Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My Words Are On Metacritic!

When I took the internship offered to me from, I did a little digging to see just how credible and/or well-known the site was. I figured a good litmus test would be to see if GR's game reviews were picked up on the review aggregator site Metacritic. While Metacritic has become that stabbing pain in many developers' backs these days, I have to admit that I do use the site as a consumer. When you're shopping for games, and you're a college student, it pays to do a little research to make sure you're not blowing $60 on a game Gamestop will only give you $15 for when you trade it back.

Game Revolution is one of the many, many sites Metacritic draws scores from, along with such mainstays as "MS Xbox World" and "Console Monster" (as well as IGN and Gamespot, duh). I never really thought much about seeing Metacritic again until looking up reviews for Just Cause 2. Naturally, seeing Perfect Dark (XBLA) on the list of most recent Xbox 360 games, I figured I'd click over to see where my score for the game landed amongst other gaming journalists.

Little did I know that I'd landed underneath "What The Critics Said..." as GR's representative. I can't say that I'm all that proud of the pull-quotes, but I guess I have no real control over Metacritic's end of the bargain. I certainly hope there are plenty of clickthroughs from Metacritic. Maybe I can get PLAY READ WRITE on there some day? Who knows the kind of buzz I could generate from an exceptionally low or high score? How evil!

The clippings on this post are from the reviews I wrote of Perfect Dark, Greed Corp, and Scrap Metal, respectively. Do you see any other quotes from me on Metacritic?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Resonance of Fate Impressions

I was pretty excited to try out Resonance of Fate for the Xbox 360. I hadn't played a JRPG in quite some time and Final Fantasy XIII wasn't exactly appealing to me. Now I remember why it's been so long since I played a role playing game from Japan.

//I hate the grind. I hate it so much. I have little else to say about the game aside from the fact that grinding for levels in order to pass some lowly side-quest boss is the stupidest thing gaming could possibly do. It is a complete waste of time. I might decry the constant leaking of rewards and levels that other games might do, but I don't want to spend my precious gaming time feeling like a complete failure. Another big problem for Resonance of Fate's grind is the fact that it literally throwing the player against a wall from the very beginning. I'm only on Chapter 03 and I'm already tempted to compeltely give up on the game. If it weren't for a trip down south to Ventura with Jenna, and an unhealthy desire for achievement points, I'd probably be tempted to trade the game in for a copy of Just Cause 2, or maybe that other JRPG (FF XIII).
//The artwork is interesting. The back of the box item calls it a steam punk world "like no other," but I wish the backstory made more sense. Still, the overworld map is a mass of hexagonal pieces that have to be unlocked gradually, and I honestly love the tetris like aspect of it all.

//My last gripe for these quick impressions is leveled at the character design. Your party is made up of the blandest group of JRPG derivatives and the enemies are no better. All the characters take from the kind of Japanese genre tropes that are tired, stale, and overused. Please create something new! You're dying! Game development is moving westward!

Japanese devs are struggling with evolution and staying relevant, and as much as it makes me sound like a complete wuss, the difficulty and grinding and design decisions that should quickly be reversed in all Japanese RPGs. Seems to me that Resonance of Fate has taken the "evolution" Final Fantasy is attempting to make, and just laughing in it's face. Are you so determined to go down with the ship, Tri-Ace?

Perfect Dark (XBLA) Review Now Live

Ah, Perfect Dark. One of, if not the last good game for the Nintendo 64. I bought a copy of the game used for my cratridge collection, but I don't think I'll ever dare to play the game in that form now that the Xbox Live Arcade port is out.

I reviewed the game, what is it?, two weeks ago now, and that review has gone live on Game Revolution. I loved the game, and I have to admit Ray much of the review was filtered through a fine mesh of nostalgia. Frankly, of course Perfect Dark isn't going to be up to par with modern first person shooters, but let's get serious and talk about "fun."

When you're playing Perfect Dark, were you having fun? Forget how old it is. Did you have fun? Forget the graphics and how it's really only a port. Were you having fun Farsighting Meatsims for an hour?

My argument is that a review shoud have plenty of personal opinion, that is what people are looking for when they seek out one person's semi-professional opinion. I hope you enjoy reading my personal opinion on Perfect Dark (XBLA) at the following link, and if you're reading this, send me a message and a friend request (my gamertag is coolyfooly88) and we can complete some co-op achievements:

Monday, March 29, 2010

What Am I Reviewing This Week?

Scrap Metal Review Now Live

As part of Xbox Live's Arcade Block Party string of weeks, a lot more people have bought and played Scrap Metal when compared to the little known Greed Corp. When you get a percentage of the Microsoft Points you spent back after the promotion is over, it turns out to be quite a deal to extend your XBLA library.

Of course, at 1200 MS Points you've got to question whether or not Scrap Metal is worth shelling out for. We're not all 1 Vs. 100 Primetime winners now are we? Luckily, you can read my full review of the top-down car-combat title at Game Revolution now that it's live on the site. I wrote quickly about Scrap Metal on PLAY READ WRITE while I was in the middle of reviewing it, but you might have already read that. Are there any readers around after my long absence?

Anyways, check out my full review of Scrap Metal at the following link, and if you bother to have any choice words for me, please leave them in the comments on this post (that way I'll see them):

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Nintendo Announces Next-Gen DS: 3DS

Gamers haven't had a new Nintendo handheld platform launch in a long time. The last was the Nintendo DS in 2004. No, I don't care what you say, the DS Lite, DSi and DSi XL were not platform launches. Still, the few details that have been revealed have me questioning whether or not the 3DS will be a true "next-gen" platform. Here's the breakdown:

//The Nintendo 3DS will offer games that utilize 3D effects "without the need for special glasses" and is also backwards compatible with Nintendo DS and DSi titles.
//The Nintendo 3DS will feature the same accelerometor technology that is currently found in today's Wii remotes and various mobile cell phone devices.
//The Nintendo 3DS is said to feature graphical abilities on par with the Nintendo Gamecube.

I just don't know. I already have enough doubt for Nintendo, Joystiq's Podcast Episode 0 reminding me of the absolute crap that lands on the Nintendo family of platforms, and fake 3D does not a new platform make. Let me refrain from too much bitching on the Internet and remind myself and the readers that more details and the hardware itself will be revealed in just a few months at E3 2010. I'll be sure to write more as more details are revealed.

Greed Corp Review Now Live

Woah! What happened there? PLAY READ WRITE sort of blanked out there for a while! I think it might have something to do with the GDC '10 or maybe some of the big announcements like Nintendo's next DS (generation). Anyways, some news:

My review of Greed Corp for Xbox Live Arcade is now live at Game Revolution. I ended up giving the game a positive review, but for the full breakdown and score, you'll have to click on over to Game Revolution. I've already written about the game on PLAY READ WRITE, but seeing the review on GR has me thinking about Greed Corp anew.

I've been playing Resonance of Fate, by Tri-Ace, for review over the past week and that game also uses hexagonal squares, albeit in a completely different way. I really like Settlers of Catan, and that (board) game along with these two video games have me pondering if the hexagonal space is the new square, when it comes to gaming at large.

What do you think? While you're pondering the space within a hexagon, you can check out my full review of Greed Corp (XBLA) at the following link:

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Splinter Cell: Conviction Demo Impressions

Splinter Cell: Conviction is the latest in the long Splinter Cell series that surrounds Sam Fisher, the human version of a Swiss army knife, always with the right tool for whatever espionage job you need done. A lot has been done to up the cinematic qualities of Splinter Cell while still maintaining that all that sneaky stuff gamers have gotten used to.

A demo is up on Xbox Live, and since I couldn't get my hands on the game at E3 2009, though there was a constant demo with color commentary on the show floor, I figured I'd check out the game at home. The demo covers a quick interrogation scene and a warehouse infiltration. Here are my thoughts:

//Brutality seems to be the soup du jour when it comes to the interrogation scenes. Sam has no problems slamming his perp's head into urinals, sinks, and the stall door. I thought these destructivle environments worked well as a sort of interactive cut scene. Of course, I haven't played the full game, but the interrogation really is little other than a cut scene with some player input attached. Why do gamers complain about the hour long cutscenes in Metal Gear Solid 4? Because we play games so that we have control, so that we have input. Obviously in giving people that control, Ubisoft is maintaining a link between Sam and the player. I'm always a fan of deepening that link and making the experience more profound in games.
//I'll be honest, I've never played a Splinter Cell game before. Maybe that allows me a clear view of things, made it clouds my opinion. I guess I just never found the patience to sit and wait, to memorize enemy movement, to strike at the proper time so as not to be seen. All of that, along with the tense situations espionage games put you in, really had me jumping too soon. Conviction's gimick is the execution manuevar, which allows you to target multiple enemies after performing a hand to hand take down. This puts a lot more emphasis on the player's movement than it does the enemy AI's. To me, and Mike Fahey of Kotaku, that's a good thing. To me, games are about activity. Players are most excited about what they do and what the results of those actions are, rather than what happens before the player makes his or her move. I count myself among those players.
//I usually don't find a reason to play a demo a second time if it doesn't hook me in any way. I played the Crackdown demo easily 10 times before that game's release in 2007. I have yet to replay the Just Cause 2 demo. I played the Conviction demo twice before removing it from my hard drive. Obviously the game play hooked me, and there's a different way of attacking enemies or messing with them before taking them down, but the demo was still extemely short and linear. Two playthroughs was more than I would think I could have spent on the demo. In a way, that says something very positive about Conviction. I'd really like to play more of the game, but I'm still not sure if I'd spend $60 on the title if there isn't a lot more to it.

Splinter Cell: Conviction lands on April 13th, 2010 and is exclusive to the Xbox 360.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Emotional Investment

More and more about Mass Effect! What else will they tell us? What other tricks are up Bioware's sleeves?

I think Mass Effect 2 was an obvious advancement of the RPG genre. Much of what made it an RPG is veiled behind action packed shooting, streamlined leveling, and absolutely NO GRINDING. If that isn't an advancement of role-playing games, I don't know what is.

Obviously now that the dust has settled around that title, there's obviously more to learn about what Bioware is doing to make games like these. Kotaku's Stephen Totilo took an opportunity at GDC '10 to bug Bioware general manager Ray Muzyka about certain levels of "emotional engagement."
"There are lots of emotions you can have interacting with other characters in a game: hatred, love, loyally, friendship, remorse, sadness, grief — all kinds of different interesting emotions. As long as you're engaging people in that level, we think that's a more compelling experience."
I think this quote speaks directly to what Bioware did with Mass Effect 2. Looking at that game, you have the same layers of character interaction as you did in Mass Effect, but you also have entire missions dedicated to individual characters and what makes them tick. Obviously, vested interest in the characters means you're going to have vested interest in the game. Why do you think people talk about their interactions with characters in Mass Effect in the first person so much? When you take the role of "Shepherd," Bioware wants you to fill those shoes as completely as possible.

I'm interested to see, or hear or whatever, how Bioware furthers that kind of experience, that kind of connection, with the characters in the video game.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Playing Mass Effect Again

I finished Mass Effect and immediately jumped into Mass Effect 2, as I had planned when buying Mass Effect with refund credit around Christmas time. The effect was, to say the least, massive (*ahem). The plot passed by at a blistering pace, characters and elements of the story flowed smoothly, special thanks to transferring my save file from one to the other.

Still, I felt like I was missing out. I played both titles as a paragon character, always ethically and morally "good." I was left wondering. Way did I miss by not being bad? What did I miss by flying through each title and not taking in as many sights and sounds, especially when Bioware's galaxy had so many stories to tell.

I immediately jumped back in to Mass Effect (the first), deciding that I would take in the scenary this time around, play as a renegade, and mop up some achievements, of course. I've now found out that I'm not so motivated by the story telling, certainly not in the capacity I was with the first time around.

Mass Effect weaves a grand tale of heroism, danger, and politics, wrapped around a galaxy as far and wide as a big stretch of the imagination, but what happens when you know how it ends? Where does the imagination go?

I don't think the imagination is gone, so much as there are so many other games to play. I have this problem with RPGs, Mass Effect is just the same as Fallout 3. As much as I may enjoy the games, I have trouble staying involved. I have a high threshold for the hooks any given role playing game can sink into me.

How long do I need? With Fallout 3 I had to have at minimum a full hour of playtime before finding any level of involvement. Mass Effect took about half an hour the first time around. Now I find ME's brand of role playing to need about 45 minutes to an hour on the second run. I'm sure I'm not the only one who needs so much time to play an RPG. In fact, I heard repeatedly that several people needed an hour to get into Fallout 3.

How long does it take for you to get into an RPG?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Just Cause 2 Demo Impressions

Having played one solitary session of the Just Cause 2 demo, I have to admit, I had a lot of fun, and the parachute-bungie-cord-vehicular madness wasn't as confusing as I thought it would be. There's still a fair amount of cheese to receive from the main character, but that's not really what I wanted to write about.

I wanted to hop on to write about the game's chaos system. I have to say, it truly felt like chaos to me. I had no idea what was going on, who I was disturbing, what kind of havoc I was causing, who was shooting at me, or even where I was. Maybe some of this is entirely back story related, and a demo is never going to fully promote the plot elements as well as the full game will.

Essentially, the Just Cause 2 demo sets you down in a small clearing with a bunch of explosives, and gives you no real direction. Of course, this has its benefits and its draw backs. An obvious draw back kind of had me griping for the first 15 minutes. Where the fuck am I supposed to go?

All of that expansive landscape is wonderful, to a point. I don't want to float around on my parachute for 30 minutes. I want to get in the bases and start mixing things up with some bad guys. I want to destroy a bunch of stuff in creative ways so I can feel like a badass. That's how I should be getting sold on this game. Instead, I was mostly confused and listless for the half hour demo time.

With about 10 minutes to go, I just figured, screw it, I should just experiment with the game's main draw, the always on-hand parachute and grappling hook. I never quite got the hang of the grappling hook's ability to chain baddies to things and watch them get dragged across the desert, but I did end the demo with a good handle on grappling to a point far ahead of me, and then pulling my chute to float up into the air. This worked rather well as I floated to a gas station and politely blew it to smithereens.

Those few explosions I did cause, including a base packed with weapons of mass destruction, were exhilarating, and certainly led the exclamation points I found in the demo. Quietly floating though the air at a high altitude was another. Despite that, there were still too few. I checked the map and gave myself some mental way points, but I was still left wondering where to go, and what would be there once I arrived.

Just Cause 2 isn't exactly on my list of must-buys, but I'll keep my ear to the ground and see what I hear about the game in the weeks leading up to its release.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Perfect Dark XBLA Impressions

Playing games a little earlier than everyone else is always fun. I've been doing a lot of that lately too, what with early XBLA titles being downloaded to my hard drive on a weekly basis. This week is a little bit more special. I can't think of anyone that was really looking forward to Scrap Metal, or Greed Corp for that matter, but I know people have their eyes on this weeks XBLA release: Perfect Dark.

For those of you not in the know, Perfect Dark, the classic FPS game from the days of the Nintendo 64, has been remade with textures fit for HD. Essentially, it's the same exact game with an HD overlay and compatibility with Xbox Live. All of the original modes are there, including co-operative and counter-operative mission modes, as well as the combat simulator which allows for all kinds of fun with sims of all different types. Here are some of my quick impressions prior to a full-fledged review that'll go up on

//Perfect Dark was not designed with two analog sticks in mind. This much is clear. The auto-aim is heavy handed, and now, instead of that heavy-handedness dealing with the C buttons on the 64 controller, it's dealing with flighty FPS controls.
//Still, the enemy AI is on the weak side as far as modern day first person shooters are concerned. The most advanced AI tactic I've seen was a Blonde Sim darting in and out of one of the windows in a classic map from Goldeneye. I haven't been taken down by advanced enemy movements, so much as I've been taken sheer firepower.
//The graphics are certainly upgraded, but characters don't move their mouths, the geometry hasn't been updated, and most of the basic animations remain the same. That being said, the frame rate, visual fidelity, and overall look of the game has made a giant leap forward. I can't imagine going back to play the game on Nintendo 64 aside from pure nostalgia's sake.

Gamers have a reason to look forward to Perfect Dark. It still retains every bit of fun the original had. Mowing down countless amounts of meatsims will never get old in my book. Set up the laptop gun in sentry mode, kick back, and just enjoy some good old multiplayer fun like you used to, back when that kind of thing required an expansion pack.

Monday, March 15, 2010

MW2 Stimulus Package Will Be 1200 MS Points

Reactions from my friend Zach have me confused. Is 120o Points, or $15 in non-funny-money, not a ridiculous price?

How about some perspective? I think understanding everything should always be a prerequisite to complete and total internet-brand rage. We all know how people like to react to things when there's no anonymity. Of course, PLAY READ WRITE, I'm not anonymous. If you'd like to express your opinion on the price, please e-mail me or leave a comment on this post. My e-mail address is

Here are all the details:

//The Stimulus Package map pack consists of 3 new maps and 2 maps from CoD4: MW.
//1200 MS Points equates to $15.
//The Variety Map Pack for Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was 800 MS Points and featured 4 new maps.
//The Map Pack for Call of Duty: World at War was 800 MS Points and featured 4 new maps.
//The Halo 3 Legendary Map Pack released for 600 MS Points and featured 3 new maps.
//Perfect Dark (the XBLA remake) will be releasing this week for 800 MS Points.

So while both previous Call of Duty map packs released with four new maps at a $10 price point, Modern Warfare 2 will be getting 5 maps, two of which aren't new at a $15 price point. Something doesn't seem to add up. Needless to say, I'm not so sure I'll be buying the map pack in order to continue playing seamlessly.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

OnLive Launches in June

GDC '10 was last week, and yet, the news is still rolling full steam (obviously I just haven't covered everything I'd like to write about). OnLive made a big splash last year and returned this year with a release date for the service: June 17th.

Some bare bones pricing has also been announced. The service itself will cost $15 a month. I guess this includes a lot of the community features, including: "instant-play free game demos; multiplayer across PC, Mac and TV platforms; massive spectating; viewing of Brag Clips video capture and posting; and cloud-saving of games you've purchased." This monthly cost does not include the rental or purchasing fees for any given game.

Wait, what? So the user pays $15 a month and then pays extra on top of that subscription for any games they'd like to play? That doesn't sound nearly as enticing as I once thought OnLive might have been. Obviously, even a streaming solution can't outrun the publisher's bottom line.

I just don't understand. If you want to use OnLive on your television, without hooking it up to your computer, you'll need some sort of set-top box. I'm guessing you'll be charged for that. Then the user will have to pay for a connection with the bandwith to even run the service. Afterwhich they'll add on $15 a month to even log on. Then depending on whether you want to play games or watch other people play games, you'll have to pay for those too.

Beyond that, how do you own anything on OnLive? Where does ownership fall in a subscription based model? If I "buy" a game to play over the streaming service, and then I cancel my subscription, how do I continue to play the game?

Thank God for Steam and Valve for bringing that platform to the Mac (hypothetically encouraging more developers to create Mac ports of PC games). That was a lot less concise than I was going for....

Thank God for Steam.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

PlayStarion Move has me saying "Meh"

Concrete details are always nice aren't they? When Sony showed off it's own motion controller in the shape of a wand, there were some pretty bright possibilities. Obviously, with Nintendo's grip on the motion control market as firm as a wrist strap will hold it, some entering competition might just force them to up their software game right?

Honestly, nothing of the Move-supporting software has appeared appealing to me in any way. SOCOM 4 is the only core game that supports Move right now, and I would rather play it with a traditional controller. That title alone seems like the fig leaf Sony is handing to their primary audience at launch of the PlayStation Move.

Other titles look exactly like Wii Sports Resort, a light gun game, and the minigame collections that line the shelving at any old big box retailer. Motion Fighter might be the only exception, but without a proper preview of that title, I'm inclined to lump it in with the others and label the whole project a mess.

What the PlayStation Move has really got me thinking about is having "the option" to use motion controls, and having "the option" to use a standard controller. I don't have to buy every motion controlled game that comes down the pipeline, but in core games, if there's an extra incentive to use motion controls, or they add something to the overall experience, then I might buy in. That calls multiplayer balancing into question though because of the difference in controls, but that's another topic for another post.

Beyond the software, I have to admit that the Move controller looks interesting, especially thanks to its color-changing ball. There's been some confusion as to whether the ball changes to reflect on screen action or the colors the PS Eye sees, but it doesn't matter, it just looks cool. If it helps add to the overall accuracy of the device then that's awesome, it just looks neat.

The rest of the decice and the "movement" wand that it's paired with still look like PlayStation branded Wii Remotes. I can see how the overall input is different, and I can see what a developer might do with the Move is different, but I still think the overall interface will be the same.

Of course, that means a lot of the software will be the same too. Maybe I'm being an elitist asshole when I say that video games are meant to be experienced in one way, and while that way may diverge into many different ways of experiencing games, the core input device will remain a two handed controller.

There's still another motion control initiative to hear from, but I'll keep myself reserved. Ever since my fervor for the launch of the Wii, I've tried to temper my excitement with thoughts of how disappointed I was with console in the end. I hate selling my video games, and I hate selling consoles even more, but my Wii was just taking up space. How will the Move be different?

Blur Beta Invite Codes from PLAY READ WRITE

I've gotten three (3) Blur Beta Invite codes to share, and of course I'm going to use them in order to up my readership here at PLAY READ WRITE!

If you'd like an invite to the Blur Multiplayer Beta on Xbox Live, all you have to do is a) send me a friend request and b) send me a message asking for a beta invite. If you're already my friend on Live, just send me a message asking me for the beta invite. I'll send you a beta code, which also comes with a free 48 hour Live code, so Silver members can message me as well.

Pretty easy right? I've got three, and they'll go to the three people I receive FRs and messages from first, so long as you aren't the scum that usually plagues my Live account with offers of 10th prestige lobbies and the like.

Remember, my gamertag is coolyfooly88. Comment on this post if you'd like to discuss the Blur Beta or to say thanks to PLAY READ WRITE, or to just brag to others that you've already gotten a code from me. Hopefully, we can play a little bit of the beta together.

Friday, March 12, 2010

I think I know what I'll be playing this weekend....

Cross Platform Multiplayer in Valve's Steam Play Option

Obviously opening up the Steam platform to Mac users is an attempt to make Steam a universal gaming platform. Steam Play is a big step towards that business model in a couple different ways.

Obviously the first step towards a universal platform is making one purchase on Windows equal one purchase on Mac. Valve is doing that. The next step is cross-platform multiplayer, universal multiplayer, if you will. Valve will have that too. At launch, Mac gamers will connect to the same servers PC gamers will connect to in order to play Team Fortress 2.

Obviously, many of Valve's titles rely heavily on multiplayer content and the community therein. Splintering that community would be a complete deservice to what has made games like Counter Strike: Source or Team Fortress 2. This is all great news for both Valve as a business and consumers and users of Valve's games and services.

I have a lot of respect for Valve, and that is because I feel like Valve has a lot of respect for me as a gamer and consumer. How does this differ from companies like Activision who have earned the contempt and derision of so many vocal Internet using gamers?

Well, obviously, Valve listens to their consumers, or at least emulates with them. Activision may know what consumers want, but controlling their products is clearly a lot more important to them. Corporations like Activision (and Ubisoft) could certainly learn something from Valve's model of DRM. Does anyone think of Steam as a form of DRM? In the beginning, with the launch of Half-Life 2, which was stolen out of their offices well before launch in the first place, consumers may have griped about the installation of Steam before getting to their new game, but now, Steam allows users to preload games they've preordered on the service so that they can play it the second it is available.

That's the trick, that's the way corporation and consumer can come together in understanding. Make the security, the DRM, a value, a bonus to the consumer, rather than a headache or irritation. Steam isn't exactly celebrated as good DRM, mostly because consumers don't really consider Steam as a form of DRM. Despite that, it is celebrated as a store front for a PC gamer's every need. Steam presents a community site, games store, application manager, DRM, sales tracker, and online profile all-in-one. Steam does so much for the consumer that what it does for the corporation is hardly the focus.

Now all of that is coming to the Mac. Steam Play presents a way for purchases to become universal, and not tied to one platform. Cross platform play will only serve to bolster the multiplayer communities of all games that choose to utilize the service. In a way, Valve alone is doing more for the gaming scene on the Mac than Apple has ever done.

What do I think? You need more? Valve is preparing, posturing for the day streaming game services like OnLive become more of a reality. When there are no hardware limitations, no platform limitations, and a massive revenue stream thanks to a subscription model based business and a ton of licensed games for consumers to try at any given time, Valve will have a hard time maintaining a strong value proposition.

Personally, I think I'll always be more interested in owning games, rather than licensing them, and Valve's consumerist ways are certain to build loyalty in me as a user of their Steam platform.

Thanks, New Xbox Live Friend!

Someone added me on Xbox Live on Wednesday. When I turned on my 360, I had a friend request from mavea x07x waiting for me. Who are you mavea x07x? Why didn't you leave me a message too?

I'm guessing this mystery friend requester is a reader of PLAY READ WRITE because I hadn't played any games with him, I hadn't met him through any friends, and I had just posted my gamertag on this blog that day.

Anyways, for those of you who are reading PLAY READ WRITE and might want to meet up online, please add me on Xbox Live. My gamertag is, again, coolyfooly88. Leave me a message along with your friend request and we can play some games together. I'm looking for people to play Scrap Metal, Modern Warfare 2, and honestly anything else I have at my finger tips.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Windows 7 Series Phones Can Unlock Achievements

I love my iPhone, but it's getting a little older, a little less wise. I can still use a dominant percentage of the apps available in the App Store. I can still update the phone to the latest version. But the hardware is slowly getting older. Now, I can't send picture messages while my girlfriend Jenna's iPhone 3G can and I won't be able to tether my phone to my computer and use the Internet connection on the go, if AT&T ever allows that feature in the US.

What does it all mean? It means it might be time to start looking at new phones. It would be extremely easy to upgrade to an iPhone 3G. I'd be able to keep a very similar plan, the price isn't too steep, and I know how to use the iPhone the way I want to. Still, I can't help but think about unlocking achievements that add to my gamerscore while I'm riding the bus.

Windows 7 Series phones will be able to connect to Xbox Live, import gamercards, gamerscores, and avatars. What's more, games played on the Windows 7 Series OS will unlock achivements and points that contribute to the Xbox Live account's overall gamerscore, much like Games For Windows Live's achivements points contribute to gamerscores you might see while playing games on your console.

I readily admit that I'm a big achievement whore. I love unlocking points and padding my gamerscore. Sometimes if a game doesn't add to that score in a big way, I'm not as motivated to play it. Despite that, achievement points alone don't make a game for me. I might be willing to play through King Kong, but I didn't even shell out the $6 for the game. I bought it used and returned it for a full refund. Achievement points are very enticing, but I don't know if I'm willing to give up my iPhone and my secondary income (via App reviews) just to pad my gamerscore.

Of course, all of this depends on the platform. Windows 7 Series refers only to the phone's operating system, and not necessarily to the phone. Hopefully more details will surface soon.

Blur Multiplayer Beta Impressions

I tried a little bit of Blur last night and had a good time racing around and firing off Mario Kart style attacks at opponents.

The Blur Beta is multiplayer only and is only available on the Xbox 360, but a host of unlockables, cars, tracks, and modes is available. The trick, obviously borrowed from that other Activision-published-multiplayer-focused title, is that nearly all of the modes, cars, and bonus powers need to be unlocked. When I first booted up the game, only multiplayer was available. Two different modes were unlocked, with more modes available after leveling up. I jumped into the first mode and completed a handful of races, leveling up to Level 4, unlocking 3 different cars across four different classes. Cars are rated across 3 different attributes, including grip and speed.

Obviously, the "thing" Blur does to differentiate itself from other racers, and maintain a level of balance in multiplayer races, is an item system a la Mario Kart. There are three shot pick ups that fire straight, one shot seekers, mines to drop behind you, boosters, essentially everything you might find in the form of shells, bananas and mushrooms. These work rather well, and everyone gets three pick up spots they can switch through to use strategically throughout the race. I was kind of hoping for some slightly different power ups, but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Blur's weapon system is one big pat on the back to Mario's kart racer.

Obviously, Blur is not a Forza or Gran Turismo, and it controls that way to match. There's some light drifting to do, and that'll score you more "fans" as well as winning the race, stringing together weapon combos, and overall achievements throughout the race. "Fans" act as Blur's XP and the more you earn the more you'll level.

I guess I kind of feel like Blur is a study in the kind of carrot on a stick gamers are being treated to a lot these days. Take a racing game, add a neat visual design and aesthetic, a leveling system, some perks, and weapons to balance against more experienced racers and you have the kind of cookie cutter gameplay that has gamers on a leash anymore. I don't mean to imply that I didn't have any fun.

I won my first three races and placed second in my fourth, got an easy grip on the genealogy racing controls and switched weapons on the fly to create some deveststing combos. Blur is fun, don't get me wrong, but I hate that this is the kind of gameplay Activision really wants to shove down our throats in every title they publish. I've been playing a lot of XBLA games and you don't need this teasing, leveling, multiplayer focused gameplay to really sell a game. You might need the corporate money and marketing, but Darwinia+ and Greed Corp are great games that don't go down this path of turning gamers into suckling pigs.

I guess this has turned into a slightly uglier post than it originally started as, but playing Blur really pits my gaming heart against what I consider corporate pyschological greed. There's this burgeoning aspect of games that are specifically tailored to keep gamers hooked in and Blur seems like a study in that design. Forgive the Activison hate, it's so cliche anymore....

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Arcade Games at the Old Spaghetti Factory

I can't help but feel kind of weird when I pull out my phone to take pictures, but I guess it's a habit I just won't let die. Arcade machines were a big part of my childhood, so why should I anyways?

Turns out, when you're looking for them, arcade machines are everywhere, like the Old Spaghetti Factory in San Jose. Upstairs from the entrance is a small collection of arcade cabinets, including this top down shooter, a la Raidan. Jenna and I sat down and played a couple of rounds. All my (very limited) experience with bullet hell shooters helped me pass the first boss.

What I most appreciated about OSF's small arcade collection is that the machines still only require a quarter! I don't remember the last time I played a game for a quarter, least of all on every machine in the room.

Other cabinets at OSF included a Mega Man arcade cabinet, Bubble Bobble, and Crusin' World. If you're a game looking to go out for some food, waiting for a table at OSF isn't so bad.

Scrap Metal (XBLA) Impressions

While Scrap Metal is out now, and I'm no longer the top of the charts, I'm stil playing around with the game and gettng enough experience under my belt for a fully fledged review. Frustration aside, I'm still attempting to make my way through the main campaign and I plan on playing some multiplayer now that people are actually online. That still worries me. I know I'm not all that great at the game, and if I make my way online, I'm thinking I'm probably going to get blown to pieces before I even reach turn one. Anyways, here are some quick impressions:

//I'm towards the end of the campaign but the difficulty has ramped up in an incredible way. Starting with one of the boss races at the end of the second to last area, I cannot clear a single mission. I've tried several different cars and none of them are fast enough, handle well enough, or have the firepower to take out Petrov Piston. Fuck you Petrov Piston.
//On another note, I've really loved playing the alternative missions. Every map has similar races like demolition races, elimination races, and survivor missions. These are all fun, but nothing beats driving a gas tanker with a flame thrower attached to it. It's similar to the Rampage missions you used to find in Grand Theft Auto.
//I've also enjoyed the ability to switch back and forth between control schemes on the fly. Some of those alternative races require the precision of the RC car controls, while most need only the arcadey feel of the basic controls.
//Scrap Metal does such an awesome job of providing varied, arcadey, vehicular destruction. There's a very obvious nod to the top down arcade racers in Scrap Metal, but the game totally launches from that pad and hits the moon. It adds a ton of variety in both mission design, track design, and car design. That wealth of alternatives makes every match unpredictable and, basically FUN.

I'll be playing more Scrap Metal this week, and I'll be online before Friday. Drop me a line at if you'd like to party up and play online, or simply message and friend request me on Xbox Live. My gamertag is coolyfooly88.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I've Got This Blur Beta Invite

Blur Beta invites went out yesterday, and I received mine in my inbox. Yes, somewhere in that picture is a code for redemption of the Blur Beta download on Xbox Live.

I went ahead and entered the code, but I've yet to spend any time in the beta. Call me wary, but the last beta I went into I had extremely high hopes for, and ended up very disappointed. Of course, Blur happens to be the opposite. I have no expectations, I have no interest in the game, but I never really let go of an opportunity to write impressions of a game early, specifically for PLAY READ WRITE.

Is there anyone out there reading PLAY READ WRITE who has specific questions about Blur and the overall multiplayer experience the racing game presents? I'd love to come back with specific answers.

If not, I'll still post some general impressions about the gameplay and let readers know what I think about the game. At E3 last year, there was a lot of talk about Blur, but I never got any hands on time with the game. Instead, I managed to play a little bit of Split/Second which I'm still fairly interested in.

Anyways, I'll report back with details as soon as I have some to write up.

Is my dog trying out for Kojima Productions?

File this under "Kinda Stupid," I know, but I snapped this picture of my dog last week. Star reminded me of video games, as many things do, and obviously, in this case I thought of Kojima Productions' logo.

While Star doesn't have a tail, and her ears are significantly less pointy, I still thought the pose warranted a comparison posting. What does the internet think?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Someone at Valve must read PLAY READ WRITE!

And just like that, some of my questions are answered! Who's to say there is no audience for PLAY READ WRITE? Valve released more information about Steam's displacement to the Mac platform today, Kotaku's Brian Crecente reported:
"'As we transition from entertainment as a product to entertainment as a service, customers and developers need open, high-quality Internet clients,' said Gabe Newell, President of Valve. 'The Mac is a great platform for entertainment services.'

The Mac version of Steam will include all of the features of its PC counterpart, as well as a new feature called Steam Play, which allows customers who purchase the game on one platform to download and play it for the other at no additional charge."
I have to say, I'm very pleased with this news. When a game I've paid in-full for adds even more value, as many of Valve's titles are known to do, I am a happy consumer. While I still prefer to buy physical copies of games, including Valve's Team Fortress 2 a la The Orange Box, Steam offers a hefty amount of value propositioning in the form of a gaming/store-front client.

Obviously, developers everywhere are struggling with protecting their products from pirates while still making everything accessible to the consumers. With Assassin's Creed II suffering from DDoS attacks and consumers completely unable to connect/play the game, Steam's form of DRM doesn't seem so bad. With OnLive becoming a real threat through it's ability to perform on all platforms, Steam's need to diversify is becoming more and more necessary. Good thing Valve doesn't rest on its laurels.

Top of the charts and Scrap Metal

I'm currently playing Scrap Metal, an XBLA game set to release this week along side Perfect Dark in Microsoft's Xbox Live Block Party. I got a review code for the game and have been playing it before its release, alongside maybe 20 other people. Of course, this means the leaderboards are pretty bare right now.

Since I've been playing as much as I can to write a review early, I've found that I'm frequently on top of the overall leaderboard for Xbox Live. Hooray for me!

I sincerely doubt I'd be on top of any leaderboard on Xbox Live ever. Of course, this rare occasion is now documented so no one can ever say that I've never led anything in my life. My kills ranking on Modern Warfare 2 is well into the 3 millions, as is my score and wins ranking. Scrap Metal is about the only game I'll ever be "the best" at. I think I'm OK with that.

Portal 2 coming to the Mac?

While I'm about as excited as everyone else for the next Portal, I might be even more now that I've heard it's coming to the Mac platform.

Yes, that's right, if you haven't heard it yet, and you get all of your news from PLAY READ WRITE (who are you?), Portal 2 is coming to the Mac OS. While this is great news for Portal, especially because any extension of the audience for that game is only going to translate to more sales, I think I have bigger questions on what this may mean for Valve games (and PC games) and the way people play them.

My first question is: will I be able to play TF2 and other source titles on the Mac now? That's a big question to jump into I know, but we already know that a version of Steam is going to be available to the Mac platform already. Of course, my next question from there is, will my current library of Steam titles be transferable to the Mac platform, or will I have to purchase Mac versions of all my games?

I may be moving a mile a minute here, but all of these are very valid thoughts. Where is Portal 2 going to lead the rest of the Valve library and the Steam store in general? With soon to be competitor OnLive supposedly allowing cross-platform play of so many titles through streaming, wouldn't Valve and Steam want to expand their reach and value proposition a little bit?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Darwinia+ Afterthoughts

My review went up at Game Revolution the yesterday but I'm still playing the game on and off in an effort to fully take in the single player mode and multiplayer modes (and clean up some achievements I left behind). Easy one of the better downloadable titles I've played, mostly thanks to the nuanced and satisfying gameplay, Darwinia+ still had some surprises in store for me after finishing my review.

Most notably is the "boot loader" that basically acts as a title screen. I didn't realize it at first, but there are actually several boot loaders programmer into Darwinia+, each a slightly different flavor than the last. Tonight, for example, when I loaded the game, there was a very peaceful piece of Darwinia+'s soundtrack playing as darwinian souls floated upwards on screen. I let this loader play for a good half an hour with the music on loop before actually starting my game.

I've noticed other loaders too though, including a Matrix-rain infused with darwinians that actually falls to form the title of the game. Not all of them are so peacful or interesting though as one loader had some spinning geometry and lots of strange effects with banner text that read "I just programmed this in 8 minutes."

All of the bootloaders were nice touches and I always loved seeing what popped up when I started the game. Why don't more games do different things with the loading screens? Why don't they let programmers do individual "signature" load screens before the game starts?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Darwinia+ Review now Live on GR

My Darwinia+ review is now live and I have to say that I really enjoying writing about the game. When I requested to review the title, I did so with tempered excitement. I had heard so many good things about Darwinia from players of the game on the PC platform, but just because you hear good things doesn't mean good things are always there.

I suppose Darwinia+ showed me how polarizing specific video games can be. Many gamers may enjoy Modern Warfare 2's specific brand of action, but I doubt that being a fan of that title could possibly ensure the enjoyment of this title. Darwinia+ doesn't have the fine and glossy coat of the highest possible resolution graphics or the intense arcade gameplay that might make a game a system seller, but it is an incredibly deep, enthralling, and nuanced title. In my review I likened it to "the wine and cheese of video games," a palatable title that you might have to be a connoisseur to really enjoy.

Anyways, you can check out my full review over at Game Revolution at the following address:

Friday, March 5, 2010

REVIEW: Assassin's Creed II Sequence 13 DLC

The first missing piece of Assassin's Creed II's campaign mode was as lackluster as Desmond's first trip in the Animus. Did Sequence 13 wrist blade the slump?

I guess you could say, yes. Some might ponder a little further on it. What was Sequence 13 about? Essentially, at the end of Sequence 12, Ezio lost the Apple of Eden to a mysterious monk who was missing a finger. Sequence 13 opens up a new area of Florence that's equipped with flagpoles you can spring jump off of. You'll use these to make about 3 assassinations that are located in the new are. The remaining assassinations, making up a total of 9 are spread out in other districts of Florence. After these 9 assassinations, the mysterious monk will have lost his grip on the city and you'll retrieve the Apple.

The new spring jump move isn't anything to write home about, but it does make the new area a slightly more interesting playground to run around in. It also helps the overall DLC package that the assassinations are better constructed and better paced. On target made his way around a long track with plenty of different ways of attacking the target. Another, on board a ship in the harbor, was much more difficult that any assaination in the main game.

Sequence 13 does what good DLC should do. It expands and adds to the main game, it makes the general experience larger, and perhaps adds some difficulty. I also bought the DLC pack that included some of the bonus interiors from collectors editions of AC II. Those extra exploration maps are great but don't change very much from the Assassin's Tombs from the main game.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mirror's Edge - 7 Year Development Cycle

Mirror's Edge was one of my favorite titles in 2008. I took an opportunity to focus group at EA for the title. When everyone else in the group was asking for Left 4 Dead, I went with Mirror's Edge because of how curious I was with the title. Running and jumping in first person with limbs swinging about in view seemed to be quite possibly the freshest take on the first person action genre in some time. Even shooting guns can sometimes become mundane.

Now that Gaming Union is interviewing former DICE CEO Fredrik Liliegren, some interesting details are surfacing about the game's development.

"Gaming Union: What do you think of DICE's choice to make Mirror's Edge, and now that they're developing a sequel?

Liliegren: Knowing that that product was in development for about seven years.. [laughs] and given that it wasn't Mirror's Edge when we started, but it was one team working on 'the new IP' for seven years, I think they did a strong final. They did something different that people hadn't done before. I think it needed a second generation so they can tweak on it, I played it a little bit."
Seven years is a long time to spend on a new IP, and obviously the development was a risky one, what with Mirror's Edge not selling all that much after it's debut. There was a huge amount of buzz and coverage of the title, but in the end, buzz and interest do not translate fully to sales.

Honestly, that was disappointing to fans of Mirror's Edge everywhere. If you found something to love about the game, quite a bit of fervor for the title was born out of that love. Obviously larger sales figures would have been nice because of how quickly the turn around for the sequel would have been. Still, the talk of a sequel is nice to hear, though it wouldn't be that nice to wait another 7 years for Mirror's Edge 2.

Another reason to buy a PS3

Previews of Sony's God of War III are now pouring in more and more frequently. The latest (at least that I've read), is up over at Kotaku right now. McWhertor played through to the first boss and provided several details as to why one would want to pick up the game, not that details are really needed for many gamers out there today.

I usually try to turn my head away from PS3 games for fear that I'll get a little too wanting. I don't have a PS3 myself, but with the console on a 10-year life cycle, it seems like I'll have plenty of time to eventually sit the console next to my 360.

God of War III is quickly becoming a title I can't ignore, much like Naughty Dog's Uncharted 2. I can't even really tell what's going on in this screen shot, but in motion the game looked amazing at E3. I guess I'm really interested in seeing what the gameplay looks like flipped around and swung on the limbs of a titan.

From what I can tell, God of War III is going to be "the" action game to play when it lands, but with console exclusives being... well, exclusive to one system or the other, it'll be difficult to play GoW III without a PS3.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Current Workspace

Long time readers of PLAY READ WRITE will remember my old workspace back when I was living at home. That was about 9 months ago now, and within that period of time, I've successfully moved out of my parents house and am now successfully cohabitating with my girlfriend Jenna! Achievement unlocked indeed!

I credit this successful living together situation with the fact that Jenna has been so patient with me and the amount of video game related crap I've brought into this small apartment of ours. I try to keep it neat and tidy, but we gamers cannot deny our true nature as lazy messy beings who like to spread wires and boxes everywhere. Like I said, Jenna has been very patient.

While my previous workspace had me sitting at a desk to operate my computer or play games or what have you, this current set up has more entertainment centric properties. Of course, it also takes up a lot more room too.

My TV is set atop Jenna's coffee table and classic suitcase. Her external hard drive also seats my Gundam Zaku MG model. Obviously my computer sits in front of that and my Xbox 360 is to the right. All of my games are to right of the 360 with Nintendo 64 games in the ziplock and Xbox 360, Nintendo Gamecube and DS games in the Mirror's Edge preorder bonus messenger bag. Sometimes I think it's pretty impossible to squeeze as many games as I do in that bag, but every time I clean everything up it fits as many games as I need.

The Nintendo 64 is underneath the coffee table on top of Jenna's printer and the Gamecube is to the left of that. While my set up is still tightly bound together in a tangle of wires, I'd like to add to it or expand it at some point and have shelves for games on display, and possibly a tower computer or an iMac, and a PS3 or a Wii.

Lately it's gotten a little dusty underneath the coffee table and I'm wondering how I can keep the older consoles from sitting under that layer of air-dirt and possible malfunctioning as a result of that. Does anyone have any ideas? How do you keep your gaming collection in pristine order?