Fallout 3

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I better post this article before it loses complete relevance. I am just too busy playing Fallout 3 to tend to my website. This review turned into an Oblivion/Fallout 3 comparison at some point. Anyway, don’t get me wrong; I loved Oblivion, but it is far from a perfect or even near perfect game. It is also a natural comparison, being from the developer, being roughly similar and using the same graphical engine.

Fallout 3 uses a hybrid real time/turn based combat system called V.A.T.S.: V.A.T.S. pauses combat allowing you to queue up attacks to specific body parts. You have a certain amount of Action Points (AP) to use and different weapons/parts cost a different amount of AP per attack. When combat resumes, your actions are played out in a cinematic manner (slow motion head explosions!). Attacking different body parts also reaps different benefits. For example: Crippling a target’s leg will reduce movement speed and crippling their shooting arm will reduce accuracy.

Real time combat is fast and harsh. In fact, it feels similar to that of Oblivion’s, but with more ranged options added in. For example, it is very hard to shoot accurately from a distance in real time in comparison to your standard FPS. The bias is definitely towards V.A.T.S. combat, which is just fine with me because VATS is supremely fun. From skimming the previews, I had originally expected it to be mostly a novelty. There’s a lot more strategy to it than I had expected.

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There is a stealth element to Fallout 3, but it really isn’t a stealth game. For example, I’m not sure there are too many (if any) combat based missions than can be completed on stealth alone. Similarly, though you can ignore V.A.T.S. and approach combat like a straight up shooter, I’m not sure I would recommend it.

Fallout 3 has a straight-up experience based levelling system. You obtain experience from tasks such as completing quests and killing things. When you get a certain amount of experience, you level up. Upon leveling, you are able to assign skill points into any of 13 skills (such as Speech, Melee, etc). Leveling also allows you to choose a “Perk.” Perks range from practical (boosting damage and stats) to purely for fun (Bloody Mess).

Even though Fallout 3 is running off of Oblivion’s somewhat dated graphical engine, it looks great. I love the atmosphere, the world detail and the scope of things, it really draws you in. Your first view of the wasteland as you first exit the vault is particularly impressive. The character animations and facial expressions though could have used some polish to say the least, they look awkward and wooden.

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The world map feels more condensed in comparison to Oblivion’s. It’s quite a bit smaller, but there’s much more to do. As I play, I find myself doing a lot of walking and exploring because it doesn’t feel tedious; There aren’t ginormous stretches of nothingness. The game world is littered with the shells of old buildings, towns, old factories, ruined houses and what have you.

I don’t want to discuss the main plot too much because I don’t want to spoil it. But so far, I am really liking the story, it’s interesting and well paced. It’s also, at least so far, seems to be free of “Oblivion Gate” moments. There also aren’t as many quests as Oblivion, but each one is quite a bit longer.

Overall, it seems that Bethesda does know how to listen. Many of the gaping problems present in Oblivion were fixed in Fallout 3: They dumped the dumb skill/leveling system, made the world map not boring, and hired more than 3 voice actors. It still though could have used more polish, the engine quirks are still present (glitchy physics, awkward animations, pop-in).

TL;DR: It’s fun, buy it as long as you have time to suck away entire evenings at the computer.

WipEout HD

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I have had more of a chance to play WipEout HD this weekend between Mega Man 9 sessions (and being sick, not feeling like going outside). WipEout HD is a gorgeous futuristic racing game that runs at a full 1080p and 60fps frame rate (most HD games if I recall correctly, run at 720p and 30fps). Well mostly 1080p, in order to keep a constant frame rate, the game dynamically scales the resolution, dropping it when necessary; It’s really an ingenious solution. Since the game moves so fast, the scaling isn’t noticeable by the human eye. It runs buttery smooth.

From what I understand, the tracks, vehicles and music are remastered selections from the PSP WipEout games. For $20 you get eight tracks (sixteen if you count the reverse tracks), a campaign, five modes and local split screen multiplayer and online play. Eight tracks may not seem like much, but between the campaign, difficulty, and what not, I don’t think anyone is going to get bored any time soon.

Of the five modes, Single Race, Tournament, Time Trial and Speed lap are pretty self explanatory per any racing game ever created. I haven’t ever seen zone mode before, it’s an endurance test. The goal is to stay alive as your ship continuously accelerates. I haven’t played through all eight of the single player campaign stages, but so far, the difficulty curve seems to be fairly smooth and balanced (so far. I hear that it gets fairly hard towards the end of the campaign).

The music is nice if you like upbeat techno and electronic music (what else would you race a futuristic racing game too?) If you don’t no big deal: WipEout HD is one of the only games on the PS3 at the moment that supports the use of custom soundtracks. So rock out and race to Vanilla Ice if you wish. There is also a photo mode, allowing you to take and edit screenshots of anything and thenretrieve them off of the PS3 photo menu.

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There’s a feature enabled by default in WipEout HD called pilot assist. What it does is prevent you from constantly brushing up against the track walls (try turning it off, the game becomes like, 100x harder). It does though, drop your speed slightly (5% is what I heard) when it kicks in. So in other words, it theoretically makes the track narrower. Veterans might want to turn it off. Otherwise, it’s a very much welcome feature to newbies like myself.

Though WipEout HD is technically a derivative game since I guess there’s not a whole lot that’s brand spanking new if you are a fan of the PSP games. Everything though is so incredibly polished. I do mean everything; it looks great, plays great, and is filled with fun little things. It is also very much a traditional racing game. So, if you don’t generally dig racing games, WipEout might not do it for you. Otherwise, it’s well worth the $20.

Mega Man 9

It has been so long since I have played a game that was both legitimately difficult and fun. You see, I used to be good at Mega Man; there was a point, years ago in my childhood, where I could probably clear all of Mega Man 2 and 3 without dying, or at the very least dying less than 5 times.

This is a hard game, you will die. You will die and have to restart stages over and over again. Often. In fact, I spent about two hours re-attuning myself to this type of gaming environment. I swear that I died about 30 times before I got to the half-way point of any stage. Death after death after death, usually at the exact same enemy and spot. In any other game I would have just said, “fuck it” and gave up but not Mega Man. In fact, the difficulty is what makes it great. It is the well crafted kind of difficulty that drives you to play obsessively.

Mega Man 9 is patterned after Mega Man 2, in that there is no Mega Buster and no slide. Eliminating the Mega Buster was a wise choice in my opinion; it cheapened the bosses and the boss weapons. I miss the slide though, It was fun to play with. The gameplay feels exactly the same. I was a little worried that something might end up feeling off, being on a different system with a different controller and all. But no: the timing and the gameplay is exactly the same as the original NES games.

Mega Man 9 has an excellent presentation. Yes, the graphics are way outdated, I don’t think I need to tell anyone that, but it is visually appealing. One of the aspects that I have always loved about the Mega Man series was its graphical design and Capcom’s use of the Nintendo Entertainment System’s limited color pallet. Everything is vivid.

Graphically, it is also very clean. The level backgrounds for example are colorful and detailed without being a distraction. All of the sprites and important foreground elements are well contrasted and “pop out.” You know where to jump, the stairs don’t blend in with the background like I swear, half of all retro games. It’s getting there without dying that is the problem.

Oh, did I mention the soundtrack? It’s awesome. Not quite at Mega Man 2’s level, which is the high bar for 8-bit sound tracks in my opinion, but it’s damn close. If you in any way enjoy platformers, Mega Man, or fun games, buy this now. Now.

I Know What I’m Doing Tonight…

Holy banana bread, look what they’ve done. Now I am never going to finish my half-finished stack of games, with today’s PSN updates and all. Best PlayStation Store update week ever; my credit card is rearing ready to purchase Mega Man 9 and WipEout HD as soon as I get home. Why must all games be released in the Fall? Why can’t some of these wait until Spring or Summer when there is virtually nothing interesting to play?

QQ. Anyway, back to my list of half-finished games. Shadow of the Colossus is a fascinating, awesome, and not that lengthy of a game. So, shame the fuck on me for letting it rot for a month and a half. Being honest though? The controls and the camera frustrate me greatly. I’m not sure that I generally dig monster-of-the-week games either, but I will finish it!

Resistance Fall of Man and Neverwinter Nights are victims of WoW distractions. I might pick Resistance up again this weekend; I am around 60% through? I haven’t finished Grand Theft Auto IV either, but that’s more of a long term project. I pick it up when I am in the mood, do shit, play a few missions, and then set it down again.

I really do wish that WipEout had a demo though. But eh, it’s $20.

Playing & Watching: September 2nd

Game Tabs is my favorite website at the moment; It’s a huge resource for video game guitar tablature. I’ll make a, “photo blog” post either tonight or later this week. This will probably a semi-regular occurence depending on when I feel like retrieving the pictures off of my phone. I grabbed some new gear (WoW) this weekend and did an audit of my retribution pieces. I should probably post about that tomorrow.

I’m not playing a whole lot video game wise (God forbid I do other things with my free time :P). I did though, resurrect Neverwinter Nights this weekend as mentioned in a previous post. Actually, I ended up buying it at Fry’s because who the hell knows where my other CDs went (probably in a box somewhere from my college apartment). Anyway, the Diamond Edition is cheap and comes with the expansion packs, which I’ve never played. So it’s all good.

If you have an Nvidia video card and NWN is running at a shit framerate no matter what the video settings are, upgrade to the latest forceware drivers, that fixed it for me. NWN just seems to be one of those games that has a tendency to do weird shit when you frequently tab in-and-out of it. I guess I can run it in windowed mode. Why can all games have maximized windowed mode?

I lost interest in Heroes around a third of the way through the second season and stopped watching. The third season, which looks interesting, starts up later this months. I have a couple of weeks to catch up on what i missed. I still haven’t finished the last season of Stargate SG-1 or the two DVD movies. I should just go to Costco, their DVD boxed sets cost like, $19 instead of being $35 to $50.

Oh bonus! Jonathan Coulton and Felicia Day (Penny from Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog) singing “Still Alive” at PAX this weekend (video is shown below the cut):

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfyeJ6CX0vI]

The Guardian Legend

A retro review! I loved this game as a child even though I am almost certain that no one else has played or heard of it. You can probably thank the horrid box art for its obscurity (US box vs Japanese box)…but anyway, the story in a nutshell: You are Alyssa guardian of Earth, a robot chick in a bikini who happens to possess the ability to transform into a spaceship. The deathst…err an alien world by the name of Naju is heading straight for Earth and it is up to you to destroy the 10 seals, needed to activate the self-destruct mechanism.

The Guardian Legend is divided into two sections: The labyrinth, a vertical scrolling shoot-em-up and the corridors, an overhead action/adventure type area. As you explore the labyrinth you will come across the corridors. When you enter one, Alyssa transforms into a spaceship and the game goes into shmup mode. Naju itself is divided into five different zones: water, biological, crystal, organic and wasteland. The Guardian Legend is one of the earliest examples of a multi-genre game.

Labyrinth stageThe labyrinth sections are very similar to The Legend in Zelda. It’s an overhead map with a grid based zoning system. The gameplay is exploration based: Every time a corridor bosses is beaten, you receive a key that can be used to unlock various areas on the map. You must search for the next corridor to destroy the next seal.

The corridor sections look and feel very similar to Zanac, which makes sense considering that it was made two years earlier by the same company, Compile. I guess in a sense, The Guardian Legend is its spiritual successor. There are a total of 21 corridors in the game, though only 1 through 10 and 21 are required. The rest are optional for the sake of point/powerup farming and completionism.

The graphics are decent. I wouldn’t say that they are as stylish as say, Mario 3 or Battletoads, but the sprites are nice looking, large and well animated (the gunship transformation in particular). Each zone has a distinct look appropriate to its theme. The biological area for example, is filled with fauna in plant life set against a green background, whereas the organic zones have creepy vein/flesh looking things. The corridors are colorful and detailed. The labyrinth areas could have used more detail. there are many rooms that seem to be little more than a couple of walls and a floor.

There are collectible power chips available throughout the game. You can obtain them from defeating enemies, they are also just sort of scattered around. The chips serve several purposes: to use as currency, to upgrade existing weapons, to increase your lifebar, and as ammunition for the powerful secondary weapons. Speaking of which, there are a total of 13 weapons available in the game, 11 of which can be powered up. You have eve

Music:

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKvXQwwmoBY]

 

Gameplay:

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_30OFZs0as]

 

like most NES games The Guardian legend uses a password system to save progress. I know that this gripe isn’t relevant anymore, given that every plays it on an emulator but it was a pain in the ass way back in the day. Geeze, they are the worst passwords. Ever. This is an example that will get you to level 9:

073z !lN4 dLaZ g1qK jfb0 Xpur Y5e7 bD?B

Back on track: It’s a great game. Very interesting concept, plays well, great music, great appearance. If you are into older titles, pick this one up if you can find it somewhere.

Multi-Tasking in Games

I really liked this article because it’s true and brings up a gaming element that is often overlooked. They’re right, of any “modern” game that I’ve played (and remember…), World ofWarcraft is alt-tabbing perfection, it tasks in and out instantaneously.

One of the PC’s greatest strengths is its versatility. It’s a shame that more games don’t multi-task well. Many titles will tab out quickly but not many will tab back in without lagging, crashing or bugging out. All source games as mentioned in the article take forever to get back into. The Sims 2 takes a good 15 to 30 seconds to load back into at full screen. To circumvent the lag, I play it in windowed mode. The catch is that you can only play it at a maximum resolution of 800×600 windowed, what the fuck is that?

I love the “maximized windowing” feature in WoW, I wish all games had that. It offers every single advantage of running a game in windowed mode but with no borders and no taskbar. It will maximize to fill the entire screen. The options in WoW are also easily accessible. No configuration file editing and no hidden commands.

Also, I like it when games (mostly strategy games) allow you to choose between edge scrolling and click dragging. The reason being that I have a dual monitor setup. If I run a game in windowed mode (which Iusually will), edge scrolling doesn’t work very because the mouse doesn’t lock into the game window.

Initial Impression: Resistance Fall of Man

Resistance: Fall of Man, one of the Playstation 3 launch titles was inducted into the Greatest Hits line a couple of weeks ago. Setting wise, it feels like a cross between Call of Duty and the combine sections of Half-Life 2 with a standard Halo-ish console shooter feel. You play as Nathan Hale, a US solider who I swear looks like Keith Malley from Keith and the Girl…

Criticism: The cut scenes are awkward because they occur fairly often during odd spots and don’t blend very well with the gameplay. The game will blur out, a bit of dialogue with a slide show of pictuers will occur and then the game will fade back in, sometimes in the middle of a zone. Awkward. The plot, though engaging feels derivative. The AI (at least on normal difficulty) is semi-retarded…

Good things: It’s pretty, it’s high definition, and the areas are visually appealing. The checkpoints are well spaced and the difficulty curve so far at least, is smooth. It’s well paced and the plot, the maybe not incredibly original feeling is still very interesting and works well with the game’s atmosphere. The controls are also easy to learn. If you are comfortable with console shooters you should be able to pick this up with no problem

Verdict so far: It’s fun. I wouldn’t give it a perfect 10, but I like it and will probably purchase Resistance 2 whenever it comes out. If you have a Playstation 3, this is worth picking up because it’s a good console shooter. But, if you are looking for a groundbreaking plot with innovative gameplay, keep looking.

Save Points

Early console games either used a password based saving system or none at all. Later on, certain games (Final Fantasy for example) had a small battery, allowing game data to be saved aboard the cartridge’s RAM. Save points were used because at the time, it wasn’t possible to allow on-the-fly saving on most console games because of the game state being too complex or large for the game’s memory/card/whatever. This mechanic is a perfect example of something created through technological limitation, carrying through games today.

It really though, depends on the game’s design and how the save points are used. Not all save point based games are bad. Shadow of the Colossus for example has save points that are hard to find, but it doesn’t matter because it isn’t a character progression or a grind based game (if you can’t find one nothing is really lost). It also automatically asks you to save after downing each colossus; Should you lose a colossus battle, you will be reloaded ot the start of the fight.

The Metal Gear Solid series uses a zone based saving system. You are permitted to save at any point, but the game will reload your progress to the beginning of whatever area you are in. You will lose any weapons that you have acquired and any progress made, but the zones are small enough so that it does not matter much.

Final Fantasy XII on the other hand has huge dungeons and zones with very few save points. The lack of save points is frustrated because it’s a grind based game that artificially increases it’s difficulty by forcing you to level grind in areas with very few saves. Grinding for a while and not being able to save sucks.

Ideally, I like being able to save anywhere at will (quicksaves <3). At minimum, I would like the ability to save upon entering a new zone. Additionally, when a boss fight is lost, it’s nice when a game automatically loads to the start of the fight, so that time isn’t lost repeatedly having to run back and reshuffle spells.

It might be my style of gameplay though: I like creepsaving, partially out of paranoia that the power will go out or a situation will arouse in which I will have to leave. Also because I like to experiment. It’s nice being able to quicksave before I punch a guard in the face to see what happens.

 I don’t ask that all games allow on-the-fly saving, just they the difficulty level isn’t artificially increased by reducing where you are allowed to save. There are many many ways to punish a player, but I don’t like being punished by losing an hour of progress for having to attend to real life.

Keiya’s Favorite Game Endings

SPOILER ALERT! An article about game endings naturally spoils the endings to games. I know that there are more that should be mentioned, but there are quite a few games that I have never played, finished, or just don’t remember enough of.

  • I like endings that to some wrap the story up to some extent.
  • I like endings that rren’t complete brain fucks (I love you like my own flesh and blood FFVII, but your ending was….yeah)
  • I like endings that are a culmination of these 3 qualities: The game’s story, context, and what the player has experienced.
  • Game endings don’t always have to be happy and cheery.
  • Game endings don’t always have to be depressing esoteric shitfests (anime ending syndrome).
  • I like game endings with epic music. Of the favorites listed below, I vividly remember Mega Man 3, Final Fantasy VIII, and Portal because of the music. Epic epic music.


Mega Man 3
This ending touched me as a young child. This is significant because I swear that most of all NES endings consisted of nothing more than a spash screen with “THE END” written in coloful letters. Protoman redeems himself in the end, saving his brother from the debris, Mega Man gazes at Proto Man’s sillouete in the sky…beautiful! Not to mention the music, the music is delicious.

Final Fantasy VIII
Final Fantasy VIII is the red-headed runt stepchild of the Square universe. But, despite whatever you may feel about the game the ending is awesome. It’s my favorite Final Fantasy ending by a huge margin. It wrapped up the story with a touching 15 minute FMV sequence. The orchestrated version of Eyes on Me and the Final Fantasy theme were perfect.

Silent Hill 2
This game has no heroes. People don’t get sent to Silent Hill because they were being good… James is a sack of shit who murders his dying wife, not out of mercy, but out of his own selfishness. I know that there’s a happy ending, but the In Water ending feels most canon to the story. A tragic yet appropriate end to one of the finest game stories ever told. Oh: and some of the other ones are just fucking funny (YouTube the dog and alien ending).

Metal Gear Solid 3
A poignant ending that sets up Big Boss as a villain. Big Boss saluting The Boss’ grave as a single tear rolls down his cheek, so sad OMG. Snake succeeds in his mission and is rewarded with medals/titles despite the fact that he has, effectively, lost everything. You are forced as a player to execute The Boss, who has been a mentor and a mother figure to snake for over a decade. Despite her vision and her sacrifice, she dies a traitor in the eyes of both the US and Soviet Union, for nothing. A true patriot.

Portal
Oh my God. I don’t think a more perfect ending exists. Anywhere in any media genre. I mean, that song...There’s no reason why any of you should not have played Portal.

Metal Gear Solid 4
I am still fawning over this game and cannot give a fair opinion without gushing fangirl goodness. The microwave corridor…the Ocelot fight depicting all four games…you don’t know how hard I mashed the triangle button in the corridor. I am a huge sucker for cheesy wedding endings so screw all of you who didn’t enjoy it! I would be lying if I said that I didn’t tear up when Otacon says, “Snake…had a hard life” OMG so sad ;_;. Big Boss CQC’s Old Snake into a hug, aknowledging him as a son.

Other special moments
Additional fond memories.

  • Call of Duty 4: The slow-motion sequence right before the ending as Captain Price, with his dying breath slides his gun over to you. The playable epilogue was also awesome.
  • Metal Gear Solid 1: The alternate ending when Snake and Otacon ride off into the Alaskan sunset gay cowboy style on a snowmobile (and yes, I submitted to the torture and didn’t get the Meryl ending either *sadpanda*).
  • Final Fantasy VIj (FFIII US): The music. The character vignettes. I really love the ending music. My second favorite Final Fantasy ending.
  • Metroid: The good ending that is. The original video game surprise ending!
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: The actual ending was mediocre but the events leading up to it were epicly strange. The Arsenal Gear freakouts lmao: “I need scissors! 61!”
  • The Half-Life series: I know how most everybody feels about cliffhangers, particularly those that setup sequels, but these are well done. A cliffhanger shouldn’t feel like the developers chopped the story in half at some arbitrary point. It should, to some extent, wrap up the current story while leaving you in suspense. Though possibly a bit underwhelming, the HL endings do this well.
  • The Sims 2: Well not really, but indoor barbequeing is always a good way to end a sim family.