12 Amazing Expansion Packs
February 20, 2009, 12:28 am
Filed under: Player Inventory | Tags:

GTAIV: The Lost and Damned

Expansion packs have been common ever since developers realized they can add some content, slap a twenty dollar price tag on it and watch the cash roll in. Suffice it to say gamers love their expansions as they gobble them up en masse for a few new maps and maybe a new wrinkle in the game mechanics.

Some companies (hello BLIZZARD) however feel that an expansion pack should build upon the original, not just add to it. I gushed about it earlier this week but The Lost and Damned is a modern expansion pack done right, offering a new and very different game experience than the original GTAIV while tweaking and improving some flaws of the game, in this case, motorcycle handling. All the efforts in TLAD have made the experience similar but satisfying in the long run.


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Really Freaking Early Impressions on Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned
February 17, 2009, 11:07 pm
Filed under: Random

Usually the early months of the year are the video game dead zone. Most people are working on a pent up amount of games from the holiday season and new releases are usually few and far bewteen. There have been notable exceptions, most notable 2005 when Resident Evil 4, Spliter Cell: Chaos Theory and God of War were released within months of each other. 2009 is looking to be like that and then some if the lines for Street Fighter IV at a local EB are a good indication. With last months Fallout 3 DLC and March promising Resident Evil 5 and Madworld it seems this early going for this year is shaping up to be a doozie. Along with all of this however is the highly touted much anticipated DLC “Episode” for last year’s smash hit Grand Theft Auto IV. Titled “The Lost and Damned”, it brings up a parallel story line to that of GTAIV’s featuring minor character Johnny as the protagonist for new series of missions, new story lines and new chances for all out mayhem.

When the rumors were swirling for the two exclusive episodes for the Xbox 360 that Microsoft paid millions for to get a leg up on the PS3 things were as lofty as entirely new sections of the city to all new cities, like our old friend Nico visiting Vice City and San Andreas. While TLAD takes place in the Liberty City we know and loved Rockstar does a lot to mine out new places and new faces in the existing back drop of Liberty City.

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The Cult of the Game: Planescape Torment
February 15, 2009, 11:38 pm
Filed under: The Cult of the Game | Tags: , ,

When Baldur’s Gate hit the PC gaming market it was both a renaissance and a revival. During this time the PC gaming market was in a boom period, as online gaming started to become more feasible thanks to free servers, high speed internet and heavy adoption of the TCP/IP protocol. Thanks to 3D accelerator cards PC games, already usually having a leg up on their console cousins, now looked vastly superior.

Despite this boom though it was odd at how stagnant the PC game market was. While there were definitely exceptions the majrority of PC game releases belong to either the Real Time Strategy or First Person Shooter genres. It made a lot of sense for these two formats to thrive on the PC at the time (and still do today.) For both the Mouse and Keyboard control scheme is optimal for them. They’re great games to play online thanks to their “pick up and play”ability, they were also, relatively new genres with a lot of creativity to be mined from. While the PC was constantly being bombarded by FPS’s gamers at the time didn’t care, because usually for better or for worse, it was 8 different takes on the genre.

However this stagnant problem with limited genres started to show it fatigue by the late 90’s, where another group of a new dominat genres began to take over the PC market and carve their niche. Oddly enough these all stemmed from the classic PC staple from the 80’s, the RPG. Blizzard fired the first salvo in 1997 with the addictive action RPG Diablo. In 1999 Sony would create the prototype for all MMORPGs with Everquest (Ultima Online may have came first, but few MMORPGS model their design after it. In 1998 then unknown Bioware went truly back to the roots, to D&D stat based classing top down RPG-ing in Baldur’s Gate.

Baldur’s Gate was your classic PC rpg slicked up with the brand new Infinity Engine to give it a great isometric view. At its heart action occurred in semi real time action, large parties and a back bone of D&D mechanics games like Ultima and Wizardy had cribbed for years. Despite its deep stat system Baldur’s Gate had enough action and a great story to make it a bonafide hit and pushed Bioware into the stratosphere are one of the premiere developers in the gaming industry.

Obviously when a game becomes a massive success as Baldur’s gate was you’d have to expect more me-too efoorts. Baldur’s gate spawned two direct semi spin offs as they too were based on existing worlds in Dungeons and Dragons. The later spinoff was Icewind Dale a very action oriented take on the RPG but one that didn’t fly off the shelves was Planescape: Torment from Black Isle Studios.

Based in the strange oddity of the D&D world of Planescape, Planescape: Torment is a massive sprawling RPG that stars the Nameless One, a man who is forced to live eternal life for the sins he had done. However whenever the Nameless One dies he is resurrected into a new form that has lost all memory of past transgressions, as such the Nameless One is in a constant loop of regret that as he progresses through the game tires to figure out how to end it.
Planescape: Torment is notable for being vastly different from Baldur’s Gate inspite of similar design and game engines. Whearas Baldur’s Gate is your classic journey to save the world Planescape: Torment is ultimately a more personal journey. The game is designed to explore the notions of torment and regret and has less of an emphasis on combat and a greater emphasis on story telling. Truth be told there are really only 4 sequences of combat one must complete in order to finish the game.

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10 Licensed Games that Don’t Suck
February 12, 2009, 12:36 am
Filed under: Player Inventory | Tags: ,

Goldeneye 007

Looking at the upcoming release schedule for 2009 we’re seeing a lot of promising licensed games. Batman: Arkham Asylum, X Men Origins: Wolverine, Ghostbusters and oddly a Chronicles of Riddick Sequel. Licensed games often carry a combination of entertainment baggage and slapped together production schedules to match movie release dates and you usually have a recipe for disaster. However once in a while a company gets it right, getting the feel of the source material while still making a solid game that defies the usually logic that a licensed game has to suck.

It’d be pretty much impossible to have this article without mentioning probably the king of all licensed games Goldeneye 007. Strangely able to hold up to today’s modern FPS games Goldeneye has the style, awesome level design and pacing that to this day hasn’t been emulated by other shooters. It’s action packed, yet methodical and the customizable multiplayer with the absolutely great level design just gives this game legs.

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Rock Band DLC Tuesdays: THE RETURN
February 10, 2009, 10:59 pm
Filed under: Rock Band DLC Tuesdays | Tags: , , ,

So Rock Band DLC Tuesdays are back! NO I didn’t stop because the article is wildly unpopular because this blog is wildly unpopular! No it’s because about 3 weeks ago my Xbox finally went KAPUT. RROD’d my friends and I was none to happy. However I have to hand it to Microsoft, I got my system back in 2 weeks and it’s a brand new one with another warranty, so I’m covered for ANOTHER 3 years of RROD madness!

The bad: I had both Prince of Persia and Fable 2 on tap to complete prior to the releases of Lost and the Damned and Resident Evil 5. Ooops! I’m pushing Fable now as a “summer project” and am working my way through PoP collecting fucking light seeds all the time (seriously Ubisoft, WORSE IDEA EVER. NO I DON’T LIKE GOING THROUGH LEVELS AGAIN AFTER I’VE COMPLETED THEM.) I heard PoP is short AND I have a long weekend up coming up, so I’m trying to get through it as fast as I can.

Sorry there my friends, ok, lets get onto some DLC I missed over the last few weeks. Admittedly the Rock Band DLC was one of the good things about losing my Xbox 360 because well, nothing really big (for me) came out during that time. Admittedly I know a lot of people out there are championing both the Thin Lizzy and Steve Miller Band packs and good for you, these are two classic rock bands that are very talented. However I’ve never been a fan sadly. I might pick up Boys are Back In Town some day though.

Lenny Kravitz – Are You Gonna Go My Way

I’m not really a huge Kravitz but this is just such an infectious song and I just had to download it. This song is farily pedestrian when it comes to the drums and rhythm section and vocals wise, yeah it’s Lenny mugging the mic. However this is one of the best guitar songs to get if you ask me. It’s not the MOST difficult but it gives you a bit of practice at thing you’ll see a lot of in harder songs. If you’re trying to master expert guitar definitely pick up this song and use it as a warm up.

Pat Benatar – Hit Me With Your Best Shot

I like this song because it’s a definite “crowd pleaser” in the vein of My Sharona and Tempted. Drums is shockingly tricky, with some good bass pedal work and a few unexpected. Guitar wise it’s a little bit of a snoozer, that is until you hit that hellacious solo. Seriously once the solo come’s it’s HOPO city for you! Vocals isn’t too bad and as usual if you have a good female vocalist in your crew it’s always great to hear them try and tackle this song.

The Fratellis – Flathead

Slight rant; why the Fratellis? There are so many good “indie” british bands yet to be tapped (hello, Arctic Monkeys? Franz Ferdinand?) seems weird to go for a bunch of guys whose highlight was an iPod ad. That said, we did see a LOCKSLEY pack after all. Now while I wish we got Chelsea Dagger Flathead is quite a good song that strangely works very well for Rock Band. Bass is suprisngly a good challenge for once in a song and Guitar avoids being just a series of chords with a few differences tossed in once in a while to keep you on your toes. The “ba da da da da da daaaaaa” section is also fun for group sing alongs. A highly recommended download, it’s tough without being too challenging and the song has great energy to it.



The Cult of the Game: Another World
February 9, 2009, 7:41 pm
Filed under: The Cult of the Game | Tags: , ,

Modern day gaming owes a lot to the simple polygon, the geometric shaped used to put over 3d mesh wiring that allow objects to exist in 3D. It seems odd how far we’ve come to believe that a living breathing character like Marcus Phoenix for all his detail is nothing more than triangles with a fine coat of paint over them. 3D Gaming has done a lot for the industry though, allowing for more complex games to exist and assisting developers to push the boundaries beyond 2D limitations.

This is not a slight on 2D gaming at all because really todays game is a “2D” game. However the idea of modeling graphics in 3D has lead to some large innovations. Imagine if we’re still forced to make FPS’s like Doom (which, oddly, are actually 2D games made to look 3D.) We’d lose a lot of the design elements, such as simple rooms over rooms, physics, and lighting effects etc. that make 3D shooters so great. Translate that to the new Street Fighter IV, a very 2D game but is enhanced by its cinematic 3D presentation and we greatly see the benefits 3D graphics have offered us.

However what were the early efforts into the 3D like, not just for games mind you but for graphic design in general. Like a lot of things mostly crude, maybe not fully realizing the potential of what those things can achieve. However, they also tend to be visionary, victims of limitations that are not the creators fault. Through the history of 3D graphics we’ve often seen examples such as Dire Straits video for “Money for Nothing” or Pixar’s early efforts like Tin Toy to see there was never a lack of imagination.

There are numerous early efforts that are worth mentioning. Nintendo and it’s Super FX chip got the ball rolling with the incredible on rails shooter. Sega would counter with the Virtua series of games most notably at first Virtua Racing. On the PC front we can go even earlier with games like Elite and Starglider 2. However one of the most successful uses of polygons wasn’t even in a 3D game at all, or at least a traditional 3D game as we think of them today.

Delphine Software’s Another World (released in North America as Out of this World) is a visionary piece of gaming in many aspects. Graphically the game is an early feat of art meeting design. The game uses polygons to build its alien world. Back then complex texturing was not feasible as it is today. Characters and back grounds were made with polygons that were flatly shaded. While this hampered many of the early 3D efforts by making the environments seem a little drab and life less Another World used this to its advantage. The stark muted colour palette but incredible angular detail gave life to the alien world Lester Knight explores.

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How To Be A Video Game Snob: What Is A Video Game Snob?
February 6, 2009, 12:26 am
Filed under: Random | Tags:

So you’ve decided to not be totally disgusted by my promotion of holier than thou attitudes to silly and fun hobbies. Good for you! Throwing the shackles of decency and respect is the first step to being a video game snob. You’re now on your way to pop culture enlightenment beyond your wildest imagination and an opportunity to impress people, make your self worth rise and possibly get a job at a University in the year 2020 when video game culture studies will become part of the curriculum. Better dust off that blazer with the elbow patches!

Now however we’ll need to go into classification. For you see a video game snob isn’t your typical video game “nerd” so to speak. Are video games a great concern to the video game snob? Absolutely, much like how any snob’s forte is important to them. But it’s less about obsession and more about the pursuit of knowledge, the unwavering need to be able to learn, tries and experience as much of the medium as humanly possible however the video game snob is concerned with a broad worldly view of the medium than his brethren. There will probably be a lot of confusion at to what your goal is to be on your journey so we’ll set up a few guidelines on what a video game snob is.

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