In a few days, I will be departing for Arizona, leaving Los Angeles, my home of 18 years. I've always felt confined to my little box, and comfort zone, and I needed a new change in environment. This epiphany isnt just about changing where I live, it's also for business and economic reasons my family's future may very well depend on. Besides taking on a new career out there in Arizona, I plan on scouting the area, in terms of opening up a new business and possibly settling down one day. I'm just not "digging" Los Angeles anymore. Los Angeles' vibe is overrated. I don't mean to generalize or be bias, I'm not too fond of the people here in Los Angeles. People here aren't as friendly as they use to be. Most are too egotiscal, selfish, and self absorbed, fake, backstabbers, need I say more? "Hollywood." They're really not nice. Good friends are hard to come by in LA. And I just figured this out now? :P Well, it's not too late to make a change. My flight leaves on Wednesday, December 3rd.
What a great year to be a gamer. 2008 may have started out slow, but things really took off after the much anticipated releases of Grand Theft Auto IV and Metal Gear Solid 4. If that wasn't enough high quality gaming for you, the games of the Holidays were just around the corner. Honorable mentions include, Fallout 3, Far Cry 2, Left 4 Dead, Dead Space, Call of Duty World at War, Warhammer Online, Crysis Warhead, Gears of War 2, Fable 2, Mirror's Edge, The Witcher Enhanced Edition, WOTLK, Spore, and many others.
My favorite picks:
Lost Odyssey: LO, in my eyes, kicked off the year for me. Fantastic JRPG, which seems to be lacking this year.. *cough Square-Enix cough* I loved the storyline, characters, old school turned based gameplay. It brought back a lot of Final Fantasy memories.. So I was thinking, since the original people who worked on the FF series left, do you think it took away the magic that Square once had? It seems without Hironobu Sakaguchi, Square-Enix has been dropping the ball on all their JRPGs.. or are people just sick of JRPGS nowadays? I remember at the beginning of the year, people were complaining about the the lack of JRPGS.. but now that we have tons at our disposal, people just stopped caring? Or JRPGs just get no love? Or maybe those JRPGs by SE just plain suck? Either way, bring on FF13 already.. Quit wasting time making other games and work on FF13..!
GTA IV: Being the first GTA game I ever played, I welcomed this mighty giant with very little expectations. The graphics were well done for a sandbox game, well-written dialogue, and engaging characters and storyline. Overall, GTA IV left me with a somewhat satisfying experience, due only to the mere fact that it lacked "things" to do after you completed the story mode. Surely, some will find jumping off a highway bridge on a motorcycle extremely amusing, but eventually, it gets old.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Probably the most anticipated release of the year, Hideo Kojima had fans dying in anticipation of this iconic franchise game. Having played previous MGS games in the series, I knew it was going to be a great game, but boy was I blown away by it's sheer variety and quality. Needless to say, graphics were top-notch, even going as far as defying the console's technology, and raising the bar for other PS3 games. As you would expect, the story was MGS at its best, along with a brilliant cast. What stuck out most to me were the controls, which seemed a lot more smoother and fluid. Camera angles were much improved, making controling Snake simple and easy. After everything's been said and done, I strongly feel MGS4 should win GOTY.
Gears of War 2: Cliffy B. promised a bigger, better, and more badass game, and boy did he deliver. I was blown away by the scope of the game. There were so much variety in the level design and interactivity. Basically, I went into every level, not expecting any of the stuff that Epic Games threw at me. I never imagined or pictured Gears of War 2 to be like this. GOW2 had you taking down Brumaks to riding them, choppin' down blood vessels of a sea monster, as well as invading the Queen's horde palace. There were so many things going on in the game, that there was always something new around the corner. And hints and clues that were left in GOW1 about Dom's Story surfaces in GOW2, and brings about closure for the story driven fans. Granted, I wish they revealed a little more backstory to the new characters Dizzy and Tai, Gears of War 2 improved on everything that was Gears of War. Controls were better, cover system was fluid, they introduced new sounds to the weapons, not to mention, better graphics, and everyone's favorite - Horde Mode. Now, Horde Mode was a surprise to me, having been disappointed that there wasn't 4-player co-op in the campaign mode. After hearing Epic Games totally dropped that idea, my Gears of War 2 fantasy went "poof." Pleasantly, horde mode is a blast. Its satisfying 4 player co-op gameplay, tackling the locust made online play fun, and it gave GOW2 a ton of replayability. I would have handed over my GOTY nod to Gears of War 2 had they implemented a 4-player co-op story mode. The rushed cliff-hanger ending came to a surprise. It left me saying "well, that was quick.." Well, Gears of War 3, will happen and they better put 4-player co-op in the campaign mode!
Dead Space (PC): Of all big hit titles, I found myself surprisingly hyped for Dead Space. Something about the atmosphere and the story really intrigued me. And the animated comics on gametrailers.com really brought about more hype. I really enjoyed those, btw. And then the animated movie! I was in Dead Space land, or ship rather. As much as I hate to compare games, (mind you blank vs blank thread creators out there :P ) Dead Space was like a cross between Resident Evil 4 and BioShock. If you don't believe me, play the game! In it's own right, it does many things different. It brings about cool weapons that were built to dissect and decapitate alien beasts. Well, actually, they were used by the miners or whatever as tools, but our protagonist, whipped it out and used it on those alien scum! Smart guy. Like BioShock, the atmosphere stood out the most, the cool weapons, and the story. The atmosphere along with the story, kept you engaged in the game, wondering what the hell would happen next. Along the way you're slicin' up aliens and stompin' em. And this is where the controls kinda bothered me. See, the guys over at EA made this game without a screen filled with UI. They turned it into some floating UI, which is great, to make the game more immersive. But the problem is, there were no hotkeys (that I knew of) for first aid kits, so as you can imagine, you're running away from aliens while pulling up the "floating" menu to use your aid kit. Kinda sucks to be you, doesn't it!? I own the PC port, so we kinda got shafted. The mouse is floaty, the graphics were better than the console version, but it didn't really utilize the power of the PC hardware. Other than that, it's a pretty great game. I wouldn't say a 9.0, but well between, 8.5-9.0. More like 8.7.
Left 4 Dead (PC): What can I say? This game is all about fun and kickin' zombie a$$. I was hooked since Valve released the PC demo. I played it non-stop, and put about 20-30 hours on the demo alone. Graphics are sweet. It's suppose to be a modified source engine and it shows. On max settings, 1920x1200, L4D looks phenomenal on the PC. More importantly, it's 4-player co-op, zombie killin' fun. My only quam with L4D is the lack of content. The game shipped with only 4 movies, which contains 5 chapters or acts in each. Punch in the calculator, you have 20 chapters/acts. Not bad right? Well, L4D makes it so that playing alone isn't fun at all. Meaning, if you play alone with AI bots, it's boring. At least for me. And it's probably impossible to beat it on expert with AI bots. So you have to turn to online, which makes the experience so much more fun, granted, you get good players. There's almost no reason to play on Normal difficulty unless you're trying the game out for your first time. Most will jump right onto to advanced, and then quickly to expert later on. So far, I've completed the 4 movies on both advanced and expert, and I don't have much reason to play again, maybe just for a few achievements. I would have liked for a harder difficulty than expert. Perhaps, "Extreme Zombie" mode or something. Expert can be pretty tough, but after awhile, it starts to feel like advanced, if you know what I mean. Hopefully with Modders creating new levels, and making awesome mods, L4D will start to pick up again. At least for me. But it's really too bad this game only came with 4 movies, when it should have shipped with AT LEAST 5. And that's what probably set back L4D in terms of getting gamers who are on the fence about buying the game. Valve promised future DLC, and more for the PC version owners. So we'll see. Versus mode is quite fun, only when you play as the HORDE. Playing as the survivors is boring. And I have no clue why they made it so that you can chat to the opposing side, during the game! As a result, you have a lot of trash talking.. and it's kinda irritating, to say the least. Personally, I would have loved for L4D to have a story and dialogue, and maybe even some bosses. AI director is brilliant though. Each playthrough is different so things aren't predictable. To sum up L4D, FUN, but lasting appeal is surprisingly average due to the lack of content.
Call of Duty World at War (PC): Infinity Ward vs Treyarch. COD4 vs WAW. The ongoing debate. Well, for those on the fence about WAW, let me help you out. Call of Duty 4, a super successful modern warfare shooter that sold like hotcakes, will forever be in most gamer's minds. They can't get enough of the online play, and sadly enough, it even ended in some tragic events (boy who ran away from home, addicted to COD4). Nonetheless, COD4 was a refreshing new look to the military shooter genre. I, too, was sick and tired of all the WWII shooters out there. So COD4 came along, despite having a short campaign, made my day. Fantastic modern military shooter. Great single player mode, great online. And then came along World at War, by Treyarch. "Faces cringe." Well, you're wrong. WAW is a great game. Sure, it's not modern warfare, it's WWII, but a refreshing WWII shooter. Besides, MGS4 and GOW2, WAW is easily in my top 5 favorite games of 2008. WAW is action-packed from start to finish. Engaging storyline, character dialogue, and you're with a squad or NPC at all times. Personally, I enjoyed the Russian campaign a lot more than the American one. The Russian characters had more personality and the story and dialogue were so much better and well-written. WAW is very immersive, almost like a movie, and it's very interactive, while keeping you engaged and never bored. The WWII weapons aren't as fun to use as the modern warfare ones, but they're still fun to use. Flamethrower wasn't as fun as I imagined, and they're only good for burning out those bunkers. I wasn't a fan of the tank vehicle mission, but it's just a small bump in the road to an amazing game. If you have a nice PC rig, I would recommend getting it on the PC. On max settings, this game is BEAUTIFUL. And I wouldn't play it any other way. WAW is not one of those PC games dumbed down by the console version counterparts. It looks absolutely stunning. You can even see the reflection of the water off the bottom of your boots.
Crysis Warhead: Great game, like Crysis, with better missions, and more personality. Graphics aren't as great as Crysis, but close. Psycho makes for a great main character. Less jungle, more variety in levels.. is great. Dual-Wielding guns in Crysis isn't as great as imagined it would be. Vehicle levels are better than Crysis'.
Warhammer Online: Although fun at first, like other MMORPGs, it gets old, eventually. There are tons of c.l.a.s.s.e.s to choose from, Goblins are funny, and pvp is fun for a while. PVE content consists of quests and PQs, so don't expect to be able to fish in this game.. or do other PVE worldy things. There are professions but there isn't any incentive to work on them.. And earning Gold is easy, but you don't have many things to spend them on. WAR is for the pvp gamer. If you're looking for PVE, seriously, don't get it and stick to WOW or something else. Graphics are pretty when set on max settings. WOW has more of an artsy graphics quality, and WAR is more like other games you see around. So I can't really say WAR looks better. WOW has a different art-sy look and it's better optimized. WARhammer still has it's bugs and performance is still average. Sometimes RVR skirmishes are like a slideshow even on the beefiest rigs. Warhammer, is a nice change of pace if you're sick of WOW, or if you're looking to only PVP. Personally, I think WOW is better because of the PVE content, but don't forget that WOW has good PVP too.. although the rewards system isn't as great as WAR's. Getting to 40 is quite a task, but probably not as bad of a grind as getting from 1-60 on WOW. One of the things I noticed was that WAR isn't as social as WOW. You can solo the whole game in WAR and never talk to one human soul. As opposed to WOW, you're bound to make friends even if you don't go around looking for one. Guilds in WAR, are more like chatrooms. You talk and talk, but you never really do anything with each other, except for lvl 40 players. WOW was more interative and it encouraged team player.. to socialize, and build internet relationships. That's what I missed about WOW that wasn't in WAR, aside from the PVE aspect of it all. Like I said, WAR is for you if you're looking for a PVP focused MMO, or if you're sick of WOW. :P Let's just say, I was hooked on WOW for a little over a year.. and I'm already getting bored of WAR in two months. There just isn't much to do while lvling from 1-40, and you find yourself just pvping.. PQ stages cant all be solo'ed but you'll find most PQ areas dead because of low population. Not all PQs are fun and engaging. They should make most of the final stages in PQs have big bosses. Armors look all the same.. so you're bound to run into another player that will have your armor and weapons.. hardly making your MMO experience unique. But one good thing is that, there is no elitest attitude. I may take a break from WAR, and come back when they make things more interesting and fun. But for now, I might just quit or play casually. Even though I already play casually. :P I might even go back to WOW.. even though that might be dreadful mistake. :P I'm not always playing single player games so MMORPGs are nice for downtime gaming.
Games that I will buy: Prince of Persia (PC), Far Cry 2 (PC), Fable 2 (PC), Mirror's Edge (PC, Jan 09). There are rumors that Fable 2 (PC) has been confirmed. There are websites that say Fable 2 PC is already in development. One can only hope! This only means, Gears of War 2 will eventually see the light of day on the PC. Never say never.
What I'm looking forward to in 2009: Killzone 2, Resident Evil 5, Diablo 3, God of War 3, Halo ODST, to name a few.
I know it has been a LONG time since my last blog post (not that you guys care anyways). There are just a lot of things going on! And to post blogs, the mood has to be right, I say. Anyways, thanks for reading! I'll report back after I get situated in Arizona. People, buy Prince of Persia! :P