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X-COM: Best Strategy Game Ever

VS

At the time of this writing, I’ve played through nearly all of X-COM: Enemy Unknown so I feel that, aside for maybe a few things that happen at the end that are yet unknown to me, I am hopefully pretty accurate with this info. I’m not here to review the game; you can read about that anywhere considering this is a pretty high profile game. I am here to discuss the differences between the new Firaxis developed reboot and the original strategy masterpiece by Microprose. First and foremost, I know most people are saying they’re dumbed the game game. I don’t know if I really agree with that sentiment per se. Streamlined, definitely, but not necessarily dumbed down. Many of the micromanagement facets of the game that might have bogged down gameplay have been cut or changed and what remains is a sound strategy game where they leave you to focus more on the tactics of combat.

However, most of the things they removed are things that I liked. My list of grievances is as follows:

  • Having multiple bases is gone. It’s not something that would be required the way the new mechanics are set up, but I enjoyed this level of management.
  • Your soldiers level progression is predetermined. No longer are their stats determined by how you outfit them and method of play.
  • Rockets have been nerfed. Heavies can only carry 1 rocket per mission (2 with an upgrade). There are no inventory slots to take extra rockets and incendiary rockets are gone completely.
  • Aircraft options are limited. Hybrid craft are non-existent (to  my knowledge) which means that shooting down a craft and mopping up afterwards can no longer be a simultaneous affair.
  • Interceptors cannot be sent out in multiples. You can only send out one at a time and hope for the best.
  • Selling items is limited to only what is salvaged from aliens on a mission. You can no longer sell weapons, gear, items, etc, from your own stores.

Then there are some things that I’m mostly indifferent about. I acknowledge their change, and I can see why they did it, but either way would have been fine with me. Gone now are the different types of shots. Aimed shot, snap shot, auto shots are all gone  leaving everyone with just a generic fire mode. But Time Units are gone as well, so the amount of time each soldier used to line up a shot is irrelevant now anyway. TUs have been replaced with each soldier simply being granted 2 action points a turn, which allows them to move and then have 1 action or spend the entire turn running. Though this leaves less flexibility with what each character can do per turn, that also makes you think harder about what they must do. Setting up your soldiers personal inventory has been simplified, making it easier to just jump into a mission, but it also limits what they are able to carry, but that again makes you think harder about what to do with what you’re given.

Some changes they made are definitely logical choices that made the game better:

  •  Movement is far more fluid. Climbing, getting into cover, ducking, etc, happens automatically and doesn’t require a specific button press from the command icons.
  • Soldier classes. I know I said i don’t like that you can’t customize your soldiers as much, but having classes is great. Each class gets specific abilities that help further personalize them and add a new element to leveling up rather than just increased stats and researching new weapons.
  • New armor. All over the place. A handful of new armor types that have nifty functions like cloaking and grappling hooks.
  • By far the best – and by today’s standards, necessary change – is the addition of multiplayer, complete with leaderboards and customizable teams. The only thing I could hope for there would be some kind of co-op mode, but I won’t cry about it.

You can say this game has been dumbed down, but  it’s really just a different type of game. They wanted to take the focus off micromanagement and base development and put it more into the action and combat experience. Much of the tedium from the original game has been broken down, though I enjoyed parts of that tedium. Yes, they did simplify a lot, but the quality Firaxis put into X-Com: Enemy Unknown stands up on its own against the original. Plus, this is the most intelligent and tactically sound game that has been released on a console in years

For those of you who do actually come to this blog and follow it to any degree, I apologize for it’s rather lacklusterness lately. I’ve been super busy trying to buy a house, trying to get a new car, looking for a better and more fulfilling career (partly because I never saw the job I have now as a career). If anyone knows of any job opportunities around the southern NH area, seriously, let me know. I’d be willing to do nearly anything as long as it gets me out of my current situation. That being said, the car and house part of my time consumption are almost taken care of and once that’s squared away, I can get back into some serious gaming.

Xbox Ruined Wrestling Forever

Yeah, it’s been about a month since my last post. I’ve been extremely busy working on some projects which I’ll be talking about at a later date.

Anyway, Xbox didn’t really ruin wrestling forever, but they did ruin my favorite wrestling video game franchise, Fire Pro-Wrestling, by bastardizing it with their stupid avatars. We all know how much I hate these avatar games and generally I don’t even have a passing interest in them, so it’s ok. I go my way, they go theirs and we’re both content to leave each other alone. But now they have some real nerve invading my personal space.

I was first introduced to the series with Fire Pro-Wrestling S: 6 Man Scramble, for Sega Saturn. I knew then that no other wrestling game would ever compare. The editing features at the time put everything else to shame. Not just wrestling games, but everything. There had never been a game before (to my knowledge) with the depth of creation that Fire Pro-Wrestling offered. Graphics were never a part of it. The graphics weren’t necessarily bad, but they weren’t anything spectacular either, but it totally didn’t matter. When you can craft every little detail about your character – their entire move set, taunts,  individual body part sizes so you can have absurdly large Popeye forearms and tiny legs, the sound effects he yells out when doing a move, it becomes a tough act to follow. You can make your own federations, your own rings, they even have a variety of options for refs.

Fire Pro-Wrestling Returns was the latest console iteration of the franchise, released on the PS2 and albeit a rather convoluted editing system, it was the most well flushed out that the series has to offer. Though it still had one major hurdle; it’s PS2 limitations, that meant that there was no real online multiplayer support. That’s what this game always needed. With the ability to create all sorts of bizarre and bombastic wrestlers, you would of course want to show them off in online matches. XBLA finally gives us that opportunity, BUT THEY RUINED THE GAME!

Excitement was my initial emotion when I saw Fire Pro-Wrestling  available for download, followed immediately by despair. Why avatars? Fine, they didn’t want to use sprites. I get it, it’s an outdated medium for on-screen characters; 3D models are the way to go. But did they have to use those goofy avatars? The game acts like an even sillier version of WWE All-Stars. It’s way too over the top. Not that Fire Pro-Wrestling was ever a serious affair, but at least it had dignity god dammit! In the new one, the characters awkward gait belies the grace and dexterity that a true athlete has at their disposal. They walk around like dandy fops and have ridiculous moves that launch people 30 feet above the ring, acting as an over-embellished insult to real wrestling. Look, I’m no fool. I’m sure many of you are thinking that wrestling is already fake and ridiculous and over the top, so what’s the big deal? I’m a wrestling fan, and this is a very serious matter. Yes, we all know wrestling is fake, but there are still certain parameters you should follow to maintain at least some credibility. This new XBLA Fire Pro-Wrestling says bullocks to that.

Gah! I hate this all because the game is actually really good. I’m stuck in a terrible internal conflict rivaling that of Jessie Spano’s decision to date the short guy in that one episode. Some new elements have been added which almost made me want to overlook that the game is a joke. Creating your wrestler can be even more fun than before. Maybe not more fun, but more rewarding. After creating your wrestler in previous games, that was pretty much it as far as that wrestler’s tale goes. You’re free to do whatever you want while you’re creating them, but that immediate gratification leaves little rewards in the long haul. Your wrestler has more of a career-oriented, rpg style, approach to his creation. Participating in matches will gain you EXP and unlock more moves, which makes your wrestler feel more personal as you’re along with them the whole way as they rise to power.

I wanted so much to like this game. And I tried, I really did. Even now, I kind of want to play it, but it hurts so much when I turn it on. It’s like the 4th Indiana Jones movie…

Playing Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect 3 is out. No time for any nonsense this week. Consider this a status update for the indeterminable future.

 

Xmas Games – Any Worth Playing?

“Why don’t you post something about holiday Christmas games that have come out?”

“No, that is such a horrendous waste of time. Why would I bother talking about games that are disastrously awful?”

“Well do you have anything better you wanted to talk about this week?”

“Yeah, kinda. There’s that Metroid 2 fan remake that’s finally nearing completion. I’ve been meaning to do something on that for a while now.”

“Well you can put that off a little longer.”

“You’re right! I can!”

That’s pretty much the conversation I had with myself about doing this. As we swing inexorably towards what I know as the culmination event of our consumer/retail bondage-fest, which you may know as Christmas, there are inevitably going to be game developers hoping to bank on our misguided holiday spirit. Thus we have holiday themed games, and they are NEVER any good or worth paying for. Except for maybe Christmas Lemmings, but that was just a skin over a pre-existing game… and it was free.

So I took the time to browse through a few holiday-centric games and believe me, they’re not worth your time or money. Although there was one that sort of stuck out – Elf Squad 7. I’ll be honest, I was tricked into playing this because I didn’t even realize it was a holiday game. The biggest point it has going for it, it’s only a buck. Secondly, and very surprisingly, it’s made by Stardock! Stardock specializes in strategy games like Sins of a Solar Empire, which caused a few blinks of disbelief when I saw their logo attached to a cutesy-ish, retro style, holiday game. Which leads me to the third point, it’s retro, and we all know I’m a sucker for those. The music isn’t as chiptuney as I would have expected though, but it is happy and catchy and I can’t complain. The basic premise of the game is that there’s a present shortage and you have to help wrap the gifts. Toys and such fall from the sky and you have to use your gift wrapping gun to save them. Wrap enough gifts in the allotted time to beat the stage. In between stages you can buy upgrades, which I normally wouldn’t expect from such a basic game, but thankfully Stardock made it. You can pick from 6 different characters, and up to 4 people can play at once. Available on XBOX Live and PC. There’s a lot of game here for only a dollar. Christmas game or not, this is a good buy, and probably the only Xmas game that came out this year worth playing.

This is where I was going to list the other Xmas games that I came across, but I won’t even bother. You’re not going to play them, and you shouldn’t. Waste of time for me to talk about them and waste of time for you to know about them.

You know what, just play Christmas Lemmings. You can download it free HERE. But keep in mind it’s a DOS game. If you don’t know what Lemmings is, or DOS for that matter, then just adhere to my earlier statement of all Christmas themed games being garbage.

I was thinking, I created this blog with praising indie games in mind. It seems so often I’m bashing them. So much negativity… The next post will be a positive, upbeat one. I promise!

Xbox Avatar Games are Stupid

Stop making avatar games for Xbox Live. And I don’t mean games like Kinect Sports or whatever other Kinect games use avatars. Don’t get me wrong, those games aren’t worth my time, but I will at least acknowledge their right to exist. My problem is with the games you download from the indie arcade like Avatar Sudoku,  Avatar Lawn Mowing,  Avatar Fighter Online, or Avatar Granny Assassin (actually that one might be kinda cool if they made it). Does anyone actually download this garbage? I’m insulted that they even make these. I wish I could say that most people don’t care about the Xbox Live avatars, but I’d be dead wrong. This is apparent through all the real world money that is spent to acquire fake digital clothing items to play dress up and make your avatars pretty. What an absolute waste. If you’re going to throw your money away like that, instead of spending a dollar on that new shirt that came out for your Xbox Live avatar, that in no way is going to affect your life either positively or negatively, and if you avoid the transaction altogether you can continue on your way and nothing will have made a difference, donate that dollar to charity. Pretty much every super market ever has a donation thing. I really don’t want to infuse my political or social agenda on this blog, but instead of spending 3 bucks for that lighsaber – which I will admit looks cool, but is utterly useless in every aspect of your life – buy a pack of socks for the homeless.

Sorry that got a little off topic. So the indie arcade avatar games are never any good. If there’s a good one out there, I challenge you to find it and prove me wrong. I’m not too proud. I’m willing to admit when I’ve been bested. Or better yet, someone make a good avatar game. Since their inception, the avatars have painstakingly gone out of their way at every turn to make it abundantly clear how useless they are, but since they’re there, let’s give them something good to do.

Avatar paintball – garbage. Avatar Laser Wars – horrible. Avatar Fighter Online – why not just play Street Fighter? I’ve had these thoughts before but I usually keep them to myself.  I don’t like to be a hate monger, especially on the internet because we all know that’s the last thing we need to see here. But Avatar Adventure Online has me so personally offended that I just couldn’t hold it back anymore. It’s just dumb. The concept around it is dumb, the graphics are dumb, the playability is dumb, the enemies are dumb, the idea to make the game is dumb. Seriously, how many MMOs are out there now? How many of them are good? MOST of them are completely free! So right there, before we’ve even delved into why the game itself is bad, is a reason for why the avatar games should stop being made. Why would you ever pay money to play a horrible game when you could easily play another horrible, yet slightly better game, for free?! Yet still I was curious. I’ve played nearly every MMO I’ve come across and I wasn’t about to stop, so I had to at least check out the demo. I would say that I was disappointed when the game loaded up, but to be disappointed would make the assumption that positive anticipation was present. When compared to pretty much any other game from as far back as 10 years ago, Avatar Adventures Online still looks like it’s a few years behind. The landscapes, if you want to call them that, looked awful. Clearly the mentally challenged designer was rebelling, possibly infuriated by his lack of enemas.

Everquest

Avatar Adventures Online

If we do a side by side comparison to Everquest, considered to be the genre defining game, which launched in 1999, it still looks slightly better. The only reason a game shouldn’t be up to graphical standards is if it’s integral to the game design. Obviously a game designed to be 16-bit shouldn’t be expected to look like Crysis. But I don’t see any reasoning to intentionally take a 3D landscape, which uses polygonal features, and not use current gen lighting, texture mapping, etc, when the system it’s being played on is clearly capable of it. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe people do miss the early days of polygon graphics and have a nostalgic soft spot for that “devoid of all detail” look. Oh, and the first enemy I came across was a big, round, dumb, bumble-bee. That’s when I turned the game off.

 

24 Hour Gaming Marathon for Extra-Life

October 15th has finally arrived and the 24 hour gaming marathon begins!. Anyone looking for some gaming action, feel free to join me at any point during the day on XBOX Live. Incase you didn’t know it already, my gamertag is Goresaw.

The days agenda will include, but will not be limited to:

  • Street Fighter IV – I do have the arcade edition so I’m open to any challenge
  • Warhammer: Space Marine – Seize ground ALL DAY unless someone sends me an invite to another game. Space Marine will be taking up the largest chunk of my day however.
  • Guardian Heroes – it’s 800 points from the marketplace. One of the best brawlers from Sega Saturn. If you haven’t already downloaded this game, stop what you’re doing right now and get it and then send me an invite!
  • Super Puzzle Fighter – like columns but with Street Fighter.
  • Borderlands – starting at around 9 or 10pm,  new game from level 1

I’m open to any challenge though, so as long as I own the game, let’s play.

Batman Arkham City 360 Misprint

For those of you who haven’t spotted it already, look just below Catwoman’s ass.

This is the back of the box for the Batman: Arkham City XBOX 360 Collector’s Edition. Why is this an error? Because it says it comes with an animated movie on blu-ray. I thought to myself, “How odd that the 360 would come with a blu-ray movie.” But it doesn’t. There’s really a DVD inside. This may be a minor error, but an error nonetheless. Didn’t they learn anything from the IGN logo copy and paste fiasco from the Okami Wii release?

Does this affect anyone? Is this a major life changing event? Is someone getting fired for this? Probably not and it’s all completely irrelevant. But it’s fun to point out someones irreversible publicized blunders.

If you still don’t see it, click on the image for a larger picture.

Donate for Extra-Life – FINAL WEEK

This is the final week to donate towards this fundraiser.  On Oct. 15th I’ll be taking part in this marathon of gaming to help raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network. Any donations are welcome. Remember, 100% of your donation goes towards charity. If you don’t think you have enough to donate, just think, even ONE DOLLAR can make a difference. And if you feel you can’t even do that, just pass this along to someone else and ask them to do it. Just click on the picture above to donate. And you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your chair to donate. Credit cards are welcome.

Ninja Madness

A Ninja themed set of 3 quickies available from the Indie Xbox Live Arcade.

Ninja Stole My Bike

Ugh. This game is such trash. I won’t go into much detail about the gameplay, because there really isn’t much. Take an impossible game and make it more boring and then you have Ninja Stole My Bike. They took a genre of game where all you really do is press one button and found a way to make it less interesting. There are two redeeming qualities to this game however. For starters, it only costs 80 MSP, which is most likely more than what it cost to make the game. The other, which is probably already obvious to fans of YTMND.com, is the games namesake. Basically, your playing the cut scene from Punch-Out!! But instead of an up and coming boxer chasing a fat black man on a bike, you’re a pizza delivery boy chasing a ninja. So aside from the little chuckle I got from the connection to an overtly racist internet meme, this game is only worth it for those who have a major crush on these types of games and have played every other one in existence.

Developer: NinthDimensional

Released: 02/10/2011

Ninja Sneaking

Has that annoying chibi style of art, but that’s really the only negative thing I have to say about this game. It’s honestly pretty good for what it is. It’s a weird hybrid of a side-scrolling action platformer and stealth game, with a little bit of impossible game thrown in. Think if Solid Snake was storming Dr. Wily’s castle. The game has a much quicker pace than any Metal Gear though; you won’t be sitting there for more then a few seconds waiting for an enemy to turn away. You’re given two basic instructions at the onset of the game: Don’t be seen, and don’t murder anyone. The don’t be seen part was a given, I was expecting that considering the title and all. But the second part – no killing?! You’re a ninja and ninjas use swords and a swords sole purpose is to kill. Instead your sword is relegated to a glorified door slasher. The music’s not so bad either. I set my standards low for indie games, so I won’t say it’s good, but it’s catchy and goes with the pace of the game pretty well. This one’s also only 80 MSP and you could do much worse with a dollar.

Developer: Winglay

Released: 08/27/2011

Akane the Kunoichi

Kunoichi = female ninja

Definitely the most visually appealing of the three games reviewed. The 16-bit art style took me right back to the days of the SNES, with bright and vibrant sprite animations and backgrounds. This is a straight up action platformer. Akane performs as you would expect a ninja to – doing wall jumps, throwing projectiles at enemy ninjas, and harnessing her potent ninja magic. Although, the whole stealth aspect of being a ninja is thrown at the window. It kind of reminded me of Shinobi, but far more colorful, like if Nintendo had made Shinobi instead of Sega. The only real complaint I have is the noise she makes EVERY TIME you jump. I could really do without that, or at least some variety in effects. That aside, it was a pretty solid game. Controlled well, aesthetically pleasing to the eyes, and a halfway decent soundtrack. I’m not a particularly big fan of platformers, so for that to be my only gripe shows that there was a good degree of effort put into developing this title. At only 80 MSP, it’s definitely worth the dollar.

Developer: Haruneko

Released: 05/28/2011

Since this is my top pick of the three, it deserves a video.

Don’t forget to share this post!

Thanks for reading!

By the way, if you’re still wondering about where Ninja Stole My Bike go its inspiration, GO HERE. But I warn you, it IS racist.

Retro City Rampage

If you haven’t heard of Retro City Rampage yet, you either didn’t grow up with a NES or you’re one of those people that doesn’t play anything but Madden. But if your gaming library consists of more than just the past 3 years of EA sports titles, please, read on.

Retro City Rampage is a Grand Theft Auto open world style parody, but done in glorious 8-bit! In development now by Vblank Entertainment, a process which has almost reached completion after 7 long years. I had a chance to chat with Brian Provinciano, the founder and lead developer, briefly via email. He’s a busy man and has already done a handful of interviews with people far more important than myself, plus I didn’t want to hamper production of this game any further, so I kept the questions short.

Greg – Clearly there were many influences you had going into this game; Mega man, Duck Tales, Metal Gear, Grand Theft Auto, Bionic Commando, Jackal. You didn’t seem to stick to just games either, I see Back to the Future* in your logo. Did I miss any? What else was on your mind?

Brian – I got into games because of the games I loved growing up. Retro City Rampage is an homage and celebration to pretty much everything that I’ve held a controller to and enjoyed. I’ve lost count!

Greg – How did you find ways to fit all the parodies* in? Was there a massive brainstorming sessions or just work them in as they came to you? I feel this is a pertinent question because every time I watch a video, I notice another little easter egg.

Brian – There were some brainstorming sessions, mostly in the beginning, but otherwise it’s mostly me. Maxime (the other artist on the project) has some great ideas though too when we’re adding some extra cherries on top.

Greg – I know Grand Thefttendo was the original title. I hear it was even originally supposed to be on a cartridge. What other major changes have taken place since? Are there things that have been taken out of the game that couldn’t fit?

Brian – Grand Theftendo was an entirely different game, but same end goal –an 8-bit Grand Theft Auto style open world game. I developed that on the NES, whereas Retro City Rampage is running on current platforms and does far more than an NES actually could. It still retains the same feel but packs are more punch, fun and is dosed with more sprinkles.

Greg – I guess with the cost of production, I can see why you chose to go digital, but will we ever see a physical copy?

Brian – It’s possible, but I wouldn’t expect something like that to happen for over a year if it did. Digital is far better in many ways. It costs 6-7 figures to release a retail game. Some XBLA games gross less than that. We may sell retro boxes/manuals with download codes though. It’s still up in the air.

Greg – Can you make just one? Or two. One for me, one for you of course. I’ll pay for both.

Brian – Unfortunately you can’t just start the presses for a couple copies of a console game.

Greg – The soundtrack fits perfectly with everything I’ve seen so far. What kind of direction, if any, did you give to your composers? It all seems to be very reminiscent of NES Konami games.

Brian – Konami’s been a great influence, but they’ve been very focused on experimenting with every style, from those of different NES games to music genres that didn’t even exist in those days. The soundtrack covers everything! Some of the songs were designed to be specific homages or fit specific missions, but I also told them to just have fun and play around for many others. In both cases we ended up with amazing tracks.

Greg – I remember last year hearing that Retro City Rampage was coming out holiday 2010. It was then set to release this summer. Any final words on a release date?

Brian – Likely mid-late January 2012. For business reasons I need to wait until the AAA and holiday season craziness is over.

Greg – This has clearly been a labor of love, taking you 7 years to complete. How do you feel? What are your plans afterwards?

Brian – It’s absolutely a labor of love. I’m very happy with how it’s turned out and all of the extra time I spent polishing it makes all of the difference. I was just playing it last night and a cutscene happened which I’d polished last month. I stopped for a moment and said to myself “Wow, those little extra touches really make it feel extra special”. I’m still polishing things as we speak. That’s what makes a game great.

I have a half dozen ideas for games I really want to make, but we’ll see which ones come to fruition, as games take a long time to make.

Greg – Do you still have a classic gaming collection of your own?

Brian – I do. I think I collected about 1/3rd of the NES library. However it’s all in boxes at my parent’s place. I don’t have room for it at my place, or money to continue collecting. Every last penny these days goes directly into funding RCR.

This game is parodies within parodies. They really threw everything into a blender with this one. My personal favorite I’ve seen so far is when the player gets bitten by a radioactive plumber and gains the super stomp ability. This is the type of genius you’ll encounter throughout the game.

Retro City Rampage, coming out early first quarter 2012 for XBOX Live Arcade and Wii Ware. You can check out Retro City Rampage‘s homepage for updates as the game nears its final stages, check out the developer blog, and watch some trailers. Being a big chiptune fan myself, I really dig the soundtrack. If you like that old 8-bit style of music you can download the tracks from the game there as well. The artists do an awesome job putting together a soundtrack that feels completely retro yet altogether something new. I strongly recommend checking out each of their own sites for some rockin’ tunes.

Retro City Rampage Soundtrack Demo Mixtape from Vblank on Vimeo.

As always, don’t forget to share this post. And don’t forgot to drop Brian and his crew a line as well. They’ve put a lot of work into this game. Let them know what you think.

Thanks for reading!

*I know Back to the Future was a game too, but does anyone really care about that awful thing? Let’s forget it existed, ok?

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