Lost Dimension (PS3) Review

Developer: Lancarse | Publisher: ATLUS || Overall: 8.5

Telepathy, telekinesis and psychometry are pretty legit. Pryokinesis, cyrokinesis and healing are stretching things a bit but are acceptable. Though, I absolutely refuse to believe that super-strength and teleportation are proper manifestations of psychic force. Super-strength is the supernatural ability to exceed the physical limits of natural strength and thus is regulated to the body and not the mind where psychic abilities dwell. Teleportation is the ability to instantaneously move from place to place without any of the travel in between and is centered on spatial manipulation rather than the power of the mind. Psychic sympathizers would have you believe that just because they could involve a conscious effort that they must be placed under the oppressive umbrella of a psychic power. Nay! Rise up against these ability oppressors and embrace superpower diversity!

superman_and_goku_colored_by_benhurvillar-d63px70
“Behold! The world’s greatest psychics!” – Ability Oppressors

Well, that’s enough of that…

Developed by Lancarse, and published by ATLUS, Lost Dimension is a Strategy Role-Playing game (SRPG) that borrows various ideas to give you a game about a group of psychics climbing an enigmatic tower. Shades of video games like Dangan Ronpa, Valkyria Chronicles and Persona, as well as other media like A Certain Magical Index (To Aru Majutsu no Index), Tokyo ESP, Arkham Horror and more are used to make the psychic SRPG soup that is this game. Though, what really sets Lost Dimension apart is a traitor mechanic that has you offing a member of your party at each floor. It all combines to make quite the familiar product with a diversifying gimmick that captures the attention.

School Girl
Also includes elements that will interest the school girl
fetishist out there…

At first glance Lost Dimension looks like a rather by the numbers SRPG. A simple romp where you’ll move characters across a map and eventually level your way to the top of the tower, but with the borrowing Lost Dimension does from other games it proves to play better than it looks. Much like Valkryia Chronicles, the movement is freeform instead of grid based. This usually translates to the characters having a full circle of movement and is especially useful when characters have movement abilities, like teleportation, that lets them completely bypass some obstacles on the map. Borrowing an aspect from Fire Emblem, the game’s Assist attacks reward good positioning by giving inactive units a chance to do a follow-up attack if they are close by. While this all usually plays out rather fluidly, the occasional mid-attack load screen does disrupt the flow. Though despite the minor inconvenience, both of these aspects give the game charm where there otherwise wouldn’t be any.

The story won’t get any awards but fits as an acceptable excuse for the game to play out. Thrown right into the story with very little frame of reference, you find yourself as confused as Sho who just so happens to have amnesia like the rest of his group (and every other protagonist from a JRPG). The group tasked with 13 days to climb a mysterious tower and stop a dangerous terrorist from ending the world, the most aptly named final boss in video game history, The End, thrust them into a malicious game where their trust will be tested and their allies will be killed by their own hands.

Evil Dude
He also forces them to wear skinny jeans and listen to the
bad poetry he wrote.

The characters, on the other hand, help to make the story stand out a bit more. In a Persona-like fashion, Sho can speak to his teammates between missions to build bonds of trust with them. Small conversations eventually lead to more meaningful talks as Sho’s teammates reveal their history, concerns and even their motivations. This not only fleshes out the character, but can give you different and more impactful dialogue during certain scenes. Also, the character designs deserve some note, they’re all reminiscent of a style found in 90’s anime as opposed to a more modern approach, which some might say is “Da bomb!”

Box Art
The only way for this to be more 90’s is if this was brought to you by the
same company that brought you LA Gears.

In terms of strategy, it never really evolves past taking advantage of the Assist attacks mechanic to add on extra damage. On the other hand, I did find that the difficulty increased at a fair and steady rate. In particular, the Berserk mechanic grew increasingly difficult to control and proved to be quite the double-edged sword. Much like in Arkham Horror, each character is outfitted with a Sanity meter that decreases with every special move and attack they receive, and unlike it, once depleted causes the character to go Berserk and out of control. Now other than the obvious detriment of having a character go out of control and attack both ally and foe alike, the mechanic can also turn the character into quite the heavy hitter. Time and again, I’d send a character far and away from his allies and deep into enemy territory to purposefully deplete their sanity and then immediately hit with another attack for about 2x or 3x the usual rate. Of course, if I didn’t position them wisely, my characters would be given the same treatment. Though, it was a shame that you couldn’t use the mechanic to figure out the traitor.

LD Screens (8)
See those bright blue letters over the character’s face?
They mean you’re playing the game right.

Every floor up the tower, Lost Dimension tasks you with voting for who the traitor is among your ranks and “erasing” them from the party. If the traitor is found, they’ll be eliminated. If not, an innocent teammate will be killed instead and the traitor will then betray you some time later. Usually there are three suspects every floor with a single traitor between them that you will fish out by way of an after-battle cutscene where the main character, Sho, will read the thoughts of his teammates. Then through a mixture of careful positioning and a Vision Point system that allows Sho to dive into the minds of his teammates to discover their true intention, the traitor can be exposed. Once armed with that knowledge, Sho is able to sway his teammates by way of simple dialogue choices at the end of every encounter. Overall, being the games defining gimmick, I didn’t find it exactly inspired but still enjoyable. It gave the game an almost Dangan Ronpa-esque feel to it whenever it came time for a judgment.

Suspicions (1)
…or all of you could be innocent, regardless prepare to
have your privacy invaded!

Though an interesting gimmick, the fact that the traitor is chosen at random (except on the first floor during the first playthrough) still means the party will lose a playable character at random. This can be a bit disheartening, considering that every character plays completely different from the other. Still, Lost Dimension does it’s damndest to soften the blow. Even if a character isn’t used in battle, they get about 80% of the battle exp and, when erased, leave behind an equippable item containing their abilities for someone else to enjoy. The equipment also proves useful in unlocking combination abilities that tend to be quite powerful. Still, random is unpredictable, so your favorite character might get “erased” or you might end up with a rather sexist play-through like I did, where the game killed off all of the women to turn it from an ensemble piece to what I pretended was a buddy cop film with way less cops and way more buddies.

LD Screens (1)
“I’m taking away your badge, Sho!’
“I didn’t want to be a psychic cop anyways!”

With the Playstation 3 now at the end of its lifespan, I found the graphics in Lost Dimension acceptable for a budget RPG. My only real complaint is that the “budget” part of the game showed during a few of the special attacks, some of them having rather big build-ups only to finish lackluster. The music was a slight step above the graphics with mysterious melodies that complemented the environment and narrative. Overall it is a pretty standard job on both fronts. The same could be said for the Vita version that has an expected reduction in graphical quality and frame rate.

Speaking of the Vita, I found the battles in the game to be much shorter than is usual for the genre. Unlike battle-heavy games like Fire Emblem and Project X Zone, the encounters only last for about 15 to 30 minutes, making it perfect for gaming on the go. Adding to that, Lost Dimension is also compatible with PlayStation TV which should make all five of you that bought both systems rather happy.

Lost Dimension was enjoyable, even if it was marred by the mid-attack load times and attacks that seemed to reflect the game’s budget price. Overall, it’s a mixture of several fun elements that make it a fun game. The borrowing it does from games like Dangan Ronpa, Valkyria Chronicles and Persona as well as other media like A Certain Magical Index (To Aru Majutsu no Index), Tokyo ESP and Arkham Horror elevate the game up to a higher bar than one may initially expect. And if you understood all of those references, you should definitely give me your number ‘cause I think we should marry.

When not writing reviews as Unnamedhero, Eduardo Luquin can be reached at unnamedheromk13@gmail.com.

 

A reviewable copy of Lost Dimension was provided to Squackle.

 

Grand Theft Auto V (PS3) Review

Developer: Rockstar North | Publisher: Rockstar Games || Overall: 9.5/10

For me, a Grand Theft Auto game is like one of those mini-milestones in my life; I get to experience something fantastic, funny, and overall extremely entertaining.  I’ve bought each of the mainline GTA games during the first week of release, and have thoroughly enjoyed each of them.  I still have yet to complete any of the games on PlayStation 2, and I still need to buy Vice City Stories, but I can pretty much say that GTA is a big part of what makes gaming so enjoyable to me.

So, does Grand Theft Auto V continue to be the torchbearer that has been such a motivator for me to stick with gaming as a whole?  The answer is yes, but the answer is also no, in some regards.  Grand Theft Auto is a lot of things to a lot of people — a social scapegoat, a cool game to fuck around endlessly in, and most of all an offensive and satirical look at America and what it means to be an American.

Grand Theft Auto V breaks the mold of its predecessors by allowing you to play as three different characters.  Each character has their own individual stories and some missions that overlap with each other.  The missions culminate at certain points of the story where you will do “Heists.”  Heists can essentially be looked at as the major challenge or “boss” of that point of the game. Heists themselves are very dynamic story missions that allow you to switch characters based on what sort of preference you have.  At times you’ll also be forced to change characters to progress the mission.  There are several occasions where a character has to drive 5 miles to a certain location, but during “their drive” you can switch to another character who is currently in the middle of another objective that is occurring.  After completing the Heist, all three characters have their own missions opened up again.

Each of the three characters draw parallels to previous characters in the series, with the character Trevor, who is a drug dealing crime entrepreneur being the most unique as far as the series-as-a-whole goes.  All three characters, and their motion capture/voice work actors, do an amazing job in conveying the story and making it enjoyable.  First and foremost, the story of Grand Theft Auto V is a character story.  There is very little strength in an overall arcing story, as it never really comes to a head, but the real joy of the story is the interactions between the characters and the way they live their lives and the things that go on around them.  The main storyline revolves around the government and government corruption, but is never fully realized in its potential.  My feeling is that there will be expansions, a la GTA IV’s expansions, where each character may be the sole focus to fully flesh out the remaining questions that each individual’s story sort of left open ended even as the credits rolled and after.

As a result, the story sort of just drops off at the end and you’re left with questions for each of the individual character’s stories without any real indication that they will be answered or even if the inevitable expansions are even going to focus on the main protagonists of the GTA V.  A lot of the plot points of in the characters’ personal stories make you question why they bothered having them when there was no real pay off.  A wait-and-see approach for the expansion plans is sort of unnerving, but if it pans out the way I hope it does then it may not be that bad.

The game play has been universally improved from GTA IV.  Combat is a lot more fun and refined.  The addition of the weapon wheel allows for switching guns in a more efficient manner.  Many of the same features you expect in a GTA game are present, and have been refined as well.  Being able to customize cars permanently is a welcome addition for the single player mode.  Speaking on cars, your characters all have their own “personal vehicles” that you will undoubtedly drive more often than not.  This is a vast change from previous games where you would always just steal a car to get around the city.  Now that you have your “own” personal vehicle you can always rely on using that car.  I actually preferred to use the personal cars to give the feeling of consistency for the story.  The cars are also unique, so you can tell when another character is driving it or is parked somewhere waiting for you to start a mission.

During a lot of the missions there are opportunities to catch references to action movies in a way that is an homage to Hollywood and Los Angeles.  There are plenty of hilarious scenes and subtleties that make this Grand Theft Auto leagues ahead of any before it, while still harkening back to them.  Most notably is GTA: San Andreas, as you encounter gangs that existed in that game as well as visiting CJ’s home neighborhood — you will instantly recognize it and there is even a mission where you will have a shootout through the whole neighborhood.  You will also be able to walk into a lot of different buildings during your missions — one such being the LifeInvader offices where there are a lot of Facebook-related jokes and scenes to be had.

Missions are split out into separate categories — “Missions” and “Strangers and Freaks.”   During the series there has always been those “off-storyline” missions that came around that didn’t have much to do with anything.  In Grand Theft Auto IV, they added “strangers” that you could meet on the street and talk to them for a little while or even do a mission for them.  The Strangers and Freaks missions in Grand Theft Auto V allowed Rockstar to combine both of those aspects and let themselves go really crazy with designing missions.  Shooting aliens after smoking weed, kidnapping a movie star for two old British tourists, and skydiving out of a helicopter into the city are only some of the things that you can do in tandem with the main storyline.  Another welcomed feature is the ability to replay all of the missions you find and refine your score on them so you can earn trophies.

With Grand Theft Auto V, you can tell that even though the game is goofy at times, they have made it a point to make the game act much more “realistic.”  The way people walk and run, physics that are toned down, and the serious storyline are all honed in on this goal of becoming a “realistic” game.  A major casualty of this appears to be the loss of many of the more “traditional game” elements that we have seen in the Grand Theft Auto series, namely Vigilante, Ambulance, and Firetruck side missions.  Vigilante has been seemingly replaced with “random events” that you will stumble upon as you are driving through the city.  During these random events, people will get their property stolen or police will be in a shootout with the criminals and you can either step in or let them go.  While they are nice as an addition, I think I would have gotten at least a couple of more hours of enjoyment from being able to hunt down a list of bounties or have the game generate a group of criminals for me to take down, like in GTA IV.  It is unfortunate because GTA V’s combat system is A LOT OF FUN, and I wish I could just have more combat outside of missions.  Being able to access the internet on your phone is also very convenient, but it seems like there are a lot less web sites to find this time around.  Watching TV is also not as convenient because there is no “full screen” mode and the volume never seems to be able to be turned up loud enough where I can comfortably hear what is going on.

The graphics in the game are very impressive.  Really awe-inspiring, however, is how big the game’s map is and how accurate it is to Los Angeles and the surrounding area in California recreated as Los Santos, Sandy Shores, and Blaine County.  Being from the LA area, I felt right “at home,” and the lighting in the game makes it that much more authentic.  The wilderness and desert areas are much more fleshed out compared to how they looked like in GTA: San Andreas.  You can even hunt in the wilderness.  While GTA V is a “revisiting” of San Andreas, the lack of San Fierro and Las Venturas can sort of irk you if you are a stickler for the “lore” of Grand Theft Auto.  As a result of having the game be more focused on Los Santos itself, we got a much more detailed and expansive city.  The radio stations are also pretty good and varied.  There are some great tracks, but since nothing can ever live up to GTA: Vice City, we’ll just have to say it’s about as good as it can be.

A part of the experience to note is that ever since the Hot Coffee controversy became a big deal with GTA: San Andreas, Rockstar started becoming more and more daring with what actual sex content they choose to depict.  While GTA IV poked fun at themselves by saying “hey wanna have some HOT COFFEE” and then had a lot of groaning noises saying how good the coffee is, in GTA V they literally have people having sex in plain view as part of missions — not something that is really optional like dating.  And I don’t think anyone even gave a fuck (pun!) about it this time around!  I was laughing my ass off when I saw one of the “movie stars” getting pounded doggie style as you take pictures of her, which resulted in her chasing after you in her convertible trying to kill you.  GTA V can just be a lot of fun.  You can also call random characters up to “hang out” with them and play mini-games, but as opposed to GTA IV, you aren’t forced to maintain any relationships and as a result there doesn’t seem to be any benefits from them now.

Playing the game for about 50 hours, I can say that GTA V is the best game of the series.  Growing and changing as a gamer since playing GTA III, I find myself less and less inclined to just “fuck around” for an endless amount of time.  I just got through the missions, played a couple of the repeatable side missions, and called it.  Ostensibly, it was worth my $60 regardless, but the point of mentioning it is that sandbox games have become a more focused experience and can be less about “go do anything you want” and more about “here’s the things we want you to do, go do it the way you want to do it.”  This is the way gaming has evolved and I do enjoy a more focused experience for sandbox games since they can get very distracting at times.  Not to say that you CAN’T just go do anything you want to do for hours on end, but it pushes you towards what it wants you to do much more than other GTA games.

GTA V also comes with GTA: Online, which is basically just a fleshed out version of the multiplayer from GTA IV.  GTA: Online is structured more like a free-to-play MMO game with progression of your character, and also gets back to the more “gamey” aspects of the Grand Theft Auto series than the single player experience offers.  There’s definitely more people playing it than GTA IV’s online mode, but since GTA: Online is almost its own game entirely, I will just review it later if I get around to it.  It is constantly changing as well since they will be adding patches and re-balancing as time goes on.

GTA V is good, and I hope to see more for the game soon.

 

Hardware vs. Software Backwards Compatibility

There is a lot of debate currently over if the next generation of hardware from Sony (and maybe even Microsoft?) will support backwards compatibility.

In a word, yes, they most certainly will.  As I am favorable to the Sony line of video game consoles, I am obviously more educated on their practices and the user experience I have with them, not to mention the long-term investment of my gaming collection in the PlayStation brand.

But, “in what form?” is the question that should be asked about backwards compatibility — not whether or not it will be around… Backwards compatibility comes in two fashions, looking forward:

1. Disc-based (hardware) backwards compatibility.
2. Software (storefront/online/digital) backwards compatibility.

Disc-based BC is less appealing to Sony as they can’t continue to make profits off discs after the fact, besides downloadable content, and that, at best, is probably not as profitable as we might think for most games.

By making consumers’ libraries of disc-based libraries incompatible with a potential PlayStation 4, it has the following potential benefits for Sony:

1a. Consumers will repurchase games they have.

This is obviously very attractive to all the businesses involved. The repurchasing of games that are “re-mastered” via disc, and also “re-mastered” (aka “made compatible”) with the current generation of hardware. People get to rebuy the 30 dollar/50 dollar/60 dollar games they bought in the past for varying amounts of money and benefit from software BC, which is explored below.  This will also get them “new” sales from consumers who only bought games used to begin with.

1b. Consumers will “switch to Xbox” if their current libraries are cut off from them.

This is the counterweight to 1a. However, this is not the only option presented to gamers who are suddenly cut from their existing libraries. A portion of them will obviously become floaters, but they may also come back later in the generation when the hardware is cheap.

There are some that will undoubtedly choose the next Xbox (or Wii U?) as their “main console” for this reason alone, but whether or not Sony actually cares about this depends on how much focus grouping they can do and whether or not disc-based backwards compatibility actually IS a factor to keeping existing consumers who own a PlayStation 3.

I personally would assume that 1a > the losses from 1b in the long-run plus the costs of accommodating disc-based backwards compatibility (which may or may not include actual extra hardware in the box).

The result and purpose of the loss of disc-based backwards compatibility is decreasing/eliminating the confidence in optical media severely due to its resulting loss of one of its greatest benefits — longevity of ownership (aka the selling of games back as used games and resold to a new consumer), and giving more confidence to online media.

Now, exploring online-only backwards compatibility, we can almost be 100% sure that anything bought online will be made to work with whatever future PlayStation 4 is available, whether they have to update all the games with a new build or software-based solution. The benefits that come from this are (assuming all the points I brought up above are true):

2a. Customers repurchasing games online — aka “more control.”

Customers “rebuy” games that cost little to nothing to create and service. Not to mention they are cutting out the middle man — the retail store. Sony and the 3rd party get a second income from this and at a greater rate due to less hands in the pot.  This also obviously eliminates used games.  You can’t sell a used digital game.  That makes no sense!

2b. Confidence increasing in Online purchases vs. Retail Purchases

Customers will be less apt to buy disc-based games at a retail store due to the fact that their disc may or may not be backwards compatible in the future. This probably only affects about 30 to 50% of the gaming community that actually enjoys playing old games on a new system. I’m sure that most of the people who buy games sell all of the games they buy once they’re done playing them.

The result of supporting Software BC is BENEFICIAL for the following reasons:

1. Boost confidence in online purchases, which leads to:

  • 1a. elimination of retail new games
  • 1b. elimination of used game sales

2. More long-term profits by having an increasingly larger selection of games available online at a more favorable cost to profit ratio.  There is never a “lack” of games to buy and play, even when a new console is launched.

The most clean example of what is happening is the transition from PSP -> PSVita.  People are buying PSP games to play on their PSVita, and all of the UMD games that consumers may have bought have become unusable on the new system, yet everything that was available/purchased online works on PSVita for the most part or will be patched to be able to.  Anyone who has a UMD game that they want to play on the PSVita will have to repurchase it, no exceptions.

We all know video games are going to online distribution systems exclusively within the next 10 years. Sony’s 10 year plans include outlooks like this, I’m sure.  PS4, coming out in 2014, sticking around until at least 2024 as an actively-developed-for platform. I’m sure every single game that is ever released on the PS4 will be mandated to be released online as well.  If it gets to the point of games being streamed from some server somewhere, you won’t even have a copy of the data you buy anymore. Poopoo on us if those servers go down one day, or the rights to stream those games disappear and you no longer have the right to that software once it happens, even if you did pay for it.

The super long-term plan for Sony is to eliminate disc-based backwards compatibility.  It is simply unfavorable to the industry as a whole to keep it around. It is a wholly consumer-positive practice and during this transitional period we are making into Online-only purchases (and soon cloud gaming) there will be growing pains for consumers who think they own something when they buy it.

The loss of disc-based/hardware backwards compatibility is bad for the consumer.  To promote or not care for the loss of disc-based backwards compatibility is to be anti-consumer.

 

Overlord: Raising Hell (PS3) Review

Developer: Insomniac Games | Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment || Overall: 8.5/10

It’s not too often you get to be the bad guy in a game. In Overlord: Raising Hell, you’re given the primary role of being “The Overlord” – the master of the Minions. With their help, you’ll rebuild your evil kingdom, confronting those that have killed your predecessor and rebuilding your once-fear-inducing-yet-humble abode. Throughout the levels you’ll find pieces of your tower, power-ups, and more minions to help you.

Essentially, Overlord is a mish-mash of a few genres – action, RPG, and real-time-strategy. The action influences come from the obvious gameplay mechanics such as controlling a menacing dude who goes around beating people with his axe, solving puzzles, and the like. The RPG elements come in with increasing your stats by gaining new weapons and getting new power-ups to help you maintain those stats. The most interesting aspect of Overlord, however, is how it accomplishes being real-time-strategy in tandem with the aforementioned aspects of gameplay.

Fundamentally, the importance of succeeding in Overlord is using your Minions in a strategic fashion to accomplish goals. Sure, you could go in and swing your weapon around at your enemies, but that would take a long time — not to mention there are some very difficult enemies where taking them on alone would be nigh impossible. Thinking of Minions as your “units” in a real-time-strategy game, you send them into battle and watch the mayhem unfold, modifying their focus as needed. While it starts simple, more strategy is involved when certain enemies are susceptible only to certain types of Minions’ attacks.

There are four different types of Minions – Browns, Reds, Greens, and Blues. The Browns are multipurpose melee fighters; Reds are long-range, fire-based attackers; Greens are stealthy, poisonous melee fighters that are weaker than your Browns; Blues are weak but they swim in water and can resurrect other Minions. Using all the different Minions and their unique skills to your advantage is the real challenge of Overlord.

The control scheme is something to be appraised. While you don’t normally see RTS-type games on consoles, Overlord has an advantage from being in a 3rd-person perspective. If you just want to tell your Minions to go somewhere, you move the right stick and control your group to go wherever you want without moving The Overlord himself. The camera also follows your group of Minions without getting far away from The Overlord, just in case something starts attacking you, but it also keeps the focus of the game of you being The Overlord at the same time. This comes into use when you meet obstacles that only Minions can go through, and you must use them appropriately to solve the puzzle or defeat the enemies at hand. If you just want to send your minions in to destroy anything they see in front of you, you just press and hold the R2 button and you’ll be able to watch the carnage, get the rewards, and not have to get your own hands dirty at all.

While the graphics aren’t the most beautiful you’ve ever seen, there is a style to the game that makes it feel like if it were any different, a certain charm about the game would be lost. The visuals match Overlord’s zany humor, with all the different quests you’ll be going on and different things your Minions will say. In a sense, it’s almost like playing a cartoon. Your Minions say some clever/funny things at times like “Treasssurreeeee!,” or “For the master!,” or “For the Overlorrrrrd!” while they bring treasure and other items back to you. There are also some offhand Minion comments that are context-specific.

While visiting your Tower, a Jester will follow you around calling you different things based on the quests you have already accomplished. My personal favorite is “Persecutor of Pumpkins” — referencing a quest in which you kill evil pumpkins that are eating townspeople. While that may sound off, considering that you’re supposed to be evil, the way the game rationalizes doing any good for people in the first place is that if they’re all dead, there’d be no one to boss around and torture. However, you are given the option of killing any of your subjects at any point, which raises a stat called “Corruption.” A certain amount of Corruption allows you to gain more power and skills, but must be taken in moderation, as there are disadvantages to gaining Corruption percentage.

Overlord: Raising Hell for the PS3 includes the DLC that was available for download on Xbox 360 and PC. The DLC adds a good 10 or 15 hours of playtime on the 20 hours or so the normal game had previously. There are also some other improvements and additions to the game that are integrated, along with the extra levels compared to the initial release of Overlord.

Probably the only things that I can complain about is the loading and other small technical issues that make the game a bit cumbersome to play at times. Loading usually takes a bit longer than I would hope for, especially since there’s about a minute of loading as soon as you start up the game as well as loading whenever you enter a new level. I encountered a few bugs that would result in the game becoming broken, forcing me to either load the game from my last autosave or restart my PS3. The minimap is almost a pain to use: while it is definitely a needed and welcomed addition from the normal version of the game, it can be hard to find your quests sometimes since you can’t really zoom out on it. There is a full-size map, but it’s not nearly as useful as the minimap.

Multiplayer is also a huge disappointment on the PS3. There is no one to play with online, so that means you can’t even use the multiplayer mode. This severely diminishes the value of the game if you had ever intended on checking out the multiplayer portion. However, since I’m a big proponent of single player games, it’s not a huge dent to my overall opinion about the game, though it is still something to take into account when purchasing it. It is also worth mentioning that seven multiplayer maps are part of the additions to the game from the first edition. Even though on the box it says you can play multiplayer in split-screen, I couldn’t find the option to do so in the menu.

Overlord: Raising Hell is a fun title, especially if you can pick it up for cheap. Overlord: Raising Hell offers a unique combination of several genres that creates an enjoyable and humorous addition to any PS3 owner’s library.

 

Resistance 2 (PS3) E3 2008 Preview

Developer: Insomniac Games | Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

At E3 2008, I had the opportunity to extensively play the multiplayer mode in Resistance 2. The demo was a 60-man multiplayer game, full of Sony and Insomniac Games employees. The single player demo was only available in a limited-access Sony meeting room.

The map we played on was pretty large and looked like a destroyed mountain town. There were cars strewn about, large holes and vastly different areas to see. There was a lumberyard as well as cabin houses surrounded by lots of trees and water.

The gameplay itself is largely intact from the original Resistance. There are a few things however that felt downgraded – at least from what the demo gives the impression of so far. The Chimera themselves seem to play more like the Human characters now. The Human side basically has the same benefits as the Chimera. All characters are able to use one of several special Chimera abilities called “Berserk.” Berserk powers are different depending on which side you’re on, but you are able to choose your weapon load-out and powers from the get-go. Berserk powers include things like invisibility (while not firing), increased health recovery, more ammo dropped and the like. A Chimera player starts out with one hedgehog grenade this time as well. While this evens the playing field, it feels like it sort of goes against what the first Resistance tried to accomplish.

Some weapons are a little different as well. A few of them got a face-lift, like the Auger and Bullseye. The M5A2 and Rossmore look the same, though. There are also one or two new weapons that are new, namely the Marksman, and the HE Magnum. The Wraith is also allowed for use in multiplayer, which was only available after you completed your primary run-through of Resistance: Fall of Man.

Oddly, I didn’t notice any rocket launchers. It could have just been the game mode, but it seems logical that the Wraith is replacing it. Or perhaps you just don’t start out with a rocket launcher and must find it on the map before you can use it. The Auger makes a bubble shield now instead of a door-shield, which seems weird, but it makes it easier for shooting through at different angles. The handgun is hard to aim precisely with, though adjusting the sensitivity might fix that. The new shotgun feels worthless; even if you’re at point blank range, you’ll have a hard time trying to kill someone.

Something I find very disappointing in contrast to the original Resistance is that you can only hold on to two weapons at a time, meaning you have to switch weapons lying on the floor for the one you’re currently holding. I enjoyed being able to use any weapon I found on the ground, as it was different than what most popular shooters nowadays like to do.

The game seems to emphasize strategy less than the original in this build. I’m hoping that element of the multiplayer isn’t lost when all is said and done. The map we played was just a big open map with a few interesting elements, but in the end it felt like a run-of-the-mill FPS map to me, which is also sort of disappointing considering the first game’s maps all had something unique about them.

Resistance 2 looks good for a third-generation PS3 title. The most obvious comparison I could make was against Killzone 2, which was right around the corner, though the games have vastly differing art styles. Here’s hoping that the single-player mode has some nice things in store as far as level design and character design.

During my play time, I had an unusual seven-kill spree. I was quite an avid Resistance player when I first purchased my PS3, and I’m definitely looking forward to playing Resistance 2’s multiplayer. However, Resistance 2’s single player will be the most compelling aspect when it comes to retail.

The demo didn’t let me customize controls, but one of the exhibitors said they’re still going to add more stuff to the options menu. Pressing R3 for melee was less comfortable than pressing X. You can also now shake the controller to perform a melee attack, which is a fine use for the Sixaxis motion control.

People who liked the first Resistance will probably like Resistance 2. It might appeal to more people because it aligned itself closer to the elements of today’s popular shooters. Since the single-player mode aims to continue the story-line, we can expect to at least learn a little bit more about the world that is created in the Resistance games.

 

WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 (PS3) Review

Developer: Yuke’s Media Creations / Publisher: THQ Inc. || Overall: 5.0/10

The SmackDown Vs. Raw series has been around for a while. With its long-since forgotten relatives WCW/nWo World Tour and WCW/nWo Revenge on the N64, THQ’s wrestling formula hasn’t changed all that much from those days. It may have a new coat of paint and an updated roster, but SmackDown Vs. Raw 2008 can’t hold a candle to the original wrestling games that fans played to death when they were released.

SmackDown Vs. Raw is basically a 3D fighting game in its core foundation. While it’s not exactly “traditional” in that there is a life bar, the concept is still the same – beat the crap out of your opponent and make him wish he was never born. Wrestling games are a lot slower than normal fighters, because they try to mimic “real life” wrestling, whatever that may be. In SmackDown Vs. Raw 2008, you take control of wrestlers with practically no personality (that is, if they had any in the first place) and typically win by submission or three-count pin-fall.

In the game, you have some basic moves. You can punch, kick, smack, slap, run, weak grab, or strong grab your opponent to lay the hurt down on them. If you’ve played any wrestling game by THQ, most of it has remained unchanged over the years. The only thing worth commenting on if you haven’t played one of these games for a long time is that once you grab your opponent, you can execute a move by flicking the right analog stick in a certain direction to perform a specific move in your current character’s repertoire. While it isn’t as straightforward as pressing a button, it seems a bit more intuitive since you are mimicking a move as your character does it, in a way. If you get a hang of the fighting system, you might be able to have a good time with the game, as there is a lot of stuff to do if you really put your mind to it. If the system doesn’t really appeal to you, it’ll be hard finding your money’s worth if you’re a newcomer to wrestling games. You’ll also be furiously hitting on all buttons way more than you’d probably like to, so get ready to give your fingers a workout.

SmackDown Vs. Raw 2008 is the first game in the series to appear on the PS3. The 2007 version was canceled, to WWE’s major dismay, and you can see that there are still many kinks that didn’t get finished or optimized to a satisfactory standard. At the top of the list are the loading screens. Holy crap, there are a ton of loading screens in this game. Every time you start a match, there’s a loading screen. Before you even get to PLAY the match you just waited through the loading screen for, you have to go through three forced loading screens, even if you don’t want to watch the opening entrances of the wrestlers. It is so annoying to sit through what seems like five minutes of loading just to play a match – and worst of all, you can’t even turn the wrestler’s entrances off so you can avoid all that extra loading. Or if there IS a way to turn it off, they didn’t make it easy to find since I couldn’t find it in the Options menu at all.

As far as game modes go, there is a very barebones “career”-type mode called WWE 24/7, which is new to the series. In WWE 24/7, you can take a WWE Superstar or a created wrestler of your choice through a bunch of shoddy barely-thought-through storylines (and you thought the actual storylines you see on TV were bad?) with canned animations, e-mails that have voice-overs, e-mails that don’t have voice-overs, and spending money to unlock opening entrances (goody, more load times!). Online is also horribly laggy, and I always seem to be at a disadvantage against other players online because they somehow mastered the non-responsive controls in online mode and take advantage of the lag people get to absolutely dominate you. That’s probably beside the point, though, which is that it’s completely not worth playing against a human since there’s barely a difference in the satisfaction you may get from pinning an AI player. I guess it’s also worth mentioning that practically every wrestler you’d want to wrestle with is included in the game, as well as the ECW roster, making its debut this year.

Graphics are “meh” at best. Horribly annoying canned animations give absolutely no personality to any of the wrestlers you see, even though there are unique entrances for all the WWE Superstars. A limitation in WWE 24/7 mode seems to be that there can only be four characters on screen at the same time, and often there is no continuity between the story and what you see in the animations between characters. They are just replaced randomly with other wrestlers, so you’ll see the same scenes over and over. It might also be a boon that some of the models in the game look like the real wrestlers, but some of them look very off, like Edge. The sound is okay at best as the music can get kind of repetitive. The voice-overs are done by the actual wrestlers and personalities from WWE, so credit should be given for actually getting the real people to come in and donate their talents towards the project, although you might get sick of just about everyone’s voice by the time you’re through with WWE 24/7 mode.

In the end SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 is probably not worth your time. If you really commit to putting time into the game, you’ll be able to find a lot of content to busy yourself with. However horribly executed it may be, there is still a lot of playing time to be had. If you’re a long time fan of the series and you’ve stuck with it this far, you’re probably getting what you expect from a yearly “sports” title, but don’t hold your breath if you expect to find something redeeming in this year’s edition of SmackDown Vs. Raw. Maybe the 2009 edition of the game will have a fleshed out WWE 24/7 mode that will actually be worth playing, as it did show promise of becoming an interesting play mode.

 

Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds (PS3) Review

Developer: Clap Hanz / Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment || Overall: 9.0/10

Sony Computer Entertainment’s Hot Shots Golf series has entered into the next generation in Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds. Out of Bounds is an arcade-style golfing game developed by Clap Hanz in Japan. While not everyone will get the appeal of the inherently Japanese-styled characters, beneath what you see is a very meaty, fun, golfing game that provides entertainment for a very long time. An all-new online mode is introduced in Out of Bounds and adds a distinctive layer to the series.

The first thing anyone sees when they put their copy of Out of Bounds into their PS3 is an installation screen. Even though the game takes about a 4 giga-BITE (get it? okay, sorry) out of your hard drive space, it’ll be well worth it since the game runs like a dream from hole to hole. The only time you’ll see a load screen in this game is right before you start a new game, and only for a few seconds. Whatever your philosophy on mandatory installs may be, it is very nice to play a game where there is minimal time spent with loading, leaving more to actually playing.

Traditionally, the Hot Shots Golf series’ shot system had worked by the “3 click” system. First, you start the power meter, click the X button when it got to the power setting you wanted, and then when the dial came back to the beginning, you hit the X button again, in an attempt to get the dial right on target to where it had began. It’s a pretty standard system found in most golf games prior to this one.

A new Advanced Shot system is described as a more “analog” way to play the game, judging the power of a stroke by how far the club is raised, and how straight the ball flies by a closing circle. In Out of Bounds, instead of forcing you to go with the new Advanced Shot system, they give you the option of using both, but do make it very encouraging to play with the Advanced Shot system since it is more advantageous than the Traditional Shot system in almost all ways except for judging exactly how far you want the ball to go. Spinning the ball in different ways allows you to take extra control over what the ball does, as well.

Essentially, the shot systems are the game. There are six courses that will challenge your mastery of the particular shot systems, with weather, special rules, or even competition against another golfer being tossed in the Challenge Mode of the game. Golfers each have their individual talents, and there 15 to choose from. Challenge Mode allows you to acquire new gear, golfers, and other items. Also, as you progress through Challenge Mode, new courses eventually open up. In Stroke Mode, you can select any of the various ways to play each course and modify the individual course however you like before you play. A multiplayer mode allows for local play, but the main multiplayer mode that will suck up your time is the online multiplayer mode. Online multiplayer is quite interesting in how it’s presented. Unlike most online games where you simply join a game and play, there is a whole lobby and chat system – you even get your own cute little avatar to jump around and interact with people in a multitude of visual chat rooms. All of that is quite novel, but the main point is to play games online, after all.

The online multiplayer is unique and not exactly 100% golf-oriented, but obviously the point of the whole lobby system is to join games and play. Normal games that are created by other people in the lobby that you are currently in can be joined and created on the fly. Tournaments require a little bit more planning. You have a set time that the tournament starts at, and you book your spot in the tournament well in advance before it starts. You might be able to find a tournament starting right when you’re looking to play or plan ahead and find a game that is four hours ahead.

Additionally, Tournaments are separated in different rankings, GF, G0, G1, and G2. GF doesn’t count for much (everyone can play), while G0, G1, and G2 allow you to rank up, starting from G2, and getting to G0. The more you play (and win), the higher ranking you’ll be able to get. You’ll have to keep winning to keep your online ranking, and if you don’t get enough points to sustain your rank, you could actually get demoted, so it keeps you on your toes, constantly competing against other players online. Tournaments feature up to 50 players. The downside of that is that there can be a lot of time wasted, as you wait for everyone to finish the hole.

Graphics are very nice, and smooth — practically no jaggies anywhere and the lighting effects are quite beautiful. The sound effects are satisfying, and so is the soundtrack. What really annoys from a presentation-standpoint is the voice-overs. The voice actors are just astoundingly bad. I’m only thankful that we don’t have to hear them speak actual dialogue to propel a story forward, not that there would be one since it’s a golfing game, but it’s a curious choice in the localization process. If the American voices annoy you enough, however, you can switch on the Japanese voices.

Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds is a great entry into the popular golf series. Its easy to get in to, and the concept is simple – get the ball in the hole with as few strokes as possible. There’s a lot of time to be spent with this title, and fans won’t be disappointed with either the offline or the online modes. Not only is the game satisfying and full of content, there is also the prospect of getting extra characters and courses through the PlayStation Store.

 

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, The (PS3) Review

Developer/Publisher: Bethesda Softworks || Overall: 9.8/10

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion finally saw its release on the PlayStation 3 this past month. After a delay, a short period of time followed where nobody knew when the game was going to be released for Sony’s current-gen console (gotta start sometime, right?), but the wait was wholeheartedly worth it. Everything I could have wanted from the game and more is delivered with flying colors.

Up until getting my hands on Oblivion, I hadn’t spent much time with any western-style RPGs (I usually stick with the Japanese-influenced side of the genre), resulting in personal unawareness of The Elder Scrolls franchise. But, after hearing all the positive impressions about the massive amounts of features the game has to offer, I was excited to get a chance to play the franchise on a console I owned. While it is a port of the originally released PC/X360 version, Bethesda spent a good amount of time in development on it. As a result, the game runs very smoothly, and even has enhancements over the originally released versions to include more content as well as improving load times and other outstanding issues.

It should be noted that the same improvements are now available for the PC/X360 although you’ll have to buy the extra content as well as an expansion pack to get the upgrades. While the PS3 version does not have the downloadable content available for it yet, Bethesda plans on releasing them as time goes on.

For those who haven’t already played The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion on another platform, the game is a first person RPG, in which you can almost literally do anything you want. There is a main quest involving an alternative realm called Oblivion, but you don’t have to follow it at all. You can steal, dungeon crawl, travel the world, do one of the many quests you might acquire, become an assassin, become an arena gladiator – the world of Oblivion is packed with so many things to do its almost mind-boggling. You could spend 50+ hours in the game and not even take one step in the main quest. Most of my initial time was spent dungeon crawling and acquiring items to sell. It is really up to you what you decide to do in the vast game world.

For the sake of mentioning it, the game’s main quest begins as soon as you start the game. The Emporer, Uriel Septim VII is assassinated by a mysterious group as you help the Emperor escape. Its not good news when you “fail” (aka you will fail no matter what) but before that happens, you will be given a very important artifact called the Amulet of Kings. The Amulet of Kings is vital in stopping the demons (called Daedra) from Oblivion opening an Oblivion Gate and entering the world of Tamriel. This certainly doesn’t sound like it would be a fun thing to have happen.

Once you push the main quest forward a few events, Oblivion Gates will begin to appear randomly around the world. It is up to you to close the Oblivion Gates, since no one else is going to do it. Oblivion Gates will send you to a Plane of Oblivion, in which you can find a massive amount of powerful items you might find worthy to keep or sell. Once you complete an Oblivion dungeon, there is a stone that you’ll ultimately get that can be used to enchant your armor/weapons (which gives your existing items stat boosts). Needless to say, it’s a valuable prize.

While most of the game will take place in first person, there is a third person camera that is available by clicking the R3 button. It’s nice to have a different view every once in a while, just to see what’s around you as you are running around. Combat is best done in first person, however, as the third person view mode will still control as if you’re in first person. Weaponry ranges from swords, axes, bows, hammers, daggers, and a wide variety of magic. When you first create your character, you’ll have a chance to figure out what kinds of things you feel comfortable using, so you don’t have to worry so much about choosing the kind of weapon you’ll prefer.

Practically anything you do is reflected in gaining “experience” — you’ll gain it for just running around. There are a lot of breakdowns for the kinds of things to excel in, such as Athletics, Acrobatics, Destruction Magic, Blade, Sneak, and Mercantile, among others. Using skills enough will increase the level of that skill. Basically, you’ll be better at the skill, and if you reach certain thresholds, you’ll be able to do new things. When you first start out, you will choose seven major skills, with the rest becoming minor skills. Increasing your major skills, in any combination, by ten levels will result in a main level increase, in which you can choose three attributes that you want to boost. Depending on what you choose, your character can become more to your liking, if you want to focus on strength, magic, speed – it’s up to you. However, as your levels increase, so do your enemies’, so you’ll always be given a run for your money as far as combat goes, and it’ll never really get “easier” unless you have some really good armor/weaponry at a level you shouldn’t have them.

The graphics in the game are quite lovely. The most impressive part of the game is the world itself. It is amazingly detailed, and looks beautiful at certain times of the day. The dungeon-type areas are also impressive in their own right, as the careful detail shown throughout the main world is also apparent inside the dangerous areas beneath it. Several types of dungeons settings are in the game, like forts, caves, mines, castles, ruins, and others. The only thing that I can point out as bad is that there will be times where people will be quite literally radiating light, and I have to squint while talking to them. It’s about as funny as it is annoying. Speaking of the character design, most of the time they are fairly ugly – this isn’t a game full of beautiful people. When creating your character for the first time, it might be hard trying to find a character that actually doesn’t look like a freak of nature. Frame rate drops are a rare occurrence, but it can happen at times.

Sound is also another important part of the game. Every character in the game is voiced – every single one of them. You have the option to turn subtitles on or off, in case you don’t understand what they’re saying or if you want to speed read ahead of what they’re talking about so you can get on with the quest you’re on. The voice acting isn’t bad, but the only qualm is that there seems to be about seven or eight people that voice all the characters in the game. When there are thousands of characters in the game to talk to, it can become unappealing to hear the same few voices repeated. Patrick Stewart is featured as the voice of the Emperor, but he dies.

The soundtrack is also impressive. It’s all orchestrated, so it makes you feel like you’re in a fantasy movie battling all the different demon monsters and walking skeletons you’ll encounter. The only time there is no music, is when it’s used carefully to create a feeling of isolation, or something to that effect. Upbeat “battle music” will start playing if there is an enemy nearby, as well. There aren’t too many “theme songs” to really pick out from this game, but the title screen song is the most memorable of all.

An important part of the game to mention is the sheer amount of content you’ll experience if you intend to explore every nook and cranny there is to be offered. You can easily spend upwards of 200 hours in this game and still have more to do. The game is worth it at practically any price you can get it for, and it being the same price as so many of the other short games on the market today is really a testament to the amount of value you can get out of the same cash you could have spent elsewhere.

If you’re aching for a game to put some time into, Oblivion will certainly deliver if you enjoy western-themed RPGs. With seemingly an unlimited amount of things to do for a huge amount of time, it is certainly a must-buy. If you waited on buying the PC/X360 versions and have a PS3, it might be worth it to you to give Oblivion a shot on your Cell-powered machine.

 

#7888: Lumpy -> davepoobond: The PS3 Theory

The PS3 Theory was a discussion through IM between Lumpy and davepoobond.

——————————–

Lumpy: hey… about PS3… there is something about it in my PSM

davepoobond: what does it say about it

Lumpy: 1000 times more powerful than PS2

davepoobond: wat tgeadkjf

davepoobond: is that all?

Lumpy: it didn’t go into much detail but PS6 or PS7 might have biotechnology

davepoobond: oh man that’ll be cool

Lumpy: yup

davepoobond: it could be like in that movie eXistenZ

davepoobond: have you seen it?

Lumpy: no.. all they have is a pic of a chip

davepoobond: i was talking about the movie

Lumpy: oh… didn’t see that other part

Lumpy: and no

davepoobond: o. its worth watching. its cool

davepoobond: they have this thing called a pod that makes you go into games

Lumpy: sounds like Reboot

davepoobond: no from real life. you plug it into your body a place called a bioport

Lumpy: ah

davepoobond: and you’re actually in the game. you feel and taste and smell and junk, and it hooks up to your spine

Lumpy: whoa

davepoobond: but that was actually inside a game in the movie

Lumpy: I figured

davepoobond: a game inside a game, meaning

davepoobond: it like that

davepoobond: the “actual” game system hooked up to your head i guess, and there was a pad on your hand, and it was in groups, where different people took different parts in the game

Lumpy: interesting

davepoobond: and everyone played the same game

davepoobond: you should rent it

Lumpy: haven’t had much time to rent things

davepoobond: is that all it says about the next ps systems?

Lumpy: yeah

Lumpy: still very much in development and won’t come out for a few years

davepoobond: 2005 i heard

davepoobond: on a forum board

davepoobond: but they’ll pry push it back

Lumpy: to get it right I hope

davepoobond: i think that it’ll be 400 bucks

davepoobond: ps6 and 7 will pry be 1k and more

Lumpy: we will see

davepoobond: wtf is 8 and 9 gonna be. i guess i know what 9 is gonna be like. that’d be funny if 8 attached to your brain by snorting it, and you can play a game at any time, by eating it

Lumpy: maybe

davepoobond: and regular foods had crappy games, and you could keep storing games

davepoobond: “mmh, potato ::eats:: ah man, not another space invaders game. this is a hundred years old”

Lumpy: lol

davepoobond: and if you eat something with food poisoning, you lose games

Lumpy: settle down

davepoobond: “::eats a mushroom:: omg! my final fantasy 23 got deleted! that’s a 600 dollar snort! NOOOOOOOOOOO!”

davepoobond: and you could make your own games, and when you were done with them, you could blow it out of your nose

Lumpy: or out of your ass

davepoobond: that’d be from developers

davepoobond: they’d feed crap to millions of people, and when they crapped it out, they’d sell it off

davepoobond: or have automatic crappers

davepoobond: because by then, who needs to actually crap when you can have something else crap FOR you

davepoobond: this is the future, COMON

Lumpy: future not here yet

davepoobond: well i’m talking about wat it’d be like

Lumpy: I doubt it will be like that

davepoobond: they’ll be so lazy they dont even have to go to the bathroom, they have something else go for them

davepoobond: yepppp

 

MotorStorm (PS3) Review

Developer: Evolution Studios / Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment || Overall: 9.0/10

MotorStorm is the greatest dirt racing festival to ever be conceived. You’ll race in Monument Valley — the middle of the desert — and take on all who challenge you. You’ll use practically any type of vehicle that can be used in a dirt race: Motocross Bikes, ATVs, Buggies, Rally Cars, Racing Trucks, Mudpluggers, and Big Rigs through the course of the single player festival. Each vehicle has its own advantages and disadvantages, and using both sides of the coin intelligently will help immensely in winning a race.

To control your vehicle, you’ll use the R2 trigger to gas. If you haven’t already gotten used to the PS3’s new trigger yet, MotorStorm will train you how to use it. You’ll be pressing it down almost non-stop during gameplay, and just like any other trigger, the further you push it down, the more your vehicle will gas. Each vehicle also utilizes boost. Boost is a very important tool to use in MotorStorm and, when it comes down to the wire, will make the difference whether or not you take that qualifying position or are left in the dirt, literally. A boost gauge in the lower left-hand corner will show you how much time you can use your boost for before you overheat your engine and blow it up.

Bluntly, the game has amazing physics. Not only is this seen during regular racing, but during crashes as well. Crashes are a very important part of the visual experience in MotorStorm. You experience the aftermath of each of your crashes in slow motion. Even though you’ll never see the crashes that your opponents have because of you, the crashes are awesome. Depending on how you crash, thousands of pieces of your vehicle will fly every which way. If you’re on a bike or ATV, the driver will fly into the air and slam onto the ground. In most scenarios, you would be dead after having a crash at such high speed, but since this is a game, you respawn to the track to continue your race after a crash. Allowing your boost gauge to fill up will also create a slow-motion crash as the engine in your vehicle will blow up.

There are two ways to play MotorStorm: You can play offline single player or online multiplayer. The single player mode consists of 21 “tickets.” A ticket, when unlocked, gives you the chance to race one to four events. Qualifying in each of the events you have access to consists of placing in the top three, and the more events you qualify in, the more points you’ll gain in unlocking more tickets. Some tickets may only require a certain amount of points, but others will require you to get all bronze, silver, or gold in each of the events for a certain level before unlocking that particular ticket.

Each event will permit you to pick a certain type of vehicle. Sometimes that means you can pick any class of vehicle you want (the ticket will be denoted by a MotorStorm logo), or the game will tell you to race using a specific class of vehicle for the event. Each event will take place in one of the eight available tracks, either during the day or at night. The possible combinations that can comprise an event can create a very unique challenge considering each vehicle takes time to master, as well as learning about all the multiple routes a certain track may have and which would be the best way to go considering the type of vehicle you’re using at the time.

The AI in MotorStorm is the biggest challenge of all. Unlike many racers where it is easy to just pull out ahead of your opponents and win the game, you’ll have to fight to keep your place in line. Even if you’re in first place, making one stupid move could cause you to end up in nearly last place. Even when you’re in last place, you’ll be fighting to keep that spot. The game’s AI is that hard. You’ll have to pull out all the tricks you can to move up the ranks in a race, or be left in the loser’s circle. A really cool part about MotorStorm is that you can have nearly fifteen opponents to compete against in a single race.

It is almost assured that you will not win every race you enter the first time around because of how difficult the AI is. Thankfully, there are absolutely no load times to be considered when restarting a race. The beauty of this is that you could be playing the game for nearly thirty minutes without dealing with any load times at all because you’ll be retrying many times before you actually complete a race. The only real problem the game has with load times is when you are selecting vehicles. MotorStorm doesn’t use the hard drive to cache anything, so it takes a lot longer to select your vehicle since it’ll be loading off the disc each time you change it. This is a major oversight, considering the vehicle selection is the first thing you do for each race, and it can feel like it takes longer to pick your vehicle than it does to load the race you’re about to enter. After selecting the vehicle, you’ll experience about twenty to thirty seconds of loading for a race, which is not bad considering it’s a race that’s being loaded and not a vehicle model.

Online multiplayer nearly mimics the single player mode in gameplay, except that you’re racing against humans. Racing up to twelve players online through the PlayStation Network is a pleasant experience, to say the least. I’ve experienced almost no lag in twelve-player games, though it is possible to experience some every now and then. While the user interface could have been a bit better (I’m spoiled by Resistance’s online multiplayer mode), the main thing that counts is how well the game actually plays while online, and it works just as you should expect it to. There is also stat-tracking that shows which vehicles you like the best, as well as your win percentage.

There are grievances with online multiplayer, however. My main criticism comes with how long it can take to actually join a game. Since you’re able to join a game that is already in progress but not actually race in the game until the race has finished, you could be sitting down doing nothing for too long. Unless you want to hop around from game to game to see if there’s one that’s about to begin, there is no indication in the online game lobby to tell you whether a game is about to start or not until you’ve actually joined the game. This is a problem unless you host a game. Hosting a game gives you many options, such as selecting which vehicles players are able to choose, and which tracks you race on in each game. It is also unfortunate that private games cannot be created.

The biggest problem the game has is actually in its value. Even though I have found the game to be quite awesome, it’s just that there isn’t much to actually do in the game. Having only eight tracks is probably the biggest unfortunate aspect, and when making a parallel to a game series like Burnout, MotorStorm could have benefited from having one or two extra modes of play. I’d even go so far as to say that MotorStorm is what Burnout would be if it were in the dirt, but since there’s pretty much only one way to play the game, it undershoots that status.

The visuals and sound experiences are really top notch. I literally say “wow” during races because of the visual effects and beautiful desert imagery. The frame rate is very solid, with little to no slow down in a usual race. Vehicle models that start out clean show damage and get progressively dirtier as a race goes on. Track deformations are also shown and as each lap goes on, they appear as if cars had actually driven through them (because they have). The realism that is visually portrayed is quite astounding.

The sound effects drive the realism, as each vehicle actually sounds like its real-life counterpart. Although the ATV’s horn sounds like it’s a bus, the sound really helps in the experience hearing the skidding of vehicles driving through the dirt on a tight bend. The music is intense, going well with the chaotic nature of a typical race. If you dislike a song in particular, you can go to the sound options and check off a song you don’t want to hear anymore.

MotorStorm is a great addition to the PS3’s library, especially early on in its lifecycle. While there may not be so much to do in the game as the racing genre has seen in the past, the physics and visuals of the game are wholly impressive — the game is worth playing just to experience them. Single player mode will take a large investment of time to beat completely, and the online community is populated enough to have a new challenge present itself each time you enter a new game. MotorStorm is a solid racing title.

 

Warhawk (PS3) E3 2006 Preview

Developer: Incognito Entertainment/SCE Santa Monica | Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Warhawk has created a tremendous buzz at this E3, especially since it was the only game on the floor to use Sony’s newest feature in the PS3 controller — the motion sensitivity. Regardless of what preconceptions you might have about Warhawk and the motion sensing, it ends up being a mixed bag when it comes to its actual execution.

The game itself looks pretty spectacular. I was impressed with the visuals at their current stage, especially seeing it on a full 1080p HDTV. There weren’t very many “jaggies” at all. Basically the whole demo encompassed you destroying tons of planes and a couple of cruisers allowing you to see how the game basically worked.

Of course, the biggest focus in this game at the show was how well it utilized the motion sensing. There were rumblings online about how the developers at Incognito only had about two weeks to integrate the motion sensing use and only used two of the axis’ – even so the motion sensing was very intuitive. Some people say there was a lag between your hand moving and the plane, but I felt like it was pretty much how it should have been. You can’t expect a huge metal plane to maneuver as fast as two hands with a plastic controller – there should be some sort of realism, right?

The demo offered either Hover Mode or Flight Mode and used the motion sensing to fly around and target enemies – pressing Square to shoot at them. The targeting was alright, but it was the weak point of the demo. Hopefully it will be improved by the final version, but it was definitely playable as it was. To do a barrel roll, you would press one of the shoulder buttons and tip the controller all the way to that direction. Otherwise you’ll just make a very sharp turn if you don’t press the button.

I had fun with the Warhawk demo, and it was definitely a great way to show off the motion controlling even though it wasn’t perfect and needed to be tweaked a little bit more. This resurrected franchise from the PSOne days should definitely come to be an excellent revival.

 

 

Motorstorm (PS3) E3 2006 Preview

Developer: Evolution Studios | Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

To my surprise, Motorstorm was on the show floor at Sony’s booth. The problem was it was sort of hidden, which is a shame because it was awesome. Can’t-possibly-be-legal dirt battle racing doesn’t get much better than Motorstorm. Racing to the finish is the obvious goal of the game, but how you get there is different from anything I’ve ever seen or experienced. As you race through the course, you leave tracks in the dirt, degrading its quality and making it that much slippier – more than it may already be. Coupled with some amazing A.I., Motorstorm is quite literally a blast.

Each vehicle has its own strengths when it comes to the kind of track and what route you decide to take. In the demo, I played as the buggy and its strength was leaned towards dry land racing as opposed to wet terrain or mud. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t know that until after and ended up losing pretty badly. The opponent A.I. is very impressive as well, as they will try everything in their power to exploit your weakness — nothing short of ramming into you or making you slam into a wall or a huge rock. As you make your way through the track, your car becomes dirtier and dirtier, and you even see the mud fly out from beneath the wheels. Attention to detail like this made Motorstorm look really cool. As for the motion blur, it’s integrated nicely, even though it might be happening at speeds that shouldn’t really have it. The blur increases as you go faster. When you crash, your vehicle might break apart, allowing you to watch the parts fly off in slow motion. These effects add to the immersion and make the game more fun; especially on the huge HDTV they had it hooked up on.

I had the opportunity to ask the producer how he thought they might be able to use the recently added motion sensing capabilities in the PS3 controller to the game, and he said they might make it so if you flick the controller in a certain direction, your driver would lash out at a vehicle next to you, which sounds pretty cool, but as of E3 it wasn’t in the game. I am personally excited for Motorstorm. I think it’ll turn out to be a great game when all is said and done.

 

PlayStation 3 Controller Preview

The Playstation 3 controller has changed quite a bit from its Dual Shock and Dual Shock 2 relatives. Whether or not its going to be called Dual Shockless (because of the lack of rumble) or end up being called the Dual Shock 3 (if by some miracle Sony puts rumble back into it), its got a few other changes to point out that are relatively for the better.

The form factor is quite literally the same as the Dual Shock 2, maybe changed a little to fit the palms easier, but all in all the same. It’s lighter, but still feels durable – maybe not as much as the Dual Shock 2, but that’s because of the weight that has been dropped between the two controllers. But this loss of rumble motor weight should help while using the motion sensing and battery life. Speaking of battery life, its supposed to last for about 24 hours on a single charge. The battery will be integrated into the controller, so that it won’t compromise the shape of the Dual Shock, though it probably would be a good idea to make it user replaceable.

All the controllers at E3 were wired, so they obviously were not the final controllers since very controller is to be wireless by Bluetooth. There are four lights on the top part of the controller to indicate which controller is which. As of now, seven controllers are still supposed to be used, but the lack of three extra lights on the controller might be worrisome to a few people. It’s possible to show controllers over four by displaying two lights at the same time, for a total of seven combinations of lights up to two lights on at the same time. There is also a USB port on the top of the controller for the final version which will allow for charging, and who knows, maybe even attachments.
The analog sticks became more sensitive, increasing from 8 bit to 10 bit in resolution. The game that really showed off the enhancement to me was Mobile Suit Gundam, during the aiming of its machine gun. The analog sticks seem like they will be more apologetic towards FPS games than any other PlayStation controller before it, so some people will be happy about that. A “Home” or “Guide” button has been added to the middle with the PS logo on it. The “Analog” button is gone now, so you can always assume that analog is on. Though it was nice to know your controller was working by having that light, the new indicator lights will replace that use, I’m sure.

As far as I could tell, pressure sensitivity is still there in the buttons, as well as the L3 and R3 (clicking sticks) buttons. The only buttons that have really changed are the L2 and R2 buttons. They’re more like true analog triggers, while still keeping their traditional button feel. Some people say they feel a little “spongey,” but I didn’t get that feeling at all. It’ll just take a little getting used to how they work as opposed to the L2/R2 buttons on a Dual Shock 2.

Motion sensing is obviously the biggest new feature in the PS3 controller, and is supposedly responsible for the removal of the rumble feature. The only game to use the motion sensing was Warhawk, and it definitely seems that the motion sensing will be a worthwhile function. It will not get as huge of a focus as the Wii’s motion sensing will get (most likely), but the way I look at it, it shouldn’t be. It will probably only be used for small improvements/functionality not otherwise possible before. The motion sensing itself in Warhawk at E3 felt like a fully spherical analog stick – instead of just using the top part of the sphere that regular analog sticks sit on top of. The motion sensing will probably see its biggest functionality be that of a substitute or third analog stick than anything else. Small flicks and the like might be all that’d happen otherwise, but developers should be able to surprise us down the line.

Though no one had a chance to use the “boomerang” PS3 controller, going with the Dual Shock design again is a good and bad thing. It’s good because we know how it works and how it feels, but it’s also bad because it doesn’t really try to improve too much of the ergonomics of how it feels. Maybe the PS4 will see another design.