Just today, the Guilty Gear 2 demo went up on Xbox Live in Japan. Unfortunately, it's not available in America (currently), and judging by the demo itself, it seems as though the title may never make it to america. Why do I say this? Well, when the demo for Eternal Sonata went up on Japanese live, you could download it and play it in english. Not Guilty Gear 2, however; the entire demo is in Japanese with no visible option to play in english. This either means the game most likely hasn't been considered for localization yet; the same thing happened with Tenchu Z - it was out in Japan for a very long time before Sega finally decided to localize it for english audiences.
Guilty Gear 2, for those of you who aren't aware, is nothing like other Guilty Gear games. The original Guilty Gear (and it's numerous spinoffs such as Guilty Gear XX#Reload) are 2D, side-scrolling fighting games in the vein of Capcom's Street Fighter series. They are applauded for their depth, beautiful special effects, high resolution (and fluidly animated) sprites, and hard rock soundtracks.
Guilty Gear 2 throws all of that out the window. All of it. In it's place is a game entirely in 3D and almost completely unlike any other traditional fighting game to come before it.
In the demo, you are given control of Sol Badguy, one of the more popular characters from the original Guilty Gear. As Sol, you are dropped in to a large 3D map - almost similar to an arena in a first person shooter. You start at your base - red base. At red base, there is a large glowing statue. As marked on the minimap, at the other end of the arena is blue base.
The idea is that you have to traverse this arena to get to your opponent's base. Along the way are generic thugs whom you can either ignore or defeat (it's a good idea to defeat them). Combat is some what simplistic - pressing the A button makes you jump, and pressing the A button while in mid-air makes you dash. X button is for normal attacks and Y button is for special attacks (using special attacks depletes your special meter). B button will use whatever item is currently selected (such as healing items or items that restore your special meter). L and R bumper scrolls through the currently selected item, and the L and R triggers are used primarily for blocking. Finally, the Dpad is used for the various taunts the game allows. The game also has what can only be described as Smash attacks, like Smash Brothers. Flick the left stick in a direction and press the X button and your character will charge up a powerful attack that, when it lands, sends enemies flying. Attacks also have different effects if you use them on the ground or in the air.
When you eventually make your way over to the opposing base, you face your opponent. The idea is to destroy your opponent's base before he kills you; this is generally done by stunning an opponent and then attacking his base. However, opponents can summon more generic thugs as well as utilize their own special attacks and abilities - making it easier said than done. Should you get killed before you defeat your opponent's base, you will respawn back at your own base - at the cost of some of your base's health, of course. You must then travel all the way back to your opponent's base (usually after your opponent has spawned more thugs which meet you along the way).
Lather, rinse, repeat, until your base or his base is destroyed.
The demo would be a lot more interesting if not for the fact that your opponent pretty much camps out at his base waiting for you to fight him. In a one-on-one multiplayer battle with somebody who was a little more forward when it came to attacking you, this might actually be rather fun - and in an environment where four, or even eight players (does the game even support that many?) would go after each other to defeat the other's base, this might be really, really fun. Unfortunately, information on this is scarce; the Wikipedia page for the game lists it strictly as a single player affair.
Another issue I have with the game is the movement speed - even when running, Sol's movement feels remarkably sluggish and slow. Visually, the game isn't terribly impressive, either; while certainly better than most of what we got on the original Xbox and Playstation 2, it's still underwhelmingly generic. The level you're given to play through almost reminds me of Halloween Town from Nightmare Before Christmas or especially Sky Rail from Sonic Adventure 2. The level has lots of brown with dead trees (with ghastly faces on them) and sort of victorian architecture suspended high above the clouds (fortunately, you cannot ringout - invisible walls make sure you can't jump off and fall to your death).
In all, it's a very weird demo and I'm not quite sure what to make of it. My experience with the 2D version of Guilty Gear is limited at best, and this is so different it's hard to really pin down what the final game would play like. The demo itself is kind of boring because I have to slowly walk the entire distance of the map every time I die (and considering the game isn't very generous with healing items, you can die kind of easily if you aren't careful).
I'm not entirely sure it's worth downloading, but considering all I've typed on it, you can certainly make your own decisions - if you have a japanese Xbox Live account, that is (and no, I won't tell you how to get one).
Edit: Further inspection reveals that you can actually sprint in this game, by clicking the left stick in. Zooms up sort of like Gears of War when you do it, just not quite as close or low to the ground. A dashing smash attack takes off like, 90% of a thug's HP! Also, R trigger can be used to lock on to one enemy, which allows you to strafe around them if you so choose. This works quite well with the sprint manuver, as you can rush straight up to an enemy and hit them pretty hard.
So it's Halloween. If you're like me, you pretty much don't have any money for anything ever. But that's cool - because there's a whole world of "cheap as free" gaming out there to be had in the season of the witch; you just have to know where to look. And hey, because I'm such a nice guy and I love Halloween so much, allow me to point you in the right direction on some of the cheap sources of gaming I've been tapping in to.
Afraid of Monsters: Directors Cut (Half-Life 1 Mod) - Some of you out there have heard me rant about this game in the past. In August, unable to contain the Halloween season from bursting out of me, I wrote a blog entitled The Scariest Game I've Ever Played. In it I talked about the original "Afraid of Monsters" and how flat out, mind-bogglingly frightening the game was. If you're a fan of Silent Hill, you deserve to check it out. Fortunately for you, "Afraid of Monsters: Directors Cut" will be releasing on October 31st. As an Extended Version of the original Afraid of Monsters, it promises new levels, new monsters, and fixes to problems people had in the original mod. I'm confident in saying that this will probably be the scariest thing you can play on Halloween this year.
Mistake (Half-Life 1 Mod) - Having finished this mod not more than 20 minutes ago, I can honestly reccomend this to you as one of the scarier HL1 mods out there. You are tasked with escaping an apparently abandoned Insane Asylum... or is it? What it lacks in visual fidelity (I seriously thought this was a HL1 mod left over from 1998 or 1999 until I saw posters for movies like Stay Alive) it makes up for in sheer atmosphere and WTF-factor. It's creepy as hell (though short). Give it a shot.
The Killing Floor (Unreal Tournament 2004 Mod) - Take beautifully atmospheric maps, slap them in the Invasion Gametype and replace all the monsters with a large variety of gruesome (and usually naked) Zombies and you more or less have Killing Floor. Despite the relatively simple description, Killing Floor offers up much more than the standard Invasion Gametype, allowing you to buy and find weapons, seal doors, and more. Very visceral and very intense. Be warned, though, even midrange hardware will strain a bit as the mod litterally throws hundreds of zombies on screen at the same time. You can download it here.
Penumbra - Sure, Penumbra: Overture may be out now, but little did anybody know that the original Penumbra Tech Demo is still up for download on the game's website. Though obviously not a full game, the tech demo does play out with a plot and all the stuff that technically makes up a game. So, hey! Why not give it a taste? For those of you who aren't in the know, Penumbra is essentially a first person survival horror game with a very heavy emphasis on physics and lighting. Everybody was raving about the free tech demo (the one I just linked you) last year, so it's probably worth giving it a shot.
Gametap - Did you know that Gametap has a rotating selection of roughly 40 free games you can play? These are not demos; these are totally free, full versions of games. All you have to do is register for a Gametap account (which coincidentally is also free) and start downloading. The catch is that before you play a free game you must first sit through a short, 30 second advertisement, usually telling you the benefits of subscribing to Gametap Gold. In celebration of Halloween, Gametap has a wide selection of seasonal games: Bloodrayne, Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen 2, Ghosts N' Goblins, Ghouls N' Ghosts, Darkstalkers, even Jaws Unleashed. That's hours, possibly even days of free, seasonal gaming. How can you lose? Hypothesis: You can't.
The House - Of course, it just wouldn't be a blog without me whoring myself out. The House was an experiment I did a year or two ago to see if I could make a spooky game. Some of it is horribly derivative (please don't hurt me, I had the best intentions), but I've had people tell me they've genuinely been scared by it. The idea wasn't so much to create a linear experience as it was to create almost a sandbox environment where scary events happened dynamically. Do I succeed or do I fail? Why don't you answer that by playing the game.
Zombie Panic! (Half-Life 1 Mod): Humans vs. Zombies. Rounds begin with one zombie vs. a group of humans and maps progress until all humans are zombies. Zombies have a specific number of times they are allowed to respawn, and should the humans kill the zombies until they can no longer respawn, humans win. It's not for everybody; usually about the time somebody is forced to play as the starting zombie they get frustrated with the game and quit, but I've enjoyed it on and off over the years. They're working on a Source version that promises some major improvements to the formula, but there's no telling when that'll be done.
Vampire Slayer (Half-Life 1 Mod): Humans vs. Vampires. Vampires have the gift of agility but are limited to melee attacks. Humans aren't as mobile but have the benefit of ranged weaponry. Vampires can only be knocked down; when one is laying on the ground it must be staked before it gets back up again. Everybody seems to have crazy supernatural powers that slowly recharge over time. Can be very frantic. Has the added benefit of bots, as servers for it seem to be scarce.
Survival Crisis Z: Imagine Diablo 2 meets Dead Rising, and design it around almost a GTA-esque mission structure and you've more or less nailed Survival Crisis Z. The whole game used to cost $10 to play but in the last year or so it's become free. Has seemingly infinite replay value; the city and it's dungeons are randomly generated every time you start a new game, and despite how bad that sounds on paper, it's actually pretty fun and remarkably spooky in practice. I recorded a gameplay video here.
A Reminder: My Halloween Webcast airs all day, this October 31st. Don't miss it!
Currently, I am on a loaner HDD from my cousin - it's not very big; only 30gb.
However, while this locks me out of finishing my Castlevania game, it does not lock me out of doing something I was also planning: A Halloween webcast. All day on October 31st I will be playing music and spooky stories from a collection I've amassed over time and burned to CD last year. If you would like to tune in, that would be awesome. To access the stream, just visit the minisite I've set up for it. Do note, however, that the stream will not go live until October 31st, but it wouldn't hurt to familiarize yourself with the site right now, would it? ;)
Supposedly, I have a limit of 120 listeners - though I am skeptical about that. Either way, the last time I did this, I had a server with a listener limit of about 30 - and I managed to fill that server to overflowing. So yeah, this is one Halloween webcast you do not want to miss. Even better, because one of the streaming methods is flash-based, those of you out there with the Wii Opera Web browser should be able to enjoy all the music and spooky stories right from the comfort of your own living room. I don't own a Wii, so I can't really test it a whole lot - but in theory it should work.
The server I will be broadcasting from is graciously hosted by a friend of mine who got a deal with a guy he knows; the guy in question hosts private MMO servers for games like Ragnarok Online and such. If you want to check out his Ragnarok Online server - I've been told they have great EXP rates and a very friendly staff, look no further than Epiphany RO.
Just, you know, not on my system. This image was not doctored. This is honestly, seriously, how UT3 looks on my system. As for a framerate? How does 5fps sound? Are you laughing yet? Because when I booted up the demo, what I saw was so absurdly horrible that, yes, even I started laughing. If you need to know my system specs:
3.2ghz Intel 4 with Hyper Threading
512mb of DDR2 RAM
GeForce 5200 FX (PCI)
(A big and repeated thanks goes out to my cousin, better known on the internets as Ashuku, for without him, I'd probably still be stuck on a 1.3ghz with 256mb of RAM and a GeForce 3.)
Being a jobless bum, I've hunted out easy ways to get cash online without having to do too much work and so far one of the ones I've found that works is something called Survey Savvy. It's super easy to do, too - it's not even like real work. You just sign up, complete some introductory surveys (to help define what demographic you're in) and then you just sit back and wait for the emails.
Now, take note, you aren't going to be raking in hundreds of dollars a week, or even in a month, or really, even in a year. I generally get one survey every week or two, usually for about $1-$2 per survey. After having been a member of Survey Savvy for a few months now, I've only saved up an amazing $11. However, I'm $11 richer than I was three months ago - consider it money for a rainy day, right? Free money is free money, even if you accumulate it really, really slowly.
So give it a shot and join up if you feel like it. Seriously, it's not like you've got much to lose - you don't buy anything, you don't sign up for a credit card; it's a totally free service. Even cooler, sometimes I get surveys about videogames - unfortunately, I can't talk about what videogames I did surveys for; but it was like focus-group stuff, like "look at this image and tell us what you like and don't like about it, and why". Some really big name games, too - and I wish I could just come out and tell you guys which ones and what the questions were, but I had to sign an agreement (of sorts), and I'd rather not invalidate the contract.
So yeah. Join. Join now.
I never really cared about the Conan "franchise" (or knew there was a franchise at all). I don't remember what the movie(s) were like and I've never read the comic book. The game itself? It's... God of War. And I don't mean, like, "sort of God of War", like the Crash of the Titans demo; I mean this is, verbatim, God of War. Nearly identical controls, nearly identical combat. Unfortunately, this ends up being something of a bad thing as the graphics in the game feel very budget and very washed out. Despite some fantastic facial animation in the cutscenes and some good voice acting, the game feels like a ripoff. Like it's trying to be God of War rather than be it's own game. And for that, it just feels... lifeless. Heavenly Sword, for all it's "God of War With Boobs", still felt like it's own game - it had it's own distinct personality... Conan... doesn't.
The Simpsons: The Game
I've been on the fence about this game for a while. On one hand it's EA, and it's the Simpsons, but on the other... it seems to be doing some interesting stuff. The demo doesn't really help matters, either; it's fun enough, sure, with great music, impressive cel shaded graphics (Some of the most impressive I've ever seen, infact), funny dialog... but it also doesn't feel quite there. Not all the dialog is funny, the facial expressions on the characters themselves as they speak in-game are kind of weak, and... I dunno. It's not bad, though, just a little vague - but it's fun enough where I'd consider giving the full game a rental; maybe even a purchase if it's cheap enough. A bit odd, though: Why collect "Videogame Cliches" at all? Aren't cliches a bad thing? On one end it's amusing, but on the other hand it's "Uh, cliches aren't good, so why are you pointing them out?" Meh.
F.E.A.R. Files: Extraction Point
Wow. I had high hopes for this, believe it or not, but what I ended up with was actually kind of embarassing. For those of you who don't know, the dev team behind the original F.E.A.R. split off from their parent company - when they did, they took the characters and universe behind F.E.A.R. with them - meaning they could make games about Alma and ghosts and stuff, they just couldn't call it F.E.A.R. (thus, Project Origin was born). The parent company, Vivendi or whoever, kept the rights to the F.E.A.R. name, and has been producing expansion packs under the title "F.E.A.R. Files", the first being Extraction Point. It really shows, if you ask me - Extraction Point is not only lame, you get the distinct feeling that whatever development team was behind it has no idea what they're doing. Despite being the same engine, the soldier A.I. doesn't feel as smart, the level design doesn't feel as tight, there's weird graphical problems... for example: normally when you walk, your view bobs a little bit and you can hear your footsteps, right? One part of the level has an elevator and the minute you step inside, the view bobbing stops and you can't hear your foot steps anymore - it's like you're gliding around on nothing. Another example is finding a railgun and swapping it for my grenade launcher - my grenade launcher then became embedded in the floor, fighting against the collision detection to free itself. In the next room, after killing some enemies, I noticed one of THEIR guns became embedded in a wall. Even worse? The demo has NO checkpoints, so if you die ONCE, no matter where you are, you're taken all the way back to the beginning of the demo. I lost like, 15 minutes once when this happened. Horrible, horrible, buggy piece of garbage.
Project Gotham Racing 4
I fell in love with Project Gotham Racing 3 when Microsoft sent me my free copy. It was just enough of a racing Sim to be interesting, but it was also simplistic enough to where it wasn't frustrating like Forza or Gran Turmismo could be. PGR4 continues that tradition. This is, amazingly, is a very meaty demo - not only do you get exclusive, demo-only content (a time trial at Nurburing in the snow plus some demo-exclusive cars), but you get to test run one of each race type in the various weather conditions the game offers. Even better, there are demo-exclusive leaderboards so that not only can you and your friends check and see just where you rank, but you can check and see how you stack up against the world. If you like racing games, this is a fantastic demo that shouldn't be missed. The controls are perfect, the challenges are varied, and the graphics are some of the best in the genre.
Also, having just gone up on Xbox Live Arcade, is Puzzle Quest and the freebie Toyota Yaris game - but I don't talk about XBLA games, sorry.
I wonder what other demos we're gonna be getting soon?
Thrillville: Off the Rails
I never played the first Thrillville, so this was kind of a new experience for me. This seems to be another "Let's port a PS2 game to the 360" type of deal; it distinctly looks like a PS2 game, but they've added lightbloom and a little bit of motion blur. That doesn't save the game from being ugly as sin, though. Everybody looks like they took a bath in crisco as their faces, hair, and even their clothes has a greasy, shiny look to it. It's pretty gross. The minigames on offer are less than thrilling and even though the demo lets you make your own rollercoaster, the fun of that wears off pretty quickly. Most of the rest of the features in the demo are locked out; such as having "meaningful" discussions with park patrons. This is probably one of the worst demos I've played in recent memory, but it's certainly not the worst demo this week.
Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal
I was not rooting for this game. Early screenshots, to me, painted it as the Shadow the Hedgehog of the Looney Tunes universe; seeing characters like Daffy Duck looking perpetually angry while wielding a shotgun is just sort of a bizarre scene. That seems to have been toned down a tad and it makes a bit more sense now; it's still more or less old-school Looney Tunes, it's just... very combat oriented. The demo itself was alright for what it was - sort of a beat'em'up like Streets of Rage - but it's quite obvious the full game is going to get very boring very quickly. The two characters you can play as in the demo - Bugs Bunny and Marvin the Martian - control practically identically. Expect lots of "tap the X button a lot to defeat 10 more robots before moving on to the next area with even more robots". Nice effort, but should anybody really be surprised when a Looney Tunes game sucks? Probably not.
Weighing in at a hefty 1.9gb, Bladestorm's demo is larger in filesize than a lot of retail games. What you get is sort of the next evolution of the Dynasty Warriors franchise; rather than "one dude versus armies", the game takes more of a Realtime Strategy approach to combat - you command squads of certain types of warriors to do battle for you. It's less about you as an individual and more about what commands you're giving your unit. You can still fight in the traditional "one-versus-everybody" gameplay but it takes a lot longer and is much more boring. Each squad you command is of a certain type of warrior; there's swordsmen, horsemen, dudes with spears, dudes with crossbows - etc. Each has specific strengths, weaknesses, and attacks, and utilizing them properly is the key to success. For what you get in the demo, though, I'm not sure why it's nearly 2gb. There is hardly 2gb of gameplay here. This is the best of the week, though and is worth checking out. I actually had a bit of fun once I got the hang of everything, though it's not the sort of game I'd ever see myself buying.
Bee Movie: The Game
Oh, Jerry Seinfeld, how you have fallen from grace. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we have another game based on a Dreamworks property. And what does that mean? Crap. The entire demo is one long QTE. If you have to ask what a QTE is, allow me to elaborate: the term was first coined in Shenmue to describe a sequence of gameplay - normally a cutscene - that would bring up a timed button press suddenly. Press the button sequence correctly and the cutscene continues and you win. QTEs were later adopted by the much more popular God of War, and then Resident Evil 4, and have since then spread like wildfire across the gaming industry; many, many games feature QTEs now. And sadly, the entire Bee Movie Demo is one, long, five-minutes-in-length QTE. And it's HORRIBLE. This is the worst demo I've probably ever played on Xbox Live in the entire span of owning the console. Download it at your own risk.
And that's that.
Sound the trumpets - I have written a new review. It's short, sure. You'll also have to forgive the funky spacing; Gamespot's review parser thingy doodler seems to be busted and has been busted for some time now. It really likes to eat line breaks for some reason and I have no idea how to fix it.
So yeah. The Halos. It's a good game. Ashuku brought it over here and we beat the whole game via split-screen co-op over the course of two days or so. There are a few very minor spoilers in the review, but it's been like a week and a half since it came out, and really, they're only spoilers if you're really anal about what constitutes a spoiler. OMG! MASTER CHIEF SHOOTS A PISTOL! SPOILER!111
So yeah. Go read it. And complain to Gamespot about their crappy User Review interface, while you're at it. Thanks.
Clive Barker. To tell you the truth, I've never really known what the guy did before. I knew he wrote Undying - a FPS tribute to H.P. Lovecraft type of horror. It wasn't until recently I heard he was the guy who wrote Hellraiser - a movie I've vowed never to see. I don't really like gore exploitation movies like Saw and Devil's Rejects and whatever and that's kind of what this game is. Some are saying Mr. Barker is going "back to his roots" for Jericho after Undying was fairly tame in the gore department.
The game puts you in the shoes of a squad of supernatural soldiers who... I don't know. The demo doesn't really set you up much in terms of where you are in the storyline or why you're fighting evil zombies ("Meatheads" as your squad lovingly calls them). You, essentially, play as a dead guy who can posess any member of the squad at any time - though you may be in the body of a chick, you're still the disembodied voice of Steven Blum. Each squad member has their own specific supernatural abilities and weapons - a katana and a SMG, a sniper rifle, a chain gun, etc. This is all well and good, and I guess you're supposed to switch between them to do specific actions - but generally I stuck with the person you start the demo with and only switched when the game forced me to.
The gameplay itself is pretty boring. For as menacing and wet as everything looks, it's not very difficult. Enemies can be picked off at a distance with the sniper rifle fairly easy and your squad members aren't exactly useless - even if you get swarmed with enemies they're good at picking them off all on their own. Really, it's a pretty standard first person shooter, in this regard - it's just instead of switching weapons, you switch bodies, and like most FPSes, there's generally one gun you pick and you stick to that for as long as possible. The supernatural abilities spruce things up a bit - such as creating a ring of fire that ignites any enemy who steps within the circle, or using what is essentially "Force Push" to knock enemies back. But it's not enough to really make the game interesting.
Nor scary. The game is more gross than scary, though even the demo isn't really even that gross (which tells you just how scary the demo is). The scariest part in the demo comes from the QTE in the second half. So you approach this sewer hole - as you do, a cutscene starts. Button presses begin flashing on the screen - they're so subtle, the first time they started I didn't even notice them until I had already failed. They come very quickly, too. The weird thing is - you can fail to press certain buttons and you'll be fine, but other sequences you CANNOT miss. If you do, it's instant failure. If that's the case, why allow me to miss certain presses at all? Why even display the ones I can miss? I'd rather you just show me the buttons I HAVE to press. Even then, the only scary part of all this was that I would miss a critical press while shimmying down this sewer drain and, in turn, my character would fall and die. There wasn't anything creepy or scary about the location or what I was doing - it was just the fact that I may mess up and have to do the entire sequence again for a fourth time.
The weirdest/worst part of all, though, is how loose the camera is. It loves to swing and move all on it's own for simple animations like reloading and doing melee attacks. It's rare I get motion sickness from a videogame - but having the camera function as if it was attached to a real head that moves all on it's own (rather than move the way I want it to) is very disorienting and it made me kind of dizzy; especially during melee attacks - if I'm punching something, my head isn't going to swing that much with the punches - I'm going to keep my eyes fixed on the thing I'm trying to hit. Instead, the game tries to make the head track the fist as it swings; it's very strange.
Above all, it's short. For 800mb you get about 10 minutes of gameplay, tops. Sure, it gives you a basic sampling of all the features the game has to offer, but come on. The game's due out in a little over a month and all you can give us is a woefully small snippet of level? Not even a boss fight or anything? It was acceptable when Blacksite: Area 51 had such a short demo; the game was still a really long way from a release date. Jericho, however, has no excuse.
Overall? I'm not impressed. As I mentioned already, I'm not a terribly big fan of gore and when an overload of gore such as this is attached to a game with lackluster gameplay, it just makes the overall product look even worse. It's not very scary, not very hard, and not very fun - even if you love all the blood and the gore (there's something wrong with you), this just isn't fun. It's just... generic and boring trying to pass itself off as innovative and interesting.