Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Greatest Games of the Decade: The Year 2007

Hope everyone had a great Christmas! Anyway, onto the year of 2007, a year that had the first batch of really good next-gen games. By now there were great games coming out for all three next-gen systems, though in my opinion the Xbox 360's head start in the market led to it still having the upper hand at this point. As we will see, the year had many great games, but for me one game especcially stands out:


Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Genre: FPS
Developer: 2K Boston/2K Australia
Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date (NA): August 24, 2007 (PC, Xbox 360)
Rating: M

There are so many great things about Bioshock, it's hard to pinpoint one that makes the game so great. But for me, it was the world of Rapture (the technologically-advanced secret underwater city in which the game takes place) and the general ambiance/mood of the game. The plot and backstory of the game are great too, and the world itself is really awesome. Bioshock is a scary game, but not a "stuff jumps out at you and screams" scary (although that does happen sometimes), but more of creepy and unsettling scary that has to do with some of the enemies you face, and just the world around you and what you learn about it over the course of the game.

That being said, besides just an awesome plot and world, the game mechanics work well too. The action is great, and the plasmids (basically super-powers) you get in the game are always a lot of fun. There are a good variety of weapons that can be upgraded too, and you can also equip your character with different perks throughout the game that can really help you out if you pick the right ones for your playing style. And who can forget fighting Big Daddys? You know when the battle is going to start every time (you have to attack first to get them to fight you), but even with that in mind these battles were always terrifying just because of the sheer power of the Big Daddys. The hacking mini-game was also a nice change of pace. I've mentioned several times that Bioshock has a great story, and the main plot twist is also one of the best ever. And on top of all that, the whole intro/opening sequence (from the plane crash to the descending into Rapture and watching Andrew Ryan's movie) is the best I've ever seen in a game. This is a truely great game that any fan of shooters or just dark games in general should give a try if they haven't already.

Honorable Mentions:

The Orange Box/Portal/Team Fortress 2 (PC, 360, PS3)- The Orange Box is really a compilation of five games: Half-Life 2 and its two expansion packs (this counts for three of the five), Team Fortress 2, and Portal. I wont go into too much depth with these games, but Portal and TF2 could easily be put on this list by themselves, let alone bundled together and with Half-Life 2. So whether you play these games by themselves or if you have the whole Orange Box it doesn't matter, these games all make the list. If you haven't checked these out, you should: The Orange Box is probably one of the best deals in gaming history. And if you can, I would actually recommend getting it for PC rather than a console.

Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)- Another great entry into the 3D platforming Mario series. After Super Mario Sunshine was a letdown for some people, Galaxy came back with a bang and is still one of the best games on the Wii, especially for more serious gamers.

Mass Effect (360, PC)- It was a tough call for me between this and Bioshock for game of the year, and this game could have just as easily been at the top. Another Bioware RPG with a great story, characters, and customization. My one gripe about this game was the combat (which I wasn't a big fan of), but it looks like Bioware has really made improvements in that area for Mass Effect 2.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (PC, 360, PS3)- A great shooter that really raised the bar for war-based FPSs. The story was really good, the game mechanics amazing, and the online play legendary. Only in the last month have people finally started to move away from playing this online, and that's obviously because of Modern Warfare 2's release (which is the sequel to this game). Even with MW2, this game still ranks in the top five played online on Xbox Live, and considering how many people bought MW2, that really says something about CoD4 and the community it built.

Rock Band (all systems)- While Guitar Hero innovated the music game genre and really brought it to the public's attention, Rock Band took it to a whole new level by introducing the full band experience (guitar, bass, drums, and vocals). The game worked great, was perfect for playing with friends, and had a bunch of great songs (not to mention all the ones that have come out as DLC since). My friends in college and I played this game countless hours my senior year, and even now when we get together for parties and whatnot, we always inevitably break out Rock Band and have a great time playing it.

Peggle (pretty much all systems but Wii)- A very addictive game that is easy to learn but difficult to master. If you haven't ever tried this game I recommend you do, it's a fun, simple game that you can just pick up and play, whether it's for a few minutes or a few hours. Chances are this game is available on your cell phone, and it's great when you're bored somewhere and/or just need to kill time.

Biggest Disappointment:

Since this is the first time I'm doing a "Biggest Disappointment" of the year, I think I should say a few words about what that actually means first. "Biggest Disappointment" DOES NOT mean the same thing as "Worst Game of the Year" would. The most disappointing game is not necessarily the worst game, or even a bad game. It can even be a decent game. The important thing to note is that, as per the title, the game was the most disappointing to me personally, and for something to be disappointing I have to have at least fairly high expectations that it would be good. There are many terrible, terrible video games that come out each year, but most people interested in video games can usually tell if a game is going to be bad, and thus when it is they are not disappointed because they weren't expecting anything different. So this category is for games that I had high expectations for, but for whatever reason came nowhere close to meeting those expectations. So without further ado, the most disappointing game of 2007 was...

Halo 3 (360)- As stated above, Halo 3 isn't a bad game. Like the games in the series that came before it, the multiplayer can actually be a lot of fun, whether you're playing with friends or just matchmaking. What really killed this game for me was the story and the single player campaign. I'm not the smartest man in the world, but I'm usually pretty good at understanding and following a story, even if I dont particularly like it. After beating Halo 3, I had to go read the Wikipedia site to try and understand what the hell I had just witnessed, and even then it still doesn't quite make sense to me. I guess it could just be me, but something tells me it's more the fact that the story was too confusing and downright terrible. What a sad, sad end to everyone's favorite spartan's story (and not sad like tear-jerking, but sad as in they did his character a real disservice with that steaming pile of crap of a story). Many of the levels were also a boring grind of fighting more and more flood and me saying to myself "when the hell is this going to be over???" Overall, I was very disappointed by the campaign mode, and I know many of my friends (who are bigger Halo fans than I'll ever be) were as well. For all Bungie has done right, this was one thing they definitely did terribly wrong.

And that, my friends, is all she wrote for 2007. Overall, a very good year for video games. Check back sometime soon for 2008!

What I'm Playing (12/27/09)

Hope everyone had a great Christmas! I've been playing Dragon Age: Origins (yes, still), Left 4 Dead 2, Modern Warfare 2, and Mario Kart Wii. I got some good games for Christmas (Killzone 2 and LittleBigPlanet) that hopefully I'll have time to play sometime soon.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Greatest Games of the Decade: The Year 2006

2006 was the first fully "next-gen" year, with the Wii and the PS3 both finally launching. The Xbox 360 hadn't been out for long either though. It seems to me that besides a few standouts (most of which I think made this list) game developers hadn't yet caught up with all the new hardware, which is why in 2006 there is still a lack of great next-gen games. The next-gen games finally start to pick up in 2007, but that will be covered in the next entry. As for 2006, while there were a few really good or great games, for me, one stands out above the rest:

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Genre: RPG, First Person Action
Developer: Bethesda Softworks
Publisher: 2K Games, Bethesda
Release Date (NA): March 20, 2006 (Xbox 360, PC)
Rating: M

Oblivion is the fourth game in The Elder Scrolls series, though the plot is not directly related to any of the other games in the series (besides just the world in which the game is based). To the untrained eye this game might appear very similar to The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, and while the game engine does look somewhat the same, Bethesda improved on Morrowind's gameplay (one of its weaker points) in almost every way. The level-up system is better, the combat is better (though still not great), the graphics are better, and even smaller things like spells and the stealth/lock-picking system work a lot better. The story, while perhaps not the most interesting you'll play in a video game, is more intriguing and easier to follow, while still allowing the player almost complete freedom in a huge open world sandbox to do what she wants when she wants to.

Overall, I remember Oblivion as a great fantasy game with a unique level-up system and great character customization. The more you do something in the game, the better you get at it. This can be exploited by experience hungry players, but in theory it's actually a really interesting idea. The game runs really smoothly and really lets you get immersed in a huge, beautiful world. And the game's graphics (especially for the time) were absolutely amazing, even on a standard definition TV. As much as my usually philosophy for RPG's is "graphics dont matter that much," the graphics in this game (especially the environments) were so good that I would often just stop and look around for a bit and take it in. And to show what I mean when I say the game takes place in an "open world sandbox": there are no area transitions (besides going in and out of cities); the whole world is one big area you can travel for hours without seeing a load screen.

For me, Oblivion is definitely one of the best games ever (let alone from 2006), but it's not perfect. I liked the story, but most of the characters are largely forgettable. The only two exceptions that come to mind are Picard (the Emperor), who they kill off in prologue, and the Grey Fox, who was actually pretty cool and had a good personal story. Martin was alright too, I guess. Besides them, it's hard to really think of any other characters, and many times the computer characters in an RPG are what make the game so great to me. Also, as stated before, the combat wasn't that great. It was good enough to get the job done and add some action to the game, but it wasn't anything to write home about. Still though, I'll always remember that this was the first "next-gen" game that made me say "Wow!" just from watching someone else play for a few minutes.

Honorable Mentions:

Wii Sports (Wii)- This game came packaged with all Wii systems, so most people have played it or at least seen it be played. While not a game with a huge amount of content, Wii Sports showed what a Wii game could do when in the right developer's hands. The motion controls work very well (besides maybe boxing), and the game is a lot of fun, especially when played with other people. A very innovative title that showed the first signs that Nintendo may have been on to something with the whole "motion control" and "casual gaming" thing.

Dead Rising (Xbox 360)- I am personally not a big fan of this game, but a lot of people love it, so I'll put it on the list. Killing zombies is always fun, and Dead Rising really takes the idea of "the more the merrier" to a new extreme. This game definitely has its problems, but it was innovative in many ways as well.

Okami (PS2, Wii)- Haven't played this game at all, but I've only ever heard good things. It's on my "someday" list.

Gears of War (Xbox 360)- A great shooter with great graphics, good online play, and a really innovative cover system. Also great for co-op play (how I played it). Started a good story too.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii)- The first really good game for Wii. Used motion controls well without trying to over-use them. Haven't played all of this game yet, but once again have only ever heard really good things.

And there you have it: 2006. I'll give you a minute to say your goodbyes... okay. 2006 was a little short on games, in my opinion because there were all these new consoles and game developers needed some time to learn how to make good games that take advantage of all the new hardware power. But stay tuned, because as we'll see from all the great games that came out in 2007 - it didn't take them long to learn.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

What I'm Playing (12/20/09)

Unfortunately, with work and Christmas next week, that wont leave a lot of time for gaming. But here's what I've been playing this weekend and what I probably will play if I have free time next week:
Dragon Age: Origins (still going, but I think I'm finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel), Demon's Souls, Infamous, PixelJunk: Shooter, Flower, and Rock Band 2. And on Christmas Day, I'm sure I'll be playing Wii Sports, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and Mario Kart Wii with my family. Gotta love the Wii for family gatherings and group parties.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Greatest Games of the Decade: The Year 2005

Near the end of 2005 we saw the launch of the first next-gen console, the Xbox 360, but for most of the year the last-gen consoles (Xbox, Playstation 2, and Gamecube) were still the major players. In 2006 the Wii and PS3 both launched, completing the next-gen trifecta. This leaves 2005 as an interesting sort of transition year, but nonetheless a few great games came out this year. The greatest game of the year is a haunting survival-horror game that combines a tense atmosphere, terrifying enemies, a good story/characters, and great action and gameplay.

Resident Evil 4

Platform: Gamecube (originally); PS2, Wii, and PC (later on)
Genre: Survival-horror, Third Person Shooter
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom, Nintendo
Release Date (NA): January 11, 2005 (GC)
Rating: M

I still haven't played through the entire game, but I've played through enough to understand why so many people love it and why it's so critically acclaimed. Like I said before, the atmosphere is tense and the game keeps you on your toes. The level design, enemies, and gameplay mechanics are all great (except maybe Leon's inability to shoot and move at the same time, but that usually gets a pass in this game). The story and characters are solid, and along with fighting/running for your life, there are lots of really good puzzles. Almost all of your guns and equipment are upgradable throughout the game with the money you collect. Ammo and health is scarce (at least the levels I've played), but that's the point of the survival-horror genre - you have to be smart with what you have to stay alive. The different weapon types are fun to play around with too (when you have ammo), and there are lots of different guns to suit different playing styles. All in all a great gaming experience. The motion controls on the Wii version work well too, and it's very inexpensive nowadays.

Honorable Mentions:

Jade Empire (Xbox, PC)- Another great Bioware title, unlike Resident Evil 4 I have played through this game a couple of times. This is actually probably my favorite game out of 2005, but because I've already picked so many Bioware RPGs I decided to do something different this year. This game was not only a great RPG, but it was a great action game as well. Unlike Bioware's past games (BG2, NWN, Kotor), in this game you didnt just pick who you wanted your character to attack and sit back and watch them do it. While you could level your guy and collect experience and items just like an RPG, the combat was very much like an action game, somewhat along the lines of a game like Fable. This was a departure from what Bioware had done in the past, but the controls and live fighting actually worked really well. This game had a great story, another amazing plot twist, and great characters, all to go along with the great gameplay. If you've never played/heard of this game, I would highly recommend it. The Xbox disc is compatiable with Xbox 360, so you can buy it used and play it in your 360, or you can download the full game in "Games on Demand" right off Xbox Live.

Madden NFL 06 (Xbox, PS2, GC; NOT Xbox 360)- In my opinion, this is the pinnacle of all Madden games. This was the last Madden game (excluding the 360 version, which sucked) before they made the switch to next-gen Madden, and although the new Madden games finally seem to be getting better each passing year, they can never match the perfection of 06. The graphics on the new ones are obviously better, but I have played countless hours of countless fantasy-draft franchises in Madden 06, across Xbox, PS2, and Gamecube. The only flaw of this game was that they tried to introduce "QB Vision," but that mistake is easily corrected by turning it off in the options menu.

Star Wars: Battlefront II (PC, PS2, Xbox)- A great Star Wars game, this one focused very little on story. This game was great for multiplayer. This was a class based domination-type third person shooter, and what made it really great was the ability to have large scale battles where people could be fighting on foot at the same time as people flying around in vehicles or in space. Add in being able to occasionally play as a jedi or some other Star Wars hero, and you've got a really fun multiplayer game.

God of War (PS2)- Haven't played this game or the series very much, but it's undeniable that it set a new standard for the action genre.

Guitar Hero (PS2)- This game actually had some trouble finding a publisher at first, because the large game companies weren't sure if the whole plastic instrument "music game" thing would catch on with the public. Boy were they wrong. While this game itself isn't really amazing anymore (most of the songs were covers), it was incredibly innovative, and eventually led to all the Guitar Hero sequels and to Rock Band, which took it from just a guitar to a full four (and now even six in Beatles Rock Band) person band.

That's it for 2005. 2006 will be coming sooner or later; hopefully sooner rather than later. And now, because it is so cold in my apartment that I can barely feel my fingers anymore as I type, I bid you adieu.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What I'm Playing (12/15/09)

Dragon Age: Origins (a lot), Left 4 Dead 2, Beatles Rock Band, 1 vs 100 (on Xbox Live).

Sunday, December 6, 2009

What I'm Playing (12/6/09)

Uncharted 2 (finally beat it), Dragon Age: Origins, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Demon's Souls, Dead Space: Extraction, Peggle.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Greatest Games of the Decade: The Year 2004

After only two games making the list in 2003, 2004 definitely starts to pick up with some great games. This is the last year of only last-gen consoles (the Xbox 360 would launch in 2005), and some great games came out of this year, especially for the Xbox and PC. But for my favorite game of the year, I've decided to choose a game that I had always heard of, but hadn't actually played through/beaten until earlier this year. I had only ever heard great things about this game, and I was not disappointed. On the contary, despite everything great I had heard, it still blew me away (despite the fact that it was almost 5 years old) and I fell in love with it and its story and characters.

Half-Life 2

Quick Facts:

Platform: PC, Xbox; Xbox 360/PS3 (via The Orange Box)
Genre: FPS
Developer: Valve
Publisher: Sierra/Valve
Release Date (NA): November 16, 2004 (PC)
Rating: M

Easily my favorite FPS (first-person shooter) I've ever played, this game (and it's two expansion packs) combines so many elements and brings so much to the table that it's leagues above any other shooter I've ever played (with the exception of maybe Bioshock). This is more than just a standard shooter/action game. The variety of enemies are amazing (you've got soldiers, robots, aliens, zombies, helicopters, machines, and more). The weapons are all fantastic, especially the legendary Gravity Gun, which is really so much more than just a weapon. Half-Life 2 is also one of the best puzzle games I've ever played, and that really says something considering it's an FPS, a genre which does not usually have games with creative and challenging puzzles that dont just include things like "kill all the guys in this room." There are also some driving levels (either car or raft) which add variety and challenge to the gameplay, as being in a vehicle presents whole new challenges in these levels. Both the action and the puzzles in these games (expansion packs included) transition and play off each other great, offering smooth and believable (or at least as believable as something sci-fi can be) gameplay. And just when you've gotten used to certain enemy types or solved an environmental puzzle, Valve throws something else at you in the story to keep you interested.

One of the most unusual things about Half-Life 2 is that you are always in the body of Gordon Freeman seeing things only through his eyes. This happens throughout the whole game, with no exception. There are no cutscenes (besides the one at the very beginning, which you are still seeing through Gordon's eyes), no out-of-game narration to explain what's going on. You would think this would make it incredibly hard to tell a story or develop characters, but somehow Valve took this approach and told one of the best stories and developed some of the best characters in any FPS. And the fact they did this through only actual in-game play and no out-of-body experiences (aka cutscenes or narration) is astounding. That being said, the story is great. It takes place years after the events of the original Half-Life (sometime in the near future), in a post-apocalyptic Earth. Valve doesn't just spoon-feed you the whole backstory either, you are left to explore around in-game and find out many of the details for yourself (if you're still confused there are websites which basically lay the whole thing out for you).

I found both the game's story and the overarching backstory of the world engrossing, and, especcially because of Valve's story telling methods, I really felt like I was Gordon Freeman. This is perhaps why Gordon, a character who never actually says anything in the game, is still one of the most loved characters in all of video games. Because people feel like they really are him, and instead of the game assigning a personality to him, players wind up doing it themselves. This is just a theory of mine, but regardless this game is great and deserves to be played by anyone who enjoys FPS and doesn't mind having to think a little bit. Half-Life 2, along with both expansion packs (not to mention Portal and Team Fortress 2) are all contained in the game The Orange Box, which is available for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC, and can be found for a very reasonable price now. Go check it out if you never have.

Honorable Mentions:

World of Warcraft (PC)- Everyone has heard of this game. Even people with no interest in video games. And if you've played any video games, chances are you've tried it at least once. If you're reading this blog, probably more than that. We all know it and have loved it at some point in our lives, no matter for how short a time. WoW- The One Game To Rule Them All. This game has by far made the most money of any game ever once you include not just buying the game and its expansion packs, but also the $15 monthly fee that all 11 million+ users pay every month (just think about that for a minute). This game wasn't the first successful MMO, but since it came out it has been the most successful by far. This game has not only left a huge impact on the gaming world, but in many other aspects of media (like the famous South Park episode) in a way few games ever have.

Halo 2 (Xbox, PC)- A great follow up to the original Halo:CE, this introduced things like dual-wielding, new vehicles, and players being able to use the energy sword. Most importantly, this game introduced people to the wonders of Xbox Live for the first time. This game actually still has a small following of people that play it on Xbox Live. I still have yet to complete the campaign (the only Halo game I haven't), but my junior year of college me and everyone on my hall played this game almost exclusively, whether it was a small group of us playing other people on Xbox Live, or a lot of us all playing system link against each other or other dorms at our college.

Fable (Xbox)- Fable was by no means perfect, nor was it even close to some of things Peter Molyneux (the game's creator) promised leading up to its release (surprise, surprise), but it was a good action/RPG for the Xbox, a system that was light on RPGs. It introduced an interesting world/story, and the leveling-up system was new and allowed for a lot of customization to build the character that you wanted. Truth be told I never finished this game, but I liked what I played.

Doom 3 (PC, Xbox)- Never played this game, but from what I heard it was a good shooter and very, very scary (for the time).

2004 was a good year for video games, and it only gets better as the rest of the decade goes on. Hope you'll join me as I continue to count down The Greatest Games of the Decade. Next up, 2005!

Review: Contra ReBirth (Wii)

"Just like the good ol' days?"

Contra ReBirth is a downloadable game available exclusively through the WiiWare service on the Nintendo Wii. It is not a remake of the original Contra (NES), but a new game based on the gameplay and mechanics of Contra.

Quick Facts:

Platform: Wii (WiiWare)
Genre: Action/2D Side-Scroller
Developer: M2
Publisher: Konami
Release Date (NA): September 7, 2009
Rating: E10+

The game plays and feels much like the original Contra. The graphics and music are also very similar, and purposely so. Like Mega Man 9, Contra ReBirth is a retro sort of a game: a game that's new but emulates a classic older game. The game definitely succeeds in this respect, because it feels very much like Contra. Everything about it screams "Contra!" They've also added a few new things, like the ability to hold two different types of guns and switch between them. These changes were nice and didn't take away from the old school feel of the game.

There are complaints though. The game only costs $10 to download, but even for that seemingly small amount of money it is far too short. A friend and I beat it in about an hour (one sitting) on normal difficulty, and that was with many deaths and continues (meaning we had to replay many portions of different levels). We both love the original Contra, and even though ReBirth has some unlockable characters and harder difficulty settings, after we beat it we really had no desire to play it again. $10 is usually a pretty reasonable price for a full downloadable game, but in this case there's just not enough to justify even the $10 purchase unless you're an absolute Contra nut. Even then, while the one hour of gameplay was fun, you might just be better off playing through the original Contra again on an emulator or something if you really need a Contra fix.

My other complaint about the game was the lack of the 3D "moving into the screen" style of levels from the orignal Contra. Those were my favorite levels in the original, and I was really hoping that they would throw in at least one short level in ReBirth to pay homage to the original game. But none of these levels were to be found. Adding a few of these levels would have rounded out the gameplay and added to the length of the game, but it appears that it was not meant to be.

In Summary:

Pros: gameplay, mechanics, graphics, sound, nostalgia (all assuming you like the original Contra), level design, can be played locally with a friend.

Cons: game length, lack of replayability, lack of any 3D levels.

Hardcore Contra fans may find something here worth the price of admission, but everyone else will probably just want to steer clear.

FINAL SCORE: 3 out of 5.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

What I'm Playing (11/29/09)

Dragon Age: Origins, Uncharted 2, Left 4 Dead 2. Also, I was away much of this week due to Thanksgiving, so I had some time to play some good iPhone/iPod Touch games, including: Doom Classic, Doom Resurrection, Bookworm, Earthworm Jim, Metal Gear Solid Touch, Snood, Wolfenstein 3D, and, of course, Paper Toss. Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Weezer Albums

I will now proceed to list Weezer's albums from my favorite to my least favorite:

1. The Blue Album
2. The Green Album
3. Pinkerton
4. The Red Album
5. Raditude
6. Maladroit
7. Make Believe

Any other Weezer fans out there who want to weigh in?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Greatest Games of the Decade: The Year 2003

The list for 2003 is a short one for me. In fact, out of all the years of this decade, this one has the fewest games to make the list. I'm sure there were other good games that came from this year, but looking over a few different lists of major releases from this year, there were only two games that caught my eye as ones that I played and thought were great games. The greatest game of this year is one that I only played for about a week (in which time I beat it and played through all of the optional content), but it completely enthralled me while I was playing. I would play all day and into the wee hours of the morning (I was home for break from college and didn't have a job at the time). So even though I only played this game for a week, I put a lot of hours into it. It was a short, but very hot, fling.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Quick Facts:

Platform: Xbox, PC
Genre: RPG
Developer: Bioware
Publisher: LucasArts
Release Date (North America): July 15, 2003 (Xbox)
Rating: T

Another great Bioware title (noticing a trend in my favorite games here?) with a great story and cast of characters. I wont give away too much here (though anyone who hasn't played this by now probably isn't going too), but this game has one of the greatest plot twists ever, and I'm not just talking about in video games. I'm talking about any form of media, including movies, TV, books, plays, etc. That's how shocking it is. And of course, a plot twist cant be great unless it has a great plot to twist, so like I said the game has an amazing story. The game takes place a few thousand years before the movies do, during the reign of the fabled "Old Republic" (hence the game's name) and their conflicts with the Sith Lords and other various factions. While fantasy RPGs (Baldur's Gate, NWN) are great, there's something about the world of Star Wars that seems to make things even cooler. That may not be true for everyone, but for someone who fell in love with Star Wars as a little kid from the first time they saw it on VHS (thanks, Mom!), having a game take place in that universe and being able to use things like the Force and lightsabers is even cooler than a game that takes place in some fantasy world (no disrespect to Faerun of course).

The character customization in the game was also great, with lots of different classes and jedi classes to suite your play style however you like it. And, like Baldur's Gate II before it, this game was notorious for your decisions affecting the world around you and even the characters that traveled with you in your party. Of course, being a jedi, you could eventually choose to follow the Light side or the Dark side, and whichever path you picked would greatly effect the outcome of the game. And certain characters in your party liked you better depending on whether you were good or evil. If you were evil enough, you could even permanently kill people in your party to intimidate the others and set an example. Stuff like that is still deeper than a lot of the games that come out today.

Honorable Mention:

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy (PC, Xbox)- The only other game that I truly loved from this year also happens to be a Star Wars game, though a far different one. While Kotor (Knights of the Old Republic) was an RPG, this game was an action game (I believe you could switch between a first person mode and a third person mode). Also unlike Kotor, this game is part of the Jedi Knight series of games (that started with Dark Forces and Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight), and this series takes place a few years after the Return of the Jedi. Jedi Academy was a lot of fun, with lots of cool weapons and force powers, great levels, and a decent story.

So 2003 was short but sweet. That's the way it goes sometimes. Comments are always welcome, and stayed tuned for 2004!

What I'm Playing (11/21/09)

A good friend of mine will occasionally ask me "so what have you been playing lately?" I usually think for a few seconds and then name a few games I've been playing recently. This gave me an idea, so a new thing I'm going to start doing on my blog is list what games I'm currently playing. I'll try to do this once a week either on Saturday or Sunday, and I'll list the games I've been playing and any that I'm planning on playing for the next week. Not many people may care about this, but if one of the games I list is something you want to know more about, feel free to comment and I'll let you know about the game and what I think of it. Also, feel free to comment and let me know if you're playing any of the same games, or any other games you're playing. This little intro here will only appear this one time, as this is the first time I'm doing this. From next week on I will just list the games I'm playing. So without further ado:

Dragon Age: Origins, Demon's Souls, Uncharted 2, and if I have time (which I probably wont) Left 4 Dead 2, Modern Warfare 2 (online), and New Super Mario Bros. Wii.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Review: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Xbox 360)

"Believe the hype."

We all know about this game. I dont need to say much about it here, because chances are anything I could say here you've already heard. This game is the sequel to the immensely popular and successful Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and the amount of hype and coverage it's received since it was announced is the most I've ever seen for a video game. In the first day of being released, this game sold over 4.7 million copies in North America and the UK alone (breaking GTA IV's previous record in the process). And the best part is that the game actually lives up to the immense amount of hype that was being given to it, a relative rarity for games that receive this much coverage and have such high expectations.

Quick Facts:

Platform: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Genre: First Person Shooter (FPS)
Developer: Infinity Ward
Publisher: Activision
Release Date: November 10, 2009
Rating: M

Everything about this game is great. It picks up where the first game left off and improves upon it where it needed improvement (which is very few areas). The gameplay, grapichs, and all other techincal aspects are perfect (as to be expected from a Call of Duty game), but what really sets this game apart is (like the first game) the amazing story and characters. Many FPSs, especially "wartime" FPSs sacrifice real story and assume that delievering fun gameplay will be enough to sell the game (*cough cough* World at War). This is actually somewhat true, becuase if a game (especcially an FPS) is awesome enough most players (myself included) are willing to push a lackluster story (*cough cough* Halo 3) aside and enjoy the game just for the gameplay. But this is where few FPSs, like Modern Warfare 2, get set aside as the best of the best, because they give us the fun gameplay and a great story and characters which we are bound to remember. I believe that this combination of two elements is true for all modern games, not just FPSs. In my experience and opinion, the best games are the ones that include both great gameplay mechanics and a memorable story and characters, and not just one or the other. Modern Warfare 2 definetly suceeds in this respect in a way that few games truly do.

So the campaign mode is great, and so are the other two modes (Spec Ops and multiplayer). Spec Ops is a mode that allows 1-2 players to do short missions (some of which are taken from levels in the campaign) together. This mode is Infinity Ward's answer to gamers who cried out for a co-op option in campaign mode, and it works very well. They didn't want to sacrifice the story and intensity of the single player mode by having a friend there with you the whole time, but they also understand that gamers wanted to play some of these missions with their friends. The result is Spec Ops mode, and I think it's a great success.

The online multiplayer for the game is similiar to Call of Duty 4, which means it's awesome. There are a lot of new features and options for ranking up (which I wont get into here), and I like the changes they made to the ranking up/perks system.

If I have any complaints about this game, it's only that a) the story mode was a little too short, and b) a few of the story missions seemed to drag on a little too much or not offer quite enough variety. I finished the story on normal in about 6 hours, which isn't terrible, but it isn't great either. I suppose I could go back and start trying to beat levels on veteran mode, as this would certainly add a lot of playtime, but I dont think I have the heart or patience to die that many times (especially because I'm not a CoD god by any means). As for the individual levels, they were all good, but in a few of them I felt like I was doing the same thing for just a little too long. I can only go down the same suburban street killing enemy soldiers for so long before it starts getting boring; I can only defend the inside of the same cabin for so long (constantly dying in the process) before I'm ready to start ripping my hair out. But these are minor complaints for a game that offers so much replayability (Spec Ops and online multiplayer) even after you're done story mode.

In Summary:

Pros: it's everything you've come to expect from an Infinity Ward Call of Duty game, and somehow even managed to live up to the obsence amount of hype. 'Nuff said.

Cons: campaign mode is a little short, levels can be a bit repetitive at times. But these are both minor complaints when you look at the whole scope of this game.

FINAL SCORE: 5 out of 5.

Note: All reviews on this site are solely the subjective opinion of the author. If you disagree with my review please feel free to post in a polite manner and state your opinion. I welcome respectful discussion on my blog and would love to get feedback on my review and also read yours. Thanks!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Greatest Games of the Decade: The Year 2002

The game of the year for 2002 is a game that is very dear to my heart, being the game that I've probably put the most time into in my whole life, and the only game that I actually made a few "friends" online playing the game that I had never met in real life (think The Guild, even though I never actually met these people and stopped talking to them once I stopped playing the game). It's the most customizable game I've ever played, and had my favorite multiplayer ever, even though it wasn't actually made by the company that made the game.

Neverwinter Nights

Quick Facts:

Platform: PC
Genre: Role-Playing Game (RPG)
Developer: Bioware
Publisher: Infogrames/Atari
Release Date (North America): June 18, 2002 (PC)
Rating: T

All aspects of the game included, Neverwinter Nights is probably the game I've played the most time in my life, especially once you factor in the all the expansion packs that came out for it. The single player game throughout the series is good and definitely worth playing. The characters in the game may not be the most memorable (besides, of course, Deekin), but the story and gameplay are very good. But that's not the only reason I love this game. The multiplayer for this game was amazing.

The game came with a full toolset that let people create their own mods and even whole worlds and then host them online using their own computers as dedicated servers. The toolset that came with the game included most of the things Bioware used to create the actual single player game. For people that actually get into coding and all that stuff, you can really do a lot with the world you want to create, and even for people that dont know how to do all that stuff (like me), it had an easy enough interface that you could learn some tricks and make some areas. And once someone created a mod and put it online as a server, they could log in not only as a player but as an all-controlling Dungeon Master (a D&D term) and play along with or even against the players by spawning monsters, items, and many other things all while staying invisible to the players (if they wanted to). It's really hard to explain the awesomeness and all-encompassingness of this game to someone who's never played it. To people who have played some other Bioware games but not this one, it plays and looks a lot like an earlier version of Knights of the Old Republic or the recently released Dragon Age: Origins. You can still go online in Neverwinter Nights today, more than seven years later, and find online communities that are still playing user-made mods. I started playing online in the same worlds with the same people and became part of a large community back when I used to play this. This is where I put the most of my hours playing this game, logging on to the NWN servers every night and seeing where my online friends were playing. There were some awesome servers and mods online and a lot of cool people to play with, and best of all, it was all free. Looking back, the online component was a lot like World of Warcraft before there was World of Warcraft, but it was free, and players could create their own worlds and stories and control them on the fly as people played them.

Honorable Mentions:

Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (PC, Xbox)- Not a perfect game by any means, but a very ambitious and good game. The game is in a completely open world, even more so than its successor Oblivion. There are even fewer area transitions, and for its time the world was very well made and detailed. It's not perfect though, as the combat is not very good and there were a lot of glitches/problems with the gameplay. Still, this was a big game for this year, and laid the foundation for Oblivion.

Warcraft III (PC)- An RTS that I still occasionally play, it has great gameplay, great online play, and a great story and characters (something unusual for many RTSs).

Kingdom Hearts (PS2)

Metroid Prime (GC)

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell (Multi)- I only played this one a little (I'm not a big fan of stealth games), but I've only really ever heard good things about it, and it laid a foundation for several Splinter Cell games to come afterwards.

Thanks for reading, and as always feel free to comment/post. Stay tuned next week for the best games of the year 2003!

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Greatest Games of the Decade: The Year 2001

On to the year 2001! This was a year when the PS2 really was in its prime, as will be noted by all the honorable mentions. But the game of the year comes from Microsoft's new kid on the block (at the time), the Xbox:

Halo: Combat Evolved

Quick Facts:

Platform: Xbox, PC
Genre: First Person Shooter
Developer: Bungie Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date (North America): November 15, 2001 (Xbox)
Rating: M

Halo was the first video game I put a lot of time into on a console since I had owned my Super Nintendo. Also, I was never a big fan of shooters until I played this game. Now, they're arguably my favorite type of game. This game (and the following sequels) and the experiences I had playing it are a big part of that. Everything about this game was great. The gameplay, the graphics, the campaign, the soundtrack, and especially the multiplayer. This was pre-Xbox Live, so there was only split-screen and system link, but that was more than enough. I played this game non-stop my first semester of college. All the guys on the hall did. It was how we bonded. And the only reason we stopped playing it was because Halo 2 came out eventually. This game not only succeeded by itself, but also laid the foundation for one of the most successful (both critically and monetarily) game franchises of all time. And (though some people do not agree with this) many people feel that Halo: CE single-handily saved Microsoft's new Xbox from dying out right after it started due to the fact that the video market had been dominated by Nintendo and Sony (especially the PS2) for so long. I feel that even though the Xbox might not have died out right away without Halo, it's hard to picture the Xbox 360 being where it is now on the sales charts if no Halo games had ever been made. And it all started with Halo: CE.

Honorable Mentions:

As I'm obviously more partial towards Halo, and I never owned a PS2 up until about a year ago, many of the honorable mentions for 2001 are games I've never played, or played very little. But going through the list of big games that came out in 2001, it's easy to see that the PS2 was still the dominant console by far. The following games are games who have done so well and been so praised that even someone who hasn't extensively played them knows about their quality and the impact they've had on gaming over the years. So without futher ado, the Honorable Mentions:

Ico (PS2)

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (PS2)

Final Fantasy X (PS2)- I have played this game a fair amount, and though I wouldn't say it's one of my favorites (I'm not a big fan of JRPGs in general), I can understand why people love it. I'm not even close to finishing it, but the world and story are captivating so far, and I know that for the time the graphics and full voice work were unprecedented.

Devil May Cry (PS2)

Silent Hill 2 (PS2)- Apparently one of the scariest games ever (if not the scariest). I will have to play it someday to see if that is true.

That does it for 2001. Feel free to comment and/or list any of the games you remember loving from this year, and be sure to check back soon for the year 2002!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Review: The Conduit (Wii)

"Dear God, how many levels are left?" what I kept asking myself after about the first level of the game. This will be a brief review. I didn't like the game. I will admit I had very high expectations for the game based on what I saw and heard up to its release. I thought it could be a great game, or at least a good one. It's neither. I wouldn't even say it's a mediocre game. It's a bad game. A very bad game. Not the worst, but bad.

Quick Facts:

Platform: Wii
Genre: First Person Shooter (FPS)
Developer: High Voltage Software
Publisher: Sega
Release Date: June 23, 2009 (US)
Rating: T

I will give a little credit to the developers for at least trying to bring a "real" FPS to the Wii. The idea is good. The execution is just terrible. The only quality that gives this game a little redemption is the fully customizable controls and HUD, and just the sheer number of game options. More games should take a lesson from the Conduit in that department. In every other department though, the Conduit fails.

As I mentioned above, the amount of customization you have for your gameplay is unlike anything I've ever seen on a console shooter before. From mapping the controls to however you like them, to changing how you move and the very feel of the game, to placing items like your health bar and ammo count anywhere on the screen you like them, there were some really cool features they introduced. I will give credit where it is due for these things.

The rest of the game does not inspire happy feelings though. The graphics are sub-par even for the Wii, and I believe we were promised somewhere that the Conduit would have "the best graphics ever on the Wii" or something like that. The sound is below average and repetitive (even with Hercules). The story is uninteresting and incredibly cliche. From what I've heard, the ending is just as bad and obviously leaves it open for a sequel (God forbid). There aren't really even cutscenes (there may have been one at the end, I dont know, I'll admit I did not have the heart to finish the game. I got about 75% of the way through and finally gave up). The characters are bland and completely unexplored in the least by the "plot" of the game (if you can call it that). While the customization for the controls was good, even with all the options I could not find a setting where I really felt comfortable with the gameplay. The motion controls for the melee and grenade throwing really screw you up if you try to do them while aiming precisely (I know you can change those to other buttons, but even if you do, something still has to be assigned to the motion controls). The "puzzles" the game had to offer were insultingly simple and consist of rotating three circles to all match each other. Every time. Seriously.

In my experience, the multiplayer was pretty bad as well. It lagged a lot, and even just getting into a FFA deathmatch takes a five minute period to gather players- there's actually a timer that counts down from five minutes! That, coupled with the time it takes to get onto the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection, is just too long. I like to be able to hop into an online game pretty quickly if I want to, I dont want to wait seven minutes to get into a game that may last three or four minutes. Maybe part of that is Nintendo's fault and not High Voltage's (the developers of the game), but either way the Conduit is not going to be gaining any points for it.

All in all, do not buy this game. Maybe if you see it for $10 someday in a bargain bin it might be worth it, but there are tons of great shooters on other consoles. Even if you only own a Wii (which, if you like FPS's is unlikely), still do not buy this game. Go with the Metroid Prime Trilogy. I've heard High Voltage say they'd like to make a sequel. All I can say is that if they do, there is no way I would even consider buying it until after it comes out and I have read a lot of reviews. And they would all have to be really, really good reviews.

In Summary:

Pros: control/gameplay customization options.

Cons: graphics, sound, some gameplay elements, story, characters, voice acting (sorry Kevin Sorbo, I love all your other stuff though!), multiplayer, singleplayer, puzzles, motion controls... just about everything else.

FINAL SCORE: 2 out of 5.

Note: All reviews on this site are solely the subjective opinion of the author. If you disagree with my review please feel free to post in a polite manner and state your opinion. I welcome respectful discussion on my blog and would love to get feedback on my review and also read yours. Thanks!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Greatest Games of the Decade: The Year 2000

We start our countdown with the first year of this decade: 2000. Unfortunately, because this was so long ago (I was only 13 at the time) I dont have a great memory of which games came out this year. But upon thinking back (and checking older websites) there are a few games that stand out from this year. But first, let me award my Game of the Year for 2000:

Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn

Platform: PC
Genre: RPG
Developer: Bioware
Publisher: Black Isle Studios, Interplay

This game is actually my favorite game of all time, so it's not very surprising that it is also my favorite game that came out of the year 2000. The game is hard to explain to someone who's never played/heard of it (which is most of my friends), but it is the most expansive single player game I have ever played. It is also the best single player experience I have ever had. The way your decisions affect other characters and the world around you are way ahead of their time. Much newer games like Mass Effect and Fallout 3 (both of which I also love) are still introducing that to players (and BG2 was 9 years ago). The story is great, all the dialogue is excellent, and the characters that travel around with you (if you dont screw up your relationship with them) are hands down the best in any game I've ever played. They just have so much personality. The game world, while not technically an "open-world", is huge, well crafted, and a lot of fun to explore. There's so many things to do in this game in just one play-through, let alone the many play-throughs that it deserves. The graphics were good for its time, but you can imagine that 9 years later it's not that much to look at, but that was never the point of this game. If you like RPGs and are ever looking for something great to play on your computer, check this game out. Also, its expansion pack, The Throne of Bhaal, is an excellent addition and wraps the story up nicely. I think you can get both the game and the expansion for pretty cheap on Amazon now.

Honorable Mentions:

The Sims (PC)- This game was a lot of fun and started a whole chain of games that are still popular on the PC (The Sims 3 came out pretty recently and was met with great sales and good reviews). This game broke the chain of controlling a whole city and focused in on just one person or a few people, with lots of customization for both them and where they live.

Perfect Dark (N64)- While this game owes a lot to Goldeneye (N64) for its base, this game took everything Goldeneye did great and ran with it. The 4 player split-screen was great for its time, and this game featured both co-operative play and counter-operative play (something most games still dont offer). The weapons were crazy, the levels were good, and so was the story. Also, you could add bots to play against in this game, a nice feature which many games still lack. I put many hours into the killing of bots in deathmatch with my friends, and I didn't even own an N64. (Turtle sim was my favorite to kill.)

So that's all I have for the year 2000. If there are any glaring omissions (I'm sure there are many), or if you agree/disagree with my list, please feel free to comment. Like I said, it's hard for me to remember that far back, and I didn't play as many games then as I do now. Hope you enjoyed the first installment of the Greatest Games of the Decade, check back next week for the next installment: the year 2001!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Greatest Games of the Decade

SInce the end of this decade is quickly approaching, I have decided that between now and December I am going to count down my personal "Greatest Games of the Decade". I'll start with the year 2000, and from there go every year from 2000-2009. I will give out my award for that year's greatest game (in my opinion of course), and I'll also give some runner-ups/honorable mentions. For some years, I might even post my "Most Disappointing Game of the Year". Here are a few disclaimers:

-All of this is my opinion and thus subjective. You will obviously not agree with me for many of these, and that is fine. I welcome comments and feedback on my blog. Dont agree with my game of the year? Let me know. Did I leave some great games from that year out? Let me know! Feel free to list your game of the year for that year too.

- Along with what I just said, because I have not played every game ever created in the last 10 years, there are some great games which will undoubtedly get left off my list. If I have not played a game extensively, I do not feel adequate to rate it, and thus it will not appear on this list, so please keep that in mind. There are some great games I haven't played that I still know are great/influential games, so some of those may get honorable mentions, but if I have not extensively played a game I honestly cannot say it was my favorite game of the year. Please keep this in mind.

Anyway, hopefully this will be fun and insightful, and please feel free to post comments once the list gets started. Thanks!

COMING SOON: the year 2000!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dead Rising

I played Dead Rising for the first time in a very long time today, and I just have to say: this game may have been great when it first came out in 2006, but it hasn't aged very well.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Review: Shadow Complex (Xbox 360)


Shadow Complex is a download-only game available for Xbox 360 users via the Xbox Live Arcade. The game is a 2D action/platforming game that somewhat resembles old school classics like the Metroid and Castlevania series (hence the nickname some people are using "Metroidvania"). Available for only $15 (1200 Microsoft Points), the game offers good play time and a lot to do over the course of the game. The left analog stick moves your character while the right one aims where you are shooting/looking, so unlike older platformers of the genre you can actually move and shoot in two different directions.

The game is fairly fun, the gameplay works well and you unlock better weapons and upgrades as the game goes on which helped to keep me interested while I was playing (more on that a little later). The whole game takes place in a large, secret underground complex, and as you get more powerful and get new gadgets you unlock new areas you can explore. The platforming part is fun, and there are secrets all over the map (much like Batman: AA) that you can take the time to try to find, which adds some extra challenge and playability to the game. While you are playing the game (not the cut-scenes), the graphics are good and the sound is alright.

This game has its fair share of problems too. The story is garbage. The intro level is a waste, it has only a very minor connection to the actual game. The way the main plot starts is lame. The ending scene and the plot twist are terrible and stupid (yes, not just one or the other, but both terrible and stupid). While the level design as far as platforming and secrets go is good, the levels/areas get very repetitive and everywhere just starts to look the same. Navigating the complex can be hard and frustrating, even with the help of the map. They make you retrace your steps a lot near the end of the game to find things you couldn't get to before, and that part is even more frustrating and boring.

There are some other gripes too, besides the awful story and level/world presentation. The cut-scene graphics didn't look very good to me. Something was just off about the people and the way they spoke. There are several boss fights in the game, and only one or two of them stand out as being challenging or interesting at all. Most boss fights just have you lobbing grenades at the boss until his health meter is gone. Even the final boss fight was incredibly easy (although the idea was interesting). Sometimes I'd kill all the enemies in a room, and come back to it two minutes later (usually back-tracking to try to figure out where the freak to go) and all the enemies would be respawned in their exact original locations, like nothing had happened. That really helps to take the realism out of a game. The enemy AI was also lacking; among other things enemies would often just keep shooting at you from the same place even if you were in cover and they obviously couldn't hit you, not thinking to move or try anything else.

This game got a lot of hype at E3 and other places, and while it's not a bad game, it definitely didn't live up to it for me.

In Summary:

Pros: gameplay, good value (only $15), decent platforming/action, cool items, lots of secrets to collect.

Cons: bad story/characters/cut-scenes, weak boss fights, bad enemy AI/respawn, repetitive/frustrating level design (at times).

FINAL SCORE: 3 out of 5.

Note: All reviews on this site are solely the subjective opinion of the author. While I try to look at media objectively, this is pretty much impossible (everyone has bias whether they admit it or not), so if you disagree with my review please feel free to post in a polite manner and state your opinion. I welcome respectful discussion on my blog and would love to get feedback on my review and also read yours. Thanks!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Review: Batman: Arkham Asylum (Xbox 360)

Be the Bat

"Wow." That was all I had to say as I played through this game. Everything about this game meshed together perfectly: the action, the graphics, the characters, the voice acting, the environment, the gameplay, cut scenes... everything. It's no secret, I loved this game. I was skeptical at first, but after seeing the great scores on Metacritic I decided to go ahead and buy it, and I am not sorry. This is easily the best game of 2009 to this point. To drive home this point, I'll quote Todd Howard, the executive producer at Bethesda (of games such as Oblivion and Fallout 3) who, when referring to the game on the official Bethesda Blog said "Batman: AA. Best game ever?" The man knows good games, so yes, it's that good.

Enough gushing though. The game is very good, and like I said before doesn't have any big weaknesses. And what makes this game so great is not that just all the individual parts (like graphics, story, environment, etc.) of it are so good, but that they all are placed together perfectly. What the game aims to do it does perfectly, and it doesn't try to do too much where it would strecth itself thin. The game isn't incredibly long, but that is a good thing, as I would rather have a medium length game that is an amazing experience than have a game that starts to drag on too long and gets boring near the end just so the developers could say their game is 20+ hours long. There are things to do after you beat story mode too- there are lots of challenges you can do to test and perfect your skills, and all over the map there are collectables that unlock things you may have missed during story mode. I almost never go back through a game just to collect everything, but this is one of the rare cases where I did. Even that part was thoroughly enjoyable.

The only slight weakness of this game that comes to mind is the melee combat system. The "Freeflow" combat system allows you four different options to do during any combat: attack, stun, counter, and dodge (the X, B, Y, and A buttons on a 360 controller respectively). The more hits you get on different enemies in a row the higher your combo counter goes (x2, x3, x4, etc.) and once you reach a certain number you can unleash some of Batman's special attacks. This in theory sounds great, but there were lots of times where I would reach a high enough multiplier, only to press the buttons for a special attack and have nothing happen. This was really the only part of the game that frustrated me, and it is a minor gripe.

As stated before, the graphics and sound were amazing. The graphics are honestly some of the best I've ever seen on a 360 (or of any HD game). Even my wife, who watches me play video games a lot and doesn't usually stop and notice anything about what I'm doing said at one point "Wow, those graphics are amazing." The sound was top notch too, especcially the voice acting. Most of the voice actors were the same ones from the old Batman Animated Series (which I used to watch a lot as a kid), so it immedietly felt natural hearing them do the characters. Heath Ledger might be the best actor to ever play Joker, but Mark Hamill will (at least for me) always be the voice of any cartoon/CG Joker.

In Summary:

Pros: graphics, sound, story, gameplay... pretty much everything.

Cons: melee combat system can be annoying at times, sometimes the camera can get in the way a little bit.

FINAL SCORE: 5 out of 5.

Note: All reviews on this site are solely the subjective opinion of the author. While I try to look at media objectively, this is pretty much impossible (everyone has bias whether they admit it or not), so if you disagree with my review please feel free to post in a polite manner and state your opinion. I welcome respectful discussion on my blog and would love to get feedback on my review and also read yours. Thanks!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Review: Call of Duty: World at War (Xbox 360)

I'll kick of my first review ever by reviewing a game I've been playing a lot lately- Call of Duty: World at War. You'll notice that my reviews usually will be pretty short; I'll basically just say what I feel about the game and then give it my score. WaW (World at War) is a good shooter with the usual solid and responsive controls and the strategic, realistic (for a game) feel that has become the trademark of the Call of Duty series. It doesn't propel the series to a whole new level and make huge strides in gameplay, but it takes the solid CoD gameplay and adds a few things, and does a nice job where it tries. The new Nazi Zombies mode is amazing, playing that online with friends is definitely the best experience that came out of the game to me. The online match-making is fine, it follows the same formula as previous CoD games, and adds a few new things like dogs and tanks. The dogs are a nice touch, but I absolutely hate the tanks online. I feel like they're overpowered, and if a team manages to get both tanks on a map, forget it. The ability to do the campaign co-op (something I wish Modern Warfare 2 was going to include) is also a great thing that was missing from most of the previous games. The campaign itself was good, the levels were well-designed and challenging. It got a little long and repetitive in some parts, but as a whole it was a decent experience.

So while the game overall is good (maybe even great if you think about Nazi Zombies), what keeps it from being excellent (5-stars) is the fact that whether it's fair to this game or not, it's always going to be compared to Call of Duty 4. Yes, this game adds some stuff, which is nice, but it doesn't do anything ground-breaking enough to earn it that fifth star. Nazi-Zombies is somewhat ground-breaking and I have had a ton of fun with that, but in the end it is basically a mini-game that you cant even unlock until you beat the story (or buy the map packs), and when the game shipped it only included one map for that mode (though now there are 2 more if you buy both map packs for an extra $20). In fact, even though I mentioned mostly good things above, there were some things that weren't as good as CoD 4. The story, while decent, didn't evoke the same feelings (in a good way) as CoD 4, and especially the ending (even though the two endings are fairly similar). The whole story itself and the characters all seemed kind of bland (yes, even the one Jack Bauer voiced). They were given no back-stories, and everything about them was largely forgettable. I cant even remember their names now, and I beat the game under a week ago. While a shooter with gameplay this solid would usually be forgiven for that, (like I said before) this game will always be compared to CoD4, whether or not it's fair to this game. Also, I already mentioned that I didn't like the tanks in multiplayer, and the guns in the game as a whole weren't as good as CoD4's. Maybe they're supposed to be that way since they are all WWII guns while CoD4 is modern (technology has grown a lot in the last 60 years), but even so I felt like most of the guns in the game were throw-aways while there were maybe 3 or 4 that I actually liked using and felt effective with.

As for the graphics and sound, they were both great. No complaints there.

In Summary:

Pros: NAZI ZOMBIES!!!, some new add-ons to matchmaking, gameplay/controls, graphics, audio.

Cons: weak story/characters, tanks in matchmaking, many of the guns in the game are worthless.

FINAL SCORE: 4 out of 5.

Note: All reviews on this site are solely the subjective opinion of the author. While I try to look at media objectively, this is pretty much impossible (everyone has bias whether they admit it or not), so if you disagree with my review please feel free to post in a polite manner and state your opinion. I welcome respectful discussion on my blog and would love to get feedback on my review and also read yours. Thanks!


I've decided that from now on I'm going to use this blog mainly for the purpose of reviewing different types of media that I experience. This could be anything, but will mostly consist of video games, movies, television shows, books, and maybe other forms of electronics occasionally. I dont know how often I'll actually want to sit down and write a review of something, but that seems like the best use I can find for this blog right now. I will also still rant about stuff once in a while if I feel the need.

For my reviews, I'm going to use a very basic 5 star system (much like the show X-Play does). 5 out 5 stars is basically perfect (or very close), while 1 out of 5 stars is a complete failure. I wont usually give half-stars, but I do reserve the right to do it in rare circumstances where something really does fall directly between two categories. For a bit more detailed description of my rating system, I'm going to cut and paste a section from the Wikipedia site of X-Play where they describe X-Play's rating system (source:

The video game reviews on X-Play use a five-point rating scale, based on such factors as graphics, sound, gameplay, and playability(i.e. replay value). On X-Play's original TechTV homepage,[10] the ratings system was broken down in the following way:

  • 1 - Hated it. Do not buy this game. Not even worth the bargain bin. Run from it. Escape!! Escape!!
  • 2 - Alright. These games are fun, with some good points, but nothing special. There's definitely a few specific things holding this game back. Wait until the price comes down or pick it up as [a] renter to check out some of the things it does right.
  • 3 - Good. Fun to play, pretty solid titles, with a few minor flaws. Most games will probably fall into this category. They're the games that if you like the genre, or liked other similar titles, you might consider giving it a good look. Otherwise, you might not be into it.
  • 4 - Very good. Games that are at the top of all our lists, but are missing that strange intangible aura of perfection, and unfortunately that's keeping them from getting in the realm of the almighty five.
  • 5 - Near perfect/perfect. If you're a true player, these games will undoubtedly be in your collection, or at the very least you'll have played them until the cartridges and CDs melted. If a game gets a 5, and you like the genre, you should buy.

In a 2007 episode billed as a "primer on our scoring system",[11] Adam and Morgan further elaborated on their ratings scale:

  • A score of 1 is a game that "has to produce true crappiness, [through] the full cooperation of an entire development team - level designers taking off early to attend their children's soccer games, animators getting so high during their lunchbreak that they can't operate their mouse, and of course money hungry execs who will release anything if they can dupe kids into begging their moms for it."
Example Given: 50 Cent: Bulletproof
  • A score of 2 "is such a difficult score to give, because it requires a game that fundamentally fails, but has a barely redeeming charm which makes it untenable to give a 1; it's that Suddenly Susan cocktail of technical competence floated atop a pile of dreck."
Example Given: Genji: Days of the Blade
  • There are different levels to a score of 3 - "there's the 3 that's a mix of very good and very bad elements (like Blood Will Tell) or 3's that have a great concept that's poorly executed (like Railroads!), and then there's those 3's that are just churned out because they know people will buy them even though there's nothing original in it (like every FIFA game ever)."
Example Given: Sid Meier's Railroads!
  • "There are really two kinds of games that get 4's regularly: these are great games with significant problems (like Dead Rising) and games that are amazing but just aren't suited for everyone (the Warhammer: Dark Crusade expansion or any of the Sims expansions are good examples)."
Example Given: Dead Rising
  • Titles that earn a perfect 5 out of 5 are "those magnificent games which, whatever minor flaws they may have, call out to us and say, 'Buy me, you must buy me' ... "
Example Given: Ōkami

During this episode, the hosts also explained why they use a 5-point ratings system, rather than a 10- or even 100-point scale:

Morgan: Our system is better because it recognizes that scores are broad generalizations.

Adam: For example, a popular web site gave Mobile Suit Gundam: Crossfire a score of 3.0 out of 10. They gave Torino 2006 a 3.9. What is the difference?

Morgan: Both games suck, all the score is gonna be able to communicate to you is that the game is bad. If you want more nuance on the suckage, you have to actually go and read the review. See, in a 10-point scale, everything under 5 just means 'this game ain't worth buying', so there's no real difference.

Adam: And there's no real nuance to a score difference of two- or three-tenths of a point. Our scores at least give sweeping generalizations for you to use as a guide.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

DLC and Killian's Red

A quick intro for people who dont know: DLC is short for downloadable content, and is a term mainly used for video game add-ons. You download this DLC usually through whichever console you have's online service (whether it be for Xbox 360, PS3, or PC) and it adds something new to your game, like new levels, characters to play as, maps, weapons, etc. It varies for each game. You also have to pay extra for this new content, and the prices vary from game to game, but they usually fall into the range of around $10 each (once in a while something is free, but it's rare). So for example, there's DLC for games like Gears of War 2 and Halo 3 which consist of new maps for their multiplayer modes. You cannot play these maps unless you buy the extra content. For games like The Force Unleashed, Fable 2, and Fallout 3 (who do not have multiplayer modes, and yes I'm purposely not counting Fable 2's so-called "multiplayer"), there is DLC that adds new missions or quests the the story that you can play through even if you already beat the game.

So, with that out of the way, here are my personal feelings on DLC. I like it, and I think it's a good thing for games and most gamers. Assuming you only buy DLC for games you like (why would you pay for an add-on to a game you hated?), it allows you to play that game longer, and gives games more replayability. But I also think that often we are overcharged for it. Take for example Halo 3's new "Mythic Map Pack," three maps for $10 (800 MS points). Three. Maps. To quote Gob: "COME ON!" (the Halo 3 map pack dropping today is what inspired this rant... I mean post). The entire game of Halo 3 only cost $60 when it came out, and included several multiplayer maps, a whole single player campaign, and, oh yeah, the whole game design which the DLC are based off of itself. It just seems to me that 3 new maps (one of which is only useful if you like to build maps yourself, which I dont) should cost 1/6 of what the original game itself did. That being said, I bent over and took one from Microsoft/Bungie today, as I did in fact spend the $10 to buy the maps. But I am not happy about it. Same thing with Gears of War 2 (which I have not purchased any DLC from)- they have a couple of map packs out that have four maps each and also cost $10 each. For four maps each, that's still a little expensive for my blood.

Also, the Resident Evil 5 DLC got me a little upset, but not because of the price, but because it really should have shipped with the game or have been free. The versus mode is fun, and it was only $5 (400 MS points), but you could tell that the mode was already programmed into the game (the download was less that 2MB and the item in the menu for "Versus" was already there, but with "???????" until you buy the DLC), and they basically made you spend $5 to unlock it. I hope this doesn't develop into a trend where developers release new games with certain modes, maps, characters, weapons, etc. already built into the game at release, but then just make you pay extra to unlock them online.

While most of this post has been negative, I would like to say some good things for a moment. Although I still thought the price was too high, I did really enjoy Fallout 3's DLC "The Pitt" (Operation Anchorage was okay, but the only really good thing that came out of that was the scoped Gauss Cannon). Also, I would like to take a moment and praise Valve, whose upcoming DLC for Left 4 Dead is going to be free. The DLC will add a survival mode where players see how long they can last against wave after wave of zombies (think horde mode from GOW2), and will unlock the other two maps from campaign mode to be used in versus mode (which is something that probably should have been released with the game, but that is why I assume Valve is making it free). Thanks Valve! I hope other developers take note of this a realize that if you're not releasing something actually new for a game, you really shouldn't charge for it.

Lastly, for anyone who likes beer and hasn't tried George Killian's Irish Red, I would really recommend it (especially if you like ales). I had it once a long time ago, but I couldn't really remember what is was like and if I liked it or not, so I went and got some on a whim yesterday. Delicious.

P.S. I didn't feel like spell checking this after I wrote it all, so sorry for any typos/grammatical errors. If you find any, feel free to point them out in the comments and I will fix them.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Check out this website

Check out this website for some pretty cool random stuff. It's run by a friend of mine. There's some free music to download.