Review – Stormrise

Imagine you are fighting in a war. You are within a small group of soldiers but you control all of the soldiers on the battlefield. It is time to issue commands.

“Corporal Dunnan, do you see the soldiers over there?” you ask.

“The Infiltrators, behind the-” Dunnan starts.

“No, no, no. Not those infiltrators, the ones over there,” you point. Pointing is actually the only way you can issue commands, because your army is not very sophisticated, which is surprising since you are operating within a fancy mechanical robot body-thing.

“Oh,” Dunnan says, “the ones by the refinery.”

“Not in front of the refinery-”

“Oh kinda to the side of it,” he says.

“Yes, yes,” you reply, “Tell them to go over there,” you say, pointing.

“Okay,” Dunnan starts, “Unit 392, proceed to the balcony of the second floor-”

“No, no, no!” →  You may say I’m a gamer, but I’m not the only one

Review – Fable II

For a change of pace over the holidays I went through Fable II, a light-hearted fantasy role-playing game developed by Lionhead Studios and its industry leading founder, Peter Molyneaux. Between the first and second Fable, Lionhead was purchased by Microsoft, meaning that Peter was now in the market of making Xbox 360 exclusives. I was especially curious to see if Peter and his team were going to take special advantage of the console like Epic Games has done with Gears of War. Sadly this wasn’t the case.

Before I get into that, let’s give the good stuff its due. In Fable II you play a hero born from a powerful bloodline, one that allows you to wield magic. A hero hunting villain is hot to kill you in hopes of ending the line and preventing your kind from stopping his plans for world domination. →  OutRun 2006: Post to Post

Review – Prince of Persia

The games and film industries are currently obsessed with the concept of reboots. While this is not a new concept, traditionally reboots are greenlit for franchises that are fairly old, and only when the IP holder feels that it will remain commercially viable after a modern facelift. Certain entities in the gaming world have bucked this trend, prescribing reboots for series that are still currently popular, and have likely had at least one new entry in the last five or so years. From a theoretical standpoint, this makes sense. If you are choosing something to to reboot from a list of modern franchises, it is much easier to determine their viability when your audience still remembers them. It also allows a publisher to continue churning out sequels at a steady clip without the new entries feeling immediately stale. →  Read or Alive 2: Hardcore

Counting the Game Industry’s Gold

Like most industries, the gaming industry is bound by the conventional economic wisdom that you must spend money to make money. Historically, that’s meant taking a loss on every game system sold (with the notable exception being most Nintendo consoles) in order to tap into selling game after game to console owners. This measure of success is known as the “attachment rate” or “tie ratio.” A somewhat (November 2008) dated Gamasutra chart shows that the Xbox was in the lead, with 6.6 games/system sold, followed by the Wii at 5.5 and the PS3 at 5.3.

This statistic has historically been a powerful metric for measuring market penetration and overall success for a console. After all, what’s the point of selling a console if you can’t sell game after game? But as with many things in today’s integrated media world, the lines have blurred and traditional metrics don’t necessarily tell the whole story. →  Read more, before it’s too late!

News We Care About Update

You don’t catch someone by running slower (than they are running)
Eurogamer is one of my favorite sites but they’ve hit on one of my many pet peeves – inaccurate sales language. In Japan, the PS3 has been doing a little bit better lately while Wii sales have been slowing down. Eurogamer describes this as Sony catching up to Nintendo.

The Wii is actually pulling away from the PS3 at a less dramatic pace but every week it outsells its competition, the Wii is indeed putting more distance between it and the PS3. In order for Sony to even begin to catch up, more PS3s need to be sold than Wiis.

I think this stuff may actually be calculus, which would possibly explain why so many paid writers can’t grasp sales shifts. →  Sega Ages 2500 Series Vol. 5: Golden Post

The next gen consoles then and now – Revisited

I wrote this little ditty sometime last summer, analyzing all three consoles and how they had changed since launch. Since then the market has seen more major shifts, so I want to take yet another look at the Wii, 360 and PS3, and see what we might expect from them in 2009.

Microsoft
Then: I claimed before that Microsoft looked to be getting wishy washy, constantly tweaking the policies and features behind the 360, leaving early adopters in the cold and not focusing on the important issues that need fixing.

Now: Microsoft embarrassed my predictions through and through. The Red Rings of Death have waned, and whether or not it is a good thing, the community has mostly gotten used to dealing with them when they do occasionally pop up, much like we got used to replacing old PS2s. →  Ask not what this post can do for you - ask what you can do for this post.

Digital Distribution in a Not so Ideal World

I don’t like getting into personal anecdotes, so I’ll make this part quick. I was a strong supporter of digital distribution when it started popping up as a legitimate method of buying games. I was a Steam apologist when it was new and buggy, and I used Sam and Max as staunch proof that episodic content could work.

Digital Distribution has so many strengths that seems hard to argue against it. Quick access to games as soon as you want them, with no trips to the store and less physical hardware to strain. Plus, its digital nature should theoretically reduce prices and put more money into the right pockets. This last part is not happening, as theory is not becoming reality.

As easy as it is to make digital games cheaper, the technology can also be used to nickel and dime us. →  Read more, before it’s too late!

Review – Gears of War 2

When the first Gears of War was released, I wrote a little rant about Cliff Blezinski’s introduction to the game found in the instruction book. For a game about large meatheads shooting albino insect meatheads, the intro sounded far too pretentious and lofty. Commenters took me to task, and they convinced me that I was overreacting.

Thankfully, Gears 2 doesn’t put me in the same situation. This time, Cliff’s intro makes no bones about the fact that this game wants to emulate the feeling of “being in a summer blockbuster film” better than any other game out there. Shallow as it may be, knowing a developer’s intent can have a large impact on how I view a game. An over the top setpiece becomes more palatable when I know the creators aren’t presenting it as a work of gaming art. →  [put on your VR headset now]

Review – Dead Space

In April of 2007 a man by the name of John Riccitiello began work as the new Chief Operating Officer of Electronic Arts, one of the two largest video game conglomerates on earth. EA had fallen victim to its own massiveness in the years prior. In order to grow it had purchased and then cannibalized smaller, more imaginative game developers, absorbed the talent into their own offices, and centrally ran all operations.

As a result, the people and projects they assimilated became infected with the shortcomings of the company entire: there was too much bureaucracy and too many levels of hierarchy. This took decision making and creativity away from the game development teams. As a result EA earned a rather poor reputation for making nothing but thin sequels, movie tie-ins, and sports games that did little to differentiate themselves from year to year. →  I got served!

Review – Call of Duty: World at War

As expected, Activision has pimped the hell out of 2008’s yearly Call of Duty release, World at War. The savvier gamers out there have not been fooled, and have spent their energies trashing it before it even got a chance to prove itself. They know that WaW was developed not by series creator Infinity Ward, but by Treyarch, whose two game Call of Duty pedigree has been viewed as less than stellar.

I assert that this judgment was unfair. Big Red One was developed for last gen platforms, and managed to be very clever given its hardware limitations. As for CoD3, the snarky blog commenters betrayed their true lack of intelligence. It should have been obvious to anyone that the game was a stopgap, a way for Activision to “exploit” a favorite moneymaker with a yearly release. →  Knock knock. Who's there? This article.

Review – Left 4 Dead

In an industry where cooperative gameplay is tacked onto nearly every game just for the hell of it, it’s refreshing to see a game where it is the primary focus. All too often, coop is given the short end of the stick – added merely to grab a few more sales from suckers like me. In Left 4 Dead, Valve has created a cooperative FPS with their traditional polish and balance. The versus mode, whether originally intended to be “tacked on” or not, is surprisingly fun, making it a good game for small versus games as well.

Left 4 Dead is what I’d call a running-survival game. In a location filled with zombies, a team of four survivors must make their way from point A to point B. In between the points, there are a few safe houses, which break up the action. →  Do a barrel read!

Review – Fallout 3

Writer’s note: At the time of this writing, Fallout 3 is a bit buggy on all platforms, and extra buggy on the PS3. I do not wish to neglect these issues, but for the time being they are not featured in the review. If the first patch for the game does not fix many of these issues, I will bring them up in a future piece, but I wish to avoid talking about bugs at the moment as it takes away some of the timelessness of a review. Fallout 2 was broken in many ways upon release, and no one talks about that these days.

We here at videolamer strive to provide timely reviews for major releases. The bad news is that juggling real life responsibilities and funding our own gaming budgets makes this a challenge. →  50 Cent: Readproof

Review – Braid

We can spend a lot of time talking about Braid, trying to interpret it and stamp out a definitive idea on what it is and what it says. There isn’t much of a point in it though. Braid, for all its flaws, is literature, something that has meaning. Anything I say about its message or its power may be quite different from what you would see on a playthrough. What we can do is look at it as a game.

Braid is a puzzle platformer. Some have called it “just a puzzle game with platforming elements.” We saw it with Portal, where people called it a puzzle game and forgot is was also in the first person. I’m not sure why that happened; Portal’s puzzles often thrive on how the player moves and positions himself, so the perspective (and the controls inherited from it) cannot be ignored. →  We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we play.

Review – Alone in the Dark

Apparently, it is becoming the rule rather than the exception for games to be rushed to release, rather than given the time to properly simmer. There are a slew of factors causing this, such as soaring costs, tricky console hardware, and the fickle, tiny window of attention that the hype machine grants.

Of course, a rushed game can come in different flavors. In my last review, we saw how Army of Two lost most of its grand cooperative aspirations, but still managed to ship as a stable and competent action game. From a business perspective, this is acceptable as gamers will buy something derivative if it is polished well enough.

Another result is something like Alone in the Dark, where the grandiose ideas remain, but are held together by duct tape and the hope that bugs and glitches are not severe enough to cause the game to crash out from under the player’s feet. →  Welcome to read.

Review – Guitar Hero: Aerosmith

Say what you will of Activision and Neversoft’s handling of Guitar Hero, but the idea of themed games revolving around a particular band is a good one. Celebrating the history and catalog (as well as the conflicts) of a world famous band is a great honor. It allows young players to learn some rock history, and for their moms and dads to relive their younger years.

Say what you will about Aerosmith, but the band fits the above description, and have been a huge influence on the rock world for better or worse. Finally, I get to say that while I like Neversoft more than a lot of gamers, there are a few kinks they need to address if they wish to continue making these themed games. GH Aerosmith is better than I expected, featuring more care and new content than I anticipated. →  I’m readin’ here!

Dyack takes on the world

Recently, Denis Dyack of Silicon Knights appeared on the 1up Yours podcast to discuss the current state of forum accountability, specifically citing the popular forum NeoGAF as a place that requires change before “something bad happens.”

The crux of his argument (though I recommend anyone interested listen to the entire podcast, because there are several layers of smoke and mirrors before he really gets to his point), is that the anonymity of online discussion leads to a lack of accountability, and that, coupled with the attention that such boards get from journalists and marketing organizations, is bad for the industry in general and society as a whole. It should be noted that Mr. Dyack also seems to think that message boards are “not for profit organizations,” when in reality they are simply giant internet water coolers where word of mouth propagates. →  Guitar Hero III: Legends of Read

Review – Dark Sector

Ontario’s own Digital Extremes began development of the long delayed and often re-imagined Dark Sector in 2004, and it was released earlier this year by D3 Publisher for the X-Box 360 and the PS3. I remember the early period because the teaser trailer was one of the first to come out for this generation’s hardware. Dark Sector started out in space but by 2006 it was made over into a bleak secret agent story.

Four years is way, way too long a development cycle for a video game. A game takes that long only when there are serious problems afoot, and it’s been my experience that when the game is finally released those problems are still there. Sadly, Dark Sector is no exception.

I am still very keen on the premise of Dark Sector. →  You do not simply walk into reading more.