Monday, February 27, 2012

Dance Central 2 Brings All The Boys To The Yard...

Last week's DLC for Dance Central 2 was "Milkshake" by Kelis and it was a reminder why this song was crazy during my high school years. Mainly, I still remember it because it had an insane beat for the time. Anyway, enjoy the clip above and this week is finally shuffling with LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem" unless you already have the song because you bought a copy of DC2 this month at some stores.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Taste of Snowboarding Heaven... Hands-On with the SSX Demo

Snowboarding heaven arrives next week with the new SSX and EA was able to release a demo on Xbox Live Marketplace and Playstation Network earlier this week. The demo contains two tracks with one being a race against CPU opponents at the Rockies and the other being trick-based at New Zealand. There is also a tutorial at the start to get players used to the controls as it defaults to standard, but can be changed to classic like the PS2 games were. However, the classic controls don't feel as classic as they should. Even though the tricks are mapped to the L and R buttons, spinning in the air is only on the d-pad and it can be tough to adjust to that with the left analog stick as regular movement. Sometimes, you will forget that you have to spin with the d-pad during big jumps missing big scoring opportunities. The standard controls, on the other hand, also took some time to get used to after so many years with the classic controls. Tricks can be done with the right stick or the face buttons as I went with the face buttons and they feel fine even though after a hour or two of hammering those buttons during jumps, my fingers were definitely taking a beating. Once you find a control style of preference after some runs, you'll be fine as you progress through the game.

The developers took the racing seriously this time around in this new SSX. Taking the right line really matters as it makes a big difference between being first and second place. The combat mechanics from the previous games are taken out, so you can punch people next to you to take them out for a short period of time, which is why I like the strong emphasis on the actual racing. It took me a while to find that perfect line through the Rockies course as I keep getting 2nd because sometimes following whoever is in first and trying to pass is a not the best idea. I also have to keep in mind that it is still a race and I can't be crazy high in air pulling off sick tricks, but you have still to nail enough of those to infinite boost going on your tricky meter. Speaking of boosting, SSX does a great sense of speed when you get a good stretch going really fast down the mountain. I would also compare it to the Burnout franchise once you go blazing. Then there is the RiderNet feature, this game's version of Need for Speed's autolog where you compare times and scores against your online friends and the leaderboards, but I won't get that much into that until my review of the final game.

The "Trick It" section of the demo is about getting a high score for the gold medal as most of those events go in the previous games. Just like the racing, a planned out line is definitely recommended to get that score, but at the end of the day, you're just going to find whatever ramp closest and try to get as many points as you can out of it. The tricky meter is similar to the uber meter with two levels of tricks. Once your tricky meter is golden, you can do the next level of tricks and even signature ones as well. Keeping that meter golden is the big key in doing well in these Trick It events because ending the combo will reset the multiplier. One of the exploitable tactics in past SSX games was to nose/tail press by any means necessary when you can't find a nearby jump and that still works to a certain extent in this new SSX. Another new mechanic in SSX is ability to rewind especially bailing during a big combo. I'm glad the developers decided that rewinding feels like a punishment as it subtracts points from your score and during races, opponents will just pass you. With that punishment mentality in mind, players like me won't use it that much and rather restart from the beginning of the course to get that perfect full run going.

I should not be talking more about this demo because most of this is gonna transfer over to my review of the final game, but damn I'm totally in love with the new SSX. If the demo is any indication how next week will turn out, this is gonna be arguably my most played game of the year. Plus, its nice to have a trick-based game out again because it seemed like the extreme sports genre of gaming of dying because of the Tony Hawk franchise's downfall and EA's Skate series did well enough, but not enough for that mainstream success. The strive for perfect full runs and trying to dominate RiderNet against online friends is gonna keep players like me going for a long time. I can already tell just by resetting multiple times during races and trick runs to try again (shoutouts to Siglemic). The graphics and soundtrack are also amazing just by the demo alone and I believe they will hold up in the final game. Man I can't wait for Tuesday which is when SSX is coming out on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

First Gameplay Footage of Sonic 4: Episode II

Sega finally shows off gameplay in their new trailer for Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode II. After the disappointment that was Episode I, hopefully Dimps can turn it around here. Will the physics be changed for the better? It seems early to tell from all the quick cuts of the clip. At least the levels seem different and not unoriginal versions of past stages which Episode I had. One of the zones might be another version of Sonic 2's Aquatic Ruin Zone, but I'm not exactly sure. Tails seems to have a bigger role than people thought of in the first place as there are team mechanics to transverse through the acts, so at least he is not an useless sidekick. This is coming out in the Spring and after playing through Sonic CD again (which I didn't review, but get it since its still five bucks), I hope Episode II can make this whole Sonic 4 thing something legit than a desperate attempt of a comeback.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Taking Gangstas Back Into Space with Saints Row: The Third's New DLC

Even though Genkibowl VII was a disappointment to many last month, THQ and Volition are back with another set of DLC missions with Gangstas in Space. The big difference this time that this pack is actual story missions than activities seen in Genkibowl. The length of beating them is still the same as you'll be done with Gangstas in Space in a hour or two. This does not have any relation to the main campaign, but you star in a new movie directed by Andy Zhen. Your sidekick is a girl named Jenny playing as Kwilanna as the director gives her a tough time as if she is just an extra throughout the DLC. The missions themselves are scenes from the movie being shot and they are only three of them, hence why this DLC is over right away. Most of the scenes do take in Steelport as you blast away the army, alien intruders, and even alien spaceships to save Jenny. Like Genkibowl, Gangstas in Space does come in its own trophies and the unfortunate thing about them compared to Genkibowl is that you can't replay the missions with the same character over again if you missed a trophy or two (a patch will come out that will resolve that soon) . For trophy whores, better have a second character ready just in case you skipped getting one of them even though most of them are simple and can be beaten normally. The one achievement/trophy you'll likely miss the first time around is the collectable one as there are collectables spread throughout the movie set to get.

There is some other nice touches about Gangstas in Space. A film grain is used for the most of the missions giving it that feeling that you're actually shooting a movie. Also, the trademark humor the game has been known for is still intact from the cutscenes and even the trophies such as the "Do A Barrel Roll!" one. Additionally, I loved the usage of music in this DLC as it is the generic movie type of soundtrack you would hear when watching a summer blockbuster and it works in a game like this. The unlockables are not that bad and probably not gonna be used again when roaming around, but you get a spaceship, a new homie, and new laser weapons. Despite all of that, Gangstas in Space is seven bucks and for one hour or two of content, seven bucks is still too much for some, but this is better than Genkibowl because of the fact these are actual missions with a storyline. Hopefully next month's DLC (I think this is the last one planned) is even better than the two out now.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Ocarina of Time's "Ganonless" Glitch

Watch live video from Cosmo-OoT on TwitchTV
As if The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was a broken game already if you have seen the numerous speedruns of it over the years, there is a completely new glitch that was discovered just last weekend that skips the whole finale of the game. It is known as the "Ganonless" glitch and it requires some insane stuff for it to happen that I can't even describe here. It has been known that the game can be beaten in under a hour using the RBA route (aka random bottle adventure I think), but with this huge glitch, things are definitely gonna pick up now in the world of OOT speedrunning. You do the trade quest as normal, but there is lots of bottles, bugs, and fish involved that I can't even explain how that is done either (oh yeah bombs and deku nuts too). Along with that, you have to beat Dodongo's Cavern without getting the stone which is where the glitch has to go down. The ending is even crazier being all broken as I'll let the video above show that. It is still amazing to me that there are still glitches discovered so many years later after their initial release.

Hands-On with Mass Effect 3's Co-Op Demo

The online co-op half of the Mass Effect 3 Demo has been out for nearly a week even though everyone was able to access it by last Friday. It is no surprise that this co-op is a wave-based survival mode, but with the Mass Effect twists, it turned out better than I thought. I was going to write it off as just another Horde mode, but you can tell BioWare took their sweet time making it as a legit multiplayer mode than another tacked on bullet point to sell more copies. There are two maps to play in this demo as one takes place in a Noverian base while is at a more urbanized environment. Even for a demo, there is tons of replay value with the amount of unlockables you can get and it provides a good taste of the action in the final game.

One of the major reasons that co-op is more deeper than what people expected is the amount of characters you can play as and level them up. For the demo, you start as humans with the variety of classes the franchise has been known for from Soldier, Vanguard, Engineer, etc. As you buy starter/veteran packs with credits earned from playing matches, you gain more characters of different races, weapon modifications, extra health/ammo items, and more. A Turian Soldier for example would have different powers and stats than a human soldier, so BioWare did a good job of mixing things up with their races and classes so they don't feel one-dimensional. Leveling them up is the same traditional Mass Effect fashion with powers and stats along with the new branching trees introduced in this game when you reach level four with certain abilities. However, there are multiple characters with different classes to mess around with compared to customizing what the campaign gives you. It is also easy to level up quickly in this demo as a long game can guarantee that especially when you are just starting out.

There is a finite set of enemy waves players have to beat to complete the mission. For the demo, they are set at ten, which didn't seem much, but these games go longer than you think (almost a hour if you go deep). Hopefully the wave count can be customized in the matchmaking options of the final game. There are also difficulty settings that are significantly different in terms of the enemy count and types of enemies they throw at you as Bronze is the easiest, Silver is basically normal difficulty, and Gold is the hardest. Even on bronze difficulty, beating the ten waves with a full team of four is not a cakewalk as one wrong move will lead to failure. Teamwork in general is a key factor in beating these missions as going nuts without any sort of a gameplan is a bad idea especially with enemies that can kill you fast. At some waves, another objective would open up for players to complete than just clearing out objectives. These range from getting to certain chokepoints of the map to hack software or killing specific targets. More objectives just add along for things to get done while enemies are still out there to kill you, which is a good thing.

As far as the gameplay is concerned, it is still Mass Effect, but with more human controlled players in a certain area. Being that it is online co-op, the power and weapon wheels are not used since you can't stop the game during an online match, so you have to rely on quick commands to switch weapons, use powers, and items. It is highly recommended that the group you play with for this mode is diverse in terms of the classes as going in with four soldiers or four vanguards for example is not a good idea. The various classes are still true to themselves as they were in the campaign as having a variety of them in one map definitely helps. An engineer for instance would use drones in certain parts of the map to mow down enemies while soldiers and vanguards can finish the job with their damaging powers up close. Players can be revived if they're down, but can be curb stomped or bled out if you don't come in time to rescue them. Playing the maps with a varied group of classes does prove that co-op Mass Effect works as they have their roles to complete the mission.

Even though it is another wave-based survival mode at its core, Mass Effect 3's online co-op is actually fun to play especially with a group of players that use a variety of classes. There is a ton of replay value that can be as much as the competitive multiplayer juggernauts out now with the amount of characters and classes you can play as. The maps feel fine just by the demo so far as it is crazy seeing an Atlas mech roam around a small indoor environment at times. However, I hope the online matchmaking improves as load times can be long going in and out of games in the final game. Even when not finding matches, the load times are longer than normal even going back to the multiplayer menu. All of being that said, this is Mass Effect multiplayer done right as I don't think a versus mode would work out as well as this co-op, but who knows. We'll see if the online co-op still holds up when Mass Effect 3 is out in two weeks on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Hands-On with Street Fighter X Tekken

I finally played Street Fighter X Tekken for the first time last night at Wednesday Night Fights. The build Capcom had there last night didn't have the boss characters Jin, Bison, Ogre, and Akuma and it was also the PS3 version too with three of the exclusive characters playable. This is also I think the first time SoCal folks can mess around with the gem system in a public setting too. The game has been getting mixed reactions with all the systems introduced, gems, and certain characters not being in the roster, but you never know when you actually play the game than just watching it. With that mentality in mind, I actually had a fun time once I was able to get some basic stuff going.

Having knowledge of both franchises is not really a requirement, but it is preferable to have even though it is still a 2D Street Fighter game at its core. The Tekken characters also can be a little daunting to play at first especially if you look at their command lists that are filled with unique normal moves along with their special moves. I do say however that Capcom did a great job translating these characters to a 2D space as they are able to retain most of what made them great in Tekken from their combo strings along with mixing in core Street Fighter mechanics. The juggle and bound mechanics from Tekken are also in there in some form as once you pull off combos going with those in mind, it is cool stuff and makes "feel yourself" as the cool kids would say in the fighting game world. The Street Fighter characters are pretty much intact from previous games (specifically the SF4 series), but once you kick in the new systems introduced in Cross Tekken, the game is way different than you think.

I won't really break down the gameplay systems in Cross Tekken as they have been explained in other forms if you have been following the game since its announcement. I was able to understand the simple mechanics from doing cross rush combos, but I didn't mess around with the gems that much along with the advanced tag combo mechanics either. Those can be saved for when I play the final game having actual time to myself figuring them out. With the limited time going last night, I didn't want to all be crazy coming up with some gem customization and trying advanced/linked combos out. As Seth Killian said in the Level Up stream last night, Cross Tekken is not another Street Fighter IV as you have to grasp the new systems to be successful and its true. Throwing has bad range even though ticking them can work if your opponent can not tech, which was the case for me at times. I was playing Guile and Paul throughout the night as I can only play keep away as Guile to a certain extent with his projectile game. When mixing up overheads with the chain combos, Guile is a way different character than his SF4 iteration being more offensive than people expect him to be. I rocked Paul as one of my mains from the Tekken games and he is what I expected in Cross Tekken. He is slow and powerful once he gets going especially nailing his strings and wall bounce combos via his EX Phoenix Smasher. He is able to go through projectiles with certain special moves, but I wasn't able to do advanced as the Level Up Your Game guys demonstrated in their video below. For the most part Guile did the work especially I'm able to combo his Sonic Hurricane super after a Paul cross rush combo. Meter management was not in my mind throughout the night as once I have meter, I'm using it on wakeup situations and finishing combos. Paul's Shredder Kicks for example is not as good as a wake up option as they should be (not really a get off move as Ryu and Ken's dragon punches can be). Meter does become useful when doing tag cancel combos and cross art supers with both characters.

After playing it last night, I was finally sold on Street Fighter X Tekken. The game is more fun than I thought and the potential of what sheninegans players can come up with increased tenfold. I didn't play the other modes like the regular 2v2 mode and the chaotic Scramble node as seen on the Level Up stream last night, but it seems that people are hyped about it from a fun factor perspective. Team tournaments can be potentially crazy with two players controlling two separate characters, but the core 1v1 fighting is still gonna be serious time for the majority of people. I'm very impressed how the Tekken characters turned out to the point they're arguably more fun to play despite the learning curve with their daunting move lists, but once you learn them, they are filled with more options than what the Street Fighter characters dream of. Sure, you can still resort to fundamentals with the SF cast, but you have to eventually play the game the way it was designed. It is only three more weeks till the final game gets released, but now I know that this is a fighting game that you can't write off.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hands-On with the Mass Effect 3 Demo

After numerous leaks of the script filled with storyline spoilers and even a beta on the 360, the Mass Effect 3 demo is finally out for its platforms. People have been playing it since Friday due to early access from certain sites and territories, but the official release was yesterday. I will only cover the campaign section of the demo as the co-op is locked for me till Friday even though some can play that early as of yesterday. Out of the gate, you'll be asked to make an Origin account if you don't have one no matter which version you play. Hopefully PC owners can transfer their saves from past games to ME3 since Origin is the only service that will have it (sorry Steam folks). Anyway, the single-player sections are what we seen before from preview events and whatnot, so those that have been following the game hardcore know what to expect. Like last year's demo for the PS3 version of Mass Effect 2, this is a lengthy one that spans two missions, one taking place at Earth as the Reaper invasion starts and the later section in a Salarian base. There are lots of choices to play this demo as with the final game from classes and other customization options. The video above for instance was played in action mode, meaning you skip the dialogue sections and go straight into the action. If you want to play it normally, pick role-playing mode as it is the Mass Effect you have been playing since 2007 with both dialogue trees of choices and combat stretches.

The Earth section of the demo is basically the tutorial for the final game teaching you the basic controls. Combat has been vastly improved as Shepard has more moves at his disposal against the opposition. In other words, the combat feels more like a conventional third-person shooter with the addition of evasive rolls and better melee attacks yet it keeps that Mass Effect style. The combat wheel is also intact from past games along with quick commands for certain powers. My Vanguard playthrough for example already has the charge move introduced from Mass Effect 2 as well as pull and shockwave. If you played the games with other classes like Soldier and Sentinel, they will feel the same way as they have been in the past with no significant changes. One of the changes I noticed for ME3 is the health system as it is more Halo-like with shields and health bars (instead of one health bar). I didn't mind this change at all since it is not much of a difference to the past games. Another big change I noticed when leveling up my stats during the second part of the demo is its own branching tree of upgrades. Powers and abilities can be upgraded normally when leveling up, but when it splits off into two separate paths, you have a decision to make which specific stats (duration or more damage) you prefer to go with. This is a change I welcome since specific class playthroughs are not going to be as one-dimensional as they were from the past two games and more RPG-like customization options is a good thing to encourage replay value. With all of that being said, the combat feels fine to me as the additions to ME3 are worth it.

The enemy A.I. has improved even on normal difficulty as going guns blazing is not a good idea. For example, I accidentally biotic charged in an enemy wave of Ceberus guys and then paid for it by dying as I tried to get back in cover. Being tactical and using cover is there for a reason, so use it to your advantage. Even while in cover, it is not as safe as you think as enemies will figure out ways to still hit you and even flank in certain areas. Your squadmates, Liara and Garrus in the second part of the demo, however are useful as they do their part to help you out in combat sections. They are not as useless as say the first Mass Effect, but they have their roles in the action and you can still use tactical commands in case of a sticky situation.

Since this is a demo, the framerate will hitch up at heated times especially on the PS3 version. We'll see in the final game if that remains to be true as the 360 version above seems to be fine. The graphics are generally the same too for the most part from what I seen and the sound is as top notch as it has been throughout the franchise. You can tell that BioWare spent a good chunk of time making the non-human characters like Wrex and Garrus look great. The humans themselves are debatable design-wise especially with Ashley, but that can be saved for another time.

I had a good time with the Mass Effect 3 demo as it makes more ready for the final game dealing with the new additions now than later. I'm also ready to see how the story will play out since this is the finale of a trilogy and with my Mass Effect 2 save of everyone being alive, I won't be missing anything big. The 360 version of the demo does have Kinect controls as I guess they are okay to have, but not a necessity since barking orders normally with a controller is still fine. As mentioned earlier, I can't play the multiplayer/co-op yet till Friday, so expect impressions of that next week. I like the new gameplay additions so far from the improved combat and certain customization changes even though there wasn't much dialogue choice in the demo and its probably a smart thing to save those for the final game. The game has gone gold too, meaning BioWare is done with the game and the wait till March 6 for Shepard to save the galaxy is not long now.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hold up... Tron Legacy in Kingdom Hearts?

Square-Enix released a new trailer from Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance for the 3DS and it is filled with spoilers everywhere a month before it comes out at Japan (You are warned! - Footage from the main two games are in this clip). What struck out for me, well its the first time I seen it, is Tron Legacy stuff in a Kingdom Hearts game. I think this is replacing the original Tron content for the rest of the franchise and the characters from the movie make cameo appearances from the protagonist, Olivia Wilde's character, and Jeff Bridges too. In terms of the spoilers, main story stuff is revealed if you can understand what in the world is going on as I expect Nomura to screw things somehow. He also said in some interview that it is some prologue for Kingdom Hearts III, whenever they decide to make that game. Anyway, Kingdom Hearts 3D should be coming out later this year stateside coinciding with the franchise's 10th anniversary.

Prepare to get Rick-Rolled on Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day everyone as Harmonix finally delivers arguably their most requested song for Rock Band 3 DLC today with Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up." There are other songs out today as well like Poison's "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," but getting rick-rolled is the main highlight of the bunch.

Oh... as for the rest of the week on this blog, expect hands-on impressions of the Mass Effect 3 demo and Street Fighter X Tekken as I hope to play that at Wednesday Night Fights tomorrow night.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Everyday I'm Shuffling... In Dance Central 2

After failed attempts of getting a good routine of LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem" in dance games, leave it to Harmonix to finally get it right with their latest Dance Central 2 DLC. This hit song is only available now as a bonus when buying a new copy of DC2, but it will be eventually be out as a download on February 28. You can finally shuffle for once even though the shuffling is not exactly accurate to the music video, but hey you can actually shuffle in a dancing game. Besides that, the routine on hard difficulty is pretty dope even though I wander the future of these dance games is getting the actual choreography to a certain song rather than let choreographers come up with their own routine.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Konami's Trinity of Beat-Em-Ups is Complete... The Simpsons Arcade Game Review

After downloadable releases of Konami's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the X-Men beat-em-ups, there was one missing to complete the 90s trinity, which is the Simpsons. Now the wait is over as the Simpsons Arcade Game is finally out on Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network for ten dollars (800 Microsoft Points). Just like TMNT and X-Men, The Simpsons followed a similar formula to those games as you play as the family through multiple stages and spending quarters like crazy to beat them at the arcades. The same folks that made these ports, Backbone, are back on from this one. If you played those ports before, they were generally good both locally and online, and The Simpsons is no exception. Out of the three however, I do have to say that it is the weakest of them due to the other two being better back then and even today.

The story in this Simpsons game is pretty simple as it is up to Homer, Marge, Bart, and Lisa to rescue Maggie from Mr. Burns and Smithers as they kidnap Maggie because she is sucking some rare gem. You transverse through various locales from Springfield such as Krustyland, Moe's Tavern, and more. Each of the Simpsons have their quirks as Homer relies on brute fists and kicks, Marge uses her vaccum, Lisa has a jumprope, and Bart uses his skateboard to attack enemies. As with these beat-em-ups, they don't play completely different from each other as it is basically a fan favorite pick at times when choosing characters. The full arcade mode is intact and can be played in various ways. A standard of these ports is having the free play option if you want to just blaze through the game which is less than a hour long. The quarters option is there if you want to have more of a challenge having a limited number of lives and there is a team variant where everyone shares the same lives. Survival mode is self-explanatory as you try to beat the game with only one life. Like the X-Men port, the Japanese ROM is playable in the Simpsons even though you have to unlock it by beating the game once unlike being available out of the gate on X-Men. Besides a different scoring system, the Japanese ROM is a little easier than the default US one because of better health pickups and your health goes back to full at the start of a new stage.

There are different gameplay mechanics in The Simpsons that were not used in Ninja Turtles or X-Men even though you can stick to the fundamentals of just mashing the X or square button on enemies. What is different are objects and team attacks. You can throw objects that are scattered throughout the levels against the opposition such as bowling balls, drinks, signs, etc. Weapons like brooms and slingshots are also there being useful in certain situations. The team attacks can be used when two characters are close together as one example is Homer throwing Bart around. Bonus mini-games after certain levels are also present as it is pretty much a contest of who mashes better.

The big feature of this Simpsons Arcade port is obviously the ability to play this online with three other players. Players can drop in and drop out at any time during games, but if you want to get specific achievements/trophies, you have to play the game from start to finish. The netcode is a mixed bag even though the game seems to be running smoothly with no slowdown, but when I'm joining other games, I have input lag throughout the game when attacking. When I'm hosting games though, the game controls fine with no input lag at all, so the online experience may vary pending on connections with other players. The game might freeze up at times when players join up or leave, which is typical if you played the Turtles and X-Men ports. Despite that, the online is not completely unplayable and there is still some fun to have especially beating the game on the hardest difficulty with limited lives. If online is not your thing, there is always local play which is good to blast through every now and then because doing consecutive playthroughs of this can get tiring.

Graphically, this is the same Simpsons arcade game as you remembered with its unique graphical style at the time being accurate to the source material. The game is played in 4:3 and can be stretched to widescreen if you preferred that even though it is not really meant to be played in that fashion (X-Men's widescreen in comparison was meant to be played that way), but its fine in its default form. The borders are unoriginal as some Simpsons art would of been nice to surround the screen like Ninja Turtles, but the arcade cabinet setting seems accurate. Filtering options are also present if you want the game to look more arcade-y than crisped up for HD televisions. The sound and music is also intact in this port with the characters sounding like as they should from the show. Sound tests are unlockable as well if you're into that stuff.

If you loved The Simpsons Arcade game back in the day, it is worth the ten dollars to get this XBLA/PSN port just for nostalgic purposes. Sure, these types of games don't really hold up to today's standards, but they are still great trips down memory lane and it is better playing these on consoles than wasting quarters at arcades that might still have it. Out of the trinity of Konami's beat-em-ups, this is the weakest of the bunch especially that I played the X-Men port through again recently, so if you had to pick just one to buy, go with X-Men since it is a better handled Backbone port too. The online is okay despite issues with input lag when in other people's games. As with those beat-em-up ports, they are good to have when you have local friends around to play it every now and then. It is also still worth it for Simpsons fans as well especially seeing how it was the 90s compared to the show today.

Score = 6.5/10

  • Its the 90s Simpsons game as you remembered it
  • Still a good trip down memory lane locally and online with three online players
  • Online can be a mixed bag with input lag issues when in other people's games, but fine when hosting
  • Compared to Konami's beat-em-ups released on XBLA & PSN, this is the weakest of the bunch

Monday, February 6, 2012

Is This The Run??? Why Speedrunning Has Gone E-Sports...

If you asked me the question about e-sports and speedrunning years back, I thought you would be crazy. E-sports has become a term that has compiled a mixed bag of reactions in certain gaming communities in recent months, but we are five weeks into 2012 and other games that you don't expect have risen to that status besides the ones we're used to now like your Starcrafts, League of Legends, and Street Fighters. A recent rise of popularity in speedrunning has become one of the hot new things in the world of gaming streams. There was Speed Demos Archive's big marathon for the Prevent Cancer Foundation where they raised over 150,000 dollars by speedrunning games old and new. Speedrun races are the future of speedrunning in general filled with moments that scream e-sports. All of this makes you wonder has speedrunning really gone e-sports? The answer is yes and there is so much potential on how it can be taken to another level.

A big part of speedrunning's popular stretch lately has to do with one man's hunt for "the run" in Super Mario 64. Siglemic is arguably the most popular runner now in terms of stream numbers since he claimed the 120 star world record a month or two ago. For numerous weeks so far this year, he has been attempting to claim the 70 star world record from Nero (a Japanese SM64 player), but many resets and close playthroughs have been preventing him so far. Yet, hundreds of viewers and even in the low thousands at times are intrigued and have been watching him try to get the run done hence why "Is This The Run?" meme has been making the rounds in gaming streams. The big question with speedrunning streams is why would you watch someone beat a game so fast every day? At first you may be like that is boring why I would watch that? Then you have to question the amount of time, skill, and practice runners devoted to a particular game that once perfection is being put together, it is the most amazing thing you'll see especially to games you loved back in the day. Its finally time that amount of devotion to a game such as Mario 64 besides your other e-sports games get the limelight and maybe even some money thrown into it.

Watch live video from Siglemic on
Last weekend's big 120 star speedrun race between Siglemic and Nero in Mario 64 was a big indication that speedrunning has become e-sports. It was heavily advertised on TwitchTV, the premier gaming stream website and even though it was at a late time of 11 pm PST, over 8,000 viewers wanted to see arguably the two best runners of the game go at it (it was the #1 game to watch on Twitch Saturday night over Starcraft 2). That is as many people as watching a weekly Starcraft 2 stream and even a fighting game major. The skill is unparrallel for a normal player at the game as they make jumps that seem impossible possible and use some glitches that are allowed in a format like this. There was even a 70 star race that went down to the wire after the advertised 120 star one as a bonus too. What I mean by down the wire is that it was an one second victory and it is one of the more intense and dramatic showdowns I have seen in a while in any gaming stream. Basically it was as e-sports as it gets as people had their favorite players to root for like any other gaming tournament. With such promotion for a big race like that, imagine if you throw in bonus money into the equation. As I led to earlier, it is time to see runners get paid for their successes and victories in races other than ads on their streams. I could see Twitch throwing in bonus winnings to a race and all of a sudden you will see sponsorships from other companies too. The one big thing that is holding back such sponsorships from happening is the publisher/developer of the game themselves with Nintendo being the main example here for the two most popular speedrunning games now Mario 64 and the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I just don't see them getting involved into the pot seeing their games get exploited and glitched up heavily in a popular setting. There are big glitches in these games as it is not so bad in Mario 64, but Zelda OOT is a different beast when players go out of the map floating around in space to get where they want to. There have been exceptions where Nintendo acknowledged speedrunning which was the Mario 25th anniversary event at their store in New York City as popular 2D Mario speedrunner AndrewG played the original Super Mario Bros. in front of Shigeru Miyamoto.

SpeedRunsLive has also become a factor in all of this now getting players to race more easily and on a timely manner. Their big moment so far to me is a big 70-man race in Ocarina of Time last month where that many players competed for a specific goal that is not just to beat the game the fastest. It was a specific goal in the Forest Temple where you had to beat the main Poe with the Iron Boots and Giant Knife equipped at all times. Twists like these put a great spin to speedrun races if you're tired of a normal run through the game. The stream was great showing promise switching between other players' streams from time to time while having great commentary by Cosmo and Jiano, two extraordinarily good OOT players, explaining what the players are doing and the certain strategies they use for those new to the scene. This race (starts at 2:04:00 below) was also filled with memorable moments that also went down to the wire because it was a close one. It was a great race to see which routes paid off for certain players as well. These races are another reason that speedrunning has in e-sports especially with the potential if money gets thrown in for multiple man events.

Watch live video from Cosmo-OoT on
Speedrunning in e-sports has a bright future ahead especially with the way it has been going this early into the year. It actually gives way more variety of games to watch now on Twitch besides the current top games as older games can get the spotlight every now and then, which was the case with Mario 64 last weekend and Zelda OOT last month during Speed Demos Archive's big marathon. Marquee and advertised races will play a big role in speedrunning's future, but regular streams are better numbers as the days go by. There are some issues that might prevent this from a bigger thing, but it is still a young concept in the world of gaming streams that will be improved on. I hope the players will eventually get rewarded the right way especially with the amount of time they spend on these games, which is as much as any other major competitive game out there today. Whether you love or hate the term e-sports, this is just another stepping stone of it becoming bigger than we ever thought it could be.

PSN Demo Showcase (Part 2 for the week of 1/31)

This is part two of last week's PSN (now SEN) Demo Showcase as I will discuss multiplayer demos for Twisted Metal and Starhawk.

The return of Twisted Metal is next week and after not making a good first impression to me when I started playing, I had a better time with the demo once I knew what to do and its way more fun than I expected. Even though it is only one map in the demo that can be played offline and online, this demo does a very good job of showing people what to expect in the full game. There were enough vehicles to choose from and two modes to play with regular old deathmatch and the interesting objective-based Nuke mode. The point of Nuke mode is to get some random person to sacrifice on a nuke silo (there is a stationary one and a truck that moves around the map) and then launch the nuke to the opposing team's giant statue for points. It is however a long game of three rounds if you are not into that as you can just go back to ten minute deathmatch games, which can go faster than you think. Once I got used to the controls (I highly recommend playing the tutorial first) after some matches, which are fairly unconventional for a modern game these days, I was able to consistently do well with the tactics I was rocking. I also found a car that suitable to my style which was the Outlaw, a Police SUV with good enough health and a easy to use special attack that is the auto-lock machine gun turret. I love the variety of the cars in this game as each have their own identity and playstyle, which is rare to see in mutliplayer games generally. From speedy cars, bikes, helicopters, trucks, ambulances, etc. they have their advantages and weaknesses in certain situations as developers Eat, Sleep, and Play did a great job of balancing them the best they can. So far in the demo, I haven't noticed a top tier vehicle beasting on the opposition, but I'm pretty sure in the final game players will find what is the best as they have more time with it. I also had a tough time getting into matches along with the majority, but that was fixed during the weekend so you would not be stuck in the online menus for minutes.

Other than that, I had a blast with Twisted Metal's multiplayer demo as it definitely sold me on perhaps getting the final game next week. Who knows if I do, but it is a great car combat game and a return of one of Sony's popular first-party franchises. In general, it is awesome to see weaponized car combat back again in the gaming world and it is very satisfying to blow up the opposition especially when you're on a roll. I hope the game does well sales-wise as David Jaffe and his Eat, Sleep, Play team do deserve it.

The other big multiplayer demo/beta exclusively on PS3 is for Starhawk. It has been in the beta stages for quite a while as I got in last week because of getting a new copy of Uncharted 3 when that came out. Playstation Plus owners had the beta for over a couple of weeks and anyone can access it either this week or next week (I think tomorrow) till it ends later this month. Anyway, if you played Warhawk, Starhawk is basically that in a different setting and more additions to spice up the gameplay. Playing this beta however has reminded me that I am not really a fan of big scale multiplayer shooters due to the fact of the enormous maps and if you don't have a vehicle to move around quickly, it is not that fun running on foot all the time. Despite that, Starhawk definitely has its moments for me once you do the cool stuff. One of the big things the game has going for is its building mechanic as you can build with a limited amount of points walls, turrets, jetpacks, vehicle spawnpoints, and more to benefit your team until they get destroyed. This is really handy in objective-based games such as capture the flag (there are some modes to play than just that and team deathmatch) building up your base to make it harder for the opposition to win. Another thing I'm not a fan in Starhawk of is the over the shoulder aiming when on foot as it is too close on the person than it normally should be in other third-person shooters (maybe Uncharted has spoiled me too much). The angle on the default assault rifle can be tough to get used to at times when in close encounters as I would just hip fire when I'm in that situation.

Starhawk has what it takes to the next big mutliplayer game exclusively on PS3 when it comes out sometime in the spring. Who knows if the Call of Duty/Battlefield crowd would move on to such as differently paced game, but there are fans out there that play it for hours leveling up. The building mechanic is a nice touch and once you get in the cool vehicles, then it gets fun. Personally for me, I try to be the team player in these type of games with a designated role of going for the win rather than trying to improve my kill/death ratio (yeah Call of Duty players on blast sort of). If you're into big scaled multiplayer battles, Starhawk is worth trying out now.

That's it for the PSN Demo Showcase for now. I'm getting the Simspons Arcade Game tomorrow so expect a review of that later this week (Hint: if you read my X-Men review, it might go similar to that).

Friday, February 3, 2012

PSN Demo Showcase (Part I for the week of 1/31)

This week's PSN Demo Showcase is a two parter as I will discuss the demos for Syndicate and Binary Domain. Twisted Metal and Starhawk will be on part two of this early next week. A shooter-heavy dose of stuff came out this week for PSN folks to try out since the Q1 game release season is starting to pick up now.

First up is an online co-op only demo for Syndicate, another EA published game and developed by Starbreeze. Demos having only online co-op is a tough thing to sell, but Starbreeze is hoping this release will do its job making people play that besides the main campaign on February 21. This is a modern/futuristic shooter at its core with some nice gadgets to mess around with when playing alone. When playing co-op though, it felt like shooter number 69 with a level progression system to get upgrades, conventional upgrades, and loadouts despite having little details to separate itself from the pack. This demo is four players and only one map as it could be old pretty quick, but your experience depends on being able to play as a team with other players online. The HUD is very futuristic with the ammo count being blasted in your face, but the small fonts with other things can be a problem as it is pretty microscopic at times. This is not the first time small fonts have an issue with games, but it is a recurring trend this console generation. Teamwork is a key part of the co-op as going in guns blazing will not get the job done, which is generally the case with games like this. Teammates might need help healing and rebooting when in trouble as its easy to do once you're near them. The shooting feels fine as I rocked the default assault rifle most of the time even though the action is very fast paced as if I don't know what the hell is going on sometimes letting my teammates do the work. The game looks okay too despite the fact it runs at 30 frames per second for a fast paced shooter. Despite that, Syndicate's co-op seems solid, but I'm more interested how the campaign will play out. At least talking about this demo gives me a reason to put up that Skrillex trailer again (wubwubwubwub).

The other shooter to discuss today I played is the Binary Domain demo, which I got from the Japanese Playstation Store (also on Japanese XBLM). Binary Domain is a third-person squad-based shooter by Sega and the Yakuza team. I think this is the Yakuza team's first non-Yakuza game and no surprise that is a shooter. It has the elements of a modern shooter these days with cover, over the shoulder aiming, and squad commands. Being that I got from Japanese PSN, the demo is definitely Japanese, so I didn't understand what in the world the characters were saying and some of the tutorial stuff at first. The squad commands can be also be done by a headset if you have one, which I do but I haven't tried it personally yet. You play as the squad leader and pick between your squadmates at the start of the level, which is for this demo are not long to beat (there are two levels to play through in this demo). Besides all of what I said so far, Binary Domain is yes, just another shooter in terms of control and options you have, but its made by the Japanese and the Japanese flair is there in terms of the enemies you face. The foot robot soldiers are unoriginal even though there are different types of them as the red ones are fast and tough to defeat. The bigger boss-like enemies though are a different beast from big normal looking robots to monkey-looking ones. Since its made by the Yakuza team, the game looks good, but very similar to those games as the environments can be pretty bland. Binary Domain definitely has some potential to be a decent Japanese third-person shooter and arguably better than that being the best one to come out from that country.

That is it for now as I need more time with the multiplayer demo of Twisted Metal and the public beta for Starhawk (had a code when I bought Uncharted 3), so expect impressions of those in the coming days.