Sunday, December 28, 2008

PS3 Impressions

It has almost been a fortnight since I bought the PS3 hinted to in my last post and now that I have spent some time with it I thought I would offer up some basic impressions on the console. I have some more in-depth thoughts on LittleBigPlanet, the game I got with the console, on the way as well as some other things but for now some basic thoughts will suffice. I also purchased a HD TV in the same week so let me just say briefly that the difference between HD and SD was better than I thought it would be.

LittleBigPlanet is quite simply charming. Before playing it I didn't really have any expectations for it with nothing more than a casual passing interest in the game. After playing it I was pleasantly surprised to find a simple yet charming game that literally puts a smile on my face. It makes for a nice change after the gritty wastelands of Fallout 3 and onslaught of Locust in Gears of War 2.

Trophies are nowhere near as compelling as Achievements on the 360 are although being the completionist that I am means I have already outlined in my head the ones that I want to obtain and the ones that may be out of my reach. I definitely aim to obtain as many as I can but at the moment it definitely feels as if the majority of my time and dedication will still be with Achievements. Perhaps that is because I have had the 360 for longer though and who knows, my interest in Trophies could grow as I obtain more and play a variety of games.

PSN has been reasonably interesting with some good trials for games like EchoCrome, PixelJunk Eden and Super Stardust HD. I have enjoyed all three and will definitely be purchasing them in the near future as well as Wipeout HD. I have also tried out some demos including the two Motorstorm games, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune and Ridge Racer 7. The Motorstorm games surprised me in a similar way to that of LittleBigPlanet, where I only had a passing interest in the games before actually playing them. They are definite purchases and so is Uncharted: Drake's Fortune which I knew was going to be good because one of my favourite developers, Naughty Dog, are behind it. I also had a two hour session with Home the other night and came away with mixed thoughts. I can definitely see the potential of it but for some reason just can't see Sony taking advantage of that potential. It will be interesting to see how the service turns out that's for sure. Interestingly the web browser included for the console is seeing quite a bit of use with me using it to read blogs in bed when I should be sleeping.

Overall the console was worth the purchase and it is nice that some games have been pleasant surprises. It is no secret though that it was a future purchase of sorts, with me buying it in preparation for the upcoming Heavy Rain and whatever Fumito Ueda and his Team ICO are cooking up. In the meantime I look forward to more time playing LittleBigPlanet, purchasing some games that I passed up on in favour of the new TV like Metal Gear Solid 4 and Gran Turismo 5: Prologue and also checking out a few more games on the PSN. Who knows, I might even buy a Blu Ray movie or three and start watching movies again now that I have the TV to take advantage of it...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Sitting here thinking about what I was going to write for this week, I couldn't help but let my mind wander into the thoughts about how my gaming year has panned out and comparing them to previous ones. The fact that it is December could be playing on my subconscious too with a whole host of Game Of The Year articles due from the various gaming websites out there. Looking back at it, the year has definitely been different for me and it is somewhat surprising.

At the start of the year I can remember worrying about two things. I had missed out on some of 2007's big titles like Assassin's Creed and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare so I was worrying about whether I was going to get a chance to play these titles or not. In April, another thing I was worried about was whether I was able to buy Grand Theft Auto IV on launch and was starting to pick out games that I would be okay with trading in if needed just to ensure I was able to secure my copy.

Fast forward to now and the story is much different. I went from uncertainty to, well, I'm not even sure what to call it. The fact that I bought 8 games in the month of November shows just how much a difference a few months can make. That alone was surprising for me as usually I am someone who can only afford maybe three of the titles I am interested during the end of year rush. But no, a week or so before November I bought Fable II and a week after November I bought myself a new DS after giving my older one to my little sister. I'm not literally doing it but I feel like I am just throwing my money around at the moment. Being able to buy so much of what I want lately feels weird and you know, I actually kind of feel guilty about it.

As a gamer the ability to buy what one wants is a good thing, especially when there are so many titles worthy of attention these days. As someone with a conscious though, I can't help but feel as if I am perhaps too greedy and that I just want too many games. It is either that or we really are spoiled for choice these days. Maybe I didn't leave the uncertainty behind after all, maybe I just redefined it as the year went on and am now just over analyzing it all due to it being an unusual thing for me. It won't be stopping anytime soon either as sometime today or at the very least this week, I will be spending even more money on something gaming related. I am looking forward to it but for now, I will keep what it is quiet so I can talk about it on here later in the week. A lame attempt at keeping you in suspense, if you will.

For the record the year was quite good regardless of whether I had a brilliant November or not. I bought Burnout Paradise when it released and had a blast with it. I did manage to play some of the games I wanted to from last year even if it was in ways I didn't expect. I managed to play the Xbox Live Arcade titles I wanted throughout the year like Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2 and perhaps more importantly, Braid. I also secured that copy of GTA IV without having to trade games in so all in all it was a solid year. A solid year that became a brilliant one last month and is set to continue this week...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Out Of The Blue

Thanks to the joys of digital distribution I recently had the pleasure of playing Portal: Still Alive, a game that I have wanted to play since its release last year but one that I just unfortunately hadn't gotten around to yet. Being late to the party meant that I missed out on the cake but luckily for me I was still able to see my faithful companion (cube) and play around with the toy gun.

Okay so it wasn't exactly a toy but damn, if it was that would be the best toy ever. I couldn't help but think of what it would be like if we had our own portal guns to use, which in turn took me off into a tangent and thinking about some of the possibilities that our future could hold. Irrelevant to the game maybe, but I still found it interesting nonetheless and it is a bunch of thoughts that could not have happened if I did not play Portal. Whether it was transporting yourself to a local mall through portals, or just playing pranks on friends, many ideas and possible uses for portals came to my head and I found it fascinating. The power of the imagination eh?

Back to the game, my thoughts are pretty much on par with all of those that were discussed last year when the game was the topic of conversation. I loved the way it eased you in and how simple it was to pick up for the first time, yet I also loved how that evolved as you progressed into a rather complex game that definitely had my mind boggling a few times. It was a great challenge for me and the satisfaction I had when I finally figured out how to progress through one of the test chambers or challenge maps is unmatched. Well, except for maybe Braid which tested my brain in similar ways.

It wasn't just the gameplay that used simplicity to its benefit, the game as a whole did so as well with the graphics, design of the rooms and even the music all being quite simple when compared to other, bigger games. But that is exactly what the game needed and as everybody knows by now, the experience worked. No more praise needs to be heaped upon the game so instead I just want to say that, for the developers to be able to create a fun and challenging game that can stand on its own, yet also tie into their bigger franchise in Half Life, is quite amazing and a testament to Valve's ability to produce brilliant games.

What was perhaps most interesting to me though was how the (little) story managed to grab my attention. Unfortunately I haven't had the pleasure of playing a Half Life game (meaning I'm not a real gamer, then) so for Portal's story to be able to hook me even though it indirectly ties into the Half Life universe with references to Black Mesa and so on, again says something about just how much the game worked and why it deserved the praise it got. I think it is safe to assume that there will be more Portal games and regardless of whether I get around to playing Half Life or not, I look forward to finding out more about Aperture Science in the future.

This has almost turned into a review so now all that is left to say is this; If you have not played Portal yet then make sure you do. It is short so it won't take too much of your gaming time but that should not matter anyway. The game is definitely one of the most satisfying games you can play and I assure you that you will not be disappointed.

Unintentional review or not, I cannot underline just how much I love the game and how much I think everyone who loves games should play it. Being late to the party does not matter and will not affect your experience or appreciation of the game at all. The cake might be gone, but you will always have your faithful companion cube. What more could you want?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Always Connected: Cooperative Play

Always Connected is a series of posts I plan on doing about Online gameplay. From particular subjects related to playing games online, to personal experiences I have had and any other feelings I may have about the subject, they will be discussed within this series. Part one begins with a focus on cooperative play and how it's changing the gaming experiences of the industry as a whole.

Most games these days feature the option to play through their respective stories or campaigns cooperatively or if not that, then a separate campaign created specifically with Co-Op gameplay in mind. The fact that consoles can now connect to the Internet has played a big part in that. Multiplayer gaming of any kind is no longer relegated to sharing an experience on the couch or via a LAN in the same room and while a lot of us may miss these shared, in-person experiences, the fact that we can now play with friends in different states or even overseas is definitely a good thing for the industry as a whole.

The last couple of years has seen games with Co-Op experiences increase tenfold, with games like Gears of War, Halo 3 and more recently Left 4 Dead providing polished, enjoyable gaming experiences that are arguably more fun to play cooperatively than they are as a solo experience. These sorts of games have, in some ways, changed the perception of how games are played. Games are no longer played by the typical stereotype of a gamer in their bedroom or in the basement, alone with no communication or interaction with the outer world as they play their games. The ability to share the story of a game as an experience, or even just a particular gameplay mechanic has been welcomed with open arms by gamers and allows people to actually participate in some potentially awesome moments in these games instead of hearing about it at school or work the next day.

Of course, the ability to play these games online means that it is not just friends who you can potentially play with. There are thousands, if not millions of gamers out there who you could end up cooperatively playing with and this in turn can lead into some bad experiences. Not knowing these gamers could mean that the differing play styles that you have might clash and hinder your experience rather than help it, or that these people could choose to not help at all knowing full well that they can get away with it due to their anonymity. It could also go the other way though and you could end up working together really well while you tackle the game's obstacles and challenges. Who knows, you may even make a friend or three. Arguably, choosing to play a game cooperatively online means that you are taking a risk and that the experience can go either way. You wouldn't have made the choice though if you were not willing to take a risk and as such, one can only hope that the risk was worth it and that the participating gamers can all have a good time. Sometimes, what would be regarded as a bad experience could end up being a good one in an indirect way such as this Left 4 Dead example.

People who have been gaming for many years will always have a soft spot for playing games with their friends on the couch and would also argue that it is a better multiplayer experience than any online cooperative experience could ever be. Perhaps that is true but the general direction recent games have been taking us in by providing the opportunity to share a game's experience over the Internet is definitely a good thing for the industry and something I hope continues to be pursued in the future.

Note: I apologise for the lack of posts last week. I was sick and just couldn't focus my thoughts enough to read anything in-depth, let alone try to write anything in-depth. Thankfully I seem to be over it now and as such, posting now resumes.

Friday, November 21, 2008


As a follow-up to Steven's 'Changes' post, I feel it a personal duty to inform the masses of further blog-related developments. In an effort to strive for a level of professionalism, or at the very least consistency, we here at Raptured Reality have decided to impart a sort of schedule to aid us in keeping the content flowing. Steven will be posting on Mondays and Thursdays, whereas I shall be taking Tuesdays and Fridays, leaving Wednesday as a day for thought-bubbles and planning-paper, and the weekend as a sort of editorial free-for-all.

As well as this, weekly features will no doubt ground us in some level of responsibility, guilt-tripping us into contributing at least every seven days, should the schedule plan fall through. I remain fairly confident it won't though, but when has being overly cynical ever annoyed anyone?

Also under the banner heading 'future content', look forward to next week's postings including an original story penned by yours truly, combatting the very idea of time and a meta-existance therein, as well as the first in a feature series investigating The Four Arts of Gaming, detailing the core templates of gamers around the world.

Quite possibly, if we're lucky, developments may include the very next post by me not being anywhere near as pretentious as this one has become. The story will be about time and meta stuff though, I promise, just might be somewhat undercut by other, more base ideas. Even Shakespeare was smutty at times.

Life Outside The Vault: The Fallout 3 Experience

The Wastelands of Fallout 3 scare me.

Yes, it scares me. Not in the Resident Evil sense of the word nor even the Silent Hill definition, no, the reality of Fallout scares me and I honestly would not have it any other way.

The sense of peril, intensity and desperation for survival in the game is quite simply something I have not experienced in any other and I literally hesitate at times while traversing The Wastelands, wondering just what will I happen upon next throughout my travels. BioShock and a few other recent games have immersed me to the point where the games have felt real while playing, but Fallout 3 does it in a different way and arguably has more of a lasting effect as a result. Due to the way some of the game's side-quests can pan out, even walking into an abandoned shack can provide an unexpected experience. Allow me to explain.

After walking and exploring The Wastelands for around an hour, with the sun setting and my health relatively low after fighting some of the not so lovely inhabitants of the place, I found the aforementioned shack and figured that it would be wise to use it to sleep, recover health and have a break from all that walking and fighting for my survival. The next day I go to leave to continue my adventures only to find waiting outside for me three hitmen, waiting to kill me. From feeling safe to once again fighting for my life as soon as I stepped outside the door, the Fallout experience certainly keeps you on your toes and quickly teaches you to expect the unexpected.

I have had similar experiences where due to a lack of health items and ammo, I have had to be very cautious because if I wasn't, then I would most certainly find myself becoming just another hapless victim of The Wastelands. The place is tough, for sure and it is not just because you can find yourself in a situation with a lack of ammo or worse, health. Just seeing The Wastelands for yourself shows you how tough of a place it is, with a story to be found almost anywhere. A burnt down house could have a bath tub with a skeleton in it, suggesting what someone was doing before the events that changed the land; a playground in the middle of a remote town or suburb could have a whole bunch of active mines surrounding it making it dangerous to go near. It doesn't matter what examples I provide here, there are hundreds of stories to be potentially alluded to and found if you look for them and that alone really adds to the immersion and overall experience of the game.

If you can't tell already, I absolutely love Fallout 3 and I have barely scratched the surface. I'm around 25 hours in and have only done something like six quests. Most people seem to have it finished in 15 hours but most people don't play their games like I do. While they are happy to take advantage of options like fast traveling, I am happy to explore every inch of a subway system to make sure I don't miss a thing. Were I not doing this I would probably be a lot further than I am, but were I not doing this I wouldn't be having such a wonderful experience and fully taking in what Bethesda Studios have created here with the game.

As I said before, The Wastelands scare me and no doubt the fight for my survival will continue to keep me on edge in the future but you know what? I'm willing to face any fears I may have if it means finding Rivet City, helping Galaxy News Radio or anything else that can and will happen later on in the game. Life in Fallout 3 is hard, just like real life and damn it, I love it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Remember those Tidbits posts where I mentioned that I was planning on changing a few things around to hopefully make Raptured Reality more appealing?

Well, as you can no doubt already see those changes are now in effect. Blue is my favourite colour so the colour change works for me and hopefully it does for you, the readers, too. Font colours changed to tie in with the new template, as well as a few other subtle things like sections for what Chris/GTPod and myself are playing. We even started using our real names, which is kinda scary (for me at least) but hopefully it means a more personal connection than what we'd have hiding behind our online usernames.

Hopefully these small changes make the blog better to look at visually. Thanks go to my partner in crime Chris/GTPod for doing most of the changes since he is definitely more aware of how that side of things works than I am.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Space and Conquer: FallEdgePlanet Cry 09

This is Gtpod, and that sums up my November. A garbled title reflecting a garbled mess of incredible gaming that's proving difficult to keep track of. Dead Space, C&C Red Alert 3, Fallout 3, Mirror's Edge, LittleBigPlanet, Far Cry 2 and NHL 09. I don't know how far I am in each one, I don't know where the discs are, I don't know where on my HDD the PC games are, I don't know where some of them came from, I don't know if there are more on their way; all I know is, I'm f**king loving it. In fact, let's tackle them a bit, one by one - basically let's nick Nismo's "Overdue Opinion" idea, except this one's in no way belated and in every way topical.

Dead Space
Had GTAIV not been released this year, I think this would be my GotY. In terms of gameplay, I cannot fault it at all; EA have absolutely hit the mark for horror gaming, to the point where previous dissenters of the genre, such as myself, are righteously converted. A word of warning to those in this position though, if like me you were on edge playing F.E.A.R, you might want to play Dead Space in bursts; after playing several chapters in a row, I nearly jumped out of my skin when my roommate brushed the back of my chair walking past me.
It's not entirely perfect though, mostly due to graphical problems on the PC version. V-sync (a method of limiting the FPS for steadier gameplay) is entirely screwed, yet favourable in certain situations, so constant switching on and off is required. Also it inexplicably slows down in places, and sometimes starts up with a black screen; minor bugs to be fixed in the next patch I'm sure, but annoyances nonetheless (a common theme amongst PC games this year, particularly when EA's involved).

Red Alert 3
Greatest RTS series of all time? I'd say so. As someone who grew up playing RA1 on PC, the series has always held a special place in my gaming heart as the pinnacle of the entire strategy genre, and RA3 certainly didn't disappoint. The most refreshing and exciting aspect is how little EA have changed the formula from the early days; they've not at all been tempted by titles like World in Conflict and Supreme Commander to stray into more serious, straight-faced gameplay, instead sticking with the stereotypical, over-the-top action-film-like storyline and brightly coloured UI. It's exactly as epic as RA has always been, which is particularly nice to see after the shambles of C&C3 and Generals and such rubbish that so poorly plugged the gap between RA2: Yuri's Revenge and RA3. EA's second bout of perfection this quarter.

Fallout 3
Now, I must admit, I had some beef with Fallout 3, dating back to Tokyo Game Show 2008. It was late in the day, I was wandering around looking for my next title to test, when I saw a booth girl holding the most awesome 'thanks-for-playing-prize' I'd ever seen - a Vault Boy bobblehead (just like the preorder bonus). Not knowing anything about the game, having actively avoided it due to lack of interest, I queued immediately just for the prize. Two and a half hours later, I was given my ticket and lead into the booth to test the pre-release demo on 360. And I hated it. I was frustrated by VATS, frustrated by the map/compass, frustrated by the weapons/inventory; generally frustrated at what I saw to be an elaborate mod for Oblivion. Having spoken to other people who've tested alpha/beta stages of the game, they entirely agree that pre-release Fallout 3 was abysmal.
Pre-release Fallout 3 is not post-release Fallout 3. Post-release Fallout 3 is brilliant. If I had to put my finger on what the chief reasoning behind this colossal shift in our opinion is, I'd have to say it's the intro. Not wishing to spoil for anyone, but up to a certain monumental occasion in the story that occurs very early on, everything is very well explained in the common 'tutorial story' section of the game, and all events thereafter just sort of make sense. The struggle makes sense; 'struggle' referring to the Resi-like survival system (perhaps not that hard, but you get the point) of a limited inventory and scarce ammo. Similarities to Oblivion are quickly forgotten as the overwhelming story and atmosphere of Fallout is thickly piled onto the same Gamebryo engine. Not EA, but a definite Autumn success, and certain contender for GotY 08.

Mirror's Edge
Ah Faith, how long we waited for your grace to touch our hearts. My least-played game of the selection I'm talking about here, due only to the fact that it just arrived yesterday. Well... maybe not only. Oh EA, you were so so close to a perfect score for this quarter, why did you let DICE slip up like this? I'm not talking gameplay, or sound, or even atmosphere; I'm talking graphics. We all know graphics aren't everything (unless you're Ninja Theory, gg guys), but they certainly make up a part of the overall gaming experience, and in ME, this part is... I don't know... broken? I don't want to say 'lacking', the intent is all there, it's just the execution that does not do it justice. 90% at fault would have to be the aliasing problems. A pan over Edge City should be a breathtaking scene of sun-kissed skyscrapers adorned with runner routes; instead, a panoramic sight of jagged edges and screen tearing cuts through the atmosphere like a poorly aliased high-rise tower. That's not to say it kills it, but I really had to create a level of immersion to stop it from irritating me; generally, as you run from building to building, it's simply not noticeable, but in those brief moments when you stop and get your bearings or check direction, it sort of hits you, sadly. All this makes for a better looking game indoors though, as running through offices or sewers isn't nearly as graphically buggy.
An incredible game nonetheless. As I say, I'm not very far in, a little under half-way I believe, but I'm loving it. It's everything you'd expect from the demo and more, with unthinkable challenges created from the various running methods popping up throughout the chapters. On top of all that, the time trials prove a very prominent and very challenging mode of gameplay sure to extend the lifetime beyond the short story. A clear hit by EA, but it's no home run like previously mentioned games.

Speaking of hyped titles finally arriving... possibly the biggest title of 2008 is finally here, after several years of excitement, and it most certainly delivers. On a more personal level, I remain confusingly indifferent to a game I'm sure I love. Having not played it in over a week is surely only a symptom of the 'November Overload', however there may well be contributing factors I'm not all too aware of. Perhaps the creativity is just not within me whilst entertainment's being veritably spoon-fed in large doses by the several other incredible games. LBP is very much a game that's made fun by your own input; as much as you put in, you get out, and without that initial time spent, all that's left is a short story with little incentive for unlockables. I feel it's a game for the calm after the storm.

Far Cry 2
Yes, yes... Far Cry... learning from Crytek's mistake of introducing aliens into the original title, Ubisoft decided to stick with an all-human cast for the sequel, which I have accepted with considerably more warmth than its predecessor (which I refused to finish, on principal of it trying to be, but not being anywhere near as good as, Half Life). However, Ubi inexplicably decided to ignore one large aspect of Crytek's legacy, present in Far Cry and Crysis - a little thing called gunplay. Traditionally in FPSs, guns have a level of realism, and differ greatly in handling and aiming, range and accuracy and such weapon characteristics. Confusingly, Ubisoft seemed to create templates for 4 or 5 weapons, then just stick them to multiple models. For example, a rusted jungle AK with the accuracy of a western AS50 .50 cal sniper rifle, or a shotgun with the wide-angle spread of a silenced pistol. It comes as no surprise to me that a company known better for its publication of female-oriented casual DS titles than its equally-lacking-in-the-gun-department Splinter Cell series doesn't understand the intricacies of modern FPS gunplay.
Aside from this issue, however, they've put together an enjoyable game, with little else wrong. Maybe the AI's not as good as it could be, and the enemies are fairly cut-and-paste, but it's a game with a solid story and considerable side-missions that make for huge longeivty. Buy it for the experience, but don't expect anything magical on the weaponry side of things.

NHL 09
Last but by no means least, a sports title. Part of EA Sports' company-wide franchise improvement scheme, NHL like all other franchises has received a complete control overhaul. Simply put, it handles like a dream, and is that much closer to perfection, not to mention its stunning graphics and presentation. Playing team vs. team is, for the first time to date, entirely fluid with very few unrealistic hitches such as pucks not registering on blades, or players not being where they should ideally be; the AI improvements are significant, in turn adding difficulty to the same structures from previous titles, each rating being the equivalent of the one above from, say, NHL 08.
The addition of a new mode, Be A Pro, adds incredible gameplay that has exclusively taken up my time spent on the game. Taking exclusive control of a customised or ready made player, working from the fourth line of an AHL team to the Stanley Cup, is one giant leap for sports-gaming-kind, adding a level of realism never seen before. It makes the game so much more personal to be sitting on the bench, watching a period progress without you as an attacking line's sent out while you rest up, or spending 2 minutes in the penalty box, receiving the punishment both in game and in real life. Goalies hug the corners of nets, defenders sacrifice their bodies to save pucks, attackers finally complete breakaways instead of feeling obliged to pass; as far as I'm concerned, it's sporting perfection, and I just can't wait to see how EA Sports improve on it in the future.

So that's November - all of that in one month has made for the greatest gaming period perhaps of all time. On a more personal note, aside from gaming, I'm back to RR after a hiatus that can only be described as 'significant'. Look forward (I know you will) to many more editorials from me.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Realising Change

This may sound rather stupid but I think I am evolving as a gamer.

By that I mean, well, I seem to be going through a period of change with my gaming. I am still the completionist I have always been, I still have a keen interest in racing games and despite having access to Xbox Live and a whole bunch of friends, I am still generally a lone gamer. Yet this year during the typical rush of games that are all trying to release before the holiday period, I have come to the realisation that something is different. Now what that exactly is, I couldn't tell you but with every day that passes I find that I am noticing the change more and more and personally, I am finding it both intriguing and fascinating.

Take the recently released Fable II for example. Here is a sequel to a game I never had the chance to play yet as it came close to release I found myself interested in it more and more. It got to the point where I was thinking to myself that I would get it and give it a try but not straight away and after I had gotten the games I was anticipating first. The week of its release I saw it lying on the shelf of my local games store and before I knew it, I had purchased it, brought it home and had put it into my 360's disc drive ready to play. I don't know why I ended up buying it that day but after playing it that night, I was glad I did and do not regret a thing. I have barely played the game since that night, though. Why? Well no reason other than I thought it would be best to save the experience until a time when I can appreciate it more, so instead I continued to focus on the games I was playing beforehand in order to try and get them finished. That is irrelevant though; The short time I have had with the game has already impressed me and I am finding it very hard to resist firing it up each night. Of course it doesn't help when I see my friends playing it, but even so the allure of the game is compelling and again I find that fascinating. I plan on going more in-depth with my thoughts on the game in the near future when I play it more and can summarise my thoughts and impressions a little better, but in the meantime I want to point out that I think part of the reason why Fable II is alluring to me at the moment is because of how the gaming community at large has discussed the game. Reading this discussion (especially the blog posts) is, I think, presenting the game to me as an experience and when I combine that with the short time I have played, I think it is actually an experience rather than just another game. There are so many different aspects of the game being discussed and each one can inspire its own in-depth conversation from the community.

Another thing I have found interesting lately is that games I wasn't really interested in, or was not planning on looking at until a later date have now found their way onto my radar. Fable II was one of these games and another is Mirror's Edge. While I appreciated what EA/Dice were doing with the game and also the fact that it was rather original, I didn't really care for it because of a few reasons: one being that the game could go either way (success or failure), another being that it just didn't seem like it should be a priority of mine at the current time. Playing the demo earlier this week however completely changed my perception of the game and as I said, it is now on my radar and I am hoping to be able to pick it up on release. Now obviously demos are meant to be a taste of a game to give you an idea of whether you will like it or not, but the experience of playing this demo was different to how I come away from playing other demos and it did surprise me. Again I can't really pinpoint why (seems to be becoming a regular occurrence these days...) but the surprise meant that I find it intriguing.

Another EA game has also changed my perception of it recently and I think it is in part because of the gaming community. That game? Dead Space. Again while I appreciated that it was a new IP and that it was a Sci-Fi Horror game (I love my Sci-Fi), it never really seemed to be interesting until very recently when it released. First thing I noticed about it was that it seems to have a BioShock vibe about it. By that I mean atmospheric and isolated, yet almost an experience that could feel real. The other things I noticed come more from what people within the gaming community have been saying than anything but even so it is a game that went from a possible future purchase to a game that I want now.

To take this in a different direction, this Friday sees the release of Gears of War 2. That alone makes the day a good day and myself excited, but, thanks to quite a wonderful birthday I have found myself in a position to buy not one game, not two games and not even three. I am able to buy FOUR games on Friday and honestly, I can't believe it. While I am lucky enough to get the majority of games I want within a year, I don't generally get them at or near release and I definitely do not get more than one game at a time when I make a purchase. Fable is an example of that despite it being an unexpected purchase. Yet come Friday I find myself lucky enough to get four games and I almost feel guilty about it. If I weren't getting these games, I could get a Wii! Or, I could save it and get something not gaming related instead. It is definitely an interesting position to be in personally and like everything else I have mentioned so far in this post, it intrigues me. For the record the games I am getting are Gears of War 2 as I said, Fallout 3 (like Fable, another sequel to a game(s) that I haven't played) and probably Dead Space and Midnight Club LA.

The last thing I have noticed that seems to be changing and is again, intriguing me is how I feel about RPGs. Playing through Eternal Sonata recently, a Japanese RPG, has been quite a mixed bag of feelings for me. During the first playthrough of the game I found myself really enjoying it and as an overall game it was worth playing, but during the second playthrough I have honestly found it to be a chore. I don't HAVE to play through it this second time but I am because of the completionist trait of my gaming. The reason it has been a chore though is what is quite common with RPGs and that is the grind. This entire second playthrough has basically been a grind as I am skipping the cutscenes (on a side note: thank god you can - all games should have this option). That means all I am really doing is walking either to the next battle or to the next location. As it is a 'New Game +' the enemies are stronger this time around which means even more grinding to make sure I am strong enough to take them on and yeah it has not been fun at all. Because of this grind and how hard it has been to motivate myself to continue with it, I have found myself reflecting on Japanese RPGs in general and how I feel about them. In the past I could play them over and over again with no problem, my multiple playthroughs of Final Fantasy VIII in particular can attest to that, but as I have grown older my patience for these games seems to have decreased as I realise that I haven't played more recent JRPGs as much as I did the older ones and that some games were hard to even finish the first time let alone multiple playthroughs.

Now it could be a case of these games just not having a compelling enough story and therefore reason to continue playing, or it could be a case of myself going off (for lack of a better term) these games in favour of other experiences. I love a good story and RPGs provide them in the bucket loads but it just seems like I want to have these experiences elsewhere. Where? Perhaps ironically, in Western RPGs. The more I think about it the more I am realising that here I am re-assessing my interest in JRPGs while also absolutely loving the Western RPG experiences I have had. I haven't played many WRPGs but the recent ones I have like the aforementioned Fable II (although small) and Mass Effect have absolutely been brilliant and I can see that continuing with Fallout 3. Which brings me back to the whole point of this post, things seem to be changing within my gaming lately and while I clearly can't explain it or even what these changes are, it has been quite intriguing for me. The last few weeks have been very interesting for me as a gamer and what I have said above are only a few examples of what I have been thinking about. Change is afoot in the land of Nismo and what else can I say other than that I look forward to seeing where these changes end up taking me.

It's interesting though, isn't it?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Overdue Opinion

As I have mentioned in both of my recent Tidbits posts, I have been playing quite a few different games in the past few months. I went from a phase of not really having anything to play to a phase of, arguably, too much to play. Originally I intended on writing individual posts for the individual games here but as time went on (and we all know how hard I am finding it to manage my time at the moment) I realised that it would be better to just put it all in the one post and get it out of the way. So with that in mind, here are some impressions and/or thoughts I have on the various games I have had on rotation lately.

GRID - As a longtime fan of the V8 Supercars games, I wasn't sure how to approach this game after hearing that the V8 Supercars (and other championships like Germany's DTM series) were not going to be in the game. Being a Codemasters game though, I was quite confident in their ability to create something that was worth playing. DiRT added to that confidence even more and I did end up enjoying GRID. A lot.

First thing that I noticed wasn't the rather gorgeous graphics, the feel of the handling (when compared to other racing games that I am used to) or the in-car camera view; no, it was instead the small touch of having your name being called out. When you first start the game you're asked to choose your name and then at various times in the game that name will be spoken. It was nice hearing a "nice job Steven" after taking victory and it certainly added to the experience. Of course, the aforementioned graphics and in-car camera view added to it too because eye candy is always good and I feel like all racing games should have an in-car, behind the wheel camera view. Another small touch I noticed was the smoke effects and how they actually covered the car to the point where you couldn't see it. It's nothing important but most racing games have the smoke coming from the burning tyres disappear too fast. Anyway I enjoyed the game as I progressed through its career and felt the difficulty was just right too. It wasn't that long of a game either so it didn't get boring. Well actually that's a lie, it did get boring as I had to play it online for 25 hours or so until I had gained enough experience to get the two online achievements for the game. That's my own fault for being a completionist though. Anyway good game that comes recommended if you want a reasonably easy but enjoyable racing experience.

Eternal Sonata - I keep on repeating this every time I talk about the game, but, that art direction is absolutely stunningly beautiful. It was an absolute pleasure playing through the game because of this and I looked forward to seeing every new area just so I could marvel some more at the beauty of it. The soundtrack that accompanied the journey was also quite enjoyable, moreso because of the Chopin influence. Which brings me to the story. Having a story revolve around Chopin's life (sort of) was intriguing and the moments where the game played one of his pieces while detailing something that happened in his life were great. The actual story of the game however was a bit, well, weird and didn't really seem to maintain a focus. It chopped and changed a fair bit and while it wasn't confusing, it certainly took away from the experience somewhat. I am now playing through it for a second time to get the rest of the achievements I need and it is here where it has become a relative bore. I'm skipping cutscenes and because it's a 'New Game +', having to grind a fair bit so I am strong enough to defeat enemies/bosses that I had no troubles with in the first run. Again, my fault though for being a completionist...

Call of Duty 4 - I am growing tired of all of the FPS games out there. Actually, growing tired of the big focus that the entire industry seems to have with guns (not just FPS but almost all genres). That's a subject for another day though. I am also not really a fan of war games, generally steering clear of the WWII ones due to just not having an interest in the subject matter. It was refreshing then to find that I absolutely enjoyed Call of Duty 4. I don't quite know how to explain it, but the modern war games (Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter for example) seem to be fascinating to me. Others can put it better than I can but the experience of these games just seems to be worth having. They seem important even if they are just fiction and if a game can make me feel that way, then it is doing something right. There's no need for me to comment on how it looks, sounds or even plays because we all know that it is brilliant. What I will say though is that some of those levels and set pieces are amazing and if that's the sort of thing we are going to see in gaming in the future, we are headed to a wonderful place.

Assassin's Creed - Like Call of Duty 4, this game felt important while playing but I just can't pinpoint why. Perhaps it was because it was so different, so unique or perhaps it was because it was one of the only games out there that allows you to play as an assassin? I don't know. What I do know is that as soon as it was announced I was anticipating it and Ubisoft's brilliant trailers for the game only added to that anticipation. Actually playing it was something else though and like Call of Duty 4, like BioShock and some other recent games, I was quite surprised to find just how immersive it was. I think it was the setting of the game that nailed the immersion and while yes, that twist that isn't really a twist made everything even more intriguing, just playing in that era was something enjoyable due to it being quite unique to our medium. Upon completion of the game I also begun thinking about how much potential it had as a franchise and how many different directions it can go in. I'm really interested to see where Ubisoft take it next that's for sure.

Two quick notes I'd like to touch on though: firstly the common complaints about it being repetitive weren't a concern for me. I could understand the complaints but due to the way I play my games, it wasn't an issue. Secondly the complaints about the collection of the flags wasn't an issue for me either as I treat collect-a-thons like that as something that is supposed to be taken as a nice and slow experience of the game's world. Taking it slow allowed me to enjoy it and as such, it never got tedious.

Skate - It has been quite a while since I played a Tony Hawk game - the last being Tony Hawk 4 - so I was looking forward to playing this. I'm not a skater in real life nor what you could call a fan but for some reason or another I always enjoyed the Tony Hawk games and you can now add Skate to that list. In fact, despite not knowing much about the sport in real life I still found myself appreciating the more realistic approach that this game has when compared to Tony Hawk which in turn added to my enjoyment while playing. It took a while to get used to the controls (using the right control stick to 'flick' your tricks) so it did have a steep learning curve, but before long I had the hang of it and loved every second of it. It reminded me of Test Drive Unlimited actually and how I loved to just choose a car and go for a cruise in that. I did something similar in Skate where just skating around and finding a set of stairs or something to do tricks off was fun and at times more interesting than following the main game. The challenges at the end of the game were pretty damn hard though and I definitely struggled to complete it so when I actually did, I was quite proud of my effort. I'm not sure if it was a skill (read: my lack of) thing or the game's difficulty really did ramp up, but either way the overall experience was great and a nice change from the shooting and racing games that I had been playing.

Braid - Another game that felt important while playing it, however I wonder if that was because everyone else was going in-depth on what the game's meaning was (and so on) or because it is actually important. I appreciate the experience that Jonathon Blow has created though and thoroughly enjoyed playing it. Solving some of those puzzles was hard but the feeling of accomplishment afterwards was great and I can definitely see why it was compared to Portal (which I just recently started playing) as well. I'm a sucker for art direction and this one definitely had a gorgeous one that, when combined with the homages to older platformers like Mario and a nice and relaxed soundtrack made for a nice and short gaming experience and one of the best games to hit the Xbox Live Arcade so far.

Lost: Via Domus - I don't have much to say about this game other than that yes, I liked it. Sure it was short and sure as a game, it wasn't all that special but to me it didn't really matter. As an extension of the show it was definitely worth playing and it naturally ended in typical Lost fashion, posing more questions than answering them. It confuses me though that the creators of the show haven't tapped into this cross-over plot a bit more as it seems a bit pointless to ask those questions and then not follow them up somewhere with answers. Even Wikipedia doesn't really link it in with the show...

So there you have it, a summary of the games I have played in recent months and what I think of them. I didn't really say anything worthwhile or go in-depth with any of them but in a way, I don't feel like I have to. Everyone has discussed them already so I'm not going to add anything new but it is still nice to write some thoughts on them, even if it's only so I can remind myself of them in a few years time.

I haven't covered every game that I have been playing recently though and will cover games like Fable 2, Portal: Still Alive and The Darkness as I play them more and form my thoughts. Individual posts this time though, I hope. ;)

Friday, October 17, 2008


Almost a month ago, I wrote the last Tidbits piece detailing my intent to change things around on Raptured Reality, start a secondary blog and indirectly apologising for the lack of content posted here. Fast forward to now and nothing has really happened so I hereby give you permission to call me the laziest sod ever.

Or not, but seriously my time management is absolutely pathetic at the moment and I don't even have a job at the moment! I have about 50 hours worth of various TV shows that I would like to watch, I have spent last night, tonight and probably tomorrow night as well catching up on blogs that I read because I have fallen behind with them. I have a few Podcasts to listen to (thankfully I don't listen to Podcasts much, something I may elaborate on in the future) and because I have spent the last few nights catching up with various blogs, I should probably consider dropping into the only forums I frequent for another visit in the near future too. That doesn't include the many things I want to get done gaming wise either and again I reiterate the point, I don't even have employment.

So why am I finding it so hard to manage everything I want to do? Or is it perhaps that I just want to do too much and am suffering an overload as a result? Maybe I'm just one big entertainment whore and try to consume too much while failing to do something productive like write here?

Like many questions I pose here at this blog, I don't know the answer but damn it I want to fix my problem. I want, no, NEED to find some way to manage everything I want to do (which includes writing here) whilst also dedicating enough time to everything so I ultimately continue to enjoy this content, whatever it is, as much as possible. Reading the blogs over the past few nights has naturally inspired writing here and so I find myself half writing articles with the intent to post them later. Here's hoping I can actually do so for a damn change and form a nice writing routine so that this blog isn't just wasted internet space. Anyway tidbits for this week:

October - Is one hectic month for me. Forget the fact that like twenty different games that I want are coming out or that it is that time of year in the gaming world where everything comes out in time for the Christmas holiday period; Oh no, just in birthdays alone is it a hectic month with at least 15 different birthdays for friends and family. Oh and some guy who calls himself Nismo or something also has his birthday in the month too, but no one cares about that one.

Changes - Again, I plan on changing this blog around slightly to make it work better for me as well as hopefully be more appealing to any readers who happen to, well, read it. I have been planning to do it this week actually after catching up with everything internet that I needed to, so hopefully I can actually do so and get under way.

Well Played - The onslaught of games to play that I referred to in the last Tidbits post is continuing for me as I finish games, start new ones and etc. It won't be stopping any time soon either with all the upcoming gaming goodness in the next few weeks, but really I would prefer to have too much to play then nothing at all so it isn't as bad as I probably make it out to be here. Incoming post about everything I have played recently (instead of a post per game like I was originally intending) is on its way.

Online Gaming - Mixed thought overload has been happening in my brain lately with regards to online play. From annoyance of a certain game to the interest of how professional gaming is progressing and everything in between, online gaming has been on my mind a lot lately. I would claim my intent to write about it all here, but lately every time I make a promise for this place I don't keep it so I will keep quiet for now. ;)


Seriously though on that last sentence, I really do need to actually do what I say I will rather than not. Anyone know of any time management courses...?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Repair Status

Checking the status of my 360 repair earlier this evening revealed that it has been fixed and shipped back to me. Hopefully that means it arrives by the end of this week. I'm not here to talk about that though, no, instead I am here to talk about something that I have been disappointed in lately. What is that? Myself.

Yep, myself. Not being able to play the 360 has obviously meant that I have had to look elsewhere for my gaming entertainment and since I don't own the other two current consoles, I had to return to the older consoles within my collection. Now in theory, there is nothing wrong with this because there are so many classic fun games that I love out there, that my entertainment should be covered no problem. Yet, strangely enough, I found this hasn't been the case over the past week or so that my 360 has been away and to be honest, I find that to be quite confusing.

On the first day that I returned to the older consoles I was actually looking forward to it. Looking forward to firing up some old games that I love, games like F-Zero GX which I have already discussed here previously and giving them another run. For the first ten minutes or so, it was fun but before long I found myself turning off whatever game I was playing at the time only to swap to another one. Rinse and repeat the process for the rest of the night and instead of having a relaxed night of gaming on my hands I instead just dabbled a little bit here and a little bit there. This continued to happen over the next few nights and the more I realised I wasn't having any fun, the more I felt disappointed with myself which eventually led to me giving up and rewatching the entire first season of Battlestar Galactica instead. Now I could try and figure out why I felt the way I did, but at the end of the day I don't see the point because honestly I just don't know.

What I do know however and something that I find interesting is that the games with fantastic art directions like Metroid Prime, Shadow of the Colossus and Okami were enjoyable and I definitely had fun playing them. Either that suggests that a strong art direction can really make or break a game, or, that I am so used to the current generation of visuals that going back to the games that don't really have a unique art direction was just too hard for my eyes to handle. I am going to go with the former.

Anyway I ended up finishing Metroid Prime for the 29th time, Shadow of the Colossus again and Super Mario Sunshine with every Shine Sprite. That combined with season one of BSG has been my entertainment week. As you can probably tell, I don't know what to think about the way I have felt recently, nor where it comes from or why. What I do know is that the sooner the 360 gets back the better because then, hopefully, my motivation towards gaming returns and everything can go back to normal. Time will tell, then.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Impressions: Geometry Wars 2

One of the games I have been playing almost daily over the last month or so has been Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2. I absolutely loved the original Retro Evolved and it is my most played game on the 360 to date, so as soon as the sequel was announced I knew that I had to have it. I suppose it's no surprise to hear then that yes, it is just as addictive as the original.

First, allow me to break my thoughts of the game down into the six modes the game has;

Basically just like Evolved but with a three minute clock counting down. I like this mode because it puts a bit of pressure on you. Unlimited lives is nice but if you happen to die, it takes about 10 seconds before you have a screen full of enemies again so the trick to a high score is to not die and use the gates (new to Geometry Wars 2) and Gravity Holes to kill the enemies for you as they give you higher multipliers. Other than that, it is just collect as many Geoms (the more you collect, the higher your multiplier gets) as you can within the time limit and to kill as many things as possible. As I said before, the time limit puts pressure on you to not only avoid dying, but to try and utilise the gates or holes while also not trapping yourself into a situation where you die. Basically, the less time wasted = the more points at the end and as anyone who has played Geometry Wars will know, staying alive can be very hard.

King: Geometry Wars' take on King of The Hill is perhaps the best description for this mode. You can only shoot in these bubbles (if you will) with about three on the screen at the one time, the aim being to swap between the bubbles to shoot as many enemies as you can before leaving again, collecting the Geoms and finding another bubble. It gets rather hectic, fast and again adds to the pressure as you try to decide between collecting as many Geoms as you can or just ignoring them in favour of finding safety once more. It is fun, but a mode that I have found doesn't seem to have the same addictive gameplay that the other modes do so that has meant that I have pretty much ignored it.

Evolved: This is the main game from the original, returning as a mode here. Anyone who has played the original Retro Evolved will know what to expect here. The additions of the gates and Geoms have made it different enough to be worth playing all over again and this is definitely one of my most played modes. Love it.

Pacifism: There was an achievement in the original game that had you trying to survive a minute without shooting any enemies and obviously not being hit. Now it is a fully fledged mode with the aim to avoid being hit by the enemies. Difference here being that you can't shoot, you only have the one life and the only way to attack the enemies is to go through the gates. Surprisingly addictive and perhaps the best mode to play for a really high score, especially if you are good and can last for a reasonably long time.

Waves: The game that was featured in Project Gotham Racing 4 returns here as a mode and once again, it's quite fun to play with waves of enemies (mostly the arrows) coming at you from all directions. It gets intense, fast and is arguably the hardest mode out of the lot because like Pacifism you only have the one life.

Sequence: Basically 20 levels of different enemies and patterns, with the aim being to finish all 20 levels. Learning the various patterns is key here and while this mode has the potential to get old once you have mastered it, I still find it rather fun to play every now and then between rounds of Deadline, Pacifism or Evolved.

All in all, the new modes are welcome additions and the old(er) modes are still addictive as they ever were. The Geoms certainly add a new flavour to the overall experience and high scores are absolutely amazing because of it. Subtle things like having leaderboards viewable as you select the mode you want to play make the experience even more addictive, as you see people on your friends list with higher scores and then as a result get the urge to try and beat those scores. As an extension of this, while you play their (or yours if you're on top) high score will be displayed on the top right of screen, enticing you even more to try and beat the score.

Honestly, I can't actually describe why I am addicted to the game, I just know that I am. Maybe it is because the game reminds me of the days of the Arcade where beating high scores was awesome fun (and of course, addictive), or maybe it is because the game is simple to get into yet incredibly difficult to master and the satisfaction of seeing yourself improve is awesome. Whatever it is, I love it and can definitely see myself playing the game for many more days to come. Bring it on, I say.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Almost two months since I last posted here. If I could describe that in one word, it would be neglect. Neglect in the sense that I ignored this blog and stopped writing for far too long and regardless of whether it was unintentional or not, it shouldn't have happened. For that I apologise but the good news is that I am back and ready to write again. I actually plan on revitalising this blog a bit but more on that in a moment.

The reason I stopped posting here for a while wasn't anything in particular but more just a combination of little things. My time management (or lack thereof) played a part and I just couldn't find the time to write anything because I was always too busy playing catch up with stuff I wanted to read online, games I wanted to play or shows that I wanted to watch. One show in particular also played a part in the lack of posting, that being The Wire. I was so enthralled and even immersed in that show that I kept on watching its five seasons instead of keeping up to date with gaming news or whatever. An onslaught (if you will) of games also played a part as I went from a phase of not really having anything in particular to play (and as a result, swapping between many games) to a phase of having arguably too much to play at the one time. Again, more on that in a moment but basically the reason for the lack of posting here was because I just couldn't manage myself, my interests and what I wanted to do, very well at all and Raptured Reality suffered as a result. I intend on changing that right now, beginning with the following tidbits:

Changes - As mentioned above, I plan on revitalising this blog a bit. What I mean by that is to give it a slight makeover and change a few things around to hopefully make it more appealing to read. A big part of that is obvious in that I need to start writing regularly and I definitely plan on doing so from now on. I have a fair few things I want to talk about so I'm not short on content at the moment.

Gaming - Also mentioned above, my gaming entered a phase where I had a fair bit to play. From downloadable titles like Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 and Braid to catching up on some games I missed from the end of last year like Call of Duty 4, Skate and Assassin's Creed, I had quite a lot of gaming to be done and I am still not finished with these games. I'm fortunate enough to have some nice friends out there who lent me these games which I'm grateful for because if they didn't, chances are I wouldn't have gotten around to playing these games at all.

A Farewell - For the moment Raptured Reality has returned to just being my blog again as various commitments (like living in Japan) has seen the other main contributor, GTPod, have to stop writing here. I thank him and appreciate the work that he did do here though and who knows, maybe he will return in the future.

Back Up - I will probably start a secondary blog soon as an extension of Raptured Reality, this time just focusing on the 360 aspect of my gaming. This basically means anything and everything Achievements although I may include other things as well. As much as I love achievements, they aren't the be all and end all of my gaming thoughts (or progress, for that matter) so they definitely don't need such a strong focus here.

The Future - September sees us heading into the end of year rush of games and while it isn't as exciting this year as it was last year, I have still found myself anticipating a few of the upcoming titles. Much to my surprise some of these titles are games I wasn't expecting to be interested in but as more and more information came about for them, my interest piqued and now they are on my purchasing radar. I'll elaborate on this point soon.

On a separate note, unfortunately I can't play my 360 at the moment as it has randomly decided to stop reading discs. It was rather unexpected because on Saturday night of last weekend, I was playing it fine and it was running perfectly, then on the Sunday night I couldn't play anything. None of my games, DVDs or CDs (burnt or retail) worked and naturally as a result I was disappointed. Most would expect me to be angry, especially considering I had problems with my first 360 at around the same time (August) of last year but I am not angry, just disappointed. Perhaps a bit ridiculous here but I actually would have preferred it if the console had given me the infamous Red Rings of Death because then I would have been able to get the console repaired for free under Microsoft's 3 year extended warranty. Typically, the problem isn't the RROD so I now have to pay for the repairs to this console. Not happy with the idea of paying for the repairs but alas, it must be done and as such I now have a 'downtime' with the 360. I have been playing my older consoles in the meantime though so it hasn't all been bad.

And with that, it's time to articulate my thoughts on some other subjects. I have missed writing here so it is great to be back.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Metal Gear Solid 2: The End

No I haven't gotten my Metal Gear bosses mixed up as I am not here to talk about the awesome Metal Gear Solid 3 boss The End, instead, I am here to announce that I have FINALLY finished Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance.

Yes, it's true. Don't worry, I found it hard to believe as well. I mean, the amount of unintentional breaks I had between my MGS 2 sessions was, well I lost count after a while and it was pretty obvious that I wasn't playing it as much as I should have been through my lack of posts about the game on here. So to have it finally finished is somewhat of a surprise but at the same time, a totally welcome one because I have to say, I ended up enjoying the game.

Despite the inconsistent sessions I had with the game, I somehow managed to continue following the plot without too much hassle. From what I can gather, most people seem to criticise the game's story for being hard to follow and perhaps slightly convoluted. I can understand this criticism but for me I understood what was going on throughout the entire game and even managed to remember the events of the games that I had played (MGS 1 and MGS 3) and connect it all together. Considering I haven't played those other games for quite a few years, being able to make those connections surprised me but at the same time I am really thankful for it as it meant I enjoyed MGS 2's story a little more. I won't go into my thoughts on the events of the game or indeed overall series to save for spoilers, but I will say that what I found out about in MGS 2 really piqued my interest in MGS 4. I always wanted MGS 4 of course but because it is on the PS3 and I am still yet to own one, I sort of passed the game off as being irrelevant to me at this point in time. Which in turn meant that it was a lot easier to ignore the pre-release hype, spoilers as everyone else played it and so forth.

One thing I realised while playing through Substance though is that, well, I don't think I am a fan of Metal Gear's gameplay. I can't really describe it but going through some of the rooms in MGS 2 actually felt like a chore and as you can imagine it meant that I didn't have as much motivation to continue playing. I tried thinking about why I got this feeling to see if I could work out where it comes from but honestly, I couldn't. I asked myself questions like "is it the whole stealth thing the games do so well?" or "is it the controls and how complicated they can be at times?" and other questions like that. For the record, my answer to both of those was no and I now think that it doesn't really boil down to anything in particular. What I do know is that it is ironic that I found some of Metal Gear Solid's gameplay mechanics to be a chore when I absolutely love the boss fights in the games; the very boss fights that use the gameplay mechanics that you learn and use beforehand. As I said before, I honestly can't describe how I feel and perhaps it has nothing to do with gameplay and is in fact something else entirely. Overall though, it doesn't detract from my experience of the game (or series) and I still absolutely love it. The aforementioned bosses come to mind as they are some of the most creative and intense fights I have been in. When they aren't creative, they are still quite cool and MGS 2's bosses were no exception. Perhaps a little less creative than other games, but the fight against Vamp and others was awesome.

The other thing that I really like about the Metal Gear games is the story and on this front, MGS 2 was very satisfying. I still maintain that MGS 3: Snake Eater is my favourite MGS game (for both playing and story) but the elements of the overall plot that get focused on in this game are great. Raiden's introduction, for example was done well I think and as you progress the stuff that gets revealed about him and the other characters is very interesting. As a viewer, it's great to watch and as I mentioned before when you tie it into the overall plot spanning across all the games it poses some interesting questions. Questions that are no doubt answered in MGS 4.

And yes, I did say "viewer" before. Many people have complained about the long cutscenes in MGS games before. I'm not here to do that, instead I honestly think that Metal Gear would be better served as a game that could be watched rather than played. But of course if it became that, it wouldn't be a game would it? I don't know how to approach that but what I do know is that to me Metal Gear games have always been about story first, everything else second. Maybe the games should have been created as ones where you watch everything to do with story (as you do now) and only play the boss fights or something? I don't know.

Anyway much like the game's story I am chopping and changing between subjects and rambling perhaps a bit more than I should be. So in summary I will say that despite the setbacks I had with the game, I ended up enjoying it a lot and it made me crave for more Metal Gear. That will come in time as I get my PS3 and of course MGS 4, but in the meantime I can leave the game feeling satisfied in a decent experience and content in the idea that I have finally succeeded in finishing a game that I had always intended to.


On a related note, I'm not sure what game will be replacing MGS 2 for my Road To Completion commitment. I have a few in mind so I will think about it in the next few days, decide and then post about it here. As is evident by the lack of posts about MGS 2 here on this very blog, I broke the rules I outlined when I created this idea of finishing games and as such I am now wondering if I should change any or not. Again, I will give it some thought over the next few days and once a decision has been made you will know about it.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Tour Of The Isles

A week or so ago I had the pleasure of returning to The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion as I finally was able to gain access to the expansion for the game, Shivering Isles.

I absolutely loved my time with Oblivion although the game's main story, constant loading screens and a few other niggles here and there didn't sit well with me meaning that I didn't enjoy all of my time in Cyrodiil. This in turn meant that I had mixed reactions upon returning to the game. On the one hand, I was looking forward to returning because it was new content to experience, it was a return to a rather beautiful game and it meant I got to hear the game's soundtrack again as well. On the other hand though, the aforementioned niggles, especially the constant load times meant that I was hesitant as I put the disc back in ready to venture into the Shivering Isles for a new adventure.

Thankfully for me, my qualms with the game were forgotten about pretty much instantly after loading the game. I was in Anvil and had just woken up from a sleep. Venturing outside, I notice that it was raining and as I love rain in games it was a nice surprise. I walked around Anvil for a while getting used to the controls and just admiring the rain before realising that I had to go near Bruma to access Shivering Isles. So I fast-traveled to Bruma only to be disappointed to see that the rain had stopped. That was soon forgotten as I left Bruma though, as there was an absolutely gorgeous sunrise happening over the water. After admiring the beauty of it all, I swam out to the small island that holds the gate to the Isles and ventured in.

What came next was my entire Saturday night disappearing as I became immersed in the Isles and the various stories within. I won't go into too much detail, but needless to say I was very impressed with the content found within and the Isles as a location as well. Whether it was taking down the Gatekeeper (a big arse troll that guarded the gates to either Dementia or Mania), becoming the Duke of Dementia or pushing an NPC off a really high staircase because he asked me to kill him (but have it seem like a suicide or accident) a couple hours before; I just really enjoyed playing the story and quests that Shivering Isles had to offer. While there was a lot of exploring of dungeons and caves still, I thought for the most part that the quests found within were quite different to what I was used to doing in Cyrodiil and as a result, it was a nice breath of fresh air and a relaxed joy to be a part of.

I also liked the art direction that the Isles had, from the purple sky lit up with stars to the way the trees looked. Seems like trivial things to care about really, but when combined it just added to the experience.

I ended up finishing the main quest line for Shivering Isles on the Saturday night/morning, as well as quite a few side quests here and there. I got my final Achievements that I needed from the game and ultimately had a wonderful time. I actually wish it wasn't over because now I don't really have much reason to play Oblivion anymore or more importantly, return to the Isles. There will always be quests that I could do in the game but now that the major storylines and quests are done, I don't have much motivation to return which is a shame. As a completionist, knowing that there's still a lot of quests to do is rather annoying but as it is such a big game with so many things to do, I don't think Oblivion will ever be a game that will be finished 100% unless of course I wanted to spend another 70 hours in the game...

All in all though, a fantastic return to a game that I quite enjoyed and one of my first experiences of an expansion of a game. Most expansions to games generally happen on PC games only and as I don't play PC games due to not having a computer decent enough for it, I haven't really experienced expansions before. I don't count maps added to Halo or whatever as expansions, even though they technically are. Anyway, Shivering Isles comes well recommended from me, as does Oblivion if you are yet to experience it.


On a related note, I recently stumbled across this blog which offers a different take on the Oblivion experience. Instead of playing the game as the intended hero, the author has decided to play Oblivion with an experience of living like an NPC (non-playable character) and it's an interesting and different take. Give it a read.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

And The Winner Is...

In late May, I wrote a list of my favourite racing games with the intention of choosing one as my favourite to date. The reason I wanted to do this was because I was asked a few times and realised that I wasn't entirely sure.

Well after thinking about it for some time, I have finally come up with an answer. A very late answer, but one nonetheless. So, what is it?

F-Zero GX.

I used one word to describe it while forming my list of games and it is one I am going to use here. Perfect. Yep, to me F-Zero GX is perfect. It looks stunning, sounds fantastic and most importantly plays brilliantly as well. The difficulty curve was perfect and it is still probably the hardest racing game I have ever played. The satisfaction gained from mastering this game has not been repeated in any other game and it is for these reasons that F-Zero wins for me. I really hope another game in the franchise is released in the future but even if there is, I don't see it beating this game.

I don't have to, but I'm going to mention my runner-up title as well as it, like F-Zero GX, was standing out to me while I was trying to make my decision.

Project Gotham Racing 2.

The franchise may have seen two sequels since this game, both of which were very good but for me PGR 2 is the king. Like F-Zero, it was pretty much perfect as well for the same reasons. Graphically, aurally, the difficulty curve; all of it combined to make one awesome racing experience and I'm really grateful to have it in my racing game collection.

It is a nice coincidence that the two titles that stuck out to me, are pretty much the direct opposite of each other. One is a fictional racer and the other one is a 'realistic' racer (because of the real cars/locations). Two vastly different games, two vastly different racing experiences and yet both are the definition of perfection of the racing genre in my eyes. Awesome.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Just a random update on some things that are interesting or exciting me at the moment.

PS3 Trophies - Rumoured for a while, the PS3 is finally seeing a gaming reward system similar to the Achievements found on the 360. Instead of points that add to a Gamerscore, the trophy system sees players unlocking a variety or trophies depending on the achievements they reach in the various games. Trophies will be rewarded at a Bronze, Silver and Gold level with Bronze obviously being for easy stuff and Gold being for the really hard goals. There will also be one Platinum trophy for every game which will be obtained once every other trophy for that game has been acquired. While Sony's loyal fans are shouting from the rooftops and claiming the system to be shitting all over the 360's Achievements, to me they are exactly the same in the sense that they require goals to be met for them to be obtained and that the games' trophy list can be completed (just like scoring 1k in a 360 game, then) if the player is good enough or has put enough time in. I can understand the comments that perhaps the trophy system has a bit more depth than the 360 system, but either way they are both brilliant systems and I look forward to becoming a Trophy whore (just like I'm an Achievement whore now) when I finally get my PS3 in the future. Now if only the Wii would get a similar system as well...

Soul Calibur on Xbox Live Arcade
- I'm frustrated that I can't get this when it releases later today due to a lack of points, but the fact that it is coming to the Marketplace is awesome as far as I am concerned. I remember playing it a fair bit at a friend's house and always wanted the game for myself. I was going to buy a Dreamcast for this game but when I finally got the money to, Sega announced that production was to be halted and as such I decided against buying one. I regret that decision a fair bit now, but thankfully for me I can play what is perhaps my favourite Fighting game of all time again. There's just something about the Soul Calibur series that 'ticks' with me and while SC II, SC III and no doubt the upcoming Soul Calibur IV are brilliant titles, the first will always be dear to my heart. Looking forward to grabbing it as soon as I get some MS points.

E3 - The show has lost a lot of importance in recent years and I have to admit that I'm not as excited for it as I would have been, say, 3 years ago (as I prefer shows like DICE now) but I'm still looking forward to seeing what will be announced and shown. While some might think of me as somewhat of a Microsoft fanboy at the moment given the fact I only own a 360 currently and I'm also an Achievement whore, I am actually looking forward to Sony's show this year the most and that is purely because of the possibility of both Heavy Rain and Team ICO's next project being there. I'm really hoping at least one will be there. There's a chance neither will be and if that is the case, I won't really care about Sony's other games such as Resistance 2 and Killzone 2, but until then I hold hope that both games are there. On the Nintendo front, well I'm interested in what they are up to especially since they have been rather quiet. Rumours are going around of course but I'm not paying attention to them and I am happy to wait until the show. It would be nice to see a new IP or two actually. On the MS front, a lot of this year's games are already known about such as Gears 2, Fable 2 and Too Human so I'm not expecting too much from them. It would be awesome to see Alan Wake at the show as I'm really looking forward to that. Oh and after the supposed leaks a few weeks ago, it will be nice to see Forza 3 being announced. I really hope Beyond Good and Evil 2 is there as well.

Geometry Wars 2 announced - Well not on the big news sites but have revealed the achievement list for the game and since they are a Microsoft community website, I think it is pretty obvious that it is coming. Which means, I'm REALLY excited about it as I absolutely love Geometry Wars. I still play Retro Evolved regularly, it is still my favourite XBLA game to date and if Geometry Wars: Waves had released on the XBLA, I would have definitely bought it despite having access to it already via PGR4. No doubt it will be announced/shown at E3 in the coming weeks so I look forward to seeing it there and if it releases this year which I think it will, then I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up being my Game of the Year this year. Yes, I am that much of a Geo Wars fanboy.

In other news, I am trading with a friend for a while so I will have some new games to play soon. He is getting my copy of Mass Effect while I get his copy of Assassin's Creed and Call of Duty 4, two games that I have wanted for ages. Really looking forward to Assassin's Creed despite the mixed reviews. Also, over the weekend I got my hands on Shivering Isles, the Oblivion expansion pack. Naturally that means I was able to finally finish off the achievements for the game but I also really enjoyed the content so in a way I am kind of disappointed that I'm finished with it now. I'll make an entry on it soon. Speaking of entries, that MGS 2 one is still cooking as is a few others. Right, off to play Geometry Wars and have a fanboy moment thanks to the sequel's announcement.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Monsters In My Pocket?

In the past three days, I have been playing a game from a franchise that I thought I was done with. I haven't played a game (or this one, for that matter) in this franchise for a few years and while new installments have released I haven't played those either and honestly didn't really intend to.

What is this franchise and more importantly, game? Pokemon Ruby.

Yes Pokemon, of all games, is the game I have been playing again recently. The reason for it is simple, due to my typical achievement whore ways I was making progress towards some achievements in Perfect Dark Zero (1k Deathmatches and 1k Dark Ops games played) and due to it being boring as hell, I needed to find something to do to help pass the time. Unfortunately for me I can't do picture-in-picture on my TV so I can't watch TV while doing the mundane whoring, so that left the options of either reading or playing the DS. As I have to press start every 40 seconds or so on the 360 controller, I opted against reading because of it being constantly interrupted so that left just the DS.

My DS doesn't get much play unfortunately and that is because I am done with the games I own for it. Until I get more, the handheld will continue to be neglected so with this in mind I had no idea what to play. That was until I looked through my Gameboy Advance collection. I contemplated playing Golden Sun, Metroid Fusion, Mario Kart: Super Circuit and other GBA titles and perhaps I will return to them at some point too as they are awesome games, but I eventually decided on Pokemon Ruby. I can tell you that it was a surprise to see myself enjoying the game again and three days later, I can safely say that I think I am addicted again.

Back in my school days I was a Pokemon fan just like most were; My love for the games begun with Blue, Red and Yellow and continued well into the Silver/Gold period. In fact I still maintain that Silver is one of my favourite games of all time. Anyway with the release of Ruby/Sapphire, I again played through the games and enjoyed it but at the same time I started to realise that I wasn't enjoying it as much as I used to. Doing basically the same thing again and again in the games got a bit tedious for me after a while I guess and eventually I just got bored with the franchise. I never thought the games were bad but they just weren't for me anymore either.

Fast forward to now and the old spark is back and if me playing it for 7 hours over the past few days is any indication, then I can definitely say I am addicted once more to the act of catching them all. It has been great catching the various Pokemon, training them and of course beating the Gyms again and I look forward to doing more of it in the near future. Even when I finish my mundane whoring of Perfect Dark's achievements, I can still see myself playing Pokemon Ruby until it is finished. As a completionist, finished will most likely mean a fully fleshed out Pokedex so with any luck I can manage it. Of course, there's those rare Pokemon that might be hard to collect (especially now) so maybe I will have to settle for a close to finished Pokedex and leave it at that. I would be fine with that actually despite my desire to 100% everything. Playing Ruby has made me want to try the DS versions (Diamond/Pearl) so when I get some money I think I might buy those games. Thanks to their online ability, a complete Pokedex in those games seems a lot more plausible than one in Ruby so we'll see.

Naturally, I will blog about the purchases if and when they happen, what I think of the games and other things like that. In the meantime I am going to continue my quest through Ruby and will update my progress on here soon. Speaking of progress, I have another Metal Gear Solid 2 update on the way as well. I have played it some more but because I'm lazy, I haven't posted about it on here. Blame The Wire, or something. The Wire > you.

Now, where's that Mudkip of mine?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Ups And Downs Of Guitar Hero

Guitar Hero is one hell of a game to master.

I mean seriously, to be able to beat the highest difficulty level, Expert and play it consistently takes a lot of practise and dedication to the game. While I am yet to experience it personally, I can only imagine the satisfaction one would gain from finally beating the difficulty level.

It seems somewhat ironic, then, that the majority of the people who play the game will probably only beat the Medium difficulty level during their entire playing time with the games. I guess that's the beauty of Guitar Hero though; Not only is it one of the most accessible games out there, or even the most appealing, it also happens to be a gamer's game in the sense that it takes utmost skill and dedication to master the game, play it consistently on the highest difficulty and break out those high scores.

Many games in the past have had this similar approach to design - easy to get into but extremely difficult to master - and it's something long term gamers have been frustrated with yet have loved for ages. As I said before, the satisfaction of being able to master a game and achieve a high score is second to none and it's a feeling that is unique to the gaming medium. The fact that games like Guitar Hero, which appeal to almost anyone thanks to its idea of pretending to be a rockstar, can open up these types of games to new audiences and therefore allow the potential for these people to experience this feeling unique to the medium is definitely a good thing.

That's a subject for another day though. As someone who has been playing games for years and as one who is experienced with mastering various games to achieve a high and successful outcome, I only seem to feel disappointment whenever I think about the current progress I have made with Guitar Hero so far.

As a completionist, my goal with the game was to be able to beat it on the highest difficulty, Expert and then perhaps slightly improve my skills after that so I could work on some high scores and perhaps 5-star every song. The latter isn't important and has more to do with my desire to obtain as many achievements as possible, but the former goal of beating the highest difficulty is one I am determined to meet one day and at the moment, it seems like an eternity away.

Currently, I can play Medium consistently. If I don't 100% a song on medium, then I will come damn close hitting anywhere between the 93-99% range each and every time. From what I can gather from other people's experiences with the game, once you can play consistently like that within a difficulty then it is time for you to move up to the next one and become consistent in that. So naturally, I am now trying to play on the Hard difficulty and wow, it's just a whole new ball game. The first and obvious hurdle is the introduction of the fifth and final fret, the orange. Playing Guitar Hero seems to be about training (and strengthening) your fingers for various tasks at the the varying difficulties. Going from Easy to Medium, it's about training yourself to use your pinky finger to press the fourth fret (blue) after being used to only using three fingers before it (index, middle and ring). Going from Medium to Hard means that you then have to teach yourself to either stretch your pinky out and alternate between pressing the blue or orange frets depending on what notes are coming at that time, move your fingers down one note and learn how to alternate your index finger between the first and second (green and red) frets, or move your fingers up and down the fret board dependent on how the note patterns are during the song.

Using the latter, you would have to train your fingers to press the buttons they are already used to as well as the others depending on where your fingers were at the time, as well as teach your brain to recognise the colours and notes on screen and to then use the right finger at the right time again depending on where your fingers were at the time. Using one of the other methods, it would be about strengthening your choice of finger (index or pinky) until you could stretch it to play the extra note you need to. Stretching one of your fingers sounds a lot easier than the complicated learning process of moving your hand up and down all the time, but believe it or not I'm finding it easier to move my hand up and down so that's the method I am using. Too bad I'm not consistent with it yet and I'm still learning how to do it.

Other hurdles to be encountered in the Hard difficulty is a ramp up in speed for the notes, meaning that not only do you have to get used to using a new fret and seeing a new note appear on the fretboard on screen, but you have to play them at a faster speed to what you would be used to in Medium. There also is a lot more chords and Hammer-Ons/Pull-Offs to play on Hard, which when combined with the added speed and learning process of the new fret certainly makes for a big challenge.

I am finding it difficult to wrap my head around it at the moment and as a result, it is rather frustrating. It's my own fault in a way as for a month or two, I played the Guitar Hero games with just the 360 controller and I can play Hard using that quite well actually (although the ending of One in Guitar Hero III is physically impossible to pass using the controller). Had I not played with the controller for a while, perhaps I'd be past the learning stages of Hard using the guitar and perhaps I'd even be getting into Expert by now. That's something I won't ever know so for now I'm stuck with learning how to play Hard.

Despite the frustration, I am finding it enjoyable to do. As I said before it is a gamer's game and I really like those and luckily for me I always have that special feeling waiting for me when I do finally manage to succeed. Guitar Hero might take longer than most games to master but as a completionist and achievement whore, I'm willing to put in the dedication required if it means finishing the games more and gaining that feeling of satisfaction that (by then at least) I will deserve.