DC Universe...Glitchy but good

by on

Ok so DC Universe Online just came out a few weeks ago, and I've been playing it non-stop. I have been playing it as such not because its unputdownable (rah new word), but rather because I've been trying to figure out how to describe it.

It is at its base a button mashing, puncher, platformer taken to the nth. You have two attack buttons, one jump button, and an interact button. So it kinda plays like one of those side scrolling beat-em-up games like battle toads or something. Fairly straight forward. They expand it by giving you button combinations to execute combos, and specials (mainly by holding down R2 or L2 and then hitting one of the four main buttons), but really most things can be accomplished with the main combination. They take a stance based variation on how you select your role for the group. In one stance your damage, another your tank, and another your a healer. All stances do damage, but for instance in a healer stance your damage spells also heal those around you. When you make your character you not only choose hero or villian, and sex, but you also choose mentor and power type. No one power type gets to be all 3 roles in a group, and when you spend your power points you be come better at one role than another. Choosing mentors dictates where you start, and who you have most contact with as you level, for instance you choose superman he contacts you more than others, and you get benefits from choosing power types that go with him best, for instance ice or fire.

The world itself is large but not as big as say world of warcraft but it is detailed and the poly count is much higher than WoW. Metropolis is the largest city by far and both wonder woman's desciples and supermans start at. While Gotham City is slightly smaller and darker but still very large overall and where Batmans desciples start. The Watchtower is also completely modeled and the fact you can fly, run, and climb all over everything means that they spent time making everything look good and well detailed. That being said most things need a little more time on the texturizer. It doesn't really make use of all the power the PS3 has to offer, but it looks better than WoW on many levels.

This being said, its still glitchy as all get out. They seem to have fixed the problem with it locking the system up, but there are some animation glitches, and sound glitches. For instance the sound effects fade out some here and there. Some of the other down sides are lack of function with some of the PS3's capabilities. Some Wifi capabilities are iffy, and there are voice issues. Not to mention the fact that chat is nearly impossible without adding a keyboard in someway.

What makes up for all this is the travel modes. You get to select from flight, super speed, and acrobatics when you make a character. Flight is pretty simple, double jump to fly, press forward to fly forward yada yada. Acrobatics is pretty much a mittle ground you run fast on the ground and can climb up anything, as well as being able to leap and glide. But the fun one is super speed cause its just so cool being able to just run where ever you want. You can take off running in just about any direction, even over water, and up the sides of buildings. There are times when you make a leap of faith to go from platform to platform. Coming from WoW with fall damage to this with no fall damage, makes you take a breath each time you leap of faith. Its actually quite fun.

Either way inspite of its issues its lots of fun and pretty easy to play.

No Ordinary Family...actually mostly bland.

by on

No Ordinary Family, ABC's new superhero family series thing, follows the life and times of a family who don't get along until they are involved in an absurd accident and garner themselves super powers. Now the accident that gives them super powers excluded -as most power inducingaccidents are far fetched anyway- and you still have too many far fetched ideas to stumble over. First every character gets a super power that they can use, the daughter can read peoples minds (which she sorely needs considering in the span of the first episode alone she finds out that her best friend and her boyfriend are stabbing her in the back), the son gets a super intellect (which doesn't change his personally but brings him from being a f- student to being an A student), the father -who finds his life as a police sketch artist not rewarding enough- gets super strength and invulnerability (thus allowing him to fullfil himself by fighting crime), and the mother who desperately needs to be able to get things done faster gets super speed. Wow, cosmic luck shines out this families ass eh? Anyway after the accident and they all find out they have powers the families inner troubles fade away and they are pitted against the world because all super heroes have issues fitting in, yeah...Ha take that Stan lee!

The first episode starts with the two heads of the family explaining to the camera, in a famously over used way of breaking the fourth wall, how they came to have super powers to begin with. The narration fades after a few moments of flash back and you thank your creator, until it returns just as things are starting to get interesting and throws everything off again, just like it did right after the credits. Narration is bad, why doesn't anyone know this already? Daredevil, narrated poorly thus a bad film. Narration is hard to do well and the action doesn't need it. If it had faded away or been taken out completely the episode would have been much better.

Then you have to account for the fact that not too long ago this was done much better with almost the exact same idea. The incredibles by pixar throws us into a family struggling to fit in as the parents are told they cannot do what they themselves feel they were born to do. The father, who lived up to the title of Mr. Incredible, is most put down by this and feels unfulfilled in his role telling people his insurance company can't pay them.

The difference between the two takes on the idea? Heart. Close to the end of The Incredibles the plane that the wife and kids are on is shot down and Mr. Incredible thinks they are dead. He comes to find out they aren't, and is over joyed. They go to stop syndrom's robot from destroying the city and he tells his family to wait that he'll handle it. This sparks an argument between him and Mrs. Incredible.

"Wait here and stay hidden. I'm going in," He tells them.

"While what? I watch helplessly from the sidelines? I don't think so," She snaps back.

"I'm asking you to wait with the kids."

"And I'm telling you not a chance. You're my husband,for better or for worse." She puts her hand on his face and gives him a small smile.

"I have to do this alone." He turns away from her.

"What is this to you play time?"

"No!" He says turning back to her heavily.

"So you can be Mr. Incredible again?"

"No!"

"Then what? What is it?"

"I'm not..."

"Not what?"

"I'm not str...strong enough."

"Strong enough? and this will make you stronger?"

"Yes...No!"

"Thats what this is? Some sort of workout?"

"I CAN'T LOOSE YOU AGAIN!" He screams grabbing her by the shoulders and lifting her up into the air. He sags and hunches breathing heavily and looking at the ground as she is gently put back on her feet.

"I can't, not again, I'm not strong enough." She puts her forehead against his and pulls him into a kiss.

In closing No ordinary Family is missing the things that made the incredibles great: a sense of humor, a deep heart, believable characters, and a compelling story. I only have one thing to say about all of it though. "NO CAPES!"

Platform Levels YICK...

by on
I have been a gamer for a very long time. My parents bought me a NES back when it first came out and even before that i had been playing arcade games and my friends atari's and such. Almost as long as there have been games there have been platform levels. I hate them. One of my first encounters with such a level was the 3rd zone from super Mario Bros 3, and it never ceased to make me toss my controller at the screen, which by the way I miss but thats a rant for another day. For those who don't know what I'm on about, and subsequently never played Super Mario Bros 3, a platform level is one where there is no solid ground, everything is suspended in the air and you are timing your jumps from one platform to another and hoping as you make the sometimes completely blind leap, that there will be something to land on. Super Mario 3 made it even harder by forcing you to move even if you wished to stay in the comfort zone of the one piece of land in the entire level. The whole level scrolled sideways with or without you and you were either moving forward or forced to slide off into thin air and fall to your demise amidst moving and unmoving platforms by the side of the screen that you for some reason couldn't penetrate as if there were some moron behind you with a gun poking your ribs chanting jump jump. Now I concede that this form of level design does string a bit of skill out of game players, but it comes at a price. In mario 3 for instance, you could literally end up forced off your current safe haven by the side of the screen even if there was nothing to jump to at that particular moment. Now though, as bad as that was, 3d gaming has made it worse. Take for instance uncharted 2, in its write the best game I've played in a long time. There is a long portion where the player becomes part of a clock work machine that someone out of Medieval Torture Inc. thought was fun. You jump from cogs, to rafters, to counter weights, to ledges, then back to cogs, all the while with the depth of field, and fog rendering making you wonder how far away the platform you've chosen to jump to actually is. Then you have times when your route blends into the scenery so much -admittedly due to the texturing being only slightly different- that you choose something that you think might be in your reach, but isn't, to try and jump to. Then it resets your character and your going: Wait...it looks like I can make it. Overall I understand the reason for this game dynamic, I only ask that it be easier to figure out what is in reach and what isn't. There are a couple times in Uncharted and its sequel where you can make an argument for trying 3 different ledges, AND THEY ARE ALL WRONG! (you need to shoot the box with the rope and use it to swing across).

Blade Kitten, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, Sengoku BASARA, and MORE!

by on
Demos abound this week as Playstation network got around to updating their Demo selections, and seeing as I can't be bothered to pay for full games I've downloaded a few. Blade Kitten, Enslaved, Sengoku BASARA(no I don't have a clue why that second word is in all caps..ask them) and the new Tomb Raider demo all managed to make it all the way onto my playstation hard drive. Blade Kitten is a 2d/3d cell shaded side scrolling...thing... It wants really to be a Megaman type game with cut scenes here and there to make you think it isn't. Problem is that its basically middle of the road anarchy. The demo has places you as a pink haired cat girl, which I am well aware is enough to get people to buy it, particularly teenage anime crazed girls, but thats about all it has going for it. The game looks almost unfinished as the characters are low poly which is thrown hard into your face by the cell shading which throws a hard black line on all the edges. Add to this that in an age of 3d gaming where things like uncharted and uncharted 2 make you involved in every aspect of it, this demo is 2d rendered 3d, much the same way street fighter 4 is. The difference being that the backgrounds lack detail, as they look like they were pulled purely from megaman 2 without much transition work. Then you have the characters themselves, each time you run into a cut scene you get a black screen for a moment then the characters talk sometimes even walking around each other, which jars you out of the 2d space you were in, then you get stuck back in 2d again as you side scroll to the end of the level. It would be ok if the control of the characters was interesting, but you don't have use of half the control as all you get are 2 attacks, a double jump, a use button and a run faster button, which subsequently tires your character out and needs to recharge. Plus one attack is only good for triggering doors and such while the other is actually good at hitting things. Then you come across combat, all of 2 minutes into the demo as the thing starts with a cut scene that makes no sense. The combat makes you think that if they swarm you with enough fodder you'll be to busy violently mashing the square button to notice that the backgrounds are made of mostly one color and that your just hopelessly mashing a single button and moving stage left. Please don't let the pink haired cat girl entice you into playing this game. (rate 2.5 of 5) Play the next title. Where the pink haired cat girl lacks wit and charm, and for that matter a control structure that wasn't fabricated in a tool shed with a part of a playstation control, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West has it all. You play a character who doesn't really get identified through the span of the demo, but for all intents and purposes is a wolverine clone so we will call him logan. Logan wakes up as a prisoner on a cargo ship he unlike his name sake knows who he is but not how he got there. With luck, the badness of which rivals my own, he has woken up just in time to watch a girl break out and start events into motion which will crash the airship. He breaks free and follows her, thus becoming the fall guy to each of her actions as she goes through the ship setting off things by accident behind her. The color palet for this is beautiful and the textures are only limited by the slightly low poly counts of the characters and the environments. The script and presentation remind me of uncharted, though logan leans towards fisticuffs rather than gun play. You are given similar ways to move around the world as in uncharted, though these are far less cleverly hidden, and he tends to talk while moving through the world, which isn't cycled btw and as such is more fun. All in all I want to see more out of this game. The story leaves me wanting more, the game play reminds me of uncharted which is a win, and its still very pleasing to look at. Oh and the musical score for the game is pretty and emotion provoking if not strictly original sounding. (4.5 out of 5) Sengoku BASARA, if anyone knows why the second word is in caps please let me know. Its like a 3d version of a 2d side scroller. Its controls don't matter cause you basically end up hitting two buttons a lot, ok most of the time, and you really are just bogged down in fighting 200 or so enemies at once who all mysteriously get thrown back by a single punch. Graphically it slots in between our first two meaning its pretty to look at, though all the backgrounds look about the same and are covered over by fodder anyways, but it isn't really visually stunning. Really its a bad dynasty warriors clone. Add to this that Dynasty warriors at least tries to put their characters in something that looks authentic while the main character for this runs around in something that looks like a cross between gokus outfit and a samurais cumber-bun and you have a little bit of a ridiculous game. On the bright side, though not period correct, the music is fun and energetic. (2.0 out of 5 I was going to rate this the same as the cat girl but knocked .5 points off for random capitalization Now for the unexpected one of the list. Lara Croft and the guardian of the light, thats a mouthful. This is a Diablo-esque style tomb raider game, yes you heard me right. Interestingly enough with the success of uncharted and uncharted 2, which I seem to be talking about a lot these days, square-enix decided to go this route with tomb raider. Admittedly I played the last couple which were shall we say pretty bad, and mind numbing, but still there is something to be said for the fact that tomb raider didn't know when to die. Now this demo is actually pretty good, the opening cut scene is a still rendered motion comic made using the backgrounds and high poly versions of the in game models, but in spite of this the game is actually fun. Square managed to keep a lot of what made croft interesting while converting it over to the new system. Now on the other hand if your looking for a slightly skewed version of reality that the uncharted style gives you you'll be let down a bit as the whole thing seems to be high quality cell shading much like street fighter 4, which frankly I'd rather not have, give me photorealism any day. All in all the pulling switches, moving environment bits around to solve puzzles, jumping from thing to thing to get over stuff, its all there, neatly packaged like a 3d version of the second diablo game. By 3d I mean that you can move over things and towards the camera and away from the camera, instead of just running up stairs or something. Plus now for the first time in a lara croft game there is multiplayer. This aspect looks like the selling point of the game as it again feels like diablo. I must admit I went into this demo with low expectations but was surprised. The only thing that really was bad was the guy doing the voice over for the aztec guy that pops up halfway through the opening cut scene. All in all not a waste of time. One glitch though to watch out for, in the game you control the aiming of her weapons by pulling the right joystick around towards the mob you are fighting, I had that function disappear on me at one point and had to die to get it back. (3.5 out of 4)