Wednesday, December 30, 2009

God Damn Newtypes

Despite having picked up Modern Warfare 2, most of my time has been spent with Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 (because I don't do multi-player).

To make my co-contributor to this blog feel vindicated, there is no Japanese voice option in DWG2 (that's what I'm calling it from here on), not that I really mind. I've been developing a lot more respect for Brad Swaille lately, and this game sees the triumphal return of Michael Kopsa to the role of Char Aznable. Char's Japanese voice actor has a bad habit of not having any vocal inflection (which annoyed the Hell out of me in Utawarerumono), and the english VA they got from Blue Water followed in his footsteps.

The game doesn't so much build on the house of the original Dynasty Warriors: Gundam, instead it burns the house down to the foundation and re-uses the foundation. There were two sets of fans clamoring for various changes. One group wanted more Gundam SEED, and another wanted Char's Counterattack (there was a group that wanted Gundam Deathscythe to show up, but they were ignored for writing slash fics about Duo and Heero), both groups got what they wanted. DWG2's "Official" mode is massive compared to the original game, despite actually having fewer characters. While Scirocco and Haman got cut from Official mode, the remaining characters get a minimum of five missions, most getting seven or eight, and Char and Amuro both get a 2-3 mission CCA bonus scenario.

"Original" mode got cut in favor of Mission mode, which is... bigger. I do sorta miss Original mode, since the story they wrote for it was this fanfic thing where it felt like they put a bunch of Gundam nerds in a room and told them to come up with ideas, but everything they said had to be preceded by "wouldn't it be cool if...". That's how we got such interesting set-ups as: Elpeo Puru becoming a Domon Kasshu cheerleader, shonen cliche Judau Ashta apprenticing himself to space dictator Paptimus Scirocco, Heero Yuy getting suckered into training under Master Asia, and pacifist cross dresser Loran Cehack getting into a relationship with genocidal schizophrenic Puru Two. I wanted to see how that all panned out, but it was cut. Not that the story missions in DWG2 don't do some odd crossovers. In Kira Yamato's story, Jerid Messa seems to take personal offense at Lacus Clyne for some reason, and Kira and Athrun steal the Gryps 2 colony laser from both the Titans and Char's Neo Zeon. If you're not a Gundam fan then those people and factions are not even words but jumbles of letters. If you are a Gundam fan then you can see the continuity snarl in all that. And those are just the scripted encounters, most of the enemy aces you face off against are randomized.

Which gets into the whole relationship thing. As you shoot down pilots they tend to dislike you, while fighting along side them makes them like you more. Barring story issues, of course. The pilot randomization seemed to be under the impression that Kira and Lacus wanted to murder each other, but Lacus' friendship with Kira never dropped out of the top tier. This comes into play as you get invited to join various Gundam factions, such as Zeon, Axis, Neo Zeon, the Earth Federation, the AEUG, and Diana Counter. To get in, pilots for those factions have to like you (you can also get Nanai Miguel to "mess around with your egg salad", to quote BioShock). If you're worried about the randomization thing forcing you to fight pilots you wanted to befriend, there are also "Friendship" missions that exist solely to let you farm relationship points with pilots who don't like you.

I enjoyed the original game, and my complaints about the sequel are few and far between. First off, the mobile armor fights need some serious balancing. Some of the mobile armors have attacks that can cover a whole field in fire, and they sometimes spam that. Also, it's nice that the camera locks on to a mobile armor whenever one shows up to fight you, but it's not so helpful when Quess and the Alpha Azieru launches funnels that shoot you whenever you try to do anything. You can shoot down the funnels, but with the camera fixed on the mobile armor that's easier said than done. Then there's the learning curve. It's not especially bad, but it's especially noticeable for a Dynasty Warriors game. Despite all the changes between Dynasty Warriors 5 and Dynasty Warriors: Gundam, DWG was still a pick-up-and-play experience for me. But the changes between DWG and DWG2 had me combing the manual for a half hour before playing. The learning curve isn't bad, it's just shocking that one even exists. And, of course, DWG2 retains the original game's problem of making you keep allies alive despite said allies having the survival instincts of lemmings.

If you liked the original game, you'll like the sequel. If you were on the fence about the first game, the improvements and added depth of this one really make it worth your while. If you've never seen or heard of either Dynasty Warriors or Gundam, it might make an interesting rental. It's certainly a treat for the eyes after all that "real is brown" that permeates games lately, Gundam has the Amazing Techni-Color Battlefield. If you didn't like the first game, though, the core complaints you probably had weren't fixed here. Of course it's starting to feel more like old school Dynasty Warriors when some random grunt interrupts your combo, leaving you vulnerable for an officer/ace pilot to ram a musou attack down your throat. Thanks for that consideration, guys.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Curse You, Stupid-Cheap-Hard Game!

I was cheating at video games since I can remember. Hell, I was the first kid in my county to get a Game Genie for the NES. Just about everyone has pointed out that games have gotten easier, arguably to make them more accessible to people who aren't going to devote 5 hours, 2 liters of Mountain Dew, and a pound of marijuana to beating them. But no one has pointed out that cheat codes are dying out. The few games that have cheats don't even have the invincibility thing going anymore. Modern Warfare had infinite ammo, and Red Faction: Guerrilla just gave you increased damage resistance rather than total immunity. And all of these cheats had to be earned. I think that is the measure of difficulty in gaming, we don't get cheats anymore. The games are easy enough that we don't need them. How many of you, back in the old days, used to beat a game out of spite? The game wasn't good and you stopped having fun days ago, but turning off the console and walking away somehow meant that the game had "won", and by God you weren't going to give that smug little bastard the satisfaction. On a vaguely related note, Battletoads was a hard enough game that I can honestly brag that I beat it, even with a Game Genie. Yeah, the game was so hard that beating it WITH cheats was considered an accomplishment. Beating it without cheats was just a legend. I've seen it done, though. And I still can't beat Ninja Gaiden. Any of them.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Free Online Pedophiles

The FBI has been using Playstation 3s to hack the passwords on the computers of suspected pedophiles. Sony and it's proponents trumpet this as part of the "it only does everything" ad line. I like to point out that no one has yet bought the video game system for playing video games.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


A coworker said recently, "I don't know anyone whose 360 hasn't broken down."

Ah, sweet superiority, how I love thine taste. Oh how I relished breaking his heart, letting him know that in fact he did know someone who'd had a 360, for three years now, that hadn't broken down.

Mmmm... smugness.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Neutral Good

A lot of games lately have a karma meter of some sort to allow the player to either be a hero or villain. I've noticed that most reviewers (and gamers in general), seemingly nice people, seem to gravitate towards being evil bastards. Meanwhile I, epitome of asocial bastardry that I am, seem to play as a paragon of justice and self-sacrifice. Are we all playing to our opposites? Or are dark hidden truths being revealed through our hobbies? Do we unleash the hidden jackass that we would never show in the real world? But then what of us who play the hero? I have no answers, but I thought I'd raise the question. And perhaps we can all ponder what our playstyles say about ourselves.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ad Finitum

"Dear Playstation 3,
I've been playing Uncharted 2 and my girlfriend won't stop watching because she thinks it's a movie."
Then either Uncharted 2 is a criminally short two hours or your girlfriend is clinically retarded.

You have to love the backhanded honesty of Sony's "It only does EVERYTHING" ads for the PS3. Look closely at the list of things it does. You know what's NOT on the list for their video game console? "Plays video games."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I still haven't played Left 4 Dead. I'm going to be eviscerated by an angry mob, aren't I?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Remember The Marathon!

After seeing some media on Halo: ODST, I think I might actually rent that. Yeah, I've been a bit of a Halo hater of late, but that was mostly because Halo 3 felt less like a game and more like some slap-dash obligatory fanservice that only existed to milk more money from the franchise. ODST, by the looks of it, appears to be an actual attempt to make a game rather than a quick buck. It also feels like they stopped pretending that they're still Bungie Software. The post-Microsoft exodus from the company hit their creative departments hard, but it looks like maybe (just maybe) the kids are starting to go out on their own instead of trying to fill the old man's shoes. In the words of one old Bungie veteran, "FROG BLAST THE VENT CORE!"

Friday, August 14, 2009

Things To Do In Manhatten When You're Dead

So I finally got around to playing more recent games. All of two. I'll put up a review of Street Fighter 4 at some point, but right now I'll talk about Ghostbusters.

The story takes place after Ghostbusters 2, but feels more like a direct follow-up to the first movie. In short, Ivo Shandor and his crew of ethereal Gozer worshipers are back from the dead and reeking havoc in New York (which has an oddly post 9/11 skyline for a game taking place in 1991). The script was written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, the writers for the original movie, and generally speaking it shows. Ramis and Ernie Hudson give solid performances in the game, but Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd are a bit askew here. Part of what made Murray's performance in the original Ghostbusters so great was that so much of it was improvisational, to the point where they considered giving him a co-writing credit. You can't improv a video game script, and the result is that Bill Murray isn't so much acting as he's acting like he's acting. Meanwhile, Dan Aykroyd is having way too much fun for his own good. Maybe it's because he's a Spiritualist and honestly believes this stuff. He's having as much fun here as John Travolta seemed to be having in Battlefield Earth. It's not that Murray's or Aykroyd's performances are bad, it's just not their "A" game.

The mood of the game is certainly reminiscent of the original movie. It's written as a comedy, but much of the atmosphere puts it closer to the horror genre. I got more chills from this game than from what passes for horror games these days (the exception being Silent Hill, which I still don't like to play after sundown). Perhaps this is a result of knowing for a fact that a dangerous entity is in the room, you just don't know where. Also, it can move through walls and you can't.

In terms of gameplay, James Rolfe put it rather succinctly when he said that had this been any other franchise the game would have been average, but as a Ghostbusters game it was brilliant. What is simultaneously the game's greatest strength and weakness is that much of the game mechanics are just like the movie. If you're not a big Ghostbusters fan, the game mechanic where you have to wrangle ghosts into the ghost traps could start to feel like it breaks the flow of an otherwise fast-paced shooter. The game's accuracy to the movies arguably hurts the gameplay. I, on the other hand, spent a good part of my childhood running around the backyard with a plastic "proton pack" strapped to my back. In the case of myself and people like me the fact that gameplay mechanics are "just like the movies" is the whole point of the game mechanics in Ghostbusters. If you're a big Ghostbusters fan then dragging ghosts into your traps with a particle gun isn't a break in the action's pacing, it is the action. I enjoyed hunting down ghostly clues with a PKE meter, but I can see how others might find it tedious.

If you're a fan of the movies (or, to a lesser extent, the cartoon series) then this game is probably a worthwhile purchase. If you didn't like Ghostbusters as much as folks like me or are otherwise unfamiliar with the franchise, you may still have fun with this game. The key word is "may". In the case of non-fans, a weekend rental is highly recommended before you take the plunge and buy it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Remember When SNK Playmore Was Relevant?

I've been slow to get any new games, so updates have bordered on non-existent. I can tell you what I won't be getting though, King of Fighters 12. As someone who grew up on Street Fighter 2, I found the King of Fighters games to be unintuitive. Hell, I'm trying to play the older ones and I still don't get it. And then there's a story so convoluted it puts the Marvel multiverse to shame. It had started out as an SNK franchise crossover, but they eventually started adding original characters and part of my brain shut down. But King of Fighters had one thing going for it, a huge roster of characters. Say what you will about the game, somewhere within that legion of characters is someone you like playing as. And 12 felt the need to trim the roster. It seems like we should appreciate that they left in the old Fatal Fury team of Terry Bogard, Andy Bogard, and Joe Whatshisface. Maybe for me the game's appeal was as much in fanservice as anything else. No Mai, no King, no Kula, no interest. I guess I'll just have to wait till I can get my hands on Guilty Gea... I mean BlazBlue.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Breaking Stuff To Look Tough

I was planning this for a while, but with today being the launch day for Overlord 2, I decided I had better get around to discussing the original Overlord.

The story (written by Rhianna Pratchett, daughter of Terry Pratchett) is that a bunch of Tolkien-esque cliche RPG heroes have killed the previous Overlord and wrecked his evil tower of evilness. Of course, the minions of evil aren't going to stand for that, so a bunch of years later they find themselves a new evil Overlord. I would also like to congratulate you on your promotion to management. Your job as the new Overlord is to re-establish a dark domain by rebuilding your tower and butchering the heroes who had inconvenienced the previous Overlord by killing him.

As the Overlord you're a pretty tough dude capable of taking on nearly anything in single combat. Of course, almost nothing attacks you one-on-one, you are NOT expendable, and what's the point of being the Overlord if you have to do all the work yourself. Hence your minion armies, who come in four unlockable flavors for the purposes of puzzle solving, as each type of minion has specific strengths and special abilities. This becomes one of the driving factors of linearity in the game, putting obstacles in your path that you don't have the requisite minions to get past. It's like an evil version of Pikmin, as your minions perform every task from heavy lifting, getting you presents, murdering peasants, and dying in your name (they're very loyal). There are health and mana "pits" that allow you to kill your minions for health and mana refills. And the minions will willingly die for you. Hell, they even throw themselves into your smelter if you so command it.

The game gets one of those karma meters that's so popular these days. From a practical standpoint the choices are between good or evil. From a story standpoint it's a choice between gathering devoted followers or acting like a genocidal lunatic. This choice is best played out in the personalities of the mistresses you can get for your tower. One is a stoic organizer, the other is gleefully homicidal. Neither is "good". Both want power, but while one sees power as a means of living out her every evil delight, the other sees evil as a tool for maintaining power. Those are your moral choices in this game, a reign of terror or a reign that will last a thousand years (events of the expansion pack not withstanding).

It's a fun adventure puzzle game all around, but there are, of course, some complaints. Like all puzzle games, what was a fun puzzle the first time around becomes an exercise in rote memorization on all subsequent playthroughs. And while the game's chief gimmick is commanding your minions in all things, including battle, the upgrades you can make to your Overlord can quickly make you more powerful than anything the game can throw at you. At that point strategy and tactics get thrown out in favor of self-healing faster than the enemy can damage you. Lastly, I would complain about the limitations of the minion controls, but I have yet to come up with a better control scheme that doesn't involve a keyboard and terribly annoying hotkey setups, so I guess they did the best they could until we somehow develop a means of telepathically controlling our games.

What's best in this game is the presentation. Your standard infantry brown minions can wear and wield anything they find that can be used as armor or weapons. So it's not uncommon for minions to wear pumpkins, dead rats, and chef hats as armor, as well as arming themselves with frying pans and zombie limbs. The zombie plague is actually a venereal disease that started when someone thought it was a good idea to summon a succubus into the brothel. And you get to kill hobbits. That's probably the chief selling point right there. Hate elves, dwarves, and hobbits? Kill them all! It's actually possible to consign the entire elf population of the region to extinction by killing all their women (the choice was between saving the elf women or a giant sack of gold. Elven genocide or getting gold? Did I mention I fucking hate elves). And don't worry too much about that karma meter. There are more things to effect the meter than it can actually be affected. That is to say, if you want to play as a "good" Overlord, you can still commit genocide against entire races and still perform enough good acts that the game lists you as having 0% corruption. And it goes both ways. Feel free to help out those villagers in Spree, you can make up for it by slaughtering everything that lives in the next town. So by all means, be as bad (or not) as you want to be. Be the Overlord of your choice.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Just Because You Can Doesn't Mean You Should

Please, people, if you're going to make a Let's Play of a game, be competent. I've never even played Left 4 Dead and I can still tell I'm better at the game than this guy.

In Case You Were Wondering...

Yes, my 360 still works.

Although a friend of mine reported his finally died, making my 360 an increasingly unique piece. Maybe one day it'll fetch millions on ebay.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Back To The Front

The Front Mission franchise has had rough times this side of the Pacific. The first game to get a North American release was Front Mission 3, a game who's greatest accomplishment was getting a North American release. Seriously, these geniuses made a flamethrower that functioned precisely the same as the machine gun weapons. Also, it contained the blatant impossibility of the Philippines ever having a space program. The giant robots and lasers I was fine with, but that broke my willing suspension of disbelief. Front Mission 4 also got a US release and was, in my opinion, one of the best strategy-RPGs I've ever played (though, to be honest, I haven't played very many). But it sold poorly, because most people were trying to figure out where Front Missions 1-3 were. Front Mission 5 never made it over here (though from what I've read, good riddance).

Square-Enix has decided that the best way to get Americans behind the Front Mission series is to make an action game made by a western developer. Surely nothing can go wrong with this concept. So now we're getting Front Mission: Evolved, from a long line of games which have evolved. I don't quite understand where this idea came from, but putting "Evolve" or some variation thereof is the modern gaming equivalent of putting "eXtreme" at the end of a title back in the late 90's. Games that have evolved include every racing franchise that has been and ever will be, Halo, and E.V.O. Maybe they'll make a kick-ass action game out of this and properly bring the Front Mission franchise to American audiences, or they could botch it and ruin the whole thing. Of course, one could argue that action games featuring giant, customizable robots already exist, they're called Armored Core. Frankly, my money is on us seeing militarized giant robots in real life before American audiences embrace Front Mission.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Still Ticking

I'm convinced my 360 is a bomb, ticking away in the night, waiting to destroy me.

In the mean time, all systems green.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I Break My Own Rules

I intended this blog to be almost exclusively about the XBox 360. Then I found a video and decided that, since the franchise had moved to the 360, a PS2 game wasn't completely out of the question.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Game In There Somewhere

For all my fanboy gushing about how Ace Combat 6 perfected the gameplay of the franchise, I have to admit that the story is dull, lifeless, and told through cutscenes that could serve as the most powerful sedatives known to man. In fact, for a game in which you are the hero, you are a startling non-entity within the cutscenes. In AC4 the story centered around YOUR arch-rival, in AC5 the story centered around YOUR squadron, in AC Zero the story was told in the form of a documentary about YOU (complete with interviews where your former enemies discuss how wonderful/terrifying you are). In AC6 I think one of the supporting characters mentions you in passing. And to top it all off, AC6 has probably the highest cutscene-to-gameplay ratio in the series. So it has not only the most boring cutscenes, it has the most of them.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


So I've taken out Unreal Tournament III from Gamefly. This has to be the only old school FPS I've played where the addition of vehicles didn't feel like a bulbous tumor growing on an otherwise healthy entity. Maybe it's because the expected life span of anyone in combat is -3 seconds anyway, so the awesome power of the vehicles doesn't feel out of place.

And yes, my 360 still works.

Friday, April 17, 2009

It'll Never Happen

Do you think they would bring Idolm@ster to the States if we sold it as Left 4 Dead? I can always hope...

Thursday, April 2, 2009


In case you hadn't noticed, I lied. April Fool's.

My 360 is still better than all of yours because it works. It would have been better even if the story were true, because only 360 would have been awesome enough to take out an apartment building.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Today my 360 finally bit the dust. Upon returning home from work I booted up the previously invincible bastion of hopeful Microsoft PR executives to find myself greeted by three red rings and small whiffs of smoke.

Unfortunately I forgot to turn the system off or unplug it before I went to look up the Microsoft helpline. As I was dialing the number there was a loud bang and the distinct noise of violent sparking. When I rushed to the living room the carpet was on fire. I do not have a fire extinguisher on the premises.

Due to highway traffic, the firetrucks didn't arrive in time to save my apartment, or the apartment building. It was a mixed blessing that I'm such a hermit, as standing in the crowd of displaced people was extremely uncomfortable under the circumstances, but being identified as the responsible party would have likely made the situation notably worse.

The rough estimate I heard being thrown about was somewhere around 2.3 million dollars, but that was only the building and facilities themselves. Including the personal losses of all involved should push that higher.

I'm not sure what to say at this time other than the experience has been increasingly surreal, and it's hard to digest that I'm in a similar position to Tyler Durden. Lacking all my worldly possessions, it's simultaneously painful and oddly liberating.

I might go by a lottery ticket, it's not like I have anything to lose at this point.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sequel Ahoy!

What could this be?
I thought perhaps something Lovecraft related, what with a quick reference to Innsmouth. But no, it seems to be something far more human. And just as sinister.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Off Topic

Not my idea, but I like it. Create your own album cover! Go to Wikipedia and pull up a random article. The first article you get is your band name. Then head here, the last 4 or 5 words of the last quote on the page is your album name. Then go here, the third image you pull up is your album cover. Post your results.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Cataclysm! System failure!

On Friday the week before last... my PC blew it's power supply.

Oh wait, you thought my 360 RRoD'd didn't you? Alas I disappoint. However there was another cataclysm that took place of late.

On Thursday of last week, my other PC OS decided to delete itself.

Ahahaha. At least my 360 lives.

Friday, February 20, 2009

I Finally Piss Off My Readers

Today, children, I'm going to talk about BioShock. No, it's not a review. I'm talking about Objectivism and its portrayal in the game.

For those of you who don't know, the city of Rapture is meant to be a deconstruction of fictitious places like Galt's Gulch. You know how some people talk about more regulation and point to children being killed by peanut butter? Imagine that multiplied by 1000, as the deregulation of science and industry has lead to most of Rapture's population becoming a cross between the X-Men and the RAGE zombies from "28 Days Later." Some people point to the fall of Rapture as meaning that things could have been utopian if villains hadn't sabotaged everything. I'll discuss why the actions of the villains are a direct result of this Objectivist utopia in due time, but on the more immediate level if you replaced the gene splicing industry with, say, cocaine you'd be seeing the same kind of societal breakdown. Just with less teleportation and lightning fingers. The message I think the developers were going for was that if you get this libertarian style deregulation of industry, most industry moguls are more concerned with making money now than in long term profitability. I have seen, first hand, corporations screw over their own long term profits in favor of immediate returns. So if you let pharmaceutical companies sell people narcotics, chances are they will. And thus you get BioShock's Splicer problem.

Then there are our opposing villains; Andrew Ryan and Frank Fontaine. One commentator argued that both of them are archetypal Randian heroes. I disagree. To some extent, Ryan is a Randian hero while Fontaine is a classic Randian villain. At the same time, the fact that they both can be mistaken for Rand-style heroes is an intrinsic flaw with all Objectivist fiction. Objectivism, grossly oversimplified, is the philosophy that people should work towards their own "rational self interest" irregardless of the needs and wants of society and other people. Hypothetically, if we all did then society will enter a new golden age of prosperity. Never mind the fact that 2 people seeking their rational self interest could come into conflict, at which point it becomes good ol' fashioned survival-of-the-fittest. Ayn Rand's (and by extension, many Objectivist authors') heroes are all ambitious, ruthless, and amoral. Unfortunately, these are often the traits of a villain. So the hero is often openly ambitious, ruthless, and amoral, while the villain hides these traits behind a facade of charity and communalism. The only difference between the two is that the hero is exploitative while the villain is manipulative. So Andrew Ryan is an oppressive, autocratic corporate overlord, and Frank Fontaine is a gangster who built an army by extending a cynical hand to the poor. Both are megalomaniacs seeking to control the city. If this were The Fountainhead or Anthem, one's the hero and one's the villain. But this is BioShock, and both come across as villains. Yes, Ryan built a city and Fontaine only stole what he could not create. But he did it for himself and he succeeded. By the very tenets of Objectivism, doesn't that vindicate Fontaine? Honestly, by Objectivist standards, how is Fontaine any different from Ryan?

The developers of the game have openly said it's a criticism of Objectivism, but this seems to have gotten lost in internet arguments over whether the game is pro or anti-objectivist. I would simply point to the game's built in karma meter, the little sisters. Let's all be honest with ourselves, "rational self interest" is greed. Greed is usually myopic. So you can kill a little sister and get 160 ADAM, or you can rescue her and get 80, along with a promise that Tenenbaum "will make it worth your while... somehow." As it turns out, Tenenbaum does make it worth your while, and if you crunch the numbers rescuing the little sisters is arguably more profitable in the long run. But if you didn't consult a walkthrough or played through the game at least twice, would you know that? The player only has Tenenbaum's word that saving the girls is a worthwhile endeavor, you only see the results of it for every third little sister you save, and the third one doesn't show up until the second level. So, if the player were acting in his "rational self interest," would he kill the girl for 160 ADAM or save her for 80 ADAM and the knowledge that he did something nice? The Objectivist player is expected to be slaughtering these girls at every opportunity. If that seems morally reprehensible then you're not a very good Objectivist or you would have known that morality gets kicked to the curb in favor of results (or profits). And if THAT seems morally reprehensible then you are not an Objectivist.

The option between saving and murdering children will earn you one of two endings, the depiction of which firmly cements that the game is meant to be anti-objectivist. If the player was a staunch Randroid Objectivist (which, in game terms, means killing children. A little anvilicious, I know) then the player is depicted as the clinical psychopath you played as who sets in motion, what may become, a new dark age for the world. This isn't something that's parsed and analyzed, you declare yourself ruler of Rapture and steal nuclear weapons, all while sinister music plays in the background and Tenenbaum (the former Nazi researcher) calls you a monster. If you go the non-Objectivist route, then all the girls you rescued grow up to lead healthy, happy, productive lives, and you quietly die decades later surrounded by your loved ones. All with bright colors and happy music. Never mind all this pseudo-philosophical analysis of the game, just look at the endings and guess if the designers were in the Ayn Rand fanclub.

I'm sorry to have inflicted this on whoever reads this, and I swear this is the closest to political I will ever get on this blog (because I always have the other one for that).

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Never Fear!

In care you all were wondering where I've been, I'm not going to tell you.

I will tell you that despite any hopes or dreams you might be having of my 360's imminent demise, it's still ticking along wonderfully.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

8 Processors And No Excuse

I've linked to this before, but it bears repeating. And yes, they are playing the PS3 version, but I can't imagine the 360 version being any less fail. In fact, in purely technical terms, the PS3 version actually features more fail.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


My 360 is still functioning. Therefore, Huzzah!

Friday, January 30, 2009


In the wake of a lack of updates and realizing that I wrote a review for Gears of War 2 and no other games, I decided that the rest of my collection needs some love. Welcome to some self-indulgent reviews of old 360 games.

The Japanese game market has this concept of budget games. They're games that are dirt cheap, but you should know that you get what you pay for. These games rarely make it to America because translation and localization kinda kill the whole "budget" aspect (though some have trickled into European markets). But occasionally we get one, specifically on the XBox 360. At ridiculously low prices is Earth Defense Force 2017. The predecessor to this game got a European release on the PS2 (I don't remember the title) and in some ways the 360 version is noticeably less complex.

The plot is simple. Sometime in the near future (guess what year "EDF 2017" takes place in!) aliens show up, although SETI gave us about 5 years forewarning. The government codenames the aliens as "Ravagers" and then tries to figure out whether or not they're hostile, though I would think judgement has already been passed if you call them Ravagers. And then the aliens drop every 1950's era invasion scenario on us. Giant ants, giant spiders, flying saucers, Godzilla, and giant robots that look life refugees from "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow." You've been given an assault rifle and a rocket launcher. Go fix this.

Each mission is pretty much identical in concept; there are aliens, kill them. You're given weapons with infinite ammo (or, more accurately, infinite reloads) and get dropped on large, sprawling maps where any and every manmade structure is destructable. Hypothetically, this is to both highlight the destructive power of the aliens and to make navigating cities easier. In practice, the players is often a greater threat to civilization than the aliens. But there is no score and no penalties for property destruction, and on the rare occasion that civilians pop up they have the magical ability to make bullets pass harmlessly through them. Your NPC teammates don't get the same invulnerability benefit and will routinely die at the hands of aliens and malicious players. Like I said, no penalties.

While every single mission consists of "exterminate the enemy," they at least try to create some variety. For example, defending a beach head from waves of robots, getting ambushed, and hunting for the giant ant queen underground. Or my personal favorite, shooting down flying saucers. But all of this is pseudo-variety. For all the nuances your mission briefing tries to instill in the mission, every mission is completed when you're alive and all the aliens are dead (teammate casualties optional). Not terribly tactical, but this is a game that gives you INFINITE FLAMETHROWER.

There is a massive armory of weapons in this game, but once again the variety is illusory. There is some variety in your weapons, off the top of my head I can think of 5 variations on the assault rifle alone. This sounds impressive, but it's rather sobering when you realize there's something like 200 assault rifles in the game, so the vast majority are simply improvements over earlier models. So that's 200 rifles, 5 variations. There are other weapons and their own variations as well; rocket launchers, missile launchers, grenade launchers, sniper rifles, shotguns, and hand grenades. And that doesn't count the specialty weapons that don't comfortably fall into a category, such as the laser rifle and sentry guns. But since every enemy in the game is killed by simply shooting it until it dies, you have access to nearly a thousand weapons and you will only ever be using 3.

Continuing with the faux variety are the vehicles. Nearly everyone who has played this agrees that the vehicles are useless. The air bike is too fast for it's own good and you're likely to crash into a building as you race past the spot you wanted to be. The helicopter has some of the clunkiest controls I've personally ever encountered, and the robot thing is too slow and stodgy that it's faster and more efficient to just go on foot. The tank is the only one that's even remotely useful, but even then your rocket launcher can do the same kind of damage and with greater mobility (and, depending on the rocket launcher, higher rates of fire).

The only real variety is in the aliens, as every type of enemy offers a unique challenge, and they will often mix and match the aliens you face just to make things hectic. There are the black ants that spray acid, the red ants who have ridiculous amounts of hit points and will simply bum rush you by the thousands, the spiders who have a ranged attack and can jump long distances. And the flying saucers (complete with overtly hidden weakpoint) which deliver your enemies to the battlefield, and the giant robots that can come with a myriad of weapons including scatter guns and plasma artillery. And fire breathing dinosaurs. And cyborg fire breathing dinosaurs. This is the only variety in the game, but it's a damn good variety. And it's a good thing too, because enemy AI is lacking. Most enemy strategies consists of rushing towards you as fast as they can (which isn't very fast in some cases) and firing constantly if they have ranged weapons. The designers seemed to take this into account, some people enjoy this kind of no-thinking twitchy gameplay, and if you stuck with it for 50 levels then one of the last levels is simply a massive blitz against you by damn near everything in the game's beastiary. And with the variety of enemies it really doesn't get boring.

Bottom line, it's a fun game that's more dependent on how you play than how the game is designed. If you're a weird little mutant like me you can sit down with this for hours with the goal of completing it and have a ball. Others could see it as a kind of stress relief; sit down, blast alien bugs for a level or two, move on to other things. It's not a deep game in the slightest, it's just monsters, guns, and property destruction. If you really need depth in a game, a game like this can still be fun in 15 minute intervals when you just feel like blowing shit up. Or maybe you're like me, a person who will compensate for a lack of depth in a game by filling it in themselves, and as a result I've got a novel worth of story for this game squirreled away in my head. It's mindless fun, with an emphasis on the mindless.

Monday, January 5, 2009


Hahaha... I'm so witty.

My 360 is working, and I have the following suggestions for those who want to play Left4Dead on any platform.

1. Quick Match for Versus mode is a Bad Idea (TM) as is looking for a game in progress. The primary reasons for someone leaving a game in progress are cheating, losing, and nerdrage. You will never be filling in for a brilliant player on a team of intellectual peers. You will always be stuck with the morons who haven't figured out that zombies and humans are not friends. Do yourself a favor and always look for game lobbies.

2. The same is not necessarily true of Campaign. Plus even if you do get put on a team of morons it doesn't hurt to have the ego boost of knowing you're the sole reason any of these idiots is going to survive past the first zombie.

3. Killing zombies is fun.