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by Ethos

Scatter Storming. Issue #038

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

YOU HEARD IT STRAIGHT FROM THE BITCH’S MOUTH, FOLKS! The asshole misses me! Scatter Storming goes away for half a month, and Riddles is already in tears. If any of you even half-follow the site, you’ll know that my girlfriend finally moved into town this week, so my time has understandably been focused on that section of my life before she starts school and I have to go back to the reality of writing for my website and doing other things with my life. So let’s scatter some storms, shall we?

I got Ys 7 -
Because why the hell not. Well, I’m broke, so that’s a good reason, but I had enough money on my PSN account to get it, so I went for it. Because of the aforementioned attention to my lover, I haven’t played it too much, but it’s actually kinda fun. The beginning was slower than I wanted it to be, but I think that’s because I was anxious to try out this action RPG series for the first time.

People tend to agree that the game doesn’t look very good, and while technically I agree, so far it has been a rather whimsical and magical universe. The character models and textures are nothing impressive, but I like the atmosphere. Anyway, positive impressions so far.

I got Windows 7 -
Well, I downloaded it and I’m trying to install it. The upgrade attempt didn’t go so well, so I’m thinking about backing everything up and starting a clean install. I’m sick of Vista, although one certain event set this decision in motion.

FFXIV Beta -
I preordered the game, so I’m very interested in this open beta, but the client just insta-crashes whenever I try to open it. I blame Vista. My impressions of the beta would be here if it wasn’t fucking up. So stay posted for that. While I’m on the topic of downloading a bunch of shit.

Goddamn Birth By Sleep -
It is deservedly Birth By Sleep Week next week. I’m very excited for the title. But for whatever idiotic reason, the game will not be released on the PSN. I’m aware that the PSP Go was dead out of the gate (the thing never should have cost that ridiculous price), but the 4 Go owners (myself included) aren’t the only ones who can download PSP games off the PSN. It just doesn’t make any sense.

So, to combat their stupid move and to bring you all proper impressions next week, I’m going to borrow Andogo’s PSP and steal that bugger. I’d gladly pay for it if I was able to, but sadly I can only purchase the UMD, and I have no interest in that. I’m sick of physical media. Switching discs and carts seems so archaic to me now. I know a lot of you like looking at your collection and breathing a happy sigh, but you’re all old men to me.

Old men with walkers, who wheeze about the good old days while shouting racist remarks and talking about how the airplane ruined good character because kids used to have to swim across the Atlantic to get to school every day.

Metroid: Other M -
To get back to Riddles, since this is his issue, he was right about one thing. I did want to write a few editorials about Metroid: Other M this week. Hopefully I’ll be able to at least bring you guys a Soapbox tomorrow.

That’s it! This Oliver Issue appropriately rarely focused itself on him. I’m going to go try to get Windows 7 to work. If I delete everything, then fuck me twice and call me Suzanne. Later, cretins!

Hey! Look! Listen! #60 – High Hopes

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Hooah. Welcome to the 60th edition of Hey! Look! Listen! Can you believe it? 60. I mean, there isn’t much significance in the number, but it’s a pretty impressive run, eh?

EH?

That’s what I thought. Anyway. While the review and banner doubtless gave it away, allow me to offer you a formal welcome to Metroid: Other M Week. Being the impoverished fuck that I am, I will likely be unable to purchase and play the game, so my thoughts will not be offered. As for Ethos, he’s already written a detailed review for the game, but he’ll likely write something else about the game before the week’s end.

Alright, well, now that pleasantries are out of the way, let’s dive into the topics of interest for today.

First Batch of Arkham City Screens Released, Look Way Too Good

Holy God. I mean, Arkham Asylum was a damn good looking game – aside from Uncharted 2, it was probably the prettiest game that came out in 2009. So clearly the people at Rocksteady know how to pump out some graphics. But this – this – is just insane:

Click on the image for the full size. Some mighty fine texture work there, eh? Almost looks touched up. I’m gonna go ahead and guess that these are from the PC version. In any case, I think it’s safe to say that Arkham City will be a hell of a good-looking game when it’s released in late 2011. Hit up IGN for the full batch of screens. (They’re all amazing.)

Great Scott: Back to the Future Episodic Game Series Coming

That’s right. Telltale games, the people behind episodic titles such as Sam & Max and Tales of Monkey Island are adapting everyone’s favorite time-travelling trilogy into a series of episodic games, due out later this year on multiple platforms. It will be timed to coincide with the Back to the Future 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-Ray, which releases on October 26.

I didn’t even know the trilogy was coming to Blu Ray. And we’re getting a game, too? Can this get any better?

Yes, yes it can: Christopher Lloyd will be returning to voice Doc Brown, and original screenwriter Bob Gale will be onboard the project.

If this sounds completely out of the blue (it was to me) it actually isn’t. Some months ago, Game Informer spilled the beans on a Jurassic Park game being developed by Telltale as part of a deal they struck with Universal Studios. A Back to the Future game is yet another product of that deal.

“Our partnership with Universal is an exciting next step in our continued growth as a mass-market games publisher and developer,” says Telltale Games CEO Dan Connors. “We are all huge fans of both of these franchises. For Back to the Future and Jurassic Park, we will leverage Telltale’s expertise in story-telling and game design to deliver on the unique elements of each series, with our goal being to create compelling cinematic adventures paying homage to each franchise.”

I’ll admit to being excited. Back to the Future has long been one of my most loved film trilogies, and I’d love to see it given proper treatment within the world of videogames. Same with Jurassic Park, really. I haven’t played any of Telltale’s other stuff, but given the reception of stuff like Sam & Max, it sounds like if anyone can do it, they can. I can’t wait. (Kotaku)

Call of Duty: Black Ops Multiplayer Details Revealed

Treyarch appears to be stepping up their game with the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops. And they need to, because when set next to the two Modern Warfares, World At War, their previous effort, pales rather dramatically. (In my opinion, at least.)

At an event in Los Angeles, journalists were allowed their first hands-on time with Black Ops’ multiplayer modes. The event is actually taking place as I write this, so I doubt every piece of information has found its way to the internets at this time. But, this being the modern age and whatnot, there’s already more than enough to whet the appetite.

-COD Points: A New In-Game Currency

Black Ops will introduce an in-game currency known simply as COD points. They’re earned by playing the game (naturally) and they can be… spent on things. I’m not sure what, exactly, but we’ll probably know soon. As of right now, all we know for sure is that COD points can be used as gambling currency in…

-Wager Modes: Black Ops’ Four New Multiplayer Modes

Now, this is the big one. So far, at least. With your COD points, you’ll be able to gamble in the four new “Wager Modes.” You’ll be wagering that you’ll end up ranked in the top 3 at the end of the match. Those in the top 3 get all the money; the rest go broke. Descriptions of the four modes are as follows:

“One in the chamber” – each player spawns with one pistol, one bullet, and three lives. If you kill someone, you get to take their bullet. If you miss, you have only your melee attacks.

“Sticks and Stones” – you play with crossbows, tomahawks, and a ballistic knife. Obviously, the mode is meant to place an emphasis on visceral, up-close combat. As a twist, if you manage to hit someone with a tomahawk, you instantly bankrupt them. So. Watch your back.

“Gun Game”  - With every kill, you’re gifted with a more powerful weapon. The first player to cycle through them all wins. If you get knifed, though, you’re sent back a tier.

“Sharpshooter” – Everyone starts with the same randomly selected weapon. After a fixed amount of time, another random weapon is selected for everyone. Each kill earns you a perk, and if you rack up enough you’ll be gifted with a scoring multiplier.

Or, instead of reading all that, you could just watch this video:

I tend to play Team Deathmatch and only Team Deathmatch, but I like the sound of these. They sound unique, highly competitive, and potentially highly rewarding.

-Offline Multiplayer

Oh, and there will also be an offline multiplayer component that enables bots. This will be called “Combat Training,” and will be a separate entity from online multiplayer, with its own progression system. I just hope the mode enables split-screen play, so that my flesh-and-blood couch buddies can join in. If so, then the mode will be awesome. If not, I don’t have much interest in fighting an army of bots.

Exciting stuff, to be sure. November 9 can’t come soon enough. I’m just hoping to have prestiged in Modern Warfare 2 by that time. (No, I still haven’t prestiged.) (VG247)

QUICKIE: iTunes 10 Introduces Ping, the Social Network for Music

The headline is the story, essentially. If you want details on it all, head over to Gizmodo. What do I think? Eh, well, it looks slick as hell (I mean, it is Apple) but it also seems gimmicky and superfluous. I’d rather post YouTube music videos to my Facebook account. Or at least, that’s my first impression. I might think differently when/if I take a look at it, which I’m sure will happen sometime, if only out of sheer curiosity.

And that, as they say, is that. Man, I’m tired, and I don’t know why. I’m going to bed.

p.s, remember when Ethos used to write that thing called Scatter Storming? I miss those days.

Metroid: Other M Review – There is Exploration in Metroid

Monday, August 30th, 2010

LIKED:

-Fast and varied combat, way beyond a button-masher

-Surprisingly engaging story and voice-acting, despite some cheese

-Challenge, optional paths, good puzzles, and spooky moments

DISLIKED:

-The rare, but annoying, forced first-person sections

-The controls for the just as rare, just as annoying 3rd person suspense building sections

-Not as much environmental authenticity as the Prime series

Metroid: Other M was a game that nobody was expecting in a great number of ways. After the Metroid Prime trilogy was completed and saw moderate – but not blockbuster – success (the entire trilogy combined sold about 20% of New Super Mario Bros Wii sales alone), the entire gaming population was neither clamouring for nor expecting any new Metroid titles for at least a little bit. But then along comes Nintendo at E3 2009 to announce a collaboration with Team Ninja to make an all-new story-heavy 2D-3D hybrid Metroid game. It was both unexpected and a risk, but the major question is: did it all pay off? Largely, the result is not only a “yes” to that question, but a promising effort for the future of Nintendo’s dwindling hardcore fanbase.

Story

This is fun

This is the one that might have the masses split. Not so much because of the story itself (although it gives a rather bold backstory for Samus), but because one of this nature exists at all. Metroid has traditionally been told largely through mood, implication, and optional in-game research rather than the involved cutscenes that Other M brings to the table. Personally, I think the story-telling is refreshing for a Nintendo title. It is sincere, introspective, and fits the mood of what (little) I have seen of the Metroid series. I love that Samus frequently gives her personal take on what people say and the things around her. It solidifies her character as solitary, critical, yet very human. While the plot, style, and even characters are nothing new, I can’t compare Other M’s story-telling style to any other game. In fact, I found myself wishing for more of Samus’ commentary during extended sections without a cutscene.

But despite these scripted elements, Metroid: Other M doesn’t abandon its predecessors’ ability to foreshadow and create the appropriate atmosphere through gameplay and natural surroundings. Windows in a hallway overlook directly into a boss’ liar, and room and puzzle designs give clues as to the nature of the facility that Samus is exploring.

Still, while I’m pleased to see Nintendo take big steps – for them – toward immersive and admittedly unique story-telling, Other M is not particularly well-written, is prone to being occasionally hokey and melo-dramatic, and isn’t very surprising. That being said, my previous comparisons to Kingdom Hearts aren’t far off in the sense that despite these short-comings, the result is greater than the sum of its parts. Not to say that the style and themes are similar to Kingdom Hearts, so don’t be turned off if you’re not a fan of keyblades.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Metroid’s story, however, is how well it stacks up to modern HD titles. Sure, it’s no Bioshock, but the tale is engaging the entire time and even has moments that are completely badass, something not seen in a Nintendo title for quite some time. Other M’s story was the element that had me the most skeptical going in, and after completion, I am sold.

Young and naive... naive and young... young and naive...

Gameplay

It works. Other M’s bizarre hybrid of 2D and 3D simply works. Not only that, it is a better experience for it. 2D combat uses the Wiimote held sideways and is fast-paced and frantic. Samus runs quickly, shoots quickly, dodges quickly, and jumps like crazy. In 2D, as long as Samus is facing an enemy, she will shoot it. This auto-aim doesn’t dumb anything down, however, it just allows the focus to be on positioning and strategy instead and this is a great design choice.

To dodge, Samus needs to tap the directional button in any direction. It’s very easy to pull off – which is good because it’s an essential move – but the catch is that if you want to take advantage of Samus’ speed, you need to be holding down a directional button, and not be tapping.

Of course, there’s always the option to point the Wiimote at the screen to make the smooth transition to first person. This lets Samus gain the ability of powerful missiles and precision aiming at the expense of mobility. The transition works incredibly well from a mechanical standpoint although there are a few intense instances in which the transition is unfortunately a little disorienting.

Perhaps more important than combat, is the freedom the first-person perspective gives you in platforming and exploration. A 2D perspective can feel limiting sometimes, especially in a game like Other M, when there are hidden paths, secrets in corners, and long hallways. Thankfully, the first-person perspective is a godsend for any meticulous player. Of course, the game was designed for players to make full use of all options, but that just means it was designed well.

In fact, all abilities that Samus gains are consistently useful. While some of them stack, others aren’t just useful for a short time after they’re gained, but can be implemented in combat and searching for hidden items and upgrades throughout the experience.

But on that note, I unfortunately have to move on from the great combat, varied exploration, and well implemented unique gameplay mechanics and talk about some of the duds.

I hate these guys

While missile ammo, beam charging speed, and health can be upgraded by searching the various areas in classic Metroid style, major upgrades are handled terribly. Samus is fully equipped the entire game but only uses weapons that she’s authorized to use. Now, the game gives a bit more justification for this, so it’s not quite so awful as it sounds in that simple summation, but overall it’s a frustrating mechanic. Thinking “I could have got that extra health earlier if this stupid weapon was authorized” took me out of the experience on more than one occasion. I know it’s just a pretense for releasing the equipment, but at least finding it scattered across the game is familiar and consistent with finding the other upgrades.

In addition to that annoying quirk, there are two other gameplay instances that frustrate during Other M. One is a forced first person perspective. This happens a few times for either research or combat. Both cases are contrived and feel antithetical to the rest of the game. The other instance is during times that are meant to build suspense. The camera zooms into a tight 3rd person over the shoulder shot and Samus can only walk slowly and without using her weapons or abilities. In and of itself, these sections actually work to build tension. But the controls are horrible. Walking in a straight line is fine, and even some turning is okay. But trying to backtrack or maneuver tight spaces is a nightmare.

Another thing that might be more of a personal annoyance is a small frustration at the location of the game itself. All of Other M takes place in a single facility. Now this facility manages to work in a lot of other classic Metroid sceneries, but it just doesn’t feel as authentic as the locales in, say, the Prime trilogy.

But to end my gameplay thoughts on the positive note that the game deserves, Metroid: Other M was a pleasantly challenging experience. Experts won’t have a terribly hard time, but the title thankfully does not feel dumbed down and the only way to fully recharge health is to find a save point. No health bonuses for defeating enemies. Although at critical health, Samus can take about 10 seconds to recharge a portion of her health at the risk of leaving herself incredibly exposed. Because of the risk and the only partial recovery, I am very thankful for the mechanic.

Graphics

Other M does not look as good as Metroid Prime 3. Other M does not reach the excellent level of art design that the Prime trilogy possesses. Of course, Retro Studios’ work would be hard to match, so this isn’t really a surprise or a disappointment. Especially because Other M is still a very pretty game, just not the best the Wii has ever seen. And with so much production value and attention to cinematics both in scenes and gameplay, it’s occasionally difficult to come to terms with the fact that there isn’t a HD version of the game that you could switch to. Of course, that is a hardware issue, so I cannot fault the game for that.

However, because the only way to move around the world is in the 2D perspective, there is a distinct lack of more epic terrains. Smaller rooms and tight hallways make up the majority of the environments, which isn’t new to Metroid, but can feel a little claustrophobic when coupled with my previous gripe of the overall location choice.

Jump on the head, blast off the face

Sound

Metroid: Other M successfully combines music and sounds reminiscent of both the classic Metroid games and the Prime series as well as throwing in some more epic elements into the mix with even a small taste of Mass Effect in there. Still, the sound design isn’t as detailed and unique as the Prime series, although still quite impressive because – again – comparing technology to Retro’s trilogy is a bit of a lost cause. In fact, I played with the volume louder than I usually have it, and the score was always appropriate in tone and volume.

The voice acting was way better than I expected. Samus’ somber thoughts were able to portray her serious nature with genuine emotion, and the supplementary characters ranged from believable to good. Sometimes a few lines were ridiculous, but that was more a fault of the writing than the actors.

Final Thoughts

Do not let my nitpicking deceive you, I really enjoyed Metroid: Other M. Despite its ridiculous name, Nintendo and Team Ninja were able to make a unique, ambitious title that was largely able to bring the best from all of Samus’ adventures into a new form. Other M is an extremely promising effort from Nintendo, showing that it is, perhaps, willing again to try and push boundaries to make unique hardcore titles. Oh, and did I mention that the game continues beyond the credits? Other M isn’t super-long, but it’s worth your money as a Metroid fan, or a gamer looking for a moody action-packed adventure with – yes – exploration.

Review Outline