Forum Posts Following Followers
1656 117 102

MasterMarcus Blog

2nd Gig://prise 36:// Teen Photonique

Entry 114: Growing up in the arcades

He rides a two headed horse;

He collides inside a corridor with no remorse;

Until he sees the intersection;

Until he decides to ride in the right direction;

For he wants to succeed at school;

Yet at night he rides back to take the left, starting to drool;

For he has to spend more than a hundred bucks to tackle two monsters;

Yet Dragon's Lair and Star Wars also garner addicted youngsters.

2nd Gig://prise 35:// The Pride Effect

Entry 113: When gamers are lying like politicians

A certain number of pretentious gamers, or just full of themselves, always adore to exhibit themselves on the forums about their supposedly outstanding exploits. Many of them are just lying; very few remain true talented players. I once thought that vanity has no place in this industry; I was wrong. It becomes an invading sin as commonly spread out as anywhere else. Alas, though a near perfect game I rated 9.5, Portal just exacerbate the trend.

We all love Portal. The incredible joyful moments of puzzle gaming brought by this latest creative coating from Valve, unanimously acclaimed by the community, also bring the pompous comments we constantly read in various forums. You know, the likes of: I beat Portal eyes closed within an hour or two; I beat all the advanced maps and gold challenges with a cinch; the game is too easy, and so on. I'm sick of that. Instead, let me honestly report what an average player like me truly experienced. Tell me I'm a brainless dummy destined to play shooters for dummies, I don't care. I want fun gaming, not impossible challenges to beat like talented Japanese gamers work out -akin real work. For that matter, to me Portal proposes a decent setting for a busy gamer.

It took me at least four hours to complete Portal the first time: 2 hours+ for maps 1-17; at least one hour for each of the last two. One little hint needed.

I managed to beat only two advanced maps by myself: 13 and 16. I needed a walkthrough for the others.

I'm actually working most of the bronze challenges. I know I will make some silver too; I doubt I will attempt the gold.

That's the truth of an honest addict, only the truth. :P

2nd Gig://prise 34:// Four Sister Demos

Entry 112: A pre-November taste ( in no particular order)

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

The single player demo offer a night mission in a Saudi Arabia town. Gameplay is fluid, and an exact copy of previous WWII CoDs - no more no less: meaning you advance, duck, shoot, complete an objective and so on until the end whereas you witness two Cobras making the rest of the job. Fast, furious as expected, yet a rather linear gameplay in which you're still responsible to complete the objectives, but always a strange feeling to be a small part of an uncontrollable war. The environments are OK but not fully HD ( ugly skybox; standards explosions); yet an excellent animation graces the experience. Character models also remain a good standard, without reaching true HD. Though the graphical experience will be toned down further more online, I suspect CoD4 to garner a much larger success due to its multiplayer instead.

Pros: fluid controls; action; stressful environments; tank buster. Cons: overall graphics not truly a leap forward to true HD; linear mechanics; washed out atmosphere of déjà vu.

Unreal Tournament III

At first sight, some people are somewhat disappointed of the revamped visuals, user interface and the absence of a Warfare map ( new mode ). The more I play it though, the more I'm impressed and now the beta demo almost fulfill my initial expectations of what Epic can do best. The new environmental formulae still respect the Unreal atmosphere but within a grittier, much less colorful construct: cartoony aspects of UT2004 have been discarded. Epic evidently want to entice a broader audience. Even without AA support ( the full game will support it under DX10 ), the demo looks full HD in 1920x1200 - even if coloring becomes too bland. Details are already staggering, especially characters and armors. Most importantly of course, the gameplay keeps a steady pace and weapon balance seems to me near perfect. Special moves have been tweaked by community demands, namely the double jump.......again, the more I play it, the more I adjust to the welcomed change.

Pros: little gameplay tweaks; weapon balance; fluid controls; layouts; still a carnage Unreal but more realistically gritty; HD graphics. Cons: for a beta demo, only little nitpicks. UTIII deliver for the most part. Coloring too bland perhaps; and please nerf the speed of the hoverboard ( too easy to carry a flag ).

F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate

TimeGate isn't Valve, Epic, or even Monolith who made the original Fear: this standalone episode just seem to run like the expansion Extraction Point. Some lags. Some stuttering. Some polish problems. Some optimization the developers have difficulties to implement in an OK construct that still looks slightly inferior to the original. That said, as a Fear fan I find some good stuff in it. The same good slo mo mechanics work well again, some additional particle effects grace the boring - yet realistic - layout, and I like the two new weapons.

Pros: Fear atmosphere kept intact; good balance; new particle effects. Cons: optimization and stability problems; aside effects, static graphics have not evolved; strong feeling of déjà vu.

TimeShift

That one's a surprise that may well become a sleeper hit. The extra year of development definitely pays off. I'm impressed by the gameplay flow, the graphics near true HD, and most importantly by the slo mo effects: three time shifting types. They are perfectly displayed. One type slow time, à la Matrix-Fear; another stop it briefly; and the third type REVERSE it ( useful to pass certain obstacles ). Give it a try. It's still somewhat linear, conventional, and so cliché ( the game is a nigh plagiarised blend of HL2, Fear and Quake ) YET it delivers a great flow. The shattergun is joyful to use. It looks better than CoD4 and has the same fluidity.

Pros: action balance; weapons; character details and water effects ( only BioShock has better ). Cons: layout; lawsuit material? ( HL2: ''benefactor'', dictator speech à la ''Breen'').

P.S: just finished HL2 Episode Two once, and Valve never cease to surprise me by additional gameplay twists. The final frantic combat against Striders and the Hunters was incredible.

Latest Review: World In Conflict.

2nd Gig://prise 33://Vort quote and a week full of demos

Entry 111: The quote of the week above an invasion of PC demos

My favorite Vortigaunt comment from HL2 Episode Two, what an unforgettable orator of distinction (he/she/it) is: ''No pit would be complete without a Freeman coming out of it''. Delightful.

Now, at least four demos came to our disposal within a single week: Fear Perseus Mandate; Call of Duty 4; TimeShift, Unreal Tournament III. Just a mini-rush to help us preparing our free time management before the real onslaught this November ( though I don't recall having a hard time to catch on single demos with such short notice ) . More comments on those four very soon.

2nd Gig://prise 32://A New Game To Movie Franchise

Entry 110: World in Conflict possibilities

There's plenty of room for expansions/sequels to WiC if developed thoroughly ( European campaigns, Florida invasion, China missions and so forth ). A new major RTS franchise is born, user friendly to any action addict, and maybe a port to movie as well. The potential erupts.

Just imagine a moment a richissime producer à la Jerry Bruckheimer allowing a 200 M budget for a WiC blockbuster, seemingly blending strong acting roles ( yep, why not Alec Baldwin taking again his role as Colonel Sawyer ), with potent CGI effects enhancing natural landscapes for a striking visual experience. I know, there are tons of derivative war movies yet one wonders if a blasted Seattle area invaded by clichéd Soviets in 1989 or some other plot like it can bring additional fuel to the movie genre - not only by some measly commie menace found in James Bond. A real WWIII that could have engulfed thew whole planet instead of dying Cold War.

I think it's possible to equally craft an emotional story within a brutal US/Soviet confrontation, in the hands of a capable team of action film makers. A WiC port could even level up an otherwise WWIII theme so blatantly misused in the past.

2nd Gig://prise 31://Monopolistic Graspings

Entry 109: A business like any other

The video game industry has its share of monopolies, duopoles and oligarchies not stranger than any other business solution in this world of corporate capitalism, and genre popularity plays a critical role to the domination type or whatnot.

Monopolies: You know about Microsoft Windows as a universal operating system ( Linux isn't a dominating upstart )? Just like the US economics/military control two thirds of the planet. Conversely, there are niche gaming genres whose flag carriers aren't legions: in fact, the terrestrial TBS sub genre has now only the Civilization series as a monopolistic champion. The TBS/RTS combo sub genre remains mostly recognized by the excellent Total War franchise. Some good contenders knock at the door, without breaking the existing hegemony. The 4x space empire TBS sub genre has unfortunately only one decent title, Gal Civ II, to fill the shoes of legends such were Master of Orion. World of Warcraft outrageously rule the fantasy MMORPGs. Tiger Woods owns the golf sim realm. Note that high quality standards are still present; so little competition within the same genre range doesn't seem to hamper the polish we all expect as long as sane evolutionary races BETWEEN all gaming genres continue to thrive. It's fortunately the case right now.

Duopoles: Coke and Pepsi. Nvidia vs ATI. Intel and AMD. HD DVD ( Toshiba ) vs Blu ray ( Sony ). Two recent terrestrial action-oriented RTSs: Company of Heroes and World in Conflict. Of course, the Mario/Sonic clash in the 90s was quite a platforming race above the rest. Some crime noir/urban titles like Max payne and the recent Stranglehold both share too many similitudes to be compared to anything else.

Oligarchies: two popular genres garner more than a couple dominating franchises in North America: RACERS and SHOOTERS, whilst Japanese gamers tend to favor family games and ( impossible ) puzzles on portables. Genre oligarchies have a tendency to be very regionalized. For example, Halo3 isn't a complete planetary mogul since it doesn't make the top charts in Japan. It may be a top oligarch in the States, yet many contenders are strong enough to capt the main lights: HL2/Gears of War/Unreal Tournament/ BF/Crysis and so on, well above the mass of mediocrity. TheSeven Sisters of Shooters..........

2nd Gig://prise 30://Child Photonique

Entry 108: The third step - hella old school

Engulfed by an irresistible impulse, he can't elude the trap ahead;

He's now prisoner of a new drug spinning inside his head;

He can't control the ludicrous amount of serotonine unleashed;

He's totally enthralled to be plugged into the new hub erected;

He's lying very near the great entrance ahead;

He witnessed the coming of the arcades, outlying by a thread;

He elected to avoid the big door for a while, so intimidated;

He hesitated to taste the social gaming that were the arcades in the beginning, self control obliged;

Engrossed bythe trend, he finally took the plunge and skipped a date instead;

To finally burn some tokens from Pong to Pac-Man.

2nd Gig://prise 29:// Tokyo Game Show:// An Opinion

Entry 107: Flash over Substance?

First, let me congratulate again GS for the excellent coverage of this year's TGS - particularly the booth tours, energetic and very well done. Now, perhaps it would be opportune to consider a live coverage for the European show as well in the future ( Leipzig ).

From what I've read and streamed, I'd say TGS 2007 was pretty much MORE flash than substance ( doesn't mean there aren't few solid presentations though ). Japan is very branché, and cosplayers ( the animé dolly influence strikes ), booth babes, and the way monitor stations are linked seem to blend altogether in a steady, innate flow overflowing the eyes whereas the new E3 imprint a contradictory monochrome process. Each show has its pros and cons, evidently each one at an opposite end of the spectrum - more than ever. Japanese know how to saturate our eyes, with probably fewer striking announcements, yet a broader audience was there, captivated by the specifically tailored gaming genres so dear to the Japanese ( they don't play much shooters and big action games ). The studio presentations went accordingly: numerous RPGs, puzzles, animé ports, and........MGS4 + LittleBigPlanet. Those two got a world wide attention and stole the show.

Fewer games were announced than expected I think, not the mention little inputs regarding the current whereabouts of the new hardware in development. Perhaps the quantity is underwhelming compared to E3, but the actual games showcased were reviewed thoroughly. Square Enix had an excellent presentation. On the flipside, many studios kept me on my appetite. For example, Epic didn't show any relevant scoop in the eve of the big season ahead. What can we swallow other than Halo 3 from Microsoft? And from Ubisoft, other than what we knew already ( Assassin's Creed & FarCry 2 ) ?

I dream of a show blending the best of E3 and TGS: tons of games, any genres and sub genres displayed to attract a world wide audience, with flash AND substance. Without sombering onto the shameless derivative frenzy that was E3 in 2006, a real international gaming show could be an evolutive road to scour with the resolute attitude to bring games and presentation alike towards a natural blend. That's how this year's TGS strikes at me: a reasonable army of booth babes and neonized theatrics that the industry could melt with the best offered elsewhere in Europe and the USA, i.e. additional gaming genres and slick conferences.

2nd Gig://prise 28:// Two Gb Demos

Entry 106: The 56k killers

At last, it was time: those who didn't enter the high speed internet yet may well experience the very latest incentive to do so: the hefty high end demos we all want to try before buying our favorite PC games. Up until recently, the average download size for a decent demo of a high profile game generally fell into the 500-700 mb category. Even then, a high speed connection was preferable but a patient 56k owner could still get them reasonably while doing something else for some hours. Of course, geeky people who eagerly want to try the Crysis demoon their high end machines next Tuesday already have a high speed ( by the way, I couldn't agree more with Jason ocampo in his latest newsletter about what really excites me the most this upcoming September 25.....)

Just look at the size of those things: C&C 3: 1.2 Gb; BioShock: 1.9; MoH Airborne: 1.3; World in Conflict: 1.3; Stranglehold: 2.1 Gb. The size of full games for showing one level full of high end textures. Sweet. But wait, has Gamespot prepared accordingly its server spaces for this next Tuesday? I'm afraid to get a 2 Gb demo that day, we'll have to wait......THE entire day before playing it! In the meantime, let's watch the TGS.

2nd Gig://prise 27:// The Halo Effect

Entry 105: Or is it another chapter of the Aliens legacy?

Very few video games can firmly stand innovative in a world so rhetorical of past concepts constantly rehashed. Even good rehashes that I equally eager like the rest of us. As a ''new intellectual property'' originated in 2001, Halo isn't stranger at all to such influences abundantly pulled over our eyes during a couple of decades, and here I mean following the Aliens legacy. In 1986, we saw in the theatres what is now considered a landmark sci-fi action flick. A ''new'' sub genre was successfully put on the silver screen at large for the first time, at least with such grandeur: space marines infiltrating derelict complexes. We musn't forget the masterpiece brought by Ridley Scott, Alien (1979), one of the first modern movies brilliantly providing a striking survivor story in space. But James Cameron and his team refined the task onto a pure actioner, aften copied since then in various incarnations. Yes, more than twenty years of space grunting against aliens, aften bad, sometimes mediocre, scarcely good. Halo falls into the latter category of course, yet one wonders how distinct is it from its major influences - meaning Aliens and the cIassic literacy.

In a world of electronic mediums closely tied altogether, with so many cross references, we must never forget the prehistoric precursors of the electronic sci-fi: cIassic novels. The space marine sub genre was particularly pushed in the 50's by author Robert A. Heinlein. Starship Troopers comes in mind outright. The flick adaptation isn't as bad as critics said, when strictly seen as an efficient actioner going straight to the point. There are so many clichés, but Halo also spur a certain amount of derivative quasi-plagiarisms: the black sargeant smoking a cigar, swearing in face of disgruntled grunts; dropships; terrestrial vehicles; aliens themselves; lasers; even the Cortana AI remains a blend of concepts seen elsewhere ( though she has an attractive demeanor ); and, not the least, ring worlds ( sci-fi novels again).

Now, Halo is a planetary phenomenon - wait, a hysterical conundrum that no Aliens or Starship Troopers can stand. How did Microsoft succeeded to market it like no precursor achieved? Is it the whole montage more proper for a wider acceptance in the 2000's that even Aliens didn't get in the past? Or maybe the space marines/aliens warfare just needed an overhaul as a polished video game experience? Like some good wine, perhaps only time tells when it is ripe for a mass distribution it seems.....Likewise, MS' timed marketing for the Halo franchise definitely worked tenfold, without being much more innovative than the best competitive challenges already offering the same addictivegameplay: Half Life series, Unreal Tournament and the likes. These proven legends share an equal amount of fluid gameplay, polished veneers, character variety than any other esteemed behemoth such is Halo. They have each a bandwagon of rabid fans; yet without matching the global consensus reached by the big H. As such, just compare the pre-orders of Halo 3 versus HL2:Orange Box (Ep.Two) and you'll see where the tenfold goes.....

It seems every generation of games, every four-five years that is, elect a winner standing above the rest for having managed to conquer the hearts of gamers at a planetary level, whereas the other contenders ''only'' succeed to do so at either a regional level or genre level - whatever the good stuff in there. For a pure sci-fi experience, Halo surpasses the expectations at enticing masses of gamers that could easily overlook other releases of the genre, even the remarkable ones. Although a blended mix of all the aforementioned influences and more, the Halo universe becomes bigger than ever with the release of the third iteration. Bungie crafted a rich universe nonetheless, magically marketed just like was the Final Fantasy in the RPG realm and GTA dominating the urban theme.

The greatest games of the genre are, in my mind, even better than Halo. I won't name them here ( but one can guess some...).I rated and reviewed my favorites higher than Halo, and this still stands. It's the sum of all its parts than may propel it far beyond, a cultural influence reminiscing a lot the hip hop phenomenon: a form of interaction that the community needed, not just a musical evolution. Halo concurrently level up the expectations of the gaming community, at joining the non sci-fi hardcore addicts. A success story we only witness every five years or so, yet here never forget what the precursors did.