you should absolutely take a look at.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Combat Arms - Review

Combat Arms is a microtransaction FPS hosted by Nexon. The developers are known as Doobic Studios. To be honest, I've never heard of them before. I ended up starting Combat Arms cause I got bored and I was both pleasantly surprised and disappointed at the same time.

The good parts:
For the most part, guns have been very well balanced, and it's possible to kill anyone pretty easily with any gun. While the AK-47/74 are and always will be my favorite (depending on whether i'm in a 5.45 mood or a 7.62 mood. A little joke for you gun buffs)there are a variety of really useful and fun weapons to use. You also get a nice variety of grenades including gas which is always fun to toss in a crowded building.

You can attach modifications to your weapons. Want better accuracy? Slap on a red dot. Need a bit more ammo boost? Use an extended cartridge. Don't really like your gun going off at a funeral? Silencers for you. You can attach usually up to 3 modifications for your gun (one from each column) and it tends to make your gaming experience much more fun.

There are different game modes so that you can never be really bored. Bombing missions, Capture the Flag, deathmatch, team deathmatch on a variety of different maps that generally follow a tileset but really affect what camo you need to wear.

Your character can be modified to your liking. Change his hat or his camo. Switch the backpack he uses so you can have different primary weapons with you at all times.

And if you're willing to donate, there's the micro-transaction shop that has a handful of useful, really nice weapons and equipment.

The bad parts:
Overall, I think this was actually a half assed game. There's modification in the game but it seems to do so little... Rather. There's too little of it. You get a choice of 2 scopes that either tell you the range or how much hp/ammo you have. They're good red dots but there are only two for pistols and guns. Next is the extended cartridges which extend a bit and help out drastically, but doesn't seem to affect the gun overall and it seems you can extend the cartridge of any gun, which if I remember correctly, isn't true. Finally you get the silencers. You need to play for a bit to get a higher rank for the other silencers but generally there's 3 with noise reduction as an obvious. recoil reduction, tracer reduction or muzzle flash reduction. Once again, these can be equipped onto every gun.

There aren't any sniper scopes, you're stuck with the one you're given.

Here's what I honestly feel about the gun modification for this game. I feel they tried too hard to be SOCOM 3, which was amazing in modifications. They did a decent attempt but it feels too much like an optional "bonus" feature you slap onto your gun rather than a necessity. I kinda miss some rifles that have good accuracy being able to equip 4x scopes rather than red dots. I kinda miss thermal scopes for sniper rifles or a massive 16x high powered scope. When I add equipment onto a gun, I want to see the result of it being heavier and slow me down. When I equip a rocket launcher, I want to see the result of it being heavier and slow me down DRASTICALLY.

I want armor to have a more prominent effect. Too often I see my health go to zero with my armor at around 85ish (No, they weren't headshots). What... is all the armor I'm equipped with in my foot? It doesn't help to know my teammate's HP is 150 (HP+AP). It seems the only useful headgear is headgear that reduces headshot damage.

Remove the SP Gauge or keep it hidden like in Call of Duty 4. If there was to be more interaction with it like in Warrock where you can tumble in any direction, then it would have a point. Otherwise, just hide it. I'd assume my running stamina's limited anyway.

In all FPSes, there are two games that are fighting for supremacy of the best gunshot sounds: Counter-strike and Call of Duty 4. It's not that I want sounds to be realistic. I want sounds to be distinct. What is so great about the sounds in both those games is that each gun and pistol has a very distinct, unique sound that allows me to differentiate guns and change my tactics up to the point they even switch to them.

In Combat Arms, there's about 8 different gun sounds total applied to all the guns. Why is it so important? I want to know for a fact, I'm going up against a K2 (which I can take easily), rather than an M4A1 (which has a better chance of kicking my ass). I want be confident that I'm going against a Steyr AUG rather than a G36C which has enormous power and could kill me in one shot if I had thirty some odd life rather than a Steyr which could kill in 2.

I don't understand why Sub-machine guns have higher damage than a handful of assault rifles. From what I believe, it's a balancing issue (since they don't seem to take weight into effect) but it seems kinda ridiculous that an MP5 deals more than my M16.
I would also like to know how large the magazine cartridge is IN NUMBERS. This gets very irritating when choosing a pistol as I cannot differentiate each bullet in how long a bar is on a gauge. I want to know for a fact the USP has 10 rounds, not somewhat decently high on an arbitrary scale of how useful it's ammo capacity is to itself.

The maps, despite ranging in variety, are pretty poorly made. For one thing, far too many maps are too small to accommodate 12 players. Also, having a single spawn point in a small map makes it far too easy to spawn kill. Then there's maps like junkyard, a tiny map that really should have weapon restrictions coded. You can actually RUN from your spawn to about 3/5 of the way to the other spawn. There's something wrong about bringing machine guns and assault rifles to a map that tiny.

There's really no BIG Map. There's kinda bigger than medium maps which have maybe 2 spawn points per team... that are conveniently placed very near each other....and defeat the purpose of multiple spawn points...

Too many of the maps are also centralized. If you were to give a summery of what a Combat arms map would be like from spawn point to spawn point, it's simply this. Small path that funnels your team into a larger box shaped area and then to a funnel to the other spawn. There are only 2 or 3 maps I can think of off the top of my head that don't do that but then have very large complexes in the center of the map. It's as if the developers are saying "Ignore everything you know about tactics. We'll do it for you. All you have to do is fight like a bunch of idiots in a nice complex maze we set up for you in the center."

Finally. The weapon shop. Yes. There's even something wrong with the weapon shop. First of all, when I want to buy something. I want it to be centralized. I don't want to have to buy a weapon. Go to mods. Then fumble my way around the mod screen to remember how to buy a mod and then buy it. I also want to know the stats of my own gun, not the stats of the gun that was highlighted in the store but was saved due to poor programming when I switched to my inventory. I want to be able to compare my factory made gun with some of the other slightly better factory made guns.

But this thing bothers me the most about the weapon shop. Timed items. Everything in the game is timed. After a certain amount of time, the gun expires. It's more of a trial really, which utterly turns me off about the game. I want to buy a weapon, and still have it just in case at some point I come back to it in the future because of a delay that I may have experienced from a thing known as LIFE. I cannot dedicate 8 hours a day of gaming to Combat Arms, nor do I intend to. I would like to have my mods stay on my gun, not disappear because my 30 day trial period is done. Yes, I know if you play a certain amount you can actually make a profit. In fact, I've been playing so that I can buy a one day gun and make enough money to make a profit. In addition, I found a glitch that allows me to keep a 1 day weapon for about 2-3 days. That's beside the point. I understand the point of this for cash shops but why even the normal shop?

I'd rather have the guns timed on a gameplay basis or have a degradation element to it. I don't want to buy a free 30 day weapon only to find out I had to attend to family issues and come back to lose so much time required to keep a profit.

In short. Combat Arms is a fun game for short bursts, or for a second job like WoW. There's no middle ground and I guess I should've expected as such since you don't pay for the game and thus reap the rewards of quality. My only wish really is for Combat Arms to be a bit more accommodating and focus on one aspect of the game or the other. As of now, it's very wishy-washy and teetering between Soldier Front and SOCOM 3.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Devil May Cry 4 - Review

So my friend lent me his copy of DMC4 for the PC. I know this game's been out for a while but still, he somehow got me into it.

Devil May Cry 4 is about a guy named Nero with white hair a black coat and red shirt, NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH DANTE who is a guy with white hair a red coat and a black shirt and a 5 o'clock shadow. Oooooooh the characteristic changes...

Character-wise, Capcom really made a bad decision. It feels like they tried to make an alternate Dante and fell asleep half-way through resulting in Nero. Dante is just filled with bad-assery. His reactions and his overall attitude is something I always smile at whenever there's a cut scene with him. Nero, seems to be this Devil May Cry 3 version of Dante with too much emotion in him. I'm just gonna say it, as if it isn't obvious already. Nero is in love with Kyrie, and so his cool, indifferent attitude is always broken with the mention of Kyrie. I don't think there's something wrong with it, just the way they developed Nero as a character seems so half-assed. I was kind of expecting Nero to keep his cool attitude and follow Kyrie when she's in trouble, but he breaks down too often showing a really weak character.

Sure, you can say that it's his "deep love" for her that makes him so emotional, but... oh right... we're not making another Dante here, sorry. It's just that they look more or less the same.

In another aspect however, the way they portrayed the story was very well done and probably one of the best. The action is ALWAYS enjoyable and helps you get pumped up for rights. Some of the scenes, I just don't get, but that's okay. Despite my issues with Nero and his major character flaws, I can't help but enjoy the way Capcom portrayed the story. So now that they have a good director, perhaps we can get a new script/storyboard writer? The story was average despite it's good directing. It's about a guy, who pretends not to care about a girl he loves, living in a town that worships Sparda as god. Blah blah really doing evil stuff for "greater good"....mumble...snort... Kyrie get's used for something evil....garble... generic trash...Nero must fight pope... Nero finds his "true purpose".....

Gameplay has been cleaned up which is something I thoroughly enjoyed. My main issue with Devil May Cry 3 was that despite showing just exactly how superior the sword was to the guns, they didn't do anything about it. You still got very simple hack and slash capabilities that didn't help the feel of the game. Devil May Cry 4 however, gives you a very advanced melee system that seems simple at first but requires a good amount of playtime to understand its complexity.

Nero's buster arm in particular makes the game much more fun. First, you have his melee combos that you can break off at any point assuming your timing is good enough. So you can link combos really well and while it seems hard to get used to at first but the timing will get easier later (or you can just push the "I give up button) and switch to ..... "automatic mode"). Next, let's say you kinda threw the enemy too far, NO PROBLEM. Just use your buster hand's snatch ability to throw the enemy back to yourself for another fun combo. You can also counter many moves with the Buster arm (I mean Devil Bringer but that's too long and convoluted...). A cool addition that they have are special cinematic combat scenes you can pull off if you use the Buster at the right time. It's similar to the event triangle buttons in Kingdom Hearts 2 except they don't hold your hand. You need to figure it out yourself. Finally, Nero has the Exceed Gauge, or EX. Apparently in the in the um.... I don't know. The game's timeline in comparison to their technology makes no sense.

So, it looks like the 20s with really old cars but then you have custom, semi-auto pistols and rocket launchers... and the Queen's Blade... Let me explain the queen's blade a bit and YES, this is relevant to Exceed. Apparently these swords have the abilities to be... revved up... like a motorcycle, and thus bringing out more power from them. Considering the hilt is so compact it seems to not make sense.... anyways that's what the Exceed Gauge is based on. There are two ways to rev up your blade, the first being to do it manually, which takes time and isn't worth it. The second is by revving immediately after an attack which gives you one gauge (with a total of 3). Now, unless you S-rank missions on your first play through, the game really doesn't accommodate the full use of the Exceed gauge. Because if you gain access to higher level exceed techniques you need to manually rev the blade, which becomes a hassle. There is an ability however to max rev your exceed gauges after an attack which makes the game much more fun and much more complex. Let me just put this into perspective and combine all the melee elements Nero has to put this into perspective.

You can go around hacking and slashing enemies with your own combos that all require timing and some requiring delays. You can break off mid-combo to toss them into the air. Air combo them a bit, then they start to fall while you're still in mid-air. That can't do. Use Buster's snatch ability to toss them back to you for another combo but alas you have killed the enemy. Well, snatch another enemy while still in mid-air and so on and so forth. Now let's add exceed.

After the first hit, you exceed, pause so that the game recognizes you're done with the combo. Use a special move that uses the exceed gauge and observe the fiery death you have dealt, exceed at the end to keep your gauge up. Toss a couple fiery revolutions into the air and exceed after every hit in an air combo killing your enemy. Snatch another enemy while in mid-air and run him down into the ground with a fiery explosion thanks to exceed which has just made a small crater and given you more open space...oh yeah exceed after that. Mastering exceed is one of the hardest concepts in the game, but once you understand how to exceed really well, your sword deals more significant damage and will save you Legendary Devil Knight Mode (I'll talk about that later).

After playing Nero, Dante's style get's very confusing. Since you have lost the buster ability, you're going to have to rely on actually going to an enemy or let them come to you. In addition, you need to practice switching styles very well to fully utilize Dante's abilities. From what I've seen, Dante deals significantly more damage in general than Nero (at least, it seems like it) and his moves seem to focus more on switching a lot. What does that mean? Well, in Devil May Cry 4, Dante, by the end, carries 3 different guns (though I ended up using just one) and 3 different melee weapons. While each weapon is developed in combos a bit, the real beauty to Dante is switching weapons and linking multiple combos. For example. You take his Gilgamesh (gauntlets and greaves) and pull off a ridiculous uppercut dealing tons of damage, then switch off to either Lucifer (makes exploding swords appear) or Rebellion and then air-combo and then decide on another weapon for the finish. The game's been designed for this as everything can change instantly. While in actual practice you may only use 2 or 3 styles, utilizing all the styles along with the weapons really gives Dante an interesting edge.

So what is Legendary Devil Knight Mode? Devil May Cry 4 like the other DMC games have harder difficulties after the first playthrough giving you replay value. The PC version however has it's own exclusive difficulty past Dante Must Die mode known as Legendary Devil Knight Mode (I'm shortening this to LDK). LDK Mode has an advanced A.I and but what's most noticeable about it are the enemies. Or rather, the existence of 3 times MORE ENEMIES than any other difficulty... at the same time. This is a mode that really puts your crowd clearing abilities to the test. Needless to say, it's better to run through this after your second or third play through. However, this is also the most fun I've ever had in Devil May Cry. It isn't ridiculous like Heaven or Hell mode (where you die in one hit) nor like Dante Must Die (where they Devil trigger). It's just pure deathfest with a lot of guys.

What bothers me about Legendary Devil Knight mode is how it amplifies all of the game's BAD parts so that they're more noticeable. More specifically, the existence of so many more ground combos but the lack of need for them. Since air-comboing is one of the only ways to keep up some decent damage without getting hit and thus keeping your style gauge up, initiating those convoluted ground combos really opens up your weak spots and gets you killed faster. Thus, I've spent a lot of the game floating in mid air instead of utilizing crowd control moves (except for maybe streak) or stylish combos simply because I want to keep my rank up and I don't want to die.

As a final comment, play Devil May Cry 4 for the gameplay, not it's story. While the graphics are amazing, Capcom doesn't really use it's full potential and give us a story to match. I kinda wish someone in the script department would be fired. A lot of Resident Evil games have suffered because of these guys. Though apparently Devil May Cry 4 was created by the same team who made Resident Evil 4. So in some aspects in makes a bit of sense (see napoleon and the ending) and in another sense it leaves me confused (see the rest of RE4 for the Wii or PS2).

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Dear Zerreth, How was NYAF 2K8?

'Twas interesting, yes it was. Going there has only proven my point to the illustrator that I edit that he needs to spend more time actually drawing instead of procrastinating. It isn't that his work is BAD but had he spent time to do his prime work, we'd sell more and I'd have more to work with. Whatever.

The convention itself was.... interesting. There weren't as many big players as I was expecting but a good amount had booths, in particular Bandai, Kinokuniya, Funimation, and Del Rey Press.

The cosplayers were too generic this time. Still WAAAAAAY too many naruto/bleach cosplays. Too many L'azy cosplays (Guys, it's not that hard. White shirt, jeans, ruffle up your hair, take off your shoes and socks. Done. That's not really showing how devoted you are...) and a ton of Gurren Lagann but I guess that was to be expected. I saw one girl with a BIG ASS Rifle though. It was larger than she was, now that's nice. I saw a Shinku from Rozen Maiden with a VELVET dress. Talk about dedication. Then I saw Balalaika from Black Lagoon. Now THAT was cool. A woman went all out with her hair, coat and even SCARS. It was seriously Fry Face and her demeanor was too good.

Since "Baby, The Stars Shine Bright" were at the convention as well there were a lot of Lolita outfits, and by that I mean gothic lolita outfits and by THAT i mean the generic $60 ones you get at a Halloween store. It was too obvious who was doing it just for kicks and who actually wore Lolita and Gothic Lolita outfits as a fashion. The first thing that notified me was how some of the outfits were exactly the same. Not even "looked", they actually WERE. Hooray for individuality. Others didn't look too comfortable and their eyes didn't display any form of nonchalance. Note: Self-conscious gothic lolitas are FAKE gothic lolitas.

Going to NYAF though also confirmed all my doubts: that there's a constant influx of the younger generation of fans who lack self control and believe conventions are where you do whatever the hell you want. I heard yelling wars between pirates and ninjas and Yawee and Yuri.
First of all, no. Being loud all together at a convention is stupid. Unless there's an actual REASON to make noise, there shouldn't be any. It's loud enough as is. Another yellfest involved couples kissing. Yes. that's it. "Fans" applied pressure onto couples and by that I also mean, some random person pushed another into the open area at the center, and would scream and "cheer" once they kissed.

What bothers me though is how some of this nonsense is encouraged. This one booth played music so ear-deafeningly loud, you'd think they'd know any better. Another store known as "Hen Da Ne!" sold Yaoi/Yuri paddles and had one of the booth clerks yell YAAAAWEEEEE in the most obnoxious, raspy, nasally voice possible. He needs to die. It's thanks to people like him that make con-goers think it's okay. It's NOT. Conventions are STILL public and STILL demand civility. Slapping random people in the ass with a paddle isn't funny, nor is treating cosplayers like their character. No. You just don't do that.

I've also read some ridiculous stuff, which only bothers me as this will continue on. What I dread is graduating from college and working only to be in the same office as some of these ignorant, delusional dim-wits.

On the positive side. Yen Press publicized their anthology books, Yen Plus, which looks like a really nice way to introduce manga to a non-japanese audience. It's not that shounen jump thing you can expect, from the looks of it, we're going to be seeing some not-so-overly-famous quality work.