Thursday, October 20, 2005

Shadow of the Colossus Impressions

This game is phenomenal. Everyone who knows me knows I loved ICO (my review) and I know many people out there loved that game as well. Those who never experienced the game I don't know what to say other than you missed a landmark achievement in gaming in my opinion.

Shadow of the Colossus comes from the same team, but it is a decidedly different game. The overall atmosphere and graphics look like they were pulled and updated right out of ICO with non-jumpy animation like was present when ICO jumped. This game is original in the fact that you are given the base background story at the beginning and then given the task (from a voice in the top of the temple) to take down 16 Colossi in the world in order to possibly revive the dead girl you've brought to the temple. So, you take your horse Agro and go out to take down the linear progression of Colossi.

For those that played the demo you already know how to take down the first Colossus. After that everything is pretty much new to you. Armed with only your horse, the Ancient Sword and a bow and arrow you set out to take them down. You are shown the way to the next Colossus if you hold up the sword in sunlight and a beam will point toward your next goal. Once you reach the area where the Colossus is the action is on.

You have to strategize how to get on the Colossus, hang on as they try to shake you off and hit their weak spot (and some have multiple progressive weak spots) with the sword. The fun part is getting on top of them and trying to hang on to dear life and hope your stamina doesn't drain. If it does you fall off and have to climb back up the Colossus again. Did I mention the Colossi look fantastic, espeically their eyes.

The best part is because of the ambiguous beginning as you go through the Colossi you start to wonder what the heck these (mostly) docile creatures ever did to deserve to die by your hand. Eventually you'll find out what killing them means at the end, and what a fantastic end it is.

I loved God of War and this is another jaw-dropping game from Sony (at least they bookended the year in this case). This game will sell less than God of War, but it is no less great in its own way. I would not be surprised to see this game in the Game of the Year running simply because it is so original and an experience to behold.

There are minuses though, but I'm sure you've heard them. The camera can be unwieldly and there are framerate drops here and there given how much polygons are being pushed when Colossi are on the screen. There is also draw-in since the environment is loaded on the fly until you reach the Colossus staging ground and a load happens as they show themselves.

Shadow of the Colossus is an experience not to be missed even though it will be hidden behind the larger hyped games coming out around the same time.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Shadow of the Colossus

The praises are coming from all over for Shadow of the Colossus, the new Sony first party game fromt he makers of the impeccable ICO.

Of special note out of the reviews so far is the 1up Review, it's well written and makes you understand why this game is so great and how different it is from ICO. Same could be said for the (shock of all shocks) IGN Review, although that one takes the cake as the highest rating for the game yet (9.7).

It sounds, much like God of War earlier this year, that this is a "must not miss" game. I know ICO didn't sell very well, but I hope this game sells more copies. It certainly should have more market penetration than ICO did. Have you seen the magazine ads for this game? They're brilliant fold-out ads that talk about how your problems may be bigger than at first look...heh.

This game will undoubtedly be the experience of the year since it is so innovative, and isn't that what people want more out of games? This game ships today and it will be overshadowed by other games out this week with bigger marketing behind it, but chances are it is the overall best, and certainly most engaging and innovative, game coming out this week (even over F.E.A.R.).

Monday, October 17, 2005

Another Busy Game Week

Well, we get slapped from all sides this week for major game releases:

Age of Empires III (PC)
Blitz: The League (Xbox/PS2)
F.E.A.R. (PC)
Jak X Combat Racing (PS2)
Quake IV (PC)
Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)
Tony Hawk's American Wasteland (Xbox/PS2/GC)

Let's go down the line for each one, going more into it than I did in my list of games coming in the next few months.

Age of Empires III: Both Gamespot (8.2) and IGN (8.8) have reviewed it. Things seem to be pretty nice, but I still have a negative reaction to the demo, especially when it comes to the amount of space the interface takes up. I still consider this series lower than Civilization or Rise of Nations.

Blitz: The League: I think a lot of people bummed out about Madden having NFL rights are going to pick this game up. I also think most of them will probably tire of the game after a few days since I can only guess the base Blitz gameplay is still present. That can only be fun for a few days unless online play is worth it.

F.E.A.R.: Probably the highest hyped game coming out this week. Both Gamespot (9.1) and IGN (9.2) have reviewed it. The game should be awesome and I guess people take it as commonplace that an FPS only has 10 hours of play in it. I figured we were past that with FarCry, but what do I know?

Jak X Combat Racing: This will be an interesting game since it is all about car combat and no platforming elements. I think this game could do well online, but I'm not sure how much it can grab people for single-player games.

Quake IV: You can spin it however you want, but Doom 3 was a bad game. Great graphics, bad gameplay. Quake IV is bound to follow in its sibling's footsteps. This game got an 8.2 from IGN, but it also got a 70 from PC Gamer, a magazine that gave Doom 3 a high 90s score if I remember.

Shadow of the Colossus: This game is getting great reviews all around. Gamespot gave it an 8.7, Game Informer gave it an 8.25 and it got the Silver Award from EGM. There are problems with the game (framerate dips, camera flopping, robust controls), but the experience outweighs all that is all I've been hearing. If you've ever wanted an innovative game, this one from the makers of ICO is a good bet!

Tony Hawk's American Wasteland: I was at the in-laws place this weekend and I popped THUG2 into the Xbox there (I don't own the game, my brother-in-law does). I had never played this game before, but I had played THUG...even reviewed it. Anyway, I found myself bored of the game even while going through the early motions. I remember when this series was the hottest thing on the map, but I'm not sure where Neversoft can go to make this series still be appealing. Granted, it sells like gangbusters every year and I hope Wasteland can bring the old style back, but we'll see.

Infinite Crisis and House of M

I talked about the Crisis last week and this week I'm going to give you my impressions of DC and Marvel's big events. First up is DC's event...

Infinite Crisis #1: So far I'm liking this event, although I question how much this mini is going to crossover to other books. I can see tie-ins with the Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman books, but looking toward future issues of those titles it doesn't seem like they all tie in. The ending of this issue is obviously for anyone, like myself, that grew up reading The Crisis on Infinite Earths. However for those people that weren't around 20 years ago or have never read CoIE, they may feel quite lost. My biggest problem with the last page is that 20 years ago we knew if these 4 people ever came back into our universe from their "paradise" universe that the whole universe would be destroyed. I am interested to see how Geoff Johns writes himself out of that hole, although I believe he can. You should also check out Villians United #6, since that also has multiple copies of a certain character showing up and explaining a bit of what has been happening in the DC universe over the last couple years.

House of M #7: Most people have considered this mini a joke, but with this issue and Joe Quesada's recent Joe Fridays column on Newsarama we may not be laughing anymore. Wanda utters the words "No more mutants" and we are treated to panels that are almost as confusing as House of M #1's finishing panels. From Quesada's story we get that the mutants are basically going to be "reset" and there won't be as many mutants around as there were before. There is still another issue left in this series. In some ways I think this could hurt Marvel because they are obviously going to be honing down the number of X and X related books out there.

Of course I can only sit here and nod my head about the X-Men simply because I've been a longtime reader of comics and know that huge changes are often reversed at Marvel. Bendis can certainly be well known for being the destroyer of both the Avengers and the mutants now...way to go Brian!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Xbox 360: What to Pick Up?

Well, we're only 39 days away from the release of the Xbox 360 in the United States (thanks to the banner on The Xbox Homepage). Most gaming news sites have either gone to San Francisco or Redmond to see the system and some of the games coming out for it.

Console Gold's own Ron Burke came back from this recently and has so far put up his Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Hands-On story. I would expect to hear more about the other games he saw while at the event. He also talks a bit about things in this forum post.

Over on C-Net (story), Daniel Terdiman pipes in on his thoughts. He mostly talks about how nice the games look, how cuffed he felt by the rules and a general lack of gameplay. This requires reading between the lines, but that's what I'm reading.

Over on Evil Avatar, bapenguin went to the event as well. Here are the articles: Perfect Dark Zero, Kameo: Elements of Power, Project Gotham Racing 3, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and other games.

The other big news (at least to me and hopefully to you) is that Microsoft will have 21 games available for Xbox Live Arcade from a variety of companies AND more will be on the way. The games supposedly will be in demo form on Xbox Live and you can purchase from there. Notable games would be: Bejeweled 2, Hexic HD (I hear this is awesome), Joust and Smash TV. Oh yes, did I mention that supposedly all will be in 1080i? Wow!

If I was a betting man, I'd say this would be an adequate lineup for you to get at launch:

Kameo: Elements of Power - I think this will be the highlight of the first-party offerings. I think it is poised to surprise a lot of people and will be the true Halo of the Xbox 360.

Project Gotham Racing 3 - If you like racing this is a no-brainer honestly. If you aren't a racer, don't pick this up.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted - All I needed to read from bapenguin was that this harkens back to the Hot Pursuit days. That's enough to make me buy it AND the PS2 version of this game won't have online while the Xbox, Xbox 360 and PSP versions will...oops!

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - Not really into the game, but I know many that are. This is the only RPG for the launch and chances are it will be great.

Perfect Dark Zero - I don't think this will be the Halo of the launch. FPS games have been put on another level with the fantastic stuff that has come out in the past few years and I just don't see PDZ reaching that level.

The sports games and Call of Duty 2 could also be in here, but I have anxiety about the sports games. I think they will look great, but won't have the same or better gameplay than their current generation counterparts. With CoD2, I'll be picking that up for the Xbox simply because of the control scheme. I love Halo, but I also played a lot of CoD on the computer.

Spielberg and EA

Huh...who woulda thought? Spielberg and EA together? Well, believe it. EA has signed a 3 game deal with Spielberg on original properties. Spielberg even gets his own office in the EALA studio. He will be overseeing development on the games and the offer is open that if he feels like creating a TV or movie out of the original games he can.

I'm sure Bill Harris will chime in on this at some point (and congrats on getting quoted in The Escapist). This certainly shows that EA is looking at original properties and not just releasing sequels. I wonder when we will first hear about the first game which is already in development. One of the lead guys from Deus Ex, Doug Church, will be overseeing the project, but it is said to be something far different than DX.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Games and More Games

To catch up on my game playing...

I've been playing a lot of Tiger Woods 06 on the computer and I'm glad to report that unlike last year the computer version keeps a lot of what is in the console versions. Noticable things missing are the Gamebreaker and the shot stick, but neither are really big things to miss. I have no problem saying this is the best game in the series yet.

I've also been playing some FIFA 06 on the computer as well, but I haven't played enough of it to get a sense of how good it is. It's been a few years since I played a game in this series and I am seeing that the defense is much better than I remember.

It is just mind boggling to think about all the games that are coming from this point (October 12th) to the end of the year and I'm going to make a couple of posts about it. It's crazy!

The next two posts outline games coming in October and November/December that are of note. This isn't a list of all the games coming, but I just counted all the ones I put down and there are 40 titles (minus the already out B&W 2) and one system! At $50 a piece it would cost you $2000 to buy them all (and not all are at $50). Just mind boggling. I didn't even touch all the Xbox 360 games coming out on the sports side of things (although I could have included Top Spin 2 and Amped 3 in there) such as Madden 06, but those loom large as well.

Games and More Games (October)

This happens every year, but September through December are easily the months where the most games (and also the most anticipated games) come out. We're now into October and we haven't even scratched the surface of games coming out.

We’ll start with the rest of October:

Black and White 2 (PC out now): hope a demo is coming so I don't need to spend $$$ on it if it sucks.

Blitz: The League (Xbox/PS2 10/17): I'm thinking this is going to be the old Blitz style of play with more story behind it. Have a feeling this will be a fun game for a few days and then things will die out.

F.E.A.R. (PC 10/18): the demo was a lot of fun, although I am hearing the game only takes 10 hours to beat and when you put that amount of time up against a game like FarCry I think I may hold off from buying it.

Shadow of the Colossus (PS2 10/18): this is an easy pickup even with the camera problems that every review has talked about. This game is from the team that did ICO and they have a firm grasp on how to make innovative games that make you actually feel as if you're living the experience.

Jak X: Combat Racing (PS2 10/18): this one is a tough one considering it is a combat racing game instead of a platformer like the rest of the series.

Quake IV (PC 10/18) (Xbox 360 11/22): the game looks purty, but I wonder if this will be too much like Doom III for its own good (scripted attacks, enclosed dark spaces, etc.). I have a feeling this may not be as big of a hit as id or Activision is hoping.

Age of Empires III (PC 10/18): I was not too high on this game in a previous blog entry and I have to say if I had to make a choice between this and an RTS coming out the week after, I will probably pick the latter. The GUI alone turned me off in the demo, but if Ensemble shrank it a bit things could be looking up.

Tony Hawk's American Wasteland (Xbox/PS2/Cube 10/18) (Xbox 360 11/22): not really interested in this game whether it is more open ended than the Underground games or not. This series continues to sell for Neversoft and Activision, so they're going to continue to pump them out; no doubt about that!

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories (PSP 10/24): quite possibly the game that will sell a lot of PSP systems this holiday. I only question whether the series has stretched itself too thin or not. I was not very high on San Andreas, but this one goes back to Liberty City. I don't have a PSP though and I don't think even this is enough to entice me to buy one.

Ratchet: Deadlocked (PS2 10/25) - this game should be interesting. I think the single-player section will be great as always, but I also think the online play for this game is going to explode more than it did for the last Ratchet game.

Resident Evil 4 (PS2 10/25): I still consider the GC version as one of the best games to come out this year and it will be interesting to see how well the game translates to PS2. We’ll find out late this month.

Battlefield 2: Modern Combat (Xbox/PS2 10/25): I played a bit of this early on in the beta test on PS2 and though it was pretty good. However this is not a replacement for the PC game if you have it.

Call of Duty 2 (PC 10/25) (Xbox 360 11/22): Day 1 purchase, no questions asked. The first game was phenomenal and the demo for this game is same. I will pick this up for PC simply because it is cheaper than the 360 version and I still feel the PC will have better controls.

Civilization IV (PC 10/25): This is the other RTS I was talking about. Much like Age of Empires III I will probably wait for reviews. Both games have a problem for me in the fact that there are way too many games coming out and not enough money to go around.

Soul Calibur III (PS2 10/25): One of my favorite fighting game series, yet I won’t be picking this one up. It just seems too soon since the last one and having this as PS2 only seems a little odd after the last one went out on all systems. Namco will have a tough time selling this with all the other games coming out around the same time.

Spartan: Total Warrior (Xbox/PS2/GC 10/25): Sega bought up the people behind the Total War series and this is the first game to come out after that purchase. I’m not too interested, but Rome: Total War was an excellent RTS game; this game is more action based and more along the lines of the Dynasty Warriors series from Koei.

City of Villians (PC 10/30): Rounding out the month of October is the sequel to one of the best MMORPGs to come out before World of Warcraft descended and became king. It is nice of NCSoft to allow you to play both this and City of Heroes with just one $15.99 a month fee.

Games and More Games (Nov./Dec.)

Continuing on we have the games (and system) of November and December:

Star Wars Battlefront II (Xbox/PS2/PC/PSP 11/1): this game comes out along with the DVD for Episode III. Never played the first one, but I know it is highly popular and I figure this one will be as well.

Call of Duty 2: Big Red One (Xbox/PS2/GC 11/1): the sequel to the game that is seeing Activision and Spark sue each other. Chances are this version of CoD2 will not be as good as either the PC or Xbox 360 versions.

James Bond 007: From Russia With Love (Xbox/PS2/GC 11/1): EA attempts to recover from the crap that was Goldeneye 2 by farming the past of the series. I’m not sure how high I am on this game given that things have been going downhill in the series since the highlight of Everything or Nothing.

Castlevania: Curse of Darkness (Xbox/PS2 11/1): Castlevania makes its Xbox debut with this one. Another 3D attempt at the series which did okay in Castlevania: Lament of Innocence. We’ll see how this turns out.

The Matrix: Path of Neo (Xbox/PS2/PC 11/7): Shiny has the chance to right the ship with this game. They’ve had enough time with this game (unlike Enter the Matrix). If the game turns out to be as bad as the last one you can consider Shiny cooked and done no matter how many units it sells (and it will sell less just because the last game sucked so bad and so many people took the kool aid).

Mario Party 7 (GC 11/7): Don’t laugh, I think the Mario Party games are pretty cool and this is the next one in the series. Nintendo is so serious about this game that they just announced a GC holiday bundle with the game, system and two controllers for $99. Without Zelda: Twilight of Darkness I guess this is the best Nintendo could come up with for the holiday on the GC side of things.

Gun (Xbox/PS2/GC/PC 11/8) (Xbox 360 ~ 11/22): Neversoft takes their shot at an Old West game. The company behind Tony Hawk is finally trying to stretch beyond with a new IP and I hope it turns out to be good because the Hawk pot eventually has to run dry.

The Movies (PC 11/8): Peter Molyneaux has another game coming out this year and this one looks to be the better of the two. This game has been in development for a long time and I hope it turns out to be another original Molyneaux idea. He’s kept pretty tight lipped on what this game is going to offer, so the hype shouldn’t be as high as Fable was.

Mario Kart DS (DS 11/14): Nintendo is touting this as the first online game for the DS and chances are it will sell like gangbusters when it comes out. I also like that Nintendo has a wireless USB idea for people without wireless routers to get on and play these games.

WWE Raw vs. Smackdown 2006 (PS2 11/14): Will the online mode actually be good this time around? That’s probably the biggest question surrounding this game as the games themselves have consistently gotten better over the years.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence (PS2 11/14): Well, if you want to play online you’ll have to shell out $50 for this upgrade of MGS3. This game was fantastic, but I don’t think I’m willing to spend that kind of money for online play and extras.

Battlefield 2: Special Forces (PC 11/15): The first expansion to BF2. Let’s see, new maps (now with night vision!), new guns, new vehicles, new armies. Yes, I’ll have some for $30!

Need for Speed: Most Wanted (Xbox/PS2/GC/DS/PSP/PC 11/15) (Xbox 360 11/22): I’ve said this before, but if this game is anything like Hot Pursuit I will buy it. I think NFS took a wrong turn with the Underground games and I hope they make things right with this series again.

True Crime: New York City (Xbox/PS2/GC 11/15): I liked the first game up until aliens started being part of the story. I hope the story in this game can be more grounded in realism and not go off the deep end. I think True Crime had really good gameplay features and I have semi-high hopes for this game.

Xbox 360 Game System (11/22): It’s finally here, but will it change the landscape of gaming?

Kameo: Elements of Power (Xbox 360 11/22): This game is shaping up as one of the best games coming out at launch. Game has been long in development, but all signs point to the fact that this game is top notch.

Perfect Dark Zero (Xbox 360 11/22): This game is a little more questionable. We already know some things have been taken out to try to get it out by launch, and that is never a good thing to hear. If Rare can tap the magic of Goldeneye 007 this could be the Halo-like game at launch.

Project Gotham Racing 3 (Xbox 360 ~ 11/22): I hope this is out at launch simply because I love the series. I don’t care if the game runs at 30FPS because if it has the gameplay of the last two I’m there.

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Xbox 360/PC ~ 11/22): It’s sounding like a launch game, but there is nothing official yet. This is one of the highest anticipated games on the Console Gold boards, but I personally am not too excited outside of the excellent graphics.

Peter Jackson’s King Kong (Xbox 360/Xbox/PS2/GC/PSP/PC 11/22): This game will be interesting in the fact that the PC and Xbox 360 versions should be different than the rest. From the graphics I’ve seen this game will be a sight to behold and I certainly hope the game is as well.

Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King (PS2 11/22): Not to hide this game, but this is easily the RPG to own this year. Square-Enix have been marketing this game in ads with huge foldouts and I expect there to be a media blitz toward release. This game gets my $50 in addition to all the Xbox 360 things I have to pick up on this day.

Mario and Luigi 2 (DS 11/28): Another big DS game coming this winter. Superstar Saga was one of the best GBA games ever and I expect this game to be pretty good as well.

And coming in December:

Animal Crossing DS (DS 12/5): The other online game Nintendo is bringing out this year. This one will also probably sell like gangbusters, but not as well as Mario Kart DS.

Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones (Xbox/PS2/GC/PC 12/6): Can UbiSoft right the ship after last year’s debacle? Warrior Within had some parts that were better than the original game, but the extra crap they put into the game just destroyed any fun anyone could have. This time around it sounds like they’ve taken the best from the previous 2 games and made this one…we can only hope.

Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows (Xbox/PS2 12/12): I have a feeling this game is going to suck given how long it has been since John Romero and J.E. Sawyer left the project. Midway is of course saying everything was pretty much done before they left, but given the current release date that can’t quite be true, can it?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Crisis Begins Tomorrow

First off, sorry for being gone so long. Had a death in the family and things got a bit busy in life, but I'm going to try to post more than I recently have. With that out of the way...


What Crisis you might be asking? Well, people that have followed this thread at CG would know what I am talking about. For those not in the loop, welcome to another hobby of mine in addition to games, TV shows, movies, etc.: the land of comic books.

20 years ago DC had the Crisis on Infinite Earths, quite possibly the best mini-series of all time in comicdom. Flash (Barry Allen) and Supergirl died, characters on other Earths (long story, but as DC picked up other comic companies like Fawcett they created new worlds where those characters lived and the Golden Age superheroes like Batman and Superman were relegated to Earth-2 and given older looks) were eliminated and we were left with the DC universe of today.

Well, not exactly. You see, DC left some continuity problems (the biggest of which was Hawkman and the Legion of Super Heroes which has had lots of continuity problems throughout its life) after Crisis and they tried to fix them with another event series, Zero Hour where Hal Jordan went evil and took some heroes to the beginning of the universe in order to re-write everything. Hal failed and he ended up redeeming himself years later. Even after Zero Hour there were still continuity problems though, so Mark Waid created Hypertime where any character would go on their way through time, but the stories could deviate from one Earth to another Earth that is running at the same time in least that's how I remember Hypertime being, to be honest I had quit reading comics at that point.

Now 20 years later DC unloads Infinite Crisis #1 on us tomorrow, the first of a seven part mini-series. For those that read Identity Crisis (which centered around the death of Susan Dibny and what the Satellite-era JLA did to Dr. Light and other people including Batman) last year and read the Countdown to Infinite Crisis story, those were just preludes to this. In fact, DC has said that the seeds of Infinite Crisis have been planted over the last two years. I find that hard to believe since I can't fathom a group of writers getting together and thinking that far ahead. It works for those 12-part stories contained in one book where there is just the same creative team, but this is a group of writers trying to keep something on the back burner for a prolonged period of time.

Early words (read: rumors) are that Batman is going to see a big change after the mini-series is done. In fact, word is that he isn't going to be the hardass he has been since Crisis 20 years ago. Superman and Wonder Woman are bound to be affected as well since it has been said this whole thing centers around that Trinity. Currently outside of Batman/Superman the three don't trust each other. Wonder Woman killed Max Lord in order to stop him from controlling Superman; Superman beat Batman pretty bad while under the influence of Max and Batman's whole paranoia has alienated everyone (he holds the key to defeat every hero in the world and is behind the OMAC project that is currently going after every hero and villian, although a lot were destroyed via OMAC Project #6).

After Crisis, the DC universe (minus a few titles like Legion of Super Heroes) will jump ahead a year and those year's events will be told in the comic 52 that comes out weekly. Both ideas are very ballsy for DC and the rumors are flying all over the place about the year jump. Dick Grayson taking over the Batman mantle, Bart Allen becoming Flash (Wally dying in IC), etc. Of course, they are all rumors and we won't know until it happens. What we do know is that characters are going to die in Infinite Crisis much like characters died in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Chances are at least one key character will die (2 did in CoIE).

So, if you've been interested in comics in the past and remember CoIE you may want to pick up the trade paperback Prelude to Infinite Crisis which should catch you up somewhat for the mini-series. DC is either going to fly or crash on this...can lightning strike twice?