Monday, December 22, 2008

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Upcoming Games of Interest, volume 4 (December 2008)

The following is a list of games I have some interest in that are being released in 2009. Games marked in bold are definite buys, while games not marked in bold require waiting to see if they will be good or not.

The Lord of the Rings: Conquest (1/13/09) PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Pokemon Platinum (Rumored 3/22/09) DS
Watchmen: The End is Nigh (3/09) PC, Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Store
Nintendo DSi (Rumored Q2 2009) DS
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (11/09) PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Metroid Prime (2009) Wii
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (2009) Wii
Star Wars: Battlefront III (2009) PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii
LostMagic Wii (2009) Wii
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty (2009) PC
APB (2009) PC
Timesplitters 4 (2009) Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii
MAG: Massive Action Game (2009) Playstation 3
StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm (TBA) PC
StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void (TBA) PC

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Master Chief Sucks at Voting and Absolute Watchmen

Master Chief sucks at voting is up.

Also, I got Absolute Watchmen today, bow down to me.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Upcoming Games of Interest, volume 3 (November 2008)

The following is a list of games I have some interest in that are being released in 2008 or 2009. Games marked in bold are definite buys, while games not marked in bold require waiting to see if they will be good or not.

Call of Duty: World at War (11/11/08) PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii
Sonic Unleashed (11/18/08) Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii, Playstation 2

Watchmen: The End is Nigh (Q1 2009) PC, Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Store
The Lord of the Rings: Conquest (1/13/09) PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Star Wars: Battlefront III (Rumored 3/15/09) PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii
Pokemon Platinum (Rumored 4/09) DS
Nintendo DSi (Rumored Q2 2009) DS
Call of Duty 6 (Rumored 11/09) PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Metroid Prime (2009) Wii
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (2009) Wii
LostMagic Wii (2009) Wii
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty (2009) PC
APB (2009) PC
Timesplitters 4 (2009) Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii
MAG: Massive Action Game (2009) Playstation 3
StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm (TBA) PC
StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void (TBA) PC

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Watching the second Watchmen trailer

I made all the screencaps two large images (one consisting of scenes before the instrumental and one afterwords) so I didn't have to save 20+ pictures. I apologize for the low quality of the pictures; no high quality version of the trailer existed at the time. Click each image to make it larger (and readable). Enjoy.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Watchmen's ending changes


So, as you may have heard, Watchmen, my most anticipated movie of next year (and possibly of all time) was pre-screened last night at a theater in Portland, Oregon. Passes to the screening were handed out discreetly a week ago to people unfamiliar with the book. Two days ago, a website leaked information about the screening and hordes of fans rushed to the theater, only to find, as Adrian Veidt would say, "passes were handed out thirty-five minutes ago"...or, more correctly, a week ago. I can only imagine the fans are rushing the site owner's house right now, and his fate may be less than pleasant...

Last night, people returned from the screening with nondisclosure agreements. Nonetheless, two stalwart viewers raced to IMDb and posted about the experience. One had never read the book, the other was a fan. Both greatly enjoyed the movie, with the non-book reader declaring it his favorite superhero movie. However, fans were less interested in the quality of the movie and more interested in the climax. In the book, Adrian Veidt (aka Ozymandias) teleports a giant, manmade alien into New York City, creating an explosion that kills a million people. The warmongering United States and Soviet Union ally against the nonexistent alien threat. Adrian exclaims "I did it!" and is left alive by Dr. Manhattan, Nite Owl, and Silk Spectre because otherwise, the world will fall back into chaos. Only Rorschach disagrees, and forces Dr. Manhattan to kill him.

In the movie, according to these two posters, things occur a little differently. Throughout the movie, Adrian and Dr. Manhattan are allegedly working on an alternative energy source project. Adrian secretly uses this technology to create powerful bombs which he proceeds to drop on major population centers. Dr. Manhattan is held responsible, but he goes along with the plan for the same reasons as the book. Rorschach is still stubborn, and gets disintegrated. Adrian is still left alive, a pivotal detail altered in David Hayter's 2003 draft, which featured a Hollywood-style showdown between Adrian and Nite Owl. Fans have suspected a collusion between Adrian and Dr. Manhattan ever since an eagle eyed fan noticed something amiss in this scene:

The terminal behind Dr. Manhattan (and his clones) shows a person that fans claimed was Adrian. Well, it looks like those "conspiracy theorists" might have been right. Now, I'm not sure how I like this new ending. On the one hand, what I want is an enjoyable movie, even if the ending is not perfect. On the other hand, if the ending leaves out pivotal details, then it becomes too naggingly "wrong" for me to enjoy. Right now, we don't have enough details about the context of the ending for me to make an accurate judgment. For now, I leave you with this random shot of Dr. Manhattan's crystal palace:

Friday, October 10, 2008

Upcoming Games of Interest, volume 2 (October 2008)

The following is a list of games I have some interest in that are being released in 2008 or 2009. Games marked in bold are definite buys, while games not marked in bold require waiting to see if they will be good or not.

Call of Duty: World at War (11/11/08) PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii
Sonic Unleashed (11/18/08) Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii, Playstation 2

Watchmen (Q1 2009) PC, Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Store
The Lord of the Rings: Conquest (1/13/09) PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Star Wars: Battlefront III (Rumored 3/15/09) PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii
Pokemon Platinum (Rumored 4/09) DS
Nintendo DSi (Rumored Q2 2009) DS
Call of Duty 6 (Rumored 11/09) PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Metroid Prime (2009) Wii
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (2009) Wii
LostMagic Wii (2009) Wii
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty (2009) PC
APB (2009) PC
Timesplitters 4 (2009) Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii
MAG: Massive Action Game (2009) Playstation 3
StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm (TBA) PC
StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void (TBA) PC

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Crysis Warhead--Review

"An excellent expansion that improves on the original in every way"

Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion for last year’s revolutionary first person shooter Crysis, but it’s more like a pseudosequel-and I mean that in a good way. The game improves upon every aspect of the original to leave a much more polished experience.

Gameplay: Multiplayer: Crysis Warhead’s multiplayer mode, now called Crysis Wars, brings back two multiplayer modes from the original game as well as a much-needed new mode. The first mode is Power Struggle. Power Struggle involves players being divided into teams and dropped into an enormous map filled with buildings and vehicles. Players must then capture buildings while earning “prestige,” currency you can use to buy new weapons, attachments, ammo, and vehicles. Prestige is earned by capturing buildings and killing enemies. Certain buildings produce vehicles, of which there is a huge selection of land, sea, and air vehicles; others produce weapons and allow you to use them as spawn points.

The main building is the Prototype Factory, which produces ice-based alien weapons and nuclear devices. The Prototype Factory slowly charges when it is captured, with a separate charge for each team. The process of charging can be sped up by capturing alien crash sites. At 50% the team who owns it can produce alien weapons. At 100%, however, nuclear tanks and weapons become available. Nuclear weapons are required to destroy your enemy’s otherwise impenetrable base.

Power Struggle hasn’t seen many changes since the original game. The most inherent flaw-some weapons and vehicles are too expensive for ordinary players to buy, causing better players to dominate an entire team-remains unchanged, though admittedly this is something that can’t really be changed without altering the entire game mode. However, one overall better feature in the online modes is the elimination of lag. While lag is obviously still a factor, its been trimmed down to a reasonable level by fixing the server system.

While the standard deathmatch mode remains, one huge difference is the addition of team deathmatch, an almost standard online shooter feature missing from the original game. Unfortunately, the team deathmatch brings to light an irritating weapon balance problem that isn’t as apparent in Power Struggle. Essentially, some weapons are so weak that they take an entire clip to kill an enemy, meaning if you stumble across a foe with a better weapon, you’re done for, no matter how early you caught them off guard. Suit functions remain virtually useless in the deathmatch modes, a disappointing factor.

Gameplay: Singleplayer: On a happier note, Warhead’s singleplayer is leaps and bounds beyond the original’s. You play as Psycho, one of the player’s allies from the first game, in a parallel story that takes place during the events of the first game on the other side of the island. The large island is much more sandbox oriented than before, letting you choose how you approach enemies and bases. All of the suit functions return: there’s Maximum Strength, which grants you superhuman physical abilities; Maximum Speed, which lets you run faster; and Cloaking, which turns you invisible. Maximum Armor is the default mode, and it restores suit energy, the essence that dictates how long you can use the other suit modes.

Warhead’s singleplayer pacing is much better. While the original game had long stretches of time where no action was occurring, Psycho’s mission takes the player into the heart of the North Korean-infested jungle island, and action is occurring almost constantly, making for a much more exciting and intense experience. The story is also much more interesting: it is told through third person cutscenes, rather than first person like the original, letting you get to know Psycho better than the first game’s protagonist Nomad. Other characters are Psycho’s old friend O’Neill, female commander Emerson, and the villainous North Korean colonel Lee. There are some emotional scenes in the story that make you care much more about Warhead’s plot than the original’s one-sided characters. The singleplayer itself isn’t very long-only 3-7 hours-but this is reasonable when you remember that despite its improvements, Warhead is still just an expansion and not a full game.

Graphics: There’s not much to say here. Warhead’s graphics do not disappoint, and the Crysis series continues to stand on top as the best looking games ever made. The graphics themselves have been slightly improved in some areas, and the game is better optimized to run on weaker computers in an attempt to shatter the graphical powerhouse stigma associated with Crysis. The physics are incredible as always-it’s quite satisfying to pick up an enemy soldier and hurl him through a wall, causing the entire structure to collapse on a nearby group of foes. One sequence in particular, which involves a hovercraft chase over a frozen ocean with waves frozen in place as natural halfpipes, is one of the most beautiful action sequences in a video game.

Music: Warhead’s music is somewhat different than the original’s, and in a good way. Guitar riffs accompany the more action-oriented soundtrack, making it much more appropriate than the original game’s more quiet and oriental pieces. The amazing score that plays during the abovementioned hovercraft chase only enhances the awe of that scene.

Replayability: Warhead’s singleplayer is very replayable, due to the open-ended gameplay that allows for a different approach each time. One time you may wish to sneak around a base, silencing enemies while invisible, Predator-style. Another time you might want to charge in with a vehicle and a machine gun like Rambo. It’s all up to you, and leaves different results each time.

TOTAL: Crysis Warhead improves on the original Crysis in so many ways that it seems like an understatement to simply call it an expansion. The singleplayer, graphics, and music are so much better that it could be considered a pseudosequel. The multiplayer, while still enjoyable, continues to be a load of missed potential.

Score: 9/10
Release date: September 18, 2008
Platform: PC
Originally written for GameFAQs

Friday, September 5, 2008

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots--Review

"An epic conclusion to one of the best franchises of all time"

Metal Gear Solid 4 has finally arrived, and has brought an amazing conclusion to the Metal Gear series. We’ve been waiting for this epic climax for 20 years-so how does it hold up? Well, the answer is that it holds up well-really well.

Gameplay: MGS4 takes the standard Metal Gear gameplay and perfects it. Essentially, the gameplay revolves around the tried-and-true stealth mechanism-hide from enemies, and if they see you, do everything you can to kill them before they summon more goons. However, MGS4 brings a new flavor to the table-many times, you won’t have anywhere to hide. In the game’s massive war scenes, you don’t have any choice but to go in Rambo style. At this point, the game’s excellent third person shooting comes into play. There’s an enormous selection of weapons in the game, and you can use any of them, as well as a revamped close quarters combat system, against foes.

Control is streamlined, easy, and fluid. The camera system is unusually good for a third person game and never hinders gameplay. The new weapons system also works well. Every weapon you find on the battlefield has been ID tagged, making it useless. This is where newcomer Drebin comes in. For a fee, Drebin will untag these weapons to make them usable by you. When you find duplicate weapons, you can sell them to Drebin for currency. This system is very easy and helps to extend replayability for collectors trying to find every weapon.

Enemy AI is also superb. Enemies work together when alerted and prowl the area constantly. It takes all your skill to escape through enemy-infested areas. You’ll need to use other technology to your advantage as well. The new Solid Eye allows you to see enemies’ health and status, as well as in night vision and binoculars modes. Snake’s suit is fitted with Octocamo, allowing you to blend in automatically when pressed against walls or other surfaces. A new Psyche meter decreases when in combat or other stressful situations, causing Snake to move slower and fire less accurately. However, Psyche does not negatively effect gameplay and recharges at a reasonable rate.

Boss fights are fun and require thought to win. The new Beauty and the Beast Corps are terrifying exciting to fight. In addition, fights against classic MGS bosses bring layers of nostalgia to the duels. All-out firefights against hordes of enemies are just as fun as you try to find the best way to eliminate large groups of foes. Overall, MGS4 brings the perfect mix of stealth and action that the series has been trying to achieve for a decade.

Story: I normally include story as part of the gameplay review, but MGS4 has such a sheer amount of story and cutscenes that it deserves its own category. The story in MGS4 is, simply put, the best story of any video game ever created. The epic conclusion to the Metal Gear story even made me nearly tear up. The cutscenes in the game, especially the action sequences, are of such high quality that they could be trimmed down to 2 hours and put in a movie theater as a full length movie.

It’s difficult to jump straight into the story, so I’ll explain the current situation as best as possible. The great hero Solid Snake, clone of the legendary warrior Big Boss, has been rapidly aging as a result of the flawed cloning that created him. Meanwhile, his arch-enemy and twin brother Liquid Snake, who died in the first game, came back to somehow gain control over his surviving henchman, Revolver Ocelot, and is using him as a vessel to take over the world. This is achieved through destroying the Patriots, a series of supercomputers that control the entire world. Snake and his allies-the computer genius Hal “Otacon” Emmerich, retired colonel Roy Campbell, old ally Meryl Silverburgh, and the now-cyborg hero Raiden-take on Liquid/Ocelot and his villainous assistants, including the un-killable Vamp and the quartet of insane young women in armored animal suits, called the Beauty and the Beast Corps. Snake must travel the world in pursuit of Ocelot while racing against time, as the FOXDIE virus injected into his body in the first game could kill him at any moment. The stakes are high and the tension leaves you at the edge of your seat for the whole game.

The game’s cutscenes are phenomenal, especially the fight scenes. Raiden and Vamp’s sword/knife fight at the end of the second act puts the Matrix to shame, and several other fight scenes make you wonder just why this series hasn’t been sent to the big screen yet (although Hollywood is trying). The cutscenes do get a bit long, but despite popular belief, there is just as much gameplay in MGS4 as any other action game-there’s just a disproportionate amount of cutscenes. The story needs to be seen to be believed, and leaves you wanting more while simultaneously waiting throughout the game for the incredible conclusion.

Graphics: MGS4 easily brings the best graphics on the PS3, pushing the console to the limits. It’s also the first PS3 game that clearly cannot be done on the Xbox 360 (a few easter eggs joke about the rumored 360 port). Unlike many games with rendered cutscenes, the quality of the graphics stay just as high in the normal gameplay as they do in the cutscenes. Incredible attention to detail provides the best visual experience on any current console. There is a lot of brown and grey, but that’s to be expected in a game that spends a lot of time in war-torn battlegrounds. Every character, every vehicle, and every location is designed as realistically as possible. Smaller effects, like explosions and battle noises, help immerse you in the world and makes you feel like you’re really there.

Music: Many action games skimp out on the soundtrack in favor of graphics, but not MGS4, which features one of the best soundtracks of any game. The Metal Gear series is no stranger to good music, but MGS4’s nostalgia-filled tracks combine with exciting new music to create the perfect soundtrack. Even better is the ingame iPod (yes, Apple is still brainwashing millions even in an age of rampant warfare) which allows you to unlock music from past and present Metal Gear games to play at any point during the game.

Replayability: MGS4 has an enormous amount of things to see and do within the game. In addition to dozens of weapons, there are also many unlockable easter eggs and hidden jokes in the game to find. Some unlockable items include new facecamo, which changes Snake’s face, and new Octocamo patterns. There are also some hysterical easter eggs that range from the nostalgic (unplug the controller during the Screaming Mantis fight) to the overly masculine (try shaking the controller during conversations with Rosemary). The game is filled with references to past games that will keep veteran players laughing or taking a trip down memory lane. The ranking and difficulty system will keep hardcore veterans playing again and again to get the best awards.

TOTAL: Metal Gear Solid 4 is easily the best game on the PS3 and one of the best games of this generation, if not of all time. The perfect mix of action, stealth, story, graphics, music, and replayability brings in a game that deserves to be experienced.

Score: 10/10
Release date: June 12, 2008
Platforms: Playstation 3
Originally written for GameFAQs

There's something in the water

There's something in the water laptops are drinking, and it isn't the healthy kind. I know three people who have experienced some kind of "blue screen of death" over the last week:

My friend George (Error message unknown)
My friend Dave's mom (Error message: cannot find System32 files)
My friend Zombamazomba (Error message unknown)

Now, laptops fail all the time, but it's interesting that three people I know have had laptops fail in such a quick span of time. I'm betting there's something going around.

Now, I did manage to fix my friend's mom's laptop, which originally gave the following error upon startup:
STOP: c0000218
The registry cannot load the hive(file):
or its log or alternate.

It is corrupt, absent, or not writable.

Beginning dump of physical memory.
Dumping physical memory to disk:"

In order to fix this, I first loaded the original Windows XP SP1 disc that came with a different computer and managed to boot from the disc. Then I accessed the recovery console and entered the following lines:

md tmp
copy C:\windows\system32\config\system C:\windows\tmp\system.bak
delete C:\windows\system32\config\system
copy C:\windows\repair\system C:\windows\system32\config\system

This allowed the computer to reboot as normal, recovering the System32 files it was unable to locate originally. I don't know what my other friends' problems are, but if they are related to this issue, there's the solution.

As for what's causing this, I'd like to say a virus, but it's unlikely. It's possibly some kind of rampant registry error common among these types of laptops.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Tropic Thunder--Review

"I'm a LEAD FARMER motherfucker!"

Tropic Thunder has, quite simply, renewed my faith in comedy. After months of crying at commercials for Meet the Spartans and Disaster Movie, my hopes weren't high upon finding out I was going to be seeing a parody movie, even after I'd chuckled a few times at the trailer attached to The Dark Knight. Instead, I came out pleasantly surprised and practically crying with laughter.

The movie is a parody of Hollywood war movies, but unlike most parodies, the plot actually revolves around a "movie-within-the-movie." From the very beginning the movie attempts to immerse you in the idea that you're actually watching the chronicle of a group of actors-and I mean the VERY beginning. Right after the real trailers end, a series of fake trailers for movies that the film's "stars" have appeared in play before the movie. They range from blatent spoofs ("Scorcher VI," a parody of repetitve action movie sequels) to incredibly clever ("Satan's Alley," which "stars" Tobey Maguire and Robert Downey Jr.'s character as gay monks). Afterwords, the real movie begins.

We learn that the opening action sequence is really part of a movie called Tropic Thunder, which is based off a fake book of the same name written by a Vietnam War veteran named Four Leaf Tayback (Nick Nolte). The movie's actors include fading action star Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller); five-time Academy Award winner Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.), who has undergone an operation to make himself black to play his African American character; and Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black), who is tired of his roles as multiple characters in childish comedy movies. Other characters are rapper-turned-actor Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson), who is disgruntled at Lazarus's role as a black man; rookie actor Kevin Sandusky (Jay Baruchel); the film's irritated director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan); and the movie's special effects wizard Cody Underwood (Danny McBride). When the actors' egos prevent them from filming the already behind schedule and over budget movie, Four Leaf suggests to director Cockburn that the actors be filmed in the actual jungles of Vietnam with hidden cameras.

Hilarity quickly ensues, however, when Cockburn is unceremoniously killed, stranding the actors in the middle of the jungle. Only Lazarus realises the gravity of the situation; the rest believe the director's death was a stunt and the movie is still going. As the actors squabble, a nearby drug smuggling ring mistakes the actors for real soldiers and attacks them, eventually capturing Speedman, who still thinks the smugglers are part of the movie thanks to a series of coincidences between his script and the real events.

Back in the outside world, Speedman's agent, Rick Pecker (Matthew McConaughey) realises his client and friend is in trouble and pleads with the movie's foulmouthed financial backer, Les Grossman, to rescue the actors, but Grossman is more interested in collecting the insurance claim on Speedman's impending death. The other actors are forced to try and work together to rescue Speedman before it's too late.

The funniest parts of Tropic Thunder are, by far, the dialogue scenes. Robert Downey Jr. in particular owns every scene he is in; his over-the-top attempt at playing a black man causes him to repeatedly clash with real African American Alpa Chino. Many of the lines in the movie are instantly quotable material, and the dialogue scenes help the movie's pacing in between the well-directed action sequences.

Tropic Thunder is not without its flaws, however. A number of character-based subplots are started but, for whatever reason, are either resolved quickly or not resolved at all. For example, Speedman's hope of adopting a child is a running plot in the movie, but it all leads up to a simple joke at the end of the movie. Similarly, all other subplots are resolved through a joke, gag, or line of dialogue. The only exception to this rule is Simple Jack, the movie Speedman previously acted in before Tropic Thunder. The movie involves Speedman playing a severely mentally handicapped man in a parody of movies like Forrest Gump. The movie is a flop, but is referenced repeatedly and becomes part of the plot. Speedman's annoyance at not receiving an Oscar for his role (like Tom Hanks did for Forrest Gump) prompts Lazarus's now infamously controversial speech about never "going full retard" in a movie, lest the actor be robbed of a potential award; overall the Simple Jack plotline does create several funny scenes.

In the end, Tropic Thunder is a surprisingly hilarious movie and the best comedy in years. The movie's horde of quotable lines should prompt repeat viewings, among a number of clever jokes and references you may not catch the first time. The best easter egg of all, however, is not revealed until the end credits, but eagle-eyed viewers may pick up the joke earlier in the movie (don't worry, the surprise occurs during the credits, not after them, so there's no need to sit through the whole thing). I suggest anyone who loves comedy to see this movie.

Score: 9/10
Release date: August 15, 2008

Upcoming Games of Interest, volume 1 (September 2008)

The following is a list of games I have some interest in that are being released in 2008 or 2009. Games marked in bold are definite buys, while games not marked in bold require waiting to see if they will be good or not.

Crysis Warhead (9/16/08) PC
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (9/16/08) Xbox 260, Playstation 3, Wii, Playstation 2
The Lord of the Rings: Conquest (11/4/08) PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Call of Duty: World at War (11/11/08) PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii
Sonic Unleashed (11/18/08) Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii, Playstation 2

Watchmen (Q1 2009) PC, Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Store
Star Wars: Battlefront III (Rumored 3/15/09) PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii
Pokemon Platinum (Rumored 4/09) DS
APB (2009) PC
Timesplitters 4 (2009) Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii

Super Smash Bros. Brawl--Review

"An epic, amazingly fun game that lives up to the hype"

It's been seven years since Super Smash Bros. Melee soared to first place as one of the GameCube's most beloved games. Finally, its much anticipated sequel, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, has arrived. But how does Brawl live up to Melee? How well does it stand on its own?

Gameplay: Multiplayer: The Super Smash Bros. series revolves around a deceptively simple mechanic-unlike most fighting games, your goal is to knock the enemy off the stage into oblivion, rather than whittling down their health. Each character has a percentage that increases as they take damage; the higher the percentage, the farther they fly, and subsequently have a harder time recovering to the stage. Although this seems easy, most enemies will not just fall to their doom, and you'll often have a tough fight ahead of you before knocking the enemy away.

Items are a pivotal and controversial method of defeating your enemies. There are dozens of items for your use that stem from all Nintendo franchises-throwing a Poke ball will make a Pokemon appear to assist you for a short time, and grabbing a Heart Container will drop your percentage and help you survive longer. Items can be turned on or off for those who don't like using them.

Another important gameplay mechanic is the stage itself. More than a simple platform for fighting, almost all stages in Brawl have their quirks, known as “stage hazards,” which cause harm to any player or disrupt the battle in some way. For example, the Halberd stage, from the Kirby universe, involves fighting on a small platform that eventually docks with the main Halberd ship, where cannons and bombs can injure the combatants.

But simple multiplayer brawling is far from the only game mode. Many modifiers, called “Special Brawls,” can be used to change up the fight. For example, in a metal Brawl, all players start off affected by the metal box item, making them heavier and fall faster, and in a giant Brawl, every player is huge. “Stadium” game modes return from Melee, but are now co-op. Stadium modes include the Home Run Contest, where the goal is to knock a sandbag as far as possible with a home run bat, the Multi Man Brawls, where goals involve defeating as many computer-controlled enemies as possible under various conditions, and the Target Test, where you choose your favorite character and attempt to break ten targets as quickly as possible. There is never any shortage of things to do with friends.

However, the biggest change in multiplayer from Melee to Brawl is not how you play with your friends, but who you play with instead-because Brawl uses the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection to allow online brawling. “With Anyone” allows you to have a standard 2-minute match against random opponents, while friend matches against registered friends allow you to customize all the options as normally as in a normal match. The Home Run Contest and Multi Man Brawls can also be played online with friends.

Gameplay: Singleplayer: Brawl has several modes that can played solo (or co-op, in some cases). Classic mode is the standard Super Smash Bros. singleplayer game, in which you face off against random opponents in several matches before a showdown with Master Hand. However, Adventure mode is the newest and most radically changed singleplayer mode. Adventure mode now has a story, called the Subspace Emissary, that can be played solo or with a friend. The plot revolves around a hooded enemy called the Ancient Minister, whose army of villains attempts to suck the world into dark portals made of Subspace. The varied roster of characters form interesting alliances and take on the Subspace Army-and for a story with no dialogue, there are some interesting plot twists. Gameplay in Adventure mode works differently-it's a sidescrolling beat-em-up where the goal is to make it to the end of the level without losing all of your characters. This seems easy, but on higher difficulties, it can be a real challenge.

In addition to Classic and Adventure, Event matches return from Melee. Event matches pit you, as a certain character, in various scenarios against other characters. Although the Events are not as varied as they were in Melee-most simply revolve around defeating one or more enemies as a specific character-they are still a fun diversion. There are even co-op Events that are completely different than the solo Events.

Graphics: Brawl pushes the Wii's graphics to the limit. Although some say there is no noticeable increase in graphics between Melee and Brawl, there is very clearly much more attention to detail. Mario's overalls are perfectly rendered, every piece of fur on Donkey Kong is visible, and metal characters gleam in the light. The graphics are likely the best on the Wii.

Music: The Super Smash Bros. series has always featured remixed versions of iconic Nintendo songs, but Brawl blows the previous track lists out of the water. There are almost 300 songs drawn from the many franchises of Nintendo, and at least half are completely remixed. While some of the more famous Nintendo songs are featured, there are also many selections that will surprise you-who ever thought of fighting to the tune of the Wii Shop Channel? A key new feature is My Music, which allows you to choose between many songs for each stage and decide the probability of each playing when you select the stage to fight. Not every song is unlocked at first, and must be collected by finding CDs, which randomly drop during battles. It's almost impossible to find a flaw in the music selection-with so many songs to choose from, there's something for everyone.

Replayability: Brawl possibly shines more in this department than any other. If the dozens of different modes were not enough, there are several interesting objects to collect. Trophies, small statuettes of hundreds of different Nintendo icons, return from Melee, and can be found both in singleplayer modes as well as in a new game where the focus is to use coins accumulated through simply playing the game to obtain new trophies. Stickers are a new item that can be found in all game modes. There are hundreds of stickers of many different Nintendo characters, and they can be attached to your character in Subspace Emissary to increase various powers, similar to stat buff items in an RPG. Both trophies and stickers can be arranged into various positions, and then you can take a picture of your design and send it to your friends. This feature also applies to normal brawls; pausing the screen allows you to alter the angle and distance of the camera and then take a snapshot.

However, the biggest addition to Brawl's replayability is the Stage Builder. The Stage Builder gives you a decent selection of pieces and a to place them on, and then lets you run wild. You can choose a background for the stage and a song from any you've unlocked, and even test the stage mid-construction to make sure it's playable. The only limit to the stages you can make is your own imagination.

Another feature bound to make matches more fun is the replay function. Any match less than 3 minutes long can be saved as a video. These replays can be sent to friends. In addition, pictures, replays, and stages can be sent to Nintendo, who will choose the best of each and distribute one a day to all players. These downloaded snapshots, replays, and stages disappear at the end of the day to make way for the next day's.

TOTAL: Brawl is the most replayable game on the Wii and likely its best game overall. There are so many single and multiplayer modes that its unlikely you'll get bored for a long time. In the end, Brawl is one of the best games this generation and is a definite buy for any Nintendo fan.

Score: 10/10
Release date: March 9, 2008
Platforms: Wii
Originally written for GameFAQs


"An underrated gem in the FPS genre"

Crysis is a revolutionary shooter exclusive to the PC that has brought a whole new meaning to “interactivity.” Controversial before release for its famously high system requirements and lack of a console alternative, the game has become something of a punchline in gaming communities but has been a largely ignored classic-for those willing to literally pay the price.

Gameplay: Multiplayer: Crysis has two different multiplayer components: Instant Action, which is your standard deathmatch with the noticeably absent team component, and Power Struggle, a new and exciting game type that really brings replayability to the table.

Power Struggle seems simple: players are divided into teams, thrown into some of the largest maps ever created for a first person shooter, then told to capture buildings (a la Star Wars Battlefront) and kill opposing team members. This sounds easy until you learn that each building serves a specific purpose. Some build land vehicles like tanks, some build boats, some build aircraft, and others simply serve as spawn points where you can purchase weapons. Each time you perform a positive action-like killing an enemy or capturing a building-you get “prestige,” used as currency to buy weapons, ammo, weapon attachments, and vehicles. Weapons or vehicles can only be purchased at a building which your team controls. While the weapon selection is rather limited, there is a huge selection of vehicles to choose from, possibly the largest of any shooter.

The main target is the Prototype Factory, a large centerpiece building that produces alien technology and nuclear devices. When the Prototype Factory is captured by a team, it slowly begins charging; this process can be sped up by capturing alien crash sites. At 50% charge, ice-based alien technologies become available, but the big kahuna occurs at 100% charge, when nuclear missile-equipped tanks and the TAC Cannon, a handheld mini-nuke launcher, become available. To win Power Struggle, your team must blow up the opposing team’s base, which is otherwise impenetrable, with nuclear weapons.

Power Struggle is very fun and the core replayable component of Crysis, but it has a few flaws. The first major flaw is that some better weapons and vehicles simply cost too much for ordinary players to ever buy; thus battles are often won or lost based on a single good player’s performance. Secondly, lag is a major problem online-often times, shootouts will be won based on who has the better Internet connection.

Gameplay: Singleplayer: Crysis seems like an ordinary first person shooter, but there’s a twist-the player’s character is equipped with a “nanosuit.” This nanosuit gives you various superhuman abilities that you can toggle between at will. Maximum Armor is the default mode, which recharges your energy shields faster than other powers; energy is what powers your suit’s functions and extends your life. Maximum Strength gives you Hulk-like power and jumping abilities and lessened weapon recoil, but at the cost of energy recharge speed. Maximum Speed lets you run at extreme speed but drains energy quickly and rarely serves any good purpose. Finally, Cloaking allows you to go invisible and become practically undetected by enemies.

The nanosuit is used effectively during the first half of the game, but during the second half it begins to become more of a gimmick. It is easily possible to beat the game without ever using nanosuit powers unless they’re required. In addition, while the first few levels are very enjoyable for their sandbox-like gameplay, later levels are heavily linear and scripted. As far as story goes, Crysis isn’t anything special-a group of heavily armed soldiers are dropped into a mysterious jungle island where North Koreans have discovered an ancient alien stronghold. However, unlike other shooters where story is a nuisance, Crysis at least attempts to integrate the story with the gameplay-all cutscenes, for example, are in first person.

Graphics: Graphics are Crysis’s most coveted aspect. Quite simply, on its highest settings, Crysis is the most beautiful and realistic game ever created. There is a catch, however-you won’t be playing it on the highest settings. Crysis’s minimum system requirements are so deceptive that it should be illegal. Unless you’ve bought a new graphics card during the last year, you will not be running this game. That said, if you can run Crysis, you’re in for the treat of a lifetime. Trees and bushes look like they’ve been plucked straight from the Hawaiian jungle, water is as realistic as possible, and vehicles and buildings are perfectly rendered.

The physics are Crysis’s secret weapon, however. The rule of thumb in Crysis is “everything explodes,” this is quite obvious in earlier levels. Almost any building, vehicle, or object can be blown up or completely destroyed down to the last wall. Everything is destructable. You’ll find yourself spending more time playing with your godlike powers of destruction than actually killing enemies. Crysis has, hands down, the best graphics and physics of any video game on the market.

Music: Crysis has some catchy tunes, but nothing too memorable. Most of the game has ambient music; that is, quieter, more natural music playing in the background as you explore the jungle. There are some more epic, action-packed pieces, but they only play during huge, climactic sequences.

Replayability: Crysis’s singleplayer is more replayable than other shooters, mostly due to the huge level of interactivity. Multiplayer is also highly replayable through Power Struggle, but the game mode has several annoyances that may drive less patient players over the edge. In the end, Crysis’s replayability is directly related to how much fun the player had playing the game the first time.

TOTAL: Crysis is an extremely good shooter and a much underrated game that does not deserve its reputation as a graphical devil-monster. The singleplayer and multiplayer go above and beyond the normal FPS standards to bring an unusually replayable game. However, several flaws in the single and multiplayer can cause frustration and ultimately stops the game from reaching its full potential.

Total: 8/10
Release date: November 13, 2007
Platforms: PC
Originally written for GameFAQs

Super Mario Galaxy--Review

"An incredible game and a must-have Wii title"

Super Mario Galaxy is the premiere Mario game on the Wii and the first true successor to the wildly acclaimed Super Mario 64. Galaxy takes everything that game invented and takes it to the next level.

Gameplay: Galaxy's gameplay is standard Mario fare mixed with some interesting new mechanics. The goal is to lead Mario to the famous star at the end of each level. There are many different galaxies, arranged in “observatories” accessible from the main hub, and each galaxy has several stars to obtain, for a total of 120. The variety of galaxies is amazing, as no two locales are similar. Many of the galaxies revolve around a new gravity mechanic-jumping from planetoid to planetoid. Each platform in these space-based levels allows you to walk completely around the platform, even upside down. This adds a whole new dimension to the standard platforming common in Mario games. Land-based galaxies are more traditional Mario locations, similar to the gameplay of Super Mario 64. These levels usually involve an objective of some kind that you must complete to get the star.

Every galaxy has a comet that occasionally arrives nearby. These “comet missions” involve doing a specific objective you already completed, but with a twist. These twists include only having 1 health unit, every enemy moving faster, or getting the star in a time limit. Completing these comet missions gives you a star as well. Finally, there are other stars that are hidden in levels that already have a star of their own, and stars found by Mario's brother Luigi-who subsequently gets himself captured and must be rescued to obtain his star.

The Wii Remote is used for several functions in Galaxy. In order to do a spin attack, you shake the Remote. Spin attacks are used for various actions and to injure enemies that can't be jumped on. However, the game often relies on spin attacks so much that you'll find your wrist hurting after just an hour or two of playing a galaxy that uses spin attacks frequently. Additionally, a few galaxies make use of holding the Remote in different ways, like on its side or vertically. These galaxies are usually more annoying than challenging.

A small new feature is the collection of star bits. These appear often, after doing anything from defeating enemies to simply finding them scattered throughout levels. Star bits can be collected by moving the Remote cursor over them. Star bits are used as a sort of “currency,” some areas of levels, and some whole galaxies, must be accessed by paying star bits to NPCs. However, the star bit function really serves no purpose other than this.

Another new mechanic is the suit function. Mario can find various mushrooms, like in classic Mario games, but the difference is these mushrooms cause some bizarre changes-one turns Mario into a bee and lets him fly around, another turns him into a spring to let him bounce higher. The only issue with this mechanic is that its only used when it needs to be-if you see a bee suit, you know you need to fly somewhere, and they never appear when you don't need to.

However, the gameplay does have a few small flaws. The camera is an annoyance throughout the game-whether you're on a planetoid and the camera refuses to follow you, or you're underwater and the camera randomly pans in front of you. While this seems like a minor issue, it can cause you die very easily when you can't see what you're doing.

Graphics: Galaxy is a beautiful game, hands down. All of the environments are amazingly detailed. Water reflects perfectly, the grass sways in the wind, and everything is perfectly and realistically rendered. The colorful art style makes the game easy to look at, and many times you'll enter a new galaxy and spend a few seconds just looking around at the landscape in awe.

Music: Galaxy's music is catchy and enjoyable. Many of the tunes will be stuck in your head for hours afterword, and all of them are unique and fit their respective galaxies well. Some of the boss battle songs are surprisingly epic for a Mario game. The game also adapts the music to the environment well-for example, the music distorts when you go underwater to reflect what actually happens to sound underwater. The music is one of the best parts of the game, and you'll probably find yourself humming some of the tunes without realizing it.

Replayability: Galaxy's large amount of collectible stars makes it a long, but well worth it, journey to undertake. However, the game's replayability revolves around the reward unlocked for getting all 120 stars. While I won't spoil it, I will say this reward's attempt at extending the game's replay value only applies to hardcore completionists. Nonetheless, it's a fun ride while it lasts.

TOTAL: Galaxy's enormous variety of locations and objectives means you won't get bored fast. The game is both deceptively easy and challenging for older players too, although the difficulty seems uneven throughout the game. The small flaws are outweighed by the pure fun the game gives you. This game is a must for all Wii owners.

Score: 9/10
Release date: November 12, 2007
Platforms: Wii
Originally written for GameFAQs

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare--Review

"A genre-influencing shooter that will not soon be forgotten"

First-person shooters are often criticized for being stale, cookie-cutter games with little effort put into them, and oftentimes, this is true. However, once in a while a gem in the genre pops up-and Call of Duty 4 is one of them. The Call of Duty series has always taken place in World War II-how does the new, modern-day combat hold up to the tried and true gameplay of the predecessors?

Gameplay: Multiplayer: As an FPS, Call of Duty 4 doesn't do much different than other shooters-the key is that it does it better. There are over a dozen different multiplayer maps to pick from, and a large amount of game types. Unlike many shooters, which face the “sniper problem”-the overpowering of snipers on maps-Call of Duty 4's maps feature a large amount of cover and buildings to protect yourself from snipers while still providing large open spaces for snipers to pick off easy prey. The weapons are also possibly the most balanced of any FPS-with a few exceptions, it's rare to play a large match in which every weapon isn't being used by someone. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, and can be customized to fit your style, with various sights and scopes, grips, silencers, grenade launchers, and colorful unlockable camo for every gun.

The major feature that sets Call of Duty 4 apart from other shooters is the level up system. Every time you gain points through a match-whether it's simply killing enemies in deathmatch or capturing an area in Headquarters-you gain equivalent experience points. Experience points can also be earned through completing challenges, which are criteria-based accomplishments with varying rewards, such as new scopes and camouflage. Every time you level up, you earn new challenges, “perks,” and even new weapons. The perfect balance between the weapons means that lower level players aren't disadvantaged with their weapon choices-I've seen many servers where the first place player is a lower level than the others.

Perks are a key feature in multiplayer-they're special abilities that help you mold your own fighting style. For example, the Iron Lungs perk lets you hold in your breath for a longer time-entirely useless to a shotgun user, but quite useful for a sniper. Other perks allow you to customize your loadout with various explosives, or give you other options with which to create your own strategies. For example, combining a silenced weapon with the UAV Jammer perk, which shields you from radar sweeps, forms the ultimate stealth kit. These varying ways to play help customize gameplay in ways you never thought possible, and makes the multiplayer enjoyable, and most importantly, exciting. You won't get bored fast.

Gameplay: Singleplayer: The singleplayer mode revolves around two different wars in two different countries-the British SAS versus Russian ultranationalists, and the US Marines versus Middle Eastern rebels from an intentionally unnamed country. Both villainous sides are working together for a common goal-wipe the west's influence off the map.

The singleplayer missions involve goal-based tactics combined with standard run-and-gun fare. One second you'll be protecting a tank as it rolls through the streets of a ravaged Middle Eastern city, the next you'll be hiding from search helicopters after being shot down in Russia. The characters are not that fleshed out, but their distinct personalities make them memorable and recognizable. The story is believable to the point that you sometimes wonder if a similar situation could erupt tomorrow. The singleplayer clearly wasn't thrown in randomly, unlike many multiplayer-focused games, and the only issue is that it's relatively short-but still rather lengthy for an FPS.

Graphics: Call of Duty 4's graphics are top notch and some of the best seen on the current generation of consoles. Explosions cause dust clouds that distort your view, rockets create trails of smoke, flames burn realistically, and bulletholes are created in realtime. Realistic lighting effects make maps set in different lighting conditions more interesting and force you to adapt to a different style of fighting. The graphical power leaves nothing to be desired and truly makes the game look and feel like modern warfare.

Music: Call of Duty 4's soundtrack is simply incredible. Although no music is played in multiplayer matches, the game's immersive soundtrack can be heard throughout singleplayer, and every level has its own individual song. The intense music really gets in you in the mood and feels appropriate no matter if you're fighting in Russia or the Middle East. Even the menu music is eerily calm as you prepare to join a match and start killing.

Replayability: Replayability is Call of Duty 4's strong point. With so many options for customization, and so many challenges and unlockables for every gun, it'll be hard for you to be left with nothing to do. Even the singleplayer is replayable, with many unlockable “cheats” that change up the game in fun, and often humorous ways.

TOTAL: Call of Duty 4 is one of the best games available for any console today. Fun both by yourself and with others, the infinite amount of replayability and customization breaks it from the mold of other shooters, turning it into a unique and highly enjoyable game in its own right. Like many pioneering shooters before it, Call of Duty 4 will be remembered as a step forward for the genre.

Score: 10/10
Release date: November 5, 2007
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Originally written for GameFAQs