Saturday, September 16, 2006

Review: Second Sight

Amazingly I only picked this game up because it was developed by Free Radical, the folks who brought you the Timesplitters series. Timesplitters 2, while flawed, claimed quite a few hours from me if just from trying to complete all the challenges. So I thought I couldn't miss with buying this.

First off - I played the PC version. I would recommend this over the console versions due to the controls. Considering it is stealth based precise aim is a must and the control method is already quite complex without having to deal with inaccurate control sticks. Basically when you wish to aim your gun, you have a mixture of a lockon - but a small aim circle appears over the spot you will hit. I imagine headshots aren't very fun on the console equivalents.

The story is suprisingly good, considering how arcade like Free Radical's other games are. You basically start the game out as man in a mental facility and no memory of how you got there or who you are. You start to realize you have psychic abilities, mostly by accident. You also start having flashback of a mission six months ago that started this whole mess. As the game commences the plot becomes very clear and a final "Aha!" moment will occur towards the end. I enjoyed it quite a bit, games with good gameplay AND story are few and far between these days.

The graphics in this game are the same style as Timesplitters, stylish cartoony characters with exaggerated features. For a game with a pretty serious story it's amazing that it works so well. Their facial features and moods are easy to recognize compared to the stone faced characters of other games. It's not HL2, but its mighty impressive.

The gameplay is well rounded. The game is a third person stealth action game. You use psychic powers to get through the game's obstacles and enemies and earn them as you move between levels. Telekinesis allows you to manipulate switches and objects from afar as well as toss enemies around like ragdolls. Throwing soldiers off tall ledges is really funny to watch. You have healing, but it is limited in that you will be vulnerable as you are healing. Projection allows you to send out a 'spirit' version of yourself to scout ahead and hit switches, or (later in the game) take over enemy bodies to force them to fight each other or, if you are really feeling evil, make them jump off cliffs. You get different powers as the levels progress, with your character learning them as he needs them. The gameplay is definately the strongest point of this game and thats a good thing.

The levels themselves range from all out action to missions where you simply can't afford to be seen. Although if you are caught and alarms sound, you can always duck for cover and it will be all clear eventually. With all the powers this game gives you, you'll become quite efficient in being a ghost.

The sound effects are pretty good, with decent sounding guns. The music reminds me very much of Timesplitters and really adds to the mood. In fact the main theme seems taken from the Siberia level in Timesplitters....I swear it. It also picks up when enemies are nearby and in levels that require more force than stealth. It is actually one of the few games I can recall the tracks after finishing....which to me indicates it was quality not just ambience.

In all I would say it was definately worth the bargain bin price I paid for it. This game is highly underrated, and it bothers me that it got such low reviews on some websites. Sure the controls take some time to get used to, but that hardly detracts from the experience. Even though there wasn't much 'replay value' since the game was linear, I still feel like replaying it because it was that good.

The one damning feature of this game is that it uses the dreaded Starforce. I went out of my way to find a patch to remove it, and luckily one such patch exists. I won't link it here for obvious reasons, but if Starforce prevents you from trying it I suggest a few google searches to remedy the situation. Starforce should *never* stop you from enjoying a game and its a shame that Codemasters stuck it to a game that already had trouble selling on the consoles.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Never too late

I suppose by now you've heard about the Montreal shooting. From what I've gathered from this news article and several others, this guy was someone who thought he had nothing to live for and just wanted to end it all in the way that seemed best to him.

However he didn't just point the gun on himself, he had to try and take out many others at the same time. I can sympathize with the overwhelming depression and wanting to opt out, but to take others with you for no real reason is just sick.

I don't think suicide solves anything. Do we know what happens after death? Is there an afterlife or do we just cease to exist? Are you willing to take that chance? I don't personally fear death, but I have no desire to end it all any day soon. Had he stuck it out just a bit longer and got some positive suggestions from a psychiatrist or a loved one he might have realized how bad this decision was. Instead he's caused a large uproar in an apparent "Look at me, I hate life" sort of thing.

I don't get this whole group depression stuff. I too think life has many problems and that people on whole are quite ignorant and stupid. However I keep that to myself, and I move on. Why do these folks always feel the need to join websites and groups that all hate life? They claim to have no friends, and then chat with dozens of people. This is a real problem, because now they have buddies who agree life sucks and even go as far as suggesting ways to snuff it. Ever heard of the myspace suicides? It's getting a little out of hand here.

So really - if your life sucks then maybe its time to do something about it. Just wallowing in self pity is swell and all, but it leads nowhere. Suicide is not the answer, change is. Thats how I personally feel about it anyway, and if I knew this chap I would have passed it on. Unfortuntaly he now leaves behind a very confused and upset family and has caused fear amongst the people around the shooting. So just what did he solve? Seems rather selfish to me.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Insomnia Curse

This past year my entire sleep cycle has been way off. As it stands right now, I'll usually not be able to sleep late into the night and then end up dozing off in the wee hours only to wake up around 3:00-4:00PM. Really its become a standard now, and it seems nothing I try helps it.

What causes Insomnia anyway? I hear the biggest reason is stress. Problem is, what stress do I have in my life? I can barely find enough to keep me busy during the day, much less find things to worry myself over. I don't really have any reason to wake up early in the morning so that might be a contributing factor. I mean when I get up its a toss between eating something, going for a walk to the mall (if even just to get out of the house), watching TV, playing games or surfing the internet. These days there isn't much else for me to do.

I truly need a job, it would solve 99% of my problems, financially and with regards to having a reason to get up in the morning. The search continues.....

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Online Authentication

Copy Protection. Without it games would be stolen left right and center wouldn't they? Its obvious the folks over at Stardock are in financial distress right? Thats funny, because the sales numbers seem to indicate they are doing quite well, in fact Stardock now publishes games for other developers which is quite impossible without financial success.

Is copy protection a bad thing? Not always. Sometimes a harmless cd-key can force entire legions of players to buy the game if they expect to play multiplayer. If the game is good, they'll buy it. However a new version of copy protection is slowly becoming the norm. It's called online authentication. What does that mean? Basically upon install the game will check a server to see if your personal copy is legit, if it isn't or if that server cannot be reached - ipso facto you aren't playing that game. Sounds good in theory right?

Well what if that server cannot be reached due to other concerns? What if I do not have an internet connection on the PC I wish to play the game on? Surely thats a prospective problem right? It isn't the largest one either. What if....oh I don't know, the server didn't exist? All things come to end sooner or later, as has been proven many a time by companies being bought out or folding due to lack of funding. They lose track of their old games, and many companies simply don't give a shit. What happens to your copy of Super Dungeon Master IV if that server does not exist? You can't play it thats what, and you'll spend the next few months looking for a working crack to a game you paid full price for just because "it stops piracy".

Let's take a look at Steam by Valve software. Decent program, easy to connect, easy to use and quite feature and content rich. Oh but wait, I need to be ONLINE to play my games? Even for single player? So what happens when Valve software gets purchased by EA games? Don't smirk, remember westwood? Origin? It happens. If steam cannot function then neither can your game now can it? Oh well, at least Valve made their $60 right? Who cares if HL2 can't work in 10 years time? No one plays old games right? No one at all right? Silly me for thinking I should be able to play old games on new computers when I have the future to look forward to? It's not like 10 year old games are playable today anyway right?

The only ones who support this push for online authentication are the ones who are casual gamers and forget them 5 minutes after finishing them. What if HL2 was your favourite game? Oh well sonny. So you say they'll release a patch years from now to remove steam/authentication from the games? Name one damn person who has. One. Go ahead, I've got time.

Better yet are you trusting Valve? Their head honchos used to work for Microsoft for god sakes! Better yet, if you just got fired or laid off would your first reaction be "Man I gotta get that patch out, all the fans'll be angry!"? Some people forget this is a business, and once you leave a company why the hell would you care to save them face? If you have left on bad terms then you can forget wanting to help that faceless corportation. So unless Gabe and co are going to release said patch while HL2 is still being sold and the company is safe and sound you are SOL. So its become a game of whether or not to trust the company or not. People always say the Steam network will never go down, but they seem to forget the bulldozer that ran over the WON network. I believe they were called VUgames. Any and all games that relied on it (albeit mostly multiplayer) now refuse to work. Sure we got lucky and no games used online authentication back then but what happens today now that games do? Don't shake your head at me, its going to happen one of these days.

Maybe not to valve, but I swear to you when it does I'll be there with my "Told you so" look on my face. Incidently I left out some points here on purpose. I have been asked by some folks to take part in Allgames.com's show on online authentication. If they accept I'll post a link here where you can listen to me rant on further.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Racism - A pimple on society's ass

Ok look, if you are an uptight politcally correct individual you are about to read the wrong blog post. If swearing or outright honestly bothers you then leave. Otherwise listen up.

You know what bothers me? Racism. We are all equal, we are all human, we are all guilty of the same crimes and deserve the same rewards for good deeds. I don't think a single individual should disagree, because this isn't opinion, it's fact.

You know what bothers me more than racism? Shit like this. Oh yeah, and this. Harmless cartoon drawn games, or stereotyping deviants trying to brainwash our children? Give me a fucking break. Perhaps you've heard of the infamous blackface controversy? Basically what it has meant for future generations is that if you have a character with a black face (not tanned/brownish, because we all know there are people out there with actual black skin) and big cartoon lips then you sir are a racist. That's right, I'm not making this shit up as I go along.

It makes me sick, even moreso than the politically correct statements added to Sesame Street. They took away the Cookie Monster's only reason for living. What the hell is that about? How anal has our society become? It doesn't mean anything, kids are not going to run out and eat 4 million cookies. I watched Sesame Street and I grew up fine thank you very much. I only eat entire boxes of cookies, so there Hilary Clinton.

Anyway back to the racism. Why is it such a horrific thing for a black man or any other non-caucasian race to be demonized or picked out of a crowd? I don't condone the jokes, but I'm not for anal censorhip either. Why can a black man such as Chris Rock make fun me as a white male and yet if I were to do the same to his hypocritcal ass I would be lynched? Fuck that pisses me off, and I *like* Chris Rock. You know why? It doesn't bother me thats why. I don't give a shit what someone says about my race, because they didn't address me personally now did they? Stereotypes only sting when they are true thank you very much. Therefore why is anyone offended by Jynx or these squishy loco things? Is that what blacks look like? No? Then shut the fuck up.

Its like that kid who was in my high school class. Whenever anyone called him names or made fun of him - "It's because I'm black isn't it?". No my friend, its because you are a douche bag, end of story.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Wikipedia is a godsend

Wikipedia is one the best websites on the internet currently. It has such a large collection of information and facts about nearly anything you can think of. If it's missing something, simply create an account and add it. Beautiful.

Recently I find when I'm bored with nothing to do I'll go search up random topics to read. I've never been big on reading through 300 page books, but wikipedia is great in this regard. I'll search up something like....a game I've completed recently. Shadow Warrior for instance. After that I'll click a link for Duke Nukem 3D, then the build engine, then Ken Silverman, then Apogee, etc. After all that I've realized an hour or so has past, very good stuff.

Not just computer age topics either. Occasionally I'll read what they have up on their main page. A few days ago the maoi of Easter Island were up. I read quite a few facts I would never have known, and it led to me to other random fact pages I found interesting. It's like reading through an encyclopedia only with very little effort.

Time eludes me

Is there anything harder to understand than time itself? When you need it you have never enough, when you want something in the future the date never seems to show up. Lately I've been trying to get a job, but beyond that my days are *very* dull and boring. As a result I lose track of time very quickly. Today just flew by, its already night.

Hell, I started this blog over a year ago! That blows my mind. Forgive the cliché, but where did the time go? Honestly it's getting difficult to say "Oh I'll do this eventually" or "Don't worry, a job will be around soon" with the speed of the calendar. It's probably because I don't have anything that I'm really looking forward to in the next few months, or hell years. I think once I get back on my feet making some cash the time will slow down. I hope, because 2005-2006 was basically a blur and now 2007 is at hand.

In other news, in case you haven't heard, Steve 'Crocodile Hunter' Irwin has been killed doing what he did best. While he always stared danger right in the razor sharp teeth, he was far too young for that fare. R.I.P. you crazy aussie.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Adventure Games & Alternate Realities

I know adventure games are still around. Lets not kid ourselves though, they aren't nearly as popular or as good as they used to be.

The Escapist has an atricle related to how they came to be popular and what exactly caused their demise. During the article they also mention that Ken Williams (sierra online) also wanted to buy out id software at one point.

Lets contemplate that one. Sierra Online buys id software with Commander Keen and Wolfenstein as their best sellers. At the time Sierra wasn't into highly violent games so they might not have created Doom as it was. It might have been the same engine, only used on something else - maybe even an adventure game or less-violent arcade. What would the game industry be without Doom? The FPS genre would be changed in unimaginable ways. What effect would THAT have on adventure games I wonder?

I mean think about it, without Doom then Quake wouldn't be made. Then 3D cards wouldn't be as pushed as they were. The 2D age would have stuck around much longer. I can't say it would be better or worse, because countless people have claimed Doom and id software in general as their biggest influence. Interesting to think about though isn't it?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Alright so I lied

I'll post twice in one day, instead of tomorrow. ;)

Recently I played through the DS adventure game Trace Memory/Another Code. Let me just say this is THE first adventure game I've played on a handheld. Its definately not going to be my last either, because it was damn good. The touch screen was used greatly, in fact I never needed to touch the buttons or control pad. The puzzles ranged from simple to thinking outside the box. They all used fairly creative methods, such as pulling rocks using the touchpad or blowing into the microphone for other puzzles. I won't spoil anything, because it has to be played to understand how well it works. The story was faily straight forward, but enjoyable none-the-less. I would suggets all DS owners and fans of adventure games give it a try.

I also finally got around to playing Full Throttle. Boy, I don't know if I'm sorry I missed it when it was new or whether I'm thankful I got to play it nowadays with the shortage of adventure games :D Tim Schafer should really make animated films, because he is greatly talented. The game was faily easy and relatively short (well REALLY short) but it was great while is lasted. Memorable characters and an impressive visual style make this a must play. Lucasarts really hit a homerun.

Currently I'm making my rounds with Shadow Warrior and System Shock with a side order of Loom. I'll let you know how all three are once I'm done.

The post is blowin in the wind....

Yeah, guess I kind of let this blog slip. I knew it would happen, but I *promise* I'll try to update this time. I get bored often these days so I'm sure I'll have interesting things to say.

Firstly Jane Jensen, the creator of the Gabriel Knight series, is now working on a new project titled 'Gray Matter'. This is wonderful news especially if you are a big fan of her work. From the description it seems Jane isn't straying too far from her work with GK only with new characters and a new story.

With me personally I've been in a gaming slump. Can't seem to really get into anything, and my lack of funds prevents me from buying anything new. Not that theres much I'm looking for. So instead I've taken to small casual games such as these:

Lava Leaper - Free platformer, good for a coffee break.
Plasma Pong - Damn addictive. My score so far is 32.
Zombie City Tactics - Simple, yet very promising concept game. Give it a go, but look in the readme for instructions.


Tomorrow I'll have some impressions on games I've finished and am currently playing.