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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

25,000 Hits Celebration.

Since I didn't do much for 20k hits, ATK decided to draw an exclusive banner for 25k hits.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Prototype - Review

I want to apologize for these past two weeks. I've been sick and thus away from my computer. In addition, I've screwed up my sleeping schedule to the point where it's in dire need of being fixed, but you don't care about that. It's time for a review.

Prototype is about Alex Mercer who wakes up in a morgue only to realize there's something wrong with his body. It has the ability to consume others and give him superhuman powers. This is because of a virus that was loosed where he died somehow worked with his biological system to help him. Now, with many holes in his memories, he tries to find out who he is what happened.

My friend probably gave one of the best comparisons for his game calling it a mix between The Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man. Prototype is a game which in many ways is brainless fun, but it's brainless fun done well. Once you complete a small set of necessary starting missions, the game enters free roam mode in mid-to-downtown Manhattan. Considering it takes place in New York, there are so many references to other games and movies that I could make, but I won't.

You have a pretty wide set of powers to unlock each with their own smaller set of melee combat and special abilities. There's also an expanded hand-to-hand combat that you unlock later that gives you a bit more freedom in controlling your enemies.

If you don't feel like doing a mission, you can do a set of events that you unlock throughout the story which give you points to unlock upgrades or you can just raid military bases because you can. Or you can just free roam and find some landmark points.

The controls for the PC version are very well done and I'm quite glad that it's more than just a port. They're intuitive, easily manageable and incorporate the combination of the mouse and keyboard very well. I never had any problems in terms of controls, although I can't say the same for the Xbox, which involved a lot more holding buttons to go into certain branches, as well as the lack of precision joystick control required to climb the spike on the Empire State Building (or for any other climbing to be exact).

My main problem with the game has to be the bosses and their "I refuse to flinch" condition. Fighting major enemies in the game have always been a pain, and it isn't as if I was underpowered (I usually went into those fights with almost every available upgrade) but bosses have this problem where they don't' flinch if they take damage which means that you have to do hit and run tactics (rather... run and throw, then run and consume as many enemies until you have devastator....), which mildly irritates me as they deal obscene amounts of damage per hit and knock you off your feet which gives them time to land another hit as you're stuck falling.

Oddly enough. I feel like that's it. The story isn't really worth mentioning. Aspects of the game that try to emphasize the "depth" of the story (known as the Web of Intrigue) but since the game actually places very little focus on it, how do they expect the players to care?

It was a fun sandbox game with cool abilities to try out. The combat is well done and the powers are pretty cool. I never got tired of hijacking apaches.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Kekkaishi - Review

I consider Kekkaishi to be one of the best shounen anime out there, trumping One Piece, Bleach, and Naruto (including Shippuden) hands down. I can't be sure about how close it sticks to the manga, but the way it's been structured definitely leaves room for more.

Kekkaishi is about Yoshimori Sumiumura, an 8th grader, and Tokine Yukimura, a sophomore, who work as Kekkaishi, a job as protector of Karasumori (a specific area) that's been passed down from generation to generation. Kekkaishi (loosely translated as "barrier specialists/masters") have the ability to control a specific area of space in which they trap ayakashi (a specific word for ghosts from shipwrecks.... but it's been loosely used as something like spiritual parasites) and exorcise them, because they're attracted to Karasumori, an area that has the ability to grant ayakashi power.

Kekkaishi, from front to back (wherever the back may be...) is purely shounen. Even throughout the anime, when characters mention a specific term that may be too hard for children to understand, there's a small box that appears that explains terms. That isn't to say it's bad.

It's well paced, fairly long, and beaming with high quality production. It's one of the few anime where nearly no one looks the same. What I mean by that is, a lot of medium to low budget anime use the same face archetype for an entire genre, forcing you, the viewer, to identify each character by their hair, hair color, and eye color. This is a simple shortcut that cuts a lot of money from expenses. However, tertiary characters and many background characters all have different faces. It's a small detail but an important detail nonetheless. It's rare to see differing eyes, noses and overall facial structures in anime, but it's even rarer to see that applied to nearly everyone. There are some corners that are cut such as panning still shots but I can overlook that for the amount of work placed elsewhere.

I can't say the overall plot is amazing. To be honest, it first sounded pretty generic with the exception of the kekkaishi but it was the small arcs, and mini-stories that had such great writing that it kept me pretty hooked. The story even delved a bit into how the Kekkaishi do what they do, but not in a lecture style. Through recurring bits, the mechanics are fed to you at an even pace. Eventually, there were certain twists to the background story that intrigued me and definitely put this on a different level.

My biggest problem with the anime would be the lack of an extensive soundtrack. Kekkaishi is a 52 episode anime and yet all of its music spans one disc. I understand that I'm not asking for like.... Yuki Kajiura's work (About 4 disks just for Tsubasa Chronicles) but I expected a bit more from Taku Iwasaki and his work on Persona -Trinity Soul-. Though, in hindsight, Kekkaishi was released earlier....

Kekkaishi hasn't been licensed in the US yet, though it seems to have been licensed in the Phillipines. Considering the immense work that went into it, only big companies such as Funimation may be able to acquire the rights for it. Another issue would be the sheer Japanese culture that's immersed into Kekkaishi. Getting script writers for the English dub would be a hassle. Another problem that emerges would be the scatterbrained job that is the ending theme. Although the opening theme is the same throughout, the ending theme changes completely arbitrarily and cycles from 4 total themes resulting in a "What the hell?"

It's a definite, must-see from me, though I believe the best way for non-japanese speakers would be to resort to fansubs....

Saturday, July 4, 2009

H.A.V.E. Online vs. TF 2

My friend just linked me to the kotaku article and I decided to look into it to see what the korean article said.

Here's my conclusion.

Yes. There are similarities. Certain ones are faaaar too similar and could actually be subject to copyright. Let me point them out.

First would be the grenade. I'm not saying grenades are copy righted but I'm pretty sure the "bean" like shape is quite unique to TF2. Considering H.A.V.E. Online's similarity to that, I would've preferred they redesign that.

Weapons. In the way the bat is held in-game and the way it's presented in the trailer is very similar to TF2. While it seems that the bat in H.A.V.E Online does a bit more damage (more like the style of S4) it's presentation in the trailer following a running person and double jumping does bear an uncanny similarity to the Scout.

Taunts. While not shown in the trailer, a brief scroll through Korean spam comments say that some comments are almost identical to some in TF2 (one of which seems to be ripped from the Heavy.)

Music is far too similar. I'm not saying that they have a horn section, it's a ripoff. But the way it's composed is very similar to TF2.

Sounds. No change. The minigun sounds exactly the same, and so does the sniper rifle. Problem.

There was a brief healing sequence that looked like an effect of the Medic's medigun. Nice try in hiding that.....

Exploding to pieces + Blue "blood." I've been thinking for a while about that and finally realized that it's going to cause problems.

Now for other things that bear resemblance but also have no ground.

Camera shots. Group shots ARE NOT stuck to one person. Certain camera angles and direction DO bear a resemblance at the same time are completely coincidental. There's this one side by side in the naver post with the demoman and a female toy with a shotgun both looking up with their guns. That doesn't work. If you've seen Meet the Demoman, I believe he's yelling "LEEEET'S DOO IIIIIT!" The toy in the trailer looks up to try and find the sniper. Camera wise, it looks the same, circumstantially, completely different, and yes. It does matter circumstantially. Context is a very big key here.

The "Look" of some guns. Anyone who complains that H.A.V.E Online rips off the looks of some guns needs to pay attention to games a bit more. For example. Sniper rifles are in many games. The fact that a sniper rifle has a scope can't be copyrighted. Barrel styled Grenade Launchers fall into the same hole. The minigun however does warrant some issues. It looks too much like a re-skin rather than a change.

Double jump. Unreal Tournament had it as well. The main issue with the double jump is it's combination with a bat.

Art style. This is a big one. The unique aspect of TF2 is its art style. It's "cartoony" aspect of the game makes it unique to other games. As much as one would like to call H.A.V.E online ripping off TF2's artstyle because it's "cartoony" is moot. Although I would agree that it seems to look like a re-skin, I'd also like to remind readers about Pixar and Dreamworks. Please comment if you think otherwise.

"Red Vs. Blue." No.

Now for the differences:
There's no "classes" in HAVE online. You have a character that's fully customizable in gender, clothing, and weapons (setting up a general micro-transaction base). In terms of gameplay this would probably be the "breaking point" between TF2 and HAVE Online.

Third Person vs. First Person. Believe it or don't, the difference between first person and third person changes the way games are played. Third person in particular has quirks that First Person doesn't. One would be the ability to look around corners without exposing one's self.

No doubt there's going to be builds that work around one primary weapon. There's bound to be similarities of some builds to TF2.


Shouldn't be in Open Beta. The trailer itself is an indication of their "inspiration." It would've been fine as a free mod, but I'm assuming that this is being planned for an official release. It's still too similar and the developers need to work on it for much longer. Valve could easily let loose a single case and this game would go Ka-plut. It's an act of plagarism. There could be other ways to handle this, but it looks like a re-skinned or mod of TF2. The concept seems interesting, just a very, very poor execution.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Need For Speed: Undercover - Review

Need For Speed Undercover is about a cop who goes underground to try and uncover a smuggling operation. You take the role of that cop and take to the streets in your Nissan to prove your skills as a wheel man.

I decided to play Undercover to try and give Need For Speed another shot. Ever since I played Underground, I was wary of the poor mechanics they implemented in the game (mainly, rubberbanding, I hate cheating A.I..... Endurance races of 6 laps lasting over 8 minutes total.... in underground races? Really?) Then I saw Underground 2 and their attempt to make it super realistic to the point where you needed to drive a good 2 and a half hours or so throughout the city to understand each and every curve and corner... I can't believe how many times I got lost doing time trials cause the GPS sucked and highways have 8 exits in close proximity to each other all going different ways..... It was around then that I quit Need For Speed games. It wasn't because I didn't like tuner cars, but more of, "I think they're beginning to lose their vision in racing games. So, I took a break. Any new NFS title I just kinda ignored.

To be honest, I don't know why I picked Undercover. Perhaps because Most Wanted sounded like they were going back to the Hot Pursuit days. Knowing EA and most software companies, the initial release tends to have a lot of issues. I don't know how Most Wanted was, but I can say for sure, I'm pretty glad I picked Undercover.

First and foremost. I'd like to tell you all that Undercover does NOT HAVE RUBBERBANDING. If you aren't sure of what rubberbanding is in racing game terms. It's when either you or the computer gets a significant lead in terms of checkpoint times (usually around 00:04+). Depending on who's in the lead (the player or the computer) the A.I. cars compensate by either going faster or slower to "emulate" difficulty. What that often means is that the A.I. cars cheat. One great example is how the cars in underground have unlimited nitro. I've seen this happen. A.I. cars in Underground are equipped with the same exact parts that you have, so when I nitroed in a straightaway and held it down, i saw the computer do the same. However, when my nitro was finally depleted, I saw the computer car's nitro still running and nitroing along turns completely overtaking me. Other times I'd see that I had a 7 second lead only to see that dropping on a straightaway even though I had a faster car.....

I feel like I've said this before: Cheating A.I. does not entail difficulty. Complex algorithms do. Forza and Gran Turismo are high praised for their realism as well as cars that handle almost.... too perfectly. Regardless, they drive well.

Anyways. Undercover has no rubberbanding, you can be assured of that. Any overtaking of your car is strictly because that car is actually better.

It seems pointless to say since it's almost expected of games but Undercover looks beautiful. It's not too demanding on your computer and supports some really nice graphics. I'm not too keen on some of the modeling and textures of the environment, but the cars look amazing.

The cars are what I've expected from the Need For Speed games. There's been a lot of detail placed in each and every car. The Lotus Elise for example handles much easier than the Nissan GT-R Skyline despite what stats say because of the light body of the Elise handles better than the heavy Skyline. Drivetrain becomes a big factor in handling until near end game when basically all your cars are Rear Wheel Drive.

The game is broken into 3 general types of missions. Cop Missions, Races, and Jobs. Jobs can entail a variety of missions from time trials to escaping the cops with a stolen car and returning to the garage. Cop Missions can be broken down into cop takeout missions, wreaking havoc and costing the state, and escaping the cops. Races can involve Checkpoints, Circuits (3 laps max), Sprints, and 1-on-1 battles.

It seems that EA has learned from the travesties of Underground 2. For some odd reason, the developers thought it would be a good idea to have roads as intricate and polluted as an urban city such as New York or Los Angeles (even more cluttered than any GTA game) thus making free roam and overall racing dreadful. It's a lot more cleaned up where there are still cross sections but not as numerous.

My main complaint with this game would be how easy it is. Perhaps it's because I've played racing games for a while, actually read the Skip Barber tutorial in the backside of the manual of Gran Turismo 3, and worked on getting the best times during licenses, but I digress. The game itself is quite easy and I've more or less dominated every race except when I've been completely overwhelmed by super tuned cars vs my low tier tuner.

Running from the cops is also quite easy unless you're on a highway as there seems to be very few exits, leaving you only to hug a wall to avoid spike strips as you desperately hope that you get to the next urban area. It's also a bit irritating to see the cops go only after you when there are clearly other cars illegally racing (1 or 7, to be exact).

Online play's pretty fun. What's odd is that you can't use the vinyls you applied to your car online. It was fully compatible with Underground, so I don't see what the problem is with Undercover. I get that there's more information than in Underground that needs to be stored, but people have spent a lot of time customizing their cars... At least let that come to fruition online...

Need For Speed: Undercover is like the mix between Underground and Hot Pursuit 2 that was really needed. The difficulty seems to have dropped significantly but it's still a fun title to play around with.