Great White Delight

14 07 2008

Hey All,

I’m happy to announce the launch of Great White Delight! Ramin and I as well as a few others have been toiling away at the new site for a couple of months now, and are proud to finally launch it. It is your one-stop source for all of your canadian gaming news.

So feel free to head on over and check it out:

www.greatwhitedelight.ca

–Kyle “Jastrick”





The end times are upon us

19 12 2007

It’s been a long time since I last posted a trailer. I figured that this one was worth it. This is the first sign of the coming apocalypse. The last sign will be the game actually being released. Then fire will rain down from the heavens, as the four Nukems of the apocalypse ride from hell on their demonic strippers, bringing death and destruction to us all, until the final showdown between Duke and the Anti-Duke, which will shatter all the urinals on the earth, whose debris shall wipe out the human race.

Erm……. Anyway……….

Apologies for not doing a post on either Friday or Monday. I was…… screw it, I’m not going to lie. After exams were done, all I wanted to do was eat, play games and sleep. Which is exactly what I have been doing, and enjoying it.

Rock Band is FINALLY released in Canada tomorrow. The suspense is killing me. I am 5th in line, so as long as my store gets in over 4 copies, I’m set. Having a bunch of friends over tomorrow as well, so I’m gonna have fun Rocking out. The only thing that slightly worries me now is that there have been no announcements about DLC here in Canada. Even the new song pack that was released yesterday is US only. Here’s to hoping that they flip on the “Canada Too” switch on Xbox Live tonight.

Alas, I must apologize for another short post, as I am very busy here at work and with the holiday season. We have some big changes planned for the site for next year, so stick around. We’ll be talking more about those later.

Lastly, Good luck to Persopolian who is going in for his surgery today. Get well soon man. I need a drummer for Rock Band ūüėõ

img_sprite1.gif–Kyle “Jastrick”





The prodigal son returns

28 11 2007

I’d say that I’m sorry for missing my posts last week, but frankly, I’m not. Despite my cohorts desire to take pot-shots at me, I do have the upper hand on him. See, I just finished Mass Effect today. By finished, I mean I completed it beginning to end, devouring every crumb and morsel of side quest I could stuff my optic nerves with, and after a little under 30 hours, it’s finally done—as far as my first run through is concerned, at least. I thought I’d lay out some thoughts. There’s to much to here for a full review to do it all justice, and many of the verdicts I would present would be fairly academic. I mean the game looks, sounds, and plays like immaculate conception—except for the Mako, is the unwanted step child.

I’ve always been one to suggest that video games have the capacity to be incredible storytelling devices. I usually point to Amy Henning—who just worked on Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune—and the Legacy of Kain series as an example. Assassin’s Creed does this as well, in small part, by making its environment fresh, immersive, and drenched in historical accuracy. I enjoyed in thoroughly. Don’t trust Jastrick’s opinion on the matter—he is constantly adapting his “game breaker” criteria to mask his inability to play games that aren’t called Halo.

Mass Effect, I’m proud to say, joins the very small club of games with exceptional stories. Every detail is laid out for the player, whether through dialogue, exposition, or a helpful codex that updates itself with both interesting and benign information for you to absorb. Plenty of games, films, books, and tv shows have attempted to create fully realized universes that are convincing, but most fail. There are few shows like Firefly, for example that proves the authenticity of its universe through the actions of its characters. Mass Effect is similar in this way, because the story, the characters, and every alien race all feel real. They have real concerns, real hatreds, and real loves. Putting aside the irony of the idea that all alien races would have very human emotions, it all works really well. By the end of the game, I couldn’t wait to a) play through a second time, to see how the story and interactions would change depending on my shifted morality, and b) see how the promised downloadable content meant to bridge the this story to its forthcoming sequel would play out.

If there’s one complaint I have with the game, it’s…well, it’s not really a complaint with the game so much as a complaint against Microsoft. I honestly feel that within the next year, they are really going to have to force developers to make games with hard drive as a necessity. There’s just far too much random in-game loading and texture pop in. Seriously, not since Halo 2 have I seen this much texture popping. With the depth and scale of a game like Mass Effect, caching would have been an incredible asset that would have quelled a lot of the frame rate issues that spurt up randomly.

That being said, I’m going back to it.

Peace

kefka.gifPersepolian





Forgivaness, Puhlease. Also, thoughts on reviewing games.

7 11 2007

Many, many apologies for my absence last week. I had a lot of school work and real work to get done, and it took up a lot of my time. This week, however, I’ll be on the ball.

With that said, it’s no secret that I love podcasts, to the point of obsession. Not to say that I listen to every single podcast ever made—in fact I’m quite particular—but as someone who’s never really liked conventional radio, it’s a great alternative. There are a few non-gaming podcasts that I’m partial to—CBC Radio 3, for example, is fantastic—but my favorite ones have to be those of the 1Up Radio Network. Almost ever iteration of each podcast ranges from insightful, irreverent, to fucking hilarious. GFW Radio is usually all three.

Now, I usually listen to my podcasts religiously, but the tar-like bog of work I waded through last week prevented me from getting my fix. A few cold sweats, a Chai tea and some NHL ’08 later, I was finally able to listen to the 10/25 edition of GFW Radio, which was not only all three previously stated adjectives, it also touched on a topic I’ve been thinking about since reading a recent Kotaku article.

Starting at 12:20, the GFW editors begin to discuss the dynamics of game reviews, particularly how the audience can go into anaphylactic shock when a game gets an 8.5 when it was “supposed” to get a 9. Jastrick and I made it a strict policy never to use numbers when reviewing games on this blog, and Shawn Elliot brings up an interesting anecdote that clearly illustrates why:

“I had an interesting post-review discussion with someone at EA, they wanted to get my perspective on Medal of Honor: Airborne. It wasn’t a case of them challenging my review, they just wanted to supplement their understanding of it. And what was funny was that they looked at every line, and it started to seem clear that they were reading it in relation to, every single negative score is like…ok if a game is an 8, and there are only two comments that are explicitly negative, then each one of those must cost a point or something, and maybe if they look hard enough they’ll find 8 positive things.”

Now, I won’t entirely talk about numbers here, but I do find that rating games on a 10-scale is really very arbitrary. To use my own example, I was explaining to a female friend of mine that many men often rank women on a 10-scale that is primarily based in aesthetics. She continued to ask me things like, whatt constitutes a 9? How low will you go before you won’t sleep with the girl? How does a girl change these factors? Every answer on this list is subjective. Sure, there are universal basics that the scale is founded on, but anything beyond that is completely in the eye of the beholder. For example, my 10—a 9 with a healthy-but-not-too-freaky sexual appetite and a love of video games—is going to be far different from someone else. One commonality among most men, I told her, is that we won’t usually touch anything under a 5. So then it really becomes a 5-scale, which is similar to what was suggested in the Kotaku article.

A game review should be interesting, and informative, and should cover the universal factors of a good or a bad game—are the mechanics approachable, is it graphically acceptable, is the frame rate constant, etc. However, like they say in the GFW Podcast, they should also be something that sparks a conversation, not a flame war. It’s myopic to decide that, because you’re getting payed to review a game, you have the power to decide whether a game is a great game, or the greatest game. Everything you decide after the universal factors are subjective, and should be treated accordingly. That doesn’t mean that you have no authority on the matter. It simply means that your role is to make a decision based on your own tastes and give your audience food for their own thoughts and subjective likes/dislikes.

One thing I will say on the Kotaku article, though, is that I disagree with the notion that we too often review games are products instead of works of art. The argument here is that reviewers and gamers focus way to hard on how long a game is, how much time you get out of it instead of the value and enjoyment during that time. I couldn’t disagree more. And, just so I’m being current, I’ll use Orange Box as an example.

Let’s compare Episode 2 with Portal. Now, of the two games, I would say that, while I’m a massive Half-Life freakoid, I much prefer Portal. The game is funny, it’s charming, and the design of each puzzle is great. But the game is unbearably short. It doesn’t even begin to scratch the rusted surface of the oil drum that has “difficult” written on it until the 15th stage, and never does it become unbearable. After it’s over—which takes about 4 hours—you’re treated with a great little diddy at the end, followed by the crushingly depressing knowledge that it all ended far, far too soon.

Episode 2, however, while only a couple hours longer, is paced so well that I barely noticed how short it was. The difference here is that, while both games are below average in length, one game makes it impossible to notice while the other makes it impossible not to. The gripe over the length of a game is purely determined by how well the game hides it. Like Paul E. Dangerously used to say, “hide the negative, accentuate the positive.”

kefka.gifPersepolian





Review: Portal

10 10 2007

Midnight last night was very exciting. Like many others who had waited so many needless months, I had my Half-Life 2: Orange Box preloaded and readily awaiting the clock to strike midnight. I promised myself that I wouldn’t touch Portal before playing through Episode 2. Quite in spite of myself, I couldn’t resist what I feared would essentially be Half-Life 2: Narbacular Drop. I was partly right in my assumption, but also very, very wrong.

At first glance there isn’t much going on here. You play a nameless test subject who is given an “Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device”, which can open both entrance (left mouse button) and exit (right mouse button) portals on certain surfaces. With it you are expected to run through a series of test chambers solving puzzles. The first few brain-teasers are fairly obvious—drop a crate onto a large red button, drop a crate onto a turret, drop a turret onto a large red button. As you move from one Skinner Box to the next, he challenges do get harder—involving horizontally moving platforms, multiple turrets/crates, and believe it or not, Newtonian physics—but none of them are all that bull-busting. The game doesn’t really feel challenging until the 15th chamber, and since there are only 19, you get the feeling the broke a nail scratching the surface.

The game is polished, graphically, even if there isn’t much to look at. There’s no HDR lighting here—which is kind of surprising since Valve has made that its baby since Episode One—but Portal does have a very deliberate style. The walls of these seemingly antiseptic test chambers are all a shade of sterile grey, as if to be completely uninteresting, numbing any ounce of curiosity. Also, while the tests may not be difficult, that’s not to say they aren’t excellently designed. Completing them gives that immediate sense of satisfaction that every puzzle game needs, and messing with portals has an inherently enjoyable quality. In fact it’s even encouraged by to the “achievements” that are now unlockable within the Steam Community.

While immediate gratification is enough to pull most people from chamber to chamber, it’s the game’s sound design and sense of humor that will keep you here long after you’ve warn your welcome. To put it simply, this game is hilarious. The only voice you hear throughout your challenges is the malevolent humming of a monotone robotic female—the kind of thing that would make HAL never want to love again. While I try to resist revealing all of the laugh-out-loud funny things that spew from this voice of guidance, just know that humor is what makes the whole game worth it. There is more personality in this one automaton than some of Bioshock’s human characters. The turrets also have their own voices, softer and higher-pitched, whispering “i don’t hate you” as they fall over and die.

The first run-through will last about 3-4 hours, with another hour’s worth of bonus challenges. While it’s a piddley morsel, the game’s humor and undeniable polish make it fun, and I really hope Valve releases some more test chambers in the months to come.

kefka.gifPersepolian





And then there were none.

3 10 2007

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Above you see a simultaneous death about to happen (Persopolian dies first). That small little man THOUGHT he was better than me, but was obviously high off of his own crap-tacular-iffic-ness (I made a new word!). In the subsequent matches since that post, he has lost to me every time. But please, Don’t believe me, check my service record on bungie.net.

So, rumors have been flying around for the last few days or so that Bungie may have freed itself from Bill’s iron grasp. I doubt it. Bungie is BY FAR Microsoft Game Studios finest workshop. I think they would need to be insane to let Bungie go. That being said, I think that they would need to make some changes. I can understand that Bungie is tired of making halo. They’ve been on the series for nearly 10 years. I think thats a well-earned break, wouldn’t you say? Allow them to use their talents to craft another beautiful property. It can’t hurt for your console to have¬†another good series, no? Doesn’t i just mean more profit for yourself? That being said, according to these rumors,¬†is that Microsoft would retain the rights to Halo, and would get “first dibs” on all new Bungie titles. However, I doubt Microsoft Game Studios could take a hit like this, with the recent closing of FASA Studios and the sale of Bizzare Entertainment. That leave who? Ensemble? AOE and Halo Wars FTW!

Oh, and I picked up Phantom Hourglass yesterday. Pure Awesome. Should have review by Monday.

¬†img_sprite1.gif–Kyle “Jastrick”





Review: Halo 3

28 09 2007

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Believe it or not, this is the second Halo 3 review I’ve had to write today (Thank YOU Gateway copyright forms). So, instead of going into too much depth, I figure I’d just summarize it for you all. And then I can get back to owning you all in online matchmaking! Hoo-rah!

Halo 3, is of course, the final game in Bungie Studios’ Halo Trilogy. If you’ve¬†never heard of this series, you must’ve had your head up your ass for the past 6 years. The game works quite well to tie up the story of the¬†trilogy. I do have a few complaints, however. The story of the Arbiter and his Elites does get pushed to the side somewhat, not being in the same depth as it was in the previous game. This games is about Master Chief, and as such, mainly stays focused on the human affairs. I won’t say any more about the story, except KEEP WATCHING AFTER THE CREDITS YOU BASTARDS! I AM TIRED OF HAVING TO PROVE YOU ALL WRONG. Ahem………. Sorry about that.

¬†Halo 3 isn’t the prettiest game on the 360, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t polished. It runs at a very smooth 60 FPS, even with hordes of Covenant and Flood storming at you with explosions flying about. The water effects and textures are also very well rendered. The sound is also up to normal Halo standards, being AWESOME. By far, IMO, Halo has the BEST soundtrack of any game series out there, with maybe Final Fantasy being a close contender. The sound effects also work very well.

The game plays as you would expect Halo would, with additions such as new vehicles, and of course, new weapons. The best additions by far, however, are the Forge and Theatre modes. Making Machinima for a game never has been/will be any easier than in Halo 3.

All in all, I wish I would elaborate more, but you know what? Im gonna go back and play some more now. So watch your back, cuz I’m coming for you.

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img_sprite1.gif–Kyle “Jastrick”