Archive for the ‘Editorial’ Category

h1

Sony, You’ve Just Been Put On Notice

May 12, 2008

Aaron Greenberg, director of Product Management for Xbox 360 and Xbox Live, has thrown down the gauntlet in an interview with Destructoid, calling Sony out in a form we rarely see outside of internet forums. What could the basis of his argument be, considering his wallet is being filled (one can imagine rather heartily) by Microsoft’s golden checkbook? Sony’s string of endless delays and overall failure to honor the multitude of promises they’ve made. For his full, unadulterated response to Destructoid’s question, read on my friends, read on.

I know a lot of folks enjoy watching the console wars and we would never underestimate our competition. But answer to your question specifically, didn’t Sony promise all of this last year including Home as well? We have been fighting Sony’s promises from the day we entered the market and if you remember at that time it was all about PS2 being an online cybercity with partner announcements from the likes of RealNetworks and AOL. Then three years ago at E3 they showed what PS3 games would supposedly look like with the Killzone 2 video, that we are now learning will ship four years later. That means that we will have shipped Gears of War and Gears of War 2 before they can even get Killzone out the door. Think back to GDC 2007 when Sony promised to leap ahead in online with the Sony Home unveil. Here we are two years later and multiple delays for a product that has appears to have little to no buzz. Where are the achievements? The friends list integration across all games? Where is the long-promised video store? Where are all the other products using and networking with their CELL chip? How come Blu-ray did not result in better games? What happened with Sixaxis and rumble? Where is the complete 1080p game library we were promised? If Blu-ray as they said would be such a catalyst to PS3 console sales, then why have PS3 sales over the past couple months not seen any lift since the format victory?

Wow. Strong words indeed. But why should we believe him? He is, after all, a representative of Microsoft, one of Sony’s prime competitors in the console space. What weight do his words carry, considering his position? If it isn’t immediately apparent, think back to what Sony has promised over the years. Think back to all of the claims Mr. Greenberg addressed in his comment. Now, tell me how many of those promises Sony has actually delivered on. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. For the record, I am on the side of the fence that agrees with everything Greenberg said. Seeing this made me, as a PS3 owner, stare reality in the face and I quickly realized that everything he said is the truth, pure and simple. He brought to light many of Sony’s missteps and reasons why the PS3 is viewed in the eyes of many as a cheap Blu-Ray player and less as a gaming console.

Now, when this news broke, people have been bashing Aaron Greenberg left and right for his comments, calling him immature, defensive and of course, consistently playing the Three Red Lights of Death” card. What I haven’t seen are legitimate reasons why his argument is wrong, faulty, invalid, etc.

Well, in my experience, it’s pretty hard to argue against the truth.

I’ve been following the Playstation 3 since the rumors of its creation first began to swirl all those years ago when it was revealed that Sony was developing a new type of microprocessor to power their new beast. I remember E3 3005 when Sony officially pulled the curtains back, unveiling the PS3 to the world. Sony was riding high in those days. Heads held so high they were in danger of being hit by passenger jets, they touted the Playstation 3’s supposed advantages over the Xbox 360, saying the Playstation 3 was twice as powerful as the competition and could produce games that ran in native 1080p resolution at sixty frames per second, showing off “target rendered” trailers for upcoming games such as Killzone 2 and Motorstorm, which took the gaming world by storm and left similar offerings on the Xbox 360 in their high resolution dust. For a time, the Playstation 3 was on top of the world. Sony was now touting the Playstation 3’s uncanny ability to output games at 120 frames per second and continued to hold firm to their claims that the Playstation 3’s hardware could out perform the Xbox 360’s at every turn. Certainly lofty promises to live up to, promises I was growing increasingly skeptical of. It was all too good to be true and makes me recall a recent proverb.

Don’t drink the Kool-aid!

When the Playstation 3 officially launched and as the months following passed by the wayside, gamers were forced to realize that the wool had been pulled over their eyes. Where was the 1080p? Where is the proof that the Playstation 3 is twice as powerful as the Xbox 360? At GDC 2007, Sony once again wowed audiences by showing their answer to Xbox Live in the form of “Home”, an interactive online social gathering for Playstation 3 users in which they could interact with fellow users with their own 3D avatars. Here we are, over a year later and it has suffered a fair share of delays. Where’s my Xbox Live-killing Home? Most importantly of all, where’s my killer-apps?

When I purchased my Playstation 3 back in October of 2007, I thought I was making a purchase that I could easily justify in the coming months with the release of Metal Gear Solid 4, Home and Little Big Planet (which has seen its own share of little delays and disappontments) that would last me well into 2008 when I could expect such hard hitters as Killzone 2, Gran Turismo 5 (the real one, not Prologue) and Final Fantasy XIII to drop and carry me into 2009. Now what do I have to look forward to, to cap off this year? Killzone 2 and Final Fantasy XIII have gotten the boot into 2009 and well, I’ve already reported that Polyphony is doubtful that Gran Turismo 5 will even make it in by the end of 2009. Metal Gear Solid 4 is about the only big exclusive title that Sony has this year and as my current gaming preferences have me buying multiplatform releases on the Xbox 360, I can’t see many games I would honestly buy for the PS3 this year aside from Metal Gear Solid 4 and Resistance 2.

All of these questions go unanswered as Sony can do nothing but shrug their shoulders and continue to reassure me that they are indeed coming. While I appreciate the reason for the delays are to work the kinks out of the final product and the end result will probably be better for it, I just keep thinking to myself that maybe I could’ve waited to jump on the PS3 owning bandwagon. Sure, scoring a fully backward compatible 60 GB system while they lasted was great but that doesn’t count for much when the system just sits there while the Xbox 360 gets the lion’s share of my next-generation gaming love.

Sony, I’m sorry it had to come to this point, but you brought this on yourselves. It’s put up or shut up time. Enough of the empty promises and endless delays, it’s time to deliver, and this is your final notice.

h1

Lupe Fiasco’s “The Cool” Pseudo Review

April 22, 2008

The Cool

Because of my many obligations such as school, work and hanging out with friends, I spend a great deal of time in the car, driving from place to place. To take some of the monotony out of the experience, I liven things up by listening to the radio. Oftentimes, I tune in to the local hip-hop/rap stations only to be assaulted with whichever bland, soulless and insipid mainstream rap that happens to be the flavor of the month. In these instances, because of an inexplicably catchy beat, I’ll allow my intelligence to be insulted as the rapper talks about how affluent he is, how much he would like to harm his fellow man and/or teach us how to do some stupid dance people just can’t seem to get enough of. Many times, I just can’t take it and immediately switch to a jazz, alternative or R&B station. In other words, any time I hear any of the mindless crap belted out by Soulja Boy or the incessantly annoying T-Pain (who appears to be on EVERY song these days). It’s not that those other genres are bad, it’s more because I’ll always be a hip-hop fan at heart, and to have to switch away from a station that plays it pains me.

So, I’ve further distanced myself from the mainstream rap that constantly plays on the radio and more towards the artists who branch out and attempt to be different. In this search, I’ve found many hip-hop artists that have captured my interest but as of late, I’ve found myself listening to the lyrical stylings of Lupe Fiasco. Of course, I’ve known about the guy for a long while, since hearing one of his debut singles “Kick Push” on the radio, but up until now, I haven’t been listening to much of his music. Having heard one of his latest singles, Superstar, played numerous times on the radio and greatly enjoying what I’d heard, while I was walking through Target early yesterday morning, I happened upon Lupe Fiasco’s “The Cool” from which “Superstar” is culled. Soon after, I was walking out of the store with the album in hand, feeling confident in my purchase.

How right I was to purchase the CD with such confidence, since The Cool is one of the best hip-hop albums I’ve ever heard.

I was stunned as I listened to “The Coolest”, the album’s namesake for the first time. The dark, haunting beat hypnotized me as Lupe’s lyrics told an equally dark story with a level of grace and style I haven’t heard in quite a while. Lupe delivers his message in rhyme with a complexity and intricacy I haven’t heard in quite a while. Before you ask, the redundancy of the previous statement is intentional. Why? Because, listening to this album was like a slap in the face, forcing me to wake up to the harsh realization of how much I had lowered my standards listening to “radio rap”. Hearing this one song was like the first breath of fresh air after being trapped underwater for far too long, except in this case, the “water” was the mediocre mainstream rap that now floods the industry.

But I digress. Lupe Fiasco’s sophomore album is filled to the brim with the same complex, meaningful rhymes his fans have come to expect but what makes this album truly stand out in my mind is the numerous sociopolitical messages strewn throughout in several of his songs. Lupe Fiasco draws a connection between video game violence and child soldiers of third world countries in “Little Weapon” produced by (of all people) Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy fame and addresses immigration in the song “Intruder Alert”. Interestingly enough, Lupe also takes shots at the masses who want rap to be “dumbed down” in “Dumb it Down” which effectively sums up how I feel about the new face of the industry.

It should be easy to tell by now that I am thoroughly impressed by this album and heartily recommend it to all fans of hip-hop who want more than just mediocre. I recommend this to people who enjoy listening to songs that carry a message about something other than guns, cars, clothes and money. The sheer complexity and thought provoking subjects of Lupe’s rhymes, coupled with his refusal to dumb himself, or his songs down to the masses, is one of the reasons I’ve come up with to explain why this CD hasn’t garnered the sales I believe it deserves. It’s a shame really, because it’s this kind of music that represents a viable future for the hip-hop industry as a whole, versus the mainstream rap the masses have taken such a shine to.

In short, hip-hop fans everywhere need to hear this album, chances are you’re going to enjoy it.

h1

The Gears of War Are Still Turning…

February 28, 2008

Following the big announcement at GDC last week that Gears of War 2 would be hitting the Xbox 360 this fall, many have jumped back on the Gears of War bandwagon, going on about chainsaw duels and “trainguns“. Everyone seems to be excited about the game and I am no different. It’s no secret that I loved the first game despite its one-blink-and-you-missed-it campaign, cliché ridden storyline and glitch filled multiplayer. Despite all of its flaws, the game was still damn fun to play alone, cooperatively and in its eight player team deathmatch inspired modes.

Since the Gears of War 2 announcement, a few of my friends and I have gotten back into playing Gears of War. Prior to this, I had swore off the game completely because it had become downright unplayable for me. Earlier I commented about Gears of War’s multiplayer modes being glitch filled. I wasn’t kidding. I won’t go into the finer details, but a few glitches stick out in my mind to this day. The first notable glitch I’ve seen involves a player running at the increased “roadie run” speed, hunched over, while still retaining the ability to shoot. With a shotgun in hand (which is, to this day, still the best weapon in the game), you were damn near unstoppable. I called it “surfing” due to the players performing the action looking like they were running sideways.

By far the most annoying glitch I’ve come across was what I dubbed the “Chainsaw shotgun” in which a player performs a certain action (I never found out what this was) and then runs toward their opponent, shotgun in hand. Suddenly, their opponent begins going through the animation of being sawed but…nothing happens. The player whom received the action goes on about their business for a few seconds when suddenly they explode into a pile of bloody bits midstep, roll or whatever action they were performing. I first fell victim to this glitch in a player match with friends. In this setting, it was all fun and games and no one cared too much but the instant I saw it being used quite frequently in ranked matches, I said to myself “I’m never playing this crap again”

It seems I was wrong. I turned on the game monday night at 11 o’clock to join the multiplayer festivities with my friends expecting to see these glitches and a great deal more. They weren’t there. Hmm…well I at least expected some of the rampant bullet lag…nope…it wasn’t there either. Suffice to say, I was actually enjoying myself. I guess playing in the less competitive environment that is player matches with friends inspires fair play more than it does in the average ranked match.

That’s not to say the game is bereft of glitches. While playing on Tyro station, my teammate showed me how to “get out of the map” by performing a rather simple action. While I was found and shown the business end of my opponent’s shotgun in short order trying to do it myself, I watched him on the spectator camera running down the side of the train tracks, going where no player was intended to go. I laughed as I saw him running through mountains, heading toward the map’s boundaries and attempting to jump off. The other dead players on my team and I laughed at our teammate’s antics until the round was inevitably declared a draw.

Despite this, for the first time in months, I was actually having fun with Gears of War. It seems it’s gone back to the early days. Sure, there were some glitches back then, but the game was still fun to play. Over the past few nights, I’ve been having a blast with the game and I don’t expect things to slow down any time soon.

Getting back to Gears of War 2, some of my fellow staff members and I wrote a Gears of War 2 Wish List at Talk Xbox and it figures that most of the things we wanted to see was related to the multiplayer. While I also want to see some multiplayer improvements this time around, the main thing I’m clamoring for is related to the single player. I’m a sucker for a good story in a videogame and Gears of War’s was…not. Too many clichés in the dialog, too many plot holes, and not enough backstory to give the player an adequate understanding of what the hell is actually happening in the Gears of War universe. 

I expect big things from Gears of War 2 and I hope it turns out to be everything I hope it will be and more. So with that, I’ll return to Gears of War multiplayer. I can’t believe it, but I’m actually starting to get hooked on it again…

h1

Nintendo Shoots Itself In the Foot…Again

February 22, 2008

It’s official, Nintendo has lost its fucking mind.

I…I almost don’t know what to say to this but this picture sums up my thoughts quite nicely.

Right now. These people should be replaced by…anyone. Go outside and pick a few random people off of the street, hell, you could even bring in a small colony of monkeys and cut them loose in the offices. Anything would be an improvement at this point.

Why in the holy mother of fuck would you even consider charging for the services offered by the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection? To be blunt, the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection is hardly worth the price of admission as it is but, at the very least, I’m not paying for it so it’s not too hard to swallow. Now, that all changes since Nintendo has announced the “Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection Pay And Play.” The mere thought of paying for something as lackluster as the service offered on the Wii and DS Lite makes me sick to my stomach.

In the past, I haven’t been very vocal about how much I despise the Nintendo WFC but I figure now is as good a time as any to vent. My biggest problem with the service is not the lackof services. No, what really brings my blood to a boil is the “Friend Code” system, which is utterly convoluted in concept and even more so in execution. Instead of, God forbid, taking a page from Sony or Microsoft and creating a simple online infrastructure in which each user signs up for a single username that covers all games (ala the Playstation Network or Xbox Live), they choose instead to give each user a series of numbers (usually 12 or so) for them to memorize and hand out to friends. What fun that must be!

“Hey buddy, my Friend Code is 392847-496073! What’s yours?” I mean, that’s obviously much easier than telling your friend “Hey, my online name is The Game21x” right? Want to know the best part? You have a different Friend Code for each online game you play! Doesn’t that sound like fun? Worst of all, some games don’t even allow you to play online if you aren’t playing with friends.

Another of my many annoyances with the service is the incredible restrictions and regulations Nintendo is putting on developers who want to implement online functions in their games. It’s like they want to make their online services as user-unfriendly as possible. Communication in a Wii game is next to impossible or convoluted as all hell due to Nintendo’s restrictions. There are no games on the Wii that support voice chat, and even fewer that allow for even basic forms of text communication, even between friends.

 As it stands now, there are…what…4 games on the Wii that support online multiplayer (Pokemon Battle Revolution, Battalion Wars 2, Mario Strikers Charged and Medal of Honor Heroes)? While there’s likely a few more I’ve missed, but the Wii’s online catalog is sorely lacking in comparison to its closest competitors, the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

All of these problems with the service, and all of a sudden you expect us to pay for it? Seriously? Please tell me this is all one big joke so I can have a good laugh and go back to respecting you again. I can stomach paying $50 a year for Xbox Live because at least Microsoft provides the illusion that I’m getting my money’s worth, and I’m placated by that. The only scenario in which I could see myself paying to play Wii games online is if Nintendo does a complete overhaul of the service and offers something similar to Xbox Live. This would mean a completely new policy on online play, and a release of the choke-chain currently around the necks of any developers wishing to develop online-capable games on the Wii.

Honestly, I don’t see any of those demands being met and as such, I will not be joining the “Pay And Play”party any time soon. Nintendo, I really hate to say this but you have devolved into a shadow of your former self. In this longtime gamer’s (and longtime Nintendo fan) opinion, Nintendo is, in a purely business sense, doing everything right with the Wii…while screwing gamers over in the process. I hate to be so blunt, but Nintendo needs a wake up call, and fast.