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by Ethos

Hey! Look! Listen! #55

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

There’s a lot of stuff in my RSS reader today. Way too much for me to process right now, in fact; though I’ll do my best to touch on the more relevant news items.

Anyway, ah. Welcome to another edition of Hey! Look! Listen! I’m your host Oliver “Riddles” Motok, and there WILL be a happy ending this time!

Ahem. So. Let’s get to it.

RUMOR: Sony to Reveal “PSN+” at E3?

Okay, I like the sound of this. If it’s true, Sony has the right idea about premium online services, unlike Microsoft.

According to one of Joystiq’s sources, Sony is prepping to reveal a service called “PSN+” at their 2010 E3 Media Briefing. The rumored benefits of a PSN+ subscriber are as follows:

-Free access to a “rotating list” of PSP Minis and PSone classics. That’s pretty damn sweet.

-”Exclusive in-game DLC. Eh, that’s something I suppose.

-”First Hour” demo access to full retail titles. Unfortunately, to access the hour demo, you have to download the full game file. Still, you don’t pay unless you choose to purchase full access.

-Free “PlayStation Protection Plan” access. Yeah, that’s pretty nice.

-Cross-game voice chat. Ehh… well, I suppose that’ll excite other people.

-Cloud-based game saves. Meaning… you could access them anywhere, I suppose? Sweet.

-Some kinda auto-patching system.

All that extra goodness for PSN+ subscribers. However, online play will remain available to everyone. That’s the big difference between PSN+ and Xbox Live.

It’s rumored that the price would be in the range of $9.99 per month. Seems a bit high, though – Sony must know that it’s a bit pretentious price their service the same as Netflix. In any case, this is currently just a rumor. Frankly, though, I hope it’s true. It might encourage Microsoft to follow suit.

(Joystiq via Gizmodo)

Speaking of PSN: Modern Warfare 2 Doling Double XP This Weekend

That’s right! See, there’s this American holiday called Memorial Day that takes place this Monday the 31st. It’s a day that honors those who died in service of our military, and it’s most often celebrated with wings and beer. But me? Well, I’ll be MW2ing it up the entiiiire weekend. And I’ll have beer. And hell, maybe I’ll pick up some wings. Sounds like a damn fine weekend to me. Except for the part where I’ll suck at Modern Warfare 2 because I haven’t played it in two months. (VG247)

Insomniac Games Signs Deal with EA Partners

While I have no real experience with Insomniac Games’ work (never played Resistance, never played Ratchet and Clank) this is still an interesting bit of news; Insomniac Games has only ever made games for Sony platforms. But now, in wake of a deal with EA Partners, they’re working on a game for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

The days of platform loyalty really are dead. And no, I don’t necessarily view that as a bad thing. I’m just stating an increasingly apparent fact.

Anyway. Insomniac Games will continue to work with Sony, so don’t fret, Resistance 3 is still in the works. Absolutely no details were offered on what kind of game they’re developing for EA, or when it will be released. If you want the full story, check out VG247’s interview with Insomniac’s Ted Price.

Mass Effect is Being Made Into a Movie

Yeah… I suppose it was just a matter of time.

Legendary Pictures, the studio behind films such as The Dark Knight and 300, have reportedly snapped up the film rights to Mass Effect. BioWare co-founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk will serve as executive producers, along with series producer Casey Hudson. I Am Legend screenwriter Mark Protosevich is supposedly interest in working on the film, and it will be produced by Avi and Ari Arad, as well as Legendary’s Thomas Tull and Jon Jashni.

Sound great, right? Meh. Not to me. The Mass Effect franchise represents a narrative experience that can only be achieved through an interactive media like a videogame. To make it into a film would be to cheapen it. It just wouldn’t be Mass Effect as Mass Effect was meant to be experienced. (VG247)

QUICKIES:

Ubisoft Toronto Working on New Splinter Cell Game - Yay, Toronto! That’s where Ethos lives!

RUMOR: Killzone 3 Coming May 2011, Features 4-Player Co-op - Okay. I mean, again, I really don’t care much about Killzone. But for those of you who do, have some rumor stew!

Alright. Well, that’s it. We’re done. Goodbye now!

Scatter Storming. Issue #025

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

SS25Well, he brought this upon himself. He had to act like a cock, so now I’ve taken away his Scatter Storming privileges.

And yes, they ARE privileges. Scatter Storming was actually my idea. I just decided to let him have fun with it. It’s simple enough for him, after all.

But now, he doesn’t even have that. Sorry, Ethos! Sucks to be you! Today we’re gonna talk all about MEEEEE!

Stupid Final Fantasy XIII

Seriously. I know I haven’t written much about Final Fantasy XIII, and there’s a pretty good reason for that: I haven’t played much of it. I’m about about 16 hours right now, and I’ll be honest: the game struggles to maintain my interest. It’s really a bit shocking, but for the most part, FinaL Fantasy XIII just plain bores me. The gameplay is non-existent outside of combat, and turn-based combat alone can’t carry a game. It would help if the story was worth a shit, but god, it’s just… not. In any way. At all. Whatsoever. It’s bad. The plot is bad, the writing is bad, the characters are bad, it’s all… bad.

I don’t hate Final Fantasy XIII. I think it does some things very right, and it’s gorgeous to look at – but it’s easily one of, of not the worst numbered Final Fantasy game. And, after waiting for over three years, I was really hoping for more.

Modern Warfare 2…?

It’s true, I’ve been playing it lately. I’m actually somewhat decent now, which makes it much more fun. I’m still not great, obviously, but I can hold my own, and actually feel like a part of things instead of a king-sized target for the other team.

Seriously, though, fuck the “Stimulus” DLC. Fuck it. Fifteen dollars for five maps? Three of which have been lifted from the original Modern Warfare? Where the hell does Activision get off?

Unemployment

…yep, I still don’t have a job. Unemployment really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I’m bored and sleepy all the time now, because I have nothing to do, and I get no exercise. My body is slowly retreating into this odd, vegetative state. I feel like I should go dig a hole in the ground and hibernate.

I don’t regret quitting my job, though. I’ll spare you the details, but it was well past time for me to go. After five years or so, I’d kinda overstayed my welcome.

But hopefully, I’ll find another job before my brain completely shuts down. And… before I run out of money.  Not sure which is the higher risk right now.

On that note, who wants to pay me to write about videogames?

Nobody? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Shame, because I’ve been writing about games for years now, and I fancy myself to be pretty good at it. It’s been my goal to break into the videogame journalism industry for a long time now, and I’m hoping that all of this payless work eventually amounts to something. Like, y’know. A job.

On a lighter note, The Office

Man, I love that show. I’ve watched it here and there for the last few years, but only recently have I gotten serious, sat down, and watched it from Season 1 on up. I just finished Season 3. I would see about downloading Season 4, I’ve recently discovered that I have no hard drive space on my laptop. No, really, I have like… less than a gig of space. I need an external badly.

And that’s it! Ethos has been officially one-upped. Hopefully, he’ll learn something from it. Who knows, if this is well-received, I might just take over Scatter Storming for good. After all, this is my website. Meaning I can do whatever I want. And Ethos has to do what I say.


Hey! Look! Listen!

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

HLLfinal

1:32 a.m. on a Friday night, and what am I doing?

Nothing FUN, that’s for sure. I’m at my desk, surrounded by empty bottles of cheap lager, writing an article for you fucks. I hope you enjoy it.

Actually, I hope you don’t, because that would SHOW you.

Yeah.

Anyway. Let me grab another Yuengling, and we’ll get started.

Bobby NodickActivision Vs. Zampella/West: Things are Getting Heated

You guys should pay attention to this, because it’s one of the juicier, more scandalous stories to emerge from the game industry since Jack Thompson was disbarred.

In the previous edition of HLL, I reported on the unceremonious canning of Infinity Ward’s two main men, Jason West and Vince Zampella. I also reported that Activision had filed an SEC suite against both of them, citing “insubordination” and “breaches of contract.”

Well, the (seemingly) dynamic duo of West and Zampella aren’t taking this one lying down. They’re counter-suing Activision, claiming that the company owes them royalties for work on the massively popular Modern Warfare 2, and that they were fired without proper cause. They’re not playing small-time here either: their suit demands 36 million USD in damages, as well as the rights to the Modern Warfare brand. (Not Call of Duty, mind you; but Modern Warfare.)

Said West: “We were shocked by Activision’s decision to terminate our contract. We poured our heart and soul into that company, building not only a world class development studio, but assembling a team we’ve been proud to work with for nearly a decade. We think the work we’ve done speaks for itself.”

Said Zampella: “After all we have given to Activision, we shouldn’t have to sue to get paid.”

Said Activision: (full commented blockquoted for douchery)

“Activision is disappointed that Mr. Zampella and Mr. West have chosen to file a lawsuit, and believes their claims are meritless,” the company said in a statement e-mailed to Kotaku by a spokesperson. “Over eight years, Activision shareholders provided these executives with the capital they needed to start Infinity Ward, as well as the financial support, resources and creative independence that helped them flourish and achieve enormous professional success and personal wealth.

“In return, Activision legitimately expected them to honor their obligations to Activision, just like any other executives who hold positions of trust in the company. While the company showed enormous patience, it firmly believes that its decision was justified based on their course of conduct and actions. Activision remains committed to the Call of Duty franchise, which it owns, and will continue to produce exciting and innovative games for its millions of fans.”

Well. If anything’s clear at this point, it’s the question of appearances. West and Zampella look like two creative geniuses who’ve been thrown under the bus, while Activision continues to look like a grand, huge, massive, gargantuan, money-grubbing bag of douche.

And, frankly, I wouldn’t be too surprised if that turned out to be exactly the case. I have no proof, of course, but the pieces fit. Why the hell would Activision fire their two golden boys? Either they were doing something awful, like, say, money laundering – or Activision just wants them out of the way. Creative differences, perhaps? Arguments over what direction the Modern Warfare brand should take? Understand, as the heads of Infinity Ward, West and Zampella had complete control over the Modern Warfare subseries.

There are countless rumors and nuances to this story, and I’m not going to try to sum them all up here. It’s honestly deserving of a site feature in and of itself. I’ve given you the basic facts. Choose your side, place your bets, and we’ll see where this goes.

portal 2 - GIPortal 2 Unceremoniously Announced

I don’t care about Portal. I’ve never played it. I actually have it sitting on my PC’s hard drive somewhere if I’m not mistaken, but I’ve yet to give it a go. Regardless, a lot of people like Portal. So. All of those people can now officially get excited.

I say “unceremoniously” because rumors have been flying around for a while, and it was revealed the next month’s Game Informer would feature a Portal 2 cover story. After all of this happened, Valve confirmed it through steam.

So yeah, that’s pretty much it. Maybe we’ll see a reveal trailer at GDC? It is next week, after all – and Valve’s very own Gabe Newell will be receiving a “pioneer award” (whatever the fuck that is) at the show. (VG247)

dsi-xlOh Snap: DSi XL and iPad to Hit Retail Within Days of Eachother

C’mon, isn’t this at least kinda interesting? The DSi XL and the Apple iPad, two devices that a) are catered to people who like… uh… large things, and b) don’t need to exist for any reason are both hitting North American retailers within the same week. You can grab a DSi XL on March 28, and then an iPad on April 3.

All of you “size matters” people should be in heaven. Me? I’ll be sitting back and laughing at anyone dumb enough to purchase either device. Unless they’re really old and have problems seeing things properly. I’ll still be laughing then, but for different reasons.

Thanks to GamerLimit

Thanks to GamerLimit

Here, I’ll Up the Ante: Michael Atkinson is a Stupid, Melodramatic, Misguided, Fame-Seeking Fuck.

Note: I did NOT call him a crook.

Everyone other than SiliconNoob is probably wondering what the hell I’m talking about. Well, it goes like this: there’s this little island nation called Australia. Australia likes to ban a lot of games. They’re sensitive like that. Left 4 Dead 2 is one of the most recent examples. One of the reasons for this is that Australia’s most “mature” rating for games is MA15+. After L4D2′a banning in Australia, a bunch of sensible people decided that it might be time to introduce an R18+ rating for Australia, so we could end this nonsense of banning and/or altering games once and for all.

For the hell of it, South Australia’s Attorney General, Michael Atkinson, decided he didn’t like the idea. He’s opposing it tooth and nail. He just doesn’t understand WHY Australians crave more sex and violence in their interactive media! From a letter he wrote to… uh… someone:

“It does not follow that a game is more interesting to an adult simply because it contains extreme violence, explicit sexual material, or highly offensive language. Indeed, with all the effort and money that goes into game development, coupled with the effects and graphics now available, there is no need to introduce these extreme elements. I am baffled and worried about why proponents of R.18+ games are putting up their hands and saying ‘Give us more cruel sex and extreme violence!’”

Cruel sex…?

Anyway. The above was just a crash-course in Michael Atkinson, seeing that I’ve never mentioned him on the site before. In a nutshell: he’s an idiot. The real story is this: sometime last year, a dude named Dean McQuillan submitted a comment on an Adelaide-based website. Somewhere in the comment, he called Atkinson a “crook.”

Because the comment was “highly defamatory,” Atkinson is now suing McQuillan for $20,000.

Yes, you read that correctly. An Australian attorney general is suing a civilian for calling him a “crook” online. And that’s, quite literally, all there is to it.

Atkinson’s head must be one hell of a place to be. Obviously the guy has some serious issues of self-worth, because he seems to be doing his very best to simply be noticed – to  hell with what he’s being noticed for. But hey, I suppose we should thank him. It’s been too long since we gamers have had a public figure outside the industry than we can love to hate. (Kotaku)

shimomuraNERD ALERT: Yoko Shimomura to Score Xenoblade

What? You don’t know who Yoko Shimomura is?! Where is your nerd card, sir?

Anyway. Yoko Shimomura wrote all the pretty music for Kingdom Hearts. She’s damn good at what she does, and if Famitsu via Destructoid is to be believed, she’ll be providing the music for the upcoming Wii RPG, Xenoblade.

I’ve actually been fairly interested in Xenoblade for some time now, if only because I’m the world’s biggest Xeno-fanboy. (Xenoblade is, for the record, written and directed by Tetsuya Takahashi, the mastermind behind the Xenogears/Xenosaga games.)  Shimomura’s musical presence only sweetens the deal. I was actually just listening to the final boss themes from Kingdom Hearts II. Absolutely fantastic stuff. Xenoblade is set for release in North America sometime this spring.

FFXIII logoLook at All the Final Fantasy XIII Reviews

That pesty embargo for Final Fantasy XIII reviews has been lifted, so now the internet is practically swelling with verdicts on Square Enix’s first current-gen entry in the beloved series. Go to GameRankings. You might be a little surprised at what you see.

Having said that, I haven’t actually read any of the individual reviews, and I have good reason for it: I don’t want to go into Final Fantasy XIII with any more negativity than I’ve already acquired. I know for a fact that I’m going to be disappointed with some of the decisions they’ve made. I know that it’s not going to be the same as it was all those years ago, when I was young and Final Fantasy was the greatest thing in the world. But, regardless, I want to give Final Fantasy XIII a fair shake. I want to try to re-capture some of that magic that I felt as a kid, when I didn’t read or care about reviews. Impossible? Maybe. But I’ll give it my best.

As a closing thought, I leave you with indisputable proof that the Xbox 360 version of Final Fantasy XIII is superior to the PS3 version.

Thank god for Destructoid. And to think, I was about to go buy it for the PS3! Silly, silly me.

Well. It’s now 3:19 a.m. on a Friday night. Or… Saturday morning. Whatever. Point is, I’m still not doing anything fun. I’m at this same desk, with the same empty lager bottles. Plus a few new ones.

‘Till next time!

Hey! Look! Listen! Audio Edition #001

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

HLLAudioEdition
Yup, we did it. Because Riddles is here in person, we decided to make Hey! Look! Listen! into an audio edition this time and debunk all the validity the feature has built up for the site. Pogo joins as a special guest and complete madness ensues. Please to enjoy.

Download directly here.

Subscribe to the RSS feed here.

Subscribe to it on iTunes here.

Most Addictive Game 2009 – Riddles

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

PS3boxCall of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

In 2009, there was one game, and only one game that I beat in a single sitting: and that would be Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. In fact, not only did I beat it in a one sitting, but I stuck around afterwards to play online, split-screen, Spec Ops… everything the game had to offer, really. And I’m not even an FPS freak. That definitely says something.

Modern Warfare 2 probably isn’t the most well-rounded gameplay experience of 2009. By nature of being a first-person shooter, it’s limited in scope, and doesn’t quite hold up when compared to say, Uncharted 2. But damned if it doesn’t have the most polished gunplay of any game I’ve seen, as well as the pacing so relentless that it borders on the ridiculous. In addition to that, Modern Warfare 2 is the only other game that comes close to matching the insanity of Uncharted 2’s setpieces, It’s almost a good thing that Modern Warfare 2’s campaign doesn’t last much more than six to seven hours, because it probably wouldn’t hold up for 15-20. But I can safely say that those six hours were the most gripping and addictive that I had this year.

And of course, that’s really only half the story. I don’t agree at all with those who say that Call of Duty is “only good for the multiplayer,” but let there be no doubt: you probably won’t have a better time online with another shooter. It’s a game that casual FPS fans such as myself can pick up and enjoy without becoming frustrated, but it also clearly has enough going for it to engage the hardcore. And split-screen multiplayer with friends? Well, that never gets old.

A rare example of an over-hyped game that lives up to its over-hyped-ness, Modern Warfare 2 was an easy pick for my Most Addictive Experience in 2009.

Runner Up: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Hey! Look! Listen!

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

HLLfinal

Hello again, and welcome to the Tuesday edition of Hey! Look! Listen!

I know it’s technically Wednesday, but oh well. I’m your host Oliver Motok, and I’ve already pumped ten hours into Assassin’s Creed II. It is just that good. Impressions forthcoming.

For now, you’ll have to settle for a small dose of news.

mw2bannedModern Warfare 2 Banned in Russia… Or Not

A few days ago, reports that Modern Warfare 2 had been banned in Russia surfaced. Apparently, and unsurprisingly, they got pissed over the now-infamous terrorist airport scene, (seeing that it takes place in Russia, and is perpetrated by Russian terrorists) and called for a full-on national ban. All copies of the game were yanked from shelves, and Activision reportedly was told that they had to remove the level from the game before sales could resume.

Anyway. It WAS a juicy story, until Activision stepped forward and claimed that the decision to recall and modify their game was an internal decision. Bah, how anti-climactic. (MTV Multiplayer).

Check Out BioShock 2’s Boxart

That last story was pretty lame, and in my opinion, so is the boxart for BioShock 2:

That is so... not badass.

That is so... not badass.

Seriously? Seriously? Does anyone disagree with me here? It looks like a cartoon. I am not impressed. (Kotaku).

deadspaceDead Space 2 To Have Multiplayer?

Seems that way, if this job listing is to be believed. Here’s the description:

Seeking a highly motivated Senior Online Level Designer for the Dead Space franchise on Xbox360 and PS3. This is a major opportunity to contribute creatively to an exciting new franchise.

Responsibilities:

• Conceptualize, script, direct, and build online levels for the game.
• Own the level design for the online game, be able to work collaboratively with Creative Director and Online Producer to create extremely fun, satisfying and polished multiplayer levels.
• Drive online design by taking the initiative to bring all parties together to execute on the overall vision for the levels.
• Be a collaborative member of the design team, and contribute to reviews, feedback, and playtest sessions.
• Hands on contributor

That makes it clear enough to me, and it certainly comes as no surprise. BioShock did it, Uncharted did it, and now Visceral has decided that Dead Space has to follow the trend and take on a completely superfluous multiplayer mode.

Uncharted didn’t suffer for it. BioShock 2 is yet to be seen. If Dead Space 2 suffers for it, I will seek revenge. (Kotaku).

ps33.10PS3 Firmware 3.10 Coming This Week

That’s right! Soon after its existence was leaked to the internet, Sony has officially confirmed that PS3 firmware 3.10 will be released this WEEK. Why should you care? Because this one integrates Facebook. How AWESOME is that? Well, for all you facebook stalkers at least.

But it’s actually more than just a Facebook app on your PS3. According to network operation director Eric Lempel, players will be able to share trophy updates on Facebook, for all their friends to see and laugh at. Also, future games will feature the ability to update your facebook.

Again, just so everyone who isn’t as nerdy as you are can have a hearty chuckle.

As you can tell, I’m not super-excited for this. Who knows, it could be neat; I just really have no need to use Facebook on anything other than my computer. And I have no desire to broadcast my trophy acquisitions to the world. (1UP).

square_enix_logoSquare Enix Collaborating with Eidos Montreal on New Game

The headline is essentially the news story, but this is interesting enough to bring up. This marks the first time Square Enix has worked together with someone in their own holding group to produce a game. (Remember, Square Enix acquired Eidos some time ago.)

Speaking at the Montreal Games Summit, Square Enix CEO Yoichi Wada said that the project would be the company’s first “truly global game.” Absolutely no other information was released. I’ll be on the lookout for it, though. Interest = piqued. (1UP).

Man, I would really love to play some more Assassin’s Creed II. Sleep? Who needs sleep? Seriously though, it really is a fantastic game. I’d love to say more, but it would ruin my forthcoming impressions!

‘Till then, readers!

Concerning Modern Warfare 2’s Terrorist Level…

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

modernwarfare

By Oliver Motok

Every so often, we are reminded of just how far the game industry has to go before it gains the respect that, say, the film industry enjoys.

Granted, progress has been made. Things aren’t quite the same now as they were in 2005, during the infamous “Hot Coffee” scandal of Grand Theft Auto III. And thanks to a certain fellow being disbarred, we don’t hear quite as much courtroom squawking about videogames and their corrupting influence on the minds of children.

Getting to the point, though, and as you might have guessed, I’m here to talk about Modern Warfare 2’s “terrorist” scene, which has been the subject of much scrutiny in both the gaming and the mainstream press lately. To fully understand the discussion, the scene should be described in detail.

During this level, you’re actually an undercover CIA Agent, working with the game’s main antagonist, Vladimir Makarov. The premise is simple: you, Vladimir, and two others walk into a Russian airport and begin mercilessly gunning down civilians. No one is spared, and no resistance is offered outside of a few terrified security guards. Once that’s finished, you and your three companions successfully escape in a hijacked ambulance.

Understand that this is all fully playable; it’s not a cutscene. To say the least, it’ll disturb you. There’s a reason why the game gives two different warnings that the sequence is possibly offensive, and allows you to skip it without penalty.

mw2snowIs Modern Warfare 2’s “terrorist” scene worthy of discussion and scrutiny? Sure it is. It can be a very upsetting scene, and it’s certainly not something seen before in the world of videogames. However, the tone of both the media and the gaming press seems to phrasing the question as “should the scene exist at all.”

If this fictionalized terrorist attack had been a scene in the next Michael Bay movie, nobody would have batted an eye. If it had been featured as a cutscene in Modern Warfare 2, nobody would have noticed. However, because it’s a playable sequence in the game, people are shocked. Why? Because it’s something they’ve never seen before. And it’s all too easy to fear what you haven’t seen before, now isn’t it?

Stephen Totilo of Kotaku was recently on MSNBC, discussing (or at least attempting to discuss) this very scene. During the segment he said something that I agree with 102 percent: “I think a lot of people look at videogames as children’s books.” And he’s entirely correct – despite how far we’ve managed to come, the general consensus still seems to be that videogames are a child’s pastime. So, when Modern Warfare 2 has the gall to present players with overtly adult material, the world is left wondering how to react.

Naturally, though, as gamers we have a different opinion. Videogames are proven to be a pastime that all ages can enjoy. Modern Warfare 2 has an “M” on the box for a reason – the content of the game is designed for a mature audience. The so-called “terrorist” mission was meant to be experienced by a mature audience. This being the case, then, the question of “should this scene exist” is rendered moot.

There are multiple reasons the scene is beneficial to the game. For one, it’s a guaranteed crowd-shocker, sure to cultivate attention and motivation from the audience. Even hardened gamers who think they’ve seen it all will surely be stunned, and that’s saying something.

MW2screen2Secondly, the segment acts as a major plot point, and it characterizes the main villain, terrorist leader Vladimir Makarov. Sure, it characterizes him as a black-and-white evil bastard, but regardless, it gives a face to the name that players will hear time and time again throughout the campaign. Secondly, it’s this attack that triggers the entire war that the game is based around. In other words, it’s not there simply for the sake of having a “terrorist” level – it’s a very crucial part of the story.

And finally, Infinity Ward is to be praised for embracing the interactive medium to it’s fullest. This is what all games should strive to do. Franchises such as Call of Duty and Uncharted understand that it’s not what you see, but what you do that defines the gaming experience. Naughty Dog could have simply crafted a cutscene for the train sequence of Uncharted 2 – instead, they designed two entire levels in which the player was forced to traverse it himself. Infinity Ward could have put together a hollywood-quality CGI scene that showed the terrorist attack, but they forced the player to experience it firsthand. Controversial as it may appear, it’s simply the best way for videogames – an interactive medium -to tell their stories.

Video games are all about the interactive experience. It’s the single unique advantage that games have over other storytelling mediums. So, should Modern Warfare 2’s terrorist level exist? Absolutely, and hopefully both gamers and developers alike will view it as a solid example to follow. Eventually, the world will get used to it.

Hey! Look! Listen!

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

HLLfinal

Greetings, and welcome to the Thursday edition of Hey! Look! Listen! I’m your host Oliver Motok, and last Tuesday, I spent nine straight hours playing Modern Warfare 2.

And I plan to play more tonight, so let’s make this hasty, eh? We actually have some decent news to cover tonight, though, so I promise you it’ll be worth your time.

MW2screen1Modern Warfare 2 Sells Nearly Five Million Copies in 24 Hours

Yep, that’s what I said. This, of course, is according to “internal Activision estimates,” so nothing’s OFFICIALLY official until November’s NPD numbers are revealed. But honestly, this isn’t too difficult to believe.

4.7 million copies sold, amounting to $310 million. In 24 hours. And that’s only counting North America and the UK.

Blowing the horn for all it’s worth, Activision is billing this as “the biggest launch in history across all forms of entertainment.” And frankly, that may not be far from the truth.

MSNBC Tackles Modern Warfare 2’s “Terrorist” Level

With Modern Warfare 2 breaking sales records and whatnot, it’s obviously caught the eye of non-gaming press as well. MSNBC recently aired a segment featuring Kotaku’s Stephen Totilo, in which the now-infamous “terrorist” level of the game is discuss. It’s actually a pretty decent segment; the two chicks manage not to sound entirely ignorant, and Stephen makes his points nicely, while not coming off as overly-defensive. Watch the clip on Kotaku, but beware of spoilers.

500x_uncharted_2_salesUncharted 2 Sells Over a Million Copies

Sure, this story may look a little puny compared to Modern Warfare 2’s 34287 units in a single DAY, but seeing that Uncharted 2 is still currently my Game of the Year, it always has a place in my column. Phil Rosenberg, SCE’s Senior Vice President of Business Development, boasted the game’s commercial and critical success at today’s BMO Capital Markets Digital Entertainment Conference. According to him, Naughty Dog’s masterpiece crossed the one million mark last week.

More power to it; the game deserves every copy sold and every penny earned. Now how ’bout they hurry up and fast-track Uncharted 3?

Nintendo’s Wii Back on Top in October

Ugh. It pains me to report this, but apparently that $50 price cut did Nintendo some good after all. After being defeated by the PS3 in September, the Nintendo Wii was back on top for the month of October.  Here are the NPD hardware numbers, with data being gathered between 10/4 and 10/31:

  • Wii – 506,900
  • Nintendo DS – 457,600
  • PlayStation 3 – 320,600
  • Xbox 360 – 249,700
  • PSP – 174,600
  • PlayStation 2 – 117,800

The Wii sold only 462,800 units in September, while the PS3 sold 491,800. Fairly drastic month-on-month drop for the PS3, but I imagine we’ll see a similar drop for the Wii this month. As for December? That’s anyone’s ball game.

popUbisoft Claims that Prince of Persia Could Surpass Pirates of the Caribbean

Here’s a classic example of a corporate figure promising too much: Ubisoft CEO Yves Guilmont also spoke at the aforementioned BMO Capital Markets Digital Entertainment Conference. Unsurprisingly, he mentioned the upcoming Prince of Persia movie. Here’s what he had to say:

“What we hear is that I could be stronger than Pirates (of the Caribbean), which did $2.7 billion dollars. I think this will really help our brand to become a major brand in this industry.”

Yeah… while I’m fairly sure at this point that Bruckheimer’s vision for the Prince will be a profitable one, I can’t quite see the movie bringing in over two billion dollars. Perhaps he was referring to the inevitable film franchise as a whole? Who knows, but anyway around it, he’s talking out of his ass.

That’s all for now, folks! Have a lovely evening, and don’t count Modern Warfare 2 Week out yet. I have an editorial brewing that I’m dying to share with you, and word on the street is that Ethos now has his hands on the game.

‘Till next time!

Modern Warfare 2 Review: History is Written by Victors

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

PS3boxBefore yesterday, I honestly couldn’t recall the last time I sat down and played a game from start to finish, without taking a single break.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has been billed as the most anticipated game of 2009, and for good reason. The original was a smash success, much to the surprise of everyone, including its own publisher. Smooth-as-silk gunplay, addictive multiplayer, and a stunning campaign mode were enough to push 14 million copies – so, it’s understandable that the hype train for the inevitable follow-up has been all but insane.

So, does Modern Warfare 2 live up to all of this self-made hype? The answer is a resounding yes. Modern Warfare 2 is a game that everyone should play; even those with aversions to the FPS genre. Few other titles manage to rival the sheer intensity of the game’s tightly-woven action sequences, and there’s not a single other shooter on the market that’s so easy to pick up and play, yet features such amazing depth.

First and foremost there is the game’s campaign mode. To be sure, the original Modern Warfare is a hell of an act to follow – but believe it or not, Infinity Ward managed to push the envelope a bit further. Sure, it’s still fairly short, but it’s relentlessly intense, blindingly fast-paced, and features mind-blowing action setpieces that rival – or perhaps even surpass – the recently-released Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.  You don’t have to be an FPS junkie to enjoy the story here. It’s a thrillride from start to finish, featuring more twists, chills, and “oh shit,” moments than you can shake a stick at.

What really sets it apart, however, is how realistic everything feels. Being Modern Warfare, it’s entirely fictionalized – and yet, every tragic event that takes place feels like it’s just a minor extrapolation of reality. The infamous airport “terrorist” scene is, indeed, a part of the game – and yes, it’s one of the single most disturbing gameplay segments ever created. Yet at the same time, it’s one of the most emotionally evocative sequences I’ve ever experienced. Modern Warfare 2 clearly sets out to evoke the horrors of war and terrorism, and it accomplishes this goal to a chilling effect. As much as I’d love to reference specific events, it would be a great injustice to any potential players. Bottom line: this is one ride you don’t want to sit out.

MW2screen1It’s unfortunate, then, that a story this good is conveyed rather… incoherently, at times. Like the original Modern Warfare and World at War before it, Modern Warfare 2 doesn’t pause long for the sake of plot development. Intelligence screens in between levels supply fairly bare-bones information accompanied by voiceovers. All in all, it feels like much of the plot is conveyed by angry orders barked from up top. On one hand, this makes the game feel like a more authentic war experience. On the other hand, trying to listen to an extremely plot-relevant conversation taking place in the midst of a large-scale gunfight is, to say the least, a little frustrating. However, this isn’t to say that the game is entirely incomprehensible as a result. This balls-to-the-walls method of plot development has always been a weak point of the Call of Duty franchise. If anything, Modern Warfare 2 does a better job of keeping things straight than previous entries have.

Modern Warfare 2 looks absolutely fantastic. You’ll constantly be amazed at how much is taking place on-screen at one time, and how good it manages to look throughout. Character models are detailed and expressive, textures have received a step up from the previous game, and the framerate never dips to noticeable levels. Some of the game’s levels display remarkable artistic direction as well, from the colorful locales of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to the war-torn streets of the United States. Sound design is worth mentioning as well; the chaotic noises of battle constantly crowd the air in Modern Warfare 2, and they’re a vital part of the game’s oppressive atmosphere. Voice acting is solid across the board, and veterans of the original Modern Warfare will be glad to hear (and see) some key returning characters.

New to Modern Warfare 2 is the Spec Ops mode, which was essentially designed to provide a co-op experience where the single-player campaign could not. (Although many of the missions can be played single-player as well.) At the time of this writing, I haven’t spent much time at all with Special Ops, but the gist of it is fairly simple. If you have a friend and a second controller, it can be a lot of fun, but don’t expect any additional story content. The missions are essentially challenge rooms, in which you complete certain objectives in order to earn stars.

MW2screen2And of course, no review would be complete without mention of Call of Duty’s infamous multiplayer modes. And there are a lot of them, for both online and offline multiplayer. There is still the ability to play offline split-screen with friends on your couch, which is still a lot of fun – though with only four players max, it can be difficult to find eachother on the game’s gigantic maps. Online is where the main course is with multiplayer, and it’s a ton of fun. It becomes an addiction in and of itself, not just because of how much fun it is, but because of all the little incentives that Infinity Ward included – simply put, the more you play, the more you unlock. Weapons, classes, titles, emblems, game modes, and more. I’ve currently acquired a mere 7% of the available goodies, and I’m thirsty for me. Also, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, but it works fantastically on PSN. I’ve never had to wait more than a minute to join a game, and I’ve never experienced any noticeable lag. Just be careful, because the online arena is no place for a noob. You will be torn apart, and quickly; and people will jeer at you while they do it.

As the world expected, Modern Warfare 2 is one of 2009’s best games. I doubt that it will win quite as many Game of the Year recognitions as the original did, but the only reason for that is… well… amazing as it may be, we have seen most of this before. To be sure though, Modern Warfare 2 is a better overall package than the original Modern Warfare, and it beats the hell out of World at War. Unless first-person shooters give you migraines, you have absolutely no excuse not to pick this one up. You won’t have a better time with a shooter this year.

It’s here…

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

mw2ps3Wow. People really DO live in Murfreesboro. There were at least a hundred anxious gamers waiting in line outside my local GameStop last night. Thankfully the line moved quickly, and I was soon back home, testing out local multiplayer with Mr. Babasick and Mr. Lipinski.

As expected, it was loads of fun. I’ve yet to get online, though that’ll probably be later tonight.

Right now? I’m about to go fire up the campaign mode. Expect impressions soon.