Rants and raves about all the latest in video games and other forms of mindless entertainment.

July 31, 2005

Demystifying Killer 7

Master, we are in a tight spot...

Needless to say, if you haven't finished Killer 7 yet, don't read on. Major spoilers abound. This editorial is primarily written witht the audience of people who have finished the game in mind, so please, no complaints. You've been warned.

Who are Harman and Kun?

My interpretation rests solely on the roles of both Harman and Kun. If there's one common person throughout Killer 7, it would most definitely be Harman. His role in Killer 7 is vital. To put it simply, Harman and Kun are the mortal forms of God and Satan. Think about it, why is a room where Harman and Kun play chess titled "Forbidden Room"? It isn't just a chess game, it's representative of God and the Devil moving around their fighters in a great war between good and evil. There's also stark contrasts between Harman and Kun: Harman has white hair, and Kun has Black hair. Harman's apparel is similar to the tunic of a preist, and Kun's suit is reminiscent of some kind of Vampire, embodying the demonistic side of the spectrum. The subtle hints are placed throughout the game. For example, who does Harman command? You, Garcian. Who commands the Heaven Smile? Kun. Good verus bad, again. How do Harman and Kun perform such extravagant feats like catch bullets mid-air? Divine and satanic power would seem like a convenient answer, but the subtle hints placed throughout the game make it a likely possibility.

The next question is why do Harman and Kun engage in this war? I suppose we can look to other forms of entertainment like movies for the answer. If you're a comic book fanatic, you've probably read Hellblazer, and the recent Constantine feature film. God and the Devil engage in a war with each other, and instead of going head to head, they wage war with divine and unearthly mortal beings. I suppose the film provides a convenient template for deciphering this, and it may in fact be wrong, but I think it's a good starting point.

The most apparent hint that Harman is in fact God, would be Iwazaru. We all know Lucifer is an archangel, so at one point in time, he called Him "master". With the amount of bizarre themes in Killer 7, would it seem so far fetched that Kun would mock Harman by pretending to aid you in Harman's name yet lead you time after time into hordes of Heaven Smile? I wouldn't think so. Remember, "In the name of Harman..."? Everyday devout Christians worship "In the name of our lord", "In the name of God", and "In the name of the Father". So the question is, is Harman really a father?

The next question is, how do you prove Kun is Satan? Most of us know the alternative name for Satan is "Lucifer". Lucifer was believed to be second in command to God himself, at least in Christian mythology. We normally refer to a "second in command" as 's right hand man. Lucifer the name is also derived from two words: lux, meaning light, and ferre, meaning to bear. Lucifer is the bearer of light. Coincidentally enough, in the battles with Kun and Harman, Kun's right hand is raised in the air, and is appearingly holding "light". This imagery is just too hard to ignore, and is probably the most convincing piece of evidence for the God/Satan theory.

Who is Samantha?

The answer is both the Christ and the anti-Christ; Jesus and Dante. We know that Samantha's last name is Smith, so I believe this is to lead us to the conclusion that she is Harman's daughter. So which is which? In lamens terms, the maid outfit is Jesus, and the casual clothing is Dante. Why else would the maid answer to every one of Harman's wishes, and the hill-billy Samantha torture and mock him? Dante's purpose was to mock God and his divinity with Christ, so the fact that we see him and Samantha engaging in incestual acts is only the smallest of ways in which she (and Kun) could mock him. The change happens when the lights are on or off. I'm not sure which is which, but there's deifnitely a transformation there. While it's entirely possible that Samantha could be nobody, I think her relation with Harman and her different states, justifies the notion that Harman and Kun are Godly and Satanic figureheads for the greater beings and concepts of "God" and the "Devil".

Garcian, The Killer 7, and Heaven Smile

Garcian is undoubtedly an Angel of death. Why ele is the first mission entitled "Angel"? If Harman is in fact God, or at least a representation of him, then why does he approve of the mindless acts of violence Garcian commits? Garcian must be doing His will if he so approves. Why would Harman approve of such things? Because the Heaven Smile are the pawns of Kun, the Devil. Does Garcian have the power of resurrection? No, as Garcian himself states, he's only a collector. He retreives the bodies and brings them back to Harman's Room to be resurrected with his power. Harman is in fact the one with the power of resurrection. But Harman isn't in Harman's room? Who else has the power of regeneration? Christ right? I've already discussed Samantha as the Christ figure, and this one fact proves that a little more: who controls the TV remote? Samantha. She's the one who resurrects your fallen assassins, not Garcian.

The name Heaven Smile is hard to discern reasoning for, and every theory I can come up with leads to basless speculation. I really can't tackle that realistically. The Killer 7...why were they murdered, and why are the Killer 7 vigilantes for God? As they say, fight fire with fire. The Killer 7, or at least 6 of them, are past-life sinners. Dan is consistently referred to as "Hellion", Coyote is a theif, and Kaede is a suicidal maniac; suicide being a mortal sin. Fight evil, with evil. Of course, this is again only a theory, so I can't concretely prove this but you could say that's how I feel about it.

So what about the ending?

Well we know Iwazaru, in spirit form is a servant of Harman, as he heads him as master. In a past life, Iwazaru was once Harman's master, so I suppose thats why Iwazaru appears to you in spirit form, and not in the form of a corpse or ghost. Iwazaru didn't die, only his soul, something only God himself can claim possession over. It's as vague differentian, but it's one that fits. When you kill Iwazary in the end, you aren't defeating the servant, you're killing the now present, physical form of Iwazaru. The man who is now ruler of the underworld, Lucifer. What about the 100 years later? As I mentioned earlier, both Harman and Kun are in my interpretation, only the physical forms of his holiness and the ruler of the underworld. Both can be killed, but both can be revived when either is ready to wage war against one another again.

I suppose this entire entire game, in my eyes, is a very macabre take on the Christian Dogma, but the signs are there. While I believe that the roles of Garcian, the Killer 7, Samanta and the Heaven Smile are up for interpretation, I think there's just too much evidence proving that Harman and Kun are or are representations of God and Lucifer. I think the entire plot is just ingeniously put together. There are so many possibile interpretations, and most of them would be just as valid as this one. If you think I've missed something, or if you have your own interpretation, feel free to let me know in a comment. I'm still very open to interpretation on all fronts.

...a really tight spot.

July 29, 2005

Review: Killer 7 (GC) - Still sopping up the drool...

Disclaimer: This review is purposefully short. While theres a lot to the game, most of the discussion lies in the plot. Tommorow night, I will delve deep into my interpretation of the Killer 7 story and give my thoughts on the end result. Coming into this game, I was extremely skeptical. The game was selling poorly in Japan, and the general consensus of the game was that it was subpar. After further investigation and some misinterpreted babelfish, it seemed like those who played Killer 7 either loved it like a child, or wished so much misery upon Capcom that you'd think they had raped their dogs, then their children, and then skinned them, collected their blood and drank it as a Gatorade substitute. There was, and still is a definite split between critics on Killer 7. Fortunately, I'm on the supporting side. I absolutely loved Killer 7. It's a work of art, and features some of it's own nuances and innovations. The game puts you in the role of the Killer 7, a syndicate of Smiths who are hired assassins. You have 7 targets, and you engage in a tug of war between good and evil. Your main enemies are the Heaven Smile, who just so happen to be a large group of terrorists.

Each target is assigned their own mission, and some missions are broken into two parts due to length. As the Killer 7, you can switch between 6 members of the Killer 7. Each member has their own pros and cons. Among these are type of weapon, reload time, fire rate, weapon kick back, speed and special abilities. While the former attributes are present in all of the assassins, each character has their own unique special abilitiy. Kevin Smith can turn invisible, and thus invincible, Con runs at super sonic speeds, MASK lifts large objects, and so on. These abilities are fully upgradable and are integral to the puzzle solving, which there is quite a lot of. While there is a lot of it, the puzzles don't generally reach further than the ol' fetch item, use item as key to open new door, to get to new area. Some do get slightly more complex, but not at as rule. The gameplay however is polarized linear; literally. You use the A button to run along a preset path and use the analog stick to turn at junctions. Really unconventional, but very innovative for the third person action/first person shooter genre. You can enter the first person and scan the area for enemies, which don't appear unless you scan using the Vision ring. It's odd, but it works suprisingly well. Sometimes enemies can gang up you due to awkward camera angles, which results in cheap deaths but these instances are few and far between.

Some enemies pull of cheap shots by poor design, but again they aren't common and don't result in a fully "broken" experience. The game is almost linear to a fault, but it straddles that line so smoothly and manages to do it well enough that it creates unique gaming experience without flip flopping between good and bad. Graphically the game is a treat. Cel-shaded characters and pastel matted textures on the surroundings provide a surreal environment that just oozes genuine character. It puts you in an alternate reality. You can absorb the blood of your enemies, as their bodies vaporze into a red mist; that doesn't even resemble reality as we know it. It's a completely original experience with no equal. Not to mention, it's a blast to play. It's so easy to adapt to, and while it's convention is new, it's execution is superb. In place of fancy prerendered cut-scenes, the game sports stunning anime cut-scenes, that just completely meld the entire experience into one. The animation and charater illustrations are similar to the old Maxx cartoons, and it's so very wonderful. Anime geeks globally will love Killer 7 just for it's wacky anime cliches and japan-isms.

The voice work is something else. Top notch and among the ranks of the Metal Gear Solids and God of War games of our time. I'd go as far to say it surpasses both in many instances. The voices of Harman, Garcian and Dan Smith are probably the picks of the litter, but don't mistake the rest for fodder, they're all stellar. In line with the voice work is the soundtrack, which is again completely original and in some instances will have you second guessing the track choice for certain scenarios. I find now the most appropriate time to remind everyone that Killer 7 has one of the best disco songs in the history of good disco songs. As you ascend and descend the stairs in the oddly titilating Vinculum gate, the Killer 7 appear to be dancing wildly to this outrageously catchy disco trance mix. A "disco dance simulator" if you will.

As a final product, the puzzle solving could use some challenge tweaking, and the camera angles in some instances could be improved, but Killer 7 is the full package. The plot is so twisted and out of sight that it makes Metal Gear Solid look like fourth grade picture books. As a whole series, the MGS story is still more gripping and more masterfully crafted than Killer 7, but on a game per game basis, Killer 7 takes the cake. It's never straight out told to you, and that's what makes it so wonderful. It's a game that keeps you thinking long after the experience has ended, and that's what makes a great storyline. The graphics and audio are top notch, anime cut-scenes totally geek out the entire experience, and the disco dancing has to be seen/heard to be believed. Overall, Killer 7 earns one of my highest recommendations, and I say you're a fool if you can't see how far originality and innovation go in a sequel-copycat saturated market. Killer 7 strictly as a gameplay experience only deserves an 8, but it's the only game that has earned more than it dished out. I'd be a fool to offer anything lower than a 9.5. It has it's short comings, but this is one game that ten years down the road, people will look at and say "Yes, I do remember Killer 7, for what it did, how it did it, and how it stood above the rest despite a completely polarized fan base." Maybe not so much in those words, but the idea is that Killer 7 is a game for collectors, for people who love originality, and for people who can look back and brag for trying something new, and being part of an audience who embraced change and untested waters.




July 27, 2005

PSP ^2.0: Firmware update satisfies, leaves much to be desired

North American PSP users were suprised to hear Sony make an outrageous oversight on the PSP's Firmware 2.0 update today. It would seem the PSPs uncanny ability to translate almost any language, has allowed PSP users to fully translate the Japanese update, available for download from the Japanese PSP website. While some worried it wouldn't be compatible with the NTSC PSP, it suprisingly is. While you could babelfish the website to learn how to install it, most message boards give a much more concise version. Once the update is installed, the functionality is literally doubled.

The biggest upgrade is the addition of an internet browser. The first PSP browser was hacked directly out of the Wipeout Pure game, but ran at ridiculously low speeds. Slower than dial-up slow. Pictures weren't downloadable, and many basic things like links failed on occasion. There was no higher function other than displaying the page, and poorly at that. This new browser uses the PSP's XMR interface, which gives it a much smoother look, and yes it does run at acceptable speeds. Certainly not high-speed broadband by any means, but a complex page like IGN.com managed to load entirely in under 30 seconds. No flash compatibility though, so it's a slight discomfort there.

You can see from the photos I snapped up once I started browsing that I was searching pages like Penny Arcade, Google images and there's even a photo of the new wallpaper I've added as part of another feature added to the PSP. Let me get this straight: as a browser, the PSP sucks. The pages are never displayed in their true resolution, and you often have to scroll sideways, as the screen only displays half the width of most sites. Navigating through the pages is, I found, easier than a PC broswer, but looking at pages is often lame. Links bunch together, and some links still don't work, but web-forms function nicely, and the clarity is mind blowing. It's a love/hate relationship.

I think when I'm browsing that it's neat, but why not wait a little longer to perfect the broswer? The cache is too small, it doesn't load flash or dynamic HTML, and is just not even half as functional as normal web browsers. For a first try though, I'm impressed. Hopefully Sony decides to improve the browsing capabilities with update 2.1 or higher, and for their sake I hope they do, because right now the browser is only good enough for those who are desperate and need to google something when they're away from a computer. Overall, the update is very satisfying. The ability to change wallpapers and use custom wallpapers pretty much makes obsolete hacks like PSPersonalize, and the new compatibility between Pro DUO and ATRAC3 is something most desired since launch. A juicy update that should have been named "Firmware Squared". Still, some problems can't be overlooked...

July 24, 2005

DSUpdate.net takes Ps3 to task, I return the favour

If you're an avid reader of videogame blogs, or wannabe web-sites, you may or may not have heard of DS Update. If you do then you've already read this piece of work. If you read it from start to finish, bravo. I found myself tempted to exit my browser and pray to our lord, so that people like this "Ninty Freak" never procreate. I did however, stomach the entire thing, and found myself laughing histerically. Do people like this actually believe what they say? Do they ever even present an iota of proof for their luacrous claims? No, and that's why I'm here to show them how it's done. Proof is undeniably the one thing that creates a solid statement. If you can back yourself up, then you're standing pretty firmly. Without it, like this article from DS Update, your ideas fall apart with even the mildest of shakes.

Dear DS Update,

In your article entitled "The Fall of the Playstation Generation", you make many, almost all, incorrect assertions about the Playstation 3. If you had any sense of journalistic integrity, you would have done your research. I will tackle each point, bit by bit, until I'm fully satisifed with your dismemberment. Please take this opportunity to learn from your mistakes. There is no wrong in disliking the Playstation 3, but making generalistic claims that Sony will die because of the Playstation 3 without proof of any of the points you make, is a sure way of being taken to the ground. Quite easily too I might add.

1) Form factor is not a verifiable reason for the "downfall of Sony". If you'll recall, the original Playstation 2 was a hideous machine. It looked far worse than any stand alone DVD player, and still sold by the millions. Let's not forget, there are significant numbers of gamers who prefer the look of the Playstation 3 to the other console, and vice versa. You don't like the look of the Playstation 3, I get that, but it isn't a valid reason, or even piece of a valid reason for "ending the Playstation Generation". It just doesn't hold water. Ugly products sell all of the time, and is often not at the top of the list of reasons for purchasing an expensive piece of hardware.

2)"Ps3 is an untested technology": Wrong. Game studios like Epic have had RSX and Cell technology months prior to E3. Watch the press conference for yourself, and hear them tell you straight up that they received development software for RSX and Cell 2 months before E3. That pegs "testing time" at roughly 5 months already, with little less than a year to go. By industry standards, that's decent. Don't forget, Microsoft only just got beta kits to developers in June. That leaves only 5 months for "testing", as opposed to Playstation 3's one year or more time for product testing, benchmarking and development.

3)"This will make games buggy and glitchy": See above. If Playstation 3 games are going to be glitchy with a years worth of technology benchmarking, then Xbox 360 games are going to damn unplayable. This is of course not true, so take this as a sarcastic undertone to the previous statement.

4)"Cell and Playstation 3 are difficult to program": Quite the contrary actually, and developers seem to be singing it's praises too. Just the fact that these statements were made so long ago leads one to believe you pulled the entire paragraph in which this point lies, directly from your ass. You say one thing, but the truth is the extreme opposite.

Other things to consider, are the recent developments from Sony's Playstation Meeting 2005. Sony has entered in a liscencing agreement with Havok, the creators of the industries most commonly used physics engine, because of it's ease of use. It's a tool for developers, which makes life easier rather than program an entire physics engine for each game exclusively. Instead of using an internal PPU, the Playstation 3 can now account for realistic physics without the added cost in the hardware. The sizable storage of the Blu Ray format also makes this a practical application.

Second, Sony has gone into cohoots with Epic, and liscenced the Unreal 3 Engine for Playstation 3 development kits. Again, the Unreal engine series are widely considered the best 3-D rendering tools ever, and if you payed attention at E3, delivers powerful visuals that pack a strong punch, and it churns them out in record time. The Unreal Tournament 2007 real-time tech demo was cited at being a mere 2 month development. Teaming up with AGEIA also glues these two important tools together, and concretely makes Playstation 3 an easy to develop for piece of hardware.

5)"Blu-Ray up to 50 GB, HD-DVD up to 45 GB": I suppose both statements are accurate, but not quite fair. The 45 GB HD-DVD's are a triple layered version of the format, and the 50 GB Blu-Ray discs are dual layered. Being fair, dual layered versions of Blu-Ray and HD-DVD are 50 GB and 30 GB respectively, and triple layered versions are 75 GB and 45 GB respectively. Using nonpartisan comparisons, Blu-Ray is still the superior format.

6)"Blu-Ray is costly": Again, the opposite is true. Manufacturing cost of Blu-Ray discs is half off current DVD costs. This is due to the fact that Sony can use silicon based plastics instead of glass based plates. The reason Betamax was defeated by VHS, was because it was a vastly more expensive medium, and a Betamax player was bulky and overpriced. This time around, Blu-Ray has the advantage, but this format is war is going to operate under a different set of industry condititions so anything is possible.

7)"Ps3 will cost $400-800 dollars, games $80, HDD $150?":
Let's see, first off, the Playstation 3 only costs 494 dollars to produce, and Sony expects to incur billions in losses on the system, so ultimately we're looking at an estimated 400 dollar maximum price tag. Following the same link, Sony officially says Playstation 3 will launch around the price point as Playstation 2 in Japan. "Around" can mean many things, but in no way is it indicative of a doubled price or greater depending on which idiots you talk to.

As for games, no official figures have been given, but you can expect Xbox 360 software prices to be on the rise in concert with the Playstation 3's. This is a moot point no matter how you look at it. With increased development costs for games on all fronts, not just the Playstation 3, increased software prices is an expectation. You're suprised by this? You shouldn't be. As for a 150 dollar hard drive, I'd like you state a source because as it stands, the 40 GB hard drive for the Playstation 2 doesn't even cost 100 dollars and it comes preloaded with Final Fantasy XI, let alone a 20 GB hard drive with no preloaded software exceeding that number, especially within a years time. Get on with the source citing or admit you're full of shit.

8)"It could very well be that Sony will never make a PS4.": It's also very likely that every bit of "information" you've made mention of is entirely false. No, not likely, it is. You are wrong on all accounts. Courtesy of one of my more humourous readers: "I'm going to have to ask you to leave the internet, you're just too fuckin' stupid".

: Apparently it wasn't enough to be publically humiliated, but now he had to go and completely disown any credibility DS Update may have initially had. Matt Shellder, you truely are a piece of work.

A little bird once asked...

I was recently asked a few questions by someone who chose to remain anonymous, and considering the weight of such issues, I've decided to answer with formal reply. Should make for some interesting conversation...

1. Who will finish in 2nd place worldwide, next-gen, behind Sony?

I think first and foremost is will Sony actually finish first? I think in the long-term, the answer is most definitely yes. But that's looking ten years down the road, and I'd like to focus on who will be where in say, 5 years. I think if by chance the Xbox 360 hits off in North America with unprecedented success, we could easily see a tie between Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Given that Xbox 360 will have the seasonal lead, 360 will be the industry leader temporarily...by default. It'd be like claiming captain of team of one. Nothing to be proud of.

Playstation 3 will also have the slight against them by launching in the down season of gaming sales for both software and hardware. Relying on hype to sell consoles isn't commonly unsuccessful, but it isn't a solid foot to stand on. I think it's also a given that Playstation 3 will launch at a higher price than Xbox 360, so right there are a few reasons why the Playstation 3 will get off to a slow start. Theoretically, Microsoft could easily announce a price drop on P-day, but I doubt that would happen. Industry trends point to a price drop happening a year or more after a consoles release, taking into consideration the massive losses most companies endure. Minimization is key. Sure enough though, come the holidays, Xbox 360 could see a price drop and the Playstation 3 may still be at it's inflated price. This didn't stop the Playstation 2 from out maneuvering the Dreamcast, so now we're entering dodgey territory. Overall, Playstation 3 still has significant brand association over Xbox. Let's not forget, nothing will change the fact that the Playstation brand has the most software titles available, and most of the Xbox 360's hot item software will be multiplatform, so I can definitely see people spending the extra cash on the Playstation 3, to get the same game in higher definition with slightly better visuals. The enourmous array of the Playstation 3's features will only sweeten the deal.

I have no doubts that the Playstation 3 will be industry leader again, and Xbox 360 will definitely follow behind in second. It will be a close race initially, but Ps3 will undoubtedly pass 360 in due time, and it will take a significant lead. What about Revolution? Well, it will launch much later, with a less impressive spec sheet, and will mostly feature Nintendo's key mascot titles. Nintendo will carry through with most of it's current fanbase, and it will not grow. That is almost certain at this point. So why did I not consider Rev into my equations? Revolution is a non-issue at this point. Avid gamers will buy it as a secondary console to the flagship machine, either Playstation 3 or Xbox 360.

2. Where will Nintendo be in the industry in 5 years?

Nintendo will still be Nintendo. They will continue to produce games that feature Mario, Donkey Kong, Samus, and the like, and will stay strong with a user base so faithful, that even the Pope is envious of Iwata-san. I don't think Nintendo's fanbase will ever deplete to the point of uselessness, but in the coming years, technology prices will rise to a point where an audience of 9 or 10 million over 5 years won't be enough to sustain a profitable company. In 5 years Nintendo will still have Revolution, and more than likely a successor to that, but unless Nintendo starts competing with Sony and Microsoft on the same level with the same sized pockets, the inevitable will happen, but not for a long while down the road.

To be slightly snarky, yet entirely honest, in 5 years Nintendo will still operate under the guise of "innovation" despite only a small percentage of their games actually being innovative. Nintendo will still pretend that profits earned from GameBoy and Nintendo DS count as "success" on the console front, and Reggie will always believe their console is the strongest because they have sold "2 BILLION! !", despite the fact that at that point Sony will have surassed them on the pieces of software sold. Their audience will shrink to a niche of a niche, and they couldn't be happier. They'll be last, but they'll be fine with it. This is of course as long as they continue on their current path, things can still change and it isn't too late for Nintendo to pull a 180 with Revolution..."OMG! PUN!".

3. Where will Microsoft be in the industry in 5 years?

Second place believing they'll eventually acheive first. I think the fact that Microsoft expects to be first in Japan and worldwide next generation is stigma enough to cement their silver medal. Consider it fate's way of rubbing it in for lying about theirs and other companies hardware, while making idiotic claims like "Most powerful console ever", and "E3-scale event", despite the over zealous hyperbole. Microsoft's deep pockets will continue to fuel their arrogance, but Sony will continue to beat them.

I've actually been thinking that Revolution may have a chance to over throw Xbox 360, but it's not a scenario likely to happen yet entirely possible. Xbox 360 could launch too early and see dismal holiday sales (and by dismal I mean in comparison to other holiday launches). Xbox 360 will be competing with Playstation 2 and Gamecube this winter. Ken Kutaragi was entirely accurate in that somewhat obscure reference: Xbox 360 is launching at a time when Playstation 2 and Gamecube are going to see some of their highest profile games yet. We're talking games that have been written in chalk, erased, and rewrittn in ink for the past 3 years, high profile. It's almost certain that both Ps2 and GC will see a price drop before the holiday season. Possibly a 79.99 dollar tag for the GC, and potentially a 129.99 or even 99.99 for the Playstation 2. Being realistic, Playstation 2 and Gamecube will rippen fully this holiday season and I think it's possible that most people will find gaming pleasure from their still useful toys than new ones on the market. With this, MS comes out with no significant numbers on the Xbox 360, and Playstation 3 is poised to continue it's reign come launch time. Then, when Revolution launches, we have a reoccurrance of what happened earlier: MS VS Nintendo for second place. While Nintendo will still be at the disadvantage, remember that Nintendo has Japan and Japan will always support Nintendo over Microsoft. Also consider that Gamecube launched some time after the Xbox, and Gamecube was once in second place this generation with Xbox pulling up the tail end. As they say, it's not over until it's over...

And now for a few answers with a little more brevity...

4. What are your thoughts of the Hot Coffee Rockstar GTA scandal?

Rockstar is getting what they deserve. They were careless, and the AO rating slapped on GTA is their punishment. Kudos to them for fixing their error, but why all the lies? First it was l33t modders, then it was l33t haxxors, and now it's l33t programmers who think their too l33t, that no one else can be as l33t as them, thus making any l33t programmer's l33tn3ss not nearly as l33t as Rockstar's, thusly making it impossible to find Hot Coffee. What the fuck? I say walk with your head in shame Rockstar, everyone is watching from here on...

5.What would the industry be like if Sony was the only hardware maker? Would it be better or worse?

We'd be back where we started with Nintendo being the only viable platform, and software prices being held dishonestly high for profit. Creativity would still flourish, but perhaps more on the third party side than anything.

This actually raises a strong issue I have with the industry: why not have one universal platform for gaming to take place on? Do you go out and buy a Paramount DVD player to watch Top Gun, or a Warner Brother's DVD player to watch the Matrix trilogy? No, we all own a DVD player, that plays DVDs. Why can't we ever just get a "game machine" that plays games? If Sony were the only entity on the market right now, under the current conditions, I'd say we were in bad shape. Competition sprouts creativity. But under newer conditions perhaps akin to the way the DVD format has evolved, Sony being the only hardware manufacturer might not be a bad thing. Other companies who also own shares in the format of Playstation 6/7/8, could release platofrms of their own, and voila, we have the most efficient way to run the gaming industry. You pick the machine, but you also pick the games. One or all, it wouldn't matter. Multiplatform games are gone, and the world can now enjoy games without having to mark allegiances with one comany or another. I don't think that will happen, but I'd be happy to see it if it ever did.

My apologies for not including links to relevant stories or information. I may or may not update later...don't hold your breath. Hope you find these answers to your liking Sir Anonymous, and whoever else happens to graze through the walls of text.

July 23, 2005

E3? Really? Prove it...

Microsoft announced that they plan on unveiling the Xbox 360 to Japan with an "E3 scale" event. At first it doesn't even phase you, and then it dawns on you: Microsoft is frickin' nuts. Who in their right mind can call their event "E3 sized"? We're talking a single company whose presence at most E3's barely comprises 1/3 of the show, this is with BOTH Xbox 360 and Xbox content on the floor, as well as software for both. Is Microsoft that arrogant that they think they can fool the public into thinking the Xbox 360 can over shadow the entire industry, and cover the same groud, square footage, and even number of trailers, titles and booths with only Xbox 360 merchandise than say 10+ platforms across thousands of titles, gadgets and tech demos from major companies like Nintendo, Sony, Nokia, Square Enix, Konami, etc.? I'd like to think such things are possible, but they aren't. Microsoft wouldn't know what to do with it, even if they had as much. Microsoft is so full of shit lately, and as much vim and vigor, which leads the public to believe they're pretending to do something of consequence, when it is in fact just pretending. I'm not one to oppose tall talkers or verbiage twisters, but this is E3 we're talking about: an event so huge it takes an entire years worth of planning between hundreds of companies with thousands of hours of content...and Microsoft plans to topple it with one platform? I'd be impressed if they even came 1/10 as close to the spectacle of E3. Something to think about...

July 22, 2005

SONY: 1 - MICROSOFT: 0, Playstation Meeting 2005 impresses, questions still linger

Recently, Sony treated select few members of the press to their future plans regarding the Playstation 3, Playstation 2 and PSP. The most interesting news came in the form of new real-time footage trailers, even some gameplay footage. Probably the most tantalizing of the bunch of trailers was the new teaser for Final Fantasy: Crisis Core, the Final Fantasy VII spin-off that many are expecting to be the PSP's must have killer app, considering the hardware's well is completely dry in the traditional RPG department. The teaser comes in the form of a sequence of anime cut-scenes, which if is indicative of how the story will be told, has me just eccstatic. The game features Zack as the main character, but the trailer also features scenes with Cloud and Sephiroth, and appears to recount the events leading up to the Nibelheim incident (an event prior to FFVII). No telling what the game plays like, but we all know Final Fantasy fanboys won't care either way...it's Final Fantasy, and Seven at that.

But if that wasn't enough Sony decided it was time to pull out some bigger guns and launch a few nuclear salvos at Microsoft. This will come off fanboyish, and I won't hide that because I've already proclaimed my disgust with Microsoft's actions this generation, but Sony has once again proven to us that the Ps3 is still the most powerful console coming to the market, no matter how many false press releases and how many ATi officials Microsoft gets to hype their own video cards. Some interesting trailers to note were the Resident Evil 5 trailer, which I covered much earlier, and the sequel to Genji, a game available in Japan but still awaiting release in the US.

Factor 5 showed it's first trailer for it's new Ps3 development titled "Lair". The trailer featured a bunch of uninteresting scenes picturing flying dragons, but the best thing to note was that Factor 5 has been listening to the gaming community: a large disclaimer reading "This trailer is composed of in-game footage" preceded the video. Look at the picture and see for yourself...

...That's all real-time, and it's looking great. My only concern is how will the game play?

A new RPG announced from Webzen, Endless Saga, was shown in trailer form, but we weren't privy to whether or not it was real-time or not. Disappointing yes, but the visual style looks fairly akin to Final Fantasy XII.

The biggest thing next to Capcom's Resident Evil 5 trailer was the new real-time demo of a new Dynasty Warriors looking game, but even better was the fact that it was running entirely off of Playstation 3 hardware, or at the least Playstation 3 evaluation kits, both scenarios best Microsoft's "Dual G5" setups at E3. While the entire clip was merely a cut-scene, just the fact that it was running on the hardware is reason enough to make special note of it. And while it's still just a play on numbers, it's a good way to gauge just how far this next generation of games is going to advance: In previous Dynasty Warrior games, characters are comprised of a paltry 1000 polygons, compared to 1.5 million in this trailer. Who ever said "take baby steps" obviously never heard of videogames...well that's more than likely true considering the ripeness of the adage.

And while we were still left in the dark about how these games will play, there was a demo played for an audience. The new Gundam Ps3 title was in playable form running on actual development hardware, and it looked exactly as we were shown back at E3. Even though the demo moved at a turtles pace, it proved once and for all that these "trailers" at E3 are more than just plausible, it's going to be easily possible. The game wasn't even using the Havok physics engine yet and was running entirely off of the central core of the Cell processor, completely ignoring the seven SPE's. Watch the demo, with this information in mind, the game is mind bogglingly impressive, not because of the game itself, but just what it's running on and just how little work the Ps3 actually does to run it. Trailers and "in-game" footage isn't enough though. At E3, Microsoft did have playable demos, and you can guarantee they're going to have playable demos at their Nihon-ified unveiling, and more than likely on real hardware. The same will follow at the Tokyo Game Show, which is only months away from the Xbox 360's launch period. Sony needs a playable hardware presence at TGS this year, and if this meeting is any indication, things are moving smoothly.

Sony framed the release of the Ps3 for Spring 2006, which is still in step with their quoted release at E3. Good news to be sure, but it can't come soon enough. All we need now is for Nintendo to come out of hiding and let the consumers educate themselves and make their decision on which console they will purchase first/if at all. While I wouldn't call this years annual Playstation Meeting a nail in any coffin, it proves to Microsoft it takes more than just talk. Sony has proven they can talk the talk and now they can walk the walk, in fact they hit the ground running. So far Microsoft has managed to fumble the talks, I just hope they remember to tie their shoelaces...

Microsoft has it's own unveiling planned in Japan which they claim is an "E3 scale" event. We'll see for ourselves.

July 21, 2005

Resident Evil 5 Trailer...Next Next Gen...

I have to say, I'm floored. Words barely escape my mouth. The footage shown looks real-time in some spots, and not in others. I'm going to give Capcom the benefit of the doubt. Resident Evil 4 is by and large the best looking game this generation, and there's no chance of anyone surpassing it. The game looked pre-rendered from stage primus, when Leon was still infiltrating a haunted mansion. Considering RE4 ended up being all real-time, all the time, and Capcom's recent movement away from pre-rendered cut-scenes, I'd be willing to bet this trailer is real-time as well. If that's true, I'd say that more than proves the Killzone trailer is/can be real...not only that, but it pails in comparison to the realism conveyed in this trailer.

What this trailer also proves to me, is that this game has no chance of appearing on Revolution. Nintendo's console, on good authority, is the weakest console next gen, and rumours point towards it being markedly inferior to Xbox360 and Ps3. What does this mean? It means Capcom is working on a next-gen game, not two next-gen games. I suppose it's still possible to get a highly downgraded port a year or so after release, much like the dated but still lively and competitive Ps2 is getting RE4 in November, but I think Capcom would do good to begin some Revolution exclusives.

There's also something many people haven't considered: Nintendo's controller, or at least the number of buttons. The GameCube controller, notably, had just enough buttons and analogue sticks for Resident Evil 4 and some would even arguge not quite enough. Nintendo's new anti-button campaign would suggest that not only is the hardware incapable of handling Capcom's next-gen Resident Evil kernel, the controller won't be nearly as capable as the Ps3 or Xbox360. Out of all the messages on boards I've read, or rants in blogs all over the net, no one has made mention of this, and to me the controller is probably the most damning piece of evidence against Revolution at this point. To no dismerits of Nintendo's Revolution and their mystery controller, as I'm sure they'll be pumping out title after title that uses it effectively: third parties won't fare as well I fear, and if you ask me Resident Evil 5 is only the beginning.

If you haven't already seen it, or if you have, watch it again: Resident Evil 5 Trailer.

July 20, 2005

Super Hyper Hiatus Force GO!

Sorry the lack of posts.

Life's been somewhat...complicated lately. I'll be doing my best to update more. Psychonauts and Killer 7 are definitely on the roster of reviews, and the next "No School Like the Old School" is being worked on as I speak.

For now, enjoy FOX New's latest breaking news story...

Har har!

RE(5): Dearest Nintendo...Our Apologies

If you haven't heard by now, you live under a rock, or at least a slightly jaded Nintendo fat/fan-boy. Resident Evil 5 is very much real, and its looking fantastic.

Truly inspiring stuff. If these screens are to be indicative of whats to come next generation, it's going to be all dessert all the time. For real time stuff, these screens are jaw dropping...and jaw smashing. The announcement of Resident Evil 5 comes with some awkward stigma attached. Resident Evil 5 has only been announced for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. This comes as a huge blow to Nintendo's Revolution, as Resident Evil 4 was exclusive to the GameCube, at least until the wintery months of November. While the move to put the game on Playstation 3 isn't suprising in the least, the move to Xbox 360 is somewhat odd, considering there isn't a single installed RE fan in the Xbox community. I don't see anything wrong with it, the more the merrier, but if on 360, why not Revolution? Revolution will no doubt carry through with the installed fanbase of RE4, so why shun the Revolution?

There are some strikingly undeniable things that need to be looked at. Iwata made mention shortly after E3 that development kits have been sent out, and one can safely assume that Capcom, being the one of the biggest software developers that they are, would have one of these kits. They know what Revolution is, or at least what it can do (or can't do). There are two scenarios: Either Revolutions controller won't allow it to play the game properly, or the hardware itself is not powerful enough to run the games software, which could be indicative of Revolution's inferior techno guts. Some hopefuls (primarliy Nintendo fanboys) want to believe Capcom is only delaying the announcement of RE5 for Revolution because of a number of reasons, but Capcom has the development kit, and they have had it for some time. There's no question that by now they would know whether or not the Rev could handle it. There is still a possibility that these Nintendo hopefuls will have their wish come true, but it's highly unlikely.

This is more than just a blow to Nintendo, it's almost a KO. This almost seems like an omen, forboding the lack of third party support once again for Nintendo's niche market. Nintendo territory is risky business. Most third party titles fail miserably on Nintendo's console, and the succeful titles are definitely exceptions to the rule. There's no doubt Nintendo will have some killer software for Rev, but will anyone else? Time will tell, but if you ask me, the sky's grey...

Review (+rant): Destroy All Humans! (Ps2) - Not so little green men

The Grand Theft Auto-zation of games has become somewhat of a plague in gaming today. Too often are games basic cannon fodder with the GTA spin that developers use to sell games that are actually, piles of sh*t. Quite often though, a few gems arrive at our doorsteps that beg the question: "Is this GTA-ification really such a bad thing?". The answer is an invariable no. The Simpsons Hit n' Run, Spider Man 2 and now the querky Destroy All Humans!. What these games do well is the creation of an environment without rules or regulations, and create a personal playground. Seemless is not a prequisite either. It's often forgivable that a world is divided into chunks, as we come to terms with limitations of today's hardware. Destroy All Humans is this type of game. Tall tales of little green men on the discovery channel this game is not. This game puts you in the role of the villain preparing for world domination. The earthly defenses are nothing for your out-of-this-world arsenal. While we will eventually cover the ups and downs of Destroy All Humans, you need to know firstly that the game is fabulous. Why am I beginning the review with the final verdict? Indulge me as I digress...

There has been so much bad press surrounding this game, I nearly removed it from my list of purchases. As per the usual routine in the reviewing community, the game has received a mix of reviews, some good, some bad, but mostly "average". From my point of view, I see reviewers becoming accustomed to setting a standard akin to some high profile game, and making that the stencil for future games. If any game deviates from the set path, and scribbles out of the lines, it's almost as if they're commiting some sort of foul crime. Why is this? GTA-ification is partly to blame. So many games attempt to mimic the pedigree of grand theivery software, that the games end up becoming standard, even in the content it contains. This is wrong. Too many reviews call Destroy All Humans "stale" or "lacking content", when the converse couldn't be truer. Grand Theft Auto has become to exception, not the rule, and I think reviewers need to stop idolizing games to later reflect that on other games, instead of judging games for what they are. While what some of the others say aren't complete lies, they're very general and target specific elements of the game and attempt to convince the reader that the same is true for the rest of the game, or at least stands above the rest. Again, I can't see how these reviewers can virtually stare me in the face and tell me these things.

As I begin to wrap this up, I still don't see my opinion of the game as some kind of canon diction, but I can firmly say Destroy All Humans is entertaining. Very entertaining. It has a few downfalls, but does so many things right that I'd scoff at you for passing this game by. The game begins with a cloned citizen of an alien race known as the Furons, ship being demolish by desert missle test rockets, and thus being captured and taken in for testing. Typical Area-51 knock off, and yes Destroy All Humans uses cliche 1950's lifestyles, stories, stereotypes. Actually it dishes it out to you in multi-course meals that are often gut wrenchingly hilarious. You play as Crypto Sporidian, who is charged with over running the species responsible for downing your cloned brethren. The game starts you off in locales like basic farmland and and small townlettes, and moves up to bigger towns like Santa Modesta, city scapes and the inevitable Area 42...yes 42. Like most other free roamers, the environment is chunked up into pieces. I've heard DAH criticised for having a "chopped" environment, and that it isn't a true "free roaming game". I don't see the difference between boarding a spaceship to chose a new section of the earth to invade, and sitting through a long loading screen as I travel from suburb to suburb in games like Grand Theft Auto. Sure, the transition is somewhat on the formal side, but it doesn't exclude it from being a free roamer. It is, and it's beautifully crafted. The environments are delicious. There also appears to be some faked vertex shading on things like trees or grass, which richens the experience.

As Crypto, you complete missions for your "leader" Orthopox (alt: Pox), and upgrade your weapon and space ship. Mission variety is a mix of both unique and repetitive. What's what though? Generally, the on foot missions are of a large variety, with stealth missions, escort missions, infiltrate amry bases, hypnotize scientists, destroy a certain dollar value worth of machinery, military personel and Majestic mad men (the men in black) or disgusing yourself as the countries president. The control scheme is a rendition of the lock-strafe mode found in games like Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal and Metal Arms: Glitch in the System. Undoubtedly, it works flawlessly. Aiming an anal probe is like a knife through butter...or "into" butter? You have 4 weapons, each can be upgraded to deal more damage, fire more shots or increase ammo capacity. The weapon upgrades aren't fancy, but they do the job and keep the focus on the mission at hand, and not suping up your character into a walking tank. That's reserved for the markedly less stellar UFO destruction derbies. Your UFO is equipped with a few weapons, all of which have the same end result, yet chromatically distinguished. The abductor ray is somewhat fun, and the havok physics engine whirls your prey into a hearty mixture of tossing and tumbling mayhem, while creating large scars of damage in it's wake. While this style of gameplay in DAH is unique, it's reused a few too many times. The abductor ray could have been used for much more novel purposes, opposed to just destroying more than a bunch of houses and land based artillery. The final boss fight which uses the UFO as one of it's "phases" shows excellent promise as to what could be done if a sequel should happen to arise. However, the UFO missions are few and far between for this 20+ hour game, so the ship sequences seem more like a means to an end than an overall integral part of the game. You can at anytime take up arms and demolish the city with your ship, but you could do the same on foot too.

As a higher being, you're instilled with psychic powers called psychokinesis. Using psychokinesis, you can telepathically lift people, cars, tanks and even giant mechs and launch them at the enemy. Other powers include hypnonosis, scanning peoples thoughts for information, and even tricking people into thinking you're one of them in place of a bona fide disguise, aka Holo-Bobbing. All used cleverally and often, but never in repetitous order to keep from becoming stale potatoes. Once a city is conquered, you're free to roam about and find hidden alien probes which endow you with human DNA (Furon currency), which you can trade for upgrades to weapons and ships. You can rectally extract DNA from puny mortal humans via the anal probe, while much more visceral and eviscerating, not quite as efficient. Accompanying top of the pops graphics, a unique and entertaining gameplay experience, the voice acting and plot are perfect. A Jack Nicholson impersonator voices Crypto, which matches the game's theme given Jack's role in the 90's cult hit Mars Attacks!. There aren't many other notable celebrity talents, but rest assured they're all excellent.

Not much more can be said. There's a bushel of unlockables, and some nifty behind the scene's videos, as well as some temporary distractions in the form of B-Side movies that replicate the military musings of the "Day the World Stood Still". While the missions have no checkpoints to speak of, which makes for frustrating losses, and the UFO game particles are somewhat repetitious, the rest of the game is uniquely varied, side slittingly funny, and full of character, and the 50's theme is maintained perfectly. Sure the game has room for improvement outside of the realm of Grand Theft Auto, Destroy All Humans is fabulously entertaining. You can try to put it down, but I'll be damned if you succeed.



July 03, 2005

June in Review - A controversial month...

It's been somewhat of a controversial period in gaming for myself, as the reviews I've written in negative toungue have sparked a flocking of Nintendo fanboys, which if I do say so myself, should have predicted long ago...

Psychonauts and Destroy All Humans are poised to take some review spotlight in July...Happy Belated Canada Day!