Fire From My Hands [Embedded Reporter]
Mar 16th, 2009 by Dan

Deep from the trenches, it’s time for your Monday video feature: Embedded Reporter.

Ever wonder what Street Fighter IV sounded like before they got the localization down pat? Here’s your answer:

Zombies in Best Buy? [Sony, M$]
Mar 4th, 2009 by Dan

Everyone’s favorite controversial, borderline racist game, Resident Evil 5, is about to hit stores, but the Best Buy in Stroudsburg, PA is not satisfied with just a midnight pre-order pickup. Oh no, they’ve pulled out all the stops to create a store-wide zombie invasion.

Not only will the store itself be a haunted house, complete with scientists and zombies, but the US Army will be showing up complete with blanks-firing, but otherwise bona fide M16s, which sounds like a TERRIBLE idea, but still, it should be interesting.

The ante has been upped even further though, with viral videos exposing the backstory of the event being posted online.

I really hope this event is a success, cause it would be great to have all sorts of huge premiere events at retail instead of boring queues.

(Sourced from three Kotaku articles)

Next week we’ll have the return of WMQ with some WBC and Spring Training news!

More Street Fighter IV Impressions [Sony, M$]
Feb 28th, 2009 by Dan

I’ve continued to play Street Fighter IV and here are some observations I’ve had about it:

Ken is a very popular choice for Ranked Matches and it drives me nuts. I can’t count how many times I’ve been crossed up, crouch hard kicked into a Hadoken and Shoryuken. Luckily, I’ve gotten much better at blocking the combo and I’ve gotten better and ending the cross up with a simple Cannon Spike with Cammy. It’s mega-frustrating to see player after player just pick Ken over and over and it’s kind of fatiguing. As a counter-measure, I’ve decided to wait out timers if I ever have someone pick Ken on me. From what I hear on Giant Bombcast, it seems that the Player Matches are a little more varied than this lame Ken-fest I’m facing. I guess once I hit ten straight victories I’ll start playing Player Matches.

I found myself winning a bunch of rounds yesterday via timer. Ken and other shoto players tend to hang back and Hadoken over and over as do some charge players. I’ll gladly let them hang back and do nothing waiting for me to approach them, cause I’m not going to. Instead I’ll let the timer wind down and, if I have the damage advantage, take the timer win.

Getting all the medals would be a challenge, but it seems that you can get them in player matches too, so I can just arrange for those later if I need to. Otherwise I might never get that elusive Perfect medal.

My new Mad Catz Street Fighter IV Arcade Fightstick arrived yesterday and I’ve been putting it to good use so far. So far I prefer it to my PS3 controller, not because the D-pad is particularly horrible on it (I’m looking at you Xbox 360), but because the D-pad is right next to the left stick and I sometimes hit it with my thumb when I’m performing moves. I’m still not 100% with the stick and I mess up on executing some moves, but it’s still a solid, significantly better way to play the game. It’s funny, I would never have thought that I would be giving positive reviews toward third party controllers, but these controllers are well worth the investment, especially if you use a 360.

Mass Effect 2 !SPOILER ALERT! [M$]
Feb 25th, 2009 by Dan

Who didn’t love Mass Effect? The game allowed you to explore a hard science fiction world with an intricate backstory, shoot androids, and have hot, steamy (possibly “lesbian”) sex with aliens, for crying out loud! Gamers everywhere rejoiced when they saw the brand new teaser trailer released for ME2.


All I can say after seeing that is “WHOA! WTF!?”

Commander Shepard is *dead*? What will this mean for ME2? Did they ever intend for us to have use of Shepard in the second game as was implied? Perhaps all that will transfer will be the state that you left the universe in the last game. Any further speculation will lead nowhere, but consider my interest sufficiently piqued.

SF IV [Sony, M$]
Feb 24th, 2009 by Dan

I’m not quite ready to leave SF IV yet, so let me just say that the game is fun in a way I’ve missed for a long time. Fighting games have been trying to capture the same awesomeness of SFII since its launch; the original was just that iconic in arcades. Nowadays, the arcade is all but dead, but Street Fighter lives on with this epic sequel. The game is fun, it’s accessible, and it just all around does exactly what you want Street Fighter to do: be a good fighting game that’s complex, but easy. Go out there and rent or play it, it’s worth it.

L4D League [PC/M$]
Dec 17th, 2008 by Dan

Today’s the first non-WMQ Wednesday, so I thought I’d ease us into it with a discussion about competitive gaming, since that’s closer to a sport than, say, a book review.

Online leagues are nothing new to the computer gaming space. For as long as we’ve been able to play over our 14.4 modems (or slower!) people have been fragging each other in Doom and Quake in leagues, continued doing so through the most popular competitive shooter, Counterstrike, and are even now forming clans and teams within Halo 3.

Why talk about a L4D league then if the topic is essentially not that new. The real question that people are asking and that no one’s sure about is whether or not the games played in versus are standard enough to be considered fair and viable in terms of ratings. The X-Factor comes in the form of the AI Director, whose evil knows no bounds. In all seriousness, if the AI Director gives the infected a Tank in just the right place, but doesn’t give it to the survivors on the next iteration in the same place, is the game considered broken from a competitive standpoint?

When my roommate and I were discussing this last night, I mentioned that sports, while supposedly fair were actually inherently unfair. Geographic advantages, weather advantages, home field advantages, they’re all intangibles that could favor one team or another. His counterpoint was that they were intangibles, but bad Tank spawning is a real, measurable thing that can be proved to favor one team over another.

In a sense, the debate is more or less rendered moot by the fact that leagues will spring up regardless. The true proof will be whether or not they exist years from now when the game is old news. I’ll keep you guys posted on any league progress if I happen to join one.

And now: PA comic about ZOMBIES! I’m just glad they’re of similar mind…

Left 4 Dead [Review]
Dec 6th, 2008 by Dan

There was a day, back in my youth, when I abhorred first-person shooters. Sure, I played some Goldeneye here and there with my friends, but I was never a Doom, Unreal, or Halo fan.

Then something spectacular happened: a company that I’d heard of, but avoided their games because of my fps ambivalence released one of the greatest games I’d ever played: Half-Life 2. It revolutionized my understanding of FPS games and instilled in me blind trust in Valve. I loved Counterstrike: Source, Team Fortress 2, and Portal.

It was a foregone conclusion that I would then get Left 4 Dead, which I’ve come to see as one of the greatest multiplayer experiences I’ve ever played. Here’s the basic premise, if you haven’t picked it up from my other posts: you have four survivors from the zombie apocalypse whose aim in each level is to make it from the starting point to the next safe room. At the end of each movie (the name for each of the four campaigns) you have to fight off the zombie hordes while awaiting a rescue vehicle of some sort.

The real power of the game is that it requires you to play cooperatively. With each survivor that you lose, you will find the game that much harder. Letting teammates fall behind or leaving them behind yourself will always result in trouble. You also strongly rely on your teammates if you get incapacitated or knocked off a ledge. The icing on the cake is that Valve encourages even more teamwork with their achievement system. Unfortunately, Valve also seriously hates you and proves their enmity with the AI Director.

The AI Director will sometimes have pity on you and give you a lull so that you can revive your teammates or heal up, but that pity is just the AI taking pity on our organic weakness. Just wait until the inevitable evolution of the AI Director into Skynet. I’m just saying, it hates humanity that much.

Versus mode is plenty of fun, allowing survivors and special infected to all be controlled by rival human teams. It’s almost too unbalanced though, as a moderately well-organized zombie team will always be able to destroy a mediocre survivor team. I’m curious to see how balanced expert teams of both would be, since special infected die from a few hits and it’s kind of easy to overwhelm the survivors.

In any case, expect Valve to keep on updating L4D and continue bringing us a stellar multiplayer experience. I wholeheartedly recommend L4D so long as you have a good internet connection. If you’re playing without the net or you’re expecting a deep single-player experience, avoid it for now.

More L4D in Response [PC]
Nov 19th, 2008 by Dan

The game they were mentioning in the podcast was Gears of War 2. I agree with that being kind of cool, but at the same time, we were all trying to really push ourselves and play the most challenging version of the game. Even if Simon had more experience, I still don’t think we would have been able to make it through the whole campaign on expert, it’s just too hard.

The game is $60 on xbox, $50 on PC, but it’s not as short as it seems. There may only be four campaigns, but you’d be missing the point if you thought that was all it had to offer.

Valve has gone on and on (and so did 1UP Yours) about the AI Director being an integral part of the game experience. Sure, there are only 4 campaigns (five maps each, so twenty levels), but no two playthroughs are identical. Item locations, zombie placement, even boss zombie placement is all set by the AI Director who analyzes current player healths, ammo levels, difficulty level, and how well you’ve been doing so far, ensuring a dynamic playback experience.

Also worth mentioning is that even just playing the first campaign, No Mercy, I’ve found myself thoroughly enthralled by a game and feel its $50 price tag is well warranted. If this was all that was there, I would play it ad infinitum (not literally, other games will pop up soon), but it’s not. Three more campaigns whose length will be extended by my refusal to play below Advanced and strong desire to conquer each on Expert (achievement points are great motivators) and a mode I haven’t even talked about will extend this.

That mode: Versus Mode. In versus mode you have two teams of four. Four are the survivors, four are the mutated infected. The object is for the survivors to do just what they do in the single-player cmapaign, only this time they’re being dogged by actual players instead of the AI. The players will be respawned on a timer and are able to antagonize the surivors using coordinated attacks. I’ve yet to play it, but it looks promising.

I think it’s more than worth $50, but I’ve heard some complaints from reviewers about it. My guess is that they were playing on Normal or Easy to try and get through as fast as possible for the review, giving a total playtime somewhere near three or four hours. I’d love to see all those editors and reviewers try that on Expert. Without some serious experience, that’s not possible.

Day 2 Impressions of the Zombie Apocalypse [PC]
Nov 19th, 2008 by Dan

It’s the second day of the zombie apocalypse.

No zombie can stand against Chicago Ted. How long does it take to turn after infection? Two weeks? Two days? 2.5 hours!?

That’s some of the flavor text littered around the safe rooms in L4D to add to the atmosphere and, despite never seeing another human being in the game, they effectively make us all feel like the world is actually lived in. Like there just might be other immune survivors roaming around, seeking help too.

Day 2 impressions is kind of a misnomer, since I played at midnight of launch day and at night the same day, but who’s really counting? Hasn’t society been wiped out by the Horde already?

I was actually able to play with my friends this time, but since some of us were newer to the experience than others and we actually wanted to pass missions, we dumbed down the difficulty to the penultimate difficulty level: Advanced. While still hard and rough to get through to Mercy Hospital (in the appropriately named campaign: No Mercy), I must admit that not being incapacitated and killed after two hits from a tank kind of irks me as a person who played many hours on Expert. I guess I’ll have to continue to build up my skills.

The final two missions that I’d yet to witness were both quite cool. The hospital proper and the rooftops both offered numerous challenges, especially the rooftops.

After fighting through wave after wave of zombies, it becomes time to take on a tank. This process is repeated three times. Fighting one tank is bad enough, thank you very much. Fighting it on the roof of a 30+ storied hospital is worse. Our first attempt featured me getting knocked by the tank, no big deal on our difficulty level, until I saw that there was no longer any floor below me as he had knocked me clear off the side of the building. perspective flashed to an exterior shot of the hospital as my body was flung clear. There is no resurrection on the roof. RIP Zoey.

Many unsuccessful attempts later, we found ourselves at the final tank. My friend SimonFrancis was dead, smashed by a tank. We silently thanked him for his strategy that helped us get this far, but grit our teeth with the knowledge that grief doesn’t kill tanks, bullets do. As EricBill (DarekLouis’s friend) and I ran around the rooftops pausing to shoot at the behemoth, I heard a silent cry from DarekLouis.


Little did we know that he meant to say “HEY GUYS I’VE BEEN NABBED BY A SMOKER!”

Only once Eric and I noticed the Tank had been felled did we spot DarekLouis having the last of his life choked out of his poor body. DarekLouis, I didn’t know you well, but it was great to have you aboard. You always kept me from trying to snipe witches in the head. A wise idea.

The copter began its descent. EricBill was closer to the pad and began to make a run for it. The zombies swarmed him. I ran up the ramp behind, shooting zombies as I ran, but full of the knowledge that stopping means death. The Horde wants brains. We want escape. Conflict is inevitable.

As I rush past EricBill I beat away some zombies, shoot a few, jump and securely crouch in the helicopter. I shoot some of the zombies surrounding EricBill, but the damage is too much, he goes down. Before I can hop out and pick up the incapacitated EricBill, the copter decides to high tail it. I am the only survivor. The only one left to tell the tale. EricBill, you were good at finding new explosives, but freedom and safety come at the cost of running away sometimes. Sure, flight before fight isn’t glorious, but dead men tell no tales. Your thirst for battle was your end.

The copter flew away, the screen faded to black.

In loving memory of:

unarmed_gunman (SimonFrancis)
itsdareklol (DarekLouis)
strike (EricBill)

flashed on the screen. It’s brilliant, just like a movie whose casualties were my fellow players. The cast list followed.

ElCapitan BSC as Zoey
itsdareklol as Louis (deceased)
unarmed_gunman as Francis (deceased)
strike as Bill (deceased)

Some stats came by, many of which I led, but many of which I was second or third.

Finally, the closing message I leave to you, scrolled up on screen as we all laughed:

4,907 zombies were hurt in the making of this film.

Left 4 Dead Impressions [PC]
Nov 18th, 2008 by Dan

Hey Dan, did you stay up until around 0300 today playing Left 4 Dead after it went live last night?


But oh man, where to begin?

Valve does not rush a product. They don’t ever release a game that hasn’t been thoroughly playtested and optimized for consumption. It’s why the L4D demo is so brilliant, it allowed them to take a look at the last few things that needed to be tweaked and then release accordingly. Take the difficulty level. There was quite a bit of outcry about the difficulty of the computer version being far too easy compared to the console version. In fact, I’d been refusing to play any levels that were lower than the highest difficulty, Expert. Let’s just say that last night we were stuck on the second level for somewhere around two hours, endlessly being mauled by the zombie hordes.

All the stops were pulled out on this one. The first level used to be devoid of tanks and witches. I’m pretty sure we got rocked by a witch right at the start. Placement is BRUTAL. The tanks just rock everyone’s socks off, the only real valid way to kill them being to molotov and RUN LIKE HELL! It’s so tough that it’s super fun. Who can resist trying to kill these zombie bastards?

Then there was the greatest loop that Valve could possibly throw us. After a particularly difficult part in the second level involving waiting for a door to open and a Gatling gun, the second level usually had a safe room directly following it. Imagine our surprise as we limped into…any other room. They moved the safe room outside to the pawn shop. Naturally, we were rocked over and over again until finally, on the last playthrough, this one guy and I were the only two survivors alive and we scrambled into the pawn shop screaming as Hunters and Smokers chased us, my heart beating at an intense 1000 BPM all the while. The tension is so masterfully created it’s ridiculous.

The other huge heartbeating moment for me (not common in video gaming for me, by the way, I’m generally more sturdy, having seen just about everything) was within the third level (the farthest we got out of the five in the first campaign). There was a Tank and we accidentally aroused its ire. I threw a molotov at it, setting it on fire (and one of the other survivors, but his life was forfeit after seeing the Tank anyway, and began hightailing it back to the start, closing doors behind me all the way. I could hear the Tank lumbering behind me until it died. At this point, I was the only survivor left alive. I’d climbed jumped down the lift, but now I had to get myself properly to the other survivors to rescue them since they’d all respawned in a room nearby. As I make my way back up the lift, I hear not just the Hunter growl, but the Smoker fanfare. I’m thinking “I’m fucked…” After my heart just exploded out of my body running in abject terror from the tank, now I had to face these two zombies who could incapacitate me in one hit via pounce or tongue and cause us to restart.

I first spotted the Hunter. My group kept imploring me to ignore them both and just try to rez them, but I knew that if I did, they would get me, without a doubt, and make it all in vain. After a dodge and some great rifle fire, I’d dispatched the Hunter, but the Smoker used that time to get good position on me. He was above me where I’d never be able to see him until it was too late. Time to make a break for the hole in the floor where I would find my compatriots. Running, jumping, falling through the hole, my partners said that the tongue just barely missed nabbing me as I fell through the final hole in the floor and freed them. It was exhilarating.

One last thing about my first night of playing: Valve is great at using the visual medium to tell a story. In most safe rooms you can find little notes from other people who have passed through warning you to evacuate the city, looking for family, claiming that there’s no survival, assigning blame for the plague. It’s brilliant.

Yesterday as I left work, I saw a license plate in front of me. It read Zombied.

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