My first review in forever (also: other things)

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Linkity

I thought I'd give a PS1 import a go, click for what I thought!

But anyway, I have my spring break starting right now so that's cool, though I have to write a few term papers ahead of time and do some other things that will no doubt keep me at least a little busy over the course of the next week. Even so, it feels good to be off of school for a little while, perhaps because I do have quite a lot to do considering my classload this time around. But really, I'm rambling about all this.

OH, by the way: I picked up Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions for the first time since it came out and goddamn is that game hard. Seriously, I thought the VR section fo Substance was a pain in the ass, this one is ridiculous...probably because of the less sophisticated control scheme, but whatever.

Yeah, not much to talk about after all. When's the last time I had a tl;dr blog anyway? Or a Soapbox post, for that matter?

Seriously.

Woah, I'm old

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I just realized I'm level 60, which I'm pretty sure is the starting level for being called ancient.

So yeah, I've had a lot of things to do with this site for 6 years: lots of things happened:

-I began with posting reviews willy nilly, not caring much for quality

-I branched out into unions, specifically the Metal Gear Solid Veteran's union

-I went over to System Wars for a few months and exclusively posted there for a while until I realized that arguing about the quality of one console over another in a fanboyish fashion was the equivalent of pouring drain-o down my ears

-I started to take a gander at OT, only lightly going there at first before it became my main forum on GS

-I went to join Liquid Lurker and eventually stopped going there...the site was dead when I tried to go back

-I got accepted into the Soapbox circle after telling people how they should write reviews

-I wrote god-awful Soapbox articles for a little while, but eventually got good at writing them off the top of my head

-I got picked up by a couple Indie gaming sites to do some pro bono journalism and reviewing, even getting to go to a roller derby event to meet up with a local game developer and interview them...school and life in general got in the way, so I had to take a leave from that work. Money problems didn't help, either.

-Kept writing a few more Soapbox blogs when I had the time until the section essentially became worthless after being removed from the front page (may or may not write another one, but I dunno)

So here I am now: wrapping up my Political Science and Communication: Journalism degrees with a bit more financial stability and with a little more experience on how the world works. I need to find out where to take my life from here: Master's of Political Science? Newswriter? Law school? Some other Master's degree? Well, for now I need to wrap up my Bachelor's level degrees and then I'll be able to apply for some grad schools. Perhaps UW: Madison if I do well enough on the GRE. Regardless, there's still the matter on what I'm going to do with the time I use on GS.

I know I'm never serious on the forums, but I am serious on my blogs since, well, don't see a reason to be like that on here. Guess I'll be doing the same as usual: being silly on OT.

Erry Day I'm Hustlin'

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I am a Virtual Hustler now.

Kind of amazed how I got this high in level given how I act on here. Anywho, D3nnycrane is back, so that's a spot of good news.

...why am I even blogging about this?

This is, by far, the greatest tool you will ever use on Gamespot

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Get Adblock Plus

Make a custom filter

Add this as a rule:

gamespot.com##[class*="'author':'enterusernamehere'"] > *

Now the user is as good as gone. No fuss, no mess, no need to wait for them to get banned. They're eliminated from ever being see by you (unless someone quotes them, but hey nothing is perfect).

Credit goes to jandurin for showing me this glorious feature.

Also, I am fully aware that I stopped three games short of doing the rest of my scariest games of all time list. Perhaps I'll get back to it when October rolls around again, but I make no promises.

Top 5 Horror Games: #4 - Resident Evil

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Previous

Survival horror has gone through a great deal of change over the years: from the genre-creating Alone in the Dark to the brutal bloodiness of today's digital frightfests, there's plenty of key developments in between. One such game that caused a revolution in horror gaming was Resident Evil, the Night of the Living Dead of video games.

What makes the first Resident Evil so important in the gaming world is how it was able to deliver a visceral, tense experience that so many other games of its ilk emulate today. Using camera angles to hide enemies, giving the player the ability to make zombie heads explode like watermelons and a plot on par with B-grade 70s sci-fi gave it a unique feel that was hardly even thought of at the time. Indeed, this was the closest to a game could get to a George Romero film...well, until Road to Fiddler's Green but let's forget about that for now. When considering the history of video games, Resident Evil is one of the most significant horror games of all time.

Significance to the time line of horror games aside, what makes Resident Evil so great is its miraculous ability to withstand the test of time while subsequently failing to do so. What does remain great about Resident Evil is how it's still able to present a tense atmosphere due to the camera hiding enemies from the player's field of vision. Zombies will seemingly come out of nowhere if the player simply runs wildly through the mansion with reckless abandon and, given that death comes easy to the unfortunate members of S.T.A.R.S., the player will be forced to slowly but surely explore as much of the mansion as possible to advance to the next area. Of course, because of Resident Evil's insistence on hiding enemies that could otherwise be seen by even a 90-year-old granny with glaucoma, it does seem a bit cheap to scare the player with enemies that were right in front of them the entire time. Even so, the camera angles are a major reason why Resident Evil still qualifies as a horror game...because those glorious early PS1 graphics are as terrifying as a soup can.

Speaking of aspects that haven't held up well, the voice acting is notoriously awful. In fact, this is one aspect that didn't withstand even ten seconds of time before becoming cheesy and just plain horrible. As a Gamespot review from back when the game was released put it:

[Storage containers], however, is nothing compared to the second: the (thankfully) isolated cinematic sequences showing the interactions of the S.T.A.R.S. team members. These scenes are filled to the vomit-line with some of the most hokey, badly-translated, drama-killing, god-awful voice acting ever burned onto a disc. Oh well. - Gamespot (1996)

With such glorious lines as "You almost became a Jill sandwich!" and "Here's a weapon. It's really powerful! Especially against living things!", it's difficult to argue that the voice acting is anywhere near good. Though the horrible acting was largely due to voice acting being a new thing in gaming at the time and developers simply resorting to English teachers in Japan to voice the characters, it's still hilariously awful in the long run. Due to this, the story can never, ever be taken remotely seriously. Even so, the positive aspects of Resident Evil still make it a cut above most other games of its time, and even most horror games today. With it's innovative use of camera angles and Romero-inspired plot, the first in the long line of Resident Evil games was the greatest.

However, how does this entry stack up against the Gamecube remake made some years later?

The remake was, surprisingly, more of a restructuring of the first game rather than a straight graphical touch-up. There were so many elements added to the remake (new puzzles, new bosses, new areas, etc.) that it felt like an expanded version of the original than anything. Everything was improved: graphics, control and (most notably) voice acting. The entire experience was scores scarier than the original, as well as better at holding a terrifying atmosphere, but it felt like it lost its soul somewhere along the line, and this is most likely due to the terribad voice acting being replaced with plain old bad to passable voice acting. The original also felt a little less cumbersome during combat, allowing the player to simply stop and shoot instead of having to fumble with the extra step characters took before they stopped. Even so, the remake is better at being a scary game. On the other hand, the remake is a more memorable experience.

Whichever version you play, the fact remains the same: Resident Evil is a shining gem in the horror genre.

Top 5 Horror Games: #5 - Dead Space

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In the spirit of Halloween, I'll talk about my five favorite horror games. Mostly, I tend to gravitate toward this genre because whatever spectacular titles that come out of this section of gaming tend to present fresh ideas and/or diabolically clever game design. In fact, some games in this genre boast some of the most interesting stories that the virtual realm has to offer, rivaling those of the most famous role-playing games.

Although the following game, Dead Space, is not particularly notable in story, it certainly fits the bill for being a creative, clever game.

If I were to describe the narrative and overall setup of Dead Space, I would say it has the enemies from The Thing (in that the monsters are not-so-successfully assimilated versions of alien life) with the plot from Alien (being stuck on a ship in the middle of space with monsters and no chance of help). That being said, the overall plot of Dead Space is usual fare and, in all honesty, is the weakest part of the game. Not only is the story derivative, but the protagonist has the vocabulary of Link, shouting out grunts and reacting to taking damage but never saying an actual word, which does help the tense atmosphere but, at the same time, makes everything that happens seem trivial if the protagonist doesn't have a cemented personality that distinguishes himself from the metal walls. That all being said, there are so many things right with this game that it's one of those incredibly rare exceptions I make with modern games in that I overlook the story to praise the game play.

There are so many clever little things done in Dead Space that it's difficult to call it a bad, or even mediocre, game. What's most apparent, the enemy design, is delightfully macabre and strengthened by the (unfortunate) fact that the designers examined car crash photos to get a better grasp on how human bodies could be sliced, contorted and mutilated. Having this level of dedication in designing the visceral aspects of a game is something to be admired, albeit it's a little uncomfortable knowing such a thing. Even so, what it boils down to is that the enemy design is certainly a point in Dead Space's favor. Speaking of design, the atmosphere of Dead Space certainly got a lot of attention in that department.

What makes the atmosphere of Dead Space so dreadful is the emphasis on minimizing every aspect that would make it look like you were playing a game (i.e. any kind of HUD information being solely on the character's body) and opting the player to keep focused on the main character who, of course, remained at the center of the screen. This design forced the player to keep as focused as possible to the middle of the screen, allowing for events from any direction to be quickly noticed without having to look to the opposite side of the screen and having a chance of missing anything.

No HUD means more focus on...ew.

Space, being in the title and all, is a delightfully unique aspect due to how it was used. Throughout the course of the game, there are certain sections in which the player must navigate through areas of the ship that have been breached, giving in to the vacuum of space. In these sections, the desolate feeling of space is enhanced by the near-complete muffling of even the loudest noises and instead choosing to make the main character's breathing the most prominent sound. Depriving the player of almost all sound made each section that much more unnerving due to the fact that enemies could use your lack of hearing ability to their advantage and sneak up on you while you were occupied with getting to the next airlock.

But, what any horror game comes down to regardless of clever design choices, is scares. Dead Space is, for the most part, a notably scary game. However, a large weakness with this title is the ability to remain fresh in how it goes about instilling fear in the player. About three-fourths into the game, enemy encounters seem scripted.

See a vent? Monster's gonna jump out of it.

Didn't remember shooting that enemy? He's gonna jump up and attack once you get close enough.

Going down a long hallway with someone doing something unnervingly self-harmful at the end of it? Enemy ambush.

The thing is that the game is actually a pretty good horror experience for the first 75%, but it just seems like the developers fell flat in trying to come up with multitudes of ways to jump scare the player. In fact, most of the game could be considered jump scares. However, most of these instances are usually built up by something genuinely unsettling like a woman standing at the end of a long, bloodstained, corpse-ridden hallway and softly giggling to her herself in a half-happy, half-distraught tone. Such things, in my observation, make the scares more than just a bunch of "OOGABOOGABLARAHARGA" moments and instead a shake back to reality at times when the game is being suspiciously quiet (read: 85% of the game), giving it actual evidence that effort went into making the game creepy.

In all, while certainly not the scariest game I played, Dead Space is a cleverly designed game that utilizes the environment its mostly set in to its advantage. Though you shouldn't expect a Shakespearean narrative to go along with this game, Dead Space is certainly proof that, with enough effor, gameplay can supercede story in a horror game and still manage to stick with you.

A Few Words on Max Payne 3

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Max Payne is a series dear to my heart and, following in step with such affinity, I've been paying attention to the news surrounding the third installment of Rockstar's New York noir series. Before I go any further, let it be known that I'm not completely opposed to the third installment despite what my criticisms are of it. With that said, here's what I think of Max Payne 3 thus far:

I can name several drastic changes to the series formula that have tickled my distaste. Rather than indulge in a verbose rant, I feel it's best to give a small list of my grievances:

  1. Max Payne's new look, specifically how he's going to lose his trademark NYPD detective look and don a shaved-head, bearded thug look.
  2. Going by what has been presented thus far about the gameplay, there seems to be more of an emphasis on cover-based shooting.
  3. Instead of taking place in New York (or on the same continent as New York, really), Max Payne 3 takes place in South America.

Now, to better explain the above three points, I'll go into further detail:

The Look

I, as well as anyone else who knows who Max Payne is, knows that he looks like a NYPD detective straight out of a cop drama. He has a long black coat, suit pants, dress shoes, a loosely fitted dress shirt with similarly worn tie, and short hair with a clean shave. Max looks exactly what a detective should look like and, quite frankly, his original attire looks absolutely awesome in current-gen graphics. Sadly, Rockstar thought to go a different route by putting him in an overall casual attire with a shaved head and beard. You know: like the henchman he's fought for the past two games. Sure, it's jarring and meant to entice us into wondering why he did all that, but if the excuse for such a change is to "disguise him," then that hardly seems fitting of Max. He doesn't need a disguise, but instead his two good pals Smith and Wesson and his impossible bullet time abilities that were probably granted to him by the slowing down high he gets off of downing a whole bottle of painkillers to heal himself.

In all, not a change I desire.

Gameplay

Through observing screenshots as well as some of the game in motion, it looks like Rockstar is attempting to "modernize" Max Payne 3 by adding in more sections in which the player must duck and cover in order to pick off enemies or look for any openings to charge. While this has been an option for players to do in any of the other games, that mostly consisted of simply pressing the crouch button and hoping the wall in front of you was tall enough to cover your sorry hide. Given this, the previous two installments encouraged the player to go through the entire level guns-a-blazing by making John Woo-styIe dives in super slowmo and cleverly taking out guards via well-placed explosives or using rapid-fire shotgun shells to kill bad guys dead. Adding in sections that actually require the player to take cover instead of simply offering it as a possible (probably smarter, but whatever) option takes away the run-and-gun spirit of Max Payne.

Location, Location, Location

Another notable difference in the third installment is the shift in location: away from film noir New York and into the dark criminal underbelly of South America. Although both said locations offer up an equal amount of opportunity to deliver a sublime gangland story, the fact of the matter is that New York and South America have different flavors of story. New York, being an urban metropolis, offers up a city-oriented experience, hearkening back to works such as The Godfather or Goodfellas in which cops chase gangsters through a slew of apartments, businesses and even through city transit before apprehending them. In South America, however, the tone is significantly different since there's more of a slum-like feel to it. In essence, the shift to South America gives Max Payne 3 more of a City of God feel than Public Enemies. THough this doesn't completely cripple the possibility for a great story (City of God was a great movie, to say the least), the delivery of the narrative would be siginificantly different and jarring compared to the previous two entries.

So there, that's what I have to say about Max Payne 3 for now. I still remain optimistic about this title, but at the same time am skeptical.

JRPG Thingamajig

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Name:

If Only I had a Hand to Lend You, I Would Rip My Arm Off to Do So: The Prologue of Kings (IOIHAHTLYIWRMAOTDS: TPOK)

Story:

IOIHAHTLYIWRMAOTDS: TPOK stars Earl Smith, a man who has recently been laid off from his job picking bits of lint from the petticoats of the upper cIass because of his tendency to set aflame the garments of those he dislikes. Seeing as he has no way to find gainful employment in the near future, Earl visits a band of wandering gypsies, pleading for them to use their gypsy magic to alter the minds of those he has wronged so they can become credible references on his resume for that cozy office job in his local trading hub that he always wanted because he wanted to hit on that hot bespectacled secretary at the front desk.

The gypsy agrees to bestow this magic upon said people, but a problem surfaces when Earl sticks his hand in a pot of honey used for the ritual (being without a job kind of makes you hungry) and his hand is torn from his body, becoming a sentient being with a mouth in its palm and a skip in its...er...fingering?

Looking upon this turn of events, the gypsies bow down to him since everyone knows that anyone who sticks their hand in the ritual honey pot is destined to be turned into a beehive and those who are not must be the "Handy One." With his new title, Earl and his magic detached hand (now named Roger from here on) are sent on Handy Quests, where they do Handy Jobs for the troubled denizens of the world. Along his quest, Earl meets the hot bespectacled secretary, wandering the planet because she too lost her job to the fickle economy.

Together, the three heroes set off to create a brighter world, one Handy Job at a time.

Gameplay:

An action/RPG format in which Earl is controlled by the player, who then can launch Roger from a cannon fused to the stump of Earl's arm or shoot magical spit from Roger's palm mouth that makes the enemy vomit upon contact (which then any other enemies touched by enemy vomit begin vomiting as well). Hot bespectacled secretary can be controlled by a second player for splitcreen action and weilds various office supplies such as pencil daggers, memo shurikens, and TPS reports. If not controlled by another player, hot bespectacled secretary plays the role of pep squad from behind the scenes while using Earl's shredded up resumes as pom poms.

Systems: PS3, XBOX 360, PS2, WII, Gamecube, Commodore 64, PSP, Game Boy Advance, PS3 (HD remaster of PS2 version), PC

Starting Stats:

Earl:

HP: Life gauge (can increase in length by eating Rotten Goat Meat and level-ups)

Roger Power (RP): 5 (every attack with Roger costs 1 RP; increases with level-up)

Attack (physical): 1/10 (can be increased by 1 every time Fish Egg Sundae is eaten)

Attack (Roger): 1/10 (can be increased by 1 every time Honey Spittle is eaten)

Agility: 1/10 (moves fairly slow at 1, average at 5, and fast at 10; can be increased by Hand-Hand-Eye Coordination mini-game in which you must launch Roger at flocks of ducks a la Duck Hunt and get at least 90% of ducks, must pay in-town to play mini-game)

Hot bespectacled secretary:

HP: Life gauge (can increase in length every 150 headshots with memo shurikens)

Power Point(s) (PP): 5 (used for strengthened attacks with Pencil Daggers; increases with level-up)

TPS max ammo: 5 (acts as a sticky bomb that is launched at the enemy in the same manner as a shuriken; fixed amount; does high damage)

Attack (memo): 1/10 (can be increased by 1 every time secret item "Fine Paper" is found)

Attack (Pencil Daggers): 1/10 (can be increased by 1 every time secret item "Sharpener" is found)

Agility: Fixed amount. She moves fairly fast.

Miniboss example:

Name: Ted the Jerk Who Keeps Trying to Scam Me Into Giving Him Money to Feed His Bad Habits

Level: 10

HP: Two-stage life bar that takes longer than regular enemies

Abilities: Smog, Confuse, Swindle Money Off Me

Ted is that guy who hung around behind the office where hot bespectacled secretary worked, but recently got into the world domination business after hearing that Earl became the Handy One. Seeing as he didn't want to be upstaged by Earl because Ted thought he was always so cool and should always do his best to ruin Earl's life because it's the only thing that gives Ted's life any meaning (the pathetic whelp). Likes scamming people.

Why it's worth playing:

Why on Earth would you play this?