Gran Turismo PSP Review + A Note

(All images from Gamespot.com)
Announced a few years ago and released October 1, 2009, "Gran Turismo 4 Mobile" finally sees a release on the PSP this year simply titled "Gran Turismo." (But for clarity's sake, I'll call it GT PSP.) The first thing to remember about this release is an important one: it's not meant to be an 8-hour epic journey through time and space. Many people have complained about the lack of a Career Mode when the bulk of the game is really all you need. It's more a game to be played from Point A to Point B, something to do when waiting for something or someone. It would be frustrating to spend your time completing race after race to upgrade your car as you do in previous versions, thus the upgrade system has been removed also.
GT PSP feels like it's own entry into the series, design-wise the menus make it feel as though it's a whole game on it's own without ever losing touch of the Gran Turismo spirit. With over 800 cars and 35 tracks, you can see why. Excess is always the name of the game. However that excess comes at a cost....



The gameplay is not what you'd expect out of a GT game: the lack of a career mode means you don't have to focus on failure or upgrading your car to a certain level to compete in a race. There is an easy flow to the game. If a player is in the middle of a race and their friend wants to challenge them, they can back out with no penalty, play their friend and retry the race. The player is rewarded with a rank up upon completion of a single player race (however, the requirements for achieving each rank eludes me. I'm not sure whether it has to do with the type of car, number of laps, or both). With a new rank comes a larger amount of money earned. Likewise the more laps you put into each race, the larger the cash income.
Many people have also complained about the game giving them a choice of four random dealerships every other day. It gives you the option to consider whether or not to buy this car you've just found or save your money for the one you want. This will happen often, meanwhile if you can't find the right car you can always race and let the days pass until the dealership is brought up, thus bringing up your rank and allowing you to buy the car you want. Other than the dealership changes, the amount of days have no bearing on the game whatsoever.
The driving style can be changed when selecting a car, from the most realistic of play styles complete with proper drifting, to a style best suited for beginners where the chance of sliding is null.
The car selection screen could have been implemented better. The default view showing your last 100 purchased cars. You can place a favorite marker on up to 30 that you choose and more advanced options are available for those. Make sure that when you buy a car it's one you want, there is no "Sell Car" feature which can be frustrating when you need the extra cash.



The License courses have been replaced with Challenges. Those who are fairly confident in their racing abilities can breeze through most of them while those new to the genre will find that pushing a few limits will complete the task at hand. The reward for completing the Challenges is cash and a new car.
The driving line, an idea taken from Forza (fanboys... read the note below), is helpful in certain aspects. However if a player has perfected a way around a track it can be useless. At times it seems the line can steer you wrong. As an example, I have found my own way of driving around Laguna Seca,
GT PSP feels I should take their line, braking when I'm not used to it, turning into a corner at an apex I don't normally use. There is no wrong in pushing the car to it's limits when racing, but pushing the boundaries of the track will run you off-course often. There is no penalty or slowdown for crashing into another car, sliding off the road or running into a patch of sand or grass, something the Gran Turismo series has never done, and for that you can get away with a few things and cheat.
The UMD game can be installed to the memory stick provided you have at least 700 MB free, this improves load times and, seeing as how this game can take what seems to be forever to load, is preferable. (It should be noted that the GT PSP UMD needs to be inside the PSP in order to play unless you've purchased the game via digital download.)



Graphically
GT PSP could have used an overhaul. Those 800+ cars means the racing tracks have been dulled down to mostly flat surfaces. Graphical breaks in the track area, pop-ups in the distance, and that annoying effect when you're in front of a wall you can see it but behind it there's nothing can be minor annoyances. Graphics whores will have a tough time with this one.
The car details, however, are sharper than one would expect. The car selection detail is better than the one you will find on a race course.
As far as the racing tracks are concerned, you won't find any new exclusive locales for the PSP. All the tracks from the previous versions of the game are included, which can ultimately be tiresome if you've played the console games already.
The PSP can produce some pretty smooth effects, and at 60 fps, it's one of the smoothest. However there is no real sense of speed: 120 mph feels more like 60. Each track will take the same amount of time as they normally would, but the game feels going in slow motion at some points. Despite all of this, it is never laggy. There are no bugs when inspecting a wall or coming off of a jump. It all feels as familiar as it did in Gran Turismo 4.
The amount of cameras has been increased to 4 this time around. They include a front bumper view, an awkward but steady over-the-car view, an in-car driver viewer, and a chase camera. It's a little "something for everyone" and all depends on what the player feels comfortable with.


The audio is clear and precise, however each car, no matter how powerful or different, will sound just like all the others. A constant thrum of noise increasing and decreasing in volume as you accelerate and decelerate around corners. Unless you love the sound of cars the only sensible thing would be to turn the engine volume down and listen to the music.
The ability to choose either the
GT PSP soundtrack, your own music from your memory stick, or a mix of both can be chosen under the options menus.
(As is always my fault, I never listened to the audio presented by the game. I seem to always do this given the option of listening to a game's music or my own. All I can ask is for forgiveness in this area. Although I'm sure some of you will agree that you would also rather hear your own music choices.)

Any fan of the sim racing genre will love this game despite it's flaws.
But If you've been a long time fan of the Gran Turismo series and are hesitant to make the purchase, you can do without, stick to the console versions. Those new to the racing genre who want to get their feet wet will find this a good starting point. At the same time those looking for more depth will be disappointed in how shallow it can really be. It's a bit of a struggle between the pros and cons and only your preferences can sway your opinion.



*A Note About My Reviews*
I would like for everyone to notice that I don't do numerical points, and I try not to suggest "Buy It," Rent It," or "F' It." I merely point out the pros and cons, the good and the bad, the major details and the minor annoyances, laid out flat for people to read. I try not to be biased when it comes to reviewing a game. In the past, just like many others, I've let things cloud my judgment. I realized that that is never the way to portray a game. I also try to never compare a game to another. Ideas and features, however, are fair to talk about. In this case the Driving Line from Gran Turismo was an idea taken from Forza, plain as day. This was done to help those who are new to sim racing games, to give them comfort in a world they are unfamiliar with.
Where Gran Turismo lead the way for sim racing, Forza took things in a different direction with customization, car clubs, etc. Meanwhile GT5 looks to push barriers graphically and play-wise by introducing WRC and NASCAR to the lineup.
There is no doubt Gran Turismo is still the king of sim racing, but does that mean Sony fanboys should discredit Forza and Microsoft for making a similar game? No. Where Gran Turismo excels in certain areas Forza surpasses in others. Does that mean Xbox fanboys should discredit Gran Turismo? Again: no. If it weren't for the original Gran Turismo, the sim racing genre would be less than what it is today.
Never think of these two games as competitors, but rather brothers in a sibling rivalry. They are on different consoles but they both have the same purpose which is to entertain us, immerse us in a zone where 100+ mph is the norm, and let us push our barriers by pushing the gas pedal down.


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Little Big Planet PSP demo impressions


(Since this is just a demo impressions article, don't expect this to be a review of the full game. I'm merely skimming over the basics. If you're more curious about the game, try it out for yourself.)

An infectiously catchy song, physics puzzles that won't stress you out, and the ever-lovable Sackboy come to the PSP. But don't doubt the power of this handheld game: it's equal only to it's big brother console version that has made Game of the Year status.

When you first start the demo it installs a small bit of game data to the memory stick, a profile, etc. Meaning once you purchase the full game, you'll have access to your created costumes, unlocked stickers and items, and (more than likely) one level already complete. After a few playthroughs you should be able to find 100% of the items.


Gift of the Grab is the demo level, featuring an Australian Outback style. The mood is easy-going and with no time limit you're welcome to explore things and try out the mechanics. Very simple pushing/pulling done with the Right shoulder button is something that anyone can get the hang of. Simple, easy to complete physics puzzles are just what LBP fans have been craving and what newcomers will enjoy.

Crisp graphics, fogging effects in the background, and smooth animations tie together a perfect handheld title. The pieces of level construction, again as in the console version, look made of cardboard, stitched fabric, and whatever else someone threw together to make a level. In other words: a classic LBP style.

The audio is never clouded with noise pollution. The song included in the demo will either have you humming along for days or making you wish you never had ears, depending on your outlook of life.

Sackboy (or Sackgirl, if you wish to add the wig), already an iconic video game character, returns with his emotions and actions that only he could pull off. The D-pad is used to control the emotions ranging from happy, sad, angry, and scared, means Sackboy is in full form. The customization is small since this is only a demo. Fabric choices of various types, headgear, glasses, hair, clothing, etc. means a small bit of customization to your Sackboy before you buy the full version.


I've heard the level editor is very powerful but not very forgiving. Unfortunately there is no taste of editing in this demo, and that's fair enough. Levels can be swapped and downloaded through the PSPs wi-fi connection, meaning you can expect thousands upon thousands of ideas original creations.

If you've been looking for a reason to dust off your PSP and breathe new life into it, Little Big Planet will most certainly not disappoint you. Along with other games such as Gran Turismo and SOCOM Fireteam Bravo 3, Sony has taken the handheld gloves off by offering players something more than... well... just click this.
Need I say more?

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Control Freak: DLC and You

(Welcome to the newest part of this blog. The part where I can openly RAGE about something that's bugging me within the gaming world. This is NOT a light-hearted expression of what I think, or a See-It-From-My-Point-of-View blog like the Random Blogs. This is me, yelling at you, yelling at the companies, yelling at the games, yelling at a wall about what's being done wrong.)(Or what's being done right but I still hate it anyway.)

As the inaugural blog for Control Freak, I think it's best I start with a particular topic that strikes many gamers as unfair: DLC, or Downloadable Content for those not in the know.

DLC is what is offered over a console's Internet service as part of the ever-expanding experience. The type of DLC ranges from menu themes, new level maps, new cars, new songs, new costumes, new characters, new game modes, new game chapters, harder difficulties... basically anything that can be added to a game these days to make your life a living hell -- I mean steal your life away from you by making you play the game longer -- I mean... no wait, that is what I mean.

Keep in mind, non-gamer readers, that all DLC is entirely optional. There is no need to download a part of the game in order to keep playing it. You can think of it like a navigation system in a car: It's optional but not necessary.

There are some cases where DLC is offered on release day simply for the fact that there was not enough room on the disc to handle all of it. That can be understandable, but to most gamers it really pushes their buttons (seriously no pun intended) and they continue thinking it was done to make money.

That is the case when content is left out of a game on purpose so it can be sold either on release day or later as DLC. This makes gamers mad in the fact that:
A: It was withheld so the companies can make more money.
B: Some DLC can be seen as outrageously priced ($5 for one costume).
C: Some DLC should be offered as a patch instead.

Take Resident Evil 5's Mercenaries mode for example: on release day the player could connect to Xbox Live or Playstation Network and spend $5 to unlock the mode.
Alternatively they could have JUST PLAYED THROUGH THE GAME TO UNLOCK IT.
So what's the point of charging $5 for a mode that's readily available and only takes BEATING the game to unlock it?




Then there's the case of Capcom and Super/Street Fighter IV. When SF4 was released, gamers rejoiced. It was the newest offering of the Street Fighter franchise in almost 10 years.
A year later Super Street Fighter IV was announced and fans were pissed.
Why?
Because it's essentially the same game, just SUPER in the title and with more characters. All for a lesser price than the original game.
Non-gamers might be thinking: if there's more content, why don't they just charge more for the SUPER iteration? Or offer it as DLC?
Simple: MONEY. $. DOLLARS. MOOLA. GREEN BACKS. DEAD PRESIDENTS.
If they were to offer it as DLC, it might change the programming of the game entirely: new character selection screen, new intro movie, new title, new move sets, etc. It's not like an update where everyone's copy of the game is patched in order to fix something. They would be losing money in allowing everyone with the game to download the DLC. Not to mention the months it would take to get the DLC approved.
Someone with the original game might not be able to play against someone with SUPER because the programming will be different, and Capcom wants fairness all around.




Is the case of Capcom and SF4 cheap? (Some might say) No.
Is the case of RE5 and Mercenaries mode cheap? Yes.

Charging for content that's already on the disc is a traitorous act. We buy the games, we support the companies and yet we get the shaft.

Now let's talk Game of the Year Editions, what can be seen as some as the biggest rip-offs ever. Microsoft and Xbox 360 are especially notorious for this.
Take Forza Motorsport 2 for example: When the game was released the price was $60. Seeing as how most games this generation are released at that price it's reasonable. Then came the DLC: new race tracks and, over the months, about a dozen new cars. The DLC prices ranged from free to $5 (800 Microsoft points). That's not too bad I suppose.
But fast forward to today where you can go to a store and buy Forza 2 with all available DLC (on a second disc) for the low low price of $20
Considering it was originally $60 + cost of DLC does that make it a rip-off? Yes.
I can understand the value of a game decreasing over time but really? Someone who bought the game new would either have to get the DLC or buy the Platinum Hits version only for the second disc. (I'm not sure about content rights and all that, but someone could probably borrow the game from a friend, install the second disc and play everything. Again, though, I'm not sure.)




DLC, in many rights, is just and fair and adds more to the game. But when there are several chapters added on, taking our money, taking our time, taking our very lives from us... it just gets to be too much.
A player can sink so much of themselves into a game for months, maybe a year or so, only for a sequel or a Game of The Year Edition to be released with all the previous DLC offered up as bait.
"Maybe that'll make more people buy the game and there will be new people to play with!"
Or maybe everyone else already has the game and it's no fun to play against a n00b with zero experience?
Then what good is that game?

Now let's talk about Premium Themes and Avatar clothing.
First the themes: users from both Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 will know what I'm talking about. You can pay so much money for a...
Oh, the non-gamers don't know.
Well a theme is color and picture scheme for the 360 and PS3 that changes the look of the consoles main menu screen and such. Again, it's not necessary, but it can get a little tiresome looking at the same starter theme for months.
Some themes are free. Others can cost up to $5.
$5.
5 bucks to change the look of your console's menus.
It can be seen as pointless on the 360 since you can import a picture file onto the background and use whatever you want. On the PS3 you can change the color scheme and maybe add a picture. Idk since I don't own one.
But as I was saying: you can pay so much for a theme that can be summed up as "putting a dress on your dog." You're going to spend a lot of time playing games or maybe watching movies with your console, not staring at how pretty your theme is. Do you really need to spend $5 to make it look fancy?



As for Avatar clothing: Avatars are Xbox 360's version of you, or a person you send to represent you. Your Avatar doesn't have to be of the same gender. Is an Avatar optional like the themes?
No.
With the release of the New Xbox Experience, the Avatars were made available to everyone who connected their 360 to the internet and updated their consoles. The console update is optional, but necessary if you want to... oh I don't know... keep playing games, getting content, and so on. You're required to select a pre-made Avatar and then adjust it how you want to, there's no getting around it.
When you get bored of the standard set of clothes available for your Avatar, you can go on Live and buy new clothes. But like I keep saying: it's not necessary. And it's pretty pointless actually. You're not going to make your Avatar cute by spending real world money on a fake shirt. Got it?


(And yes, that's my actual Avatar.)


All in all DLC can be evil if you're broke, an evil necessity if you really want it, and gimmicky if you have enough money. The fact that game companies can charge us for our lives is preposterous. The fact that we buy this stuff is even more so.
Try as we might, the game companies have us whipped. They say jump and we press a button and do it.

So what happens when the game companies don't listen to us: the gamers?
I believe that's for another blog.


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Random Blog #3: Remembering the DC



Not my article, just thought I'd point this out to everyone. It's on Retrojunk and is a pretty good read.
It's hard to believe that on 9-9-09 it will have been 10 years since one of the greatest and most under-appreciated consoles was released. I'm glad I found one last year, a few months ago on an episode of Yahoo's Playback, it turns out the DC is much sought after these days.

And wait... wha? What's THIS? A new Dreamcast?
Nah, it was just a rumor. Though it would be a nice surprise: a 10th anniversary edition with DVD playback, USB support, and HD compatibility. That's just my mind thinking though.

Random Fact: Dreamcast games are STILL being made today by homebrew game makers. Since the Dreamcast was built using Windows CE, it's always been easy for people to create games, burn them to discs, and play them on a Dreamcast. All DC game releases these days are done through the internet, most require payment while a few are free to download and share. For a look at one of these games that is in development, head over to Hypertension by TDG Mods.

Speaking of rumors, there was another swirling around the toilet bowl of the internet that SEGA was planning on releasing a new handheld, aptly titled the Hedgehog. (If you read the entire article, you'll find out that the mock-up is nothing more than an April Fool's prank.) As nice as the drawings and such may look, I think we're all doing okay with our third versions of Nintendo DS' and PSP Go! and whatever else hunks of junk we can fit into our ever-sagging pants. *tightens belt*

Random fact: One of the most popular games on the Dreamcast, Half-Life/Blue Shift, was never released. Announced in 2000, the game was initially developed as an add-on for a Sega Dreamcast port of Half-Life; however, the port was canceled and Blue Shift was instead released for Windows. The unfinished source code for the game can be found on multiple websites and can be downloaded, burned to a blank CD, and played.

I can't help but think of what might have been if the SEGA had enjoyed success from the DC:
We would probably be on the dawn of the release of the Dreamcast 3, or a clever name chosen for the new console.
Sonic would have never been sodomized (for lack of a better word) by Sonic Team, he'd be doing just fine and still breaking the sound barrier on his home console. Unfortunately we would still have to deal with that annoying voice of his.
Being the inventors they were, maybe we would be using motion controls on their console instead of Nintendo's.
2K Sports, SEGA's in-house sports game development team, would be a major competitor against EA, Electronic Arts. (Additionally, Peter Moore, former president of SEGA USA, would have never become president of EA Sports.)

Random fact: The Dreamcast was the first console to feature Downloadable Content, or DLC. When connected to the internet via the console's interchangeable dial-up or high speed modem, the player could "download" items for use in games. Although it was just an unlock code that opened up a new race track or song, it was still pretty innovative.

The Dreamcast was SEGA's final attempt to get something right. After the previous console releases, add-ons, and consoles under development (which cause a snafu, which in turn caused developers to turn away, which caused SEGA to lose money), the DC truly was a Dream for gamers. It had the perfect line between the hardcore and the casual.

On 9-9-09, dust off your DC, play some Soul Calibur. If you don't have one: ebay.


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Random Blog #2: Why all the hate?

When Tony Hawk's Ride was first announced, the masses silently booed, which rose to an audible "Durr... wut r dey thinkng? We dun need no mo' periferrals...."
I for one wanted Tony Hawk to go back to the arcade roots, be different from skate. Return us to what the series once was.

And now it has. It just took me a few months to realize it.

The skateboard peripheral that it introduces has been done before. Example 1:


I'm sure plenty of you have seen this piece of carbon in an arcade before. It's Sega's Top Skater. During the demo it'll spew out random phrases such as "Radical!" "Awesome!" and other phrases that died with the early 90's. It was a straightforward, downhill-style game (and ironically, a Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam on the Wii and DS are of the same style. But that's another part of this situation I don't want to get into.)

And speaking of arcades, Tony Hawk's first game, believe it or not, was in the arcades. The aptly named 720° (Degrees is pronounced when saying the name, btw) was brought about after Tony Hawk landed the, you guessed, 720° rotation.



Although he was never mentioned in any part of the game (at least I don't think he is) the credit goes to Hawk for inspiring it.

The Tony Hawk games have been all about pushing the limits, inventing new ways to play. Albeit Project 8 and Proving Ground were overcooked (Nail the Grab? Seriously?) Neversoft developed it's own thing once again.

So to those haters who say Tony Hawk needs to quit: Stop whining. The man has done so much for the sport of skateboarding and skateboarding video games meanwhile the only thing you can do is try to guess a kickflip from a heelflip. I would dare to go as far as to say that if it weren't for the TH games, skate. wouldn't exist.
I also want the haters to recognize this: have you ever compared Need For Speed Underground to Gran Turismo? If you did, hand over your Gamercard now. They are two seperate genres: arcade racing and sim racing.

Tony Hawk games = arcade skating.
skate. = sim skating.

Am I getting through to anyone?

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Control Freak: VIDEO GAMES ARE NOT BABYSITTERS!!

(To my Facebook readers: you can see this actual blog post at bigmercenary.blogspot.com. It's my personal blog about video game reviews, issues, my thoughts, etc. Plus things like Tech News. I have it tied in to Facebook so that's why you're all seeing this. Discussions are ALWAYS welcome whether on the blog or on Facebook.)

Let's say a 13 year old kid walks into a gun store and wants to buy a rifle and some ammo, they're not going to let him. But if that kid walks into Wal-Mart and wants to buys an M-rated game, they probably won't bat an eyelid.

Why is that?

The gun store employees are trained (not to mention have enough common sense I hope) to not sell weapons to minors. But the employee turnout in Wal-Mart is so astronomical that they won't care who they're selling the game to (because they probably won't be there next month). Neither will the head honchos of this place because it's just money to them. I've been carded every time in the past few years when I bought an M-rated game from EBGames or GameStop. (Play N Trade has my info on file, so they don't need to ask.)
K-Mart just recently picked it up last year.
Wal-Mart? No idea.

After a school shooting a few years ago, it was found that the kid had access to guns. Where did he gets the guns from? His mom bought them FOR HIM. She didn't recognize what was going on in her son's life that would lead to that debacle. The finger was also pointed at the video games he had played.
In the same way some kid's parent will buy them M-rated games and not even pay attention to the rating or how it will affect the kid playing the game.
It can also be noted that many parents just don't care what the rating is. In this case the store employees can not refuse to sell the game. It may result in legal action, heavy fines, etc.

Some years ago there was a RollingStone magazine with Britney Spears on the cover in her underwear, being interviewed about her home life. The FCC criticized this but the magazine still sold well. So what about this piece of "objectionable material"? I'm pretty sure lots of 13 year old boys bought that issue. It was never pulled from store shelves or boycotted.


I can bring this point up a million times and it may never get through the thick skulls of some people: It's the parent's responsibility to make sure that they're kids are not playing these games.
It should also be noted that a video game system IS NOT A BABYSITTER. It is NOT OKAY for you to sit your kids down in front of a console and leave for work or a dance club.

Video games are no substitute for reality.
Time spent with your children is important.

If you do allow them to be played, you need to make sure they understand the difference between video games and reality. AND you need to be there with them to make sure things don't get out of hand.

It requires a group effort for things of this nature to go right. Game store employees already know to card for M-rated games. The parents need to know about the ratings system and to pay attention to the behavior of their children. Those of us who play games as a hobby and beyond shouldn't point the finger back or ignore this issue. We need to encourage parents to get involved with their kid's lives.

These are the current ESRB ratings for video games, direct from the ESRB website:
(Please note, there are currently only 19 games rated Adults Only.)
EC: Early Childhood: Titles rated EC have content that may be suitable for ages 3 and older. Contains no material that parents would find inappropriate.
E: Everyone: Titles rated E have content that may be suitable for ages 6 and older. Titles in this category may contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
E 10+: Everyone 10 and Up: Titles rated E10+ have content that may be suitable for ages 10 and older. Titles in this category may contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
T: Teen: Titles rated T have content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older. Titles in this category may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling, and/or infrequent use of strong language.
M: Mature: Titles rated M have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
AO: Adults Only: Titles rated AO have content that should only be played by persons 18 years and older. Titles in this category may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity.
RP: Rating Pending: Titles listed as RP have been submitted to the ESRB and are awaiting final rating. (This symbol appears only in advertising prior to a game's release.)
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A Second Look @ Jumper: Griffin's Story

*All images are from Gamespot.com*


A simple quick cash-in title with not enough inside to believe you're actually playing a game.
Button-mashing games are few and far between. Some, like God of War (don't hate, you know it's true), are well done and offer some depth to go along with mindlessly killing things. Others, such as Jumper: Griffin's Story, leave you scratching your head, wondering if what you just played was a game at all.


Kung-Fu epic this is not.

The first thing to remember is that the game is based on a single character, Griffin, from the movie Jumper. He can be summed up as David Rice's counterpart. Where Rice is calm and unknowing, Griffin is cunning, always watching his back for the Paladin's. This doesn't translate very well for the game since you'll find yourself often being slapped by several enemies at once. The combat can be frustrating at times but the action is steady enough not to let you down (in other words B+ concept, D- execution).
The fact that Griffin is always watching his back can also be seen in the awkward running he does, at first one might question why they animated him in such a way. It's only until later when you're running through the close quarters of the pyramid that you realize he's looking around
corners for the next attack.
There are moments after you d
efeat a set of enemies where the game stops to show you a door opening or enemies coming through a doorway. It wouldn't be bad if the area was obscure, but it happens almost every time. The AI is dull, lacking in emotion and any sort of common sense. You face the same nameless, faceless thugs each level, which can be described as fodder. They're nothing more than filler in this game. Quick jumping is set to the Right Bumper, it's an easy way to get out of a tough fight and to get yourself situated. It isn't, however, a good way to travel through the level. Once you activate, you'd better be heading forward as you can't rotate the camera, only Griffin himself. Good luck getting out of a corner because of this.


"Must... break free... from... bad... game. UGH!"

The graphics are toned down on the next-gen systems, supposedly to match the capabilities of the PS2 since it was a multiplatform release. The lighting and shader effects are done enough to get the point across. Beyond that they do nothing more to create an atmosphere of urgency. The cameras are another point away from this game: frustrating, clunky, slow, and just about any other negative comment you can think of, the camera would have been better suited if it had been fixed in place.
The cutscenes are comic-book style but might remind the player of something along the lines of Twisted Metal Head On: shadows are heavy ink, parts are slide-animated, and it's hard to see the emotions. The levels are cluttered and a few of them are hard to navigate. In-area jumping can be cut short by a barrel that is a few feet away. The audio quality is fair, you are able to hear each time you jump, each punch and hit. Griffin's voice is done by Jamie Bell, the same actor from the movie. His witty banter might cause you to crack a smirk, but it doesn't give you any deep hints into the game. The character of Roland, done by Samuel L. Jackson in the movie, is played by a different man, younger sounding. The music is unnoticeable. Completely. That's all I have to say about it.


"Hey is that Samuel L. Jackson? ...No, my bad. It's just some guy."

The only saving grace of this game is not just the achievements (~500G in the first hour or so), but the certain moments of creativity, specifically the drop zone kills, that make you go "Holy crap, did you see that?" These moments are triggered by pressing button combos, from which you get from comic book covers.
The game is a good rental, a way of wasting about 2 hours in an afternoon or a weekend. As far as buying, you'd better hold on to the receipt.
I'll give the creators credit for trying, but not being thorough enough. It's a game suited for the last gen systems and any other ideas they could have poured into it (i.e. an open world environment, better combat) would have been fine.

Jamie Bell, serving a beatdown to one of the game creators.

Oooh. Get'em Jamie.
Keep Playing.
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A Second Look @... (UPDATED)

I'm going to start doing a short blog series about looking back at games you might have not paid attention to... or games that I like and so did a lot of people. Either way it's going to happen. It won't a very long series because I don't have thousands of games in my collection, but with what I bring to you all I hope you can still enjoy it.
I'm going to start off with Lumines, mainly on the PSP, but if you own another version its pretty much the same. Just warning you ahead of time.
So here's the thing I want you all to help me with: find the game anyway you can and play it. Then you'll know where I'm coming from with my review of it. I want you all to tell me your experiences, what you liked, what you didn't like, etc. But please, nothing like "Dis game iz da suckkkkkj." If you can't show intelligence, you're not worthy of my time.

It's not going to happen this week since I don't have a decent amount of time to come up with anything right away. It takes time to really reflect on the game itself.
Also, I'm going to be transferring my Second Look's as my game reviews on Gamespot. So why would you hunt me down there when you can just come here? Exactly.

*UPDATE*
So it looks like I won't have time this week to crank out a well-written review. Rest assured however I do have the basis for it, the layout and context. Getting the right words is what's the problem with me. I don't want it to sound like a rehash of my other reviews.

Keep Playing Lumines.
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E3, and a quick note about the console "war."

I'm not going to do the other E3 blogs. I don't have the time or the patience to listen to the Sony or the Nintendo guys ramble on about numbers while mindless fanboys laugh at the other console's failures in the comments.

As a matter of fact: I once read a quote on Gamespot saying (and I know I'm misquoting here): "don't try to win the console war, reap the benefits of each." The statement is true.

If you like a console with a 10-year life cycle, major graphics, etc.: Get a PS3.
Like the old-school or like having gaming parties with your friends? Get a Wii.
Like it here and now with millions of people to play with? Get a 360.

It's beyond pointless to argue the faults of each like many people do. When you talk about the successes, then it becomes understandable.

Keep Playing.
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E3 - Microsoft

*UPDATE*
I know I reported only on the games that I was interested in, but that's because that was all I was seeing. I'm getting the chance now to see the conference in it's entirety. Now I get the chance to speak about a lot more.

The Beatles Rock Band has an impressive amount of songs, a nice opening video, and... a really small guitar. I'm not sure who played the brown one, but it doesn't look right. Other than that, any fan of The Beatles will love this game.

They skipped charts and rates and the crowd applauded. lol

Modern Warfare 2, impressive of course. Do I really have to say anything beyond that? It's Modern freakin Warfare 2.

Final Fantasy XIII blah blah blah. I REALLY don't care for this series. Fast Forward >>

Shadow Complex: a throwback to the old Metroid-style sidescroller.

If they've learned anything from the first game, then Crackdown 2 should be bigger, badder, and more badass than the first. Apparently now you get to fight superzombies or something.

Splinter Call Conviction, announced in 2006, will probably see a release day in 2010. I can say with the rest of the fans of this franchise (those who still follow it) "It's about time." But DAMN! You can tell they did their homework with this one.

If Forza 3 was a woman, she'd be sexy as hell. :D

Meanwhile, Alan Wake is creepy as hell!

And Project Natal is what Nintendo has been planning for years. Yet they still haven't made up their minds about HD gaming.

So Far DiRT 2 is looking very impressive. Although seeing as how the first one never garnered the respect the previous Colin MCRae games did they seem to have gone bigger, complete with licensed music, more car sponsors, and different drivers.



Left 4 Dead 2, with melee weapons. I just nergasmed. :D (NSFW, very bloody)



Yet another Halo game, possibly based on the book The Fall of Reach.



Full Xbox 360 game downloads arriving in August. Need I say more? Just read the article.

There's a ton more on Joystiq Xbox. Just head there and check it all out.

*Update*
While browsing the Xbox website for a replay of the conference I came across this: "Facebook and Xbox LIVE are joining forces to connect the largest social network on the planet with the largest entertainment and gaming network on TV." My thoughts: could be useful. Unfortunately most of the people I know on Facebook don't even know what an Xbox is. And apparently Twitter also.
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Random Blog #1

SO I'm trying to get into the Twelve Sky 2 closed beta right now, I'm downloading it as I'm typing. I played the first game for a total of 2 days, was incredibly bored and unimpressed so I got rid of it. It's usually these Free-to-Play MMO's that get a lot of flak from me. Most of them follow the same general formula: Oriental background, PvP is expert-player level ONLY, and most of them have characters where you play as a kid (where are the parents?).
I've tried out a few more MMO's, one being RAN Online, a game from the Philippines. Pretty good up until the point where you realize there are over 100 levels. Around level 30 is when you start to think it's impossible. (Don't ask me for a link, I can't find any real site.)
Perfect World was one that I was going to try out, but I never could find the time to download it. One friend says it's almost as good as World of Warcraft, meanwhile the internet says it's crap. I don't know who to believe and if I can ever download it, I'll let you know.
I'm giving Twelve Sky 2 the benefit of the doubt and trying it out.

It was announced on GameTrailers that the next Tony Hawk game is going to be Tony Hawk: Ride. The game has been in development for two years and it uses a skateboard peripheral. I'm with the few intelligent people on the forums, rather than bashing the game and Tony himself, I agree that the games need to revert back to the simpler roots, the arcade goals, the fun gameplay... not this:






I've never been a huge fan of RTS games, or even good at them, but whenever I watch
BattleCast Prime, it makes me want to play something. I spent about an hour earlier playing an old RTS and soon I'm going to reinstall Company of Heroes.
I've been meaning to get Command & Conquer 3 (or the all-in-one collection) but I can never find it. These days it's only the expansion that I'm finding in stores.

I'm going to be posting a new Tech News soon, sometime next week. Be on the lookout for that.
Also I'm going to try to do a few game reviews tomorrow, check the earlier post for access to my Gamespot account.

*UPDATE*
I finally DLed all of 12Sky 2 a couple days ago, it refused to work but I guess I wasn't the only one having this problem as they released a patch. I got the patch, played the game for less than 10 minutes, and then immediately uninstalled it. It's more of the same thing, some people are even at level 40. I take it they were there for the closed beta, but whatever. I'll stick with Guild Wars.

Keep Playing.
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Game Reviews

Believe it or not I've been reviewing games for quite some time now.
Oh, you do believe it. Okay then.
Then I shouldn't have to tell you that all my game reviews are on Gamespot, do I?
HA! Got you there.
Anyway, head over to my Gamespot account and check out all my reviews. I just started rewriting them yesterday and it's going to be a while before I'm done. I'd say BMW M3 Challenge is the best place to start off at. I did that one back in November and so far it's the most professional sounding review I've done.
I've gotten some really low agreements on a few of them so I've decided I should rewrite the ones that are painful to read. I'm trying a non-passive (if that can be the phrase) tone without referencing myself throughout the review.

Read and enjoy.

Keep Playing.
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Control Freak: Just my thoughts on Nintendo

(Posted this one on Jan 1, 09.)

It's just me thinking all this, and I could most certainly be wrong, but everyone has their own opinions and these are mine. Because, honestly, it's not like you get enough of other people's opinions when you're online. *sarcasm* Whether or not you agree with them, I don't care. These are just thoughts that have been going through my mind for a while now.
Point 1: Nintendo has not abandoned their core audience. I can hear the haters shouting already but let me get to the second part of this opinion: their core audience is in Japan. All the shovel-ware games like WiiMusic, Hula Wii, and the like are aimed at little kids in Japan. Here in America they're also aimed at the young as well as those who have never picked up a controller in their lives. Which leads to Point 2.
Point 2: "They've abandoned the hardcore audience." This depends on your definition of "hardcore." One example could be those who really get into the game, shout when they're losing, or play a game months after the hype is over. Another definition could be those who play a game thoroughly, look for and learn all the secrets, or are avid collectors of a certain genre of game. I remember once upon a time there were people who were "hardcore Nintendo" and wouldn't touch anything Sega made.
Point 3: If Nintendo cared about America, you'd think Shigeru Miyamoto would have learned English a long time ago. I guess since he spends all his time developing casual titles he has no time to learn English. Did you know Nintendo has a lifetime contract with him and essentially owns every thought he has?
Point 4: I know I sound like I'm attacking Nintendo and I probably am, but
fact #1: More American game-makers need to make Wii games, whether they use the Wiimote or find a way to make them compatible with a GameCube controller. Or. heck, they could even make GameCube games and just have people play them on their GCs or Wiis.
Point 5: Not all good Wii games have to be first person shooters. It seems like the "hardcore" crowd flocks to these expecting the Halo-killer and are not looking towards the Wii. I'm pretty sure that, despite it's flaws, Red Steel was okay as well as Metroid Prime being a must-buy for the Wii.
Alternate Point #1: There have been a lot of good FPS games that were overlooked by many people only because game sites compared them to Halo. Area 51, Project Snowblind, Goldeneye: Rogue Agent, and even Serious Sam 2 would brushed to the side.
Point 6 and this is for all those who are old enough to remember: the Virtual Console offers a ton of old school NES and SNES games to play. Not being a Wii owner I can't give you any examples of what games their are but I'm pretty sure you can find a list online. Go Google it. Thing is, most of the young kids dont' care for these old games, making the VC mainly for those who grew up playing them.
Point 7: I would like to see Nintendo create a newer version of the Wii without restrictions, but design it different from the currect console as to make sure the differences are known. The lack of restrictions would allow people to add others without friend codes, Brawl codes, Kart codes, or anything else. Just implement a name system and have it registered to one person. If the person decides to change their names then their friends are notified instantly.
This has been a public service announcement brought to you by me. But honestly, I never really know how to end blogs of this nature. I'm sure I would like Nintendo more if they just paid attention to people and stopped shipping in Japanese games. They could do so much better.
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Random Blog: The Future of Gaming

(I wrote this back in July 08. Thought I'd give you all something to read since the original blog I was working on was deleted thanks to having to reformat my computer.)

Something that's been on my mind for a few months now has been, as the title states, where is gaming going in the future?

This generation has taken the leap to high definition. In the last generation we saw DVD players/CD recorders added to video game systems. The generation before that had CD players even before the Sony Playstation was introduced (think 3DO). We can even connect two of the current consoles to our computers and easily transfer music and videos. And the Xbox 360 has us playing against others using a PC.

So where's the next gen going to take us?

Are we going to see a blending between consoles? Playstation 4 players alongside the next Xbox players alongside PC players?
Are we going to see newer CD-type players? CD burners on the consoles? And how much are we going to need before we realize it's all too much?
Will home-created games become a new market?
What kind of connectivity are we going to have with our handheld systems?
Are holograms and virtual reality going to make a comeback? The possibility of holograms is now a reality, we've explored virtual reality in the past but most of it was simple polygons.
Are we going to see a wider spread of DLC?
Are games going to skip being sold in stores and go direct-to-download? (In other words: putting places like Gameslop out of business?)
Are achievements, trophies, etc. going to matter?
So many games take cues from other games that many claim the creators are running out of ideas. Are we going to see old games made new again or simply a reformatting and return of what once was? Or both?
Is Hollywood going to branch out and "make" more games or vice versa?
Are pros going to be more recognized among the mainstream? Will that in turn cause more competitive games to be made?
Are we going to see a blur between media? Such as comics, movies, music, tv and games becoming more intertwined.
What types of controllers are we going to see? (Such as the rumored 'finger-tip' controllers being developed by Nintendo.)
What will companies do to bring in more new customers?


There are a million different possibilities and there are a million different directions. What do you think is a possibility? Speak your opinions, I like to hear them.

Keep Playing.
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Video Game Videos











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Random Blog: N-Gage: What could have been

When the N-Gage was announced in ’03, there was very little buzz around it. Gamers were unsure of what they thought of a gaming telephone, and anyone who wasn’t a gamer sure as hell wasn’t going to buy one. Well of course not, it looked like a freakin’ taco.
Recently Nokia "moved" the N-Gage to a series of phones. Basically meaning they withdrew support and decided they would put ARM processors into new phones.
What went wrong with the entire thing is
  1. The price. $300 for a phone that played games that looked like they were below PS1-quality.
  2. It was easily outsold by the GBA.
  3. In order to change the game you had to open the back of the deck and change out game cards.

The latter was changed with the introduction of the N-Gage QD: there was a side slot to easily change games. The graphical problems continued since the games were still low-quality.

Sure, the N-Gage could do a lot of things: play games, browse the web, make phone calls, play mp3s, etc., but what did it matter if the games sucked? That’s all that gamers were looking for and that's what most of the advertising went towards. And with the promise of the release of the Playstation Portable and the Nintendo DS, what reason was there to get one?
The N-Gage could have succeeded if it had waited 2 or 3 years. They could have taken a lot from other devices, such as the iPod, with the touch-sensitivity, a touch-screen like the DS, and media compatibility like the PSP.

If they had made it a sliding phone, the above would have been possible. I’ve used the Nvidia Tegra as an example, meaning I just drew on the thing to show you what imagine it could have been.
KEEP IN MIND: THIS IS THE NVIDIA TEGRA, NOT SOMETHING DRAWN BY ME, I’ve only drawn on the imagine. Even then, I'm sure this is a prototype image.



As you can see the N-Gage could have worked, the media-type could have been games DLed to the memory stick, DLed wirelessly, or bought in a store.
The two circles represent control stick areas, this is where the iPod touch-sensitivty comes into play. During game play the numbers and letters fade and the rings light up representing the touch areas. It has standard 4-buttons and shoulders buttons like on a console controller, as well as Start and Select. The Alt keys are replaced by start and select buttons. As for the screen to be touch-compatible, I'm sure that would jack the price up by about $50-$100.


If they had only waited, the N-Gage might have survived.

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Aaron Stone

All I can say is "It's OWN, NOT PONE!"

I expected more video game references but with ones like above being mentioned its hard to take it seriously.

I know I'm sounding harsh, but at least they're trying. Hero Rising is a real game but still in beta. If its anything like in the show I'll pass.
What got to me was the the first scene with the main character Charlie: he plays basketball so what good is that going to do him when he's fighting off a small horde of nameless thugs. What also bugged me when near the beginning of the show was when the character Charlie was free running and grinding a rail from a jacked skateboard. I can understand this being a show of his physical prowess but it's too much in a short amount of time.
The camera work is too fast when the action happens. I wish there were more wide-angle shots rather than split-second hit moments.

Some part of me wishes there were REAL video game references. Like something about Atari, or at one point Charlie yells "Hadouken!" when he's shooting off his laser. I understand copyrights and all that but I'm just saying, that would keep me more interested.

But bad points aside the show is worth watching. I know I'm being hard on the pilot episode(s)(the first part was on Disney and the second part was on Disney XD), and I'm hoping for more in the future: a deep storyline, new characters, new weapons, and a new miniboss instead of SoulTaker. Whenever that guy speaks it looks like his voice is being dubbed over.

Oh and more LIFE, they all seemed like they were halfa$$ing it because it was the pilot.
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Live!

One thing that has interested me lately is the Quake Live beta. Not because its free, well maybe, but it's completely browser-based and is a fully-actualized, stat-counted, kill-tracking, return of what competitive gaming is supposed to be. It's Quake 3 in an internet browser.
Another game that I've been playing is Cartoon Network's FusionFall. I know what you're thinking: "Why would you play a childish game like that?" My response is the old adage: "Don't knock it 'til you've tried it." The fusion aspect is not so much a fusion in the storyline, but a fusion of generations. In the game you'll come across an older Dexter, later on you'll meet Ben from Ben 10. It's a fusion between old and new. A perfect meeting in the middle and most of all its just fun to play.
I've been hearing a lot about Battlefield Heroes, but so far I'm just not excited for it. Another browser-based game set to the tune of a brand new game engine, BFH is either loved or hated: loved because of the "free to play" aspect and hated because it resembles a cartoon. If some people nitpick so much about a game then why do they play them at all?
I don't see browser-based gaming as becoming "the future of gaming," but I do see these games becoming more recognized as the pioneers who started the whole revolution. There will definitely be more in the future, and as long as none of them are JRPGs, they will succeed.
I like these games since you don't have to listen to the 12-year-olds with foul mouths every server. Its just smack talk in text that you can simply ignore, even block. It offers the same amount of anonymity that the consoles offer.


(I know this is a bad first, or second, blog but I don't really have a lot of time behind me to think about what I want to write. It's noisy and I write best at night when no one's around. I'm not the most articulate writer, I'll be the first to admit it. As long as one person reads it and finds out a bit more, then I feel better. Also this keyboard needs some serious cleaning.)

I'm done. I seriously can't think. I feel like I'm being rushed for no reason.
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What to expect from me

I have a lot of thoughts of video gaming: casual, hardcore, and professional. I have thoughts on the IT world, the business end of Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, AMD, ATI, Nvidia, etc. I have thoughts on where these people, companies, products, and technologies are going. I also have thoughts on the past: Atari, Dreamcast, AOL, etc.

And I will post my thoughts on them whenever I get my mind clear. Unlike right now.

Chicken-poodle.

That is all. :)
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My photo
Avid gamer, common video game blogger, Christian, g1, Chiver, Ravenclaw supporter, nerd, blue collar worker. I've been gaming since '91 and I don't know where my life would be without it. I'm a collector with a taste for the unpopular. My favorite game of all time is Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 on Dreamcast. I'm a big fan of the racing and puzzle genres. Not too big on RPGs right now. I like all consoles but I can't afford them all.

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Game reviews, thoughts on the industry, videos, and more from yet another gamer on the internet.

THIS BLOG HAS ENDED AS OF JULY 2015. THANK YOU FOR READING.

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