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The master Blaster Master

Just noticed my level went up, I'm now a Blaster Master. If only I could keep that name forever, even as my level went up. . . I wish Wii would make Blaster Master on the Virtual Console, so I could finally beat that stupid game!

Mass Effect 2 made me cry (spoiler-free)

Now I'll admit I'm a bit of a softie, so this isn't super surprising, but a video game made me cry for the first time last night, if only a little bit. I'm also a soft touch on family stuff - I love seeing family members work out their differences and do each other proud. Something about the fact that we always truly want our family members to be happy and to be proud of us, but so much other stuff gets in the way.

The side mission with Miranda (I won't give any other details other than obviously it deals with her family, and this is not really a spoiler) was really touching. I loved the ending of the mission, and have been pondering what it meant to Miranda.

Mass Effect is a great game in its own right - but the side missions are really a leap forward for games as stories and as art. You have characters dealing with complex emotional issues, dealing with the repercussions of their decisions, and always emerging with a new perspective on who they are and what they've done. You have people openly debating what it means to be human and adding a perspective to the conversation that philosophers, authors, musicians, and others have been having since we learned language.

Hats off, Bioware. Great stuff.

Just got a PS3 - what fine machine

I just got a PS3 over the holidays. I've always been pretty who cares about the console wars - I already had a 360 and a Wii, they both work for me for different things, and while I lamented my lack of a PS3 for some games, there are so many great games out there, it's hard to play them all, even if you own every console under the sun.

That said, I'm pretty dazzled by the PS3. It's a solid machine, and I definitely appreciate how quiet it is vs. the 360 more than I thought I would. The user menu doesn't have a great UI - but it captures everything and puts what feels like a lot more options at my fingertips.

The controller is very nice - it's lighter than the xbox and I love that it doesn't power down as quickly as the 360 controller (key when you are watching a movie). I played Flower and loved those controls.

I've only played MGS4 (besides Flower) so far, and it looks great, but not different enough to make me prefer the graphics over Xbox - they have equal standing in my eyes. Put another way - I think both are so great, I'm not interested in deciding which is better.

Blu-Ray has been nice but not dazzling. I have an HD DVR, so I can get most new releases on HBO and Showtime in HD, so it wasn't the giant leap forward I expected. I rented Harry Potter 6 on both DVD and Blu-Ray to see how much I noticed the difference - it's noticeable, but not earth shattering. Planet Earth, however, is simply gorgeous. Other than that, though, I don't see Blu-Ray as an extreme value add. (I also think digital delivery will make Blu-Ray obsolete within 3-5 years.)

All these individual concepts alone don't make the PS3 that compelling - but I have to say there's something about it that just feels great. It just seems to live up to the hype - wireless access is awesome, I see media server features I won't use yet but give me more faith that Sony has thought long-term with this console.

A year ago, I thought Sony was screwed - I really did. I saw them making what I thought were consistently bad strategic decisions. I also resented the way they used their early adopters as cannon fodder in the Blu-Ray/HD-DVD format war. In my opinion, in the early days, they were taking advantage of gamers' brand loyalty to achieve business objectives unrelated to gaming. That's their prerogative, but I don't have to like it.

Now that I own a PS3, I have to say it is a darn fine machine, and for the first time I think they actually have a shot at beating the 360 in this generation, especially now that they have the same price. I'm still going to play games on both and I think both will do just fine in this generation, I just think Sony's in better shape than before, because the PS3 is a great product.

(For the record, I'm not an editor, so please don't fabricate some bias accusations - plus I honestly don't care about system wars beyond analyzing the different strategies of each company. I own consoles to play games, not take a side.)

All Time Greatest Game Hero: game on!

Just in case you missed it, now's the time to fill out your bracket on GameSpot's All Time Greatest Game Hero Bracket Challenge! Even better: you'll get to see how your bracket stacks up against GameSpot editors and staffers, including me. Oh, and you will also be entered for a chance to win a $3,000 shopping spree, which is almost as good as beating my bracket. I'll even give you a some help on beating me. Here you go. I did not pick the following characters to win it all: Pitfall Harry Pit Lance & Bill Professor Layton Lolo That's all I'm tellin' ya. Fill out your bracket here:

All Time Greatest Game Hero - time to settle this once and for all!

I don't know about the rest of you but it's debated here in the office all the time: Who's the greatest game hero of them all? Of course, the next question is *always* "what makes a hero great?" Is it how powerful they are? Is it the challenges they overcome? Is it beating the most powerful villain? Is it being believable and someone I can relate to?

Then you add the gaming component - what if a hero was really awesome but in a crappy game? Or what if the hero is made impressive by the player but has no inherent personality (like Gordon Freeman - I mean, if I thought not talking - ever - would get me a girl like Alyx, I'd be a monk)?

I have to admit, I'm not sure I have a good answer. But I bet our users do. Today we're launching the first part of our All Time Greatest Game Hero feature. We'll be settling this, March Madness style, with a full bracket of 64 characters and a bunch of head-to-head matchups until there's only one left standing. Will it be just a popularity contest? Or will people recognize that the greatest hero may not be their favorite? Our editors picked 54 of the 64, and the last 10 are up to you. Vote here and then stay tuned for the bracket creator on 8/25!

Replaying Mass Effect: what are the Reapers thinking?

Seeing how amazing Mass Effect 2 looks at E3, I got interested enough to dust off ME for another playthrough, mostly to see if I could get the Paramour achievement. :) I have to say this game is just gorgeous - there are some rendering issues and pop-in, but in general it just looks glorious.

I am also still dazzled by what a rich, complicated universe Bioware created. The different alien races, all unique but all with a sensible history, a different take on how species could evolve. I really liked the conversation with Liara when they discuss the fact that perhaps the reason humans are so reckless and brazen is that we don't have time to be polite. Some really interesting commentary on what humanity and our evolution is all about.

One thing still sticks in my craw, though - the elaborateness of the Reaper plan. It strikes me as incredibly stupid and unnecessarily complicated. These guys have advanced technology and mind control, and they haven't mastered farming? I mean that's what we're talking about here. Why do they plunder and retreat? Why not set up a bunch of worlds that are continually generating animals for eating? And why not cultivate animals that aren't likely to fight back? There's a reason we farm cows and not monkeys: cows produce lots of meat and are dumb dumb dumb.

Dead Space and shell shock

I recently finished Dead Space, and one of the things that it made me ponder was the constant state of tension, when you could be attacked at any second. By the end you start to figure out the triggering events so you aren't as surprised anymore, but in the middle, when I was in that "I don't want to move because somebody's going to kill me, probably in a fairly bloody way" - that was stressful.

It made me think about our soldiers in Iraq, and how it's no wonder they come back mentally scarred. If Dead Space is even 5% what it's like to be constantly worried about threats coming from any direction at any moment, it's got to really take a toll on somebody. I only had to put up with it for the dozen hours I played a game, and I knew the worst that could really happen was that I'd have to wait for that section to load again. That's nothing compared to what our soldiers are facing. I would crack for sure.

Force Unleashed and controller hurling

Just getting started in the Force Unleashed and have to say I understand the 7.5 we gave the game. . . it's gorgeous and fun and I like where it's going, but I just beat Kazdan Paratus and there were times when I wanted to hurl my controller at the screen.

I've never been in a battle where I felt so confined and trapped, and it was because I was constantly trying to move around the arena and the game wouldn't let me off of the immediate screen, even though there was plenty of room within the arena. That made it feel really cheap, because I'm trying to avoid things and can't.

I beat Kazdan on the third try, but it wasn't very satisfying, I felt like I hadn't ever really figured out the trick to beating him, I'd just been lucky. That's not a fun way to beat a boss. Regardless, props to Kevin for being willing to admit that it may have some great Star Wars and gameplay elements, but there are some things that are so broken that the score *must* reflect them.

Change is hard but if you stand still you die

I'm a relative newcomer to the GS team (6 months plus), and it's been a long time since I've worked on a site launch as big as the new GameSpot redesign. And never have I worked on a project where we had such a passionate and vocal user base. It's been a little weird to hear such energetic feedback on a project so early and so frequently.

While the feedback we are getting is overwhelmingly positive, we know that some of our users are going to dislike the redesign, either because they have legitimate gripes (which we most definitely listen to), or because change is hard and it's not fun seeing something you were comfortable with become a little foreign.

It's like going to sleep and someone moves your alarm clock in the middle of the night. Is it still there? Yes. Does it do the same stuff it's always done? Yes. It's just in a different spot, and that alone is enough to make you freak out in the middle of the night when you roll over to find out how much sleep time you have left.

But in this case, it's like they moved the clock to put new batteries in it. We were hitting some walls on the old site that we couldn't get around so we had to tear them down. Things have changed since 2005, and it was time to start fresh. We did the best we could to maintain some consistency, but our overarching goal was to create a new foundation on which to build for the next several years. Change is hard, but if we didn't reinvent ourselves every so often, we'd be gathering dust next to a 3DO in some basement. If Madonna continued making music like Lucky Star, she'd be opening for Andrew Ridgeley on his Holiday Inn Lobby Tour.

There are so many great things about the new site - content moved up the page, a much-improved video experience, easier-to-find content, a gorgeous new image carousel on the home page and platform hubs, the mini-feed, etc. - and I hope those don't get overlooked while everyone adjusts to the new location of the New Blog Post button. A lot of work and craft has gone into the site; everything was done for a reason.

Thanks again for all your feedback throughout this process. We wouldn't be where we are without your passion, your dedication, and your eagerness to voice your opinion, even when you tell us we're stupid, ugly, and/or smelly. Heck, if you hadn't told me I stunk, I would've forgotten to put on deodorant before my date last week. Thanks to you, she slammed the door in my face at the end of the date instead of at the beginning. Woo hoo!

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