Tagged: Shawn10

GiantBombLuv is the new GameLuv


I didn’t plan on GameLuv  turning into GiantBombLuv but the site that Gerstmann & Co. built has almost become a driving force in my life lately. Its gamer focused wiki, community of (tens of) thousands, fun list-building tools, and the level boosting Quests have fueled my passion for gaming onto peculiar and exciting tangents. Building the page for Asterix & Obelix XXL2 I wound up hopping all over the site to plug in little bits of my wisdom on a developer page, a character bio, or a release list. It led me right into my next big edit, this time for the Jumping Flash! series. Diving back into the PlayStation classics after sitting around in a box for years was a great surprise and after I finished up the MuuMuu page I finally got the mp3’s I’ve had for half a decade into presentable order. The same thing happened again this past weekend.

I didn’t have any real plans for Sunday aside from “accomplishing something” and I can guarantee I never thought I’d be digging out more PSone discs with Red Dead Redemption still sitting in my 360. But there I was, loading up ESPN Extreme Games and having a hilarious blast as I once again started a new career as a rollerblader and kicked the crap out of everyone in sight, smacked into a few dozen stationary objects, and watched Suzy Kolber ridicule me, all in the name of fleshing out a wiki page. Ok, I also signed up for Goozex and sold my second copy of the game and needed to make sure it was functional but getting profile points from writing about Suzy Kolber was nearly as fun as playing the game again.

And it didn’t stop there as I moved on to Road Rash which I had completely forgotten I even owned a copy of for PSone. That page will require a lot more work but I somehow meandered over to the Vib Ribbon page and, in about an hour, was playing an ISO and digging up ancient txt files in order to write a menu translation guide. I definitely didn’t see that coming, and I love it!

It’s sort of like how my brain works; I know a lot of stuff but I can’t just spill it out without provocation. Ask me something specific about Ranger X or what ArtDink worked on and then I can tell you. Giant Bomb’s huge database gives me just enough focus to get working towards a goal and I never know what old game I’ll be digging out over the weekend. Sure, I may spin off in a few different directions along the way but whether I finish editing a page or not I’m loving these random, surprise trips into my little (half) Room of Doom.

Now (and forever?) Playing: Beat Hazard (PC)

So you say you’ve got a collection of digital music, eh? And you like twin stick shooters too? Well, have you ever wondered if you might be prone to a “photosensitive seizure” from playing games? Then Beat Hazard is the game for you no matter what it costs right now on Steam! You can even write it off as a health exam.

Originally launched as an Xbox Live Indie Game, Beat Hazard gets a whole lot more worthwhile when it sits on the same computer as your music collection. That’s because it uses an algorithm just as complicated as the ones that power its graphic visualizers to turn your music into a twin stick shooter. I coldn’t even begin to explain how it works but I can report that it incorporates each song into its gameplay more meaningfully than any other your-music-is-the-game game that I’ve played.

I do admit it’s a little odd to have the music start out quiet but as you pick up volume power-ups it really draws you into the action and the music. Weapon power is increased by grabbing a separate set of power-ups and if you stick and move as well as you shoot you’ll eventually max out the two and become a Beat Hazard. Sure, it pumps up your attack power but it also pushes the game’s visuals over the top. Everything that moves (aside from you) is governed by the music in one way or another and doles out spastic, color-cycling visualizations as weapon fire. Enemy attacks are timed to beats and their formations are based on specific parts of the music.

What really ties the game to the music, though, is your own ship’s attacks. Again, I don’t know how it works but your stream of bullets seems to be tied more closely to the melodies, vocals, and tinny drum tracks of your chosen song. As things ramp up you’ll see your base stream of bullets increase in rate of fire and visual intensity but think ahead to the next verse or chorus because right when the song breaks down you’ll usually run into a boss. Huge 2D ships with numerous cannons blast away as asteroids and smaller craft continue flooding the screen, all the while your song is driving the visuals back up for the final crescendo. It’s madness and there are definitely some cheap shots that get lost in the chaos but it’s all in good fun. Even with the faux-RSS feed that calls out top scores and broken records I don’t ever feel like I was robbed from some epic win, I just get to play a great song over again!

Unlike AudioSurf or Beats, I really feel like Beat Hazard is turning each individual song into its own little game. Knowing that my rate of fire is linked to the lyrics or melody gives me an advantage as I know exactly when I’ll have enough firepower to hit that slowly circling boss ship or tear through a stream of pesky asteroids. It’s not a game that I’ll play for hours at a time and it’s potentially endless as long as I keep listening to music so this may be the last I post about it for a while. So let me finish with my wholehearted ‘Thumbs Up’ and point you directly to Steam! There is a demo that gives you a few packed-in tracks to play but you might as well just buy it straightaway because playing the music you know and love lets Beat Hazard really shine.

Done Playing: Split Second Demo (Xbox 360)

When I was in college my one grand idea for a game was a jetski racer something like Wave Race but with courses that changed every lap. Aside from cycling tides things like a scuttling oil tanker that empties into the sea, capsizes, and finally ignites would play out as you completed laps. A hurricane would grow from a cloudy sky and see you eventually racing through a flooding port town. In all the years since I tossed that idea in my mind closet I’ve seen a lot of racing games emphasize disaster (the best being Burnout 3) but nothing that’s come so close to my vision until Split/Second.

Billed as a Burnout where you use the environment to take out opponents had me excited, as did all the talk about airport towers collapsing and incoming jetliners as obstactles. Playing the demo, though, has been a deflating smack in the face that makes me want to start doodling my own raceways again in hopes that somebody, some day gets this right. What really killed it is that the game’s reliance on clever environmental attacks makes the whole thing feel like a kart racer, the absolute last thing I ever want to play. Seriously, an 80 hour JRPG is better than even a few hours of suffering through another round of “wild and wacky kart combat”.

I do like that the attacks unleash chaos on the roadway, some even changing the course altogether, but usually a good old fashioned shunt into a stationary object is more satisfying than any kind of weaponized attack. To see a car scraping past me one instant and then completely disappear as I nudge them into a face-to-face with Mr. Retaining Wall is simply bliss. Call me outdated if you want. Sadly, that tactic is something that Split/Second — for all its carefully choreographed environments — just doesn’t allow. With no juice to trigger an attack and only a small stretch to the finish I thought for sure I could swing wide and T-Bone the guy into some debris. But no matter how or when I tried this throughout the demo they always slipped ahead like an ungrappleable oil wrestler on wheels. Unexplainable and, in my book, inexcusable.

Screen-rumbling carnage, fiery explosions, slow-mo takedowns, and a great presentation may make it look like a game I’d enjoy but all the stuff I hate about kart racers seems to be at the heart of Split/Second. I’m still interested in seeing the delightful devastation in the final product but not so thrilled about the game I’ll have to endure in order to see it. Also, Die Hard Trilogy did car-on-copter action better.

Done Playing: X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Xbox 360)

For real promo for the game's initial release

Arguably one of the more playable movie tie-ins so far, X-Men Origins: Wolverine serves as a companion piece to 2009’s Summer blockbuster flick of the same name. With scrappy Hugh Jackman and the oddly-cast Liev Schreiber in tow the game outpaces its cinematic cousin on every level; violence, running time, comic book cameos, gore, angst, blood, and convoluted plots for revenge and quadruple-crossed backstabs. Did I mention that it’s violent too?

Peculiarly M-rated next to the movie’s tame PG-13 content, Wolverine is a dead ringer for Tomonobu Itagaki’s Ninja Gaiden in both its bloodletting and its tough love. Challenging even on the easiest setting, it takes hours of perilous brawling with machete-wielding jungle mutants and gun-toting henchmen before you have access to Logan’s full complement of abilities and things start to even out. The game plays pretty standard with weak and strong attacks, a grab, power moves restricted by a Fury meter and a few dodge/counter abilities. It’s the game’s violence and speed combined with Mortal Kombat approved death-arenas that help you really feel like the classic, unstoppable Wolverine.

Once I got the hang of things I could routinely pull off a string of improvised kills almost without thinking about it. A four-hit combo sends an enemy (and Wolverine) airborne where a throw smashes them back to the ground with enough force that they bounce up. I grab them by the foot and pummel their body into the ground before doing a “rising upper” move to launch them skyward once again and then — after a slow-mo power punch — across the room and, almost magically, onto some deadly spike or into a painful contraption. All this is accompanied by the highest quality viscera; sprays of blood, dismembered limbs, floppy ragdoll physics. Logan himself is a technical triumph with layers of flesh, muscle and Adamantium-coated bones peeking through and regenerating in real-time as he takes (and avoids) damage.

As empowering as clearing out room after room of mutants, robots, and elite troopers is, the game hits some low points repeatedly. Platform jumping, ledge shimmying, and rope climbing break up the good stuff frequently. It’s no different than any other game only Logan moves so slowly in these sections that it’s hard to accept that he wouldn’t just flip out and cut a hole in a wall instead of courteously scaling up and around it. Raven also throws in more than a few puzzles and while they’re simple find-the-key or move-that-thing-to-make-a-platform diversions it seems way too level headed for Weapon X.

That other stuff is a bummer, it’s kinda boring, and sometimes you’ll jump wrong and have to climb back up but what bugs me the most is the level design.The “optimization of 3D space” was novel at first — one path eventually leading you over and around the same area later in the level — but it happens with almost every space you enter. Some “arenas” you’ll criss-cross once or twice while other spaces you’ll see repeatedly from three or four different angles. It feels cheap, like one of Activision’s fun-crushing tactics to make the most game out of the least amount of geometry. This constant criss-crossing is what adds hours onto your total play time and it’s usually the slow-going platforming/puzzle solving tedium, not the fun slicey-slicey stuff.

I’d say by about hour 7/12 that I put into the initial playthrough I was ready for it to be over. With the confusing ping-ponging from “a not too distant future” and “a mission in Africa several years earlier” finally sorted out I thought I was done. Suddenly I’m riding The Blob around a grocery store, chasing Gambit through a Louisiana casino palace, abusing half-finished Sentinels, and — WTF!? — more flashbacks to Africa?! By the time I reached the legit climax I was underwhelmed, expecting it to just keep going. When the credits started to roll it was a total shoulder-shrugger.

Once back to the title screen, however, I found myself immediately checking for un-achieved Achievements and diving back into specific Chapters. The combat is definitely the best part and the slow evolution of your abilities (and their satisfyingly violent animations) provides more reward than the guest shots or plotlines. I still haven’t seen the movie but I can’t imagine it being much more entertaining than this so if the film let you down don’t write this off just because it shares some source material; it’s another perfect long-weekend rental.

Done Playing: Borderlands (Xbox 360)

If this stuff excites you then go buy Borderlands ASAP!

Do you love loot? Do you get all excited over comparing weapon stats? Does stealing gear from a player who rightly earned it make you giddily jam the ‘run’ button to intercept? Before Borderlands those kind of compulsive hoarding tendencies were pretty much exclusively reserved to Fantasy MMO players; the Warcrafters, Aionites, and LotROtters of the world. What Gearbox did with Borderlands is take the most addictive bits of an MMO, strap them onto a first-person shooter and let up to four friends grief each other all over the results. Oh, and then they threw out the art assets and coated everything in a Crackdown-esque graphic novel style.

The visuals don’t really matter one way or the other though, in fact, nothing about Borderlands really matters outside of the obsessive search for loot and the grind for more Experience to reach new Levels. This was fine in the beginning as I’d never extensively experienced any of that MMO type stuff before and it sucked me in just as Gearbox had designed it to. Katy and I (playing split-screen) would eagerly assault anything that moved and look for the promising flashes of color that indicated they had dropped loot. We’d stand, side by side, in the middle of a dessert, surrounded by more groups of enemies and patiently let each other compare Power, Rate of Fire, and a dozen other stats before amicably agreeing that “you should use this” or “you can sell that, I’m fine”. It’s impossible to calculate just how much of the 27 hours we put into the game were spent bartering over guns like persnickety old Scrooges at a Farmer’s Market on its last day in town. This, was shameful behavior.

Shameful, but fun… at least for a bit. It didn’t take long before I felt the grind set in and even with an underhanded boost from a friend (who spoofed some of his crazy guns and gave us infinite cash) I was getting bored. A story would’ve been nice but outside of a few cryptic and ghostly messages from a girl the only exposition comes in the form of forgettable text that describes the next selected mission. Borderlands caters to those MMO impulses at the expense of everything else and while it’s proven successful and addictive, it’s like caffeine to me; a drug I’ve never gotten much of a buzz from.

I really do like soda a lot so I guess I am addicted but my analogy is falling apart here and I’ve got more appealing games to go play. I see what all the fandom is over Borderlands but it’s just not my thing. Give it a try but be warned that if you fall under it’s spell that may wind up being the most expensive rental since you checked out that N64 and never got your deposit back.