Thursday, November 27, 2008

Top 52: Super Smash Bros. Brawl (#32)

This pick is an odd one for me. Despite being on my list, Super Smash Bros. Brawl was a disappointing game in my eyes. After such great success with the first two in the Super Smash series, how could Brawl be worse? Even though Brawl didn't live up to my expectations, it's still a great fighter to play with friends.

Title: Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Console: Nintendo Wii
Release Date: 03/09/08
Genre: Fighting
My Ranking: #32

Super Smash Bros. isn't a traditional fighter. Instead of getting hit points down to zero, your health starts at zero and the more you get hit, the higher your percentage goes up. The higher your percentage, the farther you get hit off the stage. If you fall too far from the stage, you lose a life. The original Super Smash Bros. was the first to use this system, and was completely innovative for its time.

Brawl stays in the says format but the real draw of Brawl is the sheer amount of playable characters. Brawl is the first commercial fighter to allow you to play with 35 characters from all different Nintendo and third-party universes. Brawl has scratched that itch that every gamer has had. Who would win in a fight between X and Y?

Notable new characters in Brawl were of course Solid Snake and Sonic the Hedgehog. I thought the inclusion of Sonic was especially awesome since every gamer who was alive during the Nintendo vs. Sega war wanted to see these two duke it out. However, I was a little frustrated when I finally got Brawl (it was delayed for about four months) that I had to go through the entire one-player mode to unlock Sonic.

The inclusion of a one-player mode called the Subspace Emissary was necessary since previous versions of the game had lackluster one-player modes. This story-adventure mode pitted (almost) all of the characters against a new enemy and had players going through platforming and boss levels to complete it. It took a couple hours to complete and was kind of fun, but the platforming levels seemed sort of thrown in at the last moment and just weren't that fun. It also was annoying that the fastest way to unlock characters was using this mode, making it seem forced.

You don't buy Brawl for the one-player mode though. You buy it for the multiplayer experience, which is where the game truly shines. The controls for Brawl are simple and smooth. You have two attack buttons, and a direction chooses a different attack. No crazy quarter-circle punch, half-circle, back flip and stand on your controller madness. Simple, efficient and fun.

This isn't new for the smash series though and everything that's great about Brawl was already done well in Melee. Brawl had some interesting new additions, like the smash ball which gives a character a limit break move which looks awesome and does massive damage. However, the final smashes are unbalanced and ruins the game's balance as a result. The other problem with Brawl is tripping, which just seems to randomly happen, causing your character to lose all momentum and fall helplessly to the ground completely open for attack.

Despite these new flaws though, Brawl is great game to play with friends. Unfortunately, the game only seems to be fun with items off as most of the items are just annoying or uninteresting. Brawl is definitely the worst in the series, but it never gets old to beat the crap out of Sonic.

My Top 52:
#52 --- Star Fox 64 (N64)
#51 --- Kirby's Adventure (NES)
#50 --- Roller Coaster Tycoon (PC)
#49 --- Grand Theft Auto III (PS2)
#48 --- Metroid Prime (GC)
#47 --- Halo 3 (Xbox 360)
#46 --- Bomberman 64 (N64)
#45 --- Guitar Hero II (PS2)
#44 --- Super Street Fighter II (GEN)
#43 --- Pokemon Puzzle League (N64)
#42 --- Soul Calibur II (GC)
#41 --- Gears of War (Xbox 360)*
#40 --- Elite Beat Agents (DS)
#39 --- Call of Duty 4 (PS3)
#38 --- Super Metroid (SNES)
#37 --- The Orange Box (PS3)*
#36 --- Metal Gear Solid (PS)
#35 --- Doom (PC)
#34 --- Super Mario Kart (SNES)
#33 --- Mischief Makers (N64)
#32 --- Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii)

Oh and sorry for the lack of updates recently. Final projects in NYU are hitting hard now, so the posts will be less frequent for a little while as I really need to focus on schoolwork. I'll put up small stuff though as the days go along to keep you guys entertained.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Review: Fable 2

(Note: I realized I write really, really long reviews. I'm going to try to include a one paragraph "summary" under the quick fix so you can get the gist of what I'm saying without reading the whole review. In this case it's just copy-pasting the last paragraph)

Review: Fable 2

Score: 7.7

Quick Fix:

++ Great art direction and good musical score
++ Most of the role playing aspects are well done, as are choices with consequence
+ Combat is enjoyable, even if it's easy
+ Great and intuitive control scheme
+ Some of the moral dilemmas in the game are actually pretty good

-- Glitches galore! Some of which can be game breaking
-- The endgame does not feel balanced at all and becomes pretty meaningless
- Load screens are somewhat frequent and very long
- Most of the optional quests are rudimentary, easy, and not very interesting
- The game is extremely easy, do not play if you're looking for a challenge
- Spell selection system is a mess
- Economy system is terrible, gold feels worthless
- Abrupt ending is a bit unsatisfying

Summary: I really wanted to love Fable 2. I wanted to give it a high 8 or low 9, praise it for its fantastic theme and role playing elements, as well as combat that proves that games don't have to be difficult to be fun. If the game ended at the mid-way point it very well could have been that way. Not to say that the game is too long; it's more that it felt like everything became unbalanced, broken and meaningless toward the end. I went from being engaged in the story and my character to just wanting to get to the end as fast as I could. The final line is the game needed some more time in testing - to both fix the myriad of bugs and make sure the second half of the game plays as well as the first half did. Here's hoping that Fable 3 will patch up the mistakes of 2, as 2 has done for 1.

I finally finished Fable 2 last night, so I figure it's a good time to post a review. Fable 2 is marketed as Microsoft's big action RPG, its Zelda of sorts. While the first Fable was relatively disappointing and did not fulfill the big promises it made, Fable 2 is said to have atoned for the mistakes of the first while expanding the experience as a whole. Does it deliver?

Well, yes and no. It makes up for a lot of the mistakes of the first by filling in a lot of the gaps where the original failed, but at the same time, has a lot of problems of its own. Let's start with the good: Fable 2 is gorgeous. I don't mean cutting-edge graphics gorgeous, but art direction gorgeous. The towns have a life of their own, day and night and the seasons all work well. Everything sounds great too, from the musical score to the excellent voice acting all around. Fable 2 feels and looks like a high budget from all angles. The pre-rendered cutscenes, which are few and far between, are usually brief but beautiful and do a great job of fleshing out key moments in your hero's tale.

What I really, really like about Fable 2 (as well as the original, but less so) is it puts the "RP" back in RPG. A lot of RPGs today seem to only be called RPGs because it involves hit point meters and alternating between swordplay and magic attacks. They rarely feel like you're playing any active role in the plot other than advancing the linear story by talking to key characters and blowing up the occasional boss.

Throughout Fable 2 I really felt like a part of the game world. A lot of games give you options like clothing choices, but it never means anything in the scope of the actual game. Fable 2 often succeeds in the idea of consequences. If you wear attractive clothing, women in the game will remark on how handsome you look, while if you don't take care of yourself and become fat, people will turn heads. If you eat meat vegetarians will look down on you. If you rent out some houses and raise the rent, people will think of you as a miser and react accordingly.

It works on the larger scale too. There are several key decisions you can make in the game that affect the game world as a whole. A simple good-or-evil decision you make during the childhood portion of a game affects the entire town's well-being when you come back as an adult. If you were good the economy prospers and the shop keepers give you a discount, but if you were evil the town becomes run down with bandits and you can get offers to assassinate key gang leaders for cash. Some of the decisions even break the fourth wall: One of the toughest decisions I had to make was between sparing the life of a friend you made (netting you a ton of positive alignment points) or losing some valuable experience points you worked hard to get throughout the game.

All the standard things are here too: customizable clothes, tattoos, hair, getting married and having kids, fat / slim appearance. Clothes and hair can be dyed as well which is a nice touch. I got a pretty sweet black mage gig going down by the end of the game (hat included). If you missed out on the concept of "morphing" in Fable 1, then I'll mention it's in this game too and it's pretty neat. Your character basically morphs based on key decisions you make in the game. If you put a lot of points into your physique (primarily to increase melee damage) you become buff, while increasing your shooting abilities makes you taller. Investing into a lot of spells gives you these cool glowing blue veins at your neck. Being good gives you a halo, being evil gives you dark eyes and even some horns. It's a neat thing to see how different heroes turn out by the end of the game. The end of the game even shows you a brief retrospect of how your hero looked at different points in the game, which is cool to actually see him grow like that.

The RP part is definitely the strength of Fable 2. The weakness, unfortunately, is in the third letter of the acronym, G for game. There are a lot of little and big annoyances here. The load screens, while not too frequent, are very long and almost unacceptable for a game this generation (this is a lot better if you have the HDD space to install it). While the main quests were pretty good in general, the optional quests felt extremely straightforward, usually kill-those-dudes or collect-x-of-item-y affairs ,sometimes with minor moral choices attached. The world was touted to be massive and free roaming, but generally felt very linear, with only the occasional slight detour to find a treasure or key. Your dog makes this even easier, as getting anywhere near a treasure prompts him to bark and guide you the rest of the way, taking a lot out of the exploration element.

A major show-stopper here is the absurd amount of glitches in the game. To get an idea of the amount of glitches, just check the Fable 2 forums at GameFAQs - the main sticky in the forum is one outlining the major game breaking glitches and how to avoid them. If you need more of an example than simply search "glitch" in the forum and see how many pages come up (I got 26, and that's at 50 topics a page!). I experienced a couple of glitches myself; for some reason, they all seemed centered around my wife. For one, there just seems no way for the "have sex" option to appear when I want to have a baby with her. She even tells me how much she wants it, but I follow the prompts exactly and it only gives me the normal "sleep" option. The other glitch is with my second wife, who at some random point in time apparently went mute on me. She doesn't talk to me besides the occasional comment, doesn't react to my gestures, won't sleep with me, or really do much of anything. I do everything to make her happy and give her a good share of money, but she is pretty much a vegetable that walks around. It's really appalling to me that a game with this kind of budget gets out with so many bugs.

The best part of the gameplay, thankfully, is the combat, which turns out to be very enjoyable. While having only one button for shooting, one for melee and one for magic may sound limiting, the game manages to do a lot with it. With your sword you can button mash if you want, but can also block, time your swings to increase speed, hold the button down to charge a flourish attack, and even counter your enemy. With shooting you can either fire a quick shot, zoom in to increase damage, or sub-target enemy body parts to slow them down or kill them outright. Magic has 8 spells that get stronger as you invest more points in them. The cool part is besides basic swinging and gunning, all aspects of melee and ranged are unlocked by investing experience into the right abilities. It really feels like your character is growing because of this, and you'll have some difficult decisions in how to spend experience. Being able to quickly shift between the three combat styles and the lack of ammo or mana gives the player a ton of freedom in how to fight.

A minor downside about combat is the spell selection system is pretty bad. There are 5 levels of strength with magic, and you can put a different spell into each level. When you charge magic the spell you cast depends on what level you release the button at. So if you charge all the way to 5 you'll use whatever spell you put in the 5 slot, but if you release at 4 you use the spell in the 4 slot. This falls apart when you want to quickly change what spell to use. The only way to change a spell is to hold down a different trigger entirely and then use the dpad to select the correct level and spell to use, all in the middle of combat. You can also pause the game and re-organize spells but this really breaks up the action. Why they couldn't just map an active spell to the dpad and then charge that with B is beyond me.

Just don't go in expecting combat with Devil May Cry or Ninja Gaiden levels of difficulty. Not only is the game pretty easy from start to finish, but it is actually impossible to really die. When you run out of health instead of re-doing the fight scene or getting pushed out of your game, your character simply jumps back to life in 5 seconds. The only losses are uncollected experience orbs and the gain of a scar on your body, which never goes away. I thought the lack of death bothering you would be a bad thing since it removed any threat of combat.

I was actually wrong. I still found myself fighting for my life, for my character's scar-less look. If you're the kind of gamer that wants to be punished more harshly for failing in combat, this probably isn't the game for you. It also turns out the death system never bothered me because I never actually died. Anywhere after early in the game you'll have a ridiculous amount of potions (both from buying them cheap and finding them) and they all restore a ton of health instantly, with no restrictions. Anytime I got near death in combat I simply tapped the potion button and everything was okay.

This brings me to what I think is my biggest problem with Fable 2. The game starts off great, and it continues to be great for about the first half. Things feel balanced; my character's funds were limited so I couldn't buy great equipment and health potions, the combat was pretty challenging with said limitations, and my character was steadily growing in skill set. After the midway point, things started to spiral out of control.

For one thing, the economy system blows. When you're poor in the beginning the best way to make money is to take up a part-time job, which of course involves a minigame. Whether it's chopping wood or serving beers, it's always a timing minigame that gets extremely boring after about a minute. It's really the only decent way to make money - questing and stealing both result in tiny amounts of money that could be made in minutes of a doing a job. Rank up in the minigame a couple of times and you'll have enough money to last you most of the game right there. Everything in the game is dirt cheap except for some of the higher level melee and ranged weapons.

The real way to invest your money is buying shops or renting out houses. These are large up-front investments that seem to pay for themselves over time - balanced enough. But by the end of the game I was raking in thousands of gold every 5 minutes. The payout continues even while the game is off - I came back after a few days once and my bank account doubled and then some. High class weapons became pocket change and the only thing worth buying was even more property, which of course perpetuated the cycle further. So to summarize, tedious in the beginning, broken at the end.

The combat also falls apart toward the end. In particular if you choose to invest in spells, the later level damage spells are simply ridiculous. Here's my late-game four step guide to every battle:
1 - Cast Slow Time spell as enemies appear
2 - Move to a safe location as enemies stumble to you in slow-mo
3 - Charge and cast level 5 Shock (enemies still in slow-mo)
4 - Anything that isn't flat out killed can be swept up with some sword strikes

Honestly, after I had those two spells I could not find one group of enemies that could even put more than a dent in me. I ended up avoiding the combination to keep combat from being a complete snore-fest.

After a while the game just felt didn't feel as interesting. My character was already pimped out the way I wanted and my abilities were mostly developed; late-game experience mostly goes toward simple tweaks in the damage you deal instead of interesting additions to your moveset. Combat became a drag and money became a joke. The final quests were barely interesting and the ending felt abrupt. It pretty much throws a plot twist in your face, and goes right to the credits. It felt like an entire arc of the story was left out, which makes me wonder if we'll be nickel-and-dimed for expansion DLC content that continues where the story leaves you stranded. The only interesting part is a really tough final choice you have to make.

I really wanted to love Fable 2. I wanted to give it a high 8 or low 9, praise it for its fantastic theme, role playing elements, and combat that proves that games don't have to be difficult to be fun. If the game ended at the mid-way point it very well could have been that way. Not to say that the game is too long; it's more that it felt like everything became unbalanced, broken and meaningless toward the end. I went from being engaged in the story and my character to just wanting to get to the end as fast as I could. The final line is the game needed some more time in testing - to both fix the myriad of bugs and make sure the second half of the game plays as well as the first half did. Here's hoping that Fable 3 will patch up the mistakes of 2, as 2 has done for 1.

Overall Score - 7.7

(PS - sorry for the lack of images. I'm lazy. Game screens / videos are pretty abundant on the web if you want to see the game in action)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Flashy Friday: Hanna in a Choppa

Hanna in a Choppa is a fairly new Flash game (it released this month). You play as an Orange helicopter and your goal is to just reach the flag at the end of the stage. The movement is surprisingly smooth but what you'll really like about this game is the catchy music and the overall cuteness in the minimalist orange and black setting.

The game isn't that hard really, or that long even. You can successfully complete this game in about an hour sitting at your computer, but good luck trying to get all of the in-game achievements. Those are pretty hardcore. Two achievements involve you speed running every level and doing no-hit runs respectively.

Click here to play Hanna in a Choppa now.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Top 52: Mischief Makers (#33)

I know what you're thinking. What the hell is Mischief Makers? And why is it ranked #33? Mischief Makers is only one of the best 2D platformers ever and is one of the hidden gems for the Nintendo 64. Read the review and you'll find out why I love this game so hard. Note that this isn't the only obscure game on my list, my list of favorite games isn't like most people.

Title: Mischief Makers
Console: Nintendo 64
Release Date: 10/01/97
Genre: Platformer
My Ranking: #33

In Mischief Makers, you play as Ultra-Intergalactic-Cybot G Marina Liteyears, or just a cyborg named Marina (she's hot) for short. There's a story in this platformer too, but trust me, you really won't care. A professor dude got kidnapped on the planet Clancer and you gotta save him. See? Told you didn't care.

What you will care about is the gameplay, which is honestly unlike anything you have ever seen before in a 2D platformer. Mario games have you kill enemies by jumping on them or hitting blocks under them. Mischief Makers has you grab enemies and throw them to their death. Hell, you can even shake them if you want and healing crystals might pop out of them.

The grab function in Mischief Makers is not only unique, but it's smooth and utilized extremely well. In one boss fight, you are riding on top of a tiny white cat who is running away from a mechanical motorcycle. (Yes, the cat is running at the same speed as the motorcycle, don't let logic bother you.) While on the cat, you need to jump on top of missiles the boss is shooting at you and catch other missiles, which you can shake to make stronger, so that you could fire back at the boss. Timing is essential for the grab, and a timing error will result in damage. All the meanwhile you need avoid other attacks that you can't grab, a laser beam being one of them.

The grab function is also used extremely well in the general platforming levels. By grabbing and shaking different balls (stop laughing!), the balls will activate switches or maybe the balls will follow a track in which you'll need to jump off at the right time and jump on another track. There is no simple running and jumping in mischief makers. Sometimes you'll need to air dash correctly to make it over large gaps and other times you'll need to rely on timed grabs to get across tricky parts.

Beating Mischief Makers wasn't that difficult either. Some of the bosses were difficult to figure out how to beat, but eventually I was able find out what I needed to do in order to win. What was insanely difficult though was getting 100% completion and seeing the main ending and surprise ending.

In order to get the complete ending, you need to collect the cleverly hidden golden crystals that were in each stage. Some crystals forced you to think outside the box to press the right switches, some were just in obscure parts of the map and others made you tempt fate over treacherous areas. The most hardcore crystals though, were the golden crystals for bosses, which you could only get by not taking any damage throughout the whole battle. Trust me, getting those crystals was RIDICULOUS. And insanely fun.

I felt so satisfied after getting all the golden crystals since I knew I had completed something very difficult and was rewarded with an awesome complete ending. The effort I had to put into this game was so intense and I remember playing some bosses dozens of times before doing a successful no-hit run. I'm not sure what compelled me to go for 100% completion in Mischief Makers; the game was just addictive.

Why should you play this game? Outstanding level design, controls and some of the most memorable boss fights you'll ever experience, especially if you're going for a no-hit run. The crazy awesome boss fights are no surprise either, since this game was made by the same development team that worked on Gunstar Heroes and Contra. Yeah, the music is kinda lame, and you may not like the cartoony graphics, but most importantly, you'll have fun. If you have an N64, get this game. Amazon has copies of it for less than five bucks.

My Top 52:
#52 --- Star Fox 64 (N64)
#51 --- Kirby's Adventure (NES)
#50 --- Roller Coaster Tycoon (PC)
#49 --- Grand Theft Auto III (PS2)
#48 --- Metroid Prime (GC)
#47 --- Halo 3 (Xbox 360)
#46 --- Bomberman 64 (N64)
#45 --- Guitar Hero II (PS2)
#44 --- Super Street Fighter II (GEN)
#43 --- Pokemon Puzzle League (N64)
#42 --- Soul Calibur II (GC)
#41 --- Gears of War (Xbox 360)*
#40 --- Elite Beat Agents (DS)
#39 --- Call of Duty 4 (PS3)
#38 --- Super Metroid (SNES)
#37 --- The Orange Box (PS3)*
#36 --- Metal Gear Solid (PS)
#35 --- Doom (PC)
#34 --- Super Mario Kart (SNES)
#33 --- Mischief Makers (N64)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Initial Impressions of the NXE

The NXE, the New Xbox Experience. This was Microsoft's fall update to the Xbox 360 dashboard. The old dashboard did it's job, but it was slow, clunky, and had much wasted space and inefficiencies.

This is by no means a complete review; Kevin or I will do one of those later, but for now, here are some brief thoughts.

Overall Layout
Much faster, much sleeker, and much better organized. The old 'blades' were slow loading, and poorly organized. These are quick and efficient. Bravo Microsoft.

Additionally, the menu which appears when you hit the Xbox button the controller has also been updated, and appears much faster, as everything else does.  It's been updated with much more useful information.

Whoopidy-doo. Xbox decided they wanted their own Miis. They did a decent job, but who cares. I haven't done anything other than make mine (couldn't find an image, but my tag is Will and Beyond). This could develop into something cool, but I have my doubts.

Streaming Netflix
Watching Netflix movies on the 360 is an excellent addition, and a step closer to making this a more complete media center. I used to have Netflix, but I unsubscribed once I had built up a big backlog of movies to watch. (Not that I was somehow archiving them outside of the strict confines of the law...) Today I resubscribed, because their Watch Instantly feature allows unlimited streaming of movies (a more limited selection, and temporarily even more so) when you have their $8.99/month plan or higher.

The setup is super simple. Download the small program, then you'll need to connect to your Netflix account. That entails logging into your Netflix account on the computer, and inputting a code which the Netflix program will display. Very simple. You then setup an 'Instant Queue' (which is separate from your regular queue, though it works the same way).

Once your queue is setup, you just open the program on the 360, and you have a very sleek interface (common theme with this dashboard upgrade) which allows you to browse through your queue and see info, etc. I watched the first half of L.A. Confidential (then something went wrong...) and then all of Empire Records. No complaints at all. There was an interruption once when my internet slowed down, but it resumed just fine.

Game Installation
One of the problems on the 360 is that the disc drive is very loud, and if my volume's not up loud enough to drown it out, I get worried it's going to burn out, or eat my disc.  Installing a game on the hard disk eliminates this problem.

It doesn't reduce load times noticably, and you still have to have the disc in the drive (to verify ownership), but it's nice and silent.  The installations take around 6GB, so unless you have an Elite (60GB) you can probably only keep one game installed at once (on the 20GB Pro drives), so this won't be as great for you polygamous gamers.

Overall: Many thumbs up. Kotaku and Gizmodo agree.

Photo: X3F
Photo: Netflix


Monday, November 17, 2008

Top 40 Most Memorable Games #35

Lima's Top 40 Most Memorable Games!

I've been told I'm more funny when I'm angry. Sadly, I just can't find anything to rant about this week. Tools of Destruction was a solid game. My roommate (TheNightgaunt) rented it and it had been a while since I'd had the time/interest to get into a game. The previous Ratchet and Clank titles had been decent if not highly remarkable. I've always had a soft spot for platform games and at the time I'd experienced enough bargain bin action/adventure to make me crave something with a joke or two. (A LITTLE sense of humor, I don't ask for much! Even the new Devil May Cry had dick jokes!) Two months later, I had finished the game twice and finally let my poor roommate exchange it for another game.

Playing Tools of Destruction was like stepping out into summer rain. How long had it been since I played a game that was FUN. You know fun, that thing you forget about when you're fighting slimes over and over again for the XP or randomly named currency? I forgot the beauty of mindlessly wailing on things with a pleasant variety of weapons. And yes, that's what Grand Theft Auto is, but there was always a bit of guilt there for me. Call me sensitive (I still beat the money out of hookers like anyone else) but there was always that edge of sarcasm (and frustrating chase missions) to remind me that my character and the city he lived in were mean and corrupt. Cynicism can be a great source of humor, but it's really just the shinier side of a depressed coin. Besides, I can't beat the chase scenes

Ratchet an Clank are saving worlds from a tiny dictator whose head is too small for his hat. There's no guilt in beating up monsterous patsies or robot pirates. (They hit me first!) And If you you don't want to kill them, you can make them dance. Or turn them into penguins. or turn them into DANCING PENGUINS!!!

I could go on and on about the great gameplay and replay value, Pirate costume, beautifully titled skill points (Saucy Wrench = Destroy all 4 campfire Cauldrons with the wrench.), and blatant ripping off the Pirates of the Caribbean's theme song....But I think I made my point with the dancing penguins. dancing penguins! How AWESOME is that?

This game kicks ass.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Doooooooood. This game rocks.

So I've put away my copy of Fallout 3 for the moment. At least until the developer's get up off of their asses and release a Construction Set for the game like they've done for their last 2 major titles.
Long story short, the reason why Oblivion continues to sell on the PC is mainly thanks to the developers releasing a modified version of the editor tools they used to make the game. As a result, Oblivion (and it's predecessor Morrowind) have one of the largest modding communities in the history of gaming, with the number of mods out there numbering in the thousands. link to planet elder scrolls

So until that happens, I find myself drawn back to a game that I was playing obsessively prior to the release of Fallout 3. I speak of Disgaea 3.

This game is addictive. How addictive you may ask? Well, I was playing it prior to the release of Silent Hill: Homecoming, and then once I beat that I went back to Disgaea 3. Then Spore came out, and after I beat it I went back to Disgaea 3. And now that Fallout 3 has come and gone, I find myself once again drawn back to it like a junkie to a dealer who also happens to be a cheap whore.

Let me explain.

The Disgaea series (now available on every god damned system except the Wii) is a tactical J-RPG. Think Final Fantasy; Tactics, where you do turn based combat, maneuvering characters around a grid like a perverted version of chess, but with chocobos and fireballs. Disgaea replaces that with an inane and truly twisted, but disturbingly funny storyline. And instead of moogles you get peglegged, knife wielding penguins who talk with surfer accents and say "Duuuuuude" way too much. They also happen to serve as the unappreciated slave/servant in the underworld.
...The moogles don't stand a chance in hell.
In Disgaea 1 (Hour of darkness) the main character is a demon prince named Laharl who awakens from a 2 year long nap to find that his invincible father, the overlord of the netherworld, has choked to death on a pretzel. Laharl decides to fill the power vacuum left by his dear old dad by the traditional demonic methods of murder, destruction and outright lying.
He's joined by a cute demoness who constantly threatens to take him down if he fails to live up to his father in her eyes, and a ditzy angel sent to assassinate him (but stops short of knifing him in the back when she finally realizes that killing is wrong). Oh, and knife wielding penguins that explode when thrown.

The plot has twists, turns, and numerous bad and god awful jokes that leave you coming back for more. The sequels only add to this and build upon the previous titles.

The game mechanics are sound and you can return to old levels to play them again, over and over to your hearts content. Oh, and you can enter any item in the game and explore a random dungeon hidden in each. The farther you descend into the item's +100 levels, the more powerful the item grows. Your items actually level in this game. And I don't just mean the weapons and armor. The healing items, the odd status effect items, etc. They all level. Not only that but they contain random towns, pirate raids, and collectable NPCs you can transfer from item to item, altering their effects. And finally, there are dozens of playable classes, you can create characters based on any monster in the game, each of which has at least 5 variations and can all level to somewhere around 9000. Now you can probably beat the game with the main characters at level 80 or so. The rest is just icing. There are unlockable bosses, arenas and all sorts of fun stuff. Oh and multiple endings. There's a special ending if you die on the very first level. And in all of the sequels, you can unlock as playable characters, the main characters from the previous games.

There is also a senate in the game where you can try to get various bills passed. These vary from allowing you to unlock strange new side quests, to being able to buy shoes in the store. And while there are a lot of little factors that decide if one of the many random senators vote for or against your bills, the best way to be assured of victory is to bribe them (they are demons). And if all else fails, you can always try to kill those who vote against you.

As I said, I'm currently obsessed with Disgaea 3, which only adds more complexity and insanity to the series. Now you can pass on experience from one character to another, enter your own characters in a weird variation of the "Item world" concept I mentioned before. So within each character there are hundreds of random dungeons occupied by clones of the character and at the end of this gauntlet you gain the ability to boost the skills and abilities of said character, or simple teach him/her some very powerful new attacks. I find myself obsessed with a strategy I found online that will allow me to level up the main character to level 9999. The idea of becoming insanely strong and dealing millions of points of damage in a single hit appeals to me somehow.

The story centers around Mao, the resident of an underworld that consists entirely of one giant university of evil. His dad just happens to the the overlord of this little University of damnation and Mao seeks his death. Why? Because his dad accidentally stepped on his video game console, killing the memory cards and with them over 13 million hours of saved games (demons live a long time).

In my opinion, Disgaea is one of those series that wins any competition hands down. Well not "best sports game of '07" or something idiotic like that, but they're great games nonetheless.

And yes, this is a scene from the game, and yes that is a tower of characters all doing a wrestling move on 1 enemy. It's that kind of game.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

5 Minutes/5 Games: Volume 1

On 5 minutes/5 games, I shall randomly choose 5 games that I've never played before from my emulators gigantic collection of old games, and give you my 5 minute impression of these games. Hopefully this will give both of us a chance to see games that we never have before.

1. Captain Planet and the Planeteers
The game starts off as a side-scrolling shooter, like Defender. Wikipedia says that this one of two types of levels in the game. It was actually difficult, I died about 5 times during the course of my 5 minute playing session. The controls weren't smooth, and it was more frustrating than anything else.

Will I play this again? Nope.

2. Castelian
Here's a game I had never heard of before. This is actually really fun. My goal seems to be to climb up this tower, and not die in the process. There are passageways through the tower, falling blocks, elevators, bad guys, and I can shoot. It took a minute of getting used to it, but it's pretty intuitive. There's also a time limit, so you have to act fast. This has been released on the Wii VC as Nebulus. I recommend it.

Will I play this again? Absolutely.

3. Deja Vu
A point and click adventure/mystery game. I wake up in a bathroom not knowing who or where I am, nor where the blood on my hand came from. The controls feel a little clunky, but that's to be expected when you're controlling a cursor with the d-pad. Seems pretty fun, straightforward enough so far.

Will I play this again? Maybe. I wouldn't go out of my way to, but if I came across it again, sure.

4. Genghis Khan
A strategy game where you control the Mongolian armies. It starts off RPG-like, where I'm rolling for my stats, choosing names, etc. I now have the option to give orders, like train, tax, war, etc. I train once, which entails nothing other than being told my skill has gone up. Not very exciting. What is exciting? War! How many troops would I like to send to attack my neighboring country? All of them! Exterminated... me, not them. Next up is an incoming attack from a neighbor. I lose, since I have no troops. This has potential, but it would require understanding the strategy.

Will I play this again? Probably not.

5. Ikari Warriors
It turns out Captain Planet isn't the worst game of the five, Ikari Warriors is. The idea is basic, I'm a commando whose plane crashes, and I have to fight a bunch of bad guys (including ninjas) who shoot at me. How could you go wrong? Awkward controls. It's an NES, so I'm not expecting super smooth controls, but these are just too difficult to play with.

Will I play this again? Certainly not.

Winner: Castelian
Loser: Ikari Warriors


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Top 52: Super Mario Kart (#34)

Super Mario Kart proved that Mario spinoffs, if made well-enough could be highly successful. This game alone, according to Wikipedia, sold eight million copies worldwide. Not to mention that Super Mario Kart laid the foundation for all other Mario Kart games and Mario spinoffs outside the platforming genre.

Title: Super Mario Kart
Console: Super Nintendo
Release Date: 09/01/92
Genre: Racing
My Ranking: #34

When I first heard about this game I was confused. Mario in a racing game? Doesn't Mario usually involve jumping on goombas and going into pipes? Mario is awesome though, I thought, so I asked for this game for my birthday.

I then discovered that this racing game was INTENSE. Crazy tracks with pipes in the middle of the road and bowser levels filled with thwomps and lava. Tight turns, weird animations and items like shells and mushrooms? The Nintendo crew stayed true to the essence of Mario and made a somehow made a fun and competitive racing game.

Super Mario Kart, in my opinion, is also the hardest in the entire series. Try playing Special Cup on 150cc and you'll most likely end up crying. If you somehow make it to Rainbow Road, you'll be lucky if you place in the top 4 to pass because you'll keep getting knocked off by every other racer in the game bombarding you with items. Rainbow Road was evil in Super Mario Kart because there were some crazy turns and absolutely no borders on any parts of the stage.

Super Mario Kart- Rainbow Road in 1

Playing the Grand Prix mode with a friend though is more dynamic than you would think. Since the game is so incredibly difficult to get a gold on 150cc, you end up having to work cooperatively with your friend in order to stay ahead of the pack. However, towards the final lap, I also betray my friends right before the finish line (if I'm not in first), and steal the win right under their noses. Mwa ha ha ha.

Super Mario Kart is also the only game in the series to have five laps in every level. Five laps would seem crazy for other games in the series since the boards are very long. In Super Mario Kart, the courses are very compact and the game forces you to master the few tricky turns in under five laps in order to get first place.

I think the best part about Super Mario Kart, however, is the balance of items. No annoying blue shells or broken Bullet Bills like in other installments in the Mario Kart series. Red shells wouldn't even follow the course to their target, so you had to be able to see your opponent in order to hit them. So while the items were fun and helpful, they didn't exactly make or break the game. A better skilled driver would most likely win a contest. A racing game should reward you for skill, not for luck.

The battle mode was also a lot of fun. The only problem with the balloon-style battle mode however, is that Super Mario Kart only supported two players at once. Facing one-on-one in a battle area felt a little bland since you only need to focus on one person. Mario Kart 64's battle mode was much more dynamic with four players; you never felt safe knowing three targets could be potentially targeting you.

I initially bought (well, asked my mom) Super Mario Kart for the brand name of "Mario." Needless to say, Super Mario Kart exceeded my expectations. Whenever friends came over, they wanted to play Super Mario Kart. The popularity of this game lasted among my friends for at least four years, simply because it was so much fun. If you like racing games, especially Mario Kart games, and you haven't played this one, I highly suggest you pick this one up; it's one of the best in the entire series.
My Top 52:
#52 --- Star Fox 64 (N64)
#51 --- Kirby's Adventure (NES)
#50 --- Roller Coaster Tycoon (PC)
#49 --- Grand Theft Auto III (PS2)
#48 --- Metroid Prime (GC)
#47 --- Halo 3 (Xbox 360)
#46 --- Bomberman 64 (N64)
#45 --- Guitar Hero II (PS2)
#44 --- Super Street Fighter II (GEN)
#43 --- Pokemon Puzzle League (N64)
#42 --- Soul Calibur II (GC)
#41 --- Gears of War (Xbox 360)*
#40 --- Elite Beat Agents (DS)
#39 --- Call of Duty 4 (PS3)
#38 --- Super Metroid (SNES)
#37 --- The Orange Box (PS3)*
#36 --- Metal Gear Solid (PS)
#35 --- Doom (PC)
#34 --- Super Mario Kart (SNES)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Machinima Filmfest 2008

I went to the Machinima Filmfest 2008 award ceremony last weekend and my mind was blown. For those who don't know what Machinima is and ignored the wikipedia link, Machinima is essentially video game movies. Not like the awesome awesome (that's not a typo, it deserves two awesomes) Super Mario Brothers movie with Bob Hoskins and Dennis Hopper. Machinima takes in-game video game characters and sprites and reapproiates them to make video game movies. Some of the movies stay within the world of the game, others take the characters and make a whole new storyline unrelated to that game's universe. Needless to say, Machinima appeals to gamers and off-center film directors.

Why use Machinima for animation? ILL clan animation studios puts it best: "Simply put? Machinima Animation can provide you with high-quality animation produced three times faster than traditional 3D CGI animation at 20% of the cost."

Before the awards ceremony, there were a series of panels that talked about machinima. One panel discussion featured young high-school students who used environments they created in Second Life to raise some global issue. By using the game's mechinics, they made a successful film that asked questions and discussed problems within Second Life.

Another panel talked about copyright issues with machinima and the business behind it. One machinima filmmaker got his film on HBO and was able to retain all of the rights to the characters within his film because the avatar he used was created by himself in Second Life, making it intellectual property. However, since he was making revenue off this film, random avatars that came into his set while filming might have needed contracts in order to be recorded. Considering very few films have been made and marketed in virtual worlds, copyright issues are fuzzy.

The most exciting part of the day though, was clearly seeing all of the movies. In one room, they had a huge projector which just streamed the films all day long until the awards ceremony came up.

Instead of going through and talking about each film, I'll just put a whole bunch of them up in this post that I really liked. You can make your own distinctions and conclusions about the films.

Tiny Nation:


Molotov Alva and His Search for the Creator

Ignis Solus

Portal: A Day in the Life of a Turret

If you want a list of all of the nominated films for Machinima filmfest 2008 check out this list here.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Flashy Friday: Meatboy

I love platformers. My buddy Josh showed me this crazy addictive platformer called Meatboy. You play as a slab of meat. Your girlfriend has been kidnpped and you must try and save her by going on a perilous platforming journey that will pit you against meat grinders, salt, lava, and conveyer belts.

This game isn't for the faint of heart. This game is actually really damn hard. You will consistently just barely make jumps and you will die a lot. Josh and I beat this game yesterday, taking turns on levels that were making us tear our hair out. I got so crazed that I yelled at my computer. Hence, I love this game.

Click here to play Meatboy now.

Top 52: Doom (#35)

Doom. Such a fitting name. The popularity of this game nearly spelled out the death of the video game industry since politicians freaked out at the violence within this game. However, the popularity of this game also may have saved the industry as tons of gamers and gaming companies fought against the government hovering over them, claiming free speech in their products. Oh, and the game totally rocks, which is why it's on my list.

Title: Doom
Console: PC
Release Date: 12/10/93
Genre: First-Person Shooter
My Ranking: #35

I remember playing Doom for Windows 95 sometime around 1995 or 1996, when I was far too young to be playing a game that had so much blood and violence (psst, I was born in 1988). I had to play this game in secret because I didn't want my parents seeing me turn imps and soldiers into a pixelated bloody mush.

Violence controversy aside, Doom was an amazing game. At the time, the idea of first-person shooter was so new and fresh that the game felt and played unlike any other. My character is just a floating gun that doesn't really need to aim that much in order to do damage to enemies. The numbers on my keyboard change weapons as I get them, and boy, getting a new weapon in doom was equivalent to the feeling you get when you get a present on your birthday.

I remember when I first got the shotgun and suddenly I could take out imps with one shot at near-point blank range. I remember getting the rocket launcher and when you kill enemies with that gun, they are indistinguishable for any other enemy, since they turn into a bloody goo. And, who could forget the BFG 9000? That gun would obliterate anything in its path, and you only needed 4 shots with it to take down the final boss.

Doom was not addictive just for it's crazy awesome guns or for its blood and gore. Doom had excellent level design for one of the first first-person shooters. Switches changed the layout of the floor or would possibly unleash more enemies at you. You really did not know which. Every switch caused you to look around and say "hm, how can the developers screw me here?" Color-coded keys and doors also forced you to look in every corner, facing more tough enemies and possibly find some secret doors that you didn't even know existed.

Doom was incredibly hard as I remember as well. Maybe I was young and just inexperienced with shooters (as was everybody at the time) but bosses often ate up entire clips of multiple guns while if I was hit three or four times, I would die. It was happily challenging as I always felt that the bosses were difficult because of my lack of skill, not because they are cheap.

I think I've only beaten the original Doom once, since the game was pretty long and I was playing tons of games at a time as a child. Doom had to be on my list though since I remember playing the first couple of levels over and over again, just because I loved them so much.

Doom was the shooter that gave birth to all of the modern day shooters. If Doom was not as awesome and failed in the market, it is quite possible that Quake, Call of Duty, Halo, Medal of Honor, Gears of War, Team Fortress, or any other shooter would not exist as we know them today. If you have not played Doom, get on that right now. Not only was this game revolutionary for the genre but it also was the one of the primary causes for people to be worried about violence in video games. Doom is a historic game for the video game industry and for the culture around it. If you have an Xbox360, Doom is on Xbox Live. Go play it!
My Top 52:
#52 --- Star Fox 64 (N64)
#51 --- Kirby's Adventure (NES)
#50 --- Roller Coaster Tycoon (PC)
#49 --- Grand Theft Auto III (PS2)
#48 --- Metroid Prime (GC)
#47 --- Halo 3 (Xbox 360)
#46 --- Bomberman 64 (N64)
#45 --- Guitar Hero II (PS2)
#44 --- Super Street Fighter II (GEN)
#43 --- Pokemon Puzzle League (N64)
#42 --- Soul Calibur II (GC)
#41 --- Gears of War (Xbox 360)*
#40 --- Elite Beat Agents (DS)
#39 --- Call of Duty 4 (PS3)
#38 --- Super Metroid (SNES)
#37 --- The Orange Box (PS3)*
#36 --- Metal Gear Solid (PS)
#35 --- Doom (PC)

Top 40 Most Memorable Games #36

Again! Again!

Lima's Top 40 Most Memorable Games!

this week, AREA 51!
Would you believe that this is the only light-gun game that I've ever played? My dad bought Area 51 for the playstation one thinking it'd have zombies in it (a bit of a family obsession) and got two playstation guns so we could play co-operatively.Not to be confused with the playstation 2 Area 51, this game is a straight copy of the arcade game. Hence,10-15 minutes of gameplay from start to finish, three lines of dialog ("we need evac! we need evac!") AWFUL GRAPHICS, and the ability to shoot shoot good guys at the cost of a health point per kill. Needless to say, my family fought over the privilege.

I love this game like you love and old stuffed animal. the kind that has aged so that all the fur has worn off and the eyes are scratched and vacant in an undead sort of way. Your mother consistently tried to trick you into letting her throw it out and now that you're 20, it lives in the closet, covered in dust. sad, lonely, and possibly plotting your doom.

But when you notice it every once in a while, digging through the closet for a missing shoe, there's that old warmth that brings back the locations of each hidden hand grenade, and the whack-a-mole pleasure of shooting aliens in pipes. Ah, sweet childhood.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Top 40 Most Memorable Games #37

Most late post ever! It's official, I'm doing the lame thing and combining this week and last week's post. Game 36 will follow. Between Halloween and midterms (you can guess which one took up more time) and blah blah blah...

Lima's Top 40 Most Memorable Games!

Ah, monkeys in bubbles. Good times. I'm gonna be honest here and let everyone know that as of yet, I've only played Super Monkey Ball for the Wii once. After an anniversary dinner with Rich. The game was my idea of a romantic present. He loved it.

I lost maybe 9 out of every 10 mini games and the bulk of them varied from retardedly difficult to Simon Says. I had a lot of trouble getting the fishing net/catapult/explosive banana to move where I wanted it to; my controller's batteries might have been running low. Luckily in this case, annoyance made the heart grow fonder. Again and again We threw horse shoes, missing to the whimpers of disheartened primates. Rock Paper Scissors proved to be hideously complicated, but fun.

All in all, the game was an energetic end to a marvelous evening. Long term, I have no doubt it would drive me up the wall. But with a belly full of peking duck, and the giddiness of day and company it came with, we could have been playing Madden and I'd still remember it for years.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

5 Reasons I Love GTA4

Here are five of the reasons I love Grand Theft Auto 4, and two ways it could be better.

1. Expansive
There are so many options, most of which you can do at any time; vigilante cop missions, street racing, killing innocent pedestrians, dating, playing on the internet, bowling, and I could go on.

It's almost like an RPG where these aspects of the game are the huge selection of sidequests. In fact, this can be seen as a very non-traditional RPG in a lot of ways, as I'll discuss as we go through some of these points.

2. Solid (Main) Storyline
The side storylines are great, but the main story is really pulling me in. I haven't played through the full game yet, (this is 5 reasons, not a review) but so far it's been fantastic. They've managed to keep a diverse enough set of missions, which is big, since a game like this could easily fall into a rut of repetitive missions. There are clearly going to be common themes: stealing cars, killing cops/civilians/criminals, etc. but if you're getting bored with that, you probably never started playing GTA4 in the first place.

3. Voice Acting
Excellent voice acting has been an up and coming feature in games, with my favorite being Mass Effect (you'll be seeing a review of this eventually), and BioShock is another good example. There used to be some mediocre voice acting, which would make games take up multiple discs, but as technology has progressed this aspect of games has really blossomed.

This is especially relevant for RPGs, since a common criticism is that they are too text heavy as a result of their in-depth stories. Why do movies sell better than books? People don't like to read that much, especially with the crowd that would be playing GTA4, which probably isn't your typical RPG crowd.

4. Smooth Controls
When I'm speaking of controls, I don't just mean how natural it feels to steal a car, leap from building to building, or get in a knife fight with a gangbanger, but how the game itself is controlled. (Though the game controls themselves are done well.) In point #3 I talk about how much there is to do in the game. One option is to have a big map, and you can drive to different parts of the game. GTA does this, but they're not the first to do this. You could select different missions from the pause menu, but that wouldn't feel very streamlined; it would feel like a bunch of separate games.

The three ways that they do this effectively are through the use of your cell phone, and the ability to take cabs. With your cell phone, you can call up contacts, and start missions up; this will still require some driving, so it doesn't feel like you're skipping around, but it's not tedious either. Don't feel like driving across the city? Take a cab. It'll cost you some cash, but you'll save time, just like in real life.

5. Whelming
Don't be confused, this just means that it's not over or underwhelming. This sums up some of the above points in discussing the seamless integration of the game; combining points 1 and 2 (via point 4). Another way they do this is through the GPS unit. I have a terrible sense of direction in real life, and it only gets worse when I'm playing games.

A GPS in my phone in real life has done me wonders, and it's done the same in this game. I'm not just talking about a map in the pause menu, or overlaid on the screen which tells me where I am, but a HUD at the bottom of the screen showing me where I need to make turns. In a non-linear game focused on driving, this is a dealbreaker, and Rockstar did it excellently.

a. Stupid Cops
During the main storyline missions, the cops are fine, mostly because you always have a wanted rating, and they're chasing after you. However, during 'free play' if I'm just driving about, they're not so bright. If they see me steal a car, take down my license plate; have them be looking for me later if I'm dumb enough to not switch cars. I blow a red light right in front of you, while T-boning a car, and what do you do? Nothing! This is the type of thing I would like to see adjustable in by a difficulty option. It would be annoying if I couldn't speed without getting into a car chase, but if I want to play more stealthily?

b. Absurd Rating System
This is similar to point a, but different enough to warrant it's own point:

Shoot a pedestrian in the face, next to a cop. 1 star.
Shoot a cop. 3 stars.

That sounds like a fair comparison. Let's try another one:

Barely nick a cop because you didn't brake in time. 1 star.
Pull someone out of their car, stab them to death, and drive off in their car, whilst a cop watches. 1 star.

This aspect could have use some more balancing.

Image: Flickr
Image: GameSpot


Fallout 3, the letdown and the addiction

I said before that I would review Fallout 3 when it came out and since I’ve been playing it quite a lot since I bought the damn thing I figured why the hell not. Though the problem of course is that everyone and their dog has reviewed this damned game. So I’ll base this review on the belief that you’ve already read one of the million or so other reviews and I don’t have to explain every damned thing from square one again. Ok? Good.

Fallout 3 is a fan’s game. By that I don’t mean that it’s a game made for the fans, but a game made by fans. Now at first glance that might sound nice, but if you’ve ever read any sort of fan fiction for a series (book, tv, movie, game, etc) that you liked, then you might just get what I’m talking about. For those who are blessedly unfamiliar with that genre of literature, let me put it this way. There are fans out there of the Harry Potter book series who enjoy it so much that they feel the need to write stories starring the characters in the books but in new situations. And seeing as many of these writers are some sort of odd fangirl, some of it is quite strange. Why someone would want to write a 300 page long love story about a gay romance between Harry and Ron Weasly, I don’t know, but I’ll bet it’s out there somewhere on a fan fiction site.

Now with that in mind, that’s the feeling you get from Fallout 3. It’s a good game, far better than Oblivion. However, it feels like it was written by someone who loved the series but missed some of the points. It feels like the entire tone and atmosphere of the first games was rewritten by the kind of person who frequently uses the word "Kewl" while online. It feels amateurishly written.
The game was implemented beautifully. The world is huge and it feels quite bleak. You wander about a lot, but due to the Fast Travel, system that returned from Oblivion (seeing as it uses the same game engine), once you find a place, you never have to walk there again. Instead you magically teleport there avoiding all enemies on the way.

But it feels like rather than going all the way with some concepts, the designers decided to pull their punches and make things easier. Radiation for example. You can easily get irradiated wandering through the wasteland, especially considering that everything you eat is irradiated (Which is a bit confusing really) and so is all the water. However you don’t have to eat so it doesn’t actually matter. Also there’s no apparent effect from the radiation unless you become absurdly irradiated. For example, by taking a swim in irradiated lakes or walking on up to a pool of water surrounding an unexploded nuclear bomb and taking a drink from it. Although, the anti-radiation meds that heal you can be found all over the damned place so it’s a moot point anyway.

But this issue fills the entire damned game. When you run into the traditionally tough and nasty monsters from the series (the super mutants and the Enclave soldiers). They turn out to be far to easy to kill. At one point I found myself standing about 20 feet from a super mutant who was enthusiastically trying to liquidate me with a giant fucking minigun. I at the time was level 4 (out of a max of 20) and armed with a hunting rifle, and wearing armor made out of old tires. I won. Not only did I win, but I took out his friend who was firing bazooka rounds at me from farther back. Now in the old Fallout games, if you met a super mutant and he was armed with a minigun, you would be granted the sight of your character being sawed in half by the spray of gunfire and you would have to hit reload and try again. In fact you best bet at not dying would be to shoot him in the head from very far away, over and over again with a plasma rifle until he died, or until your turn was up and he got a go. At which point, he killed you. The same goes for the Enclave soldiers. However, armor is so pathetically poor in this game that even the Enclave troops, wandering about in massive suits of sci-fi power armor, can be taken down by running up to them and unloading a shotgun in their helmeted faces. You might not be a god in this game, but you’re a demigod at the very least.

The reason for this is that the new skill system they use in Fallout 3, is a joke. In Fallout 1, if you had a 15% in small guns, it meant that you sucked and had a 15% chance of hitting someone if you were standing infront of them and they weren't moving around too much. In Fallout 3, having a 15% (out of a max of 100%) in small guns, means you only miss the target 15% of the time, but that's ok because every other hit is a critical hit and you do extra damage. However, the effect you skills has on combat vanish completely if you fight in a FPS style and decide not to use the quasi-turn based system they provide.

The game developers also seem to have felt that it was no fun having the powerful weapons only showing up later in the game, nor was scrounging for ammunition. Sure it’s a post apocalyptic wasteland, but does that mean we need to actually strategize? Laser weapons and portable nukes show up within an hour of starting your game and there’s no real feel that you’re struggling to stay alive. It seemed like it was at first, but then I found the town with the shop that sold an unlimited supply of ammo for every weapon (a major city in game that you can’t avoid). After that I was able to kill everything that looked at me funny in the damned game. And while how much you could carry was based on your character's strength score, that doesn't alter your tactics one bit as all ammo and healing items are weightless. So you only have to worry about armor and weapons.

There are a lot of good things about this game, but every other reviewer has gone on incessantly about them already so fuck that. It’s a badly written, badly planned piece of crap at heart, but the gameplay actually makes up for it and it’s in a weird way, not a half bad Fallout sequel. So here’s my advice. Rent it if you have a console, but buy it only on the PC. Bethesda has a bad history of patching their games and they never fix everything that desperately needs fixing. On the PC versions of their games, it’s always the fan mods and fan patches that do this. Though in Fallout 3's case that’s iffy as well as the bastards still haven’t said one way or the other, if they’re going to release the mod tools for this one as they have for every other game of theirs. Without those tools, modding is still possible (there are at least 10 good mods out for it already), but it’ll be very slow and you won’t see very many produced, nor will you see the kind of fan patches this game so desperately needs.

There are also a great many things that Bethesda promised the game would contain and well, frankly just lied about. The game isn’t open ended. You finish the main quest, the game is over. No more playing, start again, good bye. There are also only 2 radio stations worth listening to ingame, and they both play the same crap over and over and over again. You can find and fix old radio towers to add new stations, but they don’t do shit.

That aside, it’s a good game and worth playing and I’m currently very addicted to it. I myself bought the special edition of the PC version which means I got a cool metal lunchbox, and a Vault Boy bobblehead which is perched proudly on my desk. This is the only time I’ve ever not hated myself for buying the more expensive special edition of any game.