May 27, 2008

Gaming update

In anticipation of Ninja Gaiden 2's release I decided to continue my Sigma campaign, so I spent a few hours with it this weekend.  I still have a few more levels to go, but I had a great time getting back into it this weekend.  I love this damn game.  Can't wait for part 2.
I also picked up Rachet and Clank for the PS3.  I was supposed to pick up Hot Shots Golf so that Gabe and I can play a few holes online, but I completely dissed him and picked up Rachet instead.  Sorry man.
Technically, the game is gorgeous.  Gameplay is typical Rachet fare, meaning, good wholesome fun.  It is pretty straightforward, but the weapons mix it up.  The game also encourages you to use your weapons by making ammo readily available and bolts (the game's currently) more than plentiful.  So far it has not been very challenging, although I did just arrive at a certain planet where I have died more times than I have in the previous 3 combined.
I also played a little bit of GTA IV, but I am at a point where I have two tough missions I have to do and I have failed each one a few times already.  The missions tend to be kinda long, so after I fail them I tend to get frustrated and I stop playing because I do not want to do everything over again.  So, my GTA sessions lately have lasted about ½ an hour, followed by me playing something else immediately afterward out of anger (at myself for failing, not at the game per se).

May 16, 2008

Racing Games with your standard controller

Ok playing a racing game with a standard controller suck..... I drive worse then a person who has just finished 6 pints of Triple Belgium!!! Why do they have to charge so much for a steering wheel controller. Look at the Wii steering wheel. Kudos to Nintendo for packaging a good affordable steering wheel controller with the game Mario cart. I would like to see more of that innovation transfered over to Sony and Microsoft. More people would probably purchase driving games if an affordable steering wheel was attached to driving games.

Madden 09

I have to say it appears as though EA is finally listening to the gamers and making improvements in key areas of the Madden franchise that are well overdue.... Below is from the EA animation person working on Madden. Sounds encouraging.

While I don't want to (and EA definitely doesn't want me to) give away the "how" we do it, I find it hard to imagine you won't both see and feel the dramatic improvements this new system has made to multi-character interaction. The basics of the system allows the characters to be aware of each other on the field in a way they never could before, and we can then manipulate the animation with the physics engine to allow the hits to match the physics scenario (rather than finding a tackle that sort of matches it like the old days). We can also prevent the loss of momentum of the victim character that causes that "suction" feeling. You will see more variety because we no longer have tackles that play more often because certain scenarios occur more frequently. We have also eliminated the "explosion" phenomenon when the game couldn't find a tackle animation in time and characters bang off each other and both fall down.

In Madden NFL 09 this also means you can truly break tackles now, you can spin, truck, juke and stiff arm your way out of tackles AFTER impact has already happened. But be careful, defenders can now strip the ball from you after impact as well, and Hit-sticks are nothing short of brutal.

May 14, 2008

Haze demo impressions

I played the Haze demo the other night.  Pretty big file.  I was not able to finish it because Dancing with the Stars started and Jeanette quickly kicked me off the tv.  :\
I'll finish the demo tonight, but my initial impressions with the 15 minutes I played were pretty underwhelming.  For a much delayed PS3 exclusive, the graphics are average at best.  The colors are muted, the lighting is bland and the game appears to be running at sub-HD resolution (it really did not look very sharp on my tv).  Then there are the small details.  Or lack thereof.  Just one example: you are in a jungle level with a squad of teammates.  When they run past or brush up on the foliage, they go right through it.  As a comparison, in the opening level of Halo 3 which also takes place in a jungle environment, all the foliage reacts to your squads interactions.  This is the next generation, this is the kind of details I expect.
I know, I am anal.  But I love the small details.
The use of nectar is intriguing (it enhances your combat abilities, and you can supposedly overdose on it if you are not careful) but from what I hear, you actually lose this ability early in the game, so not sure how it will play after that.
Either way, I've only played if for 15 minutes, but my initial impressions were not very good.

May 08, 2008

GTA IV further impressions . . .

I've now played the game for just under 10 hours.  Some further impressions:
- The game starts off very slow.  The first couple of hours (which basically serve as a tutorial) can be pretty bland.  Give it time and things start to pick up a bit.  I didn't get my first handgun until what felt like a few hours into the game.  The game is a lot more enjoyable when you have a gun.  :)
- Speaking of guns, the aiming mechanic is sooo much better than in previous games.  Shooting from cover is a bit odd though.  When you are in cover, you can hold down the L trigger to aim, but you don't actually pop out of cover until you press the R trigger to shoot, so you have a delay between the time you press the shoot button to when you actually go through the animation of emerging from cover to shoot.  It is almost impossible to wait for head shots in this manner because once you let go of the R trigger, you go back into cover, so you can't even fire at a slow pace lining up good shots, it has to be fully automatic or nothing.  It seems like the cursor also moves a bit from when you are in cover to when you actually emerge to shoot, so even if you line up a headshot while in cover and you manage to emerge fast enough that your enemy hasn't already moved, your aim will still shift a bit, making the shot you lined up useless.  This mechanic can definitely be tweaked.
- I am getting a much better handle on the driving physics.  Basically, like in real driving, don't attempt to turn while slamming on the brakes because . . . well, you won't turn.  You need to brake well in advance of sharp turns to tackle them properly.  Trust me, take the time to brake properly, you'll lose a lot more time if you try to take a corner too fast and end up crashing into something (which you will do).  Properly breaking will shave a lot of time in a point to point race.
- The effect of your character getting drunk it hilarious.  The camera fluctuates, the controller vibrates and trying to walk around is a riot!  Great animations too.
- There are certain missions that have you chase a target in a car.  So far, most of these missions have been "scripted" in the sense that no matter how well you drive, you won't be able to catch up to the target until you reach a certain location.  I do not like this.  GTA is supposed to be an open world game where anything goes.  These particular chases really suck the immersion from the game in two ways. A) if you are an excellent driver and you know you have a much faster car than your target you can easily see how the CPU cheats and makes the other car impossibly fast, or B) you are a terrible driver and no matter how much you crash the other car seems to wait for you (unless you are REALLY bad, in which case they get away).  I think if the car "legitimately" reaches its target location, the mission should continue as scripted, but if you actually manage to stop it by cutting it off, making it crash, shooting out its tires, or taking out the driver with a well placed shot, then that should end the mission right there.
- I had forgotten how much hand-holding there is in this series.  I think it ultimately takes away from some of the fun.  If you have a mission in which you need to steal a certain car, or meet someone in a certain place, or find someone that is hanging out around a certain area, the game map shows you exactly where you are supposed to go, complete with an arrow appearing over the object or person.  This is a must for certain people, but I think a more natural approach would add a lot to the game.  As an example, one of the characters in the game sends you e-mails with pictures of vehicles he wants you to steal for him.  Once you accept the mission, your map tells you exactly where that vehicle is.  If the vehicle is in use, you get real time updates on its exact location.  That is not very realistic.  Nor fun.  Since all you are doing is going to a set location on the map, getting the vehicle, then driving to another set location.  I would have much preferred for the e-mail to tell you a region where the vehicle was last seen.  Maybe on the map an entire block will be highlighted.  You then have to go to that area and actually locate the vehicle.  You have a picture of it after all.  If might just be parked there, or maybe the person is driving around.  Eitherway, now you have to stake out the location, make a positive id, and then decide the best way to take it, rather than just following a dot on your map.  This same concept can be implemented in about 70% of the missions in one form or another to make the player actually "think" as your character, instead of just having your hand held the entire time.
- Overall, this game is distinctly GTA.  Watching the first gameplay videos just prior to release, the game appeared vastly different, with the much improved shooting mechanic, the Euphoria physics, etc., it looked to be a whole new ball game.  After playing it for a while, the experience feels very much like the previous titles.  That can be a good or bad thing.  Many people love the previous games.  I enjoyed GTA III and Vice City, but never picked up San Andreas because the series was starting to feel a little stale to me.  While this game is still a lot of fun, I do not know if that is because I just took an extra long break from the GTA formula.  I can actually see it getting a little old by the end.  All in all, the game has improved upon the previous titles, but I do not see any new mechanic that would classify it as a major leap forward for the series.  I really do not see how this game could have received so many 10's.  This game is far from a 10.  No final score from me yet, but a 10 it ain't!
I'll write some multiplayer impressions in a few days.  I've played a few random matches and they have been a lot of fun.  I'm playing with my buddy Sunday night, so I should have a better feel for it next week.