Saturday, 26 April 2008

Who Needs Sunshine When You Have Games?

Playing: Beats (PSP). Listening to: Skins OST.

Today was an absolutely gloriously sunny day in the North of South Korea (spoiler: not where I actually live), so I took the opportunity to head outside and ventured into my garden armed with my laptop. Unfortunately, my neighbours had decided not to switch their wireless box on today, so I was denied some Starcraft online action. I sulked for some time, before heading back inside and digging around for a prized possession of mine. And there it was: the Total Annihilation disk.

Now for all of those who don't know, which I assume to be quite a lot of people, Total Annihilation (PC) is another ageing RTS, and is one of my favourite games. Although the title would seemingly suggest the opposite, it is in fact a more tactical affair than the aforementioned 'Craft, and for that reason, makes it a lot more fun if you (like me) enjoy playing the 'long game' in an RTS. Which basically means working through the tech tree and deciding which units are the best for your strategy.

Unlike in Starcraft, where you research your way through the tech tree (a la Age of Empires), in Total Annihilation, things are done a little differently. There are three main types of units: Kbots, Vehicles and Aircraft that apply to most maps (there are also Naval units, and Hovercraft that turn up on occasion). Then, after building a Kbot lab for instance, you use it to create a Construction Kbot, which then can build an Advanced Kbot Lab, which can in turn build an Advanced Construction Kbot. Overuse of the word Kbot, methinks. And no, it doesn't go any higher than that, but this does open up a lot of different units. But getting the Metal and Energy levels to be able to build the advanced units does take some time, hence my favouring of the 'long game', compared to how Starcraft's AI will attack quite quickly, forcing you do build a quick defensive army of low-level units.

Point made: I love Total Annihilation. Moving on, I said I'd have some impressions of my recent PSP acquisitions, and although I haven't got far enough into Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops to form an opinion yet, I will share my thoughts on the PSP-exclusive (until the inevitable PS2 port) God of War: Chains of Olympus. However, this is far from a review, that would be cruel after only a few hours of play, so bear that in mind.

Apart from a brief spell with the GoW1 demo, I have never really played either of the previous God of War games, so no, I don't know any of the back story. But that is irrelevant, because at one point in Chains of Olympus, Kratos turned around and said "What treachery is this?" and I was made happy, forgetting the fact I had no idea what was going on. However, from what I've gathered, Kratos does not at all like being the Gods' bitch, which is understandable really.

Story aside, the gameplay is immense.I've never really been a fan of beat-/slash-em-ups (presumably the reason I haven't played God of War games before), but this is really great fun. The combos are slowly unlocked as you go around collecting red orbs to level up your mad skillz, so you can learn them at your own pace rather than them all being there when you start, which is what makes other fighters too overwhelming for me. Also, the fact you have to balance out your magic usage, blade-swinging and health gives the game an extra depth. There is one major problem though. Random insane difficulty spikes. They are the death of me, literally (well at least in the game). I've already come up against two in my playing, and I'm stuck at another one now. It's not a deal breaker, but it is annoying when they turn up, because they take a hell of a lot of time to get past. At least the loading times are fantastically short, which takes away some potential annoyance.

Now to presentation: the music in the game is top notch orchestral stuff, and so I was mightily glad about that. Sound effects are also great, and the voice acting and animation in the cut scenes is also spectacular. And so I get to the inevitable mention of the game's graphics. And yes, they are amazing; hell, they'd be amazing on PS2, on PSP they are astonishing. The first time I booted up the game to be given a fantastic view of the Persian attack on the Shores of Attica, and it was genuinely a moment of amazement. But one thing I will say is, due to the games use of the full-and-recently-unlocked 333Mhz of the PSP processor to chuck out this graphical awesomeness, the battery life of said console is lowered in comparison to playing other games, although not by too much.

And to the final, deciding factor of a game for me: FUN. I will buy games primarily on how fun they are regardless of graphics/story/anything else, as long as they promise a good time. God of War: Chains of Olympus is one game that has fun in spades, especially for someone new to the series like me. Overall, I feel that my playing of the game so far has shown how much work Ready at Dawn have put into this game, and pretty much the only downer is the annoying difficult spikes. Highly recommended: a solid A rating.

Expect to hear more from me soon, on MGS: Portable Ops, Patapon, SOCOM: Tactical Strike, as well as other games.

FO out.

Literally Repenting

Whether you want to blame my blogging revival on lack of coursework or rivalry between my fellow blogger and I, it's safe to say I'm back again!

After you wrap your mind around that blog title, you may have noticed that we now have a 'Currently Playing' bit at the side there. Yeah, me neither. But it's awesome, and it leads me on nicely to the bulk of my post; reviewing Super Smash Bros Brawl.

As we've already mentioned, us two live in England (as if our pasty skin was not white enough already) and so you could be pondering as to how I actually have Brawl, and better yet, how I actually play it. Those of you out there who are in any way Wii-savvy, will know that just before the American launch of Brawl, Datel released the Wii-freeloader (or ingeniously dubbed 'wiiloader' by many) and I took my chance.

I guess I should explain to you my history with Super Smash Bros. It's comprehensive. Comprehensive in the way that I was around for the launch of the original SSB, playing it to death might I add, and waited through thick and thin for SSBM, easily one of the best games I have ever played ever. I used the same word to describe something twice in the same sentence. That's how awesome it is. Suck on that, spell check.

Anyway, ever since launch of SSBM, I never put the game away. It was always there, ready to keep my boredom at bad and lower my school marks. And when I found out about SSBB, I was elated, to the degree that I contemplated buying a Japanese Wii in advance, for I knew Nintendo loved screwing Europe over.

And screw us over they did. Only a few days ago did we learn that Brawl is launching over here on June 27th. Five fricking months later, with only a different language to show for it. Ugh. So not content with this, I got the Freeloader and my copy of Brawl at the American release date, and proceeded to drown in the proverbial clusterflump of gaming franchises.

And my god is it good. I'm not going to go on about how amazing it is, and what makes it amazing. It would honestly take too long and I could talk about it for many many pages. If you've ever played Melee, just imagine that but injected with steroids. It's pretty much the best description I can give of it. Sure, people will find their gripes, they have to, but it doesn't matter, because this one is up there with the greats; top 10 easy.

Although I came into this feeling like I should review the game, I realize I don't need to. You're going to get it, or not get it, no matter what I say. I would like to point out a few things though. Online is not as bad as they say it is. Nintendo's servers are perfectly fine (now), and as long as your internet connection is up to scratch (mine tops at 60 kbps and even I only experience minor lag) then you'll be Brawling without a hitch.

Secondly, the 1 player game is superb. Ignore any nay-sayers, who say there is no story line at all. There is. It's just really haphazard and crappy. But that's okay, because it's Brawl! Having a story actually make sense when it involves 30+ characters from multiple series would be pretty hard, especially without the genius's who are worked on it.

And finally, Olimar rocks. He may seem stupid, and silly, and weak, and many other bad adjectives, but if you spend time getting to know his ups and downs, he's deadly. Ever seen a character do 200% in 10 seconds? You would if you mained Olimar.

And that's it. I expect you'll be hearing from us at some point.
In the mean time, keep on pretending.

Aquatic "Starcraft Is Awesome" Wanderer

Friday, 25 April 2008

Terran, Spartan, American.

Playing: Black (PS2). Listening to: MGMT.

Hullo again there, I've been off on holiday in Barbados doing coursework and revision for my GCSE's the past few weeks, hence I've been a bit absent on here.

Anyways, I thought I'd update again whilst I have a brief respite from work having handed in the last of my coursework today, and before I begin heavy revision for my German oral exam later this weekend. I'm also using the time to charge through some gaming that I've missed the last few weeks.

First of all, an old friend turned up again in the shape of Starcraft (PC). I'm sure everyone that visits here will know what it is, but just a quick recap: classic RTS set in space featuring three alien races: the Terran, Protoss and Zerg, made by Blizzard, the guys behind the Warcraft franchise. Anyhow, last week I got a message from Aquatic telling me his brother was down and fancied some 4 player LAN Starcraft. Unfortunately, remembering how to play took longer than I thought and we missed the opportunity, but still got some 3 man (and AI) games in, which was sweet. The downside of course is that I am not completely addicted to damn Starcraft all over again. Game is still as sweet as ever though.

Whilst round at the Wanderer's abode hidden away in the middle of nowhere, I took the opportunity to try out Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii) for the first time. Now, I've never played a Smash Bros game before, and I have to say it was pretty damn fun. Obviously I can't take into account the 'needing-to-play-for-ages-to-unlock-the-decent-multiplayer-stuff' cos Aquatic had already done that and we just played craploads of multiplayer matches. The thing that amazed me most though? The graphics. Some of the stages looked amazing, and I was impressed that the Wii had no framerate glitches or anything. Overall, great experience, looks like a great game.

Next up, a brief mention of Silent Hill 2 (PS2), another game we played a little of briefly whilst I was there (yes, most of our time was taken up by Starcraft LAN games). I've been trying to get into SH2 since I bought it a little while back but so far, I'm not seeing anything amazing. I shall keep trying though, it's just a little tedious. Possibly the only time I've taken a game off my Most Wanted list (Silent Hill: Homecoming) because I've played a previous game in the series and hated it.

So, its now the weekend again, so I'm rewarding myself for a week of hard work at school by playing some awesome games. Primarily, I'm going through Black (PS2) again, as I fancied blowing random stuff up and I've run through Mercenaries so many times now. So Black it is, now on Normal mode after Aquatic and I beat it on easy last year. And don't take the piss, the last level is fricking hard regardless of difficulty level. Also, I'm playing God of War: Chains of Olympus and Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops (both PSP) that I've borrowed from a friend since my gaming budget for April went on Patapon and those random PS2 games a little while back, so expect first impressions of those two soon!