2:21 PM 1 comments

Steam Powered: Dawn of War II

Dawn-of-War-IILast  night when I got home I received a pleasant surprise when my Facebook page had informed me that Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II went 50% off at Steam.  When I was planning on buying my new laptop, one of the things I had in mind for it was to do some PC gaming.  Dawn of War II caught my eye early on as an interesting starting point to delve into PC gaming, after all what is more PC than a Real Time Strategy game (RTS).

Granted I did not know much about it other than it was developed by Relic who created the critically acclaimed Company of Heroes (which is on sale as well) and that it was not as intensive as other PC RTS games tend to be.  Last but not least I was also intrigued by the fact that I could earn LIVE achievements to pad my Xbox LIVE Gamerscore.

I did download and enjoy the demo, now I just need a little time to get immersed into the game.  I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous to be using the mouse and keyboard for controls, but I am happy that it is not a ‘twitch’ game, so I think I should be able to handle it.  Interesting times ahead!

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War® II

-SG

10:07 AM 2 comments

SCHUEY F1: Gaming in the 4th Dimension

Last week I picked up a Playstation 3, disappointing I’m sure my fellow blogger’s Superghost and TormentX. I have been waiting to get one for some time, but haven't came across a good deal or I have been waiting for the price to drop (which will probably happen shortly no doubt!).

sony-ps-160gb

I managed to get a pretty solid deal. For $450 I got the 160gb sku (reg. $520), which comes with Uncharted. I also got Killzone 2 for free, which I may just trade in. I traded in a few 360 games and was able to knock the price down to $340 and with $100 already saved up from a few months ago that equals $240, not bad , even if the price drop happens!flower

I haven’t been able to give it a proper run through yet, but I briefly tested Uncharted, MGS4 and Flower. I also have Valkyria Chronicles, but due that strategy nature of the game, it will need a bit more time. From what I played, I though the quality was really nice, even though the games I played are over a year old now I think. From what I have seen of Uncharted 2, it definitely looks like an upgrade. Flower gave me a good taste of proper Sixaxis controls, like most people though, I think Sixaxis is best left alone for most games. The XMB interface is elegant. I think I still prefer NXE though. Maybe the PS3 will get a new interface at some point.

Overall I’m happy with the purchase and I’m looking forward to some the PS3 exclusives coming down the pipe (Heavy Rain!).

- Schu

9:50 AM 0 comments

My Fantasy Zone: Reviving Classic Sega Franchises

 

Like many of you, if you were a fan of video games, particularly in the 1990s, you were either a Nintendo or a Sega fanboy.  My path followed closely that laid out by Sega.  I remember buying my first video game console with my own money, the Sega Genesis. Later, I became a fierce fan of the Sega Saturn. Finally, the Sega Dreamcast highlighted my dozen or so year love affair with Sega hardware.  But all good things come to an end as Sega, after a rocky decade, could no longer support its hardware business and went on to exclusively be a third party publisher, supporting Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, and others in their future hardware ventures.  As a Sega fan I have seen the fruits and failures of Sega’s new direction. 

SEGA

So indulge me if you will as I imagine that Sega has hired me, a long time Sega supporter, to be in charge of a newly created department that would be responsible for developing games based on some of their most illustrious and notorious franchises.  So I have selected several properties I think Sega needs to revive or reboot and how they need to go about doing so.  So  I have gathered my inner circle at Sega headquarters for our first meeting.  Here are the games my staff will making:

sonic

Sonic the Hedgehog: The biggest name in Sega’s pantheon of characters is in need of the biggest reboot.  Though Sonic has seen several launches over the last decade or so, yet it still has not been able to get close to recapturing its former glories.  So I would decree to give the fans what they desire most, a return to the glory days.  Sonic’s next game would be a 2.5-D revival based on the original two games of the 8-bit era.  I would drop all of his friends except for Tails (useful in co-op situations) and use him in clever new ways to assist sonic.  Like Epic’s Shadow Complex, once in a while Sonic would break the 2-D plain for some 3-D action.  Leader boards, collectables, puzzles, and Chao raising (an amalgamation of Sonic Adventure’s Chaos and Night’s ‘A-Life’) would be incorporated to give the game legs.  All this and a friendly price point to reel in the masses and I think Sonic would be once again on top of the world.

phantasy-star-onlinePhantasy Star Online: One of my all-time favourite games has already seen its own ‘next-gen’ remake, but I say don’t fix was is not broke.  Forget Sony’s Home or Microsoft’s Avatars, my idea for a PSO revival is to reintroduce the series as a downloadable title via each consoles respective download service.   Phantasy Star Online would once again become gamers social destination as the games lobbies would be filled by players wishing to chat or party up for experience earning, loot-grabbing expeditions.  No subscription would be required, the game would become a gold mine via micro-transactions.  You could tweak your look by buying unique styles for your existing armour, weaponry, and Mags.  Also, new episodes would be made available for purchase to ensure you keeping coming back for more.  The game would also support itself with in-game advertising (In all truth I hope that somebody at Sega actually reads this and gets them thinking along these same lines).

ct Crazy Taxi: the original Crazy Taxi was a runaway success, unfortunately its sequels could not recapture the originals fire and the franchise soon disappeared from our radar.  Imagine if you will Crazy Taxi Online.  Think of what could be done with a city not unlike Paradise City, where online players would compete for fares, do crazy stunts, and cause general mayhem.  Crazy Taxi Online would be a licence to print money.

NatalSeaman and Jet Set Radio: Two franchises that were made for the new generation of camera and motion control.  Before there was Natal’s ‘Milo’, there was Seaman.  This half human, half fish ‘lived’ in your Sega Dreamcast.  As you raised it, it communicated with you and via a microphone included with the game, you communicated back.  Now imagine Seaman brought to life with the Natal or Eye Toy.  It would recognize your face, perhaps even sense your mood.  Via motion control you could interact with Seaman and his environment.  You could even map yours or someone else's face to the Seaman (creepy)!  Like many Sega franchises, Seaman was ahead of its time.  Natal was made for games like this.

Imagine Jet Set Radio using he motions of your arms and hands to spray paint or ‘tag’ your environment. Uh oh, the bad guys are on to you so it is time to book.  You take off with the motion of your legs, or perhaps your Wii balance board to mimic skating.  You direction changing or shifting of weight allows you to perform stylized stunts.  Again I believe Jet Set Radio would be a perfect match for this generation of motion-based controls.

PDOPanzer Dragoon: One of Sega’s most storied franchises, Panzer Dragoon has a rich and detailed universe that is begging to be remade for the next generation.  I would like to rerelease the original Panzer Dragoon Saga along side the creation of its sequel.  Saga’s unique melding of Dragoon’s patented combat in a RPG setting made this game an experience like no other.  So much work has already been put into creating this properties universe, including its own spoken language, that it would be a shame that we never get to experience its colourful universe again.  We were blessed to have four solid games out of Panzer Dragoon, but how many people really got to play them?  I think we can do better for this franchise.

shenmueShenmue:  Say what you will about this franchise, but one thing is for sure, we need closure.  GTA III changed the face of open world games forever, leaving games like Shenmue in its wake.  So instead of trying to compete with that level of detail, I would like to produce either a series of interactive movies or one great episode to conclude the Shenmue storyline.  Again, so much effort was placed into this franchise that it deserves a better fate.  At the end of the day it may just be fan service, but with the guaranteed millions of earnings  from the above titles, I think we can once again role the dice on Sega’s most notorious game series ever.

So far I think I have my new division at Sega off to a tremendous start.  I think the above are the keys to returning Sega to its former glory.  New Phantasy Star and Skies of Arcadia RPGs would be in the next wave.  Also I need to put Chu Chu Rocket into the downloadable space as soon as possible.  What Sega franchises would you like to see resurrected, retooled, or remade?  I would like to hear from you, so please leave a comment.  Sega has one of the most rich and beloved library of properties in the video game world.  They need to get out there a grab the gold ring!  Make it happen Sega.

SEGA

-SG

7:16 PM 2 comments

Ok Bioware…..You Got Me!

Up to this point I have been on the fence about whether or not to purchase Dragon Age, which is a RPG set in a mix of low and high fantasy and is the spiritual successor to Baulder’s Gate. Today though, they revealed the Collectors Edition, which comes with….are you ready…a cloth map!

mapCloth maps, which tended to be more or less standard with computer RPG’s back in the day (see the Ultima series) are pretty high on the nerd scale, but I think they are great, and that they are the kind of swag I like to see with CE’s. I’m also a fan of Mass Effect and the Dragon Age CE is also supposed to come with something a little extra for Mass Effect 2.

However, what I will not be buying is the “Prestige Edition” for Modern Warfare 2, which comes with working night-vision goggles! I don’t want to end up like this guy below…

morecrap

* picture courtesy of NeoGaf

- Schu

9:17 PM 0 comments

MechWarriors…Come out and Play!

An interesting bit of news surfaced this past week that caught my attention.  IGN reported that Smith and Tinker and Piranha Games are rebooting the storied PC Mech franchise with an all new game on the PC and Xbox 360 entitled MechWarrior.  Now you can read the article in its entirety and watch a teaser trailer for the upcoming title here, but what I want to write about today is what this announcement means to me by looking back on my Mech battling past.

MechAssCHawkTo start of I am going to go way back.  All the way back to 1988.  I was in my mid teens and a Commodore 64 owner looking for a fresh and exciting RPG to sink my teeth into.  I was recently wowed by my first experiences with the Robotech animated series and was looking to find a game that was comparable in story and scope.  Via the magazines of the time I was introduced to the Battletech series, seeing ads for the game Battletech: The Crescent Hawk Inception. Even though the C64 version was mildly ‘nerfed’ compared to its PC counterparts it was a solid RPG and was an unusual genre for the franchise as future games would focus on the direct piloting of the Mechs.  I quickly completed this game, but little did I know that it would be the better part of two decades before I would get to revisit the Battletech/MechWarrior  series.  This time it would sport a new, hipper title, MechAssault.

mechassaultIn the first days of Xbox LIVE is was really about two games, Ghost Recon and MechAssault.  For me I was not as interested in the complex military action of Ghost Recon so I quickly latched onto MechAssault.  I appreciated its variety of Mechs, online teamwork, and accessibility of play.  A spent  many an evening playing the multiplayer component if favour of the single player campaign.  I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that this game was a moderate success on the platform.  It also brought twitch gameplay to the franchise that had been firmly rooted on the PC since A couple of years later a sequel was released entitled MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf.

When MechAssault 2 came out it appeared that it would be a sure fire hit as it looked to have improved on the original title in everyway possible on paper.  One of the big bullet points for this title was a persistent online conflict where your conflicts had an overall effect on the balance of power within the games universe.  While the game pushed forward the mythology of the Battletech universe the game was mired in several game breaking problems.  The games poor matchmaking and lack of flexibility to chose your Mech within its persistent online battle often left me and my friends stuck in lobbies waiting for enough people to make a game.  We not so fondly began to refer to the game as ‘Lobby-Assault’.  The poor performance of two fan favourite properties (the other being Shadowrun) led to Microsoft disbanding the development studies and selling the rights to Smith and Tinker.  Now I led with where that went, but I am not ready to return to that story.  Two other great games were yet to be played, Steel Battalion and Chromehounds.

 SBcontrollerSteel Battalion and its online sequel, Steel Battalion: Line of Contact, were games in my opinion that were well ahead of their time.  Unfortunately the game’s greatest strength was its greatest weakness, the prohibitively priced, but oh so awesome controller.  Steel Battalion weighed in at a hefty $250 price tag, its price at the time was comparable to the price of the entire console it ran on (the Xbox if you did not know already).  Also due to the pricing the game was available in very limited numbers.  But those who were able to find the game and pay the price discovered a game experience that you could not find anywhere else on home consoles. 

Capcom’s ambition increased ten fold with the release of the online expansion, Line of Contact.  The online game supported 5 vs.. 5 Vertical Tank combat, collectable rare items, chat rooms, an action house, and a persistent online conflict where your battles again would effect the state of the overall conflict.  I had an awesome personal campaign going in LoC, but two things in this game doomed my interest.  When you die in Steel Battalion, you die.  Your career is over and all you have accumulated is gone.  So when my character died I actually was shocked and felt like somebody kicked me in the stomach.  That coupled with the ‘lobby assault’ where it could take up to 30 minutes to get a game together spelled the end for this game for me.  Steel Battalion burned the brightest, but certainly not the longest.  I often wonder what could have been had this game waited one more generation to be released.  Again it would be a couple more years before the torch was picked up again with Sega’s Chromehounds on the Xbox 360.

chrome_houndsI was very excited for the arrival of Chromehounds.  I had a lot of confidence that the third time would be the charm and this persistent online world thing would finally take a hold in the Xbox LIVE community.  Once again though it appeared that poor net coding would be the bane of this genre of gaming on the Xbox console space.  While I and my friends had a lot of fun building ‘Hounds and taking part in the battle, in the end we had to settle for playing against the computer as the game could just not handle the scope of the games online play.  At the end of the day I am left to wonder if this genre, this style of play had anywhere to go this generation.  Fortunately it appears that we will get at least one more opportunity with the franchise that started it all for me, MechWarrior.

While we are only introduced to this game with a teaser trailer, from what I observed it appears to strike a balance between Steel Battalion and MechAssault.  The inclusion of 4-player co-op is a huge win as well.  So after years of hits and misses in this genre I am very confident that the retooled MechAssault franchise will strike the correct chord once and for all.  I will be watching closely any developments on this game.  Xbox 360 and PC owners be on the lookout, the new generation of Mech assaulting will soon be at hand.

IGN: MechWarrior Revealed

-SG

1:07 PM 0 comments

EA Active ….One week later

 

ea-sports-active So one week later I headed back to EA’s personal home trainer for the Nintendo Wii EA Active. While I wish I could have continued my 30 day challenge I had to pass due to actually injuring my foot while using it the first day. It even set back my normal fitness routine a bit, but I still managed to push on.

I chose to lay off the cardio and focus on my strength training for the last week at the gym and that was sort of my focus on my EA Active workout today.

So I entered my own personal workout today and stayed away from anything that might have me taking many steps like lunges or running in place. I Still burned off 226 calories in 30 minuets all while keeping my feet grounded.

First I did mix of sports, cardio boxing ands upper body training . Sports consisted of playing volleyball, baseball and basketball. These exercises really let you focus in on the motions yours using while actually playing these sports and let you feel the muscles being used. You really don't think about it when your doing these things in a real game , but when you turn it into a workout and push yourself with each and every motion you feel it !

The upper body training consisted or more exercises using the resistance band. I went for a mix or curls, shoulder presses and shoulder raises. The cardio Boxing in this game is great. The trainer has you throwing jabs and straights with left and right crosses then turning to the heavy bag were you are  given a different number for reps to complete between 30 and 100. That's when you want punch the hell out of the bag at this point as fast as you can all while trying to maintain a nice balanced form.

I ended my workout with standing squats to give the legs a little burn with out putting a lot of pressure on my foot. I did a seconded workout that was made up of mostly Boxing and Tennis. for a bout 12 minutes and again ended with some squats.

Once my foot is better I'm going to restart my 30 day challenge not only so I can report on how well it went but so that I can further better my own personal fitness goals. For someone who just started studying to be a personal trainer I made a big mistake. I didn't warm up or stretch. I do it in the gym but overlooked it at home. So I still stand behind EA Active and the quality of the training given on screen. So stay tuned for more virtual fitness from me TormentX, my Wii and EA Active.

My Review for EA Active

-TX

6:32 PM 0 comments

SG’s Adventures: The Hiatus Return Edition!

It has been a long couple of months for me as my focus was turned away from blogging and towards my studies.  Now with my exam written and in the books I am free and clear to return to my neglected blogs and show them some love.

fallout-3-point-lookout-hillfolk-enemy-screenshotAs was before, Fallout 3 is once again the focus of my blogging.  Point Lookout is the latest in the substantial series of DLC Bethesda has provided for their smash RPG. I love the feel of Point Lookout, the developers have really captured that Hill-Folk scare factor (see the motion picture Wrong Turn) and incorporated that into their version of post-apocolypticia.  As I play this story I cannot help to think how this could be co-opted into a Silent Hill RPG, in fact if it did not have the Fallout 3 trappings, it wouldn't` take much to make the switch.  Their is a lot to explore here, possibly more than Project Anchorage and The Pitt combined.  This to me is the first DLC package that really feels like a new chunk of land to explore, rather than the mostly linear progression of the previous entries.  Once I am done here I think I will begin to proceed to the Fallout 3 endgame, Broken Steel.  Right now I am sitting on about 117 hours, think it will soon be time to make a change.  As much as I love the capital wasteland, I think I need some new scenery.  That is not to say I won’t return, I would definitely come back for visits!

ikaruga-ship When I went online this afternoon I was pleased to see that Ikaruga is the Xbox LIVE Marketplace ‘Deal of the Week’.  I always wanted to purchase the game, even if it was only for Dreamcast nostalgia.  Now it is half off and priced at 400 Microsoft Points.  If you were like me and too cheap to take the plunge before, now is the time to strike on a classic ‘shump’.

mirrors_edgeLast year, Mirror’s Edge was firmly on my radar, but time was not on that games side as it arrived in the middle of a crazy videogame season, Fall 2008.  As I listened to what people had to say about the game I got a little turned off as well.  Earlier today in fact I reiterated those same feeling to my cousin COKTOE (formerly COKTOE 360 of Xbox fame).  I basically stated how I let that game pass me by.  This afternoon I was perusing the 360 games at a local store when I Mirror’s Edge for a mere $20.  Being on vacation right now and looking for something fresh I decided to take the plunge and purchase the game.  It is funny how that works sometimes.  I has put some serious thought into NCAA 10, but the high price of game lately is scaring me off.  Possibly a little purchasing patience may be my new order of the day.

-SG

12:38 PM 1 comments

Review: EA Active

 

ea-sports-active

 

good_thumb[6] So can you remember a while back I mentioned that I was going to give the Wii Fit a spin and report back on it ? Well long story short it didn't amount to anything. In brief though the Wii fit has some good to it when it comes to physical fitness , but it is truly split down the middle when it comes to being a game or a serious trainer.

Today I opened up EA Active and started day one of the 30 day challenge. Now I'm not going to promise you that I'm going to complete my 30 day challenge in well….30 days. Most of you that know me know that I workout on a regular basis so to commit to this for the full 30 days will be hard , but ill do my best.

What I can tell you is if you do buy this and you do commit to the 30 day challenge yourself along with a sensible diet you will see results ! I really didn't know what I was getting myself into when I started this today. Like any other game out there you have your difficulty level to choose from and I chose the hard intensity level. Well I can say I was put to the test.

Now I'm no Greek God or anything but I'm also no stranger to working out over the years and this game kicked my butt today. I did everything from walking, running and boxing to inline skating and squats. That was just some of my workout on day one with more to come. I worked out for 32 minuets and burned 260 calories ! Folks I was trenched in sweat when I was done. I was planning on using my stability fitness ball afterwards but was way to tired.

You can choose from the 30 day challenge or set your own customizable workout and set it at the skill level that's right for you. Plus you can keep track of it all in a journal as well as your nutritional intake all in game . Sounds great !

I think for beginners and even the moderate workout enthusiast EA Active is a great home personal trainer. For those of you that feel your a bit advanced well you can step it up a bit more just by going faster or being more intense in your actions. I think at some point though everyone would need to go out and buy a new resistance band.  You use this for doing curls, triceps kickbacks, bent over rows and more. Its either going to break or your just going to out grow it and need more resistance for more weight.

Over all I think EA Active is a great product and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a quick and intense workout at home. I give it a Text Adventures Big Thumbs Up ! I'm looking forward to the follow up this fall and I cant wait to try the controller free version on the Xbox 360 Natal.

-TX

11:23 AM 1 comments

Multiplayer Only ?

 

battlefield_1943

So would you pay 60 bucks for a multiplayer only game these days? I think most people would say no including myself. But….what about 15 or 20 dollars, sounds like a sweeter deal right. Even better all you need to do is download the game. No need to run out and buy a retail copy.

Next week Battlefield 1943 will be hitting the XBLA and PSN for just $15.00 or 1200 MS points. Battlefield gives players the opportunity to control land and air vehicles as well as shoot it out on the ground with a complete arsenal of weapons on 4 huge maps.  So now you can have all the fun of a multiplayer mode without the full game price tag.

I think this a great start to a new trend we will be seeing over the years. In fact I think some games could have benefited this way instead of being full retail games.  Games like Quake Wars: Enemy Territories and Shadow Run which were basically multiplayer only games with some offline BOT matches could have done much better as digital distribution content at a discounted price instead of a full retail price tag.  Unfortunately neither of the games faired to well.

Sony even tested the waters early with its multiplayer heavy game WARHAWK. The game was available in both retail and digital form. While you can download it cheaper from the PSN, you were given a packed in headset if you purchased it from retail. And lets not forget that the PC has been doing games like this for awhile now, think Counter Strike.

The trend looks to continue with the highly anticipated return of Quake Arena III now know as Quake Arena Arcade. Still no date and price on this game but just knowing you can purchase it for multiplayer purposes only at the right price is a beautiful thing.

Even games like World War and CellFactor: Psychokinetic Wars on XBLA offer the multiplayer game only at a budget price. So while its a time to pinch pennies its not a bad time to be a online gamer. Personally Id like to see the multiplayer mode from Return to Castle Wolfenstien come out on XBLA. It would save me same cash next month. Beach Invasion anyone ?

-TX