Anyway, hey, hi. I think the last time I posted was well over a year ago, and yet I’m still getting an average of 15 views a day. You guys are insane. Now, I realize this is probably due to a lot of search engine queries for certain images or Quake, Sonic, et al, but still; I could actually start updating here frequently. I don’t really like the ‘Cynic with a game pad’ name anymore, kinda wish I could change it. Also, I’ve since acquired a moderately decent desktop and an xbox 360, so the shtick with playing shitty old games doesn’t really fly. Though, to be fair, I could keep doing that.
I just don’t want to.
I’ve never really said much about myself, when I started this blog some three or four years ago, I was sixteen or seventeen and dead set on keeping that a secret. I’m twenty one now, and a little less insecure about people taking me seriously. Don’t take me seriously, hell, I don’t. Anyway, let’s try some basic introductions. Hi, my name is Ian, and I like video games. Quite a bit, actually, it’s sort of a love/hate relationship. Rayman Origins comes out and teaches me how to love again, and then a shovel-ware annual sequel is announced and I lose my will to pick up a controller.
Man, I’m kind of a flake. I have a lot of opinions about games and the game industry, but I don’t seem to have the fortitude to put any of it in to words. My mind works at a million miles an hour and by the time I get done writing a couple paragraphs, I blank on where I was headed with it. In any case, VIDEO GAMES, right guys?! Let’s talk about them! How ’bout them 2011 releases and that Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands review I promised and never delivered?
Alright, so this game isn’t… bad. It’s just also not very good. Poptfs is probably one of the most blatant cash ins I’ve ever experienced, though also probably one of the most relatively enjoyable, as cash ins usually blow. While the game may not have been designed to be an adaption of the new (at the time) Sands of Time movie, it was clearly designed to coincide with the release in the hopes that either someone would play it and see the movie, or see the movie and play it. As far as story goes, it’s probably the weakest of the series. This didn’t have to happen; the seven year gap between Sands of Time and Warrior Within left a lot of room for a more engaging storyline than HEY HERE’S YOUR BROTHER YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF BEFORE AND WILL NEVER MENTION AGAIN NOW SAVE HIS CASTLE FROM GIANT MONSTERS.
I was personally hoping for a story chronicling the Prince’s decline from good natured, cocky hero to I. STAND ALOOOONE. INSIDE I. STAND ALOOONE (stand aloooone.). This was not what I got, and it feels kind of like a waste.
Mechanically, the game takes cues from both its predecessors and its sister franchise, Assassins Creed. This is no surprise, since the game was built off the AC framework. This is probably the best part of the game, however, as it maintains that old PoP free running puzzle feel, while having the fluidity of Assassins Creed traversal. If they were to, say, remake the entire SOT trilogy with this technology, I probably wouldn’t argue.
Visually, the game is a mishmash of environments that look like suped up remakes of Sands of Time, Warrior Within, and Two Thrones locations. One room is almost literally a twin to the mechanical gear room puzzle in Warrior Within. It was a nice bit of nostalgia, but it felt kind of hollow, like the developers couldn’t be assed to make a new and interesting environment for this game. Then again, a castle is pretty much a castle, so what are you gonna do?
Lastly, at least the game wasn’t difficult. I breezed through it without dying more than maybe three times, and those deaths were all due to faulty attempts at puzzleforming (my word for puzzle platforming that I just made up right now.). The combat flows well, and once you significantly power up the Prince, he pretty much rips through most enemies. So, while the game wasn’t particularly engaging, it was breezy enough for me to bother finishing it.
So this has been kind of a crappy write up, but I’ve had about four hours of sleep and I’m not really going for professional grade quality here. Plus, if you wanted to play this game, you already have. I just wanted to get my thoughts down.
- The Age of Dragons. Again.
This year holds two dragon related sequels that are probably going to occupy my time and own my soul. First, and most directly relevant, is Dragon Age 2. Excuse me… Dragon Age II. Oooooh lordy. Dragon Age: Origins single handedly stole away about 60 hours of my life; 40 for one playthrough and 20 between all the others I’ve started and never finished. Recently, I borrowed my friend’s 360 copy of Dragon Age to get a save file in there to carry over to DA2, since I played the original on a woefully underpowered laptop and I want to play DA2 without worrying about my graphics card melting. After watching me play it for a couple hours, though, he was immediately sucked back in and jacked the game back from me. Who was I to argue? That’s the power of Dragon Age. I had almost forgotten just how the early days of that game were. Everyone talked about the things they did and no two people seemed to have the same experience. I can’t wait to have that experience all over again. Some people seem to be throwing pot shots at the mechanics, the story, the writing, the new dialogue system, etc. I say shut up and have some faith, this is Bioware we’re talking about. The only time they’ve even come close to producing a bad game was that Sonic RPG from a few years back. Just be glad they aren’t outsourcing DA2 to Obsidian, then we’d get a half finished, broken game that’s nearly a carbon copy of the first. Here’s lookin’ at you, KOTOR 2.
Oh right, Dragons. So there’s this little franchise that started out on the PC years ago. Elder Scrolls, you may have heard of it. Well, after five years and two fallout titles of patiently waiting, TES V is coming, and it looks amazing. Now, people love to knock Oblivion these days for its faults, but hey, fuck you, Oblivion was incredible when it came out. It’s still fun to take a romp trough Cyrodil occasionally, if only to kill -everyone-.
I could talk about this game for paragraphs, but I don’t want to right now. I wonder how a Skyrim anticipation podcast would work out… Point is, I’m fucking hyped for this game.
- Supremacy MMA
This game looks siiiiick. No, just kidding, this game looks like absolute dog shit and I hope it fails commercially. Way to set the sport back like ten years, guys. Jesus.
Till next poorly writting, sleep deprived blog,
In lieu of a decent written article, since I’m sitting at the college library and I don’t feel like actually writing, here is an un-edited discussion about things to do with games, between my good buddy Mark (of Random Hoo-Haas, see side-bar links), and myself. Enjoy?
[11:35] Ian: Quick, Mark, spit something at me. Postulate something about the games business for me to extrapolate on.
[11:35] Ragey: Um.
[11:35] Ragey: Offline multi-player – do developers still acknowledge it?
[11:36] Ian: You god damn genius. Is the art of split screen lost? Golden Eye 2010 begs to differ!
[11:36] Ian: As does most of the wii, for that matter, which may be why the Wii is a big family/party system.
[11:37] Ragey: There’s a lot of games on the 360 that I’m surprised have online-only multi-player. I mean, how hard can it be for OutRun 2 to include splitscreen?
[11:38] Ian: Indeed. That’s one thing that I think games like Halo and Call of duty still have over a lot of other shooters that helps give them that foothold in the industry
[11:38] Ian: that being they still fully support four player split-screen.
[11:38] Ian: Albeit Halo multiplayer is on a much grander scale when you’re online, it’s still fun to sit down with three buds and shoot eachother in the face hole.
[11:39] Ragey: Of course. Left 4 Dead is fun online, but it’s much more fun when I’m playing it with people in-person (though it only supports 2-player splitscreen, which given the amount of zombies and crap on-screen I guess is a given)
[11:40] Ragey: Also I suppose it’d be neat to maybe talk about the programming behind splitscreen? Like, I get the impression it’d be something that’s relatively simple, but since a lot of games even back in the day struggled with it there must be more to it than I think.
[11:40] Ian: Yeah, that’s an issue. In this age of Hi-Def gaming, split screen means A: A smaller view for each player and B: More objects that have to be rendered at a time.
[11:40] Ian: I mean, think about it
[11:40] Ian: For every screen, the game is literally having to render a whole other scene.
[11:42] Ragey: I think that’s the bit that confuses me – does having a second camera (player) mean that it has to re-render everything that’s visible?
[11:42] Ian: Yes, essentially.
[11:43] Ian: The assets are shared as far as memory goes, so there’s not a huge extra processing or memory load, I don’t think
[11:43] Ragey: But depending on the intensity of the game it will have an impact, I imagine.
[11:43] Ian: But the graphical elements definitely suffer a bit. I haven’t really looked at Reach, for example, splitscreen in depth VS single screen, so I can;’t pull any isolated examples
[11:43] Ian: But it seems like the logical thing
[11:44] Ian: It’s kind of like this 3D games thing on the Playstation 3
[11:44] Ian: Those games that are starting to implement glasses 3D definitely suffer, because they are having to render the game from two slightly different angles.
[11:44] Ian: Which has been developer confirmed.
[11:45] Ragey: Hm, intriguing.
[11:45] Ian: Fascinating indeed.
[11:47] Ragey: Of course, then there’s also the usage of low-poly models for when stuff gets too much. Mario Kart Double Dash is the first example that springs to mind. I can’t help but wonder if, say, there was something like Left 4 Dead made for the PS3/360 with 4-player splitscreen, but the graphics were N64-quality. Would that make it easier to run or would the sheer amount of models (never mind their complexity) still bog it down?
[11:48] Ian: It would make it much easier to run. I could run several N64 games at the same time on my laptop at home via emulation and not have any slowdown
[11:49] Ian: In fact, I’m pretty sure there’s a port of the n64 Goldeneye on XBox Live Arcade
[11:50] Ragey: Now that’s very interesting. Because I admit I was almost wondering to myself, why have we never seen anything like Left 4 Dead until the 360 (in the sense of a co-op game against tons and tons and tons of mass mob enemies), but it’s really just down to the processing power, I imagine. I’d love to see a cheap low-poly version of the game made just to see how it would run.
[11:50] Ragey: And I know Perfect Dark’s been ported to the 360, I think Goldeneye’s still in legal limbo.
[11:51] Ian: “Rumors and even footage of an XBLA remake of Goldeneye floated around the Internet in recent years, but due to licensing and other complexities, a brewing re-release of Goldeneye appears to have been aborted. ”
[11:51] Ian: correct you are
[11:51] Ian: Parfect Dark was more or less the same engine, though.
[11:51] Ian: so the example stands.
[11:51] Ragey: Mmm.
[11:53] Ian: That all said, I’d imagine multiplayer split screen shooters usually run at so fast a pace, you wouldn’t really notice any drop in visual quality at the time.
[11:54] Ragey: Of course. And the fact the screen is squashed probably helps, too.
[11:54] Ian: Yeah
Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 (Yes, the fourth Sonic The Hedgehog game, at last. There have been no others. Ever.) comes at a strange and somewhat appropriate time in games history. In the past couple of years, there’s been a strong nineties resurgence with titles like Street Fighter 4, Megaman 9 and 10, New Super Mario Bros, and the upcoming Mortal Kombat game, all hearkening back to their early-90s ancestry. Sonic The Hedgehog continues this trend with Sonic 4, and not a moment too soon. It’s no secret that the Sonic franchise has been in the gutter for the past decade or so, with the amount of time and the number of games featuring Sonic that have been panned now outnumbering the hallowed classics. Sonic 4 stands as what could be the last chance for the franchise to earn back some respect among the video game populace, and have a breath of fresh air amongst all the waste the brand has been excreting, but is it enough? Does it live up to its golden (Or should I say royal blue) forefathers?
The story of Sonic games since the late 90s has been a bit of a laughing point for any self respecting human being over the age of 13. The games have slowly taken on more and more ridiculously self serious tones, culminating in 2006’s Sonic The Hedgehog, in which Sonic died. Not permanently, mind you, but the fact remains that Sonic fucking dies. Sonic 4, thankfully, does away with any trace of a plot past the mid 90s and graces us with a very simple narrative: Eggman (hereby referred to as Robotnik, because I am a giant retrofag.) is up to no good. Make him cut it out. The game itself doesn’t even really touch on the story, and sends you right in to the first zone when you pick ‘start’. Just the way I like it.
From the get-go, the fact that this is an attempt to hearken back to the days of 16 bit, 2-D sidescrollers is immediately apparent. You’re treated to an old school level title card, some midi-sounding music (None of which is very memorable, I have to add, as a side-note), and a landscape very reminiscent of Sonic 1’s Green Hill Zone. Including that motobug, right there. And those piranha things… And that spring… Wait a second, you might think, feeling utterly duped; This is Green Hill Zone.
Well, yes and no. See, that’s kind of Sonic 4: Episode 1’s shtick. The story that wasn’t touched on earlier? It’s basically “Robotnik is recycling his old creations, ’cause he’s out of ideas”, and it echoes in the zones. Every single one of them, save for the final zone, is extremely reminiscent of an earlier, 16 bit counterpart. Namely; Green Hill Zone and Labyrinth Zone from Sonic 1, and Casino Night Zone and Metropolis Zone from Sonic 2. That’s not to say these levels are carbon copies. Though the level art evokes the feeling of “What you remember this level looking like”, there are new elements to the re-imagined 3D art, and new gimmicks in the zones themselves. That said, there are also some old gimmicks, so all and all these end up feeling more or less like remixed locations that you’ve already tread if you’ve played either of the first two games of the series.
The level design itself isn’t bad, especially in comparison to other recent entries in the series, offering the branching paths and speedy venues that made the original Sonics so fun to explore and tool around in, whether you like to see how blisteringly fast you can make it through each stage, or poke around at a more methodical pace to see what secret items and areas you can find. The most offensive lapse in good level design is a liberal smattering of chains of enemies to homing attack in order to reach the upper-most areas of a level. These are almost never necessary to actually traverse a stage, but it would be nice to be able to reach these higher paths without spending most of your time airborne, pressing Jump.
On that note, (rough segue!) the physics in Sonic 4 all-together feel a little ‘off’. Now, I’m not gonna go in to anal-retentive recitals of algorithms and slope angles like some of the more obsessive Sonic fans out there, but it doesn’t take a hardcore fan to notice things feel a little floaty. Sonic’s movement lacks any sort of momentum or weight, to the point where often times it is possible to stop on a dime by jumping, which seems to completely cancel out any existing movement if you’re not holding a direction down. While this can be a live saver on particularly perilous platforming parts (Quadruple alliteration. I’m quite proud.), it feels clunky everywhere else. When you’re in the air, or moving at high speeds, the game flows quite well, but the problem is that spending half your time with your feet off solid ground, chaining homing attacks just isn’t fun after a while.
Despite some rough areas that could use a loving touch and some polish to bring out what I feel could truly be a good game beneath its flaws, Sonic 4 still manages to exude some of the charm present in its predecessors, due in no small part to Sonic’s reduction to a small character that communicated entirely with motion and doesn’t spout forced one liners and “YEAH. WAHOO” every three and a half seconds. It’s also nice to see the good Doctor as a main antagonist again, instead of a catalyst for a bigger, likely supernatural baddy to come and take the spotlight, as has been the formula for the last ten or so years. The nostalgia comes at a cost, though, ending up making S4E1 feel more like Sonic 1&2: Homing Attack Edition than anything else at times.
Outside of the linear story progression, there is time attack mode that can be accessed at any time after the first stage that acts as a fun distraction for anyone wanting to test their twitch reflexes in speed runs of Sonic 4’s levels. It’s not exactly a game maker or breaker, but it’s a plus.
All in all, Sonic 4 isn’t the glorious return to form some people were hoping for, no. It’s not anything particularly revolutionary, either. The game is, in short, average. If you’re a long time Sonic fan, you’ll eat it up. If you’re not, you probably won’t find anything to convert you in this game. It won’t break your heart, but it won’t make you fall in love again, either. There is an ending teasing Episode 2 if you get all the Chaos Emeralds that leaves me personally excited for the next chapter, though, and hopefully with that next chapter will come some changes to make the game more accessible. Until then, it’s not a terrible product by any stretch… but it’s just not quite enough to restore any permanent faith in the series.
Over the last ten or so years, there have actually been several Mixed Martial Arts video games, mostly focused on the lucrative UFC promotion. In 2009, this sub-genre was revolutionized and truly brought to the mainstream in a way that parallels the sports recent rise in popularity with UFC 2009: Undisputed. Undisputed presented the sport with a brutal realism that was far removed from button combos and special moves that developers tried to shoehorn into its predecessors. It was impressive, but it lacked some key elements in the cage. UFC Undisputed 2010 fixed many of these issues, and it was hard to imagine how it could be vastly improved upon at that point.
A little known fact is that Dana White and the UFC went to EA long before THQ and Yukes to make a UFC game. EA dismissed MMA as ‘not a real sport’ and continued to make another Madden. However, the success of Undisputed caught EA’s eye, and deals with the lesser promotion Strikeforce were made immediately, to the complete spite of Dana White, who went so far as to declare any UFC fighters that appear in EA’s MMA game to be fired from the UFC (Of course, this seems to not count for Randy Couture, though this seems to have been allowed because Randy had not signed his likeness over to THQ for undisputed).
And so comes EA MMA, a competitor that I think is needed if MMA video games are going to continue to improve, as I believe competition is the key to improvement. I’ll be transparent here; I’m a UFC fan. I see Strikeforce as a generally lesser promotion with lesser talent and more WWE-style production values. I expected very little out of EA MMA, and that was foolish of me. UFC Needs to step its game up for 2011, because EA is bringing its usual dominance to the proverbial cage.
The Demo for EA MMA just recently came out on XBLA (Yes, you can go play it. Right now!), and I of course had to give it a spin. I want to first note that I like UFC’s soundtrack better. The opening movie for EA being set to Linkin Park’s new song ‘Wretches and Kings’ was a little eye roll worthy, but that’s a very petty complaint. Let’s move, instead, into the important factors: The game’s performance.
EA MMA takes a lot of cues from undisputed, presentation-wise, but veers off in some very significant ways on its own. The biggest difference is of course EA’s ‘Total Striking Control’, which takes more than a small bit of influence from EA’s other hit fighting franchise, Fight Night. It’s the same sort of set up, with the right analog stick controlling your furious fists. However, since this is in fact not boxing, the left trigger serves as a modifier to turn those punches in to kicks controlled via the same fashion. The face buttons serve as one press short cuts to clinch, sprawl, and go for the takedown, while pressing A works to advance your position on the ground, X goes for a submission (Which we’ll get to), and B counters a move or stands you up if you’re in the dominant position. This greatly decreases the complicated nature of the ground game, which is a frustration for many in Undisputed.
However, there is also a control scheme called ‘Classic’ that mirrors Undisputed in an obvious way, with the same sort of striking face buttons and stick-based clinch and grapple. There are a few button variations (A fake-modifier button, which is much more useful against a human opponent who can actually get psyched out), but overall it might be the best choice if you plan to play both EA and UFC.
Submissions are the only thing that, no matter what, are a whole different beast. Instead of the irritating Mario Party submissions like in Undisputed, EA separates its submissions and their mechanics into joint and choke submissions. Joint submissions (Armbar, Kimura, Americana, etc) are a button pressing game in which you try to maintain your stamina while slowly pushing your opponent’s joints (represented in a very cool way by an X Ray view of the bones) to their limit. This isn’t button mashing, though, it requires much more careful timing. Choke submissions require you to rotate the left stick until you find the ‘sweet spot’, which will change periodically and requires a sort of constant twiddling to nail. Your vision tunnels in the closer you get to the choke, narrowing the sweet spot down and simulating actually passing out. Defending submissions works in the same manner.
Fighting in EA MMA feels good. I’ve always found Undisputed to feel a bit mechanical, movement wise, with sounds that don’t quite drive home the impact of every good punch. EA feels organic, and gives you a gratifying smack for every well landed hit. Knockouts are a flurry of punches that never cease to satisfy, and when you clinch, it really feels like these guys are throwing eachother around on your TV. When it comes down to it, I would be happy to sit back and watch people duke it out on EA MMA, while I always found spectating Undisputed matches to be a little boring and methodical. Point: EA.
This isn’t to say EA is absolutely the superior game. UFC seems to present more variable options, and the fights are a bit more spontaneous. EA has a visible torso and head health bar when you begin to really wail on a guy that lets you know when the knockout is coming, and while that’s very helpful for knowing when to back off and play defensive, it also takes a bit of the excitement out of the flash knock out. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen a flash KO yet, as every KO becomes your opponent falling to the ground and you engaging in a mad button mashing sequence to finish him off as he tried desperately to defend. That said, you can turn the HUD completely off, but it doesn’t make flash KOs exist in the game.
Take all of this with a pillar of salt, seeing as this is only a demo. The full version of EA MMA will include EA Game Face in the create-a-fighter, which may or may not have terrible results, live broadcasts of fights in a real worldwide ranking, and many more features that I couldn’t explore in the demo. It’s shaping up to be a great game, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dana White making some calls if it does well. Look for a full review when the game comes out later this month.
So every day I check this blog’s stats to see how many hits I didn’t get from wordpress searches of Quake 3 and Sonic. The answer, you might figure, is very little. Hell, if you’re reading this right now, you probably looked up Sonic Unleashed and linked one of my pictures from the Then and Now article. I also check places that people have been linked to here from. Today, I was caught by a surprise. One that may be short lived.
Apparently, someone took my then and now article, and the opinions therein, and ran with it for the Sonic the Hedgehog wikipedia article.
Cool, I guess, but I’m not exactly a super reputable source. However, they go also cite the Sonic Heroes review scores at metacritic, so I guess I have backup.
I should really write something interesting sometime.