Metal Gear Solid series part 1

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on February 21, 2012 by Griff

three words,  Metal. Gear. Solid. those three simple words gave me so much joy in my teenage years, I really can’t describe how much the first three Metal Gear Solid games blew me away, it was pretty much the gaming equivalent of Star Wars for me (and many others), some generations had “A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Far Far Away” I had “Snake? Snake!? SNAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAKE!!!”” (dun dun dundundun dun dun DUN! *gunshot sound*)

I will literally for as long as I live never forget my experience playing them all for the first time, I’ll never forget seeing the E3 trailer for Metal Gear Solid 3 for the first time on the X-Play E3 special, I don’t mean to get too graphic, but seeing Snake in the JUNGLE!? wearing CAMO? kicking ass Rambo style? it was enough to almost literally give me a sexual climax of some sort,  excited doesn’t even begin to describe it, if you haven’t seen it in years I suggest you try to look up that first E3 trailer (I know it used to be on youtube, but I’m not sure sure if it is anymore) and watch it again and see just how amazingly edited and staged it was for a video game trailer, it’s by far the best video game trailer ever made…

so yeah, I guess you could call me a big fan, but as with any fan of any major franchise, frustration always eventually follows, but we’ll get to that later, I wanted to experience the series in it’s heyday so last November I bought that “HD collection” and played the whole shebang from the start (don’t ask me why I’m only now writing the reviews)

METAL GEAR,  METAL GEAR 2: SOLID SNAKE:  so before I get to the Solid games I’d like to briefly mention  the origins of the series, I played these on the (of course) bonus disc included years with the special edition release of Metal Gear Solid 3 (and also the HD collection), I played Metal Gear only once and almost 4 years ago and I didn’t have a desire to play it again, to be honest I flat out don’t like it, at all, it’s curious that the first game in the series would be so disappointing but what can I say? it’s an exceedingly difficult and tedious game where you’re constantly wondering what the fuck you’re supposed to be doing and where to go,  I actually printed out a Gamefaqs guide to help me beat it just so I could say that I did, but I didn’t get much out of it, the plot is very basic and recounted numerous times in the other games, pretty much the only cool moment in the game comes right at the very end, with a part where Big Boss calls you on the radio and tells you to turn the game off (sound familiar?)

so forget Metal Gear, but if you’re a fan of the series you owe it to yourself to play Metal Gear 2 Solid Snake, it’s probably one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve ever had in gaming, it absolutely rocks and is SHOCKINGLY similar to Metal Gear Solid, the biggest difference is that it’s just in 2D, it’s crazy how ahead of the time and cutting edge this game is for it’s time (1990), this is pretty the much the real origin of Metal Gear as we know it, plus it just has such an overall cool old school style and atmosphere and the music is totally bitching

there are a few downsides though, the game’s not too hard (especially for a 1990 game), but there are some really painfully tedious moments in the game, if you thought some of the other games had a lot of backtracking it’s nothing compared to the constant backtracking in this one, so it lacks the replayability of the later games in the series, but it’s still a blast to play every so often

METAL GEAR SOLID –  honestly now, what can I say about this one? chances are if you’re a gamer you’ve played it yourself (and if not, what in the flying fuck is wrong with you?),  it’s a stone cold classic, one of the best games ever made period and certainly one of my personal favorite games

replaying it though was an interesting experience (and I’m talking about the PS1 original, fuck that Twin Snakes noise),  it had been a couple of years since I played it and going in I almost expected to be a bit bored because of not only how many times I played it in the past but how dated I thought it must be, but boy was I wrong, playing Metal Gear Solid again is like spending time with an old friend or watching one of your favorite movies, yeah it’s technically dated, but complaining about that is like complaining that the shark in Jaws is not CGI, the game is an absolute masterwork for it’s time and because of that the game still impresses on even a technical level because it’s insane what they somehow managed to get the PS1 to do

so yeah, Metal Gear Solid is a great game, but you knew that didn’t you?

METAL GEAR SOLID 2: SONS OF LIBERTY – uh oh, this is where things start to get a little controversial,  Metal Gear Solid 2 is without a doubt one of the most controversial games among gamers in history, it’s truly a love it or hate it affair and most gamers tragically seem to hate it

it’s weird when you think about it, the game got absolutely glowing reviews by the gaming press at the time of it’s release and now it’s reputation is largely that it’s a piece of shit,  how’d that happen?

well it’s simple, all of the complaints boil down pretty much to issues people had with the story, for the uninitiated the storyline in this takes some shocking twists and turns (dare I say the most shocking plot twists in video game history?) that just flat out pissed people off, but see, that was exactly the point, if something in the story pissed you off, well it was meant to

I’m not gonna write a huge plot analysis, but basically Hideo Kojima (the series creator) decided to take his new-found wealth and success and instead of giving what people wanted and expected decided to create the world’s first post modern video game, what he was trying to do was make a statement on video games as an artform, on the digital culture we live in, it’s some seriously thought provoking and intelligent stuff,  it’s pretty much the gaming equivalent of an arthouse movie, you aint gonna get that shit in your Goddamned Call of Duty games

but alas, it was not what people wanted and the game got hit with endless hate,  even from the gaming magazines themselves that once praised it, this has always perplexed me because it’s like someone complaining about a David Lynch movie or Terrence Malick movie or something, if movies as an artform can be allowed to be bizarre, shocking and not what the audience expects, why not video games? that’s all I’m saying, I know I’m coming off as pretentious, but people didn’t lose their shit over the similar plot twist in Bioshock, it was hailed as brilliant even though another game had already did it (and better, as much as I love Bioshock ) 6 years before

well for me I just flat out love Metal Gear Solid 2, I love pretty much everything about it, the graphics, the music, the voice acting, the plot, the characters,  everything, if there’s any complaints at all it’s that I wish there were more boss fights (and in fact there were originally going to be two more that got cut), but regardless it’s one of my top favorite games of all time and my personal favorite of the Metal Gear Solid series

and what I don’t think people give it enough credit for is the gameplay,  it took Metal Gear Solid 1’s stealth gameplay and perfected it, but people were too busy raging over the cutscenes to notice, even though you could just skip them…

METAL GEAR SOLID 3: SNAKE EATER – ok so now we’re back to a game that the fans actually liked, the last one that was largely loved as a matter of fact,  some even say it’s the best of the series, but I disagree and here’s why

first off, make no mistake, this is a great game, a classic, the idea of making a prequel Metal Gear Solid set in the cold war era 1960’s, staring Big Boss and putting it largely in the jungle instead of the typical Military Base is flat out genius, one of the best and most out of left field premises for a video game sequel ever

and the Boss fights, good Lord the boss fights, not all of them are really anything special but the few that do stick out stick out for a reason, especially the sniper duel with The End, this is such a brilliant moment, without a doubt not only one of the best moments of the entire series but one of the best Boss fights in history

so I love Metal Gear Solid 3, make no mistake, but replaying the entire series I just realized that it’s not the be all end all of the series

the main problem is thus, the whole camouflage aspect, the idea is that you’re sneaking through the jungle and need to hide from the soldiers right? it works well in theory but the problem is that it’s just too easy to hide and shoot the enemies one by one as they walk by

now I’m not normally one to complain about a game being too easy,  I played it on hard and certainly found it more of a challenge than I remember in the past, but not challenging enough, maybe I should try it on extreme, but in this case the first two games had such perfect balance in difficulty that it’s kind of jarring, the game is simply not as tightly designed as it’s predecessors, you have a lot of options, but most of the time there’s no real need to use them

but it’s certainly not enough to ruin the game or anything, but it’s just not the best in the series, that’s all…

so that’s the end of part 1, part 2 will come soon where I’ll cover Metal Gear Solid 4 and Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker, plus my thoughts on the upcoming Metal Gear Rising

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Griff gets nostalgic, Media Play

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on February 7, 2012 by Griff

I’d like to try my hand at writing a different kind of post on here besides just reviews, my generation is really big on nostalgia, I mean huge, sometimes I wonder if everyone goes through that at around the age my generation is, I don’t know, but I do know that pretty much everyone my age fosters a healthy relationship with their inner child, for some people their childhood seems to entirely define their adulthood, people like Roger Barr of the website I-Mockery for example, the prevalent theory as to why that is is because we as a country are going through some pretty rough times, I think that’s a big reason why…

so I’d like to write some autobiographical posts about random memories that I have, but first a bit of background on me, I am a 22 year old white male

today’s post though is not about my childhood, but my teenage years, they weren’t that great (but who’s is?), but that was due to more real family problems than typical teenage angst, maybe I’ll talk about that at a later date, but point is I went through some hard times back then, but I made my own happiness, today post is about one of the best, maybe even the best, memories of my teenage years

does anybody here remember Vera Lynn the store Media Play? it was a big box store that contained music, books, movies, video games, electronics and even musical instruments I think

sounds like Best Buy right? well there was one thing that set it apart and made it literally Heaven on Earth for me, anime, lots of and lots of anime, literally more anime than I’ve ever seen in a store before or since

sure, you see a couple of anime dvds at Best Buy or whatever, but evidently Media Play had actually struck a deal with several anime companies and dedicated an entire section of the store to the stuff, not just dvds, but manga, toys, T-shirts, CDs, it was madness, utter madness

but wait, there’s more! see they held a special thing every other Friday I think  called “anime nights” which was basically a mini convention, I’ve never been to an anime convention in my whole life (although I’ve always wanted to) and this was the closest thing I’ve been to ever going to one, it was fantastic, a decent amount of people would show up, even a few would cosplay, this was the first time actually meeting not only fellow people who shared my interest in anime, but just meeting fellow nerds in general

so thus begins my personal story of Media Play, ok journey back in time with me to the year 2005, I was looking for dvds of R.O.D The TV, I can’t remember how exactly it happened, but somehow I had stumbled upon the Media Play store in Savannah Georgia, about an hour away from me (that’s a picture of the actual store above) and I was floored, not only did they have dvds of R.O.D The TV, but as previously mentioned they had more anime than I had ever seen in my life, I was stunned

while there I think I got a flyer that advertised the anime nights and when they were, so you better believe I showed up

I can’t remember how many of them exactly I went to, I don’t think it was many though, but I visited the store itself many times that year, I couldn’t get enough, I mean when I say it was Heaven on Earth for me I’m pretty much speaking literally, I bought my first ever volume of manga there, I bought a couple of video games there, I could have almost lived in there

and the anime nights were so much fun, there was everyone there from teenage girls to 30 something guys with long hair and beards (you know the type,  guys that have been nerds since the 70’s or so, I call them the “Elder Nerds”), I mentioned cosplay and there wasn’t a whole lot, but I do remember a little girl dressed as *this character* from Inuyasha (never watched that one, so sorry I don’t know the name)

but here’s where tragedy strikes *cue sad dramatic music* it just seems like something that great was just not destined to last, at the very start of 2006 Media Play closed for good, the entire company went kaput, I remember when I heard I was in disbelief, I wanted to cry…

sound melodramatic? where here’s the thing, the very last anime night I went to….I met a girl, Pamela was her name, I worked up the courage to talk to her and we hit it off, I mean we both shared the same interests, we were the same age and she came off as shy like me, I’m not gonna say she was drop dead gorgeous or anything, but she was cute…

I never saw her again, if only I had asked for her phone number,  I could have, but I was shy, I didn’t want to “rush things”, I thought I would see her again at the next anime night, little did I know there would be no next anime night, that was literally the last one

I went to store one last time during the going out of business sale, I had hoped to see her again, but no…and to this day I still have never really had a “girlfriend” and I’ve been on a grand total of one date, pathetic aren’t I? what can I say, I’m a nerd

why does life do things like that to you? it’s like something out of a movie or a song, I mean what a cruel, bizarre coincidence

sometimes I feel like my life since 2005 has just been one long dream, I’ve been stuck in a rut ever since, not knowing where to go, what to do next (cue Pink Floyd’s Time), sometimes I wish I would wake up and it’s 2005 again, sometimes I wish I lived in a kinder alternate dimension, one where Media Play never closed, one where Geneon and ADV never went out of business, one where anime’s popularity grew and grew instead of going back underground again, I wish, I wish, I wish…

the Media Play building remained there for a few more years, complete with the sign, a sad reminder of what had been lost, until eventually it was torn down and replaced by….wait for it….a fucking Publix grocery store, my least favorite store on Earth…

sometimes life gives you a very clear, concise Fuck You.

God of War trilogy

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on February 7, 2012 by Griff

ah God of War, the series that brilliantly mixed (the original) Clash of The Titans with Heavy Metal (the movie and the comic book, not the musical genre) resulting is a fresh and badass take on Greek Mythology, it’s one of my favorite video game series from the last several years as a matter of fact, but I have not played any of the games in the main series since around when they first came out, so for Christmas I got the HD collection of GOW1 and 2 and sat down and played the whole trilogy back to back and I thought I had a few interesting thing to say about them, so without further ado

the premise behind the whole series is thus, you play as Kratos, a bald, bearded and pale Spartan who is a total, absolute badass and can do or kill anything he puts his mind to (it’s kind of inspirational is a way) and in the first game he puts his mind to killing Aries, the titular God of War, but first he must find Pandora’s Box stashed away in a ridiculously deadly temple

the world he inhabits is the one of Greek myth, but more violent and grim than you might be used to (this aint Disney’s Hercules) where human life is cheap and evidently monsters are always only a stone throw away from ripping you to pieces

anyway God of War 1 was a mind-blowing game when it was released in March of 2005, back in the last console generation it was rare for such a AAA title to be released in the spring (the large majority of really good games were only released in the fall back then, which is still somewhat the case even today) and it was an absolute breath of fresh air, the graphics, the story, the combat, the controls, it was all top notch

playing it again today for the first time since 2005 it’s lost a lot of it’s luster, the most apparent thing is how dated the graphics are, even with the HD remaster, it still looks decent for a PS2 game I guess, but things that once seemed mind blowingly epic, like seeing a giant Ares in the background, nowadays seem pretty tame compared to what comes later in the series and the game is a bit too repetitive, there’s only really a handful of enemies and you fight them over and over and over

but hey, don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great game, the music is still fantastic, the story is still great and it just overall still has such a great sense of adventure, when you finally reach Pandora’s Box after hours of questing through the temple of Pandora you really feel like you’ve truly accomplished something, it’s a great feeling and it was overall a nice trip down memory lane revisiting it

but this is a series that only got better as it went on, which brings me to God of War 2

first off let me say that the graphics in this game are freakin’ mind-blowing for a PS2 game,  I know that the HD remaster sure helps, but how in the heck did they get the PS2 to put out graphics of this caliber? not only is this a huge step up from the first game’s graphics but it’s insane when you go back and compare older PS2 games to it and try to wrap your head around the fact that this is the same hardware, they really pushed the PS2 to it’s limits

not only are the graphics themselves amazing, but one thing I forgot about is the art direction is equally amazing, they really played up the fantasy aspect of it, some parts of the game almost give me a Never Ending Story vibe (which I wonder if that was intentional considering the whole “80’s fantasy” vibe of the whole series), sailing through the beautiful looking sky on a Pegasus, wandering through misty swamps filled with ancient Greek ruins, exploring beautiful temples, just amazing

that’s not the only improvement though, there’s a heck of a lot more variety in the enemies and the environments this time so it becomes not as repetitive

so yeah, I don’t really have any complaints about that one, it’s pretty much perfect, the PS2 couldn’t have asked for a more worthy swan song

so finally that brings me to God of War 3 for the PS3

and once again I have to say that the graphics are unbelievably stunning, literally jaw dropping, I talked a lot about how great the graphics in God of War 2 are, but that’s for PS2 standards, God of War 3 has incredible PS3 graphics and I can’t emphasize enough how incredible they are, you really need to see it in motion for yourself, it looks like a CGI movie, the texture on Kratos skin, the motion blur, it’s by far the best looking console game I’ve ever seen and comparing it to God of War 1 is like comparing a PS1 and PS2 game

and to you want to about epic? God of War 3 has some of the most epic set-pieces ever seen in a video game, right from the very start of the game it’s filled with “holy shit!” moments, there’s one moment in particular that I wont spoil that involves meeting a character from the first game again and feels like the developers put it in their just to show how far the hardware has come

but tragically, I can’t say this one is quite perfect, there are no major flaws with it or anything, but late in the game, it starts to feel like it’s losing steam

I think the problem is, God of War 2 ends on a cliff hanger and God of War 3 picks up right where that one left off , but they can’t have the game be too short, so once again they find a way to send Kratos  “back to square one”, which is fine, but the last part of the game before the final boss fight (I’m talking about the Daedalus labyrinths level) is tedious and nowhere near on the epic scale as the rest of the game,  it feels like the developers stuck it in just to pad out the length of the game a bit, but if they wanted to make the game longer, why didn’t they have you see more of the city of Olympia instead of just briefly stopping by? (probably because that would have been more time consuming than the simple looking Daedalus labyrinth level, that’s why)

and the final confrontation with SPOILER Zeus is not bad, but not as epic as you’d hope, I read that the developers had to actually cut a few things out of the final boss fight due to time constraints, that sucks

and the actual ending of the game itself, well I have mixed thoughts on it, it’s one of those endings where it feels like they wanted to have their cake and eat it too and have it both be an overall finale to the series, but with just enough room left open to another sequel in case they ever decide to make another one

what you get is an ending that just feels a bit anti-climatic and leaves you wanting more, it’s not a TERRIBLE ending per se, but it is a shame the game couldn’t have gone out with as big of a bang as it starts

so, to sum up, it’s really hard to say what the best game in the series is, objectively I guess I would say God of War 2, since it has a “the best of both worlds” thing going for it, but the graphics in God of War 3 are so amazing that it really makes it hard to say that

but really, the God of War trilogy works best as just that, a trilogy, taken as whole it’s a simply amazing video game series that should be experienced by anyone who plays video games

P.S. how did I manage to go the whole review without mentioning the nudity? yes the God of War series has nudity in it and God of War 1 was the first game I ever saw nudity in,  I remember how shocking it was to see BARE BREASTS in the original God of War back in 2005,  I mean whaaaaaaat? nipples in a video game? that just doesn’t happen! I had gotten used to seeing bare butt-cheeks in thongs in video games, but actual nipples was unheard of (perhaps I should mention that at the time I was an internetless 15 year old),  it is hilariously ironic that 2005 was the year of the beyond infamous “hot coffee” scandal in hacked versions of Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, which was a “sex scene” that had fully clothed, nudity free robo humping and THAT was what the news media decided to absolutely lose their shit over, not the game with actual nudity in it, go figure

these days it’s hard to get too excited over PS2 quality nipples, but the nudity in God of War 3 is….nice, I love though how in this day and age it’s ok for games to show a little nudity without the media going into Defcon 4, but of course the news media has pretty much given up their crusade against video games in general (at least in America, not so much in the UK), these days they’re on to much more juicy scare tactics like “the economy” and “Barack Obama is Hitler” and whatever the fuck Fox News wants to you to fear these days

Heavy Rain

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on February 3, 2012 by Griff

Heavy Rain is the latest attempt in the long running quest of making a video game that feels like an “interactive movie”, this is an idea that dates back to those  cheesy (and almost always awful) Full Motion Video games like Night Trap or Sewer Shark on consoles like the Sega CD or 3DO

that idea laid pretty much dormant until the game Indigo Prophecy dusted it off, which I actually played back in 2005, it was a good game, but it had some obvious flaws that held it back from greatness, for one the graphics weren’t too great even by 2005 standards, but what really held the game back was the infamous plot twists that happened late in the game, the plot pretty obviously involved the supernatural right from the start, that wasn’t a problem, the problem was that the game’s story piled on ridiculous supernatural (and one awful science fiction) plot twists on top of plot twists and so late in the game that it just lost everybody, it was almost as if the developers figured that if the story was going to have the supernatural in it they might as well throw every supernatural cliche in the book in it (the end of the world, magic, secret conspiracies, super powers etc), but in 2010 the same dev team returned with Heavy Rain

I don’t normally review brand new video games, I figure with all the million other gaming websites reviewing them who’s gonna care about my opinion? when I review games I usually go for older games that I think deserve some more attention, but in this case I thought I had some things to say…

the plot of Heavy Rain involves a serial killer dubbed the Origami Killer who kills children (yikes) that kidnaps a man’s son and the various characters (including the dad) who try to track him down and rescue the boy before it’s too late

ok, long story short I absolutely loved this game, but it has some flaws that keep it back from greatness

it’s actually pretty ironic, the flaws are pretty much the opposite of Indigo Prophecy’s, whereas that game had too much story, introducing too many out there plot twists too late in the game, Heavy Rain has the opposite problem where there’s not enough story, there’s a couple of pretty big plot holes and information about characters that’s just never given

I found that pretty strange, so I did a little research on the inter-webs and discovered that a lot of stuff in the game was cut out, there was supposed to be a plot twist late in the game that veers slightly into the supernatural territory (or more like magical realism), but was cut out, probably due to all the backlash Indigo Prophecy got for the supernatural story elements, but here’s the thing, without it it leaves a pretty big plot hole

and then you have the back-stories of characters that are never explained, take the FBI agent Norman Jayden, he has a special device called the “ARI” that are these glasses and gloves that are basically an augmented reality device that help in the investigation, but where did he get it?

well in that case I read that there was a whole planned series of DLC episodes that acted as a prequel to the game filling in the back-stories of the characters, sounds cool right? but only one came out (and it has nothing to do with the main story) and the rest were evidently canceled for some unknown reason, why?

so basically what we’re left with is an incomplete game, that sucks, it sucks hard

still, there’s a lot to love about the game, incomplete though it may be, the story is still very compelling and it’s amazing to play a game in this day and age where the storyline is as much a selling point as anything else

the graphics are very solid, nice high quality texture work, the music is fantastic, the voice acting is great and the game overall has a very mature (and I don’t mean just blood and guts) atmosphere, I love that it’s finally ok for a video game to show a little nudity without Fox News having a meltdown (and by comparison when Indigo Prophecy came out in 2005, there was a little bit of nudity that was cut from the American release)

so it’s pretty much exactly the same as Indigo Prophecy, a very interesting, fun and well worth playing game that is nonetheless held back from greatness due to story issues, here’s hoping maybe next time David Cage and Quantic Dream will finally get it just right…

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on September 14, 2011 by Griff

 

why is it so rare for science fiction to tackle the subject of video games head on? it seems obvious, considering we live in the year 2011 and there’s no flying cars, no household robots and no common space-travel (which are all stuck in a rut and still seem far off), but there are things called video games that would absolutely boggle the minds of people from before they were invented. Video games (along with cell phones and computers in general) are what’s “futuristic” about the modern day and yet sci fi rarely asks the question “what is the future of something that in a little over 30 years went from Pong to Crysis?”

enter Ready Player One, the debut novel of Ernest Cline, one of the screenwriters of the movie Fanboys (the original incarnation before the much publicized changes) and friend of Aint It Cool News owner Harry Knowles, that answers what video games might be like roughly 30 years from now, the answer of course, is “fucking cool”

the plot of the novel is such, in 2044 there is something called “OASIS” which is basically a futuristic MMORPG played by pretty much everyone where you can pretty much do anything, wanna be Superman? you can, wanna visit the Star Wars universe? you can, any fictional world you can think of can be visited. Five years prior the owner and creator of OASIS James Halliday died and left his giant fortune and control of OASIS up for grabs to whoever could solve his riddles, find three keys and unlock three gates and find The Easter Egg, to do so however you need to be as obsessed with 1980’s nerd culture as he was, enter Wade Watts, the only guy nerdy and obsessed enough to succeed, but he’ll have to fight a fascist corporation that will stop at NOTHING to find the prize and take control of OASIS and ruin it for everybody by charging for access

the book is jam packed with 1980’s references, if it’s at least semi well known and from the 80’s, chances are it’s referenced in this book, I always had a feeling something like this was coming considering how insanely popular 1980’s culture is these days, but thankfully Ready Player One has enough going for it that it’s more than just a list of pop culture references, what I would compare it to is The Venture Brothers, in that there’s lot of pop culture references, but it doesn’t use it as a crutch to make up for a lack of story or characters

this is a seriously brilliant book, like any great science fiction novel, a lot of it is basically a metaphor for the modern day, it captures the modern zeitgeist perfectly, the world outside of the virtual OASIS has gone to hell, wars, environmental calamity, an even worse economy, no gasoline, a weak government and a fascist corporation that has stepped in and uses sweatshop like methods here in America (let’s watch and see if something like that happens), of course there’s a big sense of ennui in America today and a lot of people (me included) find an escape into not only video games, but 1980’s culture and nostalgia, the fact that inside OASIS, a virtual reality where you can do literally anything you can imagine, people still love to play virtual recreations of old arcade cabinets and video game consoles says a lot about the human desire to escape to a seemingly simpler and better past as much as any other fantasy

I have a feeling that this book might wind up being the Jules Verne’s From Earth To The Moon of our time, that is to say a science fiction novel that’s predictions basically come true, I know one thing, SOMETHING like this is gonna happen, there’s going to be a virtual reality video game like this one day, what’s gonna stop it? video games have changed so much in 30 years that there’s literally no telling what’s in store

I cannot recommend this book enough, it might even be on the list of my favorite books ever (it’s certainly one of the best books I’ve read in the last few years), if you want a taste of Things To Come then check it out, here’s hoping the movie is just as good

I’m still alive

Posted in Uncategorized on September 14, 2011 by Griff

well well here we are again, yet another post explaining why it’s been so long since my last review, I was resistant to making another post like this, but considering how freakin’ long it’s been since I reviewed anything I figured I should let people (if there’s anyone out there that is) know that I’m not dead and the blog is not officially over, just on ice

what happened? well College happened, yup I’m officially a College student now (well a local community college, so I haven’t moved away) and the preparation for college coupled with actually going to college has distracted me from this blog, I’ve still been gaming, but I haven’t really had the time to watch any anime and that coupled with a few personal reasons has put my anime watching on hold for I don’t know how long exactly, it could be soon until I resume, it could be until next year, but it’ll be EVENTUALLY at least

basically I’ve always been a terrible procrastinator and now couple that with actual responsibility like school and homework and well….it’s not a good combo

until then though I promise to review older games (and maybe even new ones? we’ll see) along with any books I read (which is sadly not too frequently these days)

this brings me to my next topic though, I’ve been finding it hard to find the motivation to write any reviews in the first place because frankly…I have no idea if anyone at all is reading or if I’m essentially just talking to myself, I don’t expect to be famous, but I did hope that I’d at least get a handful of readers that posted comments, so if anybody’s out there please consider commenting if you want me to continue

I started this blog mainly as way to simply get practice writing and just to kind of sound off on my opinions about things, but it can be kind of depressing trying hard to write a good review and then realize that nobody’s probably gonna read it

ok enough whining

Gex 2 and 3

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on May 14, 2011 by Griff

 

It seems like any given year and any given console generation there’s always one specific genre that dominates the marketplace, there’s always invariably some super successful game that comes along and shakes things up and then tons of imitators try to replicate the success until eventually it becomes so over saturated that things die down and it’s on to the next big thing

For this generation it’s without a doubt First Person Shooters and these days specifically it’s games trying to replicate the success of the Call of Duty series (remember when that series was just a humble WW2 shooter and not the beast it later became?)

It’s hard to pick one specific genre in the PS2/Gamecube/Xbox generation that dominated, but I would say probably Grand Theft Auto knockoffs, games like Driver 3, The Getaway and True Crime (which ironically was going to get another sequel that was canceled by Activision, the publisher of the Call of Duty series) all tried to get a slice of that GTA pie (which these days, not counting any other Rockstar games or Saints Row, how many games do you see trying to be like Grand Theft Auto?)

But for the PS1/N64 generation there can be no doubt what was the dominant genre, Platformers (specifically 3D ones in this case), good Lord were there so many Platformers back then, it seems like literally every other game was a Platformer, you could not swing a dead cat without hitting a few Platformer mascots with lots of ‘tude, even the Tomb Raider games were basically Platformers where you played as a hot woman with big tits instead of a cute anthropomorphic animal, Super Mario 64 opened the floodgates and the genre dominated from about 1996 onward and breathed it’s final breath in 2005 with the release of Psychonauts (which even though Grand Theft Auto 3 revolutionized mature rated games, people forget that there were still plenty of Platformers in the PS2/Gamecube/Xbox generation, there were so many in fact in 2002 that it was dubbed by many gaming magazines the “year of the Platformer”)

These days the Platformer genre is completely dead, the only exceptions are the Mario games on the Wii, cheap shovelware platformers on the Wii and Platformers made by Indie devs (but those are all 2D, maybe one day those hipper than thou Indie devs will upgrade to 3D)

But back in the days when the Platformer genre dominated it was very easy for a good game to get lost in the shuffle, to get overlooked because it looked too similar to too many other “me too” games, which finally brings me to the subject of this review, the Gex series

I want you to journey back in time with me, back to a mystical era known as the “late 90’s”, it was a strange time, most people did not have cellphones, the only place you could surf the net was at home or libraries (if you even had a computer) and Titanic was the highest grossing movie of all time

It was in this era that in 1998 and 1999 two games were released, Gex 2 Enter The Gecko and Gex 3 Deep Cover Gecko, both developed by Crystal Dynamics

I’ve never played the original, but Gex 2 was the first game in the series I played on the PS1, no too long after the third game came out and I played it

The Gex games follow Gex the Gecko, he’s a wisecracking guy (voiced by comedian Dana Gould, who is a frequent guest on Real Time With Bill Maher) who loves television and becomes a secret agent tasked with taking down a mysterious villain (seriously, what was the deal with that guy?) named Rez who wants to take over the “Media Dimension”, what this basically means is that Gex has to enter a bunch of “TV Channels” that are spoofs of specific genres and collect “remotes” in each level (think like the multiple Stars in each level of Mario 64), I think a lot of people misinterpreted Gex as trying to a ‘tude filled character like Sonic, but he’s more of a wiseass and the games in general are very spoofy and geared towards a slightly older audience than most Platformers, it may seem quaint today, but the humor and wiseass nature of the games was pretty unique at the time

As soon as I started Gex 2, I had a flashback to third grade, I haven’t played Gex 2 since 1999 and I think this is the longest time I’ve gone before replaying a game (about 12 years), there I was back in Mrs. Hill’s classroom, I had an unrequited crush on a pretty blond girl named Victoria (*sigh*) and I had just gotten a Playstation 1 for Christmas, it was my best friend who suggest I check out Gex 2 and I did, I was pleasantly surprised to find a game that I liked so much and I was a bit obsessed with it for a while

However after the initial nostalgia shock of playing a game after so many years wore off, I started to notice the problems of Gex 2, unfortunately Gex 2 is not a game that has aged well or stands the test of time

Basically there are three major problems with the game, the first is that the camera sucks, of course this was a problem that a lot of 3D games from that era had and it was really only solved after the invention of two analog sticks, but Gex 2 also has a lot of levels that are basically “floating islands” over a bottomless pit and if you fall (unless you find a rare checkpoint) you have to go back at the start and the camera never helps

second is that the levels repeat themselves too much, there are only a handful of themes (horror, kung fu, cartoons, science fiction, prehistoric and outer space) and each theme has at least two levels that are just variations, now some of these levels are different enough that it’s not too annoying (like the two prehistoric levels), but other are basically the same level just with a remixed design, it gets old fast when you’re playing yet another outer space or horror level

Third is that most of the levels are not very well designed, it’s easy to get lost and you have no idea where to go to complete specific objectives (the objectives that require you to find several objects throughout the level are annoying as hell)

Lastly the game is very short, I beat it in a single night, it was still fun playing it just for the trip down memory lane, but I was disappointed to find that the game was mostly frustrating and the legitimately fun levels were few, if you’ve never played Gex 2 Enter The Gecko before, then don’t bother, the only reason to revisit it is purely for the nostalgia

Well that brings me to Gex 3 and I’m very happy to say that this one holds up a lot better

Literally every single thing about Gex 3 is improved from Gex 2, the graphics are better for one (and for a PS1 game very good) and the camera is improved (though still a bit annoying by today’s standards)

The levels no longer repeat themes, instead every level has a unique theme and the genres they spoof are a little more creative, the level design is also much, much better, not only are the levels more forgiving, but it’s a lot harder to get lost and you usually have a clear idea of where you need to go to complete specific objectives, even the Hub world is improved, the Hub in Gex 2 was small and boring, the Hub in Gex 3 is pretty large and more like an actual level itself (it also has some cool secrets)

The humor and writing is better, one of the things that sets the Gex games apart is that Gex makes wisecrack comments during the levels (almost a bit like Mystery Science Theater) and there weren’t very many in Gex 2, but in Gex he says a lot more and they’re related to the levels he’s in more, a lot of people found his comments annoying but I always found them funny in the third game, it’s especially fun playing the game as an adult and picking up on references that you missed when playing as a kid (like Gex making fun of singer Morrissey)

So I’m happy to say that if you’re in the mood for an old school style Platformer, Gex 3 is still worth playing even if you’ve never played it before, it’s only slightly longer than Gex 2, but that’s ok

So that was it for Gex, they never made a 4th game unfortunately, supposedly they were working on a 4th game for the PS2 but it was canceled, I can’t help but wish the 4th game wasn’t canceled or that Gex would get a reboot, but maybe Gex 3 took the series as far as it could go, it’s nice that it ended on a high note

Still it would be cool to see Gex resurrected as maybe a PSN/XBLA title (think like Crystal Dynamics’ Lara Croft and The Guardian of Light), but that’s probably pretty unlikely, oh well…