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Top Ten: Games I Should Have Played

April 29, 2010 Leave a comment

This is an unedited, uncensored re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that fans can read the uncensored versions.

WARNING! This article is intended as a piece of satirical diatribe. Some readers may find the language and themes within extremely offensive.

In this article I am going to – as I was unceremoniously told yesterday – get off my high horse and admit naiveté and ignorance towards some things I really should know about. This is your opportunity to blast me into gaming oblivion as I shamefully reveal ten classic video games I never played.

The reason I never played any of these is two-fold: some of them are genres or branded versions of genres I’m just not that interested in. But there was also a period of several years where I didn’t actually play anything at all. It was about the same time I learned what “real life” was. Fortunately I have matured since then and hope to mend my ways real soon now.

Grand Theft Auto – ouch, I know. I was never into the whole running over pedestrians drug dealing hooker-bashing thing in video games. I was too busy snorting cocaine off my prostitute’s tits to really see the appeal. So when the two DLC packs came out and got storming reviews, and the interwebs told me in several places I didn’t need the original disk, I thought great! Cheap way to see if I like it before plunging into GTAIV. So I purchased the Ballad of Gay Tony. Then found out you actually do need the disk, and bought the full game. Just this week. Sinful.

Street Fighter 2 – I whored Mortal Kombat II when I was a teenager. How can you not love the sound of “Sub-Zero… Winnnsss…. Fa-TAL-ity! … Flawless… Vick-torieee!”. Fatalities, babalities, friendships and one other finishing move I forget. That’s what it was all about. But, I never really got into playing Street Fighter 2. The only thing I remember about it now is a voice going “sonic BOOM!” every 5 seconds.

Tomb Raider – you’d think I’d be all over Lara Croft like needles on Amy Winehouse, right? Wrong. I never liked this genre of game and was equally unhappy when the classic Prince of Persia got regurgitated into all those 3D-esque PS2 games that were so much harder to control yet so much less fun than the original. This reticence even led to being nervous about buying Uncharted 2. Fortunately, that is brilliant.

Ratchet & Clank – not exactly genre-defining I know, but it was a big brand-building exercise for Sony, along with Jak & Dexter and Spyro. To be honest they all kind of suck compared to Mario and Sonic (although both of them have gotten way bigger than their boots and urgently need to be banned from appearing in anything other than platform games at this point), but hey, Sony tried their best. They’re always trying their best. I’ve been informed that A Crack In Time is good. I can think of a few other places I’d rather gaze at cracks. But I have downloaded Quest For Booty now so I’ll get around to playing that in approximately 17 years. I wish I didn’t have to quest for booty.

Final Fantasy VII – at this point I am hiding behind my sofa waiting for you to all slash me down with longswords and elemental spells (I’m immune to fire, but have weakened resistance against booty). I didn’t play XII either. In fact, Final Fantasy XIII is the only FF game I’ve played, so for the last 2 months I have had to secretly pretend in all my writing that I actually know something about it. Which I don’t.

Call of Duty – never liked shooters. Liked war shooters even less, leaning instead towards future worlds and sci-fi. Modern Warfare 2 was the first Call of Duty I played, unless you include the one night I spent playing Modern Warfare the night before MW2 was released, to satisfy myself that the sequel added nothing to the original and had a worse story to booty, sorry I mean boot. It’s on the brain you know. I ultimately pre-ordered MW2 the day before it came out, and other than that classic staple of CoD online play – 10 year-old homophobes yammering endlessly into their headsets – I rather enjoyed it.

Myst – infamous for being the game that confused exactly almost over 100% of the people that played it, I still never really got what this was about, but as I understand it it’s some kind of action adventure puzzler where the puzzles have no clues or logical solutions. Sort of like a UK general election, only with more interesting characters. There were a ton of sequels and spin-offs, which if Metacritic is to be believed, all suck. And Metacritic is always right, am I right or am I right?!

Theme Park – loved Sim City, probably the first sim-type game I played, but I had an Archimedes so I only ever got to play Theme Park at my friends’ houses. These along with Transport Tycoon were for me the golden era of sim games, before it all went ‘proper’ 3D and became insanely complex. But who needs Theme Park now when we have ROLLERCOASTER TYCOON on Facebook! Face it, Flash is the future of gaming – though it does have a few, ehm, “framerate issues”.

GoldenEye – as a deprived child I also never owned an N64, well, no I was an adult by then and decided a 1GB PS1 disk could probably store something more potent than a 64MB cartridge that costs £70 (Mario 64, anyone?). So while I played Resident Evil 1, WipeOut.. 1, and Gran Turismo, err, 1, my pals chugged away on GoldenEye. N64s were brought over to my house periodically (remember the days when consoles were small and light enough to actually be lifted by one person?), and it was certainly a great game. Eventually I tried to play it on a PC emulator some years later. In a word: don’t.

Metroid Prime – I have no idea what this is, some kind of GameTube game or something. It’s really good. So I’m told. I remember my ex-girlfriend had it, it had moving about and some guns, this is all I know.

Just to ruin my already thin reputation some more, I have also never played Halo, Fable, Gears of War or Mass Effect. Luckily, I did manage to fit in Manic Miner, Kong, Space Invaders, PacMan, Frogger, Arkanoid/Breakout, Elite, Lemmings, Doom, Quake, Sensible Soccer, James Pond and Zool (ooh I bet that got your nostalgia juices flowing – Chupa Chips 4tw!). And Super Mario Galaxy.

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PSN Cards and MMOGA: A Warning (Previously Unpublished)

April 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Regional PSN cards: an unnecessary evil of the PS3 gaming world.

A good friend of mine tried to purchase a US PSN card yesterday with an Electron card from code trading site mmoga.com. As is sometimes the case these days with first time purchase of instant downloads from abroad, she was asked to photograph her face with her ID in her hand. Unfortunately with neither a driving license nor passport – and no national ID scheme in the UK – she wasn’t able to provide the information required.

Here is where the trouble started. In order to refund the $20 purchase, MMOGA wants to charge a processing fee of €10. Clearly a rip off that people should be aware of, but there are deeper issues:

  1. A contract for sale is only binding once both parties have agreed on the terms under which the transaction will occur. MMOGA did not state anywhere during the purchase process that ID would be required – therefore the visible contract prior to purchase is misleading.
  1. Since the terms of the contract could not be fulfilled by either party, no exchange of goods or funds can take place. The buyer is entitled under EU law to a full and complete refund with no administration fee.

MMOGA is apparently cheap, but the company’s credentials are dodgy to say the least. They are registered at a Hong Kong address but appear to operate out of Germany. There is no telephone number on their site and they refused to call the buyer for voice verification as can be done with reputable sites such as Gamecards.eu.

I located a phone number for them elsewhere on the web, it was either constantly engaged or an answering machine. It was not possible to get through.

The only recourse if you have a problem with MMOGA is to use the Live Support, which, when it doesn’t make you wait for ages only to be told the service is now unavailable, greets you with staff of this skill level (re-printed with permission from the customer):

Emily – MMOGA: identity card
<name omitted>: with a photo ?
Emily – MMOGA: yeah
<name omitted>: sorry but I don`t have any photographic id
<name omitted>: passport, driving liscence etc
<name omitted>: how else can we procede with verification ?
Emily – MMOGA: we just can process your order after we get your verification
<name omitted>: I have no identification with a photo
Emily – MMOGA: you can use a camera to take a pic
<name omitted>: yes but that pic won`t be of me holding a photo of myself as you suggested I need
<name omitted>: I have no identity card
Emily – MMOGA: you can ask your friend to help you to take the pic
<name omitted>: Just a picture of me – not holding any identification ?
Emily – MMOGA: no , you have to hold
<name omitted>: I repeat again – I have NO identification
<name omitted>: are there any other ways that you can verify that I am who I say I am
Emily – MMOGA: sorry no
<name omitted>: then how do we procede ?
<name omitted>: will my money be refunded ?
Emily – MMOGA: but refund the money to your moneybookers has to charge 10 euro fee.
<name omitted>: Unnaceptable
<name omitted>: if I had been told this in the first place I would never have tried to place an order
<name omitted>: your company has misled me into a purchase that I could now possibly loose out on
Emily – MMOGA: we do the verification just for the security reasons
<name omitted>: you already have my money – moneybookers have confirmed who I am – why must you now take it a step further
<name omitted>: I understand that however I do not believe that there is no other method of verification
<name omitted>: not everyone on the planet has identification cards
Emily – MMOGA: okay what kind of id do you have ?
Emily – MMOGA: passport ?
<name omitted>: bank card, utility bills
<name omitted>: no passport
<name omitted>: Nothing photographic
<name omitted>: do you have any suggestions ?
Emily – MMOGA: sorry this is the only way to do the verification 😦
<name omitted>: then how do I take this matter further
Emily – MMOGA: send us the pic or transfer the 10 charge to us , we will give you the full refund

This went on for several hours at which point Emily stopped replying altogether after letting my friend know that she also had to fill in a PDF form that was never sent to her.

I asked to speak with Emily’s supervisor and was told that she had no supervisor. She also said that only the verification team and not herself could access photos sent by email and that the verification team was currently “off work”.

The moral is therefore very simple. Avoid MMOGA like the plague, and use a company like shopto.net, gamecards.eu or hdmoviesource.com instead.

The Gaming Rant 7

April 27, 2010 Leave a comment

This is an unedited, uncensored re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that fans can read the uncensored versions.

WARNING! This article is intended as a piece of satirical diatribe. Some readers may find the language and themes within extremely offensive.

Contains strong language and sexual references. This article is satire and does not reflect the views of TheSixthAxis or myself. It actually represents the views of Infinity Ward’s lawyers.

Strangely, I didn’t really feel like ranting this week. I think I’m all ranted out, but I’ll give it a go, just to humour you, like. I think I got burned out from all the iPad, DRM, OtherOS, consumer rights, abusive DLC, FirstPlay and ModNation Racers ranting I did the last few days. My nurse did warn me I should only skip my pills on Thursdays to make sure I could rant effectively ready for Friday, but did I listen?

April was supposed to be quiet

I had assured my girlfriend whore that things would calm down after God of War 3 and Just Cause 2, that there were only two compelling releases for me in April (Nier and FIFA 2010 World Cup) and that I would have more time to waste on MSN giving her meaningless and unfulfilling cybersex.

Yeah, right.

It all started one day when I logged into my bank account to see if I had enough money to pay for both food and my web server this month, only to find a 4-figure medical refund had been deposited from the lovely Norwegian government. That same day I opened my mail and found my first sick pay cheque – a sum of money so ridiculously large that you could buy a small Pacific island with it. I already have my own island though, so clearly a trip to GameStop was in order instead. I bolted to town immediately.

I picked up a few pre-owned games (it was so much money I couldn’t afford to buy them new): GTA IV, Saints Row 2, DiRT 2, Sacred 2, X-Men: Wolverine, Lord of The Rings Conquest and Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Athena. Then I thought out of the goodness of my heart I better write a review of Dead To Rights: Retribution for TSA, along the lines of “well, someone’s got to do it”, so I picked that up. I may have inadvertently pre-ordered Red Dead Redemption at the same time.

As I perused the store I was checking reviews on my normalPhone (who would’ve imagined that you didn’t need an iPhone to get a quality mobile web browsing experience eh?) and thinking, God what a cock I would look like if I was doing this on an iPantyliner right now. James May-style. I thanked the gods that iPads cost more than the £100,000 welfare subsidy I’d been given so that I couldn’t cave into the purchase. I will, of course, because I’m hopeless.

I rushed home and didn’t play any of them because FIFA obviously took priority (I epic failed to qualify Norway, of course, because I suck). But, before that, a top-up of my 3 regional PSN wallets was a necessity, naturally. I won’t bother listing all the purchases as it may make you want to stab me repeatedly in the face over the internets, suffice to say that I probably don’t ever need to buy a video game ever again. I will, of course, because I’m hopeless.

I’m trying really hard to find a way to rant about having acquired a lot of great games at no personal expense, but I’m failing. IT’S ANNOYING! There, I said it. Still, at least I didn’t buy the Stimulus Pack – I’m not made of money, sheesh! I will, of course, because I’m hopeless.

Which brings us conveniently to the first of several conundrums.

Conundrum 1: eBay PSN codes

Those motherf… When I moved to Norway I sold pretty much the entire contents of my house on eBay, however I still consider myself to be an eBay n00b. It continually amazes me that some people can buy stuff on eBay and they actually managed to get it delivered, that it matches the product description and actually works and isn’t damaged. How do you guys do that?!

I’m naturally suspicious of eBay. It is like a combination of Poundland prices and Iceland quality. I love how sellers are rated “A++++++++”. Why only 8 plusses? Why not 9? Or 15? The number of plusses is key to my purchasing decision you know. When a buyer rates with too many plusses, I think, it’s an insider deal. They’re banging each other, it must be a hoax.

ShopTo.net decided that my Norwegian credit card had to be registered for 30 days before they would deliver instant UK PSN codes to me, and the other online stores seemed overpriced, so with great reticence I resorted to trying to find a code on eBay.

Don’t do this. Ever.

I was lucky. It only cost me a pound. Though saying that I could’ve bought 1/30th of a pizza with that money in Norway. Damn those bastards.

So I get my code. Which is actually not a PSN code, it’s a promo code for some web site that you enter to get a discount to buy some other code that you enter into another web site to get a PSN code. Or something like that. However you cut it, it was bollocks. Ultimately, not only did the store in question only send codes in the postal mail, but they would also only send them to the UK, and the eBay promo code didn’t work anyway without a minimum purchase of £60. I felt betrayed by mankind.

Just as a final kick in the teeth to my misguided use of a full one hundred British pennies, the very next day somebody sent me the very same code in a PSN mail. Cheers for that.

Conundrum 2: Disk space

I have an original 40GB PS3 which I promptly upgraded to 250GB shortly after purchase when I realised that 40GB really means 36GB minus firmware updates minus game installs minus downloaded trailers minus downloaded demos minus patches. Minus 10GB for Linux – but, let’s not talk about that *crushes her ceramic coffee cup in her hand* Whoops, where was I.

When I upgraded, I had one PSN game: Echochrome. I backed up, restored, and lo and behold the game crashed with an error and I had to re-download it. It still gives a weird error but it loads and plays ok now. Today I have, oh I don’t know, a billion PSN downloads, say, just as an approximation. It has reached a point where I deleted all trailers, music, demos, Qore and FirstPlay episodes, game data for games I traded in and now can’t install anything unless I delete game data for games I’m still actually playing. This is bad. The fact the SingStar beta uses 23GB doesn’t help.

I’ll admit, I was naïve. When I got the machine I thought, what on Earth does anyone need 40GB in a console for? And sure, 2 USB ports? Well who needs 4 anyway? Glory days my friends. Little did I know that PS3 games load like old ZX Spectrum tape games the first time you run them. Who knew that in the days of 50GB Bluray disks that you would for some bizarre reason have to install the game? Why did I stop playing PC games again? Oh yes, that’s right, it’s because I didn’t want to faff around setting them up.

I remember not-so-fondly the day I carried my bloody heavy as f*ck PS3 home from the post office. A 10 minute walk took me 45 minutes and a hernia that day. It was the GT5 Prologue bundle. I slammed that sucker into the Bluray drive and proceeded to wait over an hour as it installed 6GB of data then downloaded a series of patches so enormous that it made a Windows Vista install feel as fast and satisfying as a teenage boy jerking off. Satisfying for the boy I mean, not me. Jesus you people, control yourselves.

So, what’s a geek girl to do? The obvious answer lay in the form of a 640GB drive on Amazon. Unfortunately, I have nothing large enough to back up on that also has a USB cable coming out of it, and well, do I really want to download 250GB of games, patches, add-ons, themes, demos, 400 SingStar songs and all the other gunk on 3 accounts all over again? Do I? Really? Thought not.

So I’m struggling on, regularly beating down unnecessarily used disk space like a Turkish wife-beater. Except for that 10GB I used for Linux of course, which can’t be recovered without reformatting – but, let’s not talk about that *stubs her cigarette out in the eye of a random passer by*

Conundrum 3: What is the iPad actually for?

I alluded earlier to the imaginary twat-like appearance that would arise were I found sitting on the floor in GameStop using an iPad. In reality, I have purple and orange hair so I look like a twat anyway, but this is besides the point. A silver iPad wouldn’t help, I’m pretty sure of that. Especially if I put it in my underwear (as I have become accustomed to doing with pads) and waddled around like Donald Duck with a severe case of constipation going “Quaaack!”.

The iPad hype is really getting on my tits. Not literally, fortunately, or I’d have to burn them off without anesthetic as part of a soul-cleansing ritual. Partly it’s getting on my tits because like all gadget freaks, I want one. Moreso, it’s getting on my tits because the world now thinks Apple is God’s gift to tablet PCs. Next they’ll tell us their company is named after the fact that it was actually Steve Jobs who discovered gravity, then improved it to make it more convenient and a better user experience (the iFall).

Do you feel tired in the mornings? Don’t worry – there’s an app for that.

Do you have problems getting laid? Well, there’s an app for that too. I always thought it was the bogs behind the train station, but apparently I was mistaken.

I have some questions though. Is there an app that lets me run Flash applets? I believe there was, it was called Adobe Creative Suite 5, and Apple banned it due to fear of sub-standard applications. Well, if you want to talk about sub-standard Steve-o, let’s talk about an $800 slate that doesn’t multi-task, can’t take photos and has no USB ports. There’s really only one reason to own an iPad: compensation for having an exceedingly small nob. I’m excluding nofi of course, his nob is huge obviously – trust me, I of all people should know – and just has one to be smug. You could do with cleaning it a bit more often though nofi or it gets nasty flecks on it. The iPad I mean. Obviously.

“But it looks so cool!” – yeah, so does clamydia, on paper. It has no symptoms except making me infertile. A win-win situation surely. Still don’t think I’d want to acquire it though.

Also, the tablet PC I have now has this futuristic thing called buttons. Which turn out to be pretty important.

Overall, I think The Sun summed it up best (perhaps the first time they have ever summed up anything accurately) in this classic commercial:

FirstPlay: Epilogue

After receiving an almost unanimous bashing from the readers of this esteemed organ for my derisory 5/10 rating of FirstPlay, I did as promised give it a fair chance. I’ve now seen 7 episodes. What do I think of it?

*Yawn*

Yes, it’s good for casual gamers who won’t spend 99p on something they know nothing about anyway and probably don’t check the store often. Yes, it’s good to sit and watch it on the sofa as you wait an hour for it to download and wonder why you’re using 2.5% of your disk space for the pleasure when it would have been much more plausible as a streaming service. Yes, it’s wonderful to pay for ads. I certainly have had a huge amount of enjoyment watching ads for Final Fantasy XIII, Just Cause 2 and Sky for 7 weeks in a row. Final Fantasy XIII is coming in March by the way, just in case you missed it – not long to wait now!

So, everything is peachy for casual gamers then. But what about the more hobbyist-oriented souls among us?

Well, I’m pleased to report that as of now the content is bang up-to date. There is tons of exclusive footage, no repetition and the featured downloads are updated regularly. Luckily the issues with the FIFA goals only using up 25% of the screen so you can’t actually see the ball, and similar problems with PSP reviews have been fixed, and the presenter has been changed to one without an annoying voice. Also the script-writing has improved dramatically. So as we can see, Future has taken all the user feedback on-board and made sweeping changes where needed.

Sorry, wait. Scratch that last paragraph, I was thinking of GameSpot. FirstPlay is still a space-guzzling abyss of mediocrity. Which at least makes it marginally better than Edge – although to be fair Edge does have an excellent pen touch interface built-in. I’m looking forward to FirstPlay’s relaunch as FirstPr0n, because let’s face it, only porn can save it now. Hence, Lucy Porter should be visible on-screen at all times.

Marc Whitten – Natal Supports Your (Football) Team

Whichever one that is. Well thank goodness for that, the world is saved.

For those of you who missed it, Microsoft VP of Genius Unfounded Speculation – Marc Whitten – announced that Natal can now sit on your sofa, analyse your t-shirt and know from that which football team you support.

Awesomesauce. Or maybe, just maybe, he’s talking bollocks. As you know I do love a good session of mocking the PlayStation Move, but I will have even less compunction in slamming down baseless claims about a piece of vapourware coming out for an unfinished product. So I’m sitting watching porn from my amazing lesbian porn server, wearing my customary white nurse’s uniform. In the voice of Stephen Hawking, Natal informs me that I’m watching a Plymouth Argyle away match and that the pitch condition is poor, with a lot of sand cover and mud in patches. I try to turn it off but it has become a sentient being hooked up to SkyNet. It jeers at me knowing full well that if I had bought a Move I could’ve used it as an integral part of my educational viewing.

Yes, Natal team support: just what I always wanted.

Enjoy your weekend my chickens; if you don’t hear from me again, it’s because by the time you read this the Conservatives have won and I’ve hung myself with piano wire.

Review: Resonance of Fate

April 26, 2010 Leave a comment

This is a re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that the blog is a complete repository of my written work. The article is reproduced without pagination, formatting, images or editorial changes made on the original site prior to original publication.

Let’s get this straight from the start. Resonance of Fate is both strategically hard, and an absolute behemoth of battle system complexity. If you don’t have patience or the willpower to spend a few hours familiarizing yourself with the gameplay dynamics of a new title, you may skip over this one right now.

Resonance of Fate – also known as End of Eternity in Japan – is a JRPG with a twist. Think Borderlands vs Final Fantasy XIII. This single-player story attempts to deliver a fine balance between traditional questing and turn-based gunplay, and for the most part succeeds.

In Resonance of Fate, you start off and finish off with 3 characters: Vashyron, Zephyr and the adorable Leanne. The characters’ appearances are fixed but for a pittance of in-game money – known as rubies – you can customise their outfits extensively. I bought Leanne a sexy pair of glasses to make her look more like a blonde Bayonetta. Each character has 3 weapon skills (machine guns, handguns and throwing weapons) which all start at level 1 and level up as you gain XP with the weapon type in question. The total level of each character is the sum of their individual weapon levels.

You start in the somewhat washed out-looking but otherwise beautifully rendered Ebel City. Many of the areas in the game are split into zones; the display handily fades out at the edges to warn you you are about to cross a boundary which is a nice touch. Zone loading times are snappy, taking only a couple of seconds.

The graphics are pretty but not groundbreaking. The entire game is based around a giant steampunk-themed tower where the last surviving humans live. This theme works well and fans of steampunk will love it – the rest of us will enjoy it too. Some of the cut scenes are almost up to FFXIII standards, but others are graphically weak.

Audio-wise, the world music-style soundtrack is beautiful and never gets tiring. The voice acting is passable and doesn’t get too stale.

The story-telling is predictably bad and disconnected, although the characters have quite the twisted sense of humour with plenty of swearing and sexual jokes to amuse us. Vashyron can often be found subtly hitting on Leanne or commenting on her “natural beauty”.

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Review: Karaoke Revolution

April 26, 2010 Leave a comment

This is a re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that the blog is a complete repository of my written work. The article is reproduced without pagination, formatting, images or editorial changes made on the original site prior to original publication.

SingStar. The juggernaut of karaoke games. Lips. The tinker toy truck of karaoke games. Now there’s a new kid in town, Konami’s franchise reboot of Karaoke Revolution.

Karaoke Revolution (2009 video game)

Karaoke Revolution (2009 video game) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first thing to note is that this game is absolutely crammed with features, including more or less everything SingStar should have had years ago: savable playlists, savable teams, multi-round rulesets for party play which can also be saved for later re-use, a jukebox mode where you can just listen (although it is limited to a maximum of 5 queued tracks at once), online play – both single games and tournaments – customizable characters, a venue creation tool and so on. There is pretty much everything here you could possibly want to customise your karaoke experience, and that is excellent.

The disk comes with 75 tracks (50 in NTSC regions), which unlike previous incarnations of Karaoke Revolution are all master tracks. There is quite a lot of overlap with SingStar but there are a number of oft-requested tracks on here like Katy Perry – I Kissed A Girl, Miley Cyrus – 7 Things, Rihanna – Disturbia, Taylor Swift – Love Story, Lily Allen – Smile and Lady Gaga – Just Dance that may nudge you into a purchase if you like that sort of thing. It’s not all cheesy pop though; Seal, REM, Pulp, Rod Stewart, Talking Heads and many others are featured.

There are no real music videos in Karaoke Revolution; instead you get a Guitar Hero-like stage and mo-capped performances. The menu interface is simple and does the job, but looks quite retro. The game graphics are similarly underwhelming, but this ultimately doesn’t really affect the experience.

The actual singing interface looks like an almost direct clone of Lips – which probably means that Lips is a direct clone of Karaoke Revolution. Fortunately you don’t need to bang or wave the mic or clap like an idiot here – instead you get multiplier boosts for singing particular phrases perfectly, with no multiplier limit. This is both good and bad, because unlike SingStar (but like Lips) there is no way to compare how good you are at any one song against any other except via the slow and cumbersome online leaderboards. At the end of the song, you are however told the percentage of notes you hit.

Unlike both the other games, Karaoke Revolution has a fairly expansive 130-event career mode based on unlocking platters. You start off at the centre of a platter and as you complete an event successfully, the adjacent sections of the platter becom unlocked. Therefore you can progress in a branching non-linear fashion if you want to. Each event has certain targets such as reaching a certain minimum notes hit, multiplier, limitations on song or genre and so on. It’s not particularly exciting, but it is another oft-requested karaoke game feature and it does at least give you the impetus to try every song a couple of times – and the ability to skip something if you really don’t like it.

It has been reported to me that online play works fluently, unfortunately I tried several times to start a match and was never able to find anyone online, so don’t expect too much online action until more copies have been sold.

One issue is that it takes quite a while for songs to load – longer than they take in Guitar Hero or Rock Band. The other karaoke games have more or less instant start.

SingStar and Lips mics are both reported to work – although the Lips mics only have a 20% gain so they are not recommended – and I’m pleased to say that both my SingStar wireless mics worked fine in battle and duet modes, despite claims to the contrary in Konami’s own FAQ.

Moving onto the store, here we have problems. Konami are pushing updates every other Thursday in alternation with SingStore updates, and the range of tracks is excellent, plus they only cost 79p each compared to 99p for SingStore tracks. Of course you don’t get the video, and the big issue is that they are all covers. However, this apparently is not as bad as one might imagine. I tested it out with the cover of Michael Jackson’s Beat It and it was almost indistinguishable from the original song. The singer was of course, a little rougher, but the rest of the song used the same samples, instruments and melody. It did not negatively impact the gameplay experience at all.

Unfortunately, the store does not allow you to preview tracks, and it also presents only the title of the song and not the name of the original performer – so unless you’ve got a very keen eye for song names, it is pot luck whether you actually get the right song or not. This really needs to be addressed. Most of the store releases so far have also been regurgitated tracks from older PS2 disks, so we really need to wait and see what Konami brings to the table when their back catalogue runs out.

And that’s the rub: the success or failure of this game will ultimately depend on its DLC. Guitar Hero has now more or less flopped against Rock Band in part due to its overpriced and niche appeal DLC. Karaoke Revolution may flop against SingStar in the same way. SingStar currently has about 1250 English language tracks available on its store – many of them are arguably chaff but there is nonetheless plenty of goodness to be found. If Konami roll out well-known songs with master recordings, this game easily has the credentials to trounce and destroy SingStar due to its much richer feature set. If they don’t, Karaoke Revolution will likely fade into oblivion – which would really be a shame.

Pros:

  • Good well-rounded track selection for most people including previously unlicensed tracks
  • Huge wealth of gameplay and customisation options
  • Jukebox mode lets you listen to your songs without playing
  • DLC is cheap

Cons:

  • Retro graphics
  • Long loading times
  • Difficult to find an online match
  • The longevity of the game hinges on future DLC which is currently uncertain

In rating Karaoke Revolution, I have taken the game on its own merit as a standalone product and ignored the DLC issues, so you should take that into consideration when mulling over the purchase.

If you like karaoke games, Karaoke Revolution is a no-brainer even if you already own SingStar. It doesn’t have the polish or refinement of SingStar, but it does have heaps of potential, and the career mode will keep you busy for a while, especially when you consider a SingStar disk usually ships with 30 songs and a Lips disk with 40.

8/10


The Gaming Rant 6

April 23, 2010 Leave a comment

This is an unedited, uncensored re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that fans can read the uncensored versions.

WARNING! This article is intended as a piece of satirical diatribe. Some readers may find the language and themes within extremely offensive.

Contains strong language and sexual references. This article is satire and does not reflect the views of TheSixthAxis or myself. Only Kazunori Yamauchi knows the real truth.

So who here has played Airline Manager on Facebook? No, me neither, but man what a fun gaming week it would be to work in NATS ATC now (the national air traffic control centre). OMGZ there’s been a volcano eruption, the world is coming to an end! No problem, if you can’t handle the traffic, bring in some hardcore gamers, they will have the routes sorted out in no time.

Seriously whatever happened to me being able to choose for myself whether to take a life-threatening risk or not? Remember when we were kids and you didn’t have to wear bike helmets or seatbelts or wear 100 pieces of padding to do the vaguest of sport-related activities? Or when video games didn’t have stupid epilepsy warnings, and when BBC news presenters didn’t start each clip with “please be aware this footage contains flash photography”. I have epilepsy; I don’t need to be reminded every five minutes that a game can make me have a seizure, it comes with the territory. If you are that forgetful, you should be culled by natural selection.

I was supposed to be in Germany on Monday. If I want to risk crashing in an ash storm and the pilot and crew are ok with that, why the hell shouldn’t I be able to? Health & Safety is way overrated *puffs on her cigarette*.

What? It’s delayed? Are you joking, cos it’s not funny

Of course, by far the most annoying thing about this whole ash business is that my video games are delayed. Seriously, how dare they. And how come Dead To Rights Retribution is delayed but FIFA 10 World Cup is on time? How does that work then? FIFA is so important that EA has labradors swimming across the English channel with Bluray pallets strapped on their backs, but those of us who are gagging to play another average 3rd person shooter that brings nothing new to the genre have to put up with being treated like second class citizens? Unacceptable.

Belgium bans violent video games

Or maybe it was Switzerland, I forgot. Anyway a couple of weeks ago some random European country thought it would be a good idea to further limit consumer freedom by taking away the option of buying Dead Space, while strangely leaving the Aliens movie box set on sale.

Seriously, which is more disturbing: Modern Warfare 2’s No Russian scene, or Saw 4? I rest my case.

Are you a parent who thinks this is a good idea? Then I have one word for you: China. There’s nothing like government censorship to make me feel all warm and cosy inside, and as you know, the people of China are way better off with censored media; wouldn’t you like to live in a country like that Mr and Mrs. Ignorant Parent? In the free world, I believe we call it an “oppressive regime”.

Parents aren’t stupid, they’re naïve

I have some minors on my PSN friends list (I know, I’m a predator – deal with it). Two of them I happen to know are 16 years old each, local friends, and guess what they have both been playing online together? Modern Warfare 2, and Bioshock 2.

Now, at least in the case of the girl, her parents aren’t dumb. I’ve chatted with them on Skype, and I concluded they were in fact massively over-protective. That has nothing to do with the fact her mom wouldn’t let me shag her daughter, of course – obviously. No, they are over-protective to the point where I feel sorry for her; she has no freedom and won’t have a clue how to look after herself when she gets carted off to University in 2 years, because they barely let her outside without an electronic tag around her ankle.

This girl has also been regularly sexually harassed on PSN – a situation I dealt with maturely by chatting the offending gentleman up, getting him to give his address and phone number out on chat then calling him up and threatening to slit his throat if he wrote to the girl again, while it was recorded and uploaded to YouTube.

What does all this mean, other than the fact I’m a jerk? It means her over-protective parents don’t have one iota of a clue what she is getting up to, or being exposed to, online. Yet, for some reason, her over-protective parents allow her to play 18-rated video games which I know for a fact she has no money to purchase of her own accord.

Seriously, I mean what the f*ck… you shield your children from talking to any stranger in the real world, or watching violent movies, or talking on MSN unless she sneaks her laptop into bed, yet you let her play 18-rated games and chat on PSN all day long? If you are one of these types of parents and you’re whining about video games, here is a kind appeal to your sensibilities: shut the fuck up until you can read a rating label.

Drinking games

While we’re on the subject of video games screwing up teenage girls, let me ask you this: how many victims of gunshot wounds do you hear about in A&E every Saturday night? Now tell me how many drunk people who got into a fist fight you hear about in the same place.

Last I checked, there is an unfortunate dearth of drinking games, and since these drunken tosspots obviously weren’t affected by video games, I propose a new controversial genre: FPDs, or First Person Drinkers.

The aim is simple: it is the near future, in a post-apocalyptic world filled with zombies. Your only chance for escape is to drink yourself into oblivion. Zombies can be intoxed to death with increasingly high level liquors, and drop loot in the form of wheat and yeast extract which can be crafted in log barrels to make higher potencies. You start at level 1 with Baileys, and proceed through Jeigermeister, Perno and eventually culminating at level 50 with Tequila triple-shots and moonshine.

Given the current A&E stats, I can see no possible negative consequences of such a genre. Everyone is drunk already, so even if it does affect children, you’re never gonna notice anyway. ESRB will rate it E for everyone of course, because it has no violent content. They’re smart like that.

Crytek: Crysis 2 has “no port”

Crytek has apparently reported to Edge – in one of the most laughable pieces of technical bollocks I’ve heard lately – that their game Crysis 2 has “no port”, that it will have the best graphics ever, and as the icing on the cake, CEO Cevat Yeril claimed that free demos will become a thing of the past and we should expect to stump up $10-15 for an extended demo.

Pretty impressive stuff coming from a company with no proven track record in the console market, eh?

First off, let’s debunk the “no port” stupidity. PCs, 360s and PS3s run on different hardware architectures, different operating systems and different SDKs. It is not possible, I repeat, not possible to develop a product that runs on all three machine without porting. If you want to do that, you have to create a virtual machine (VM) to run the code on top of it. Then you can write the game code without porting, but the VM itself has to be ported. It also adds an extra layer to the game code which slows down execution.

I realise an analogy may be required. Consider it like this: you want to clean the walls of your house. You could stand at each wall of the living room, wipe it with a sponge, then move onto the next wall. But when you go to the next room, the walls are in a different arrangement – perhaps an L-shaped bathroom for example – and you have to move around in a different fashion to do the washing. Here, the living room is an Xbox 360, and the bathroom is a PS3.

Now let’s say you don’t want to go to the effort of moving around or working out the wall orientation in each room. So, you construct an automation layer. You fill your house with about 4 feet of treacle, then install a moving platform which wades through the treacle, tracking against each wall automatically. It moves up and down in a continuous fashion so you can reach the ceiling, but you have no control over it. Now all you have to do is stand on the platform and scrub, paying no attention to where you are or where you’re going. The treacle and the platform here is the VM. It will still get the job done, but will it go as smoothly or efficiently?

Want proof? Well, lucky for you, there is a product that already works just like this. It’s called Java. The Java VM is ported to various platforms, then you write the code in the Java language and it runs on any machine with a Java VM available.

So, theoretically, this can also be done for consoles. Does it make for the future of development? Well, obviously it does. I mean, look at the Java applications available today. Clearly some of the finest games run on Java, and all the fastest, smoothest running applications also run on Java. Oh wait, that’s right, they don’t, they’re all platform-specific. Because Java is slow, bloated and generally shit.

Trying to write a game to run on a VM across PC, 360 and PS3 is a terrible, terrible idea, and will lead to only one thing: complete slop. Probably with the consistency of treacle.

Crytek: Paid Demos are the Future

Orly? I proposed this idea to a casual gamer friend of mine – he laughed in my face.

Now I don’t care if they want to charge $10 or 1 cent, paying for an advert is wrong, and an advert is what it is (wow, that sounds kind of like FirstPlay eh). Having a look at my shelf, here are some games I bought that I had never heard of (because I wasn’t reading gaming sites every day at the time), that I bought only because they had a free demo, that would have otherwise passed me by: Bioshock, Dead Space, Mirror’s Edge, Resistance 2, Overlord, FEAR 2, Killzone 2. And that’s just from the end of 2008 to March 2009. If you’re not reading gaming news, you’re certainly not going to pay for a demo of a game you’ve never heard of.

My friend said “whatever happened to the concept of spending money to make money?”. Indeed, it’s called an advertising budget last I checked. Anyone who says making a demo is time-consuming should be shot on sight. A demo is a source code fork of a game with some text changed and some code chopped out and replaced with purchase screens. If it takes you more than a week to make that, do us a favour and resign now. Oh and by the way I’ve made demos; by far the longest part of the process is the publisher’s QA approval, so you can spare me the lecture on justifying why your demo is so special.

What about the expense of making a demo? A few dozen man hours. This is literally the cheapest and most effective form of advertising of any media. Making a movie trailer involves tons of editing, new voicing, new sound sequencing. Making a demo doesn’t, because a discrete, sequential portion of a game that has nothing in it that isn’t in the full game, or out of order. Not only that, but every single person who goes onto XBL or PSN will see it, as opposed to a movie trailer which you will only happen to see if you switch on your TV at the right moment.

Last year Sony published figures stating that games with demos sold 33% more copies on average. Just think about that – that’s hundreds of millions of dollars of extra revenue for the sake of spending the effort to make something considerably cheaper and more directly targeted than a movie trailer. You would be crazy to sacrifice a revenue stream like that.

Let’s face it. Games cost a ton of money. When I bought my HDTV, the shop let me screw around with the settings on all their TVs, check reviews on the internet, hook up my own hardware, try Blurays and DVDs, SD and HD broadcasts, all in the shop, for several hours. I sat on the floor reading the manuals and tuning the TVs to see which gave a picture that was most like the way I wanted it. Why did they let me do this? Because it takes them 5 or 10 minutes to reset after the shop is closed, and they’re going to make a barrel load of cash out of me. It’s called customer service.

There is only one good reason not to release a free demo of your game: if it sucks, and you know it.

FIFA 10 is good

And here comes a perfect case in point. I hate football games. I dislike football in general, although I can be found watching the Euro, World Cup and occasionally Champions League closing stage matches. I don’t know anything about the teams or players and I don’t follow the schedules. I am still struggling with the off-side rule. England is captained by some bloke called Fabio Capello. I think. That is the extent of my knowledge of football (doesn’t make me a very good lesbian I know, sorry about that).

I had decided to watch the World Cup this summer, so with some reticence I downloaded the FIFA 10 World Cup demo. It was brilliant. I went to the shop and bought the original FIFA 10.

But what have they really sold to me here? Well they’ve sold FIFA 10, FIFA 10 World Cup, FIFA 11 and a premier league Live Season access subscription at the least. Would I have paid 50p for a demo? No I would not.

Moving on though – why the hell do I like a football game? I can tell you I got some pretty amusing “FIFA 10? Damn I wasn’t expecting that!” messages over the few days that followed. Yet strangely, playing against my ex’s favourite team Arsenal – which I regularly rag on him about – and losing, led to the greatest frequency of cussing at my PS3 in a 5 minute period ever seen since the purchase of the machine.

I was left shocked, dismayed and bitter at how enjoyable the game was. Fellow females, I hang my head in shame. I have let you all down. Well, the pretty ones anyway.

Modern Warfare 2: The Bitchslap Chronicles

What’s the best thing about Modern Warfare 2? Spec Ops or Multi-player? Neither. It’s the classic soap opera currently unraveling between our ex-Infinity Ward friends West and Zampella, Activision and all the other walkouts. Lawsuits are being loaded into stinger missiles even as we speak. W&Z – now apparently known as the ‘Modern Warfare Two’ – have Respawned into a new company that will no doubt spend the rest of its days failing to emulate the success of the brand.

Paragraph 68 of Activision’s counter-suit struck me with particular amusement. It states:

“As alleged above, West and Zampella have breached the MOU by interfering with Activision’s ability to publish and market Modern Warfare 2 by, among other things, failing to include the Activision logo in the game and refusing Activision’s request to remedy that failure. West and Zampella have further breached the MOU by openly criticizing Activision which interfered with Activision’s ability to market Modern Warfare 2.”

I don’t know about you, but 1. I’ve never seen a Memorandum of Understanding which prevents a studio from criticising a publisher – it’s called freedom of speech and it’s the law – and 2. Last I checked they didn’t criticise Activision until after the game was out and they failed to get paid for their work (so they say).

Of course, you have to wonder – not including the Activision logo impeded their ability to publish the game? Why? Imagine the customers’ incense! “Oh my God I rushed home, ripped the shrinkwrap off Modern Warfare 2, put it in the console and holy shit there was no Activision logo – I took it straight back to the store in disgust!” Yes, I’m sure you lost loads of sales from that Greek tragedy.

Who’s doing the marketing? Infinity Ward or Activision? Exactly. Slap your logo on the TV ads then. How does it make the game harder to market when nobody sees the contents of the disk til they’ve bought it? Talk about a flawed argument.

The logo issue was of course, just one item “among other things”. Oops-a-daisy though, because you forgot to state in the affidavit what the other things were. One can therefore only assume they were even more petty than a stupid logo.

Of course, there are few things funnier than an arrogant boss deliberately making controversial remarks for a year then getting publicly owned. That applies to me too, so I better shut up now.

First Level: Dead To Rights Retribution

April 23, 2010 Leave a comment

This is a re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that the blog is a complete repository of my written work. The article is reproduced without pagination, formatting, images or editorial changes made on the original site prior to original publication.

Well well, what have we here? It looks like a third person shooter, smells like a third person shooter, but it’s, sort of, not.

Dead to Rights: Retribution

Dead to Rights: Retribution (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dead To Rights: Retribution does have a plot but I’m not really sure what it is. The key thing to draw from it is that you’re a brawly guy with a vicious dog and you have to kill people. That is about all the stimulus required to get going with the game.

In the Prologue, you get to control the dog Shadow, running around protecting your master with the excellent ability to bite off the testicles of those trying to assassinate him. There is gore-a-plenty, and while it’s not as satisfying as in, say, Dante’s Inferno, it is nevertheless fun to sprint to an enemy and maul him down.

Chapter 1 sees you ascending the 97-story local TV station office block in a series of rather repetitive and bland environments. They are functional, but not exciting. You work your way up punching, kicking, disarming and shooting endless hordes of bad guys punctuated by cut scenes. It is moderately entertaining, but the variety is poor so far.

Dead To Rights: Retribution is not exactly a hack’n’slash game either. In many respects it plays like one, but from the perspective of a shooter rather than the overhead cameras we see in games like God of War 3 and Darksiders.

The controls work reasonably well and the game features a decent cover system, combos, focus mode (slow motion for a limited time), some deliciously vicious animations when you finish off an enemy with a smackdown move, and you can also clinch the enemies and choose what to do with them. Shadow can drag dead bodies, and there is a reasonable variety of weapons at your disposal. However, the camera rotation is a bit weird and this causes quite a few problems. It is sometimes hard to turn around to attack an enemy behind you for no apparent reason, and there is a certain fish-eye lens-like quality to the way the scene pans as you rotate the camera. It also doesn’t always quite precisely track where you are facing, which makes aiming harder than it needs to be.

Graphics are average. Sound is good and well-executed. Cut scenes have better graphical quality, voice acting is moderate. Plot is non-existent. There is no multi-player, local or online, although that really doesn’t matter for me personally as I tend to just hammer the single-player campaigns.

My initial gut feeling is that, much like Quantum of Solace and Wolfenstein, there is nothing wrong with Dead To Rights Retribution as such, it just lacks a certain punch (no pun intended) and attention to fine detail, plus the controls could and should be more precise.

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