Monthly Archives: August 2010

Review: Dead Rising: Case Zero

I had very mixed feelings about the original Dead Rising. On one hand, I loved. I loved it with a visceral, real love reserved for romance novels, described with gratuitous synonyms for thrusting and grinding. In terms of raw content, it had it all: variety, zombies, and a leveling system encouraged by its new game plus mode.

It was a game that rewarded dicking around for twenty hours before starting the game. It also had (horror of horrors in some people’s opinions) a time limit, which made the game tense and exciting. You didn’t have forever to dick around. You had to be smart, and you had to be methodical.

This all came with one, enormous caveat: if your TV wasn’t the size of a continent, the text was completely illegible. Completely impossible to read. It ruined a fantastic game.

Now along comes Dead Rising: Case Zero, a prequel one shot that sets up the events of Dead Rising 2. Released for 5$ on Xbox Live, it is part demo, part teaser, part standalone experience. And it is a near great game that shows promise of things to come.
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Monday Night Combat Title Update Fixes A LOT Of Issues, DLC Plans

Rejoice! Uber Entertainment is, so far, upholding their promise to support Monday Night Combat post-release–we’ve gotten one patch so far, and now we’re getting a title update. The first title update was detailed in the Uber Blog, which you can read here. Right now, the fixes are being tested and refined, and hopefully shipped off to certification soon. Changes of note include:

  • Making sure parties do not get split up in a match
  • Host migration is getting a facelift: less failure, making it faster, etc.
  • Players should not be able to damage enemy shields anymore
  • Juice rushing in overtime will not be nearly as effective, since the damage taken by the moneyball during overtime has been decreased
  • Players cannot hack their profiles to have multiple gold endorsements anymore
  • Rate of fire endorsements now affect the hurt/heal gun for medics, though they’ve made it sound as if in order to compensate for this change, the hurt/heal gun now does less damage
  • Assassins can no longer do a double smoke jump
  • Tanks now do more damage with full/fuller clips

Of course, there are a few dozen more changes not noted here for the sake of brevity, so make sure to read the changes in full over at the Uber website.

Uber has also announced that they have 3 DLC packs currently planned, though they are vague about what these DLC will contain.

“The first DLC will contain new content, gameplay adjustments, and more bug fixes. What’s exactly in the first DLC will be announced closer to its release. We’re very invested in our community and want to see it thrive so the first DLC will be free.”

Hopefully this means new maps, at the very least, since at current MNC only has a handful. More ways to use your money would also be useful in prolonging the longevity of the game.

Super Meat Boy Content Complete

Which, Edmund McMillan tells us design neophytes, isn’t quite done. It means there’s still testing and weeks of being certified by WiiWare and PC, which means certified for WiiWare so it can be something like a lead platform. Anyway, a long road of testing is no doubt ahead, but there is light at the end of the tunnel for everyone’s favorite referential twitch platformer!

Personally, I’m excited. I don’t know about you, but I am! Super Meat Boy is one of those games I’ve been looking forward to for a year, at least, and should be one of the best indie releases of 2010. Pricing and release date are going to be announced in the next week or so, so we’ll have more secondhand information for you as it develops.

Source: The Team Meat Blog

Final Fantasy XIV Open Beta starting August 31st

It’s hard to muster up a lot of enthusiasm for Final Fantasy XIV, Square Enix’s newest foray into the world of the massively multiplayer. On one hand, it sure is pretty. And everything I’ve read about it has been pretty interesting; it’s got some pretty cool leveling mechanics, supposedly. On the other hand, how am I supposed to invest in this game when Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World are on the horizon? You know, a game that reinvents the MMO wheel, and a game that takes place in a Lovecraftian world where all conspiracy theories are true? Oh, and with Everquest 2 and Lord of the Rings Online, very similar games in terms of theme and quality, rapidly approaching free to play status? Pretty is good, but pretty doesn’t quite cut it anymore.

But Square Enix is still trying, and you can try their game before it hits shelves by playing in the open beta. The open beta which starts in a couple days, August 31st at 19:00 PST (that’s 7 PM, for those of you averse to military time). I plan to give it a go, in any event. It might not have the innovative chops of its western peers, but should be a good time.

Or a horrible, life-consuming time. Fuck if I know. And if the above trailer tells us anything, it’s that it’ll probably have some really awkward music.


Can The Headshot Be Replaced?

“Headshots are ruining games. Think about the arsenal they give you in Splinter Cell. Think about the remote camera, the sticky mines, the grenades, and EMPs, and all this other stuff, shotguns and assault rifles…and you went through the entire game using the default pistol and then the upgraded version of the default pistol, ’cause it’s silenced and you can shoot guys in the head with it really well…all of the spots where you are not being seen by anyone the right answer every single time is shoot that guy in the head…it is ruining games.” – Jeff Gerstmann

Quote taken from Jon Porter’s post over at Bitmob.

I have a confession. I have a confession, and I’m not sure I can explain it, but here it is: I have an addiction to crunch. That visceral feeling, a shot of adrenaline, that rush of blood. I can’t get enough of it. The rasp of your feet when Limbo’s protagonist slides over a mound of earth, Nathan Drake jumping over an impossible abyss only to land in a perfect grapple…there’s a thousand small moments that exist so vividly in my mind, that I can feel in my bones, that I can swear last a lifetime. None of these moments, however, can match the perfection of a single moment: and that’s getting a headshot in Gears.

It’s not a crunch like any other, because it exists on every possible plane. You see it, the skull pops off in this perfect arc: gruesome, but poetic, in this macabre sort of way. You feel it, that perfect surge of rumble, of feedback. And the soundbite! It should be a requirement for any game with a headshot to implement the same soundbite: there’s nothing else out there that gives you the same satisfaction as hearing a Gears 2 headshot.

And the thing is, it’s not like popping bubblewrap or smashing a watermelon with a baseball bat: you’ve got to earn the high. You’ve got to fight for it. In all the FPS games I’ve played, Gears has to be the hardest game to land a headshot in if only because of craptastic connections, and Marcus’ pin-size head doesn’t help the fact that the hitbox for the headshot is questionable. Couple this with the competition of multiplayer and a Gears player’s penchant for masochism, and you’ve got yourself a reward of the highest order.

Of course, this can be said of any game: try searching for Modern Warfare or Battlefield footage on YouTube, and try to find a video that’s not a montage of headshots. Truth is, nearly everyone who plays FPS games are addicted to headshots. Sure, it’s an efficient way of taking an opponent out: most shots to the head do more damage than bodyshots. I’m convinced it has less to do with a player’s desire to get rid of enemies as fast as possible as it does with a semblance of the headshot high.

Think about it. Sure, you can kill a guy. You can do this in a variety of ways, pinpointing a wide array of locations on the body. But there’s a tinge of humiliation that occurs when you best your opponent via headshot. You’re not just killing them, depriving them of bodily function: you’re taking them out completely, their mind is yours to claim as well. You’re turning off the lights, laying claim to body and soul. You have absolute power over them, and all because you managed to dispatch one or two well-placed shots. Power negotiations between players of opposite teams are never more apparent than that search for the infamous BOOM HEADSHOT.

In this way, I can see Jeff’s criticisms clearly: players can become obsessed with the headshot, but it’s because it’s efficient and it feels great, a testament of prowess. No one wants to just “win” when they’re playing against other people (or enemy AI), they want to prove they’re better, they’re faster, they’re stronger. The headshot embodies all those things simply and as elegantly as designers have managed to implement so far. The fact that some games, like Battlefield, give you bonus points for achieving a headshot, isn’t helping, either.

So then the question would be, can you replace the headshot? Is there a way to one-up it, as it were?

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Dragon Age’s Potential Dirty Dozen(ish)?

Mass Effect 2, for all its critical acclaim, could be said to have one major weakness: plot. Sure, the story sort of moves forward…but the plot regarding the Reapers isn’t really the point of the sequel at all. The real story was behind your “dirty dozen” party members, a term employed by Bioware themselves in regards to the crew. These people, getting to know them and your adventure in recruiting them: this was the real star of Mass Effect 2. Hence, this:

Now, a lot of information has been floating around regarding Dragon Age 2 in the last couple of weeks. One of which may have been easily overlooked by everyone is in the revealed boxart:

What? Don’t see it? I suggest you take a closer look at the bottom of the dragon’s wings. Those, right there, are the silhouettes of about 11ish, possibly more (12?!!?!), people (I’m not sure if I should be counting the small, completely disfigured ones inside his arms). You can clearly tell that some of those are heads and arms, though admittedly the bodies are rather thin and twisted.

Could this be a reference to the number of party members in Dragon Age 2? Lord knows. But if recently revealed changes to the franchise are any indication, I wouldn’t put it beyond Bioware to have a similar setup for DA2.

Still not convinced? Well, even Gametrailers is suggesting it.

Do You Know How To Play Torque Bow Tag?

No? Shit, son, you’re gonna have to learn on your feet then, because Labor Day weekend’s Gears 2 XP event is incidentally torque bow tag day, too. Proving to us that he’s mentally insane via a 25x XP event isn’t enough for Rod Fergusson, executive producer of the Gears franchise. Nope. “Labor Day Horde = Torque Bow Tag. All Drone and Grenadier weapons replaced with Torque Bows. Chaos ensues… :)” he recently stated on his twitter account.

For reference on that:

It doesn’t stop there, though. Gears players will also have temporary access to golden lancer and hammerburst weapons  during the event, according to Rod’s twitter: meaning you can two-piece or chainsaw in gloriously douchy style. Well, if you’re two-piecing you’re really killing in a hilariously dickish style and you will probably never hear the end of it post-match. But it’s okay baby, you’ve got bling and you’re having fun and that’s all that matters. Just don’t try to buy life insurance if you’re going to partake on the festivities on Labor Day weekend as the blue power ranger, okay?

Stand on a Rubix Cube, and rotate ninety degrees

And where will that get you? Well, somewhere an awful lot like Nudo, a charmingly inventive little platformer imagining how cool it would be if levels worked kind of like Rubik’s Cubes. You may have seen it other places, but this is the first time you’ve seen it here, so it’s got a kind of rubbish novelty. Like finding a scuffed up table at a flea market.

Nudo, unlike a scuffed up table with questionable stains on it, has some really brilliant ideas. Sure, it doesn’t have the aesthetic trappings of a game like Braid or VVVVVV, but the general concept is the same: take one really brilliant idea and slowly add complexity to it, until it is the most brilliant thing you’ve ever seen. Braid had time (and relativity, but that’s another show). V6 had gravity. And Nudo has the humble Rubik’s Cube, the ability to move parts of the level around to make a path to the goal. Of course, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Nowhere near.

It’s a little gem of a game with novel ideas. Nudo is the kind of game that makes you glad you play video games, and you can play it here.

Take a look at an ACTUAL Murder Simulator: Serial Killer Roguelike

Ho boy, just wait until the press gets a load of this. ‘Serial Killer Roguelike’ is a murder simulator–literally, a murder simulator–by indie developer Crimson Kings, which started out as a fan-project for Showtime’s Dexter. You can play as a character of your own creation, or you can opt to play as famous serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy–which, in of itself, is rather unsettling.

The video below showcases the progress that Crimson has made thus far, as well as some actual gameplay. Don’t expect anything graphic, though. The game doesn’t strive for visual realism, instead it seems to be grounded in RPG/text adventure-like mechanics.

“Keep in mind that this is a GAME, and that I am not advocating or condoning murder or any of the crimes that take place in it. I feel that the subject of serial killers, specifically the psychological conditions that drive them to do what they do, is one of interest and will hopefully translate into a unique game that has a vast number of potential options for play,” says the developer in regards to the game.

After watching the video, what do you think? Is it really so simple to call it a game and nothing else? Is it okay for me to enjoy watching Dexter, which follows exactly the same concept, but feel slightly uneasy about choosing to slash someone’s throat while they’re sleeping as Ted Bundy? Why can I watch this but have hypothetical problems “reenacting” it via a game? Should it be a game at all?

Regardless of whether you think this is in good taste or not, you’ve got to admit it raises some interesting questions regarding why some subjects seem to be “off limits” for video games but not other entertainment mediums. For example, a show like Dexter can be critically acclaimed–but a game like this is likely to raise media ire. Why is that, exactly?

Watch the First 10 Minutes of Shank

As of today, the intensely violent brawler is available on both PSN and XBL for 15 bucks–but, maybe you’re still not sure about purchasing the title. That’s fair. If you don’t feel like testing out the demo for whatever reason, I present to you another option: watch the first 10 minutes of Shank–story, gameplay and all. Hopefully you can get a sense of what the game is like, and perhaps it will sway you into trying out the demo at the very least.