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Frayed Wire X Podcast Episode 11: All Corners of the Earth

October 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Josh60502, JustMattPwn3r, and LostAddict1993 meet up again to record a new episode of Frayed Wire X. Do they have an idea of what they are going to talk about? No. Does that matter? Def no.

Listen in for discussions about the lack of new posts on the site, the general suckiness of Sonic the Hedgehog, upcoming gaming consoles, and the public’s inability to accept change in games like Metroid: Other M and Final Fantasy XIII.

Due to some issues retrieving the snazzy intro I introduced last episode, this one starts off right away. U mad about that?

Stream it in your browser or subscribe to us on iTunes!

By Josh60502

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“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game” Demo Impressions

August 14, 2010 Leave a comment

 

It’s rare that a game with the amount of style and fan service as Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game comes along. It’s all the more exciting when that game is good enough to be enjoyed on its own merits, regardless of the player’s knowledge of the source material. Incredible music, graphical style, and homages to the Scott Pilgrim comic aside, this game is a very enjoyable River City Ransom-esque brawler.

Now I’m not normally one to praise games in this genre. I found Streets of Rage to be repetitive and boring, and never really cared too much about Castle Crashers. Maybe it’s the personality and pixelated charm of Scott Pilgrim that drew me in and kept me interested, but after two playthroughs of the surprisingly lengthy demo, I still wanted more. Sure, there aren’t a ton of different attacks, and the enemies you encounter are very similar (identical in many cases), but the action is fun nonetheless. Variation comes in the form of new combos that you acquire as you beat XP out of the random attackers you face in the streets of Toronto, Canada, as well as the unique movesets of the four different playable characters.

As with most beat ’em up games, it’s obvious that Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game is meant to be played with others. Four people total can partake in the madness onscreen, although in order for that to happen you’ll have to crowd those four people all around the same TV. Bafflingly, there is no online multiplayer, and in a game like this, that’s a very unfortunate omission.

The graphics mimic the comic book’s art style, but with a detailed pixelated flair. It harkens back to older days of gaming, but the environments and characters are far too detailed and their animations far too smooth to be considered 8-bit or even 16-bit. However many bits they actually are, they are great fun to look at, and they definitely enhanced my enjoyment of the demo.

The music is similarly nostalgic, although it too is too complex to be technically called 16-bit. The chiptune rock band Anamaguchi provided the soundtrack, and I can’t think of a better way they could have handled it. The songs fit the style and mood of the game perfectly.

PSN users can download this game right now, but those who only own Xbox 360’s will have to wait until August 25th before they can get that same opportunity. Being someone in the latter group, I absolutely can’t wait for Scott Pilgrim to make its way over to XBLA. When you can, give the trial a shot and I’m sure you’ll see why.

By Josh60502

“ModNation Racers” PS3 Review

August 6, 2010 Leave a comment

Sony has once again helped in producing a game using the motto: Play, Create, Share. In the game players take the role of a little customizable mod to race in a Mario Kart-like racer. There are four different types of power-ups (lightning, rockets, speed boosts, and sonic booms) with three levels of effectiveness. There are several different ways to race including quick race against computer mods, career mode, split screen, split screen online, and just regular online races. I’ll start off talking about the most frustrating mode referred to as career mode.

The concept of the career mode is to rise up from a slightly experienced driver to become a ModNation Racer champion. The commentators that talk during and in between races add a sense of humor to the game that feels right. Along with completing the obvious task of winning each race, there is the added challenge of objectives like taking down three different people on the bridge in order to unlock more items for customization. The problem with this is it is really hard to do both with the CPU always on your tail. I have come within inches at times of winning the race and all of a sudden I would get destroyed by lightning and I would end up in fourth place. This becomes very aggravating at times. Once you do win a race you have to wait through unnecessarily long load times that can take a step back from the high pace action you experience during the race. Although these can be two disappointing aspects to the game there are plenty of things that make this game great. One such aspect that it steps up in is split screen. There are hardly any splitscreen mulitplayer games on the PS3 compared to the PS2 and United Front games delivers this exactly how you would expect it to be, but with your neighbors. When it comes to online play, it seems to me that the people you are facing are a lot more balanced compared to the CPU which leads to a more enjoyable experience.

The part that becomes the heart to the game is the customization. The shear amount of content it provides to make the game your own is amazing. The first thing you can customize is the characters themselves. They can be dressed in all sorts of skins and sticks that are unlocked in the campaign mode. Modding the kart can be changed in the same ways as the characters allowing for such things as different body kits to adding a satellite to the front of the car. Finally comes the track creation which can be the most complex. Although creators can be very complex when creating a track, even the most basic creators can make great tracks using features like auto populate to add a little bit of spice to the levels; something which was hard to do in LittleBigPlanet. For those of you who usually draw stick figures when creating people there is always the option to download other players’ creations which can be pretty spectacular. There have been such things as Mario and Iron Man to the Mystery Machine  and a Ferrari. All and all this game has loads of features that will keep you playing for hours.

Pros: Replay Value, Customization, Wide Variety of Content, and Epic Races

Cons: Load Times and Rubber Band Like CPU

Final Score: 9.1 out of 10

By Md6er3

What to Expect From E3 2010 – Sony

June 9, 2010 1 comment

With a slew of great games having come out on the Playstation 3 this past year, Sony has proven themself a worthy competitor in the video game market. Fantastic exclusives have been the discs spinning in many PS3 owners’ systems, so this year at E3 I think we can expect to see a lot of talk of sequels. Killzone 3 has been announced and shown off a little bit already, as has LittleBigPlanet 2, but I expect there are still plenty of games up Sony’s sleeves that are waiting for a proper unveiling at their press conference this year. Infamous 2, Resistance 3, maybe some sort of Uncharted sequel (possibly on the PSP), are all big possibilities.

While it’s obvious that Sony has some great games coming down the line, one place they have yet to fully prove themselves is in their motion controller. Will the Playstation Move keep up with Microsoft’s Natal? Both companies are sure to push their respective motion controlled experiences at E3 this year, and on Sony’s end we’ll probably be seeing these games get a sizable chunk of time devoted to them at the press conference.

Sony’s Playstation Network has long been considered inferior to Xbox Live, but that may change after we find out more about the “premium service” Sony has coming up. Will the added features players get for subscribing be worth the fee? I predict Sony will clearly lay out all the details regarding this service at their conference, including the price. It will be interesting to me what exactly the added features will be. Cross game chat? Movie rentals? Free downloadable games, or perhaps some sort of rental service for them?

Another topic that several companies will be tackling this year is 3D. It’s all the rage now after the success of Avatar in theaters, but consumers have yet to be convinced that they need to go out and buy a 3D compatible TV. Will we see an “Avatar of games” – that is, a title so groundbreaking that it convinces everyone that 3D is worthwhile? I’m betting we won’t. Rather, I think all that will happen is some games will be announced as 3D compatible. Killzone 3 is already confirmed to be that, and some of the Ps3’s other big upcoming games will probably jump on the bandwagon as well. I’d be surprised if Sony unveils something 3D related that is truly spectacular at their press conference, but you never really know. I always find myself getting surprised at these press conferences every time.

By Josh60502

“Just Cause 2” Demo Impressions

March 26, 2010 2 comments

What makes an open-world game good? Is it the variety of things you can do? The size of the world you can explore? The ease of traversing that world? Whatever the special secret is exactly, Just Cause 2 seems to have found it, because I haven’t had this much fun with a sandbox-style game in a long time.

Story in these types of experiences is always expendable, but Just Cause 2 forces you to sit through a couple cutscenes at the beginning of the game nonetheless. They are a little awkward and don’t do much to grab your attention, but you learn that you are a man hired to wreak havoc on the oppressive government of a massive island. From there, you are let loose to run around and do whatever you want. All of this is made an absolute blast with Just Cause 2‘s main “hook” – an extremely versatile grappling hook. Aim it at anything within its range and fire, and you’ll be pulled up to that spot. When I say “anything”, I really mean it. Towers, mountaintops, helicopters… you name it, you can stand on it at the push of a button.

Of course, this great way of traversing the world wouldn’t mean a thing if that world wasn’t interesting, but Just Cause 2 seems to have that covered as well. I say seems because while the area available in the demo was huge on its own, the full game will supposedly have a much greater variety of environments. I know the full island is insanely big – just one trip to the pause menu will show you that – but what I really hope is that the full island would have many different types of places to go to. The demo took place primarily in a desert, but screenshots I have seen of this game reveal snowy places as well as skyscraper-filled cities, among other locations.

Luckily, there is much to do in each singular environment. The map points out government bases that you are expected to destroy, so naturally I headed out to destroy them. Upon arriving in seconds due to either grappling hooking my way up to a mountain above one and then base jumping/parachuting off of it or jacking some random car GTA-style and speeding on over, I found a collection of buildings and people waiting to get blown up. As far as weapons go, you start with a standard pistol, but more powerful machine guns can be picked up from fallen enemies. In addition, there are grenades and your grappling hook, which can either grab and pull people up into the air or be used as a sort of whip if you’re up close. You get a sense that the weapons pack a real punch when each shot sends people catapulting into the air through a shower of blood.

Realistic? Not really, but I’m glad Just Cause 2 didn’t opt for a realistic route. There are already enough Grand Theft Auto clones out there that it’s refreshing to see an open-world game ditch realism and instead go for providing the most fun it possibly can. That’s the feeling I got playing this demo – that the developers just wanted to make the funnest open-world game they possibly could.

For the most part, they have done a fantastic job. The freedom of movement provided by the grappling hook is great, and many of the objectives let you utilize it quite well. Though I must mention that the objectives that restrict your grappling hook usage, mainly ones involving driving, are fun as well thanks to the excellent vehicle mechanics.

If there’s any real annoyance I had with the objectives, it’s how thorough they expect you to be. You can’t check off a base as destroyed until you have gone and shot every last explosive object in it. It’s a little annoying to take down a giant tower or generator in an intense, grappling hook-filled fight and leave the base feeling like you’ve pw3ned it and then realize you have to turn back because you forgot to shoot one red barrel. On the other hand, exploring the island is a very appealing task on its own, so searching around a base a bit more is ultimately probably not all that different from what you were going to do next anyway.

There are a lot of great games coming out around now that will undoubtedly overshadow Just Cause 2, but this is definitely a title that doesn’t deserve to be ignored. If you don’t believe me, go play its fantastic demo. After its 30-minute time limit has expired, if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to start it over right away.

By Josh60502

“Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing” Demo Impressions

March 20, 2010 1 comment

Oh, Sonic – always a step behind his eternal rival, Mario. When Nintendo’s lovable mascot made the jump from 2D to 3D, Sega’s blue hedgehog wasn’t quite ready. When Mario starred in an RPG, Sonic took years to catch up. When Mario and co. started playing sports, only then did Sega start to create their own sports game surrounding their mascot. And now, once again, Sonic has entered a gaming sub-genre that Mario pioneered years before – the kart racer. What is surprising, however, is how good Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing really is.

Don’t get me wrong, though. This is not an original game by any means. The wacky antics and smorgasbord of random characters it features have been characteristic of every kart racing game to have come before it. I even found that many of the items that can be used as weapons against other racers correspond to items in Mario Kart. For example, the missiles in Sonic & Sega All-Stars work in much the same way as the shells in the Mario Kart‘s, and the Sonic shoes in this game give you a speed boost much like the mushrooms in the latter title.

The modes available mirror Mario Kart as well. While only a single race was playable in the demo, I saw circuit challenges, a mission mode, time trials, and various battle modes in the multiplayer section (though admittedly there are more of these battle modes than in any Mario Kart game). What this means is that while people who have gotten their kart racing fix on this generation of consoles with Mario Kart Wii won’t see many new ideas put into play here, people who still crave that style of game or who missed that particular title will find a lot to enjoy here. Specifically, I can see kids with either a PS3 or 360 but not a Wii getting into this game the most since there really isn’t already a game quite like this on either of those two systems. Of course there is a Wii edition of the game as well, but unsurprisingly the other two previously mentioned systems hold the definitive version.

The main reason for that is the graphics. The tracks, based on Sega games, look fantastic on the 360 demo that I played. Each one is themed after a particular game from the Sega backlog; most being Sonic-related, but others based on Super Monkey Ball, House of the Dead, and Samba De Amigo, to name a few. The characters are pulled from games such as these as well, sometimes to odd effect. I can’t be the only one who thinks it’s weird to see a very cartoony Tails racing along next to a more realistic-looking Ryo Hazuki (from Shenmue), right?

Impressive as the environments are however, the graphic quality of the game takes a hit from the choppy frame rate. After playing for a few minutes you get used to it, but when I first started the demo, the lackluster frame rate really stood out to me. Even so, there’s so much going on at once that the overall craziness of the game doesn’t feel diminished. Items are flying everywhere, speed lines appear at the borders of the screen before you even realized you got a speed boost, and the tracks often send you through ridiculous jumps or loops. I imagine playing this for a prolonged length of time could leave you with a mild case of ADD for a few hours afterward.

Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing will probably appeal to kids too young to remember the Dreamcast era where most of the tracks and characters are pulled from, but I doubt they’ll mind much. As far as kart racers go, this a very solid title. As far as Sonic games go, this is surprisingly great. If zany, multiplayer-oriented racing appeals to you, it doesn’t look like you’ll go wrong with the full version of this game.

By Josh60502

“Bioshock” Xbox 360 Review

January 16, 2010 6 comments

In 2007 a game came out that everybody talked about, a game that won nearly every “Game of the Year” award that it could… a game by the name of Bioshock. Fast forward to January 2010, and we have its sequel just about a month away. Most gamers are abuzz about that, but I’d like to take the time to take us back a few years by providing my review for the first Bioshock. I just finished it for the first time a week or so ago, so what better way to get people pumped for Bioshock 2 to than to remind everyone who played the original years back why it’s so great?

Bioshock is, at its core, a first-person shooter like so many of the other popular games around. However, it not only does so many things differently from the Gears of War‘s and Call of Duty‘s that everyone is used to, but it trumps the competition in many aspects as well. One of the most striking and memorable ways is how Bioshock tells its story. The set up is brief, but effective. In the opening cutscene we see the protagonist, known as simply Jack, sitting on a plane when it suddenly goes down over the ocean. Emerging from the burning wreckage, the only path available is towards a lighthouse in the near vicinity. You walk inside and step into a bathysphere, which begins to descend into Rapture, the underwater city below. The scene is set up with a video projected onto the window of the bathysphere – a man named Andrew Ryan created the city to escape the societies of the world above. In Rapture, a man’s entitlements equal the amount he works for them. This view closely resembles that of real life author/philosopher Ayn Rand’s; in fact, you might even notice how the name Andrew Ryan is essentially an anagram of Ayn Rand.

Within moments, it becomes clear that Rapture did not end up how it was intended. Monstrous people with supernatural abilities known as “splicers” roam the many buildings of the ruined city, bloody corpses line the walls, and violence can be found everywhere. After obtaining a radio, which you use to communicate with various characters, inside the bathysphere, you step into the city and discover right along with Jack just how twisted it is, and just how far it fell. One of the greatest things about Bioshock is how you learn the city’s story through experiencing it first-hand. There are no lengthy passages of text to scroll through, and cutscenes are almost nonexistent. The delivery of the story could be compared to the Half-Life games, but unlike in those, Bioshock‘s narrative remains coherent and compelling throughout.

A large chunk of this narrative comes in the form of audio diaries that are strewn about the environment. Only a small handful of them are necessary to advancing the game, but I took the time to find as many as I could anyway because they were actually interesting. Each contains a short snippet of a particular character’s story, so when pieced together, they foreshadow the things to come and ultimately paint Rapture as a fleshed out, fully realized world. One of the reasons that the climax of Bioshock is so fondly remembered by everyone who experienced it is not only because of how genuinely well done it is, but because by that point in the story, we have a deep understanding of the characters – or so we think.

Of course, a game can not be great without stellar gameplay, and Bioshock delivers on that front as well. The main things that set Bioshock apart from its first-person shooter peers are the plasmids and tonics, which are the previously mentioned supernatural abilities that nearly every citizen of Rapture makes use of. These are separated into groups – each one applying to a specific aspect of gameplay. The plasmids are used as attacks, and range from shooting electricity out of your hand to creating a target dummy to distract enemies to even unleashing a swarm of angry bees on opponents. The tonics don’t function as attacks, but rather boost your character’s traits. For example, one reduces the amount of damage explosions do to you, one quiets your footsteps so you can sneak up on enemies better, and another one, my personal favorite, shoots out a jolt of electricity from your body every time an enemy hits you with a melee attack.

Some of the tonics make hacking easier for you, which is useful seeing that you’ll be doing a lot of hacking during your stay in Rapture. Throughout the levels, there are mechanical devices that will attack you. Sentry guns equipped with either machine guns or rockets guard places of importance, and security cameras, if they catch you, will cause sentry bots to come flying in to take you down. However, these devices, if disabled by an electrical attack, can be reprogrammed to fight for you. Hacking them consists of a minigame involving rearranging tubes so that a liquid that starts from one side of the screen can successfully follow a path to the end. The hacking challenges become harder depending on what you’re hacking; for example, it’s easier to convert a sentry bot to your side than it is to crack open a safe. As a result, the hacking difficulty throughout the game ranges from easy to the point of being a somewhat annoying diversion from the main game to ridiculously hard. As soon as I was able to bypass the hacking process later in the game, I took advantage of all those opportunities. It isn’t that the hacking is necessarily bad, it just seems like a halt in the flow of the game most of the time.

One thing that is well done in Bioshock, however, is the sound design. The eerie ambiance is one of the main contributing factors to the game’s excellent atmosphere. The various public radio announcements that can be overheard as you traverse the city go far in establishing the feel of Rapture, and the other sounds that come from vending machines sound exactly right in place with the rest of the creepy 1960’s style of the city. Actual music is sparse, but the transition from ambient sounds to full-scale instrumentals when something dramatic starts happening is always so well done that you barely notice the sounds have changed completely.

The art style is fantastic, and the visuals do a great job of conveying Rapture as a place of both wonder and horror. One small gripe I have with them, though, is within the animations. When you kill a splicer, many times their body will fall to the ground in what appears to be a rigid and unnatural manner. If you ever happen to hit a dead body with your wrench or some other weapon, this same rigidness can be seen as well. I also noticed several textures not loading correctly at times. I would walk up to something and it would be void of any real detail when all of a sudden all the intricacies of the model would pop up. Interestingly, this happened mainly when I went back through areas that I had previously beaten.

That in its own right is interesting as well – that I would backtrack through levels I had already beaten even though I didn’t have to. Once I reached the ending of the game, I immediately wanted to go back to the earlier areas and get things I had missed. It’s not like Bioshock is a particularly short game, either. However, it feels that way when you beat it because, twisted and disturbing as it is, Rapture is a place that you want to continue to explore even after you have gone through it all. It’s a testament to how well the environments are built and how fun the gameplay is that I would want to return to them so quickly. The fact of the matter is that even though Bioshock might be considered old news to some, the game is still one of the best first-person shooters available on the Xbox 360, or any system really. If you want a game that will disturb you, wow you, and completely engross you all at the same time, there aren’t very many better choices than this work of art.

Pros: Fantastic atmosphere, excellent and rich plot, unique and fun gameplay, some of the best sound design I’ve ever seen, surprisingly high replay value

Cons: The hacking minigame halts the flow of the game, some small texture issues, death animations seem rigid, the Vita-Chamber system of respawning isn’t perfect

Final Score: 9.6 out of 10

By Josh60502