Archive for the ‘Games’ Category

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Mass Effect 2 Review

March 10, 2010

When does a game become more than just a game? When can a game invoke the same emotional response from a player that cinema can from viewers or a piece of music can from its listeners? In this humble reviewer’s opinion, it takes a great deal of effort to create a truly transcendent experience in a game that plays with your emotions and keeps you hooked from the moment you power the game on until you’ve reached its conclusion. Mass Effect 2 is one of those games. It combines some of the best third person shooting and RPG mechanics with a fantastically dark narrative, a remarkable cast of characters, sharp writing, well-directed cutscenes and an epic soundtrack to create an experience that is more than just a game. It’s an amazing cinematic event, and one that’s among the best of its kind.

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The iPad and Gaming

January 30, 2010

I’ve already posted my initial thoughts on whether or not the iPad needs to exist within Apple’s hardware ecosystem but now I’m going to shift gears and examine what the iPad means for gamers. After all, the main focus of Apple’s iPod Touch refresh last summer was gaming so it’s clear that Apple wants a nice big slice of the portable gaming pie that had previously been dominated by the likes of Nintendo and Sony with their DS and PSP systems. Now, the iPhone and iPod Touch represent logical gaming platforms and legitimate challengers to Nintendo and Sony’s portable gaming dominance because of their competitive price points, abundance of features in and outside of gaming, generally far cheaper prices for games and portability. The iPad on the other hand, is a different story altogether. While it has been said that the iPad will run most of the applications (in this case, meaning games) designed for the iPhone and iPod Touch, the real question is not only whether or not the average Joe will want to play games on the iPad as opposed to the already firmly established Nintendo DS or Sony PSP but whether or not someone will want to play a game on the iPad as opposed to the iPhone or iPod Touch.

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The Art of Forza Motorsport 3

December 21, 2009

Forza Motorsport 3, released on October 27, 2009, is one of the best racing games ever made due to its excellent array of single and multiplayer game modes, large and varied selection of cars, incredibly realistic racing physics and unparalleled accessibility (at least within the racing simulator genre). Another important aspect that Forza 3 also excels in is in its highly impressive visuals, running at a buttery smooth 60 frames per second. Because of these excellent visuals, the in game photo mode allows for some truly breathtaking images.

Now, I’m not exactly what you’d call an expert photographer but I’ve become positively enamored with the game’s photo mode after a few trips to the Forza Motorsport 3 forums and taking a look at the multimedia showcase forum, in which budding photographers and folks obsessed with the sheer beauty of four wheeled vehicles meet to share the images they’ve taken in Forza 3. Taking a look through some of the threads there, I was amazed at the levels of realism and artistry that people were able to achieve with Forza 3’s photo mode and decided to try my hand at producing some high quality images of my own.

So, I decided to revive my long dormant Flickr account and create a gallery of the best images I’ve come up with. Some of which I’ll share below.

Clicking on any of the images above will take you to the full size 1280 x 720 version of the image you click on, which is also a part of my Forza 3 gallery at Flickr. If you want to view the rest of the images I’ve uploaded, just check out this link.

So check out the images if you like and let me know what you think.

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Gran Turismo PSP Review

October 6, 2009

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At a Glance: Gran Turismo PSP is a game that gets the fundamentals down but drops the ball in its execution.

Originally announced as one of the flagship titles of the then yet to be released PSP, Gran Turismo Mobile quickly dropped off of the radar into vaporware territory. Well, imagine everyone’s surprise when, at E3 2009, Sony and Polyphony Digital confirmed that Gran Turismo PSP was not only in active development but that it was also going to be released this year. After all this time, you’d think the PSP iteration of the long running and obscenely popular Gran Turismo series would measure up quite nicely with its console predecessors. Regrettably, if you thought that, you’d be mistaken.

While this title boasts a very impressive 800+ car roster and a fairly large selection of tracks, many of which can be driven in reverse, and a realistic handling model lifted from Gran Turismo 5: Prologue, it can’t compete with its console brethren due to one very large and disappointing omission. The career mode of Gran Turismo games past is missing in action in Gran Turismo PSP.

In lieu of any kind of career mode, you have the option to run a time trial, single race or drift trial and only the latter two will earn you the valuable credits you’ll need to build a vast collection of automobiles, both classic and modern. In addition to this, there are a large number of “Driving Challenges” to test your skills. These challenges are almost identical to the dreaded license tests in Gran Turismo games past, the primary differences being that they (thankfully) aren’t mandatory completions in order to enter certain races and reward you with credits for completion in the bronze, silver and gold tiers.

Starting out, you are given 100,000 credits and presented with four of the game’s many dealerships from which to buy your first car. Every two in game days, there will be a random selection of four dealers to choose from and none of them will offer you more than ten vehicles to choose from on any given day. There’s no option to bypass this system, so if you’re looking to buy a particular car from a particular dealer, you have to participate in a couple of events to advance the game forward a couple of days and hope the dice roll in your favor.

This was particularly annoying when I spotted one of the cars I’d been dreaming of (the ’09 Corvette ZR1) and tried to buy it, only to realize I didn’t have enough credits. I was forced to cope with the frustrating realization that I couldn’t possibly earn enough credits before a new selection of dealers and cars appeared the next day. On one hand, this is an interesting way to introduce players to cars they might otherwise have overlooked but to leave everything to the luck of the draw seems asinine.

Before this turns into a giant hate fest, allow me to say that there are a number of things that Gran Turismo PSP does right. The visuals on display here are among the best the PSP has to offer, running at a liquid smooth 60 frames per second, the car models are surprisingly well detailed, given the limitations of the platform. Control wise, everything is completely customizable, which is a great inclusion. Handling physics are another high point, but this is no surprise, as the Gran Turismo series has always delivered fairly realistic physics. This also seems to be the easiest Gran Turismo to get into and it’s very easy to pick up and play from the very beginning, especially with the much less strict and inviting Driving Challenges.

With no career mode structure and everything unlocked from the very beginning, there’s a prevailing feeling of pointlessness in your actions. With everything unlocked from the start, there’s no brass ring to reach for and no sense of accomplishment to be gained. Eventually, the endless grind of racing for credits to buy new cars gets stale and combined with the lack of online multiplayer, the long term appeal is limited quite a bit. Ultimately, Gran Turismo PSP is a good game that’s buried underneath a series of poor design decisions. The gameplay, visuals, car roster and track selection are rock solid but without any sort of direction to guide players through the game, I can’t imagine this will appeal to any but the most hardcore of Gran Turismo fans.

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Mass Effect Pinnacle Station Review

September 9, 2009

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Due to my Mass Effect fandom, I bought the recently (and very, very quietly) released Pinnacle Station DLC without even thinking about it. Big mistake. So, I reviewed the content for Talk Xbox (my first review in months) and, in traditional fashion, here’s the first paragraph of said review.

“Long before Mass Effect was released, Bioware teased with the notion of extending the life of the game long after the final credits rolled by way of post release DLC. Unfortunately, these ideas didn’t seem to pan out as lavishly as expected and, nearly two years after the release of Mass Effect, Pinnacle Station is only the second downladable content pack. Even worse, this content isn’t all that great – in fact, it’s downright mediocre at best.”

Justin McBride – Talk Xbox

Full Review

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Race Pro Impressions

February 27, 2009

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Two days ago, I picked up Race Pro, a game I’ve been highly anticipating since its announcement in the form of an Xbox 360 version of the PC racing sim, GTR 2. This title hails from Simbin, a developer that has been heralded as one of the best in the business of creating racing simulators. This is their very first console racing title and the racing simulation community has been abuzz, wondering if they can replicate the notoriously hardcore PC racing simulation experience on a console with little compromise. After investing a few hours in the game, I can say with ease, they’ve done a damn fine job.

As I popped the game into my Xbox 360, I decided to jump into the game by playing it for the very first time with Microsoft’s official wireless racing wheel, which I’d purchased a little over a year ago for Forza Motorsport 2. It seemed fitting to play this title with the wheel in hand. If you own Microsoft’s official Racing Wheel, you owe it to yourself to use it for this game. Racing with the wheel, coupled with the interior view, feels incredibly natural. It can be tough going from racing with the controller to the racing wheel but undoubtedly, it truly is the best and most immersive way to play.

Onto the driving physics, there’s no doubt in my mind that Simbin has created one of the most realistic racing simulators ever, thanks in large part to the physics engine. Even driving something as seemingly mundane as a Mini Cooper (a highly modified version of a Mini Cooper no less) can be very exciting and trust me when I say the Radical SR3 is not to be taken lightly. I have yet to get behind the wheel of the Dodge Viper SRT-10 and Audi R8 (two of my favorite supercars) as of yet, two of the unmodified cars included in the package, but I did get behind the wheel of the Dodge Charger Super Bee, an exclusive download included in copies of the game sold at GameStop (don’t think of that as an ad…). Race Pro does an excellent job of simulating the high weight and power this car possesses, which makes it characteristically difficult to stop at the end of a long straightaway.

Race Pro is one of the rare racers on the market today that is able to blend accessibility with, at times, crushingly realistic physics. The instant you enter the career mode, it defaults to the professional difficulty setting, in which all assists are turned off. For the sake of accessibility, it’s nice that these settings can be changed to your liking. They can all be adjusted in varying degrees, from low, medium to high.

So far, the AI drivers generally make for fairly competent opponents but, on occasion, they exhibit some…questionable behavior. For instance, as the Autodriver lead me out to the track in my Chevy Lacetti, a sequence that you can’t override as far as I can tell, it nicked a barrier while exiting the pits and compromised my aerodynamics. I was essentially forced to restart the session due to my bent front bumper. Hopefully, this isn’t a common occurrence.

I’ve played a couple of online races so far and they all have been free of any perceptible lag, even with as many as ten vehicles on the track at once (the game supports 12 online). Despite the fairly limited options compared to other racing titles on the 360 such as Forza Motorsport 2 and PGR 4, it is nice to have the ability to take to the track in a practice session to play around with vehicle setups before beginning the big race.

Perhaps the only thing I don’t like about Race Pro so far is its incredibly basic presentation. The menus aren’t presented with any sort of visual pizzazz or flair and hardly go beyond the call of duty.  This can be somewhat off-putting, even for me, a person who appreciates what lies under the hood far more than visual aesthetics (which is why the Corvette Z06 has captured my heart more so than the far more visually appealing Ferrari F430).

Overall, after investing just a few scant hours into the game so far, I’ve very much enjoyed Race Pro. It has delivered exactly what I expected to, an involving and incredibly realistic racing simulator. Race Pro may be a little rough around the edges especially concerning the interface and overall presentation but it delivers where it counts. Stay tuned for the full review, which should be posted very soon.

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PlayStation Home Beta Video Tour

December 6, 2008

Part 1

Part 2

I’ve taken the liberty to record some footage with my digital camera straight from my TV screen to give all of you out there a better idea of what to expect once the public beta launches. The video has been split into two parts and I’ll update this post once the second half has been finished and uploaded for your viewing pleasure. Alright, enough talk. I hope you enjoy this brief look into the PlayStation Home Beta!

UPDATE: Part 2 of the beta tour has been uploaded and posted for your viewing pleasure!