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Darth_Homer Blog

Oh Wow. Time To Touch Base.

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It started with a flurry of e-mails:

"mystic_knight has added you as a friend on Raptr"
"matsnibbs has added you as a friend on Raptr"

Naturally curious, I decided to see what the hubbub was about, and somehow, I got linked back to Gamespot. Seeing as I haven't done anything here for at least half a year, I decided to check out the forums...and it was the same old thing. But it wasn't until I had stumbled back onto my profile page, and seen my most recent blog post on here. It wasn't that I wasn't happy with what I had posted on here, but the fact that I left the series incomplete, when I had actually finished it.

So I guess to sorta satisfy my OCD, I thought I'd post this so that if anyone's curious, they'll be able to know what I've been up to. And it's better than having a post from an incomplete series as my last seen thing.

Basically, I've been trying to find a full time job. I finished with university, just got my degree (no really - I got it on the 29th of April), so I've been spending the last few months trying to look for a job. Fun times, I assure you.

A lot of my time has been spent with Level 3 - and a LOT has happened in the last six months. With the help of a mate of mine, we've remade the podcast and changed it into a format that I'm very comfortable with, and ensures regularity in both episode release and audio quality. And the podcasts are really fun to record to, which is the most important thing. I've also taken on a larger role on camera - providing more review and feature content. And then there's the fact that we're now broadcasting in Sydney via TVS (10:30 Thursday nights!), and the upcoming switch to digital broadcasting should make it a lot easier for everyone to watch the show.

So I guess I should come around to Gamespot. Why did I stop posting? Well, a number of reasons. First off, all of the above should fill in a lot of the blanks. Secondly, I was just frustrated with the site - all the technical problems and the overly enforced moderation didn't help in this regard...though maybe it's eased up a bit more, I've no idea. Thirdly, I'd discovered other communities, and the somewhat repetitious nature of the Gamespot communities was getting kinda boring.

Hopefully, I should be around here a bit more. I won't fully commit (because again, I have other stuff), but I'll stop by every now and again. If anything, I want to get to 10,000 posts before I can never post on the forum again - because that's just too damned perfect of a number.

So yeah. That should get you all back up to speed. For everything else DarthHomer, you can check out the following:

My Twitter

Level 3 (wherein you can watch episodes and listen to podcasts

Aussie Nintendo (where I also contribute)

My other blog, starting to build it up a bit more.

12 Games For Christmas 09: Game #5

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5. Killzone 2 (PS3)

Going back to the first time the PS3 was announced way back in 2005, one of the first things that Sony showed off was some footage for Killzone 2, a sequel to a game that while had some cool things about it, no-one really dug. But going back to the footage; despite it later being revealed to be pre-rendered footage, it was quite possibly the most stunning CG work that people had seen for a console, and while it didn't quite match it when it was released four years later, it's still damned impressive stuff. And easily among the best looking games on any console.

What makes Killzone 2 great is just how different it feels to most first person shooters currently available on consoles. This isn't the rabbit fast pacing of something like Call of Duty, but more of a deliberate, realistic pacing. It's slow, but definitely rewarding – as the game feels just fantastic. Everything has a good weight and feel to it, which is refreshing. And it feels very satisfying to shoot someone, which is all you can ask for a good shooter.

The other big different comes in the form of a cover system. It sounds like such a simple and pointless addition, but here, it totally works. And makes dying a lot less painful, especially when you know you can take cover successfully. It can totally change the way skirmishes play out. In fact, it's such an awesome addition that you do really wish for other games like it to have it, like Modern Warfare 2; or wish that other games that at least used it would do it right, like Rogue Warrior.

Furthermore, the game is just a blast to play online. Why? Well, aside from taking the same base game and allowing the customization elements you'd have in something like a Call of Duty game, there are plenty of modifications to ensure that it's a different, yet still fun experience. This includes major things like being able to run for infinite lengths, or smaller things like using your own music as the games soundtrack. They add up to make one of the more fun experiences on the Playstation Network.

If anything though, the only real thing that Killzone 2 doesn't do well is originality. Sure, there are some cool new features and what not, but there's very little originality, and does feel like yet another space marine shooter. But the games truly biggest success is just how much of an improvement it really is over its PS2 predecessor. And really, if you're looking for a great FPS experience that you can only really get on the PS3, Killzone 2 is right up your alley.

12 Games For Christmas 09: Game #4

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4. The Beatles: Rock Band (PS3/360/Wii)

Thanks to Activision, 2009 saw an absolute glut of Hero games, ranging from the excellent (Guitar Hero Metallica, Guitar Hero 5), some decent (DJ Hero, Guitar Hero Greatest Hits and the Guitar Hero On Tour games) to the absolutely pointless and execrable (Guitar Hero Van Halen and Band Hero). And despite this, only one Rock Band game was released this year, and proved to be easily one of the better games of the year. Also kinda helps that the game is focused around quite possibly the greatest band of all time.At a base level, it's still very much Rock Band 2, just reskinned and focused around the Beatles. Totally understandable, but where the real fun lies in just how much of a Beatles experience that Harmonix have crafted into the game.

The tour mode is the perfect representation of this, with all of the stages taking place over the different stages of the Beatles career, and all the unlockables are of note, from a lot of rare photographs to some curious little videos and what not.But where the game really shines is in the dreamscape levels. Because the Beatles were a studio band for most of the latter part of the 60's, the game attempts to recreate what the band were seeing when they were writing songs like "Yellow Submarine" or "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds". And for the most part, it does look quite nice.This is despite the latter levels not looking as spectacular as the earlier ones.

Though really, the one point that may disappoint a lot of people is the track list. Sure, it has representation from every Beatles album, but some key songs (like All You Need is Love, Strawberry Fields Forever, A Day in the Life, Help!) are missing, leaving you to purchase these when they are released as downloadable content; and at the moment – you can only purchase A Day in the Life and All You Need is Love.

Overall, the Beatles Rock Band is possibly the best rhythm game of the year. Sure, it doesn't do anything spectacularly new and what not, but it doesn't really need to. Plus, it's a fantastic way to get into the music of one of the greatest bands ever.

12 Games For Christmas 09: Game #3

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Game #3 - Red Faction Guerrilla (PS3/360/PC)

June 2009 might as well be known as the month where Sandbox games reigned supreme. Why? Because three somewhat remarkably sandbox games were released onto the market. You've got Sony's infamous, which was a good, though flawed attempt. You then have Activision's Prototype, which wasn't very good at all. And then you come to THQ's Red Faction Guerilla, which is probably the more interesting of the trio, for several reasons. For starters, there's no need for superpowers – though the sledgehammer you get for the duration of the game is pretty damned super.

The first part is that it's an interesting reboot of the Red Faction series. While the first two were somewhat decent first person shooters that never really did take too much advantage of the Geo-Mod feature that made it a big deal back in the day, here the Geo-Mod engine actually works to the games advantage. Destroying buildings and objects has an extremely large part to do in the game, and it never gets old. Never. And it's not the stock standard video game destruction here – tearing down buildings in specific places does affect how the building will fall over, so if you hit the supports just right, you'll have a much easier time taking the building than just randomly attempting to destroy the building. Or you could just drive a car into the building and use that to destroy it.

The second part is just the way the game feels. As an open world game, it compares very similarly to developer Volition's own Saints Row series, but improved in some regards. For starters, the 'respect' system where you needed to consistently fill up a respect bar (by doing activities) in order to attempt any missions? Not present. As long as there are missions available to you, you need nothing more to actually do them, with the last missions appearing as you drain control away from the evil EDF. You can do the activities still, and some of them you can do repeatedly to earn more salvage (the games currency) and get closer to achieving some trophies or achievements.

That being said, there are some elements of the game that don't quite work well in its favor. The first comes in the mission triggers – there's an alert system in the game where green means you're alright, yellow means that the EDF are onto you, and red meaning that the EDF are going to kill you. All well and good, but if you're driving out to go do missions, you need to have a green alert to do them. It's a pain, especially when it's tricky to shake off the EDF at times. Furthermore, the difficulty becomes absolutely punishing at times, which really does hurt the game some.

Overall, Red Faction Guerilla is a fantastic return to form for the Red Faction series (RF2 wasn't quite good), with the reboot working to create one of the most fun experiences you'll have in a video game. Sure, it's quite derivivative of Saints Row 2, but then again, is that really a bad thing? And also, it does get quite difficult at times, but that's put aside when you watch as you take down a massive building with nothing more than a sledgehammer and remote charges. Quite something.

12 Games For Christmas 09: Game #2

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2. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (DS/PSP/iPhone)

I'll be quite frank with you. I really didn't like Grand Theft Auto IV. Sure, there were some impressive things about it (such as the voice acting and the way that the game felt), but for me anyway, that was more outweighed by the bad (mission design wasn't up to scratch, soundtrack was very hit and miss, visuals were boring, police spawning was erratic and almost unfair, and the story wasn't too particularly great). In fact, the best GTA in recent years is a PSP and DS (and soon to be iPhone) game – Chinatown Wars. And it's amazing that it didn't sell – given that GTA is such a mainstream game, and that the DS is so absurdly popular. In the US in it's first month, the game sold less than 100K. Depressing.

The first thing that strikes you about Chinatown Wars is that it takes you back to a pre-GTA III era of gaming, but mixed in with some of the elements from later GTA games (such as the ability to use taxi-cabs and stuff like that). The second thing that strikes you is that it WORKS. Unlike the previous attempt at a GTA game on a Nintendo handheld, everything here just seems to work a lot better – from the multiplayer, to car control and just control in general. Hell, even the touchscreen specific stuff (for the DS version), actually works really well, even if some of it can be a little cumbersome.

Probably the most compelling thing about the game would have to be the drug trading mini-game. Put simply, it plays similar to the Drug Wars game that people have known and loved for many years, you buy low and sell high, control supply and demand, and just proves to be really quite fun. And hey, having it not edited for the Australian release was quite something. Plus, it's easily the best way to get cash in the game, because you really don't get paid enough for actually completing missions.

That being said, the game isn't quite right. For starters, ticking off the cops is way too easy in this game than in previous GTA games, if only because there are cops EVERYWHERE, and touching them is really simple. The music is also an issue...It's just not great stuff. While it is all licensed music, good luck knowing any of it. Furthermore, the combat's a little iffy, but then again, it's always been an issue with GTA. Oh, and there are still some niggles that make the combat still not quite right, but better than in past GTA's.

Otherwise, it's a fantastic experience and one that needs to be sampled on any platform. It's a really enjoyable, if not flawed, GTA game.

12 Games For Christmas 09 - Game #1

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Here we go, my annual "Game of the Year" posts. Always look forward to doing these, as it allows me to look back on the year that was and analyze what games were truly exemplary in a year full of fantastic purchases for just about anyone. Should also mention that everything here is stuff that I've played, so I can't wax lyrical on anything that I haven't sampled (i.e Borderlands, for instance).

And here we go...

1. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3)

The Playstation 3 has been a joke of a console since before it even launched. I'm sure I don't need to bring up the $599, Ridge Racer and Giant Enemy Crab memes to remind anyone of that. And hell, for close to a year, there was very little reason for anyone to actually own one. But ever since then - the system's slowly been getting better and better, and the line up of exclusive software has been arguably the best of the generation so far. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is a further example of that, and may very well be easily the best game released all year.

Uncharted 2 does many, many things right. It has some of the best characterization you'll see in any game, and while the story and characters can fall into stereotypes and cliches, that's the point - it's meant to be reminiscent of those pulp serials that helped inspire the Indiana Jones series of films, and really, is that a bad thing? When the game shifts to a cutscene, you're interested and excited to see what's going to happen next, and not only because the story, but also because of the visuals - Uncharted 2 is easily one of the best looking games you'll see on any console. It's no wonder why Sony went with the cringe inducing "it looks like a movie" ad campaign.

The gameplay has also seen some improvement. The difficulty now works better so that if you're playing on harder difficulties, it's still relatively manageable throughout the whole game, compared to the original, where it proved to be more of a pain than anything else. The gun combat has also been improved so that enemies don't take a ludicrous amount of damage to kill, but still doesn't feel right, compared to similar games like Gears of War 2, which has that whole cover based shooter thing down pat.

One are also worth commenting on is the improved stealth gameplay and multiplayer. Despite being initially thought as being terrible additions, they prove to be some of the best handled aspects of the game - the stealth isn't a required opiton to play the game, but it becomes incredibly useful later. The multiplayer is also one of the most fun games you'll experience on the Playstation Network, thanks to the fact that everything you can do in the single player you can do in the multiplayer, so jumping and climbing plays just as much of a role as taking cover or precisely shooting. It breaks the trend of fantastic single player games having unnecessary and often pointless multiplayer.

All in all, Uncharted 2 is easily one of the best games of the year, providing an excellent single player with a well thoughtout and fun multiplayer component. Looks absolutely stunning and matches that aurally to boot. And the best part? There's very little to actually complain about. Good news to everyone who doesn't own a PS3 - you now have your reason to pick one up.

To Explain An Absence...

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So yeah. I haven't done this blogging thing for a while. Or done much around the Gamespot community. You may be wondering, what gives Darth? Well, there's been a few reasons why, so you'll have to understand.

Firstly, I've been very busy with the Level 3 stuff. Aside from all the behind the scenes stuff that I've been doing, I've also taken on a much more proactive role within the group as a reviewer and an interviewer. As you'd expect, it's time consuming stuff ensuring that I can come up with a decent review or plan out stuff to do for an interview. That, and I ran a booth and did stuff on the main stage of eGames for Level 3, so there's also that.

Secondly is university. I just graduated from a three year degree not too long ago, and thanks to that, I'm now in the middle of job hunting. Lemme tell you, it's not fun stuff. Not in the slightest.

Thirdly, and I feel most importantly, is that the community just hasn't been all that terribly fascinating for me lately. I mean, I'm sure I don't have to bring up that several of the more prominent members of the Gamespot AU community left due to some pointless and utterly stupid (like it always is) e-drama, which I'm not going to waste any more time bringing up. That, and some other people left due to stuff like Gamespots draconian TOS. One of which I'm literally talking to as I write this.

I'll still stand by that. I mean no disrespect to anyone who actually enforces it, because knowing (and podcasting!) with a few of them, they're generally good dudes. Just the TOS is so ridiculously draconian and overly strict that I'm honestly shocked it hasn't driven more people away! But that's irrelevant.

I came back here after a year long absence once because I'd just discovered the AU community, and fell back in love with the place. It was a great time, and the community was fresh, exciting and interesting - the absolute perfect kind of community. That was in 2007. Now? Topics are constantly being recycled, most of the people I've found interesting have left and gone elsewhere, and the problems with the site that have been there for the past few years? Still not fixed.

Honestly, I've half thought of just leaving entirely, because I'm rapidly become more and more disinterested in the community and have found more places to call 'home'. Places like The VG Press and Australian Gamer have been filling that void for me that this place used to. I mean, if you guys can give me a reason to stick around, I'm all ears. I really am.

But aside from that, I've been well and what not. I've just found less and less use for this place.

2009: Have Licensed Games Become Cool?

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Let's face it, unless you're one of the many people whom enjoy picking up a sports game ever year with the little things added, or the holders of an IP or a publisher, most people do not look forward to licensed games. Not often because of the license itself, but generally because the game is poor. It's been the same year in and year out for the longest period of time now.


But it looks that as we close out 2009, that publishers and developers are starting to 'get' the fact that just because you have a cool and/or interesting license doesn't mean you can't release a product that doesn't reflect this cool and/or interesting license. Sure, we had a few of those in the form of Star Trek D-A-C, parts 1&2 of Watchmen: The End is Nigh, Terminator Salvation and the recently released GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, but for everything else? Well, it's generally been pretty good.


The first one that immediately springs to mind is Activision's X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The movie was one of the worst and most disappointing movies of the year. And yet, the game has been even more favourably rated. The Uncaged Edition (i.e. the super, over the top bloody one that was released on the PC, Xbox 360 and PS3) rates around the low to high 70% mark on Metacritic, and around 75-80% on Game Rankings, proving to be one of the more surprisingly good licensed games to be released this year. In fact, the one thing that the game did right better than the movie was that made you feel like you were Wolverine, which is something that really cannot be done with the movie. Oh, and made it bloodier - something that Wolverine fans would've loved.


THQ's UFC 2009: Undisputed is another example of this. Very few people were looking forward to the game before it came out (I was one of them), and then when the demo was released onto the Xbox Live Marketplace and Playstation Network, it blew a lot of people away - even more so since it was a completely different sport to what developer Yuke's (developers of the WWE Smackdown series, also from THQ) were used to. It scored even better than Wolverine, with an average score of 83 and 84% on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 from Metacritic, and an average of 83% from Game Rankings.


Hell, even rhythm games have had their fare share of great licensed games. Take Activision's Guitar Hero Metallica for instance, two IP's that are almost synomous with selling out. Average scores? 84-86% on Metacritic and 85-87% on Game Rankings, with many reviewers praising (and rightly so) at just how well Neversoft created an experience ripe for Metallica fans. And while it hasn't been released yet (as of the time of writing), MTV/Harmonix's The Beatles: Rock Band looks set to follow in this trend of an excellent band focused rhythm game.


Though the one biggest recent example would have to be Eidos' Batman - Arkham Aslyum. Eidos are not exactly the most popular publisher with the general gaming populace (one only has to look at the Gerstmann-Gate saga or the reports of managing the scores given by reviewers), and the developer behind it, Rocksteady Studios, had only one other game under their belt - the somewhat underrated (going by reponses to people who've played it) Urban Chaos - Riot Response. And the other factor going into this? There hasn't been an excellent Batman game in years, with people citing Sunsoft's late 80's NES adaptation of the '89 Batman movie or Konami's 1992 and 1994 adaptations of Batman Returns and the Adventures of Batman and Robin as the only really great Batman games. Everything else? Medicore at best, unbelievably awful or cancelled (as was the fate of the planned game based around the Dark Knight movie) at worst.


The response was almost impossible to believe.


Metacritic averages the critical responses at around 91-92%, with Game Rankings averaging it at around 91%. It's nuts. So nuts that the Guinness Book of Records actually NOMINATED the game for a World Record - the Most Critically Acclaimed Super Hero Game Ever. I couldn't be making this up if I tried. Though generally, it does seem quite deserving, as from all accounts - the game is quite excellent. Not perfect, but still one of the better games to be released this year.
This trend could extend somewhat to whatever few major licensed games are left coming out this year. EA's NHL 10, given the last two iterations, should still hold up as being a fantastic game. Another EA product, FIFA 10, also looks to continue the series recent trend of being excellent. I'm also having high hopes for THQ's WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2010. Not only because it's THQ's last year as the publisher of WWE games, but because based on previews so far, it definitely seems like one hell of a game to go out on.

2009 has been one of the more interesting years for video gaming. We're talking about a year where some of the biggest and most interesting games scheduled to come out around this time have been pushed back to avoid conflict with Microsoft's Halo 3: ODST and Activision's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, two games that although will sell ungodly amounts. Though the one trend that I pray carries over into 2010 is this trend of great licensed games. It can be done, which is the one think that everyone has learnt from this year.

EDIT: Had to remove a few of the links because of some ridiculous errors. Even when they're from the same parent company...

Justice Is Blonde (Warning, slightly NSFW)

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Not too long ago, I wrote up about a 3DO 'game' known as Plumbers Don't Wear Ties. It was bloody horrible, but yet, fascinating to me. I hadn't seen anything this bad before, especially from the 'adult' subgenre that could only really be found on the 3DO. Following this, I tried to search for some more information to do a write up for another game..but that proved fruitless. That, and I was incredibly busy at the time (due to Uni and other committments).

And then the Game Heroes put up video on Blonde Justice.

Now, given there are a lot of images, and the content I talk about is NSFW (well, slightly anyway), I've chucked it up on my other site, which you can check out here. Would love your thoughts guys.

Hopefully should get back to regular writing on here soon.

Talk About Stacking Your Votes...

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Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of the Mega Drive's launch into Western territories...well, in America anyway. To celebrate, Sega have come up with a unique idea. They want to put another one of their classic games on the Xbox Live Arcade, and they're getting gamers to choose. You're probably wondering why no PSN release...well, it's probably for the better anyway. I mean, the last time Backbone (who'll end up doing the port, more than likely) did a PSN version, they knew their online mode sucked, but because it didn't sell well enough (according to them anyway), they won't fix it. Oh, and Backbone have a reputation for actually removing key features and doing relatively lame emulation work anyway...or it'll end up on a new multi-platform collection...but that's neither here nor there.

If you're interested in voting (you've got a week), the games are the following:

Earthworm Jim

Streets of Rage

Toe Jam & Earl

Wonderboy

Golden Axe II

Shining Force

Revenge of Shinobi

Not too bad of a list actually. All of these would make great ports (well...maybe not Golden Axe II or the original Streets of Rage), but you have to wonder, why are Sega even putting up the poll?

I mean, one of the choices is EARTHWORM FREAKING JIM.

At the moment (well, 12:55pm on August 15, 2009), Earthworm Jim has 46% of the vote. The second place game, Toe Jam & Earl, has 19% of the vote.

My god. You really have to wonder if there's even a point to the poll, seeing as EWJ has clearly won it...at this point anyway. It should be interesting to check back throughout the week and see whether or not EWJ will maintain its dominance.

If you want to keep up with it, you can check the site here

Laters.