Angry Robot

WTF Wednesday: Creeptastic Bird

Okay…so…I think this is hideous.

Do you agree?

Some do, but many think it is “beautiful”. I know D loves a good hairless cat, but this…this is…not good…

The World Ends With You Not Playing It

I’ve got GTA IV in my filthy little hands and I know my next gaming month will be spent near-exclusively in off-brand NYC, but I wanted to just squeeze out a drop of appreciation for my recent crush, The World Ends With You on the DS. It’s a Japanese RPG, but it’s so positively bursting with new ideas that it feels like an entirely new genre.

It’s set in the modern day, in a real location; combat is real-time and requires use of BOTH stylus and d-pad to control 2 characters at once; you can toggle difficulty settings at any time; brand awareness has gameplay implications; a major theme of the game is gameplay itself, that and urban isolation. Leveling and unlocking new abilities is largely handled through fashion-conscious ‘pins’.

But the thing that’s really blown my mind: your pins level up while you aren’t playing. This is a game that rewards you for not playing it. Yeah, go ahead and marinate on that shit for a while. (And when you come back, your pins will have leveled up.)

GTA IV and the Exclusive Review

Here’s Variety on the problems associated with exclusive reviews, in the context of the IGN GTA IV that went up a few days ago and gave the game a 10 out of 10. Ben Fritz brings up the Game Informer Mass Effect 9.75 review that was also an exclusive (and mentioned some massive flaws).

A comment on the piece has some details about how this sort of thing works:

With the release of GTA Vice City, the rules where simple: Take 2 permitted you to publish a review BEFORE the game was released if you gave it 95% or more. You sign that document, you got playable code. All the others got their first playable code in the form of a retail version, at the day of release. By then, the press already had tons of 95+ releases, and no-one dared to oppose these reviews, in fear of getting butchered by GTA fanboys.

Depressing, really. Me? I’m cynical like a truckload of dadaists, so 10/10 from IGN means very little. Any > 9 review of a triple-A game on a big site doesn’t mean too much. Not that I think GTA IV will suck; I’m preparing to devote many hours of my life to it. But still, 10/10 implies no past or future game can rival its greatness, which seems a little over the top.

GTA Marathon

For those about to GTA IV, we salute you with this video of our latest lapse in judgment: 24 hours of GTA, GTA III, Vice City, Vice City Stories, and San Andreas, dipped in energy drinks and meat sticks and a profound disrespect for sex trade workers.

It took us a day, but you can watch it in only a few minutes. Ain’t that a bargain!

The Adventures of Eyeless Max: More Apologies


I am sorry not to get a comic done this week…however, because of this there is going to be some crazy exciting stuff ready for you in the future. I have been drawing an average of 8 hours a day to make some nifty new stuff…and you will eventually see it.

So, the marathon didn’t scare me off Grand Theft Auto…in fact I’ve been on and off San Andreas again…not alot because of the aforementioned business, but for the odd hour here and there.

Will there be something awesome here next week?

You bet your sweet ass.

Happy Monday: A Good Way To Start The Day

Take a look at this and tell me it’s not a) cool and b) incredibly wonderful.

I love when stuff I didn’t know even existed ends up in the hive mind.


Tested: Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword

Ninja Gaiden has always been a hallmark in the action game genre. From its arcade days as a Double Dragon-eqse beat-em up to the NES as an action platformer, and now in its modern 3D form, each Ninja reincarnation tries to raise the bar of fast paced, innovative gameplay. But, the problem with pushing the envelope is that you end up with things that work and things that don’t work. Such is the case with Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword on the Nintendo DS.

Released in March of 2008, Gaiden DS was highly anticipated title for two reasons. It was the bridge between the first Xbox incarnation and upcoming sequel. Plus, it made use of two rarely used features of the dual screen. By combining a stylus navigation system (like Zelda: Phantom Hourglass) with a sideways “book” positioning of the DS, Ninja Gaiden looked poised to raise the bar once again.

After your comrade Momiji is kidnapped by the Black Spider Ninja Clan, Ryu Hayabusa embarks on a quest to uncover the secrets of eight dark dragon stones. The game visits many of the locales gamers may remember from the previous Gaiden outing, which further connects this episode to its predecessor. Because of the capabilities of the DS your arsenal for fighting evil comes kinda reduced. Your only main weapon in this game is, obviously, the Dragon Sword. That’s cool, but fans of the series might miss the many favorites like the Vigoorian Flail, which gave variety to the way you dismembered your foes. Projectile weapons are also reduced to just ninja stars and arrows.

The only weapons you have that are expanded upon is your Ninpo Magic. Using the nimpo involves touching the icon next to your health meter and then tracing a Japanese symbol in order to activate the magic. The magic, like Ryu himself, can also be directed by the stylus pen to take out as many enemies as you can or to use as a way to get into new areas. The offensive magic is kind of overkill compared its use in the previous Gaiden. I really only found myself using the health nimpo to survive in sticky situations.

The limitations of the DS are the truly the only thing that gets in the way of making Dragon Sword a cut above great. Firstly, in terms of graphics, fighting in the background of a stage or level is like pulling a stylus pen out of an enemy filled haystack. You can hardly tell what you are doing because you are surrounded by enemies and everything is sooooo small. That leads to my second problem with this game: the stylus. The stylus looks like it should be very easy to control Ryu with, but the stylus is also used to make Ryu jump. Because of this you run into many situations where by trying to jump, Ryu just moves further into the background or vice versa.

My final problem with Dragon Sword is kinda superficial. In the commercials for the game people are seen calmly and pleasantly drawing slashes across their DS almost like it’s a PDA and I envisioned myself sitting on the subway doing pretty much the same thing. Some Bay St. suit would coming up to ask me if that’s some kinda new electronic notebook? I’d pleasently reply “No, its Ninja Gadien” we have a quick chuckle and I go back to being the envy of gamers everywhere. Instead, people gawk in fear as I scribble frantically like some kinda gaming psycho. But it’s Ninja Gadien so I should have expected that. It may not be perfect, but it’s still a hallmark for action on the Nintendo DS.

Echochrome = Must Have Game!

This is my new fav game right now, and that’s just from playing the demo.

The simply beauty of the game makes me weep, the gentle tutorial swept me off my feet and I was hooked. I’m not really a puzzle game person but this one is so relaxing and yet challenging.

The point of the game is to move your character across the playing field to connect with its echo (a black version of the character). The playing field itself is a simple line drawing that can be rotated in various ways. For instance, the character may be headed for a gap in the pathway, but with a slight rotation you can cover the gap with another part of the map and the character will walk across because you’ve changed the perspective and it can no longer detect a gap. Amazing! I know it sounds simple and it is, but it can get tricky and there are also obstacles like holes and jump pads. Drop down a hole and you will end up directly below so you line up the map to reflect where you want your character to fall. Same with the jump pad only you go up instead of down. Fascinating!

The game uses the Object Locative Environment Coordinate System created by Jun Fujiki. The pathways/maps are all based on Oscar Reutersvärd’s “impossible constructions” which are mind tingling to look at on their own anyway. Once you add all that perspective manipulation, well, you can see why my brain is very happy at the moment.

The music is a violin melody that is very soothing and also motivating. It’s like your brain is gently swimming though maths…If that makes any sense. The loop is fairly short, only a few minutes long, but I can’t really tell, it’s all so seamless in my ears. The music makes me ache inside.

Check out the trailer and play this game as soon as you can!

The game is PS3 and PSP exclusive and I’m getting the full PSP version as soon as it’s out. Pretty much gonna be my PSP game for the foreseeable future I think…

Happy Friday: 8-bit Time Travel

I like this. Someone has taken Boston’s Foreplay and turned it into 8-bit.

I think that’s just nifty.


Only a Game examines the psychology of curiosity as it applies to games. “Curiosity is the motivation to learn, independent of any goal-seeking or fantasy-fulfillment.” We were discussing related ideas on the last sounds the desire to explore is what leads me to play more often than not.

Mario Kart Wii is Dead to Me

Hell hath frozen over. Fenrir has swallowed Odin whole. The twilight of the gods is nigh. I hate Mario Kart Wii. Yesterday I had my first chance to experience a game I had been waiting for since the Wii was released. No one could be more shocked by my reaction than me, but I can’t deny how this game let me down and how I have no desire to ever play it again.

I am a huge fan of the Mario Kart games, I have been since the SNES version. I was addicted back then, must have played that game for four years straight. I would eat generic lucky charms and race around for hours trying to beat my best times and earn the cups over and over again. I never had a N64 so I had no connection with that version, but from all the people I know who love the game that was the version that they fell in love with. Then came Double Dash and I was smitten again. Racing with my friends was key to my happiness. We would unlock all maps and mirror mode and play the Grand Prix Championship (all 16 races) like mad fiends until we thought we were too good and then erase all the data and start over again. We loved it.

That is the heart of my love of Mario Kart, playing with my friends. There have always been three main game types in the Kart: Grand Prix, where characters, vehicles, and races are unlocked; Versus, where you can play against just your friends up to four players; and Battle, with different types of games like straight on bust balloons or race to collect this or that. Grand Prix has been and will always be my main squeeze when it comes to Mario Kart. My roommate and I would unlock all the characters together and were satisfied, but not enormously pleased, when all you got at the end of Double Dash was the golden super car. We expected great things from the next incarnation of Mario Kart. With Smash Bros. Brawl having so many characters and secrets we were sure that Mario Kart would exceed all expectations.

The 32 tracks, half of which are revamped versions of older titles, are spectacular. Remakes aside, lots of tracks just adds awesome. There are loads of characters ready at the get go – including my beloved Toad. There are great cars available, and the addition of bikes to the mix is both welcomed and easy to adapt to. The game looks exactly like Double Dash, with a few added items thrown in and all the animations have been slightly tweaked, but for the most part it’s the same thing. That’s fine though, as I’ve stressed before you don’t play a Wii game for graphics.

So, what’s my big problem with Mario Kart Wii? There is no co-op Grand Prix mode. The main reason for my Mario Kart love affair through the ages has been taken out of this version. You can race your friends against the computer in Solo mode, which is just basic racing, or Team mode, which is Red vs. Blue points style, but you don’t unlock anything in either of those modes. You can only unlock tracks, characters, and cars in single player Grand Prix mode. I was shocked. I was hurt. I was appalled.

I had gone over to my friend’s house to help him unlock the rest of the game and get a early review in. I was so excited, I couldn’t wait to come back to the Robot and write all about how much fun I had and how thrilled I was with a sure-fire Wii masterpiece. I got there and after making a new Mii we started up the game on my License, which is the gamercard (as it were) for Mario Kart Wii. Your license has all your player history and stats, so when you go online you can be ranked with like players and you can have access to the tracks and cars that you’ve unlocked. We didn’t get to try out the online stuff, but I don’t play the Wii for online anyway.

We soon found, however, that we couldn’t Grand Prix together. We could race in three ways: random tracks, in order, and player chooses. You can change the class, CPU ability, track order, items (balanced, aggressive, strategic, or none), and change the number of tracks per race. All good things, right? But I was gutted. They had cut the heart out of my reason for playing Mario Kart. Why did I want to unlock everything solo and then play against my friends for, what, bragging rights? I don’t play Mario Kart for bragging rights, I play it like I play co-op campaign Halo. I play it to be a brother in racing arms with my roommate so that by then end in the final showdown between us and the CPU, one of us has to play kamikaze-style with the toughest characters simply to take them out of the race while the other person races for victory. I like playing that way, I like the adventure of unlocking the game with a buddy. Sure, we aren’t on the same team, but we play together in Grand Prix, that was the best part.

Now I’m not going to debate the whole unlockables thing here, that is another discussion entirely. We’ve touched on that in the past few Robot Sounds. Toku and D are on one side of the fence and I am on the other. There is no debate on the validity of having unlockables in multiplayer games like Mario Kart for me right now. The fact is, one of the main reasons I play Mario Kart is to unlock characters by getting the highest rank and trophy on each track. That is just how I play the game and I adore it. Like I said, it gives me that sense of co-op campaign of other games. That part of the game has been removed, in essence Mario Kart has been lobotomized. Sure, there are tons of racing variations to choose from, but without that push it to the limit sensibility of multiplayer Grand Prix I just don’t want to play the game.

Mario Kart Wii has been getting the reviews I would have agreed with before yesterday with 8s, 9s, and super high percentages across the board. Major attention is being lavished on the online addition to the game, which is as much praise for the game itself as it is ragged hope for future online multiplayer functionality for the Wii in general.

Toku said I was being biased because not everyone plays Mario Kart like me, and that is very true. I am biased, but I am also a diehard frelling Mario Kart fan. This is like Zelda and Halo for me, this is one of those games that I love for life and any sequel or version I am going to play and pretty much love because the formula for enjoyment is so simple. But Nintendo has gone and fracked it up so much for me with the Wii version. Yes, I am biased. Yes, not everyone plays the game like I do. But for those who do, and I do know more than one who does, they will be gutted like I was and the game with be empty in their hands. With no Grand Prix multiplayer to unlock things together, the game is hollow and boring.

So there it is, I don’t want to play this game again. I know it’s a “must have Wii title” and sure, go and get it if you want. I’m sure my roommate will and he’ll want me to play with him and I know I’ll play a few rounds with him, but I won’t be filled with delight. Mario Kart Wii for me was a sad realization, of my own gamer mortality so to speak. It made me sad. Mario Kart Wii made me sad.

And that’s all I have to say on the matter.

Robot Sounds 16

All Grand Theft Auto, all the gol-durned time! Join Mags, Nadine and D for this GTA-themed show, in which we reminisce about hookers we have loved and shot, and so forth.

Things we mention in the show: Dan Houser interview. The work on mastery vs. exploration I was thinking of may have been from Only a Game, but I’m unable now to find a specific article. However, there are many great articles on that site on that topic (not necessarily using those terms, however). This may be an interesting starting point.

Angry Robot Sounds 16

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WTF Wednesday: Chess = Gateway to Insanity

So, many of you know I like chess. In the secret corners of my room I play against my computer at least once daily in the wee hours of the morn’. I am by no means a good player and I’m just starting to wind my brain around not getting sucked into fool’s plays and quick checkmate ploys. My computer is a cunning lil’monster when it comes to exploiting my impatient weakness…

Anyway, millions of people play Chess and thousands of people are amazing at the game. It fact, it’s not a game when they play it, it’s an art form.

This is just a short example of what’s out there, and really, this seriously shames my brain into not even wanting to play in the dark anymore. I don’t deserve to play a game the way I do when it can be played like this:

Or this:

All I can do at this point is sigh…

Top 10 Games for $10

Pretty good list here contains some robot faves like N+, Geometry Wars, Pixel Junk Monsters, and Prey. Get your cheap on!

10 Game Ideas Inspired by 'Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe'


Don't Fear the Rock Band

I was a Guitar Hero & Rock Band hater. Well, that’s too strong a word – how about skeptic.

Fear and Doubt

For one thing, after playing Guitar Hero a handful of times, the games seemed harder for actual musicians than those with untrained ears, as we are aware of the discrepancies between notes in our ears and things our fingers were supposed to do. A music game that’s harder for musicians? What’s up with that.

Rock Band has the same problems, of course, plus the added concern that when you play in a group, the game’s reliance on visuals means you all wind up zoning out staring at your fretboard on the screen, not interacting with your fellow musicians at all.

Zoning out to Rock Band. (source)

And beyond that, the games’ core concepts are something to fret and skeptify about. They celebrate performance over composition, hero over musician, cover band over creators. They offer only simplistic imitation, not the glory of creation.

Others are skeptical for different reasons, fearing that fans may have less reason to go and see actual live shows when they can noodle and fantasize in their dens. Now magazine recently worried that guitar hero might be “exploiting real musicians”. (ah, good ol’ worrywart Now Magazine.)

Nonetheless, having resolved to give ‘er a shot, I bought Rock Band, and enjoyed the group sessions, but started to worry that I had spent almost $200 on a party game that might get used a handful of times.

Well, this might be the rationalization talking, but consider me a convert. There’s nothing like actually playing a game to blow all the doubts away.

Hard Rock

Initially I liked a lot of things. The interface and design are great, the tracklist seemed good, the humour spot-on, and dressing up my rocker – named Hardd, and given to ludicrous glam outfits – was alarmingly entertaining.

But the thing that has really convinced me is not Hardd but ‘hard’ mode. Medium was much better than easy, in terms of how the inputs correspond to the music. Hard is even better. I had heard this before, that once I got to hard I’d like it more, and that’s absolutely true.

Once you’re on hard everything starts coming together. You have to actually practice, just like with real music. So you practice, you get to know the songs, and eventually you can play them without looking at the screen – if this was the case for your entire band, you’d do away with one concern about Rock Band right there. Anyway, in practice mode, you can select the section(s) of the song you wish to go over, handy for those nasty, nasty solos (more on that in a second). A side effect of that routine is you start learning the actual structure of songs, which is certainly a musical endeavour in and of itself.

It has been said that playing drums on expert is roughly equivalent to playing the actual drum part. So, you could teach yourself to play drums through this game. If that’s not of musical value, I don’t know what is.

Bottom line is, once you’ve learned a song on hard, you’ve got a greater knowledge and appreciation of that song than you would typically get by simply listening to it. It’s something that approaches what you’d get by actually learning the song on real guitar, drums, what have you.

More Fears Allayed

And let me confess that one of my doubts isn’t valid at all. Musical performance shouldn’t be categorically considered inferior to composition. This is a rockist assumption perhaps; since the Beatles pioneered the reliance on original compositions, we’ve been considering musicians who don’t write their own material to be inferior. But no one judges Yo-Yo Ma that way, and we still celebrate Sinatra, etc. etc. Just because Rock Band and Guitar Hero don’t allow composition, that doesn’t mean they’re not musical. There is plenty of musicality in learning and performing music.

And the games’ potential impact upon the music industry? Well, you have two trends. One is people going out to Rock Band and Guitar Hero nights at bars. It certainly gets rid of the ‘parents’ basement’ category of concern. I suppose you could still worry that such nights sap audiences from actual music performance, if you’re the worrying type, but that seems petty and misguided given the thrust of the second trend, namely, people actually spending money on downloadable songs for Guitar Hero and Rock Band. At $2 a song, i.e. more than the going rate for MP3 downloads, people are perfectly willing to pay for music in this context, which is no small feat considering current music industry market conditions. Bands like Motley Crue are releasing new singles in Rock Band, and smaller bands are gaining exposure and fame via their inclusion even in the download section. And with full album releases now upon us, shit is just getting hecticker.

The upshot is that these games represent a significant new trend, not just in gaming (we knew that already) but within the music industry at large, an industry starving for significant new trends that don’t involve lawsuits and plummeting sales.

Solos and Composition

Let me just make one small complaint, though, about how these games handle solos. Even the least imaginative cover band doesn’t ape a song’s guitar solo note for note, yet these games expect you to do just that. Given that both drum and vocal parts in Rock Band periodically encourage you to improvise, surely the same policy could be applied to guitar solos. I know things don’t work the same way with guitars, and this would take some new code, but it certainly would add a new aspect to the gameplay that would be in keeping with rock tradition.

And that said, it’s only a couple of leaps from there to full-on composition through these interfaces. Again, the drums and vocals are already there; it’s the guitar and bass that are constrained by their limited number of ‘frets’. But even mapping common chords to the guitar buttons could allow for some basic Ramones-style songwriting. If you let players choose the button mapping and key beforehand, you could have an incredible tool for idea sketching, improvisation and musical collaboration. I know that games more devoted to that exist and more are on their way, but still.

To sum up: Rock Band & Guitar Hero: good. Past me: wrong. Present me: awesome. I actually enjoy changing opinions on things, especially from the negative to the positive, as it’s far more illuminating than just sticking to your guns. So I’m thrilled to have been wrong.

Plus, it means I get to enjoy my newly-downloaded Sabbath pack. Despite the near-impossible solos.

Happy Monday: Gaming meet…Fanfiction!

Another edition to the world of mix and match imagination! Midway has released the trailer for Mortal Combat VS. DC Universe. And it’s just darling.

Subzero takes on Batman. Ha! Awesome. Whatever, I think it’s nifty.

Ye Olde School

Well, the fine folks here at Angry Robot may well be insane. This week, and I can not remember who’s brilliant plan it was (not mine), we decided to play through all of the Grand Theft Auto Games as a lead up to the release of Grand Theft Auto IV. I don’t want to go into details because we will go into details about it later in the fashion of the Halo Marathon.

Clearly we are suckers for punishment.

Strangely enough, I am not sick of them. In fact, this has only reminded me of how much I love the games and has made me want to run home and play them… right now! I love San Andreas… I Love BMXing, I Love hanging with my homies (regardless of the fact that if I used that term out side of the digital-world I would have my skinny ass handed to me on a silver platter), I love Cruising the San Andreas countryside on a motorbike, I love flying planes and crashing trains…

I don’t like the dating mini-games… but whatever.

To those who believe that these games instill violence I scoff at you and highly recommend that you go back under your rock and rot and not buy the games for your kids instead of bitching about it and making your kids want to play it more by reminding them of it’s taboo. When I play the GTA (NAMBLA) games I come off more mellow than I could ever wish for. It’s like a cool beer after a long hot day… complete and utter satisfaction.

Don’t Harsh my mellow… or my Mane…

Happy Friday: Tunes for You!

Recently it has come to my attention that I am obsessed with chiptunes and chiptunes related music videos. So I wanted to share some with you. I’m thinking each Friday I’ll link one I like.

Today it is this one, suitable for the end of a work week I think…Watch it til the end, nice closure.

Kotaku on the EA – Take Two Shenanigans

Leigh Alexander of Sexy Videogameland is writing for Kotaku now and has an excellent article about what’s really happening with EA’s hostile takeover bid of Take Two, publisher of Grand Theft Auto IV, Bioshock and the 2K Sports series. The article is based on interviews with analysts who generally think Take Two should sell, since the $26 per share EA is offering is generous, and points out that Take Two chairman Strauss Zelnick has a lot of stock in his company that he wouldn’t get if the EA buyout went through, so perhaps his interests and his company’s aren’t entirely aligned. Deep in the comments, though, a Take Two employee points out that Zelnick’s specialty is preparing companies for sale, and so the board may simply think that the company will be worth more once their restructuring is complete in a couple years. We’ll know more tomorrow anyway, as shit is bound to go down at Take Two’s shareholder’s meeting.

We discussed the takeover on a recent Robot Sounds, but from the angle of what it means for gamers. If it goes through, seeing as EA is likely to kill 2K Sports, it’s hard to view it as a positive thing.

Tested: Halo 3's Legendary Map Pack

We came, we played, we slayed. Halo 3’s Legendary Map Pack dropped yesterday, and the Robot Crew gave them a test run. Here’s what we each thought about the new maps, Avalanche, Ghost Town and Blackout.

It’s also the subject of this week’s Robot Sounds, so if you’d like to absorb more or less the material you can read here in convenient audio form, go check it out.


D – I consider Lockout the best of the Halo 2 maps – it’s not my personal favourite, but it’s almost a perfect map from a more objective standpoint: it’s well balanced, small but not cramped, allows for different play styles and gametypes, and it’s got depth to it, mostly in the form of different jumps you can learn.

Beside the obvious visual overhaul, the main areas and paths of Lockout are largely unchanged in Blackout. But the details are different. Some spaces are slightly adjusted – the little lip underneath that was often used to hide with the oddball? That’s gone now. Also, there’s a modicum of cover down in the shotgun tunnel. A couple platforms underneath are closer together, making jumping easier. It’s a little harder to get cover on top of the BR tower. Most of the trick jumps have changed.

All told? If you loved Lockout, you’ll love this.

Nadine – Lockout was one of my fav maps of all time, up there with Headlong, Ascension, and Foundation. The ease of jumping, the dynamics of close combat with the added bonus of so many great long distance shooting points was brilliant. I loved Oddball, Slayer, and Crazy King on that map. Since this is almost an exact remake, save for a few adjustments to the lower levels for more distance shooting points, I was not disappointed. The odd thing for me was I thought they had actually overdone it visuals-wise. There was no need to add all the UNSC consoles and noisy, garish textures on the walls. I find them distracting and ugly, give me Forerunner tech any day, but even in High Ground the UNSC stuff isn’t that overwhelming.

Maybe it’s because it’s a weird kind of oil rig they had to mess with it so much, but I just find the noise unnecessary. I did love the backgrounds though, the added details of the sky and the coastal cliffs really gives you a better sense of “oh shit I could fall off on all sides into icy cold waters” whereas in Lockout I only felt that in certain areas. Now you really feel that isolation at every point on the map.

Toku – I never liked Lockout in the first place, but maybe that’s because I was never really good at it in the first place. I’ve been told that once I learn the jumps I’ll love it, but I don’t understand the point of a map that you can only play if you happen to know the little tricks that go along with it. To me, I find it too tight quartered and narrow for my own enjoyment. I don’t mind learning a map, but I think a design that requires you be able to play it blind just to be able to compete competently is…well…shitty.

The remake, Blackout, is the same map and I still have the same problems. My style of gaming gears toward more of a military style. This could be from a long history of playing such gems as Halflife, Ghost Recon, Splinter Cell, Gears of War, and so on. I like being able to strafe without falling off the map, I like to be able to crouch and dodge using the terrain, and I like to think my way laterally out of situations without the risk of being sworded by a camper hiding around a corner. The Blackout map leaves little room for any of this and for that reason it’s going sit slightly below Guardian and Midship on my list of Halo maps…

…I’ll still play it though.

I am indifferent on the new look, personally I don’t mind the gritty oil-rig look… but it still doesn’t make up for the fact that some asshole will always shotgun my face from some little perch he found from playing the map ten trillion times.

Ghost town

D – Ghost town is a medium-small asymmetrical map. We were divided on this one; I found it overly complicated. For a small area, there’s a lot going on. Not only are there up to three levels, multiple entry points to every room, and compromised sightlines, but there are bits of wreckage all over the place that I found myself tripping over when trying to make timely retreats.

That said, it looks great, and it does present some interesting possibilities. We had white-knuckle thrills and moderate success holding down certain areas, like the base and the ‘green room’ (where the sniper spawns). I’m just not sure I’ll ever prefer it to some of the other maps.

Nadine – I thought I was going to hate this one, but I really like it. Almost instantly I took to its broken, bombed out corners and gutted floors. It reminded me of an overgrown Turf that had the shit kicked outta its bawls. We played some games online against some pretty heavy hitters, way beyond my skill level, but the map gave us hope and kept us in the game with some dignity to boot. The level is made for offense/defense objectives for sures. There is one main base with several ways for enemies to get in on the right, center, and left but if you have your points covered and a man to back you up, things can work out.

Grenades are also great on this map. Long distance throwing is kinda moot, but tossing around corners and into all those openings I mentioned is super sweet. You can really do above and below attacks on this one, you can be surrounded by three guys from so many sides in such a short time the desperate guerilla feeling is painfully present. If that’s how all those Call of Duty 4 dudes feel when they are playing, well, damn. But I guess you need to feel high anxiety levels to get that exquisite chemical victory flush in your brain. This map is a goodie, I’m looking forward to lots of Assaults, Capturing Flags, and Zombies.

Toku – Huzzah, a map that appeals to my combat sensibilities, unlike Blackout, Ghost Town makes me feel at home and it could be a simple case of “I like the way it feels.” I tried to explain why I like this map poorly on the podcast, but I’ll give’r a better shot here.

The map feels like playing in a block of Swiss Cheese, and that’s a good thing…It’s chock full of holes. If you are playing Team Slayer you can get with a group of friends and defend any number of points on this map with some degree of success, but not so much so as to ruin the challenge. If you are playing on the attack it is very easy to invade any “base” on this map through any number of side passages.

I was afraid this would be a “shotgun” map, and that the Guru’s online would just camp with each other and wait for the one shot kills, yet this doesn’t seem to happen, and I think it is because it is very difficult to stay in one place for any length of time. Any hideaway you might find is most likely easily accessible from other points. I can’t see playing King of the Hill or Hammer matches here enjoyably, but Zombie and Carry the Skull would be a riot.


D – Avalanche is a ‘re-imagining’ of Sidewinder from Halo 1. The improvements come in the form of teleporters and man cannons, ensuring footsoldiers can move about almost as quickly as their vehicle-borne counterparts.

I love this one, but as a large map I’m not sure how much I’ll get to play it. You’d need a lot of people to get a good custom game going on it, and outside of Big Team Battle I can’t see it showing up in the matchmaking playlists much. The vehicle mayhem is fun, but we think the Hornet might have been nerfed just a little bit too much.

Nadine – I adore outdoor maps with wide spaces for dog fights and tank busting. Avalanche was a surprise because I really did not like the original Sidewinder that much, kinda too big and too barren. This horseshoe shaped map is a great size with excellent tunnels, lots of great default weapons, and an interesting base design. The bases are very small, pretty much just a ramp up to a man cannon and a teleporter to a turret and rockets. In Assault you gotta haul ass to grab the rockets and get back to base, station a man at the turret to block the midpoint overpass from enemy vehicles, while another person should most def man cannon out to the mountain tunnel entrance to either get the spartan laser, or guard that entrance.

See, that’s just basic strategy though, there’s a lot of variation depending on how many players you have. I’d love to play six on six flag on that map, it would be crazy town. I’m very pleased with the look of this map and I really enjoy it. It’s that outdoor feeling, I love the big open spaces, makes me feel like I’m playing campaign I think. Great map, most awesome indeed.

D – Just wanted to add: Yeah, that campaign vibe. You hit the nail on the head.

Toku – Oh, sadly this is not going to be a often played map and I can see why. It will be a hard one to jump online and play with a few friends because you really need the numbers, and joining with strangers really runs the risk of matching up with TARDS who think driving mongooses headlong into enemy territory yelling “Take this you bitches!” is a fun idea… and then of course DYING on the vast expanse that is Avalanche because a much better player pops him with a well placed sniper shot. The map is VERY open and vast, and yet allows for quick movement on foot using a variety of teleporters and man-cannons. There are also plenty of tricky little tunnels and ridges which means a guy on foot won’t immediately die to another guy in a wraith or hornet. We proved this week through some random playing that vehicles DON’T mean you have the upper hand, and that is a nice change (Valhalla Anyone?).

That said… I DON’T like the fact that you practically have to ONLY play Team Objectives if you want to get any use out of this map. Social Slayer would bite steaming piles of ass, and don’t even get me started on Zombie or Crazy King.

Oh yeah…and to the guys who want to play Rocket Race in this map. If there weren’t so many jerks out there who just play beat-downs and don’t race it would be fantastic on this map. To all those who DO do that, screw you and the horse you rode in on, you ruin Rocket Race for the rest of us.

Namco Bandai Game Trailers Activate!

Huh, yeah so Namco Bandai Editors’ Day happened…Games that give me pause: We Cheer, Active Life: Outdoor Challenge, and We Ski.

Does the phrase holy frakking child obesity batman mean anything to you?

I don’t know what bleeds my brain more, the fact that little girl gamers are going to be gender constricted even more, or that kids are going to be encouraged to jump up and down in front of the tv intsead of going outside to play.

That being said though, I’d totally take a crack at the skiing game…That just looks fun….like the gameplay, not the totally horrendous acting. The whole “look you can play with your kids and everything!” aspect of these trailers is just plain patronizing. Poor the children who dream their parents will actually spend time with them or vice versa for the parents. Let’s face facts here, many people who buy games for their kids usually don’t participate, they buy them to babysit. It’s sad, but I think very true.

Look you can be a super Cheer Girl too!

Mats, mats and more useless mats!

Minus the Bradys I’d totally play it…

Of course, the best thing to come out of the Namco Bandai Editors’ Day is this sexy beast with extra gameplay awesome footage:

Yes, precious, yes…

WTF Wednesday: Aural Satisfactions

I didn’t know this existed…Blame Toku for getting I Touch Myself in my head whilst playing Halo 3. Yeah.

This is now permanently embedded in my brain forever. I can’t believe I’ve never heard this before. Somebody slap me.

Also, this was a good time the first time I saw it when I was a kid. I wish they would remake it…You tell me that isn’t the most groovy opening credits you ever did see. Awesome trumpets!

And what could be better than chiptunes? Sci-fi inspired videos of chiptunes.


Best for last…This is pretty much my most favourite thing in the universe right now:

PSN's New Look and Feel

I’ve been separated from my beloved PS3 for a few months, but finally we are as one again. This reunion happily fell just days before the PlayStation Network’s super sexy overhaul.

My first forray into the PlayStation Network was rife with discomfort. Oh, buying things was easy and I greatly appreciated seeing the actual cost of what I purchased and not a fancy free points system. The problem was the interface, which looked far too much like a computer screen and lacked the ease of Live. A pointer is not what I want to be using on my consoles, I wish to navigate simply with ups and downs and the like, not move the cursor over this way and that.

Yet, regardless of the look, I adore the PSN, I’m absolutely ga-ga over the thing! All the games I’ve downloaded are original, quirky, and so much fun! When I had to part with my PS3 I was so worried, what would happen to all my games? Would they suffer the same fate as my Live Arcade titles? Would I be able to download them and only be able to play them on the console they were originally downloaded on unless connected to the intertubes?

I fretted. I worried.

But it’s no worries! No frakking worries whatsoever!

My interface concerns are completely cured, the new store is sexy fine and so easy to navigate it’s like eating a cookie – you know just what to do! And downloading all my games again couldn’t be easier. Just go to Downloads, click on the titles, download again, and bam! All my games back with me again in the realsies. Ah, love it.

The rocky, epic cliff of a start the PS3 was cursed with is finally coming to an end on so many levels. The new store is great and when you depend so much on wee dowloadable games, like I do, having a solid center for that is a must. I’m very pleased with the changes.

And Haze will be coming out soon, May 20th (* cough * Captain Janeway’s birthday * cough *), with a single and multiplayer demo coming soon. Fresh off the Ubisoft press release:

Coming exclusively to the PLAYSTATION®Network in early May, this playable demo will give gamers a taste of not only the single-player campaign in Haze, but will also allow up to four-player, drop-in drop-out co-op play online.

Did you hear that? Drop-in drop-out co-op!!! Joy of joys! I’m looking forward to Haze because I love futuristic shooters and I love co-op shooters as well.

Star Wars: Force Unleashed Tidbittery

So here’s a “hands-on” (that sounds so weird) from the Nintendo Media Summit all about those sweet saber moves. Here’s another.

I just can’t wait folks, just can’t wait. This is gonna be tasty to the max.


I said that.