Friday, March 28, 2008


- I am still going to play Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and will blog about it when I do, but I've put it on hold for now as I have been trying to work my way through some games that I plan to trade in towards GTA IV. So MGS progress is due soon, I just don't know when yet.

- Speaking of completing games, or not, I came across Backloggery the other day. It's a site where you can list the games you own, similar to the IGN or 1up lists. The difference with this one however is that you can keep track of what games you have finished and which ones you haven't. I thought this would help out a lot considering I am about to start going through some older and unfinished titles, so I'm definitely going to use this site as I do it. I just need to get around to adding all my games first.

- I might be falling for the hype but I have massive GTA fever at the moment. Like seriously. Every little tidbit of information that pops up I have to see or hear about, but at the same time I don't want to see/hear it because I don't want the game spoiled. It's a weird place to be in but April 29th can't come soon enough.

- I really hope trading in some games will allow me to get the game on release. If I can't do it, then I won't be getting the game for a while and that would basically guarantee it being spoiled since EVERYONE else will be playing it. If it was any other game I wouldn't care if I had to wait, but it is GTA and GTA's experience is defined by the small unique things. Damn I need that game.

- I plan on having a few posts up over the weekend as I've had some decent (or so I think) entries come to mind.

- GTPod's inclusion to this place has been welcome as far as I am concerned. I mean sure, Raptured Reality was meant to be my blog originally but with the way Pod posts, I'm happy to have it be shared. He certainly writes a lot better than I do, that's for sure...

Anyway, that'll do (donkey) until the weekend. Ciao folks.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Revisiting Rapture

I recently revisited the ever so beautiful Rapture as I played through BioShock for the second time, this time playing on Hard as I tried to obtain the last two achievements I needed from the game. When I first started the playthrough, I wasn't expecting to do anything in the game other than do what was necessary to obtain the achievements, but it wasn't long before I was completely hooked on Rapture again.

Now some may question why one would get hooked on a game's location after having already seen it once before and in some cases, their questioning of it would be completely justified. But Rapture is different; it's not just a location formed to assist a gameplay mechanic, storyline or to show off the graphics. It is infact all of these and yet, that's not the reason Rapture draws you in. It draws you in because it isn't just a game location. No, instead it's absolutely real. When you're playing BioShock, you are IN Rapture.

Sounds ridiculous doesn't it? How can something you see and hear on a TV screen feel real when it's just a bunch of pixels? Well, I honestly don't think there is any other way to describe just how much Rapture (and therefore BioShock) draws you in while playing.

The attention to detail in the game is amazing. It can be something as big as seeing buildings of the city outside as you look through the windows, or it can be something subtle like a small stream of water running down the wall because of a crack in the ceiling. It doesn't matter what it is, everything as a cohesive whole draws you into the city of Rapture and there really is no other place you would want to be while playing the game. Every room, hell, every corner of every room seems to tell a different story which only further draws you in. You are, after all, seeing Rapture dying. There may be blood stains on the floor potentially suggesting that someone had died there. There may be water coming through a hole in the window, suggesting that a fight may have taken place nearby. Or there may be something as simple as food and drink on a table suggesting that people had recently dined there.

As I said before, it doesn't matter what it is, everything combines to draw you in the world and it absolutely works. It is also one of the reasons I love BioShock so much. It is easily one of the most atmospheric and immersive games I have played. When you consider that I have played some great atmospheric titles like Metroid Prime, Silent Hill and Condemned - that's saying a lot. I won't deny it, I was biased towards the game before it even released (the whole underwater city thing was just too cool for me to pass up on) but luckily for me when I finally got to experience the brilliance that is BioShock, I was presented with a game that wasn't just that, a game. It was more than that, it was an experience first and foremost and secondly it was a tour. A tour through a dying city that had a history. A history that was interesting, compelling and most of all obvious. Obvious in the sense that, well, people lived there. Some still do, but it was once a city like New York or Sydney and now it's turning into ruins. A memory. History and nothing more.

The fate is sad, actually. Perhaps not as sad as some of the events that occurred to particular residents of Rapture, but sad all the same. The game was touted for having the moral choice (do I save or harvest the little child, otherwise known as the Little Sister?) of good and bad, but to me the game shone through a different light. Or should that be plight? The plight of Rapture and its denizens. To me, seeing a city of such strength falling into nothing was more involving, immersive and important than any amount of ADAM could ever have been.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Pon Pon Pata Pon

Oh. My. God. This game is amazing. I bought it on Friday, and since then have racked up 18 hours play time; 12 of them took up my entire Saturday non-stop. I never thought I'd get so addicted to a PSP game. I'd always intended to get a PSP when the price dropped, so when a mate of mine recently agreed to sell me theirs for the ridiculously low price of £30 I just couldn't refuse, and since then I've come to love it. Obviously it doesn't hold a candle to the sheer solid wonderment that is the DS, but particular titles just blow my mind. Patapon is definitely one of them.

It's strange how rhythm games have suddenly become something big; PaRapper the Rapper must be the original, but other than that and DDR (+clones) arcade machines, western gamers had little experience of this, one of the greatest genres of gaming right until, I'd say, Donkey Konga. No one's claiming the game did particularly well, but Nintendo had the guts to do what very few others have done in bringing more examples of this style of gameplay to a western audience who essentially rejected it in the past; Um Jammer Lammy, Vib Ribbon, (incidentally both developed by the same people behind PaRapper the Rapper) and the few others were found at the bottom of bargain bins throughout gaming stores at the turn of the century. Donkey Konga breathed new life into it, and while it may have been more of a putrid belch than an angel's sigh, I would go as far as to say had Nintendo not attempted to release this game for NTSC/PAL regions, Harmonix would never have tried to release their massively successful rhythm-and-music based peripheral game either.

Just to be clear once again however, I am certainly not saying that the guys at Harmonix were so impressed by Donkey Konga that they just had to do it themselves, but there just has to have been some crossover there. This is also not to say that Guitar Hero is the first genuine western success for the rhythm genre, since that same year iNiS released Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! to the DS in Japan, certainly a favourite franchise on the handheld delight among importers. And just to crush what may be another assumption, the renewal of the genre has not meant that every attempted cash-in since its rebirth has been successful; look to the graveyard of broken beats and you'll see such abominable titles as Daigasso Band Brothers (Jam with the Band), Electroplankton, Donkey Kong Barrel Blast and the vast range of various DJ games across all the platforms that simply play like crap.

Which brings us to today; rhythm gaming in 2008 has gotten off to an incredible start with both Patapon and Audiosurf simply blowing minds all over the world. As much as I like the latter, the former simply overshadows not just it, not even just PSP titles, but I'd say almost every rhythm game created to date; it has very quickly earned itself a definite spot in perhaps my Top 20 games of all time, and I'd say it's even a serious contender for the Top 10. I'm not going to launch into a lengthy description of the gameplay or the graphics, I'm not a reviewer; all I can say is how very much I enjoy this game.

I'm not even sure why it is. Essentially it's made up of fights that last anywhere from 2 to 8 minutes, and various mini-games which indirectly enhance play, yet I find myself spending hours and hours on end completely engrossed in it. It's certainly not realism; I press 4 buttons in various sequences to command an army of 18 eyeballs with legs and spears/axes/swords/bows/clubs as they fight either hoards of similar looking enemies or giant mechanical robots/crabs/dragons/worms. It's not the cartoon graphics with the pretty colours and the infrequent psychedelic trips. It's just got to be the sound; the entire game is of course based on rhythm and sound, and it just sucks you in. For example, pressing ∆∆O on the beats of a 4:4 rhythm; it sounds simple but it just isn't. You always have to think one bar ahead, and if you get something wrong, you can't afford to quickly change your mind since you'll break your combo and lose a massive amount of power. This is something I love about rhythm gaming, the clear distinction between doing it, and doing it well. Throughout the mini-games Patapon has a system of 4 different levels of items achieved through up 4 different levels of skill, and during battles you're rewarded with faster Fever Mode (achieved automatically for a 10-song combo, however attainable after 3 consecutive perfect songs) by hitting the buttons exactly on the simple 4:4 beat kept in the background.

A reasonably incoherent and disjointed rant, perhaps didn't focus on Patapon so much, but I feel points were made. If I had to sum up, I'd say there are two things you must do:
a) Go and buy Patapon, now. If you don't have a PSP, find one cheap, and get it; it's seriously worth it just for this, but there are plenty of other killer apps that will be well worth the now cheap purchase of the console.
b) Give rhythm gaming a chance. If you've not played any before, get Elite Beat Agents, Audiosurf or Patapon; I guarantee you'll suck at it for a while, but it doesn't take long to get good.

Ciao for now.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Why Hello There

A hearty "Good day!" to all readers from me, Gtpod. If NismoR34's the driver of the well-tuned machine that is Raptured Reality, and Civ is the mechanic/painter, think of me as a grease-monkey who's just clambered into the boot to get a taste of the glamour. My position here is somewhat unknown; all I know is I've been given an opportunity to rant and rave, mumble and moan about, but also discuss and deliberate all that is gaming. Which is lucky, as that's just about all I know in the world, save being able to express these same views in various languages.

Let's launch into something right now, eh?

I certainly define myself as a gamer, and have done for years. I first started playing 'games' aged 2, although these were educational DOS games involving different coloured squares and a lot more reading than you'll find in most modern titles. My 2-year-old self I don't feel was a gamer, however since the first day I rented a PS1 from my local Video Express I was hooked, and so without wishing to add current age into the matter (although you'll surely be able to ballpark it), my gaming life has spanned, so far, 10 years. During this time a certain evolution has occurred, that of the steps from casual to hardcore gamer, the latter defined herein as someone who either owns several consoles, owns hundreds of games, plays daily, or, in my case, all of the above. Although relevant, this is beside the main point: how I am perceived.

I'd say 95% of all hardcore gamers out there can understand the following situation; in my time at school, I have been seen as the 'nerd', through a combination of circumstances either out of my control, or indirectly related to ever wanting to be a 'nerd'. Let's make a list, shall we?

  1. I am computer competent. I know what ROM is, I can make a database, I use alternative PC software (Firefox/Openoffice/Trillian for those interested) and I can work out whether or not your PC will run a certain game. Oh, what's this? A relation to gaming? Bingo, you've got the key. Hardcore gamers need levels of competence with computers as a bi-product of enjoying the hobby, especially for PC gaming. It's impossible not to build up a generally large knowledge of something you explicitly need to know parts of, since I have to know CPU speeds and which GPUs are better than others in order to understand what I'm doing, just like downhillers need to know the intricacies of their bikes. It's just a shame that, unlike with this auxiliary computer knowledge, you can't make an entire hobby out of knowing what shocks, closeouts and cassettes are.
  2. I am into anime/Japanese music. Now then, this one's a bit trickier, and specific to my tastes as a gamer; I love Japanese games, and generally prefer them to Western ones. With the introduction (not completely new, but certainly a lot easier) this generation of region-free gaming, and also the release of the Freeloader for GameCube, I've been able to enjoy titles such as Bleach DS: Souten ni Kakeru Unmei (Bleach: The Blade of Fate), Ossu! Tatakae! Ouendan! (Elite Beat Agents) and Tales of Symphonia either many months before their PAL release, or in their original pre-translated states. This means I have had a large exposure to the Japanese language and culture over the years, and it has grown on me to the point of becoming part of my general life.
  3. I used to be quite pale. This is clearly a personal thing, but I used to have a deficiency of some kind (NOT sunlight) that meant I was pale-skinned. Certainly didn't help matters.
But here is perhaps the most important one: I play games. A lot. This seems to be the biggest contributing factor to my status as a 'nerd'. The fact that I am a hardcore gamer. Relation? No, not at all. To use my introductory analogy, this time with no relation to us three here at RR, a mechanic is not a racing driver. He loves cars, he builds cars, he knows cars inside out; the driver appreciates this, he has a relationship with the mechanic, but at the end of the day, he just races the car, he's just the user. There is a massive difference.

The thing that most annoys me personally though is that in my own experience, even if I manage to convince someone that gaming is a hobby separate from general computer enthusiasm, no matter what the other person is in to, I always get the same kind of response; disbelief that I could spend my time solely on gaming. A complete jock who spends his entire weekend either playing rugby, training for rugby or doing exercise will ask me what I did over the weekend. "Aside from work," I'll say, "pretty much nothing, just played a bunch of games." A wry smirk comes with their retort, "how many hours would you say?" My heart sinks with the sheer weight of anger at this point, I know exactly what's coming, but I'm honest all the same "I don't know... 17, 18 hours?" I usually get the laugh at this point; this laugh says more than his limited vocabulary ever could. This laugh says, how could you possibly spend so much time playing games? I can't, so how can you? I'm always tempted to strike back with a witty dig, but then I remember they just spent their whole weekend training their body.

So that's me really, and that's the sort of thing I'll be writing about here, as well as general views on games I'm playing or ones I've just enjoyed so much I want to talk about them years later.

Ciao for now.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

On The Road To Completion: Metal Gear Solid 2

Last night I wrote an entry detailing my intent to go back to games that I either hadn't begun to play, or, games that I had played but haven't finished for whatever reason. Well after thinking about it today, I have decided that the first game that I will be doing this with will be Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty.

I have had this game for quite some time. By memory I picked it up for cheap at around the same time that I finished Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. Despite being absolutely blown away by the brilliance of MGS 3, for some reason I just didn't ever play MGS 2. I wanted to but naturally I got distracted by other newer games and yeah, I just never played it.

So that's why I have chosen it. I think it will be a good game to go back to and in a way you could argue that it's a good time to do so considering that Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots is supposed to release sometime this year. I won't be able to play that until I get a PS3 but even so, playing MGS 2 will refresh my memory (slightly) with the franchise's story while also adding a new take on it since I haven't experienced the game yet.

I'm looking forward to it that's for sure. Now if only I can pry myself away from the 360 world for a little while...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Committing To Gaming

I was doing my usual internet rounds this evening (checking news sites and particular blogs - forums not included because I need to play the catch up game with those) when I came across a link to this. Apparently the author of this blog is a completionist like myself and has vowed to finish the many unfinished games in his collection. As you can see from the link above, he has even written an oath detailing the way he will go about it.

Reading this oath and then a few of his blog entries made me think about the many games that I am still yet to complete. Looking at my games collection made me realise that there were more games unfinished than I realised. This got me thinking, maybe I should adopt a similar concept where I commit to finishing the games I haven't finished yet and perhaps blog about them here. In my doing so I would finally get through these games that I have always intended to finish but haven't for whatever reason and it would also give me a sense of accomplishment.

I don't mean to copy his concept (which it would look like, especially if I blogged about the experiences too) but the idea of actually finishing these titles is an enticing one. I have always had the intention, so why the hell not?

So without further ado, I am indeed going to start working on finishing these many games but in a slightly different way than what I referred to above. For example, I won't be adopting a point system where I'd add points for finishing a game or deduct them for buying a new one. Nor will I separate my collection into two piles, finished and unfinished, to aid my cause.

I know which games need finishing and why and they will be revealed as I commit to their completion. I will however be using certain guidelines in order to help me get through these games in what I feel is the best way possible, and they are:

- If a game has collectibles such as the Hidden Packages in Grand Theft Auto or the Orbs in Crackdown, then they count towards the completion. If I don't collect these, the game isn't finished.

- However, if the game is like Final Fantasy and has a lot of spells, weapons or things like that to collect then I don't have to collect those if I don't want to. I will decide on the individual game at the time I am playing it.

- If the game is an Xbox 360 game and therefore includes the Achievement system, then the achievements for the game do count towards the completion. However, if the game in question has multiplayer achievements, glitched achievements or any achievement that doesn't really relate to the game and it being finished, then it's my choice as to whether I go for these achievements or not. If I can 1000/1000 a game though, then I will.

- Committing to a game will not stop me from playing any other game. Just because I am committed to finishing a particular game, does not mean that I can't play others. So if I get a new game or want to play some multiplayer or something along those lines, I'm allowed to do so at my leisure. However if I stop playing the game I am committed to for more than a week then yes, I will stop playing these other games in favour of seeing out my commitment.

With these guidelines I think I will be able to get through the many unfinished games I have in my collection and hopefully it will mean that I have an awesome time while I play them. Some games may require a grind or boring tasks in order to finish them and if that's the case, so be it. I am prepared to do what it takes to finally get through these games and even if I hate certain games because of it in the end, at least I will have the satisfaction of knowing that I have committed myself and accomplished the goal at the end.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Welcome To The Jungle

What is with me and Guns N Roses at the moment? Or perhaps that should be, what's with gaming and the Gunners lately? First we visited Paradise City thanks to the awesome Burnout Paradise and now, personally at least, I'm playing Welcome To The Jungle thanks to my recent purchase of Guitar Hero III.

Yes I have finally jumped on the bandwagon and I'm happy to say that it is good to be here. I have been wanting to play the Guitar Hero games ever since the original released a few years ago and while yes I'm horribly late, I'm thankful that I can finally live out my fantasy of being a rock star. Okay, that last part's not entirely true. The reason I wanted to get my hands on Guitar Hero is because let's face it, it is fun as hell playing some classic and rocking tunes in a video game. I have always been a fan of the music rhythm genre, be it through something like Space Channel 5 (Ulala!) or something small like Boom Boom Rocket. I have always enjoyed the games where you press buttons in time with the music to build up your score among other things. To me, they are simple pick up and play games and I think that is definitely one of the reasons why Guitar Hero is so successful.

Pick up and play accessible gaming, that also poses a challenge to those who like to master their games. Not many games these days have that perfect balance between accessibility and skill mastery, so it is definitely nice to see it in Guitar Hero.

Anyway, I picked up both Guitar Hero II and III for $170 in total, which I thought was quite a decent price. Especially when you consider that JB Hi Fi recently raised their price of GH III alone to $170 after having it on sale for $130.

I have to admit though, I was slightly worried when I first started to play. Why? Well I was finding it hard at first to get used to using the Guitar peripheral that comes with the game. I had played the GH III demo to death using the controller (which also feels weird until you get used to it, I might add) so I thought that using the Guitar would be a breeze. And it is, now at least. The first few songs on the other hand? Not so much. I was missing what were arguably very easy notes to hit and various other stupid little mistakes purely because I was finding it hard to essentially train my fingers into pressing the fret buttons. When using a controller you generally use your thumbs and index fingers, while Guitar Hero requires you to use most of your fingers (if not all in the higher difficulties). It definitely took some getting used to but I am now comfortable enough with it that I can play reasonably consistently.

I have already beaten the easy careers in both games and while that sounds like a very easy thing to do, doing it while getting used to the playing style was certainly harder than I anticipated. I'm now about halfway through the Medium career in GH III and will start GH II's Medium career in the next few days. I keep getting distracted with co-op play though, which I have been playing with Civ every night since I got the two games. He is clearly better than me at the game and he has had a lot more experience than I have (obviously), but even he can't deny that I have improved massively within the 4 or so days that I have been playing. I'm quite proud of it actually, despite it being easy for the experienced GH players who can play on Expert. I aim to also be able to play on Expert eventually as Guitar Hero does seem like a game I can master if I keep at it. Once I get my head around using the Hammer-Ons and Pull-Offs a bit more, I can definitely see me being able to at the very least finish the Hard career.

Random notes after 4am:

- Through The Fire and Flames is nuts! Every one knows this but still, what a crazy song even on easy.

- I still get blown away by Rez every time I fire it up. Such a unique and brilliant game.

- Those blog entries I have in my head that I keep referring to? They are coming. I actually have a notepad file saved now with the random ideas that pop in my head so that I don't forget them so yeah, you will be seeing them in the near future.

- Speaking of entries, I have decided that I will no longer do the 'What Am I Playing?' entries and instead write entries similar to this one. That way if one game is taking up the majority of my time (like GH is at the moment), then I can blog about it while it's fresh on my mind and not when I am trying to balance 2 or more games at once.

- I could have written more about my first week with Guitar Hero, but, I have been watching Firefly lately and another episode is calling me so I'm off to watch it. Brilliant show by the way, sucks that it didn't hang around for long.