Posted by: pswi60 | January 6, 2008

I’m back! Weekly news recap…

imageWell, i’m back from my long hiatus. With the holidays behind us, i’ve completed the most stressful 3 months of my life. This holiday saw record sales for video games, with all major consoles and handhelds reporting robust sales.

Many things have happened since we rang in the new year, most of these news items have been hurtful to the 360 camp. What started out as rumors turned into major blows for Microsoft and its fanbase. Let’s recap what has happened since the end of 2007:

1. Ps3 hardware sales beat Xbox 360 hardware sales over X-mas: According to vgchartz and NPD numbers, the ps3 outsold the 360 by around 40,000 units worldwide. This put the 360 almost last in hardware sales for the month of december, beating the 7 year old ps2 by 14,000 units. The 360 has been steadily losing market share since the Wii and the Ps3 hit the market over a year ago.

2. Rumor: Metal Gear Solid 4 Coming to Xbox 360: Yet another rumor, this time started by xboxfamily.com claiming they spoke with an unnamed source who works for Konomi as a distribution rep. They claimed that MGS4 will come to the xbox 360 12-18 months after it is released for the ps3. This rumor was later debunked by thegamereviews.com

3. Xbox Live Outages: Since before christmas, its been reported that XBL has been having many service problems. many speculate it’s due to the 2+ million new xbox users loggin into live and trying to create gamertags, play games, and download content. Later, MS released a statement saying the outages were due to a denial of service attack on thier servers, a rumor later debunked by thebitbag.com. A network specialist for gaming stated live was having problems due to updates being downloaded to all the new clients for the dashboard, halo3, etc… Supposedly MS will be offering a free arcade game to all its gold members for compensation.

4. Xbox 360 Ultimate: Stuff magazine claimed to have iniside info that at CES 2008 MS would reveal their next iteration of the xbox 360 console, the ultimate. It was claimed that this newer console would sport a 320gb hard drive, built in wi-fi, built in hd-dvd, cooler chipset, etc..Many cried out that MS was doing exactly what they criticized sony for, and just playing catch up with this upgraded console. There has been a ton of speculation surrounding this one, with no firm answer either way.

5. Warner Brothers drops HD-DVD for Blu-ray: A major blow for the HD-DVD camp, warner bros. signed a deal with Sony for an estimated half-billion dollars to release its movies on the more popular Blu-ray format starting in May 2008. This move has many speculating that this will end the format war, with paramount studios expected to follow suit. New line has also made the switch to blu, with cnet.com advising consumers to avoid HD-DVD.

Well, there you have major happenings this past week, all of which spelled early trouble for MS in the battle of gamers’ hearts and minds. Look for the 360 camp to turn things around next week with an onslought of viral marketing, rumors, and attacks. We at pswi60 hope the 360 stays competitive, but this is not a good start for 2008.

Posted by: pswi60 | October 31, 2007

Game Reviews: 6 things that need changed NOW.

Disclaimer: In this article, I reference Ratchet and Clank: Future several times for example purposes only. While I do own the game and enjoy it, I do not imply the game should get any certain score, only that it’s a good game worthy of purchase. I own the ps360 combo, so please don’t call me a fanboy, cause I will own you in Halo 3 fool.

Reviews…the benchmark of games that are supposed to give you a clue as to which titles to get and which ones to stay away from. When game reviews first appeared, it was a godsend to gamers the world over…now, we could read about the pros and cons of a game before buying, and we could know what to expect when we spend our hard earned cash on a game.

5 STARSLately, game reviews have become, well, out of hand. You would think with the exact same game being reviewed by only 25 or so different sites, the game would fall into a certain range of scores that would all be relatively close. But this is not the case. Games like Jericho have a low score of 30 and a high score of 90. Now how is a gamer supposed to make an informed decision when the reviews have a delta of 60%? It’s like having an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other: “Buy this game!!”…”No..don’t buy it!”.

I have read a couple articles stating to do away with number reviews, because a number in itself is useless to describe a games’ worth. Numbers also fail because 2 different games could have the exact same numeric score, but be a totally different experience to each gamer. See, games are not like baseball cards, which all have a set value based on what card you have (it would be difficult to buy every game that appears on a given console….you hypothetically could buy the whole “set” of games, but then how could you find time enjoy each and every one?). Games are more like a fine wine…you buy it, savor it (hopefully), and when the bottle is empty, you put it on the shelf to collect dust.

You could then use the argument to ignore the score, and just read the review, howeverpic sometimes this is as clear as mud. You get references to things like “Captain Qwark and Mr. Incredible in a battle of the poly counts” in this Gamespy review on Ratchet and Clank: Future, which also compares the game to Dynasty Warriors Gundam, but not really. What? Not only do I not get the poly reference, I’ve played DWG and it sucks, so I don’t get that either.

Here I propose 6 things that need changed with game reviews:

1) Stop comparing sequels to the original: I’m tired of reading reviews about “getting back to the games roots” and “largely the same gameplay as the last one”. Here’s a news flash – not everyone plays every game in a series. I have never played God of War. So when I bought God of War 2, I didn’t care what the first one was about. I bought GOW2 because I got the demo at EB and thought it was great; I never owned a ps2 until I bought a ps3 with backwards compatibility. The same goes for Ratchet and Clank: Future, I don’t care what the previous ones were like because I never played them. Stop assuming every gamer has played every single game out there. Review each game in the series as a stand-alone game, unless the game is exactly like the original with absolutely no reasons to buy the new one.

2) Stop removing points for no multiplayer: I’m also tired of game reviewers taking points off a games score because it doesn’t have multiplayer. Guess what? It says on the back of the game box if it has multiplayer. If I want a game with multiplayer, I will go out and buy a game with multiplayer. But don’t knock down a games score just because it doesn’t have it. There was a time when console games didn’t have multiplayer at all, remember? Only add or remove points based on that games multiplayer fun/quality/replay value, don’t base it on if it has the feature or not.

3) Review games that you are good at reviewing: Following the R@C – gamespot review fiasco, this one is a no-brainer. Game sites have no business having the sports game guy review a platformer, or the fps guy reviewing an rpg, or the puzzle/arcade guy doing an action/adventure game. Would I ask my real-estate agent to tell me which breakfast cereal I should buy? Hell no…so why is the sports guy reviewing a platformer? It makes us review readers think there is a hidden agenda or alterior motive, and that makes you, the reviewer/review site look bad. The words bias and fanboy are being thrown around like hello and goodbye, and it doesn’t take much to piss of the readership, so be more responsible with who is reviewing which game, please. If the fps guy is reviewing an fps game, it makes us feel better that the review is coming from a credible, reliable source.

4) Be more than just a number: Many people are calling for the death of the review number. While I think the number is here to stay, there needs to be more conveyed to the reader than just a number. Pros and Cons are good, but it still does not give the finality to what the reader should do if they are eyeing up the game you just reviewed. Should they buy it? Or should they rent it? Or should they just try the demo (if available) or move on? Is the market flooded with fps games, making this game a hard sell when there are so many other titles to get first? Give the gamer an idea of what to do when they are done reading your review. Should they jump off a bridge? Should they stop reading and never come back? Give us a clue, please.

5) Be honest, unbiased; don’t be a comedian: With any job, it can be awesome at first, especially landing a job as a game tester or game reviewer. The initial reaction to these types of jobs are usually filled with thoughts of an easy, fulfilling career that you will never tire of and will always be fun. But the real truth is that doing anything over and over again gets old, even with video games. It is for that reason that reviewers, especially of late, come off as arrogant, critical, biased, harsh, and just plain pissy. They have lost the fun of playing games, and now it is considered work. “I have to review another game today? Ughhh.” If all game reviewers could just take 5 minutes to clear their mind of their predispositions before reviewing a game, and remember that it was fun that brought them here, they will better convey that in their review. Much like a game, a review is a work of art too, and it needs to have conviction in order to differentiate itself from the rest of the pack. Also, a little humor is appreciated, but if you are using every angle of your review to promote your comedy act, then maybe it’s time to switch careers. Its not funny if you are trying to be funny, get it?

asdf

6) Don’t give games a bad review just to get recognized: Any press is good press, right? I’ve never heard of GamesTM, mostly because they are a UK based magazine, and I live in the U.S. But now, the name GamesTM is all over the net because of their rogue 6/10 review for Ratchet and Clank. Are we really to believe that this wasn’t just a stunt to get their name circulating, since the previous owner had to sell because the magazine was balls deep in debt and missed an issue? Now the mag has restructured so why not throw out a scathing review of a good game to get some attention? If they would just follow reasons 1 and 2 of this article, they wouldn’t have failed and be made the example for #6, taking the place of Gamespot.

As always, comments are welcome and appreciated….are these 6 things too much to ask?

Posted by: pswi60 | October 30, 2007

Clive Barker’s Jericho (Review)

jerichoThese days, First Person Shooters are a dime a dozen. Lately, Halo 3 has the title for top shooter, with The Orange Box coming in a close second, and Bioshock rounding out the trifecta. So for a game like Jericho, it will be difficult to make a dent in the wall of shooters currently swamping the 360. Perhaps for that reason alone this title will do well on the ps3, since that system does not have the amount of FPS titles the 360 does. Here, I will review the game for both systems, and make a recommendation for those of us who are blessed with the ps360 combination.

Many review sites will tell you that Jericho is great in some instances, and terrible in others. While I agree that some of the scripted action sequences can be slightly frustrating since they catch you off guard, the brutality of them will put a smile on your face, and you won’t mind doing them over and over, just to see how you will die this time.

The story is based on God’s first child, a sexless being that had too much power. God was dissappointed by this, and banished the child to the nether-realm. This bastard child isn’t happy with its current state of existence, and occasionally tries to escape its prison.

You are a part of the Jericho team, each member having a special power, besides looking cool and wielding firearms. As the team leader, you are killed in action and now your spirit can inhabit each one of your members, giving you their abilities and power. So instead of picking up guns as you progress through the game, you can just select the character who you think has the best ability for the current situation. Your team is tasked with stopping the first born from ruling the earth with demons and evil.

Evil has a face, and its this guy
Evil has a name, and it’s this guy…

The character animations are great; from the 1st person point of view you see your characters arms doing what they should for each attack. For example, Black (the sniper) can move large objects via telekenesis, and when you use this power, you see her shove her left arm forward and push things out of the way, much like a Jedi. Or when Delgado removes his arm cannon to envoke his fire capabilities, it looks really sweet. The developers did not short you on the animations. On the flip side, these animations do take time, and that timing needs to be learned for each character. The weapons are solid; some reviews state that the weapons are not powerful enough, but i suppose that is so you will use the characters other abilities and not just run and gun your way thru the game.

The graphics are really good, they remind me of Doom 3 with HDR lighting and what not. The characters, enemies, and levels all look straight out of a horror film, and the special effects add a great sense of realism to the action. For example, there are undead enemies that jump at you, holding a sword and a shield. Using Delgado’s gattling gun, the bullets will ricochet off the shields while sparks and blood fly off the enemies. Even cooler is when you kill an enemy, swarms of flies dissolve the body within seconds, sometimes even picking up the corpse and tossing it around like a rag doll, which is really creepy.

Delgado and the gattlin gun
The HDR lighting makes everything look awesome.

The sound is good, with the guns and special effects, nothing is too annoying or misplaced. The voice acting, while not top notch, can be funny at times, allthough your characters will swear at each other during moments of freindly fire or being idle. Really, the sound isn’t bad or good, it just fits the type of game.

Where this game really shines is during combat. Enemies will just pour out of hallways/ceilings and come at you with reckless abandon. You will feel as if you are fighting for your life, and on my 50″ Samsung HD it looks stunning. You will pump bullet after bullet into undead and demonic bodies and love every second of it.

Jericho is by no means ground breaking. But what it does do is give you a solid shooter, where the style of play depends entirely on you and which character you inhabit. Unlike the Dooms and Quakes of the world, this game can be played many different ways, and does not depend on which weapon you found to make those subtle changes that make a game great. You can stand back and snipe while your teammates are doing the dirty work, or you can hack and slash enemies while your team gives you backup. It’s really up to you, and gamers will appreciate that.

Fat Guy
It’s hard to lose weight when you have your own personal crane…

The only differences I notice between the ps3 and 360 versions where the graphics. The ps3 version is not as smooth, but it does not take the huge frame hits as stated on other sites. It runs solid at 30 fps, but its just not as polished as the 360 version. Still, it does not take away from the experience. Also, the brightness on the ps3 version is better than the 360. The 360 version is very, very dark. It may be the way the developers wanted it, however it detracts from the experience because you can’t always see all the gory details. I had both the games running simultaneously on the tv and even with the brightness all the way up, the 360 version is just a tad bit dark.

If you own both consoles, I would recommend the Xbox 360 version. Even though the game is darker than its counterpart, the smoother graphics and more vivid colors make for a scarier experience, and I’m sure that is what Mr. Barker intended.

Reveiw Card

Key

Hardcore gamer: You chew games up and spit them out routinely. You may have more than 1 console because you just can’t get enough. Nothing stands in your way. Whether you are buying or renting, you are gonna play the latest games.

Average gamer: You game as a hobby, something to do after work or on the weekends. You buy the system sellers, the AAA games. You depend on high review scores to get the games you want, and avoid the bad ones. Renting is a common thing.

Casual gamer: You only have $60 every so often to buy a game, so it better be good. A bad game can ruin your day, and you avoid them at all costs. You play demos alot because they are free. If a game is good enough, you will (eventually) get your hands on it.

One X: Recommended

Double X: Highly Recommended

See all of the reviews for Clive Barker’s Jericho at Metacritic

Posted by: pswi60 | October 30, 2007

Bee Movie Game – Impressions from Father to Son

bee gameComing this November, The Bee Movie will be hitting theater screens all over America. My son (you wouldn’t think I had one based on earlier posts), who will be 4 in January, has been mesmerized by the movie ever since I downloaded the Bee Movie trailer off the PSN. We are definately going to see the movie, since know he is old enough and understands that he has to be quiet and watch the movie; it’s not play time or talk time.

So you can imagine my surprise when I noticed the Bee Movie Game Demo on XBL. I figured if my son can play Spiderman: FOF (360) , Burnout Legends (psp), and Rachet and Clank (ps3), you would think the Bee Movie Demo would be a breeze.

Well, the demo isn’t bad, and it does make him laugh, especially when the Bee hits something and goes “Ouch!”, however they could have done better. The first part of the demo is a preview for the upcoming game, and it shows Bee driving a car and doing other things that you cannot do in the demo. This sucks because of course my kid is gonna say “Daddy I wanna drive the car” and I have to tell him “no, because its not in the demo.”

Also, the sequences while flying through the city are a little too fast. It would be nice if there were an option to slow things down a bit, so he can get the hang of it. After several tries he does manage to hit the right combination of directions, so it’s not a huge deal.

Some of the scripted action sequences are a little tough, after 3 and 4 different button combinations, my son seems to get all but the last one. And while he is getting better (as I type this he almost has the demo beat), an open board where you can fly Bee around with maybe a 30 minute time limit would have been great. To fly Bee wherever he wants, that’s what my kid wants to do.

Maybe in the full version of the game, he will be able to drive the car and fly Bee around limitlessly. However the demo doesn’t give me the impression that he will have the freedom in the game to try these things out; Bee is always on the move, and it’s this rushed sense to the game that will have me avoiding it this holiday season.

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