E3 2009 Impressions and Thoughts

•June 7, 2009 • Leave a Comment

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Well, E3 2009 has officially wrapped up and compared to last year’s (2008) event, this year’s has blown it out of the water. First and foremost, E3 has finally returned to its roots and was once again held in Los Angeles at the city’s convention center. Although a few big names still decided to skip the convention (thanks, Blizzard), the majority of the industry’s big players were still in attendance, including: Electronic Arts, Ubisoft and Konami, just to name a few. I was able to actually catch the Nintendo, Sony and Square-Enix press conferences but I wont go into the nitty gritty details of the entire convention or even individual press conferences. Basically, below, you’ll find some of the highlights and games I thought were a big deal and my initial impressions as well as a list of games/hardware to be on a look out for!

  • Microsoft announced Project Natal during their press conference. Natal is MS’s own version of motion-based controls for games and media on the Xbox360 platform. The technology wasn’t officially demoed and all that was shown was a video commercial introducing its features with some lame acting. Sorry folks, no tech demo here. Although I’m not a huge fan of Microsoft, Natal is very very ambitious! It boasts to use a camera (add-on accessory to the 360) that is able to capture full body motions, thus eliminating the need for a controller! The camera can detect hand movements and gestures (too many dirty jokes…) that can also be implemented in menu browsing, similar to what Tom Cruise did in the movie, Minority Report. Additionally, there is said to be facial recognition with it as well. From the sounds of it, MS is attempting to get rid of a controller all together. Like I said, very ambitious things MS has planned, all we can do is wait and see if they can actually pull it off.
Metal Gear Solid Rising

Metal Gear Solid Rising

  • Konami and Kojima Productions officially announced Metal Gear Solid Rising for the Xbox360 (later in the event it was announced it would also be coming to the PS3 and PC). The game will be starring Raiden, the main character of MGS 2. The game will be a “Lightning Action Game” as opposed to the franchise’s “Stealth Action Game”  tagline used in preceding itterations of the series. I’m thinking the game will be heavily based on action and speed instead of the stealth. I loved MGS4 and I will be picking this up as soon as it gets released, although rumors say the game wont be released until sometime in 2010.
  • Although many will probably disagree with me, I thought Nintendo’s big announcements were very good for the most part. Wii Motion Plus is nothing new in terms of surprise announcements, although it does bode well for the console since its been getting some flack lately for games that lacked good motion controls. Wii Sports Resort (includes Wii Motion Plus) looks to be a great title that is fun but yet is very simple to pick up, similar to its predeccesor, Wii Sports. Highlights from Nintendo’s announcements include: Super Mario Bros. Wii, a 2D classic style platformer that boasts a multiplayer system similar to what is found in LittleBigPlanet, where players assist one another to complete a level or task; Super Mario Galaxy 2 was also announced and set to come out sometime in 2010; and lastly, Metroid: Other M was also announced as a new episode in the Metroid franchise. The game looked great and action packed. I’ll post more info on the games listed above as it becomes available, just keep an eye out!
Final Fantasy XIV Online

Final Fantasy XIV Online

  • The surprise announcement nobody was expecting came in the form of Final Fantasy…14! That’s right, Final Fantasy 14..Online! Very little has been announced at this point, although it was said the game would be released around the same time as Final Fantasy 13 (both due Spring-ish 2010). As of right now, FF14 will be exclusive to the PS3 and PC, Square Enix has said they are “considering” Microsoft hardware release for the future, but nothing official right now. The game will take place in a new world (different from that of FF11 Online), with a new emphasis and option of solo play in order to appeal to a more casual crowd. Personally, I’m pretty pumped for this release!
God of War III

God of War III

  • Sony also gave us a sneak peak at some gameplay footage of God of War III. From what I’ve seen, it looks pretty damn good. The graphics, gameplay, and gore is exactly what one would have expected from a next-gen God of War game. Yet another game to keep a close eye on!
  • Obviously, I only gave highlights of a few announcements that really got me revved for the coming months. Microsoft announced a few other titles and gave sneak peaks to games like Assassin’s Creed 2. Nintendo also announced a slew of DS games that I could care less about (including one where you own and operate your own clothing boutique). Sony introduced a tech demo of its own motion control scheme that looked like a cross between Project Natal and Wii Motion Plus. But until I see some actual games utilizing this motion control technology that the big 3 are working on, I’ll hold back my enthusiasm. Sony did (in my opinion) have the best game announcements in terms of exclusives: The Agent, a new Rockstar exclusive; Massive Action Game; ModNation Racers (think Mario Kart meets LittleBigPlanet); The Guardian, a new game from the team that brought us Shadow of Colossus; the PSPGo and slew of PSP titles including Gran Turismo, Metal Gear Solid Peacewalker (written, directed and produced by Hideo Kojima himself) and LittleBigPlanet for the PSP. Keep your eyes peeled in the coming months as I preview some of these great titles!

Now as a treat, I’ll leave you guys with the teaser trailer for Bioware’s upcoming MMORPG title, Star Wars: The Old Republic. This was probably the best trailer shown at E3 2009. Enjoy and happy gaming!

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PSP-3000 Review

•February 26, 2009 • Leave a Comment

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A few weeks ago I decided a needed a bit of portable gaming in my life and went ahead and picked up a brand new PSP-3000 (plus some accessories) from my local Best Buy. Well, after a few weeks of playing around with it and its features and functions, here is my official review! Just for the sake of the review, here’s what I picked up when I bought it:

  • Brand-new piano black PSP-3000
  • The official Sony PSP hard travel case
  • 4gb Sandisk Memory stick (on sale for $20!)
  • Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII

Now, the PSP 3000 was released not to long after the PSP 2000 was released. So what’s the difference between the 2000 and 3000 models? Well, not much at all. Both models carry the “slim” title and are much lighter and thinner than their fatter PSP-1000 brothers. The physical look and feel are identical between the 2000 and 3000 models. The only additions that can be found on the PSP 3000 vs. the PSP 2000 are as follows:

The 3000 model, pictured on the bottom, has an improved screen.

The 3000 model, pictured on the bottom, has an improved screen.

  • Improved screen technology: the screen is much brighter than previous models. This increase in brightness was designed and implemented to reduce glare from any light source as well as make outdoor daytime play easier to see.
  • Microphone: a built-in microphone was added to the unit to be used alongside the new Skype feature that is standard on newer PSP firmware updates. This addition no longer requires an external microphone accessory to be plugged into the PSP in order for Skype to be used properly.

And thats it. That’s all that is new with PSP 3000. I know, its not much. It’s a shame Sony released the 3000 series with so few new additions, there was much more technology I would have liked to have seen implemented and added in addition to the improved screen and built-in microphone, but we’ll get to that later.

Overall, the improvements of the 3000 model dont really warrant the need (or really, the desire) to upgrade from a 2000 model. So if you have a PSP-2000, my advice would be to wait a little while longer until Sony decides to release a new PSP that might actually be worth upgrading to.

Now, this is pretty much my first PSP. That being said, I feel the need to not only review the PSP-3000 vs. its predecessors but to also review the PSP as a whole and see how it stacks up as a portable gaming and media device. Being the gadget junkie that I am, I’ve got a pretty good eye for what’s good and what’s shit when it comes to gaming and media devices. So without further adeu, I give you my list of likes and dislikes concerning the PSP in general.

The special edition PSP I wish I had known about...

The special edition PSP I wish I had known about...

Likes

  • The screen size is fantastic. Its has a wide resolution which makes it ideal for gaming and watching videos. The brightness of the 3000 model is defnitely a plus; the colors and contrast are superb!
  • The built-in speakers get surprisingly loud.
  • Built in wi-fi means multiplayer gaming on the go. Combine this feature with a web browser, full access to the PSN store and remote play (I’ll get to this in a sec), and you got a killer multimedia device.
  • The controls feel comfortable and natural. The small analog “nub” (stick) is a nice feature that adds much more flexibility, in terms of gaming and controls, than other handhelds that are on the market at the moment.
  • The long battery life. I was able to play for about 2 hours straight and still had 70% left on the battery!
  • The weight of the unit (2000 and 3000 models only): for all the technology they packed into this device, its amazing how incredibly light it is!
  • Finally, the feature that pretty much sold me on the PSP vs. other handhelds is Remote Play. Remote Play enables the user to connect their PSP, wirelessly, to their Playstation 3. This allows you to access any and all music and video files that are stored on your PS3’s hard drive. Additionally, you can put in your older Playstation 1 games and play them through a remote connection on your PSP! Basically what I really liked was the fact that I was able to stream my movies/tv show/music from my PC to my PS3 to my PSP via my wireless network. I can also access the same things via the internet from anywhere in the world! Even if the PS3 is off, you can set it to where the PSP’s network/internet ping turns the PS3 system on, so that you can access all your data. You can even turn off the system remotely as well. Frakkin amazing!!!

Check back soon for my full review of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII.

Check back soon for my full review of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII.

Dislikes

  • The web browser. Oh man, where to begin. It’s slow. Really SLOW. The user interface and controls are god awful. I’m really hoping Sony improves on it. I can deal with the shotty controls and UI, at least make it run at respectable speeds!
  • Wireless 802.11 B. Its 2009. We have wireless A, wireless G, and now wireless N. Why the hell is Sony still shoving really old wireless standards into a multimedia device that can do so much with media and wireless networking. Is wireless G tech really that much more expensive to add in? If apple can do it with an Ipod, Sony should be able to do it too!
  • The UMD drive can be loud. This isnt a huge problem (at least not as annoying as the web browser!) but is noteworthy. Even with headphones on and the volume on high, I can still hear the UMD disc drive churning away and loading data.
  • The piano black models get smudgy really easy. Many iPhone and iPod users complain of similar issues. The piano black PSP is unfortunately plagued by the same problem, there’s just no easy way to keep this thing looking clean! An alternative, however, is to buy the matte silver version (Ratchet and Clank Mulimedia Pack) for a few bucks more.


Overall, the PSP is a fantastic portable gaming device. The game library is great! Some would argue it needs a lot more titles (I agree with this to some extent) but if you’re a die hard RPG fan (like myself) the PSP’s library is a great way to play some of the classics out there. Even their newer apps rival many console titles (God of War: Chains of Olympus, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, etc.) With all that said, if you’re looking for a great portable gaming device that has the ability to both play and stream media content than the PSP is defintely the way to go.

Final Score: 9/10

Mass Effect 2 Teaser Trailer!

•February 22, 2009 • Leave a Comment

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Mass Effect 2! A few days ago Bioware released the Mass Effect 2 teaser trailer! I must admit, its a bit disconcerting but it definitely has me intrigued. The game is due to come out Q1 of 2010, meaning sometime between January and March of 2010, one year from now! If you have yet to see the trailer, check it out below.

Frakkin’ amazing! I am huge fan of the first Mass Effect (defnitely one of the best WRPG’s in existance) and have been patiently waiting the release of any news of a sequel. In addition to the release of the teaser trailer, some executives over at EA and Bioware have made the announcement that Mass Effect 2 will definitely be released on both Xbox360 and the PC (great news, especially since I got rid of my 360)! Now, I know some of you (including myself) are probably asking, “Why not release the title on the PS3?” Well, unfortunately nothing has been officially announced from EA or Bioware, but it’s looking like Mass Effect 2 will NOT be hitting Sony’s console. There are a few reasons as to why, I recently learned of them:

Could the hero, Shepherd, really be dead?

Could the hero, Shepherd, really be dead?

Rumors are abuzz that Mass Effect 2’s story will be dependent partly on the player’s previous save file from the first Mass Effect.

  • Let’s think about this one. If ME2 is one year from release, when would Bioware and EA possibly release the first title for PS3? They’d be cutting it awfully close. And if they didnt release the first title, they’d be screwing over their entire PS3 user base by depriving us of the customizable story sequence from any previous save file.

Microsoft helped to develop the Mass Effect title, thus they have a large stake to the rights of the game and ultimately which console(s) the game would be released on.

  • I have yet to confirm this from any sort of official source, but thats what I’ve been hearing/reading. Apparently, Microsoft helped to write the story, in fact they helped to write the whole trilogy (that’s right, a trilogy!). On top of this, some of the technology behind the graphics engine used by Mass Effect, namely the cinematic “camera” technology used to help develop the game was a tech devised and developed by Microsoft. If this is true, then it makes sense why only the 360 and PC are seeing any Mass Effect love; but again I want to warn you that I have yet to confirm any of this.

That’s all the news for now. I’ll keep you guys updated as new information becomes available!

Killzone 2 Preview and Demo Impressions

•February 22, 2009 • Leave a Comment

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Well, I’ve downloaded the Killzone 2 demo off of the UK Playstation Network Store and I must admit that I was utterly blown away! The demo confirmed just about all of my expectations for what the game would look like and play like. Here’s a break down of what I experienced:

Check out these lighting effects!

Check out these lighting effects!

  • The visuals are unmatched by any current console FPS. The lighting effects are superb, the textures are down right dirty and gritty, everything a war game should have! The action from the first person perspective is fantastic. Water, dirt, and blood splash all over the screen to give you the feeling of being in the action. What really impressed me was the fact that the water and dirt NEVER splash on the same spot. I’ve played the demo probably around 12 times or so (I know, I couldnt help myself!) and the water and dirt that splash up from the opening’s crash landing is different every single time! The blur effects when moving and aiming are also done very nicely and greatly enhance the feeling of being right there in the middle of the action!
What a beautiful game!

What a beautiful game!

  • The gunplay is pretty sweet. The weapons don’t feel overbearing or bulky. The assault rifle you start off with packs and punch and you feel it! The great thing that I noticed almost immediately was the difference in the feel of the different weapons you come across in the demo. For example, the ISA assault rifle you start off with “feels” heavier and packs more of a punch, whearas the Helghan assault rifle feels light, quick and versatile but not nearly as effective as the ISA assault rifle.
  • The voice acting seemed to be done very well and was genuine (not cheesy).

Although the demo was short, it most certainly was entertaining! If you havent already downloaded it, you need to! If you’re wondering where to get the demo, right now there are two options available to you. The first is to have pre-ordered the game from Gamestop; doing so gets you a code to redeem on the US Playstation Network store that will enable you to download the demo. The second option (the better and easier in my opinion) is to create a UK Playstation Network ID and download the game from their store.

What can we expect from Killzone 2 that the demo doesnt show us?

Well, that certainly is the million dollar question, isnt it? Here’s a break down of what we know the game will have:

  • A continuation of the story that was first introduced in the original Killzone for the Playstation 2. Basically, the story is that the ISA forces have kicked out the Helghast invaders from their homeworld and are now bringing the fight to them. The game is said to start with the ISA invasion of the Helghast homeword of Helghan. The player will be playing as Sev, a soldier who is a member of an elite squad tasked with one mission: to kill the Helghan emperor, the crazy dude that started the whole war. All in all the single player campaign should boast about 8-10 hours of gameplay. Sounds pretty intense to me!
Awesome Mech action!

Awesome Mech action!

  • Vehicle play. From the various images and videos I’ve dug through, vehicles will definitely be in the single player campaign. Apparently, we’ll be able to control both an ISA tank and some sort of mech! Check out the picture to the left to get an idea of what it’ll look like!
  • Kick-ass multiplayer! There are quite a few details floating about on the web that cover what the multiplayer aspect will be like. Being the nice guy I am, I’ve compiled the list for you for quick and easy access. In a nutshell, Killzone 2’s multiplayer is class based. Meaning there are several classes to choose from (medic, scout, soldier, engineer, sabouteur). Now the really cool thing about this is the ability to mix the classes to create your very own hybrid class! Each class get special abilities (medic can heal and revive people, for example) and gets a few perks that are unique to each class in the game. In addition to this, as is standard in alot of FPS games these days, you’ll be able to level your character through combat (kills, winning matches, etc). The multiplayer modes are just as versatile as the class system. It can be set up to where multiplayer modes can change in the middle of the round (without having to start a new round) thus changing the flow and objectives of the match in a heartbeat! The modes should be pretty familiar to anyone who has any FPS experience. These modes include the oldy but goldy, deathmatch and capture the flag modes. Although the game lacks any type of co-op feature, I feel that the class system, multiplayer modes and 64 player maps more than make up for it!

Killzone 2 is being developed by Guerilla and published my Sony Entertainment and is due to hit shelves on Feb. 27, and I for one will be picking this up on release day! Check out my about page to grab my PSN ID and message me if youre interested in hitting up some multiplayer. In conclusion, if this post didnt hype you up enough, check out the trailer video below to really get pumped!