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by Ethos

Most Surprising Game 2010 – Riddles

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

Bayonetta

Most Surprising was a little difficult to decide this year, largely because, well, not much really surprised me. In fact, a lot of games that I wanted to surprise me, didn’t. *coughALANWAKEcough*

That being said, I have chosen Bayonetta, as you have all gathered. Bayonetta hardly came from left field – I was fairly confident in the fact that I would enjoy the game – but I didn’t expect I would enjoy it quite as much that I did. And, to be perfectly honest, I never expected the gameplay and mechanics to shine the way they did. So, I suppose you could say, the game impressed me with its shine – and I don’t just mean style.

If you’re like me, you don’t look to Japan for much these days. And certainly, you don’t look to Japan to deliver a game that can almost – almost – be called the definitive action game of this generation. Bayonetta’s combat mechanics are so polished and intelligently designed, they can be called a piece of programming art. It can be summed up simply: utterly accessible, yet insanely complex. It’s better than Devil May Cry, better than God of War, better than Ninja Gaiden. In fact, it’s better than just about anything else out there.

Obviously, more than just pure and simple gameplay must be considered when deciding the best titles of the year. But, I can say this: of all the games I played in 2010, not one of them was as much pure, unadulterated, consistent plain fun as Bayonetta. And yeah, I’ll admit, I didn’t quite expect that.

Maybe in Bayonetta 2, they can work on making all the other parts of the game equally sensible.

Runner Up: Mass Effect 2

Ah, well this was even harder to decide, but I promise it’s not a cop-out. Again, I didn’t think I’d enjoy Mass Effect 2 as much as I did. Know why? Because I really didn’t fall in love with Mass Effect 1. I managed a single bare-bones playthrough, appreciated the depth of the universe and some of the mechanics, and wondered why they didn’t do a better job of delivering a game with these concepts. Well, Mass Effect 2 takes those concepts, and delivers that game. And it’s amazing to witness.

Best Atmospheric Experience 2010 – Ethos

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Mass Effect 2
*WARNING: Many extreme Mass Effect 2 spoilers are detailed below*

Very few games can control my heartbeat like Mass Effect 2. It plays the thing like a harp. Slowing down, speeding up, sometimes stopping completely. At the beginning of the game when Commander Shepard is running through the collapsing Normandy and finally makes her way to the bridge, the fearless commander is forced to slow to a walk. The music cuts away, and all that’s left is the sound of Shepard’s breathing through her helmet and spacesuit while the player notices a beautiful and horrible view of a closeby planet because the majority of the roof of the spaceship has been ripped off.

This is just one example, and unlike God of War III’s tactic of saving the best for first, this moment is consistently matched and conquered throughout the experience.

Choosing to kill Samara or her daughter, boarding and exploring a dead reaper, stumbling upon a cannibalistic slave society, hearing Harbinger’s voice issue philosophical threats as you flee a structure set to explode. This is a game that is so alive and thick with atmosphere that it is the only game in which I don’t mind being a little scared from time to time. Granted, Mass Effect is very rarely a scary series, but the point is that I’m so drawn into the world that it’s like I have no choice but to trek on until completion.

While some people love to play through multiple times to see all the possible reactions and outcomes, I’m so sold by Mass Effect’s atmosphere that I can’t do it. I have played through 1 and 2 one time because it makes no sense any other way to me.

Mass Effect 2 is dark and depressing and epic and varied and occasionally a little twisted, and you can feel it with every step. I might prefer the first game, but Mass Effect 2 is an atmospheric masterpiece.

Runner up: Darksiders

I could chose Heavy Rain, but I’m going to use an excuse that I just bashed earlier in these awards and admit that I hate that game too much to pick it. Epic Mickey even had a fair shot at #2, but I’m too let-down by its technical shortcomings.

Darksiders surprised me in not only how much fun it was, but in how dense some parts of the world felt. It was nowhere close to Mass Effect territory, and I can assume improvement for the sequel, but it would be silly to deny that I didn’t feel the hopelessness and ruin throughout the experience.

Darksiders jumped from creepy to epic to surprisingly pretty with ease, and the world felt cohesive and exciting to explore. Not to mention that the lead character, War was treated by enemies with fear and respect along with the typical malice. Not a common reaction from terrifying looking baddies.

As I talk about it, maybe this – more than DeathSpank – was the second game that Riddles was too stupid to play. He likes God of War, he likes Zelda, he likes pretty things and great atmosphere, and he pretends to like good games, so suck it up and buy this one, Olivia!

Oh, and both Mass Effect and Darksiders have good music. That helped the atmosphere in both.

Hey! Look! Listen! #61 – Man, I’m Tired of Being Homeless

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

I really am. I mean, “homeless” isn’t entirely accurate – I’ve been living in a nice two-bedroom apartment with Dillon and his fiance for the last five weeks or so – but it’s only meant to be temporary, and the majority of my stuff is in a storage unit. It’s a place to live, but it isn’t my place, y’know?

And of course, when I finally got around to applying for residency to the apartment I picked out, I was denied because I didn’t pass the fucking credit check. Why? Not because I have bad credit; but because I have no credit. Why do I have no credit? Because I’ve avoided credit cards and car payments my entire life, and paid for everything with money out of my own pocket. So I’m essentially being penalized for being financially responsible, and that infuriates me to no end.

But, in a stroke of moderate luck I’ve found another place, in which my lack of credit shouldn’t be an issue. So, if all goes well, I’ll be in a place of my own in two to three weeks.

But enough about my boring personal life. Welcome once again to Hey! Look! Listen! I’m your host Oliver “Riddles” Motok, and it’s time to see what’s going on in my RSS feed.

Final Fantasy XIII Coming to Xbox 360 in Japan… What?

After letting it kick around as a rumor for less than a day, Square Enix came forward and confirmed that their shitty 13th entry in the Final Fantasy series will be coming to the Xbox 360 in Japan, as part of their budget-priced “Ultimate Hits” line. If you recall, while the game was released on both PS3 and 360 in the states, it remained a PS3 exclusive in Japan.

I assumed that this was largely because nobody in Japan owns an Xbox 360. And, as far as I know, that’s still the case. So, to be frank, this makes little sense to me. But then again, nothing about Final Fantasy XIII makes sense to me.  The game is, and remains, a giant digital clusterfuck.

The four existing Japanese 360 fanbots will be able to experience said clusterfuck on December 16. (VG247)

Check Out Dragon Age II’s Female Protagonist


Cute, right? Like Ethos, I always go Female when allowed to choose, because I’d rather look at something cute. And also, nobody else does it. And also, I fantasize about being a woman and it allows me to partially realize said fantasies.

That last part isn’t actually true, I just thought it would be funny to say. Or… is it?

Anyway. While I’m glad she’s hot and stuff, this immediately raised the question in my mind: will you be allowed to customize character appearance in Dragon Age II? If you recall, while Mass Effect always had the stock male model used in all the trailers and promotional stuff, they never bothered showing a female – makes sense, seeing that most people are going to create something totally unique anyway. So the fact that they’ve provided this specific female model makes me wonder. And google as I may, I can’t find any solid confirmation that appearance customization is a feature in Dragon Age II.

Maybe I’m missing something. Dunno. I have no idea *why* BioWare would remove the feature, seeing that it’s become sort of a staple for them. And my guess is that they haven’t. I’m just, y’know. Raising the question.

Check Out These Mass Effect 2 Stats

Now this is cool. And insane, in some cases:

28 times? 28 motherfucking times? Are you kidding me? I want to meet these people, and see how much of a life they don’t have.

Anyway, this image was part of an IGN interview with Mass Effect’s Executive Producer, Casey Hudson. In the interview, Hudson explained why they gather these stats, and how they’re used – or not used – to aid the development of future titles. Here’s an excerpt:

Ultimately it doesn’t always give you the answers, but it sometimes raises questions or gets you to ask the right questions…More people played the soldier class than all of the other classes combined. If you know that, then you can start thinking about future games. Is that good? Is that a problem? Should we look at the other classes and start thinking about ways to make them selected as often as soldier? As part of asking these questions, we can design games in the future a lot better.

The full article is rather interesting, and not absurdly long. I recommend you check it out here.

A PC With a Built-In Xbox 360 Now Exists

And it’s awesome. And… expensive. As fuck.

A company called Origin PC has built a high-powered gaming computer that not only has specs mad enough to play anything at max settings, but it has a freaking 360 Slim inside of it. The whole thing, with the same ports and connections. You can even play it while the PC is performing other tasks.

As for specs, the entry-level configuration includes:

-An overclocked 4.0GHz Intel Core i7 930 processor,

-A liquid cooled Rampage III Extreme motherboard

-Dual NVIDIA GTX 480 GPUs,

-6GBs of memory

-Dual 50GB SSD drives

-A 2TB hard drive

-A Creative Fatal1ty sound card

-A built-in Blu-ray burner

All that can be yours for a mere $7669. And if that’s not expensive enough for you, try the configuration used by CPU Magazine:

-Dual Intel Xeon X5680 processors overclocked to 4.3GHz

-An EVGA SR2 motherboard

-Liquid cooling

-Quad SLI EVGA GTX 480 GPUs

-12GBs of memory

-Four 50GB SSD drives

-Two 2TB hard drives

-A built-in Blu-ray burner

-A built-in 8 channel HD audio sound card

All that can be yours for a mere… $16.999. Interested? You can order “The Big O” (that’s seriously what it’s called) now at Origin’s website.

To say “do want” is a bit redundant at this point, but I guess I’ll say it anyway.

QUICKIE: There’s a Dissidia Sequel Coming

Well, this isn’t terribly surprising. According to the latest issue of Shonen Jump, a sequel named Dissidia Duodecim: Final Fantasy will be released next year. Confirmed to be in the new lineup are Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII and Kain from Final Fantasy IV.

“Dissidia Duodecim”? Really? That’s Nomura for you. Anyway, nothing else is known about the game at the moment, but I’m pretty sure we’ll hear more when TGS rolls around. (VG247)

And that, as they say, is that. It’s time to get some Taco Bell and then head to bed. Tomorrow’s my one day off, and hopefully I’ll be able to spend it playing Dissidia. If so, expect impressions.

‘Till then!

~Riddles

Tingle! Tingle! Kooloo-Limpah! #013 – It’s My Birthday, Bitches!

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Well folks, it is now officially my birthday. And so far, my wonderful and beautiful girlfriend has wished me happy birthday, and so has Nate Liles.

THAT’S IT! Nope, Riddles texted about something completely different then made a silly claim about “time zones”, and Constipated Cow called to say “oh fuck, did I miss your birthday? It was the other day, right? I’m a bad friend”. Damn straight you’re a bad friend! I know your birthday is May 15, and that’s without consulting Facebook. Idiot.

I’m actually horrible with birthdays, so I shouldn’t talk. I’ve forgotten my mother’s birthday on 3 of the past 4 years. Still, on this joyous occasion I will still bring you all belated news. I went to Microsoft’s X10 event today, and although a bunch of great games were playable, I spent 2 hours in 8 different interviews instead. Oh well, at least it was an open bar. The point is that I’m tired, so let’s talk about semi-new Gamescom news!

There’s a lot, so just find the headlines or pictures you like, and pick and choose your stories if you’re in a tl;dr mood, I won’t get offended.

No longer just a mock-up

The Normandy Lands on a New Space (Play)Station

This is the oldest news, but still some of the biggest. Ray Muzyka, the CEO of Bioware, made the announcement on Tuesday that Mass Effect 2 would be coming to PS3 with “hours of bonus content”. The port is planned to be released in January 2011 with “no plans” to bring the original over as well. In fact, Microsoft made sure to pee all over this announcement to mark their territory on the franchise. Here is a statement they gave to IGN.

With both Mass Effect titles launching first on Xbox 360 combined with the wealth of available paid downloadable content on Xbox Live today, Xbox 360 remains the best place to experience the Mass Effect franchise…and the original Mass Effect is absolutely an Xbox 360 exclusive, making Xbox 360 the only place to get the full Mass Effect experience

You can feel the panic in their text. Still, I have no interest in replaying the series on another console unless I get to play through all of my choices, so they have a point. And seeing how Microsoft published the original game, it will be a while – if ever – before it sees the light of day on another console. (IGN)

Microsoft’s Copout Handheld System

Microsoft is trying really hard to fight off Apple. Windows 7 is their obvious attempt to combat (see: emulate) Mac OS, and their Windows Phone 7 is their newest attempt at an iPhone killer. Not just as a powerful smartphone, but apparently as a gaming platform like the iPhone has become. In fact, Kevin Unangst – some exec at Microsoft – even went as far to say the following,

We’re looking at this like: Call it like a console launch. It’s really like our portable console launch in that there’s a constant hardware set, we’re specifically choosing the content we want, and it’s about bringing all of those service features over.

Sure, the hardware is made by a third party, but why not try to throw it into the portable console race as well? To their credit, the phone is shaping up to pretty slick and pretty powerful with a lot of thought going into the gaming side of things. I won’t have any real interest, however, until I hear about things more interesting than Peggle. Because I can get Peggle on PSN, thank you. Not that Peggle has been announced, it was just an example. (IGN)

Everything Cole is New Again

I truly outdo myself. What a great headline.

But onto the story, I haven’t seen a backtrack this quick since Sony’s doomed boomerang controller. Anybody remember that thing? Was I the only fan? Anyhoo, while people were hyped for all the new Infamous 2 stuff, the new design and voice of Cole made it a bittersweet unveiling. While the voice appears to be unchanged, Cole’s newest design – while still different – is far more akin to the original. Which do you prefer?

Old New Cole:

New Old Cole:

I have to say that the New Old Cole does seem less douchey, what with the lack of necklaces. Although as much as I loved Infamous, it wasn’t for the story and characters, sorry. (IGN)

Resistance 3?!?! What a Surprise!!!

That’s the whole story, really. It’s finally been officially confirmed beyond that movie set still grabbed in October 2009. I liked the original a lot more than the sequel, but I’m willing to give this third installment a chance. That is, of course, after we get some more details. We currently have none. Maybe this should belong in the “quickie” section, but that’s swiftly becoming the “impressions and not actually news” section. (IGN)

HD soon!

No More Wii Exclusive

I never played either No More Heroes games for the Wii although they seem to have a cult following. But it looks like now I’ll have a chance to try it the series on a real system. A HD remake of the original title that will be released as “No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise”, was announced today during a Konami press conference at Gamescom. No release date was mentioned beyond 2011, but more importantly it was confirmed that the game can be played with traditional controls despite supporting Playstation Move. (IGN)

Portal 2 in February 2011

Hey, not all my headlines have to be clever. Valve confirmed that Portal 2 – the full follow-up to the unexpected and superb mini-title – will be released on February 9th for PS3, 360, and PC. No timed exclusives. Simple and beautiful news.

As a little piece of supplementary news, Game Informer tells us that Stephen Merchant will voice the character of Wheatley, who is apparently a British robot. I haven’t been following the game as to not spoil too much. Anyhoo, you might know Stephen Merchant from the British version of The Office, or – as I know him – The Ricky Gervais show. (IGN)

QUICKIES/PREVIEWS:

Mortal Kombat First Look- Damn it! This is a game I could have played today, but didn’t have time to. It sounds like it’ll be the first good Mortal Kombat game in a very long time.

Killzone 3 Multiplayer- If you care. He also goes into the Move controls a little bit at the bottom. He’s diplomatic, but he you can tell he didn’t really care for them.

Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One- Enh, I just got into this franchise! I don’t want something this drastically new, more of the same please! The editor is optimistic, but I’m apathetic.

More Zelda Impressions- I’m sorry, but talk of the game occasionally misreading movements and a 95% accuracy rate being presented as a positive thing doesn’t get me excited for the game. But I expected this.

WHAT A BEAST!!! I’m done. It’s my birthday.

The Vetoed Picks – Ethos: Jack

Monday, July 26th, 2010

During the process of creating these Top Five lists, Riddles and I ran into a number of disagreements. Some of them so great that we decided that we’d both be allowed a single veto. Because there was more debate on the female side of things, we each vetoed a female pick of the other’s. But we also decided that we’d get a shot to defend the one we wanted to make the list so bad. So here goes.

Jack is sexy. Riddles is quick to call any woman with a tough shell a bitch…which is especially funny because if Oliver were a woman, he’d be exactly like that. Anyway, Jack definitely can be rude and rough around the edges, but she’s smart, honest, and doesn’t bullshit. I respect that. She went through an insane childhood, raised in a testing facility and referred to as “Subject Zero”. When she finally escaped, she went on a rampage, joining cults, killing people, and desperately trying to find herself.

Sure, all the murder and crazy biotic powers make her a little scary, but she grows to trust Shepard; a very rare thing for Jack to do. It’s once this happens that Jack shows that she hasn’t just turned into a killing machine. She never turns into that scared little girl who just needs a friend, but she is able to speak freely of her vulnerabilities and own them while making it clear that she has no problem blasting somebody’s face off if she has a reason to.

But Jack is not just sexy in her confident, quick, and no bullshit attitude. She’s also tattooed from head to toe, which excuses the fact that’s she’s practically naked – the tats basically look like clothing – she shaves her head, and as mentioned before, is a powerful biotic badass. Not to mention she’s got the brooding loner thing going for her. She’s a sexy chick, and Riddles is crazy to use his veto in this case.

But then I should know that he’s crazy, just wait ’till you see the complete shit he wanted to drag into our list. I had to let Samus fly because I had no choice but to place my veto on his insane opinion. Sorry for the spoilers, but I look forward to seeing Riddles fly off the handle because I’m bashing his dear Shelob.

Hey! Look! Listen! #54

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

Oh, hey! It’s this column!

I know I only missed a week, but it feels… longer. But, then again, last week felt like it lasted for 327 years, so that might be why. In any case, I’m back, and sincerely happy to be here. I have seen the world outside, and it’s a far less pleasant place than Riddlethos.

Generally speaking.

I actually *don’t* have Alan Wake at this exact moment, but that’s only because I rushed home to begin work on this very article. Still grabbing it tonight, and I’ll have impressions up by tomorrow evening at the latest. Or, if I’m feeling crazy enough, tonight. (Don’t count on that one, though. Just throwing it out there. To torture you.)

Final Fantasy XIII Sells 5.5 Million, Square Enix Has Record Year

I didn’t realize until now, but during its 2009-2010 fiscal year, Square Enix released a numbered Dragon Quest, a numbered Final Fantasy, and two Kingdom Hearts games. The result? Money, and lots of it.

In an earnings report today, Square Enix announced that their games division had seen a 128.4 % increase in sales over the previous year, to 109,949 million yen. Operating income went up 254% over the previous year to 23,814 million yen. All considered, it’s the best fiscal year they’ve had since the Square and Enix merger in 2003.

Impressive, eh? You can thank Final Fantasy XIII, sad as that is to say. It’s sold a combined 5.55 million units since its release in Japan last year. Perhaps even more absurd, though, is the four million strong that Dragon Quest IX pushed – seeing that it was only released in Japan.

So, despite the apparent loss of their ability to make good RPGs, Square Enix isn’t going anywhere. And that’s all I’m really taking away from this. (IGN)

Square Enix “Looking Into” Releasing Vs. XIII on 360

Totally called this. Not that it’s much of a “call” these days. Publishers tend to release games on multiple platforms. It makes sense, and it’s not as difficult to do as it (apparently) once was.

During an investor meeting, in which financial matters (such as those in the story above) were being discussed, Square Enix’s president Yoichi Wada had this to say concerning Final Fantasy Vs. XIII’s multiplatform-ness:

“We’ll be looking into it internally until right before the formal announcement.”

Looking into it. Alrighty then. You know what I’d like to see, now that I think about it? A breakdown of how many copies that Final Fantasy XIII sold on the 360. I have a feeling that, if I could see one, I might be able to predict their decision. (VG247)

Aggregate Ranking Roundup: Alan Wake, Prince of Persia, Red Dead Redemption

As you’ve likely gathered, it’s Alan Wake Week here at Riddlethos. But, Alan wasn’t the only contender for the “honor” – a certain Prince and an assortment of outlaws from the Old West made fine arguments in their favor. Now that the week is here, how exactly are the three games faring in the critical realm?

Sitting comfortably on the first place position is Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption. It’s currently holding down a 95.79% aggregate score on GameRankings. (It’s worth noting, I suppose, that the PS3 version only has a 93.36%). Impressive. Most impressive. Only based on twelve reviews at this point, but still. Maybe we should have made this Red Dead Week. Oh well.

Coming in at number two is our very own Alan Wake, with an aggregate score of 84.40% And that’s based on 40 reviews. Solid. Quite solid. I’m excited to judge for myself.

And, at number three, everyone’s favorite Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands with a 76.00%. That’s only based on five reviews, yes, but… disappointing? The reviews are actually largely positive. But, frankly, when I play Prince of Persia, I’m expecting a masterpiece. Then again, after 2008’s rather underwhelming reboot, maybe I… shouldn’t. Ah well. I’ll buy it and play for myself eventually; frankly, I’m hoping it drops in price as quickly as the last game did.

Aw, C’mon: Mass Effect 2’s Mining Streamlined

I didn’t do a whole lot of mining in Mass Effect 2, which I know did me no favors. (You gotta do it if you want to get higher-level weapon upgrades.) However, the reason I didn’t do much mining in Mass Effect 2 is because it was slow. Very. Very. Slow. It was actually kinda fun in an odd way, but god damn… was it ever slow.

Anyway. I think you catch my drift. The reason I’m writing this story is because BioWare released a patch for the 360 version of Mass Effect 2 (PC patch coming soon, supposedly) that addresses this exact issue. And according to Gaming Today’s Phil Owen, “The scanner now moves very quickly, and the scanner itself is much larger… talk about streamlining.”

Well fuck. That would have been nice four months ago, BioWare. Then, maybe then, I could have acquired that awesome [insert high level something or other here] that I always fucking wanted. (Gaming Today)

Oh, For Fuck’s Sake: Nintendo Attempting to Make New Zelda “Easier to Play”

I haven’t been reminded of this fact terribly often lately, but it remains: I hate, hate, hate, hate Nintendo. So much. So much. So. Much. It started with childish gimmicks like motion controls. Then it was instructional DVDs teaching us how to play games. And now? Well, now they’re taking my once-favorite franchise of all time and… doing god-knows-what. Whatever it is, it can’t be good.

Shigeru Miyamoto, the man who created Zelda, was recently speaking with a German gaming site Gaming Media about the illustrious, unreleased Zelda title for the Wii. (1UP transcribes). During said interview, he claimed that Nintendo was “creating a new way to play the game.” Excitement? No. Definitely not excitement. Why? Here’s why:

“We are trying to make Zelda, which has become very complicated, easier to play.”

Complicated? Complicated?! Complicated?!

Pardon me while my mind explodes.

Ahh, that’s better.

Okay, maybe I’m thinking of the wrong Zelda here. You know, the fucking bread-and-butter of action-adventure games? Crawl dungeons, fight baddies solve puzzles? Again: bread-and-butter. BREAD AND FUCKING BUTTER.

BREAD AND BUTTER IS NOT COMPLICATED.

Oh man. I just… have no words. Link… what are they doing to you over there?

It’s just… I have these awful mental images of everyone’s favorite Hero of Time being chronically sodomized by grinning, aging Japanese businessmen. For a while, I imagined Miyamoto merely sitting on the sidelines and watching; perhaps with a sort of subdued distaste. But now? Well, now’s he’s part of the action. And I just can’t handle that.

…and now that I have concluded the most disgusting tangent ever written on Riddlethos.com, I will take my leave. Goodnight, everyone. Enjoy the mental imagery.

Mass Effect 2 Second Opinion – The Choice is Yours, Shepard

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Mass-Effect-2-BoxartMass Effect 2 is the best RPG I’ve played in years, full stop. It’s also one of the most improved sequels I’ve ever played. With Mass Effect 2, BioWare has addressed the original game’s weaknesses, and produced an incredibly well-written, cinematic thrillride that improves upon its predecessor in every way.

Speaking personally, my main complaint with the original was its dull, slow-paced plot. The writing was fantastic, and the amount of backstory provided about the massive universe was staggering; but the main plot almost became buried beneath this deluge of exposition.

In Mass Effect 2, the stops are immediately pulled. The game kicks off with Shepard’s beloved ship Normandy exploding. I won’t spoil more, but suffice to say, things get pretty crazy. Like Empire Strikes Back, Mass Effect 2 takes on a much darker, more desperate tone the the original, right from the start.

And, seeing that Empire Strikes Back is my second favorite Star Wars movie, I consider that a compliment. In Mass Effect 2 the stakes are higher, the decisions are heavier, and the ramifications are dire – people often live or die on your whim. Mass Effect 2 is a far more intense, involved, and well-paced experience than the original was.

Not only that, Mass Effect 2 plays a hell of a lot better than the original as well. Gone is the ridiculously contrived “overheat” system, replaced with a fairly typical ammo system. The gunplay adopts a more cover-oriented approach, and as result, ends up feeling slightly Gears of War-ish. This isn’t a bad thing, though – combat is much faster and more enjoyable in Mass Effect 2.

Oh, and I feel compelled to point out: the exclusion of the awful dune buggy that occasionally forced itself upon you in the original game was a good decision. That is to say: the dune buggy sucked ass. A break from the usual gameplay, yes, but a shitty break. It is not missed in Mass Effect 2.

This dude is my fave.

This dude is my fave.

But the most impressive thing about Mass Effect 2 is how flawlessly it maintains the richness and believability of its universe. After importing my save from Mass Effect 1, I soon found out that decisions I had made in the original game would have ramifications now. Also, I was impressed to see that concepts only touched on in the original – such as the Krogan genophage – were fully explored in Mass Effect 2. You’ll even come across a number of incidental characters from the original, and they’ll all know who you are. Something this complex has really never been done before, and BioWare is pulling it off with remarkable grace.

But I’ve said all I need to say. Ethos has already written extensively about the game, so check out his two posts for more information. Other than the specific points I mentioned (such as the Buggy) I agree with his analysis of the game. His generous score 9.0 is well deserved. Mass Effect 2 is not a game to be missed.

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

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

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!