Little Big Impressions

Snake LBP PaintinatorLittle Big Planet has recently captured my attention by being the most inspirational & creative game of 2008.

Let me explain.

I first gave LBP a shot during the beta. During which I had fun but wasn’t sure how polished the final product would be.

The user-created content was a chore to trawl through for good levels. No fix was in sight and the developers own levels were too few to make a judgement call on what they would include in the final game.

Later on when LBP was released I read about the server issues and declined to purchase it. Who knew if the developer would correct these issues?

SOCOM: Confrontation certainly was proving to have similar problems and theirs weren’t fixed in anything like a timely manner.

Another concern I had was with the lack of interaction. Until recently, sackboys could only interact with the levels through grabbing, jumping, and running. With the recently released Metal Gear Solid pack that has been fixed through the addition of the Paintinator. So now Sackboys can shoot, giving them another path to interact with their environment.

Finally, Little Big Planet has been patched to remove most of the connection issues. Sure, I still get the occasional disconnection from the community servers, or lag. However, the bugs are mostly gone.

If you’re one of the folks who fretted about the quality of the game before purchasing it, fret no longer, get Little Big Planet, have fun.

LBP MGS Meryl

You know you are no longer the ‘Prince of Darkness’ when…

Ozzy Osbourne’s latest appearance on the pop culture radar comes in the form of a commercial promoting Blizzard’s “World of Warcraft.”  In this advertisement, Mr. Osborne tells us that he is indeed the “Prince of Darkness,” at which point the elderly-Brit is transformed from a docile-mumbling and aged-hipster into the larger-than-life polygon Royalty of Doom and Gloom (it is him, the tinted glasses are a dead giveaway).

The reality is that the Ozzman stopped being the Magnate of Little-Light on March 5, 2002.  For that is the day that “The Osbournes” premiered and the curtain was pulled back on a former great showman.  From that premiere episode right up until the end of the reality series run in March of ’05, we learned that Ozzy is nothing more than a character of his stage persona and a creation of record lyric and promoter myth.

What we saw during the years the show was broadcast was a man who was nothing more than a famous and wealthy Jester of Dimness who was easily ignored until called upon -following the court’s (his home) pecking order he was on the bottom (after his wife Sharon, out of control children, house guests of his out of control children, and the heard of dogs.)  It is difficult to head bang away to “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” when you know that the perpetrator of this metal-driven-scowl is in reality, or currently anyway, nothing more than an over-drugged bird-biting sellout who did his time in the good ol’ Seventies, got bloated and almost killed his wife in the Eighties, sung about his Mama in the Nineties, and now in present-day has an embarrassment of a family and tremors worse than San Andreas.

“I never said, ‘Get the f***ing gun’.”  How does the former Purveyor of all things Ill-Lit go from suicide-inducing subliminal lyrics to suicide-inducing mumble-logue?  Lights, camera, reality-based-action is how.  This decade’s version of televised embarrassment (see variety shows of the Seventies) turned Black Sabbath and Ozzie Osbourne fans such as me into disgruntled bloggers looking to disassociate from their former idols before today’s Molly Cirus ilk find our spot of weakness and strike!

The downfall came swiftly after the sadness known as “The Osbournes” became a hit.  Things snowballed with a Super Bowl commercial for Pepsi, then the penultimate disgrace in a cameo for a fart-joke filled, was funny the first time around, sequel comedy (see Austin Powers:  The Spy Who Did Something We No Longer Found Funny.”)

So now, close to four years later, and with a tarnished crown, Mr. Osbourne is picking up the scepter by endorsing video games.  And it is not just World of Warcraft, Ozzy is also badassing it up and down your block in Guitar Hero (again, tinted glasses are a dead giveaway.)

This all brings us to the number one reason you know that you are no longer the ‘Prince of Darkness’…

…when you are whoring yourself for the űber-dork-playland known as W.o.W.*

*As in, “Wow, can my wife/agent/Power of Attorney for a now disabled rocker put me into any worse advertising nightmare than video games and another Sabbath reunion on this year’s Ozzfest?”

Satan laughing spreads his wings.

Mirror’s Edge (PS3)

Having completed Mirror’s Edge I can confirm that indeed the plot continues on as if it were indeed created by the same creative forces behind Robocop 3. The ending is trite, and ridiculous considering the circumstances. I can, without spoiling anything, say that you have a tender moment with someone on top of a building while guards you saw just moments ago ignore you. I suppose they must now understand the error of their ways and decide to ignore the embracing duo!

It is the interaction of your character with the environment that you play Mirror’s Edge for, and however ridiculous the plot, you come back for the running. Running is a fresh and exciting change from shooting nameless goons in most first person games. There really isn’t much depth to it: Run; Jump; Turn; Jump; Grab; Climb; Run; Jump; Die; Reload; Repeat. Nevertheless, that is all you need to have fun in the city.

Too often, though, you’re dragged back into a shitty shooter when your character is swarmed by guards. Though you can run past them, sometimes you’re forced to disarm guards in order to continue. Combat is a kind of hit-or-miss affair involving lots of reloading from checkpoint saves. Maybe it was just that I found the timing of disarms intolerable, but I could never get past a series of guards without at least one reload.

In any case, if you can look past the terrible story, combat, and the cut scenes with macromedia flash animation, you’ll find an enjoyable twist on speed-running that you never thought possible from a developer locked into the Battlefield genre.

Eight out of Ten MSDN Subscriptions for Mirror’s Edge.

Call of Duty: World at War (PC)

Call of Duty: World at War is critically under appreciated. By that, I mean the slights it gets for being popular. Some too-cool-for-school game critics think that CoD:WaW can’t be good because regular people enjoy it.

If only they could see past their indie-rock-pete-esque hearts to the shiny gooey filling that is an improved and different Call of Duty.

Improvements on CoD4:

  • Nearly the entire single player campaign can be played cooperatively online.
  • In-game friends list, including invites.
  • You can squad up with your buddies fairly easily during team-based matches.
  • Prestige, previously only available to console players, is now available for win-folk.
  • Large, open multiplayer maps enable a different style of play. Bolt-action, single shot rifle kills are now reasonable. As are tanks and other changes to gameplay style. This might not appeal to everyone, but it is a definitely visible change to anyone who has sunk time into CoD4’s multiplayer campaign
  • The Flamethrower, flame tank, and molotov cocktail all bring a new kind of area denial  effect to play.
  • Nazi zombie mode.

You broke it:

  • Co-op isn’t continous, you’re automatically sent back to the lobby and the map is reset to the first map (Semper Fi). Good luck remembering the name of the map you were on.
  • Multiplayer squads aren’t retained between map changes. Boo!
  • The game seems to crash more than is usual.
  • Should have been released on steam on the day of the retail PC release.
  • Still different binaries for multiplayer and singleplayer.
  • While you can invite friends to the multiplayer game you’re in, you can’t see what game your friends are in without having to accept an invite. That is to say, you must request an invite to get to that server.
  • The name tags in multiplayer are colored red or green for differentiating  friend or foe. I can’t see those colors.

Multiwinia Review

Multiwinia is a stand-alone multiplayer skirmish game based on Introversion’s 2003 release of Darwinia. Fans of this sleeper title might not have expected a sequel from the developer, one that tends to shy away from rehashes and instead focus on entirely new games. While Darwinia has a lengthy single player campaign, it lacks any kind of multiplayer. So, Multiwinia combines the action elements from Darwinia with six multiplayer gametypes.

King of the Hill involves holding marked locations to gain more points than your enemy. Blitzkrieg is similar to King of the Hill, except the sectors you capture contain flags that are raised and lowered like those in the Battlefield series of games.

Rocket Riot requires the capturing of solar panels to harvest their output for rocket fuel. Assault mode has one side defending a base while another attacks. Domination is a free for all. Capture the Statue has your Darwinians lug statues back to your base for points while the enemy is attempting to do the same and prevent you from capturing any.

The spin on these modes is that you have to capture Darwinian production facilities (the only way to improve your numbers), and locate crates dropped from space which contain bonus units like turrets and transports.

The six gameplay modes and the new selection methods offered make this RTS feel more like Pikmin on the Nintendo Gamecube than a conventional RTS game like Command and Conquer. This is both good and bad: good in that the bite-sized games only last a few minutes, but not so great if you’re looking for any depth, which is only to be found in making formations out of your Darwinians and using the crates.

However good those modes are, there are some problems with the game. First of all, the tutorials are vague and not polished very well. Most of the interface changes appropriately when you plug in a gamepad except for the tutorial messages, which still refer to keyboard keys instead of the gamepad buttons.

After each game you’re dumped out to the menu with no way to continue with the same opponents. The game also does not force you to change your nickname in order to be uniquely identified in online matches, nor does it tell you how to do this. You’re left to guess until you figure out that you have to click on it at the pre-game lobby.

In-game, every player must ready up for the game to start, leaving the power in the hands of any one person to hold the game hostage. Routinely I’ve seen players online hold out, refusing to ready up, until their conditions are met for the game to be played. Granted, this particular issue isn’t the fault of Introversion, however these and other issues must be addressed for the community to thrive.

Multiwinia is on the right track, as Introversion have already released a patch implementing text chat in the pre-game lobby.

Even though it is more of an enhancement to Darwinia than a new game, Multiwinia is a worthwhile purchase if you enjoyed Darwinia and were left wanting more with the same theme. However, it would be a poor starting point if you haven’t played the earlier game in the series. So, try out the demo if you’ve played Darwinia and see if you like Multiwinia. It is a quirky RTS that should convert those who try it.

MegaMan 9 Demo (PSN) Impressions

Do you miss being extremely frustrated with your video games?

If so, then Mega Man 9 is the game for you.

Unlike Capcom’s other recently released throwback title Bionic Commando, Megaman 9 retains the exact look and feel of its predecessors on the NES. While that graphical style is compelling, it also serves as a warning to keep those who were bad at the original games away. Fortunately, this demo is available to everyone who wants to take the game for a test drive on the 360 and PS3. WiiWare users have to suffer the indignity of purchasing a game only to find that they can’t defeat the elephants on the concrete man stage. I suspect that playing the game on the 360 will suffer due to the smushy d-pad on that platform.

Though you should still buy the shirt, even if you don’t get the game. Boxart will never be this cool again.

Battlefield: Bad Company Notes

I purchased Bad Company the day it was released for $44 (after tax) at Circuit City thanks to a gift card from a GTA 4 purchase and the register jockey was kind enough to immediately apply the gift card (thanks CAG!) I would have received for purchasing Bad Company. Here are my notes from my time with the game so far. I’ve completed the Single Player campaign and spent several hours in Multiplayer.

Single Player:

  • The unlimited Health Stabs are a refreshing change from either picking up health kits or hiding behind cover and waiting for your “shield” to recharge. Basically it works like this: Get hurt, hide, stab, step out, fire, get hurt, wait for stabby-stabs-mc-stabberson-the-recharging-stab needle to recharge, stab again. Excellent!
  • Also, I like the term “Health Stabs”.
  • PIcking up a weapon + secondary weapon at a time is great. The SMG + Underslung Grenade Launcher or LMG + Grenade launcher is great. Even better is the combo of a Pistol and a Sniper Rifle.
  • The Single Player is buggy as all hell, at least on PS3. A lot of the problems seem to be in or around vehicles. I’ve gotten into cars only see drivers pop-in behind the car and float (while in a “seated” position) through the rear hatch and then into the drivers position. During the first level.
  • At least some of the bugs seem to be fixed after the demo.
  • During one level at a harbor my cohorts exclaimed “GOD DAMNED LIBERALS!” while shooting at some mercenary or whatever. This is awesome.
  • The soundtrack in the vehicles is awesome, it isn’t a GTA 4 cross-section of the music universe, nor is it a Burnout-style fist full of jammy jams. Instead it is a small sample of good and simple music. Good job on this one.
  • The 7 missions in the game are fairly free-form. While you have to reach certain points along the map, the Battlefield style changes normal shooter gameplay into a wide open experience.
  • The Single Player gets better as you proceed.

Multiplayer:

  • Gold rush is fun, and I guess I have to continue waiting for Conquest – the main mode from BF2)
  • Ranking up is a little bit faster so far than 2142, and much faster than BF2. I still like this style of ranking up more than Call of Duty 4’s since it provides you with the choice of what you want, as opposed to some distributed standard.
  • Multiplayer is also buggy. I’ve had the sound buffer completely lock up and produce a repeating sound. Exiting back to title didn’t end it. Only exiting the game and re-launching did.
  • The Multiplayer Squad feature before you join a game is great. The constant problem with BF2 is trying to stay on the same team with you buddies. In Bad Company you join up with your buddies before you go into the game, and then the game keeps you together.
  • Stats exist on the Bad Company website, however I don’t believe there is a way to publicly link them. Or if there is, the method isn’t obvious. (The URL I use to view my stats is generic, blahblah.com/myprofile)
  • Sniping is fluid for the first time in a multiplayer Battlefield game. There are clearly set up places for you to go and snipe, that aren’t overexposed, and can be countered if players attempt to.

General Issues:

  • The Find all Five thing. EA I have to tell you, your friend isn’t the retail chain, it is the player. Why must one of your marketing schemes depend on an outdated scheme (pre-ordering) in order to get all the weapons.
  • Character control just feels poor. I’m not sure why, but it does. It is like the character isn’t really in the world. This lack of immersion is intensified whenever I see a corpse floating in some weird position after I’ve sniped it from halfway across the map.
  • Limited destructibility in environments. Some pieces of the level are just immune to destruction. This is probably so some mission details won’t be destroyed. However it breaks the immersion each time you figure out that something you were trying to go through simply won’t. The illusion works best when you don’t think about it.
  • Unfortunately, bullet penetration almost never works vertically. That is to say, if an enemy is on a thin floor above you, you cannot kill him through that floor. Meh.