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by Ethos

Mass Effect 2 Review – Reach and Flexibility

Monday, February 8th, 2010

mass-effect-2-box-artLIKED:
-The continued conversation tree excellence
-Improved sidequests, graphics, and combat
-Way better crew beside Shepard
-Exploration to places only heard of in ME1

DISLIKED:
-Watered down Citadel and RPG mechanics
-Lack of dune buggy and crew interaction

I’ve already been relatively thorough with my thoughts on Mass Effect 2. The highly anticipated ambitious space opera by Bioware does side-quests, graphics, characters, and menus better than the original while taking away the fun dune-buggy thing and toning down the expansive and beautiful Citadel. Combat and RPG mechanics are streamlined at the small cost of feeling a little watered down.

So with all that summed up, what else is necessary to say about this middle chapter? Well, just that, really. Mass Effect 2 is the middle chapter of a trilogy, and as such it carries the necessary glories and burdens. Since the first game did the difficult job of introducing the expansive universe, the sequel could focus on fleshing out the world and characters. Consequently, missions were more intriguing since they didn’t have to worry as much about set-up, and big decisions were a lot bigger because I actually cared about the characters. To be perfectly frank, I didn’t really care who I left to die on that planet in the first game. Kaiden was boring and Ashley’s a bitch, so I was a little apathetic about the whole ordeal. However, there were moments in Mass Effect 2 that knocked me on my ass and I literally stressed over what I should chose while staring at the screen.

Still, while these decisions were very involved and the revelations made during the main plot were intriguing, I couldn’t help but feel like all the biggest answers were being held back for the conclusion. It was a little unsatisfying to know absolutely nothing more about an important character like the Illusive Man at the end of the adventure than I did when I first talked to him. Also, just as The Empire Strikes Back ends with dread and excitement looming at the adventure ahead and thus doesn’t feel concluded, Mass Effect 2 has the same issue. I do appreciate that the ending wasn’t dragged out, but it just didn’t have the same significance and sense of urgency and wonder as making it to Ilos and then taking down Sovereign.

Fear the Justicar

Fear the Justicar

But, to make up for the fact that Mass Effect 2 is almost a side-story to save humanity before the exact same impeding doom from the original takes over again for the conclusion, the game makes things far more personal. I have a feeling that finally taking down the Reapers will be more satisfying now that Shepard, Joker, and the old and new crew have been through so much more together. It was also nice to see Shepard making decisions while on a different sort of leash than that of the council’s, it made the story a lot less political which was an almost necessary change.

Final Thoughts
What’s important is that Bioware has delivered on improving the most complained about issues about the original Mass Effect while beefing up the adventure and giving a mostly new and much better cast to boot. I personally miss driving around in that stupid little dune buggy, the massive citadel to explore, the awesome end credits music, and the sense of wonder that accompanied the original, but the improvements are worth losing those things without question. The Mass Effect series is still way ahead of the curve with scripting, voice acting, and combining an incredibly epic yet entirely interactive adventure and Mass Effect 2 is the definitive proof of that. I have confidence in Bioware’s ability to bring the best of the first two with the conclusion that I’m already drooling for.

Mass Effect 2

Heavy Rain Demo Impressions

Monday, February 8th, 2010
I hope the literal origami turns out to be the killer

I hope the literal origami turns out to be the killer

Well since Riddles is off drunk and cheering on the worst of all sports: football, that means I can’t get my Mass Effect 2 review posted although it is finished. It also means that it can’t officially be Bioshock 2 Week yet. Sooo, good news and bad news. Because Bioshock 2 is worse than February.

Anyway, I got a chance to play the Heavy Rain demo. That’s that game that people are jizzing over and I have no idea why. I decided I’d play it with an open mind and not judge it from the videos that made it out to be nothing but a quick time event fest.

From what I gathered, it is and it isn’t what I feared. The demo includes two sections that star two different characters. Both characters are investigating the murders done by the interestingly named Origami Killer who, from what I can gather, is called that because he leaves a paper crane in the hands of his victims. The game is a refreshing change of pace from the non-stop action games of late by taking on an almost point and click murder mystery feel. Just from the demo, I could understand why the developer is pushing the fact that choices are everything in this game. There are times when you choose what questions to ask, what evidence to look at, and even whether or not you should turn a blind eye to an ex-client abusing a prostitute. Still, that’s when the cool unexpected stuff ends. Yes, many interactions and sequences are just quick time events. I had to push the right buttons in the right way at the right times in accordance to cues on screen. Although in one fight scene that I carried out, it looked like when I missed a cue, it didn’t make me instantly lose, but turn the tide in my opponent’s favour. Still, quick time events are annoying. But at least the game looked pretty amazing.

So I’m still not interested in this game at all, but I don’t think I’ll turn my nose up at anybody who plays and loves it. It appears to be attempting something that hasn’t been done before rather successfully, so I’m all for that. I’m also a little interested in the story now, but I think it’s a game I’d much rather watch than play.

So I beat two games.

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

Nope, I’m not completely useless. Over the past few days when I’ve made Riddles do all the work, I’ve been playing and beating Mass Effect 2 and Darksiders. Also, I’ve been watching all 14 episodes of Modern Family. Man, that show is awesome.

Anyway, Darksiders was sweet, but I don’t think I’ll review it. A little too late. Mass Effect 2, however, is still in that bubble. Let’s see if I can’t brighten up this shitty month just a little bit with my beautiful and insightful truths about the glory that is Mass Effect 2.

My sleeping schedule, once again, is completely raped, so it’ll either go up Sunday morning or late Sunday night depending on how strong my desire is to do the dishes and to play Skies of Arcadia.

One final note, there’s a reason this time why our upcoming weeks haven’t been revealed yet. Aaaand that reason will be revealed shortly as well! Until then, I’m really hungry.
lloydlevitan

Hey! Look! Listen!

Friday, February 5th, 2010

HLLfinal

I can’t wake up today. I laid in bed until 1:30 p.m, and I’m still not awake. A bit of an annoyance, to be sure, but I suppose there’s nothing to do but attempt to meet the day head-on in spite of myself.

…or what little is left of today, rather. Welcome to Riddlethos.com, everyone, and welcome to my twice-weekly (sorta) column, Hey! Look! Listen! More than a few things caught my eye today as I scanned my RSS feed, so without further ado, let’s get to the meat.

Damn straight.

IGN Reviews BioShock 2

Hoo boy, it really is almost here, isn’t it? The sequel to what remains my favorite game of this generation, and possibly, of all time. For the last few months, all the many reservations and concerns I had for BioShock 2 have been slowly melting away, and with the heralding of IGN’s written and video reviews, I can safely say that they’re gone. Check out IGN’s US review here and their UK review here. They awarded the game a 9.1 and a 9.0, respectively.

If the reviews are any indication, 2K Marin knew their source material well, and delivered a sequel accordingly. If that’s the case, (and I’ll know for sure in a few short days) then I can’t ask for any more.

No More Original Xbox Games on Xbox Live

Well, it had to happen eventually. After March 15, 2010, Microsoft will not be supporting online play for original Xbox titles. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing on an original Xbox or a 360.

Apologies to the (likely absurdly large number of) people still playing Halo 2 online. I’d almost like to get some official numbers on that. Having never even owned an original Xbox, (or a Gold subscription, for that matter – see the editorial below) this really is a no-never-mind affair to me.  I imagine that it might suck for a variety of other people, but seriously… the world has to move on at some point.

To read Microsoft’s PR spin on the matter, check out the original story on Kotaku.

bayonetta-witchYes, Bayonetta Was  a Commercial Success

Lots of publishers are in the process of reporting Fiscal Year result to this point, and Sega is no exception. And guess what, a certain Bayonetta was their second most popular game in the last nine months, second only to Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games. (Which really doesn’t count anyway.)

Reportedly, the game has sold 1.1 million units since its initial release in Japan. I brought up sequel talk a few weeks ago in this very column, and it’s only looking more likely now. (VG247)

Oh Shit: Disgaea Publisher’s Financial Fortunes Looking Grim

Any Disgaea fans out there? Yes? No? Possibly? I know I’m not one of them, but I bought the original game for my brothers a while back and they’ve been telling me to give the series a try since then. I also know a certain Shawn Cooper enjoys them quite a bit.

So, if you do enjoy Disgaea, or any game published by Nippon Ichi Software, you may want to be aware: in the first nine months of its current fiscal year, NIS’s operating profit is down an astronomical 97.5 percent.

Ouch. Big-time, major ouch. I’m too lazy to research in detail right now, but in the last nine months, has NIS release a single game in North America? The Kotaku article I read mentions several titles released in Japan, (Disgaea Infinite, A Witch’s Tale, another Phantom Brave) but not a single game that made it across the ocean.

Just an observation. (Kotaku)

Tease.Final Fantasy VII on PS3 Looking Less and Less Likely, Square Enix Hates Making Towns

Y’know, looking back, I’m forced to wonder why and how the gaming community became so convinced that a Final Fantasy VII remake for the PS3 was going to happen. They showed us a flashy video back in 2006 (which was probably little more than chopped Advent Children footage) called it a “tech demo” and like the hopeless fanboys we are, we latched onto the prospect of a glorious, HD remake, and haven’t let go.

Granted, Square Enix hasn’t really helped the matter; every time it’s brought up they say something to the effect of “yeah, that WOULD be totally awesome, wouldn’t it?” And yet, four years later, they’ve failed to provide such a remake, and they’ve failed to provide adequate an adequate reason as to why it wouldn’t/shouldn’t/couldn’t be made.

Until now, that is. Speaking to Ultimania Magazine, Square Enix big shots Motomu Toriyama and Yoshinori Kitase finally explained why a Final Fantasy VII remake isn’t feasible: designing towns in HD is just too much of a bitch.

No, seriously:

“It is a result of considering HD graphics will be the mainstream. Considering the amount of work to make graphics that deserve HD, it is hard to make towns in the conventional style,” Toriyama said.

“It is very hard to make games on PlayStation 3 in the same style as the games in that era had. Making graphics will take enormous time,” Kitase added.

Well, there you have it. I suppose this is why Final Fantasy XIII did away with towns altogether, eh?

Weak, Square Enix. Weak. (VG247)

I Want This

Yes, it's for real.

Yes, it's for real.

We’ve reached the end. You’ll note I didn’t include any clever remarks about how this column was somehow worse than February. And that’s because this column isn’t worse than February. February sucks ass.

‘Till next time!

Worse than February: Paying for Online Multiplayer

Friday, February 5th, 2010
Me in February.

Me in February.

Yeah, it’s definitely February. The weather is cold, rainy, and foreboding. Like always, Time feels like it has nearly halted in place.

For the next twenty-three days, it’ll be inching along at an excruciating pace.

It’s currently 1:57 a.m. CST on a Friday. I should be in bed, but for some reason I feel like discussing something that’s arguably worse than this soul-crushing month.

That something is paying for online multiplayer.

The desire to write this editorial actually hit me a few days ago, after reading IGN’s interview with Peter Dille, Sony’s vice president of marketing. Readers might recall that I brought up a few of the interview’s key points in my last Hey! Look! Listen! column. One of them was the possibility that, in the future, Sony might charge for their PlayStation Network services – much as Microsoft charges for an Xbox Live Gold subscription.

I reacted with disgust, naturally. I have no interest in paying console manufacturers for the basic function of online play – and I don’t think I should have to. This is why I don’t have an Xbox Live Gold subscription. And that’s why I really hope Sony takes an alternative route if they do introduce some sort of premium version of PlayStation Network.

Something that’s easy to forget is that online play has been around for years. People were playing Diablo online over Blizzard’s BattleNet network almost 15 years ago. The technology isn’t even close to being novel; however, it was some time before we saw it properly integrated into console gaming.

xbox-live1When Microsoft first launched Xbox Live, it was the first online service that was both stable and incredibly easy to use. Taking the PS2 online was a whole bitch, and few games had any real support anyway. The GameCube’s online support was even more of a joke. But Xbox Live offered reliability, ease of use, and a ton of people to play with.

And that hasn’t changed. Xbox Live is still a fantastic service, with a massive community that continues to grow. But Microsoft shouldn’t charge $50 for online play.

I’ve always praised Sony for providing PSN for free. Perhaps the service isn’t as “streamlined,” per se, as Xbox Live. But in terms of functionality, the two services are practically identical. If the service was buggy or unreliable, Microsoft might be vindicated – but as it stands, the difference is negligible, if it exists at all.

free-playstation-networkAnd, remember, it’s not just the PS3 that offers free online play – it’s every single gaming device aside from the 360: PS3, Wii, iPod Touch, PSP, DS, and of course, the PC. Sure, the Wii’s online functionality is a bit of a joke, but Mario Kart online is pretty fantastic. And guess what? It’s free.

So how, exactly, does Microsoft justify making gamers pay for online play? And why on earth is Sony considering adopting the same business model?

I have a simple solution that I believe would satisfy all parties involved: provide simple necessities such as online play for free, and offer extra, “premium” content to subscribers. By “premium” content I mean original programming like Qore, services like Netflix, and perhaps even exclusive game demos. Y’know, stuff that actually feels like it’s worth paying a little extra for.

IGN doesn’t require an Insider subscription to watch video reviews, but only subscribers can watch them in HD. It’s a business model that Microsoft should adopt, and I sincerely hope that it’s the route Sony takes if they do decide to begin charging for PlayStation Network service.

Oh, and $50 is too damned much. It’s significantly more expensive than the average magazine subscription. And seeing that most of the content on Xbox Live (TV shows, movies, services like Netflix) cost extra money, I’m unsure why I should be forced to pay a royalty just so I can… pay more later.

But hey, this is all just personal opinion, and a bit of a gut reaction. It’s probably worth noting that I’ve never had an Xbox Live Gold subscription, so I haven’t experienced the wonders that fifty extra dollars supposedly brings.

What are your thoughts, people? Do you Xbox Live Gold subscribers feel that your $50 was well spent? Do you think that console manufacturers should continue to charge for online play? Sound off!

Worse than February: This BioShock 2 Launch Trailer

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

BioShock 2 comes out next week. I can safely say that I’m a little excited.

However, it’s no thanks to this recently released launch trailer for the game.

What’s worse than a trailer without gameplay? A trailer with fake gameplay.

When exactly did these “launch trailer” gimmicks become so common? Sometimes they’re awesome, sometimes they’re lame, but they’re always a gimmick.

Anyway. Still looking forward to BioShock 2. Almost as much as I’m looking forward to the end of February.

Scatter Storming. Issue #018 “I Have Giant Testicles”

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

ss018Well these “classy” series Scatter Stormings didn’t stay classy for very long. This cover is a screengrab from an old sketch “comedy” movie I made with a dear friend of mine. “I have giant testicles” is a line from the scene that that unfortunate grab was taken from. I decided it would be appropriate to have something horrible as the cover for the first February issue of this illustrious feature, so there we have it. Let’s talk about games.

I miss Mass Effect -
Apparently when you go back to work, you’re unable to play video games as often. Who knew? Luckily, tomorrow’s my last day before the 3 week Olympic break. I will beat it then. I truly miss it. Like how one might miss a lover.

Darksiders 2?! -
Speaking of games I miss. I’m really looking forward to polishing off this gem after I knock out Mass Effect and before Final Fantasy 13 eats up my life. Now this is more in the realm of news, but this story broke after Riddles’ fantastic HLL on Tuesday. The point is that Darksiders did well and THQ isn’t stupid, so we’re getting a sequel. Yes please. (IGN)

More IGN Flamebait articles -
But, truly, I like it. It emphasizes the personalities of the site, and I’ve always been an advocate of that. Hell, look at Riddlethos, just since Sunday, Riddles has recounted a day in his life and posted a hideous picture of himself, while I posted a Facebook conversation and featured myself in my boxers this week. Anyway, controversial loudmouth, Greg Miller is a renowned PS3 fanboy but writes about how he thinks Mass Effect 2 is better than Uncharted 2. Frankly, I agree. Read it here and tell me if you agree.

The Last Guardian non-news -
This is starting to read more like a Tingle! Tingle! Kooloo-Limpah! feature, but hey, it’s what’s on my mind. Fumito Ueda is The Last Guardian’s director and recently joined in the latest craze: releasing news about releasing news. Yes, in an interview, Ueda talked about how The Last Guardian might be talked about E3 if Sony wants to. Great. Good stuff. Thanks. Basically confirms that this game is coming out in 2013. I’m barely joking. Kingdom Hearts 3 will come out before this shit. Hey…I wonder if that’ll be announced…

A New Development -
Speaking of that Facebook conversation I posted, there’s no better way to end this segment than with his reply that came just recently. Yes, folks, you can’t deny it: February sucks.
sucks

Facebook knows all.

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Me and a friend who I’ve known for 17 years started hating February in elementary school. This recent Facebook conversation is indicative of our annual exchanges this time of year.
february sucks

Scatter Storming coming tonight.

Hey! Look! Listen!

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

HLLfinal

What’s worse than February?

This recurring “news” column, that’s what. This barely informative, self-gratifying, irregularly updated EXCUSE for videogame journalism.

I feel sorry for anyone who’s about to read it, frankly. But hey, everyone’s gotta bite the bullet and eat a shit sandwich at some point in their lives. For the lot of you, that day is today.

So let’s get this over with.

lusiMegaphones Ahoy! Celebrates its 50th Podcast

A lot of you probably don’t need to be informed of this, but for those of you who don’t listen to Lusipurr.com’s Megaphones Ahoy! Podcast, there’s never been a better time to start. Both myself and Ethos guest star in this special, double-sized 50th podcast. I’m there for the whole thing, while Ethos’ airtime is limited to a 15-minute pre-recorded segment. Kinda stupid, actually, but so is he.

Click here to download the cast. Alternatively, you could get it on iTunes. Or you could click that big freaking banner to the left to go straight to the website itself. Choices, choices!

I like this guy already.

Mass Effect 2 Sells 2  Million

We have our first official videogame blockbuster of 2010, folks, and it’s Mass Effect 2. Here’s some PR spin for you:

Forty perfect scores. Two million units. One pop culture phenomenon. BioWare™, a division of Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: ERTS), announced today that Mass Effect™ 2 has sold-in over two million units worldwide in its first week of release*. Lauded for its intense shooter gameplay and deep, hand-crafted story, Mass Effect 2 has earned an average review score of 96** — making it the second highest rated game of all time on the Xbox 360

I’ll admit to being a little surprised. I knew Mass Effect 2 would be big, but 2 million units in a week is huge.

Then again, I’ve never seen so many people at my GameStop for the game’s midnight premiere. Not even for Modern Warfare 2. (VG247)

Heavy RainHeavy Rain Requires 4.2 Gig Install, Lets You Make Origami

Quantic Dreams’ interactive movie, Heavy Rain, will size in at a whopping 4.2 gigabytes. 4.2 gigabytes that you’ll be required to install before booting the game up. But never fear, because Quantic Dream was reportedly nice enough to include a 12-step origami minigame that you can play while performing the install.

I’m not sure that a 12-step origami piece will be enough to occupy the average gamer for 4.2 GB worth of install time, but hey, the effort is appreciated.

I haven’t talked much about Heavy Rain on Riddlethos.com, but I’m actually really looking forward to the game. I’m somewhat familiar with Quantic Dream’s previous works, having played approximately half of Indigo Prophecy back in the day. I really liked it, too – which makes me wonder why I stopped playing it.

Not interested in Heavy Rain? This video might change your mind. It features the main (female) protagonist naked. No, really. There are boobs and everything. Damn nice ones, too, as far as digitally rendered stuff goes. (VG247)

ps3slimSony Hopes to Bring More PS1/PS2 Classics to PSN, Considering Charging for PSN

IGN recently interviewed Peter Dille, Sony’s senior vice president of marketing. He’s also the man “in charge” of Sony’s PSN service.

The interview is very, very good, and there are more than a few things to latch onto and discuss. Two things in particular caught my attention: the discussion of PS2 games coming to PSN, and the possibility that Sony may go the way of Xbox Live and charge for their online service.

When asked about PS1 and PS2 classics on PSN, Dille responded that they’re “working really hard” on making more of them available. From the interview:

By all means, I think people can look for more of that because once the third-parties see how this works, it’s just found money. There’s not a whole lot of work that has to go into it and once we can get it up on the network, it finds an audience pretty quickly.

“Found money” is an excellent way to put it. On all accounts, there is absolutely no reason for PS2 games (and more PS1 games) to be on PlayStation Network. Peter Dille said it himself. I suppose it’s a matter of getting third-party developers on board, but frankly, that shouldn’t be difficult for Sony to do. So. Where are the PS2 classics?

IGN asked quite a few questions about Sony’s PlayStation Network, and one of them was if Sony ever planned to charge for it. From the interview:

It’s been our philosophy not to charge for it from launch up until now, but Kaz recently went on the record as saying that’s something we’re looking at. I can confirm that as well. That’s something that we’re actively thinking about. What’s the best way to approach that if we were to do that? You know, no announcements at this point in time, but it’s something we’re thinking about.

And… ugh. I am not in support of this. I buy multiplatform games for the PS3 for a few reasons, and the main one is that if I ever feel like playing online, I can do it for free. I don’t play enough to be considered “hardcore,” and certainly not enough to justify a $50 Xbox Live subscription, but I enjoy the occasional round of, say, Modern Warfare 2.

If Sony does introduce some type of subscription model, I sincerely hope it only applies to “premium” content – like, say, exclusive demos or videos.

I know $50 a year isn’t much to ask, and I know that people have the idea that it “pays for the stability.” But playing games online is not and should not be considered “premium content.”

I encourage you to check out the full interview here.

QUICKIES:

Here’s a few rapid-fire headlines for you. Short, sweet, and not really worth writing about at length.

Final Fantasy XIII Will Ship on Three Discs – As long as one of them doesn’t sit in a paper sleeve. (I’m looking at you, Lost Odyssey)

Final Fantasy XIV Is Coming to Xbox 360 – According to VG247, this has been “obvious for a while,” but it came as a surprise to me.

And just because we have a bit of a Simpsons thing going this week, I figured I’d include this image from the latest episode:

simpsonsZii

I should watch that show more often.

Well. Between a long night at work and frequent South Park-induced distractions, this thing went up a bit later than I anticipated. But hey, at least I did it, right? If nothing else, it means you don’t have to suffer another one of Ethos’ pathetic attempts to match my news-condensing prose.

Which is almost as bad as February, but not quite. ‘Till next time!

Oh, God…

Monday, February 1st, 2010

…It’s February.

This week, Riddlethos asks you the question: what’s worse than February?

Not much, if you ask me. We are now officially done with the Holiday season, and the remaining traces of that intoxicating New Year aura will soon be squelched out of existence.

The weather is shit by and large, and people have cast aside any remaining vestiges of Holiday cheer. As they should, because what is there to look forward to in February?

Valentine’s Day?

In the words of Jim Carrey, Valentine’s Day is a day created by greeting card companies to make people feel like crap.

I bought Valentine’s Day gifts for a girl once. She broke up with me four days later.

(I thought Conquerer of Shamballa was pretty good as far as anime series feature-film followups go…)

Ahem. Anyway. Even I am forced to admit: as bad as February is, the picture below is worse.

pubeface

Brains.

Yeah. I wasn’t kidding.

So, what’s worse than February, Riddlethosians? And for extra credit, what’s the name of the Jim Carrey movie that the above quote appeared in?