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!” →  Jesus: Readful Bio Monster

Review – Flower

If you haven’t noticed…and you probably haven’t, I have not written much lately. Truth be told, there hasn’t been a lot in gaming that has inspired me in the past couple of weeks. That is, until tonight. Flower has been on the Playstation Store now for roughly six or seven hours and in that time, I can safely say this game has answered the video games as art argument with a resounding, YES!

This review is not going to be very long because the game is not very long and it is hard to do justice to it without letting you just play it and experience it for yourself. The premise is simple, tilt the controller and press any button to make the wind blow. That is it. Of course there is more to it, but really how much can I say about a series of flower petals blowing in the wind? →  Frankly my dear, I don’t read a damn.

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. →  READ3R

An ode to a fallen memory card

In a spontaneous fit of impatience and retardation, I recently reformatted my GameCube memory card. Tales of Symphonia, which I picked up after not having played in two years, insisted the card was corrupt and needed to be wiped clean first by the GameCube’s internal mechanism, then by being throw into a wall. Instead of thinking it through and realizing I’d just been playing Metroid Prime and it saved fine and fearing I’d lose my 30 hours of Symphonia-ing, I hit “Sure, erase all of my saved games, it’s not like I put any time or effort into them” then practiced my pitching for 15 minutes.

The bad news is it was for naught as I had no clue what I needed to do next in Symphonia. After reading all of the back story (nice feature by the way) and then wandering and sailing and giant monster riding around the map for an hour I gave up knowing it was just as well. →  Ask not for whom the game plays, it plays for thee.

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. →  Lamers so loved the world that they gave their only article, so that everyone who believes in reading won’t perish but will have eternal lives.

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. →  It might come in handy if you, the master of reading, take it with you.

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. →  Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Bore me and I sleep.

Review – Resistance 2

Resistance 2 from Insomniac Games is the highly anticipated sequel to the fairly enjoyable Resistance: Fall of Man. Insomniac is one of Sony’s prize jewels, an exclusive PS3 developer who makes big hits on a tight time schedule. This time around however, (for the very first time in fact) I wasn’t pleased with their output. This game has its moments and is sure to be enjoyed by many, but I’ve played too many shooters to accept a second-rate product from a first-rate company, especially in the saturated season we fortunately find ourselves in.

Resistance 2 continues the story of Nathan Hale and an alien invasion that takes place on an alternate earth in our World War II era. The all-powerful Chimera have filled America’s skies with massive warships and are exterminating the nation in a maelstrom of nuclear fire. →  PaReader the Reader

News We Care About Update 12.29.08

Nintendo to offer streaming videos, just not here
Nintendo is bizarrely slow to adopt some aspects of technology. Their latest console, the Wii (pronounced “Why”), has only cursory online abilities, and lacks both a practical storage device and the ability to function as a time machine.

As a curmudgeon who spouts things like, “Game systems should do nothing but play games” I was once on board with Nintendo’s seemingly similar stance. Their real position, which they have revealed at glacial speed, is game consoles should do a lot of things poorly and much, much later than other game consoles.

Whether this half-assed approach to new technology will be their ultimate undoing as Sony and Microsoft take over your living room in 2010, your wine cellar in 2015 and your apiary in 2020 is yet to be seen. →  God of War: Readnarok

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. →  Contains 10% more consonants than comparable articles.

Pachter predicts the PS3 is fucking awesome

Sony is something special. Any other console with the combined hardware and software sales of the PS3 would be considered solidly in third place. Somehow when it’s Sony in third, however, it is simply a strategy to take advantage of a grandiose ten year plan. Imagine how violently you’d have laughed had Microsoft announced a ten year plan for the Xbox.

Predictions from analysts and insiders are only now slowly starting to show that the PS3 may not come out on top this generation. The initial prognostications from ’06 can be forgiven but many refuse to treat Sony like another console maker.

The newest example is in this gamesindustry.biz article. Analyst Michael Pachter has gone on record saying, “There was likely some substitution of Xbox 360 for PS3 purchases, due to recent price reductions for the Xbox 360 and the bundling of the console with two free games,” and “In addition, we believe that PS3 sales are being impacted by lower demand for HD televisions as a result of the recession.” →  All the lonely gamers, where do they all belong?

Review – Little Big Planet

Now that the game has been out for a while and I have eased myself off of Fallout 3, I feel it is time for me to kick in my two cents about Little Big Planet. I must admit that prior to the game’s release I was caught up in the euphoria surrounding LBP. I basically bought my Playstation 3 to play it and waited anxiously for each new video that was released in the weeks before the game came out. Once those evil lyrics about Islam had been properly disposed of and the game finally came out, I rushed home and barricaded myself in my room to play the game for almost an entire weekend straight.

Things you need to keep in mind when considering Little Big Planet:

1. The game is a side-scrolling hop ‘n’ bop. →  Ratchet & 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. →  Games are the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions.

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. →  All I want for Christmas is my PSP.

Review – Resistance: Fall of Man

In Resistance: Fall of Man, scrappy human soldiers in the UK go up against a technologically superior (and seemingly alien) foe in an alternate, World War 2 era universe. To those uninitiated in gaming culture, this may sound like War of the Worlds updated by half a century.

If only it were that whimsical. As a PS3 launch game, you can’t fault developer Insomniac for making Resistance a comfortable and conservative experience, but at this point it is mostly good for building up interest in Resistance 2.

Almost everything in Resistance will be familiar to action game aficionados. While technically set in the early 1950’s, the outdoor environments are reminiscent of any World War 2 shooter. The enemy Chimera bear some resemblance to Gears of War’s Locusts, while their technology and architecture looks to have been contracted out to the Combine from Half Life 2. →  Do a barrel 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. →  Hell is other gamers.

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. →  [link only works on even seconds]

It’s all over: MGS4, or the New Gen?

As I feared, the majority of reviews of Metal Gear Solid 4 are disappointing to say the least. Unfortunately, too many critics are interested in remarking about the length and quality of the cutscenes, which really means they like to make the obvious observations that they are “too long” and “too silly.” Rare is the review that compares them to the past entries in the series, which would show you that past cutscenes were less drawn out, and that dialogue in MGS1 sounded much more natural.

Kojima is like a novel writer who refuses to use an editor, and as a result we have scenes in MGS4 where characters can’t utter an important name without five lines of setup dialogue that could only possibly benefit new players (while making the characters look stupid and veteran players feel bored). →  The Adventures of Cookie and Read

That was quick – Firmware 2.4

The much awaited 2.4 update to the PS3 is out, and with it comes nearly all of the remaining features that are already available on the Xbox 360. In game XMB, Trophies, and partial custom soundtracks are all here now, making the PS3 that much more of a complete package.

Many have considered this a major trump card for Sony, claiming that they now offer everything that Microsoft does at no cost to the consumer. This is true only to an extent: features like achievements, custom soundtracks and an in-game system menu are offered to all 360 users. Nothing in 2.4 is reserved to Xbox Live Gold members, and so this is really Sony catching up with some of Microsoft’s basic features.

I recently chalked this up to the fact that Microsoft has spent so much time and money on Live, but if you think about it, most of Live’s features have been a part of PSN for a while now. →  You fool. Don’t you understand? No one wishes to read on…