Thursday, March 31, 2011

Crysis 2: Better Than That Thing You Saw At The Movies

By: Louis Caston

FPS (First Person Shooters) have become a regular in the video game market. We all have played at least one in our lifetime. With such popular franchises as Call of Duty, Halo, and Battlefield, you can sometimes forget smaller FPS series like, Red Faction, Killzone, and Rainbow Six. Sometimes one comes out that exceeds expectations or gives the genre, a swift kick to the nuts. Epic Games’ Bulletstorm did it in February, and now Crytek’s Crysis 2 has done it in March.

You play the game as Alcatraz, a Marine whose squad was wiped out in a submarine attack, and on the brink of death, you are saved by Prophet and are given his Nanosuit (A suit that increases your tactical awareness, as well as your speed, and jumping ability), and the mission to stop the Ceph invasion. Without going into too much detail, the story was gripping. It almost had a movie feel, with the plot twists that happen throughout. Don’t get me wrong, the story is far from perfect, but it kept me more entertained than some movies I have seen.

The visual presentation in this game is fantastic. The fictional New York City comes to life as you play. As you progress through the game, you slowly begin see the city falling apart. Its good to see a building fall in a game, and dust engulfs the entire area around the building. Your Nanosuit’s powers are brilliant to look at. When in Cloak, your gun and arm disappeared with a water-like effect that reflects the light around you, while in Armor mode you get a honeycomb appearance around your HUD. Now everything wasn’t always perfect visually. You did have the occasional frame drop issue at the beginning of some levels, and some character models were stiff, but that wasn’t enough to take away from an already gorgeous game.

Gameplay in Crysis 2 is intense. At any given time you could have bullets flying at you from multiple directions. In most cases you have the option to be stealthy with your kills, or go all Rambo-like with them. When you come to an area, you have tactical options that come up when you look through your visor. Some positions are for sniping, while others allow you to flank your targets. Along with your Visor, you also have the abilities of Cloak and Armor. As the names suggest, Cloak makes you virtually invisible to targets, while Armor increases the amount of damage you can withstand. Both use your suit’s energy, so use them wisely. Basic combat in the game like shooting, running, jumping, and moving are your common button configuration you find in most FPS. Overall the gameplay of Crysis 2 was very smooth and fluent.

Crysis 2 does a lot right. From combat to visuals to story, it all works. It keeps the intensity high without giving you that feeling of helplessness. Your suit powers give a new feel to the FPS experience. Minus the occasional hiccup in the game, it’s not enough to stop me from playing this game over and over. If you haven’t played or even thought about playing Crysis 2 I suggest you give it a try. You might be pleased what you find with the game. ON a scale of 1 to 10 I give Crysis 2 a 9.5

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

WWE All Stars: THQ Is Officially Sorry For Legends Of Wrestlemania

Prior to the rise of the Smackdown Vs. Raw series, the best video games featuring Vince McMahon's squared circle juggernaut were primarily based in arcades. From the offerings by Technos Japan to the more over the top game from the folks at Midway to the oft-forgotten, yet very impressive Sega/THQ offering, WWE arcade games have lacked the depth of their home console counterparts, but made up for them with impressive gameplay. THQ's latest WWE game returns to the roots of those classic arcade games while answering one important question: "What would happen if the greatest superstars of the past were able to match up against the top stars of today?" The answer is an over the top, fast past, thrill ride that might be one or two minor flaws away from being a serious top tier fighting game.

One difference that fans of WWE's traditional wrestling games will notice is the art style. All Stars has a look reminiscent of 2009's lackluster Legends of Wrestlemania, but that is pretty much where the similarities with that debacle end. Each character in the game sports an overly muscled physique much like the old rubber LJN WWF action figures we grew up playing with. The animations are highly exaggerated as well, with moves like dropkicks launching opponents into the air while slingshotting the wrestler who performed the move in the general direction of a turnbuckle. and when it's time for a wrestler to perform a finishing maneuver, everything around them changes colors, and the resulting move is the most violently exaggerated thing seen in a wrestling game since the special moves seen in EA Big's Def Jam Vendetta.

One of WWE All Stars' tag lines calls the game's roster "the greatest ever assembled, and outside of a Fire Pro Wrestling custom roster, I'm hard pressed to argue. The legends side reads like a who's who list of Hall Of Famers or soon to be inductees, while the Superstars side sports a list of superstars that have headlined Pay Per Views, held championships, and are beloved the world over. To make things feel balanced, the wrestlers are broken into four classes: Big Man, Brawler, Grappler, and Acrobat. Each class has strengths and weaknesses, for example: wrestlers that fall into the Big Man category can typically take more punishment than those that fall into the Acrobat class, but acrobats are exponentially faster. Brawler can string can use charged strikes to juggle opponents, while Grapplers can chain together multiple holds and deal a great bit of damage.It typically pays to play to your characters strengths sense that leads to their signature and finisher bars filling faster. Much like Street Fighter 4, each wrestler in WWE All Stars can build a three level "signature move" meter while a second meter, reserved for "finishing moves" builds a little slower, but the resulting move deals enough damage to keep an opponent down for the three count or knock them out all together. That another element of the arcadey coolness of WWE All Stars.

As far as the gameplay modes, there is the Path of Champions mode, which is the standard arcade style ladder made famous by Mortal Kombat. (writer's note: a big chunk of the development team for All Stars worked for Midway during their arcade heyday). Next there is the Fantasy Warfare mode, which pits legends against active superstars. each match has a specific theme, so unless they add DLC characters to the mix, don't expect more than the 15 matches in this mode from the start. What's the benefit of playing through the various Path of Champions ladders or Fantasy Warfare mode, why the joys of unlocking characters, venues, alternate costumes, and the very well produced video packages that precede the matches in Fantasy Warfare mode.

Now for the the things I didn't like about the game. My main gripe is the computer catchup that seems to occur during some single player matches. Some computer opponents will take a tremendous beating throughout a match only to launch into a mainly unblockable combo that will instantly whittle your character's health to near nothing. Another gripe is a problem I've encountered after years of playing SNK fighting games: Many computer controlled opponents tend to turtle (constantly block) during matches, and since their is no such thing as "chip damage" in this game, this can slow down matches, and in this type of game, slow matches can prove disastrous. I noticed that the create a character mode, while present, was a bit thin on editing options, but in a game of this manner, there is only so much to expect, so the light pickings on the create a wrestler mode are not a big issue. The most glaring issue I had with WWE All Stars is an issue I've had with THQ's WWE product for years now. The loading times can be a bit long to say this is 2011 and loading times are something that most gamers barely remember nowadays. All of these issues are forgivable though, and a skilled player can overcome issues with turtling and computer catchup with relative ease.

All in all, THQ has done what most gamers have wanted since they dropped quarters into Midway's Wrestlemania game in the mid 90s and threw ghosts at their opponents with The Undertaker. if a sequel is made to this one, a bigger out of the box roster and a few more match types might make WWE All Stars become a must play fighting game.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Aliens And Predators Only Equaled Awesome Twice For Gamers

I'm going to go out on a limb here and state that most licensed games suck. By licensed, I'm referring to games that are based on other media. Then there are the games that are based on more than one thing in the same medium. There haven't been many of those, but they are usually tied together somehow so it makes the amalgamation work a lot better. One such grouping has always seemed to stand head and shoulders above its competition. That franchise being Alien Versus Predator.

The two classic Sci Fi franchises were joined together thanks to the good folks at Dark Horse Comics in 1989. The tie in continued with a Super Nintendo game released by Activision in 1993. While it wasn't the best game, it served two important functions: it introduced gamers to the idea of an Alien Versus Predator game, and it served as the the first decent game featuring Predator characters released in the US. That SNES game was followed up with an okay Gameboy offering in Alien Vs. Predator: The Last Of His Clan later in the same year.

A year later, we received the excellent AVP arcade game from the good folks at Capcom. This AVP game has been widely regarded as the second best game based on the franchise. Which one is the best? Why it's Alien Vs. Predator for the Atari Jaguar. British developers Rebellion seemingly put their everything into this game, and with three character types, which means there are three story arches, this one game a lot to console gamers who may have been limited in the amount of experience they had with First Person Shooters at that point. This version of the AVP story was probably the most well received, and had it not been released on the ill fated Jaguar console, it may have become a long running series of games.

While there have been other games that used the Alien Vs. Predator name and characters released as recently as last year, none of them ever reached the critical or commercial level of Success as the arcade of Jaguar games. Even though Rebellion, the developers of the Jaguar game, have been tapped to develop many of the FPS iterations of the AVP franchise, they haven't been able to capture the imaginations of gamers out there. It may not have helped matters that the two AVP films that were released in 2004 and 2007 were pretty bad movies. It just goes to show that sometimes only the right people can make magic happen.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Duke Nukem Forever Delayed...AGAIN!!

Just found out an interesting bit of information. Apparently, folks have preordered Duke Nukem Forever have to wait until June 14, 2011 to get their copy of the long awaited first person shooter. Gearbox interactive announced the news with a tongue in cheek attitude, calling the delay "the shortest delay in the games nearly 15 year development cycle". At least it hasn't been pushed back to the next system generation again.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The NFL Lockout May Screw Gamers Too

As many of you know, The 2011-2012 NFL season is in serious jeopardy. While this many not matter to most gamers, it should matter to anyone planning on buying Madden NFL '12. The last time there was a strike/lockout in sports, EA Sports was readying NBA Live 99, but when the NBA endured a strike shortened season, the glaring flaws of NBA Live 99 were made even more apparent, and the game sold horribly. This football season is as of now on hold, and Madden may have the luxury of being the only NFL licensed football game on the market, but that doesn't mean that the long running football juggernaut can deal with the spectre of its source material shutting down for a year. Take for instance those roster updates you guys are used to getting during the week based on how well your team does...yep, they aren't happening. That over hyped rookie that's going to be a bust that your hated rival drafted? He'll kick your tail all over the field during games and his ratings can't be adjusted because there's no parameter to make said adjustments. Who knows, EA Tiburon might say to hell with it and just change the year on the menu screens a sell you the same game. There are a lot of "What ifs" gamers have to consider with the NFL season in danger of screwing up their yearly $60 buy. Then again, anybody who buys madden yearly will buy it like always and whine about the stuff not in the game. I would seriously like to pose a suggestion to anyone who buys Madden yearly. instead of lining up to get it on day 1, do some research and make sure the lockout and lack of football won't have a major impact on the game. I know many will read this and say, "I can't watch football and I need my fix", but $60 is a lot of money to spend on something that may potentially suck.

Latest Game Pickups

I got some new stuff...and figured I'd share the vid with you guys

Friday, March 18, 2011

Gamer News Brief

It's Friday, and I can't think of one particular thing to write about, so today I'll write about a few things.

  • A California judge has given the green light for Activision to sue EA. Why is Activision suing Electronic Arts for $400 million? Over the incredibly childish Infinity Ward situation, that's why.
  • Ubisoft recently released an HD redraw of Beyond Good and Evil. That's a great thing, but can we cut the double sell crap and get the sequel already.
  • The tragedy in Japan has led to several games being understandably postponed, while Irem decided to outright cancel Disaster Report 4 out of respect for those affected by the Earthquake and ensuing Tsunami.
  • An all new DJ Hero 2 track pack, which includes music from Jaylib, Atmosphere, and RJD2 was released earlier this week. It shouldn't cost more than $10 for the full three mix pack, so if you have DJ Hero 2, go get it.
  • Fans of Mass Effect 2...There is more DLC coming in the form of yet another mission. This supposedly final mission pack is slated for a March 29th release date.

I'll be back on Monday...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lou Takes On Dragon Age II

Today, I'm taking the day off, but the homie Lou decided to contribute his opinion on Bioware's latest project, Dragon Age II. Hope you enjoy..

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

SNK: The Video Game Industry's Pheonix

Ikari Warriors, Baseball Stars, Alpha Mission, Guerrilla War...I could go on for a while listing the Classics published by Shin Nihon Kikaku Corporation. SNK, as they became known, developed some of the greatest games to come along after the crash of 1983, and their proprietary arcade technology, The Neo Geo Multi Video System, became the stuff of video game legend and video game collectors' dreams. Long before the Neo Geo, though, SNK broke into the video game business with a game called Micon Block, but they achieved their first major success with Vanguard. Vanguard was groundbreaking for two major things; it was the first scrolling shoot em up in video game history, and it allowed players to fire in four directions while moving. SNK followed the Success of Vanguard with the opening of their North American offices, and then with a string of highly popular coin op titles like Athena, Alpha Mission, Psycho Soldier, and Ikari Warriors. The last of those, Ikari Warriors was so popular that it was ported to several systems. Ikari Warriors also spawned two sequels in Victory Road and Ikari III: The Rescue. For the rest of the 1980s, SNK was one of the industry's best arcade and home console game publishers, and all the while they were preparing to unleash something that nobody saw coming. In 1990, SNK released its all new 24-bit arcade system, the Neo Geo Multi Video System, or MVS. The Neo Geo was an arcade operator's dream, since the cabinets used cartridges and were sold in 1, 2, 4, and 6 cartridge slot varieties, it cost a fraction of the initial cost to replace games. There was also an incentive for gamers to play since the Neo Geo arcade cabinets had memory card slots that players can use to transfer scores and save data from the arcade games to their home Neo Geo consoles. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that SNK released the first chip for chip arcade perfect home console in the form of the Advanced Entertainment System or AES. Gamers were generally excited about the AES, but there was a big factor that kept many from buying one, namely the price tag. The Neo Geo came in two flavors, with the base model costing $499 while the high end package costing $649.99. Suffice it to say, many gamers never got to play a Neo Geo AES. Which is sad, considering how excellent the library of game was for the system. SNK had bonafide classics on the Neo Geo, including Baseball Stars 2, Super Sidekicks 3, Viewpoint, and Fatal Fury among many others. SNK started to experience a financial meltdown towards the end of the 90s, and folded in 2001. All was not lost however, and the original founder of SNK, Eikichi Kawasaki started Playmore, then that company acquired SNK's assets. From there, Playmore sought out and successfully rehired most of SNK's old staff, and SNK Playmore was born. Over the past few years, SNK Playmore has been gradually reviving a number of old Neo Geo franchises like Metal Slug and King Of Fighters, while bringing back old favorites through a number of compilations. Playmore has struggled to keep pace with mega publishers like EA and Take Two, but SNK Playmore has garnered quite a cult following among retro gamers and they aren't going away any time soon.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Smart Guy Gets The Girl: A Look Back At Lolo

1989 was an interesting year for video games. The Sega Genesis was introduced into American gaming lexicon, the second Mega Man game was getting good reviews, and a little guy named Lolo was proving that smart guys can get the girl in the end.

In Adventures of Lolo, you play as Lolo, a little round blue thing that must rescue Lala, which is a little round pink thing from King Egger, which is a dragon type thing. Like a Nintendo rep said when this game came out, "Lolo is designed to let a kid use their imagination". Now the whole "rescue the damsel in distress" has been done to death by this point in gaming history, but the folks at Hal America did it in an interesting way this time.

In Adventures of Lolo, you guide Lolo through 50 brain teasing puzzles before you can set Lala free. How do you know if you've solved a puzzle? Well, in each room are little white boxes with hearts inside called "heart framers" all Lolo has to do is outwit the enemies in each room and collect all of the heart framers in each room. This opens the door leading to the next room. Lolo has to remain alert, though, since most of the enemies he will face on his quest can instantly kill him. There are ways Lolo can screw up a puzzle irreparably, and when that happens, Players can simply press select and have Lolo kill himself. It may sound all kinds of messed up, but considering that Lolo has 5 lives and those lives reset at the start of every level, you get ample chance to call the occasional "mulligan".

Considering how different Adventures of Lolo was to everything else on the NES at the time, it was a bit of a shock that it became as popular as it was. How popular was it? So popular that two sequels were released on the NES as well as a Game Boy version. The first game in the trilogy was released on the Virtual Console service on June 8, 2007, and copies of all three NES games as well as the Game Boy game can be found on ebay.

It has always amazed me how creative some members of the video game development community can be. The Adventures of Lolo series is a prime example of that creativity in that it was the first time a game's hero has been able to be that while only using his intelligence to conquer his foes.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Epic Shows Us The Future, But I'm Not Sold Just Yet.

Game developers are always looking for a way to push a console's limits, and no developer has done more in the last 15 years to push graphic innovation than Epic Games. Their Unreal Engine has powered games of almost every genre, on multiple platforms. So, when they decided it was time to show the world what "the future of video games" looks like, I was mildly puzzled. I was puzzled not because I wasn't aware of good their tech demo of Unreal Engine 3 would look, but I was puzzled because it was running on current gen technology and it was basically an extremely pretty cutscene. The folks at Epic claimed that actual gameplay would look like the footage in the demo, but the folks at Sony said the same thing about Killzone 2 when the PS3 launched, and while it looked good, it was nowhere near what they claimed. I know I might sound like a cynic, but I'm a gamer and tech demos are nice, but I'd much rather have a gameplay demo any day. I'm sure Epic is fully aware that while they have wowed publishers with this demo, they will have to unveil actual gameplay before gamers are impressed with anything. I will say though, that demo was pretty awesome.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Artist Spotlight: D. Francis

This song is part tribute to Ryu, the legendary character from Capcom's long running Street Fighter series, and part declaration of lyrical superiority. the song is entitled "I Go", and the artist is New Orleans emcee D. Francis.

you can download the song from:

Friday, March 4, 2011

Some Of My Favorites

I get asked pretty regularly what some of my favorite all time games are, and I always used to find it difficult to answer that, considering how that list can change based on what's out there at any given point. I am at this moment, okay with publicly saying what 10 of my favorite games are, but keep in mind that this list is in no particular order, and whit the game industry not dying any time soon, this list is subject to change.

MetalStorm -NES -Irem: No one can ever claim Irem made the greatest games ever, but Metalstorm might be one of the best platformers on the NES. It was the first game I ever played that allowed a player to manipulate gravity as they needed to, and that novelty added a lot to the gameplay in this one.

Saturday Night Slam Masters -Arcade, SNES, Genesis -Capcom: In the early 90s Capcom could do no wrong, and the mashup of pro wrestling atmosphere and fighting game control worked better than the WWF and WCW games were at the time.

Parasite Eve -PS1 -Squaresoft: Square used to be about new IPs that were good, and not crap like Mindjack. Parasite Eve was one of their best RPGs not called Final Fantasy, and it seems to be all but forgotten now. a travesty if you ask me.

Gunstar Heroes -Genesis -Treasure: Gunstar in my opinion is quite possibly one of the three greatest old school action games ever. Everything about Gunstar felt perfect gameplay wise, and it was one of those games that defined the 16 Bit generation for me.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night -PS1 -Konami: The Castlevania series is my all time favorite series of games, and Symphony is my all time favorite game in the series. Konami took the exploration of Castlevania 2, the boos battles of Castlevania 4, and the seamless game layout of Super Metroid and churned out a game that has been hard to follow up. Which might explain why Lament of Innocence was so poorly received.

Guerrilla War -NES - SNK: Before SNK was known as the fighting game company, they made a lot of great arcade games, and most of those arcade games made great NES games. Guerrilla War was one such game. It took the gritty gameplay of Ikari Warriors and made it grittier and faster.

Ikaruga -Gamecube, XBLA, Dreamcast - Treasure: No powerup system, epic boss fights, and an extreme test of reflexes sums up exactly what the highly stylized bullet hell shooter is all about.

Strider 2 -PS1 -Capcom: Capcom took their original Strider game and gave it a graphic overhaul, tightened the contorl, and sped things up, you get this action game masterwork that looks as good today as it did in 2000 when it was released.

Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner -PS2 -Konami: Hideo Kojima's third game for the PS2 did not disappoint, and it surpassed it's predecessor and every other anime based game in the process.

Robotron 2084 -Arcade -Midway: Robotron is probably one of the most tense video games I have ever played, and after playing games like Left 4 Dead and Dead Rising, I understand why. Robotron puts players in a box shaped room and tells them to save humans and kill aliens. It's simple and pure as far as games go, but it can be nerve racking once a player starts to advance a few waves and realizes there are far more aliens than there is free running room in the small space you inhabit.

There are more games that inhabit my list of favorites, but these are a few I think you guys would gets a kick out of playing if you haven't tried them before.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Quick Gamer History Lesson: What's A Rail Shooter?

I recently learned of a remake of the classic Atari 2600 game Yars' Revenge for XBLA and PSN. I was excited about that, but then I learned what type of game it would be and got even more excited. If any genre of game fits what this new vision of Yars' Revenge is, it is a rail shooter. For the uninitiated, rail shooters are games where you don't control where your character moves, just where that character aims and shoots. It's an extremely simple concept that if done correctly can make for a deceptively deep and incredibly fun gaming experience. The first example of this type of shoot em up is arguably it's greatest. Sega released Space Harrier in 1985, and it was groundbreaking in looks and mechanics. The game was capable of running at an extremely high frame rate, scaling was seen for the first time in a video game, and Space Harrier used Sega's "super scaler" technology, which allowed sprite scaling at very high frame rates. This allowed characters to virtually fly from the extreme foreground of the game environment until they are right in the player's face. it also handled quite well, and nearly 30 years later, Space Harrier stands the test of time with fast exciting gameplay. Sadly though, rail shooters seemingly never caught on beyond Space Harrier, at least in the US they didn't. Other notable rail shooters include the Panzer Dragoon series, which added an excellent narrative to the typical "shoot everything that moves" gameplay, Rez, which combined solid shooter gameplay with a soundtrack that blends techno music with the games visuals for quite the unique experience, and the Sin and Punishment series which takes the best parts of Space Harrier and combines it with the almost frantic pace of Contra or Gunstar Heroes. While this brief post wasn't meant to give readers the full history of rail shooters, I am all about feedback in this space. If you can think of any other rail shooters, feel free to include them in the comments section.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Artist Spotlight: Renzo

I usually don't post music on this blog, but considering the direction this joint is taking, I feel it's appropriate for this blog. The artist is a Houston bred MC by the name of Renzo. The song is called "All In The Game" and when you hear it, you'll know why that title is so fitting. If you dig this track and want to contact Renzo, you can do so via twitter ( @Renzeeo ) or via email
( )

Any other artists with video game themed work, feel free to contact me via twitter ( @8bitanimal ) to have your work showcased in this blog

All in the Game by renzeeo