IceJester45 / Member

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IceJester45 Blog

And it swings again.

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Just finished watching the Sony E3 presentation. It was mainly boring stuff until the end, when they announced the PlayStation 4's price and used game policy (or lack thereof). Unless Sony throws some crazy until-now unannounced used-game plan out there ("Hey, we're leaving DRMs up to the publishers!"), I'm saving the dough and going PS4 next gen.

More specifically, I'm going PC and PS4. My PC will, as it was this gen, be my primary gaming console. My PS4 will be my all-in-one cable box and fighting game-playing device. To be honest, I like Microsoft's game lineup a little better. I want "Forza Motorsport 5," "Halo 5," and "Crimson Dragon." I'm also interested in "Killer Instinct" and the new Respawn and Insomniac games. But, I don't like being forced to buy Kinect, which MS might not even support in a few years.

I don't like paying an extra $100. And I don't like Microsoft's draconian used game policy, though I don't think it will affect me all that much because I don't usually buy used games.

So, at the end of the day, it's Sony and a new videocard and more RAM for me.

The pendulum swings.

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Just looked at what Microsoft had to offer during its E3 presentation. I'm a little more interested in the Xbox One now -- not enough to actually buy one, though.

Forza and Halo games always have my attention. So, I'm looking forward to those. However, they usually aren't enough to get me to shell for a console.

Some of the titles I've seen in less-popular genres, however, are. I must say that I am genuinely excited for "Crimson Dragon." the new on-rails shooter from the creator of Panzer Dragoon. If anybody knows on-rails shooters, it's that dude. And, I was willing to buy the original Kinect for that game (it was initially announced in 2010 as a Kinect title), so it stands to reason that it would go a long way toward convincing me to buy a new console.

Also, "Killer Instinct" has my attention. This game could very well disappoint me, though. Microsoft has pulled a Sony on this one and has outsourced a well-loved franchise to some dude, the janitor and the lunch lady. Double Helix doesn't have a good track record as a game developer, and there is an excellent chance they'll screw this game up. And the gameplay itself seems to lack polish at this point. It's a wait-and-see, but one that I will keep a close eye on.

So, I'm a little bit more bullish on the Xbox One. I still am not ready to pre-purchase, but I feel a hell of a lot better about the console than I did two days ago.

Next up is Sony.

But, for now, I am back to "Torchlight II" and "Injustice: Gods Among Us." 

Yes, 'because it's popular' is a perfectly good reason to buy a console or game.

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I often see GameSpot users deriding others for liking what's popular. That's too bad because there are perfectly good reasons for going with the flavor of the month.

Personally, I'd take a PlayStation 3 over an Xbox 360 on the console's merits. The PS3 is more reliable, more powerful and has more features. During any other hardware generation, that would have been enough.

But, unfortunately for the Sony machine, it's lacking in one critical area: my friends. The buds I play games with stick to the Xbox for the most part. Again, that wouldn't have mattered a few hardware generations ago because most of those people lived down the street from me. Playing games together involved one of us hoofing it to the other's house, and it didn't really matter that we owned two different versions of "Street Fighter II." As long as we could pull off a Shoryuken on the other system's game pad (or arcade stick), we were good.

Things are different in the "Street Fighter IV" era. Those buddies don't live down the street from me. In many cases, they live down the coast. Or across the country. And people don't come to my house to play games anymore because my wife would shoo them off. As for my new friends -- the people I work with every day -- they don't play games. So, if I have "Street Fighter IV" on the PlayStation 3 and my friends have "Street Fighter IV" on the Xbox 360 or PC,  we just aren't going to be able to play together.

That is the sole reason that I am willing to pony up $60 a year for Xbox LIVE. I think it's a sad reason. I hate that Microsoft has this kind of advantage. But, it's either pay the LIVE fee and stick with Xbox or play "Street Fighter IV" by myself. That is, of course, unless any of you know a quick and easy way to convince about three dozen of my friends to abandon the Xbox 360 and all the games, Achievements, accessories and downloadable content they've accumulated and switch to PlayStation 3. I'm thinking you probably can't help me there.

This can be applied to individual games, too. I love "Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown" and don't care as much for "Tekken Tag Tournament 2." Go online and try to find any competition on VF, though. It's dead. As much as I like it, I've only played a few rounds of VF: FS over the past year. I've logged many more into games I don't care for as much, and, to be frank, I've actually enjoyed them more because of it. Playing a competitive game -- even a great one -- by myself is no fun. Given the choice between a less-popular game I love and a popular game I like, I'll go with the popular game every time.

So, yeah, when I am torn between the PlayStation 3 version of "Injustice: Gods Among Us" and the Xbox 360 version, I'm going with the Xbox 360. That would be the case even if the PlayStation 3 version were the better of the two. And as much as it pains me to say it, if my PlayStation 3 and my Xbox 360 were to die today and I could only afford to replace one, I'd go for a new Xbox. Sorry, Sony.

The new consoles.

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I've just about had my fill of console gaming. Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft have all revealed their new consoles, and, well, I don't see the point.

The things that use to attract me to consoles -- the games, namely, but also couch multiplayer -- are now passe, I suppose. Apparently, these companies are more interested in providing all-in-one entertainment boxes than giving me a reason to pick up the game pad. Problem is that I have a small PC that can do that. And even if I didn't, I would only need a WiiU, PlayStation 4 or Xbox One to fit my needs. With so few exclusive titles, there aren't many compelling reasons to own all the consoles anymore.

In fact, there aren't many reasons for me to pick up a console at all. I haven't actually played a game on my PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 in more than a week. And, I've been playing games. I've played Tomb Raider, Bioshock: Infinite and NBA 2K13 and a few other multiplatform games. That's the problem. Ninety percent of what's worth playing now is on all consoles and PC. And, not surprisingly, they look and play better on PC.

So, why keep a console around? Well, I like Nintendo games. More specifically, I liked Nintendo games, before they became little more than a new New Super Mario Bros. here and a new Animal Crossing game there. I haven't been thrilled by what I've seen so far for the WiiU.

I like fighting games, too. Those are somewhat hard to find on PC. But, with Capcom seemingly intent on killing the genre through its moronic DLC policies and release schedules, I have to question how much life that genre has left.

Finally, I like motion controls well enough. Sure, the PC has its share of motion devices. Hell, the mouse is a type of motion controller. However, it doesn't have games like "Dance Central" and "Sports Champions." It looks like the console guys plan to keep making those games, and, to tell you the truth, I'd buy them. But, to me, motion control games are to be enjoyed in addition to excellent traditional games. I love "Dance Central," but I don't really want to play it by myself. Yes, I'd buy a console for motion controls, but not if it doesn't have a large stable of good so-called 'core exclusives.

Which brings me back to the reveals. So far, we've seen very few exclusives aside from the Killzones and Forzas and all the other entries in the good, but tired, franchises we know very well. No fighting games, and that makes me sad. But, we have decent-looking motion controls. But, I ain't spending full price on a brand-new console for that.

That means I'm going to wait. We'll see if Sony and Microsoft can pull something together for E3. If they can't, the money I have set aside for new consoles is going into new PC hardware.

 

Radio silence.

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So, I just got a new job as a business reporter for a daily newspaper. Things appear to be going well. I haven't started yet, but I have made the move and have settled in. I hope to be able to blog on the weekends. However, I have to see what my schedule is before I can make any promises.

I know I haven't been posting lately. Sorry. It's been a busy summer. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, The Last Story, Binary Doman, Bulletstorm, Blacklight: Retribution, Diablo III, Dust: An Elysian Tail, Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown, Hybrid and 3D Dot Game Heroes have been eating up my free time since May. I have a few things to say about Amalur. Maybe later.

Mid-year checkup.

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We're about half way through the year. That means it's time to list my favorite games from the first six months of the year.

Unfortunately, 2012 has been something of a disappointment. Games I was sure would knock my sox off -- games like Twisted Metal, SSX and Diablo III -- failed to live up to my expectations. In fact, as my list shows, not a single 2012 boxed retail title on an HD platform left me super-impressed. However, the downloadable, Wii and handheld titles have picked up some of the slack.

5. Kid Icarus: Uprising (Nintendo/Shooting/Nintendo 3DS):

One of the year's few pleasant surprises, Kid Icarus, with its tight shooting mechanics, great scoring system and surprising depth, has held my attention since it launched in March. Dev teams have an, at best, inconsistent record of bringing classic franchises to the third dimension. Only outliers, such as the Metroid Prime and Maximo games, have managed to successfully make the transition. Thus, I was a bit wary when I heard Nintendo planned to transform classic Kid Icarus into a rail shooter. When the reviews started pouring in, I knew my fears were unfounded.

Fortunately, Nintend had the good sense to put the team behind the popular Smash Bros. series at the helm. Aside from generally being good game designers, the Smash Bros. folks have a knack for absolutely cramming their games with unlockable content, varying gameplay and attractive interfaces. Kid Icarus' fundamentally strong shooting and scoring mechanics benefited greatly from the game's bevy of unlockable weaponry and insanely adjustable difficulty settings. The prospect of earning a ton of hearts or buying that shiny, new gun creates quite the incentive to replay a level and go for that high school.

The game looks and sounds great, too. Uprising is easily the best-looking title to date on the Nintendo 3DS, and the system's often-criticized 3-D significantly enhances the game's beauty, creating characters that spring to life off the screen and special effects that really pop.

The only complaint I have with this game -- the only thing keeping it from topping rail shooter greats like StarFox and Panzer Dragoon Zwei -- are the controls. Once you get used to them, they work well enough. However, having to use the stylus to aim and the d-pad to move hurts the hands after a while. Further, the controls get awkward during the game's on-foot segments. My suggestion: Pick up a good thumb stylus if you can find one.

Score: 9.0 out of 10.

4. Resident Evil: Revelations (Capcom/Survival-Horror/Nintendo 3DS):

Capcom's franchise survival-horror series has suffered since the franchise's creator, Shinji Mikami, left the company after Resident Evil 4. The series' last installment, Resident Evil 5, failed to live up to the standards set by its predecessor and didn't retrieve the survival-horror crown from newcomer Dead Space. The game was just too bright, too unwieldy without a strafing option and too tame to overcome the chills, thrills and tense combat offered by Electronic Arts' survival-horror title.

While playing Resident Evil: Revelations, I got the feeling that Capcom wanted to inject some of that old-school RE atmosphere back into the series. The devs ditched RE5's bright, colorful African villages for (mostly) an old luxury liner that had seen better days. And, the game is much better for it.

Revelations' ship sections mix much the claustrophobic, item-hoarding tension offered by the older Resident Evil games with the excellent control schemes offered by Alan Wake and Dead Space 2 (provided you have the slide pad add-on). Basically, take any creepy hallway segment from the first Resident Evil game, add better combat and more competent enemies, and you have Resident Evil: Revelations at its best.

It's too bad the game can't keep its survival-horror feel throughout the entire experience. Though most of the game is great, the developers, for some reason, thought it would be a good idea to put survival mode-style, kill-everything-that-moves sequences into the game. Yes, the game controls well, but it can't out-Gears of War Gears of War.

The bonus features, such as a mercenary mode you might have paid full price for last year if you bought Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, add plenty of longevity to the title.

Score: 9.0 out of 10.

3. Trials: Evolution (Microsoft/Racing/Xbox 360):


A downloadable title made it high on the list this year. Even if the field of games were stronger, Trials: Evolution would be a keeper.

Trials: Evolution's name is very fitting. Essentially, the game is everything everybody loves about Trials -- and given the game's sales figures, I gather that everybody does indeed love Trials -- with everything everybody has ever wanted to see in Trials. Evolution brings simultaneous multiplayer, a more robust track editor, better visuals, outdoor environments and a difficulty level that ramps up more evenly than the original game's did. In short, there is no reason not to own this game, especially if you liked the first or have an affinity for Excitebike. Eff it. It more or less is a modern Excitebike.

Score: 9.0 out of 10.

2. Journey (SCEA/Adventure/PlayStation 3):

I'm not a professional game journalist, but I imagine Journey was a tough game to review. First, is it even a game at all? It certainly isn't challenging. Hell, a friend of mine who barely plays games at all was able to breeze through Journey in less than two hours. Maybe it's more of an experience. Maybe it's art (though I'm too much of an elitist to admit that). Whatever it is, I'm still thinking about more than two months after its release. That says something.

Journey shifts from quiet desert exploration to engaging rock-climbing portions to an exhilarating segment in which the player surfs down sand dunes as the sun slowly sets in the background. The game stimulates so many different emotions it's hard to give up when you know Journey could be hiding something amazing just beyond the next dune. Sure, the hidden do-dads a practically meaningless and the game isn't scoring you; it still manages to be one of the most engrossing, addictive and maybe even moving gaming experiences I've had in a long time.

I feel like a huge nerd for saying that. So, I'll just end it here with the score.

Score: 9.5 out of 10.

1. Xenoblade Chronicles (Nintendo/RPG/Wii):

To think we almost didn't get this in the U.S.

Xenoblade Chronicles goes exactly where I'd like to see JRPGs heading. The game has some of the unfortunate trappings to cookie-cutter RPGs -- cheesy dialogue, poor voice-acting -- but it mostly eschews JRPG gameplay conventions that became stale years ago.

Xenoblade's developer, Monoliftsoft, wisely used a real-time combat system based on MMORPG battles. The result is combat that never seems like a chore and battles with variables that change quickly enough (as characters are buffed, de-buffed etc.) to keep the player interested. I never tired of the combat during my 60 play-through, which is something I can't say for many JRPGs.

The game's art style makes the title look good -- well, as good as a Wii title can look, at least. It sounds phenomenal -- the soundtrack is really top-notch.

Final Fantasy XII featured similar gameplay, and I'm not sure why it never took off. I hope Xenoblade sparks interest in this particular type of JRPG. I'd love to see more games like this.

Score: 9.5 out of 10.

My Vita skepticism.

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I saw some very good sentences in Eurogamer's review of "Resistance: Burning Skies."

And here's the bigger problem for Sony: if it wants people to take Vita seriously as a high-end entertainment device that's in it for the long haul, it's not enough to bring its biggest franchises to the platform - it needs its best talent to be making the games, too. Burning Skies, like many other handheld instalments of key Sony series, was not made by the original studio (in this case, the developer was Nihilistic rather than Insomniac). In other words, we're too often being asked to pay triple-A prices for games made by the B-team.

I was so glad to finally read this in a PSP or Vita review. I am not going to take Sony's handheld platform seriously until Sony stops underestimating my intelligence. Sony can't simply take a well-loved, AAA franchise, pass it off to some no-name developer and expect me to get excited based on name recognition alone. The very nature of such a game-making strategy alone is enough to make me skeptical. Sony's history of publishing less-than-stellar handheld entries in otherwise excellent franchises seems to justify my skepticism. I love the Resistance franchise and was hoping Burning Skies would help change my mind. That didn't happen.

What bothers me is the lengths to which people will go to defend this practice. For instance, an IGN review of Vita's Uncharted game made several comparisons between the handheld title and "Uncharted 3" on the PlayStation 3. Needless to say, IGN found the Vita version lacking -- and not just in areas one would expect a less-powerful handheld device to struggle in. IGN and others also took issue with certain gameplay and design elements. That's probably because Bend, the team that made the Vita game, just isn't as talented as Naughty Dog. It's part of Sony's B-team.

Of course, the review set off a firestorm in the comments section, with many users claiming bias and what have you. Some were complaining that IGN shouldn't have made the comparison at all. I think that's bunk. If Sony wants to pass off its portable devices as consoles-in-your-pocket, then the company needs to be ready for good reviewers to compare its portable games to its console ones. Further, consumers should do the same. Sony says its goal is to deliver console-quality experiences on a portable device. The company needs to start acting like that truly is its goal. It needs to start giving its AAA franchises to its AAA developers.

So soon.

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Blizzard announced that "Diablo III" will be available May 15. That's in exactly two months. Perhaps we'll see two Blizzard games this year after all.