Monthly Archives: August 2012

Review: The Walking Dead Episode 3: Long Road Ahead

    The latest entry in Telltale Game’s The Walking Dead was nothing less than the best of the bunch. It retained all the feel the previous episodes successfully demonstrated and brought in the biggest plot bomb the series has seen yet. I don’t use the phrase “bomb” lightly either. Every single chapter left me in awe thinking “What the hell just happened!” with that familiar feeling of sweet, sweet shock the previous two episodes shoveled into my gaming diet. The decision making is the best yet, you feel actual guilt with the consequences, and it seems at every turn something is screwing the Macon survivors over. This episode is nothing short of the best of the three first episodes and here is why.

     Telltale Games is known for their well-designed adventure games, and the Walking Dead is one of the best they’ve done yet. The decision making in this episode was perfectly aligned with how the comic series demonstrates moral vs ethical choices. As conversations would start spinning out of control I actually felt panic within myself to not say something that I might regret. Sometimes, the thing I thought was a good idea to say left me feeling completely guilty, and this is what the game thrives on. Telltale designed it so you would feel those consequences in full force. It’s one of the best things in this game. Sometimes you face tough decisions, such as, a friend vs a friend. Who will you side with when the time comes? Was it the right decision for the entirety of the group?

    The game continues to have pretty awesome visuals, looking as if they came right out of the comic series. I couldn’t ask for a better stylization for the environment and characters. The sound also continues to play a powerful role in the gameplay. During actions scenes it builds you up, and during downtime it keeps you calm. When something bad happens, the lack of sound just fits perfectly. The voice acting continues to be so good that you oftentimes get lost in the awesome storytelling that they offer in this package. You can feel the different characters relationships through their voice and attitudes towards each other, and that’s exactly how this drama story should be.

    The characters are really starting to become one with the apocalypse. They’re growing up if they’re young, and they’re evolving if they’re adults. Some of them are even losing their minds. With bad stuff seemly coming at them from every corner, the characters better mount up fast, because this episode takes no prisoners. It’s the most intense, action packed episode to date. That being said, it’s probably the most emotional episode to date as well. It honestly caught me off guard, because I was expecting it to feature more downtime than previous episodes.

    Overall, this is my absolute favorite episode thus far. I am incredibly excited for Episode 4 to see the follow up in the story, and to see if Telltale can produce another emotional experience as good at this one. It’s always fun to see how Lee Everett makes tough decisions all while trying to protect Clementine, physically and mentally. He doesn’t want her to see how truly screwed up the world is yet, but knows he can’t fully hold a blinding mask in front of her. Clementine, on the other hand, seems to be starting to recognize the true horrors of this hope-forsaken undead-thriving world they now live in.

Badges:

*Recommended

*Dramatastic

*Jawdropping

*Top Of The Genre (Adventure)

I give The Walking Dead Episode 3 a 5/5.

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Thought: Learning about yourself

Generally, people learn more about themselves by evaluating specifics on how they act during certain events. For me, the event is definitely gaming. I’ve found that I have oftentimes been ahead of the game when it comes to understanding who I am as a person. I think gaming has taught me a tremendous amount about myself.

I’ve found when I am playing a game I take enormous amounts of risks within the game. For example, I recently played through Jak and Daxter again via the PS3 HD Collection. In one scene, there is a spiraling set of platforms going up and deadly liquid rising beneath your feet. Naturally, I bolted for the platforms to make my escape. It is an extremely simple task; something any average gamer could do first try. I noticed it was taking me more than the assumed average, because I was rushing and taking ridiculous risks that were plausible separately, but back to back I was bound to fail every time. After I noticed how I was instinctively playing the game, I decided to cut back on the risk and focus on survival. I succeeded first try. Honestly, I’ve taken risks in real life as well. Nothing too dramatic, but I have since noticed that I will do silly or typically embarrassing things before other people, because I’m willing to take the risk. I’ve also socially taken risks and given successful advice about risk-taking. Now that I understand I am a “risky” person, I have realized I’ve done it a lot in my lifetime.

Another thing I’ve noticed about myself via gaming is my generosity. Fallout 3 was a phenomenal experience I think us Open-World RPG fans will remember forever. Among the beasts and treasures of the wasteland, you would find certain NPCs who would ignite several different kinds of tasks. I remember one of these tasks clearly. An NPC was dying of thirst and begging for clean water to drink, since the majority of the water in game is toxic. I, without a second though, handed the man ALL of my clean water thinking “I’ll be fine, since I’m sure I’ll find much more in my travels.” After playing several more hours in the game, I came across a similar NPC, begging for water. Once again, I gave him all of it. No second thoughts. One day my brother was watching me play and I came across the first NPC, who was still begging for water. Upon handing him my water for the third time, my brother asked me “What do you get for doing that”? I thought for a minute and responded with a simple “Not sure, didn’t really think about that.” That is when I realized this trait. I understand the value of a dollar, but I also understand the value of helping someone in need and hold the latter on a much higher pedestal. It reflects in my multiplayer gaming too, for example, I like to be the cleric in a group of RPG heroes, the one who is there make sure my friends make it out okay. I usually choose a support type class in FPS games. It’s not just in games either. I’ve always been the kind of guy who feels guilty not helping those in need, since I know I have it pretty good compared to a lot of people. I donate to charity frequently.

These two things are a couple of examples of what I mean. Next time you’re doing something you love, ask yourself, “Where can I see the reflection of my actions in my everyday life”? It’s interesting to speculate your strengths and weaknesses by evaluating how you do something you love. It’s obviously not just gaming either, it applies to Music, Writing, Reading, Exercising, Filmmaking, Cooking, Driving, pretty much anything you can think of!

Opinion: A Heated debate, PC vs Console!

One of the most common differences between two gamers can be as simple as this: Console or PC? Half of you will probably yell “Console FTW!” the other half replying with “PC MASTER RACE!”. Honestly I’ve always been a Console gamer, but I do game on my PC when I can. I rock a relatively cheap Toshiba laptop so I can’t run much, just the basics (Minecraft, Morrowind, Team Fortress 2, etc.). I’ve always wanted to compare the two side by side, so that’s what this post is about.

Let’s start out with console. My theory about console is as simple as this. Most of us console gamers grew up on console because it was a “family entertainment system.” Being raised on console is oftentimes what keeps us loyal to the consoles. Not to mention consoles are perfect for when you have company over at your house, the guest can simply pick up the second controller and join in the fun. That being said, I’d like to add it’s loads more fun to play games with people who are sitting next to you than it is with people over the internet. I’ve always thought there really is nothing quite like having a few friends over with soda and chips playing your favorite multiplayer player game on a big screen TV setup in the living room. Some might argue that you can do many things on the PC that you can also do on the consoles, but I’ve always felt the consoles take away any hassle that you might have with the PC. No install times, no hard setups, just plug in and play. In addition to these reasons, I’d like to offer there are more legitimate* AAA console exclusives than there are AAA PC exclusives.

Now to PC. Playing video games on your personal computer has grown significantly in recent years. I have many friends migrating from console to PC every day. So what is it about PC that attracts so many people? I have decided to interview a friend of mine, Scott Rollins, who rolls with the PC as hard as I roll with the console. I asked him, “Why do you prefer PC over console”? He replied very similarly to how I did in my console theory. “The preference that I have for pc gaming comes from a very early part of my childhood to be honest. While the technology has evolved, and the visual interfaces may have changed, it’s still very much the same as ever. No new controllers to get used to. Keyboard, Mouse, a control setup that I have been using for nearly two decades now”! A very clear point. He proceeds to say, “I can’t say it’s because it has more or less games. Lately I’ve been enamored with the experience of DayZ. User content adds a whole new dimension, much like Defense of the Ancients stemming from a modification for Warcraft III, or what Steam is doing with their Steam Workshops to give popular games new content.”

Looking at these two detailed perspectives makes it clear the advantages of both. Console is easier to handle and better for on the spot gameplay with company. It also has more legitimate* AAA exclusives than the PC does. On the other hand, PC has kept the same control scheme from the start. You never have to get used to a new setup. That, and the infinite amounts of free user content to add to your gaming experience. Not a bad inclusion, indeed. Above all, I would like to point to both of our first factors. I grew up on console and he grew up on PC. I know several people who are diehard loyalists on both sides, and after asking a few more I got the same results. They grew up on their respected game station of choice. That being said, it doesn’t really matter what you play on, because we’re all gamers. Scott and I are good friends even though we don’t play the same.

What do you play, console or PC?

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*Legitimate meaning, a true copy of the game. With Nintendo, Playstation, and Microsoft there is a huge chunk of games that are console exclusive. You can emulate almost any of them on a PC, but since it’s not legitimate, I don’t personally let that fly.

Special thanks to Scott Rollins for his input.

Opinion: Modernized “Hardcore Gamer”

Remember when a “Hardcore Gamer” was the one who spent hundreds upon hundreds of hours leveling in Final Fantasy, or obtaining every piece of heart in The Legend of Zelda? Remember when a “Hardcore Gamer” was that guy down the street who beat M. Bison on Hardest, or had caught all 151 Pokémon (getting Mew through a Toys ‘R’ Us promotion) in Red/Blue Version? How come the modernized “Hardcore Gamer” specifically points to a competitive gamer who most likely plays an FPS or RTS?

Playing Call of Duty shouldn’t make you a hardcore gamer. Being passionate about games in general is what should make you a hardcore gamer. Think about it – a Pro Star Craft gamer, for example, is a Competitive Gamer. He/she puts loads of hours into mastering the game. My proposition is, however, if that is the only game he/she has ever played then why is he/she a Hardcore Gamer? To be hardcore, you should also fit into the “Core” department, one who plays lots of different kinds of games.

I’ve always felt “Hardcore” was a step up from “Core”. The Core Gamer would be the guy who likes to play a wide variety, but isn’t top notch. The Hardcore Gamer is the kind who plays a wide variety and IS top notch, while a competitive gamer is hardcore in a specific game, he/she doesn’t spend enough time on other games to be considered a generalized “Hardcore Gamer” and should instead be known as a “Pro” or “Competitive” gamer.

In the end, I guess it really doesn’t matter. We all do what we love doing. It’s just frustrating that hardcore gaming is almost solely associated with the FPS genre.

 

Opinion: Skyward Sword (originally written on December 21st, 2011)

As much as I love Skyward Sword, I still think it is behind the times. The reason I don’t like Twilight Princess, is because it is a 5th gen game marketed as a 6th gen game. In other words, it was a game that could have been released in the early 2000s. The story was rehashed from A Link to the Past’s and the gameplay was severly lacking. Worst of all, if you played it on the Wii, the controls felt tacked on (because they were). It was a Wii game that was supposed to be a Gamecube game. Skyward Sword is the game I’ve been waiting for since 2006. Skyward Sword was a great game, but would have been absolutely AMAZING in 2006, but instead we got this title five years later in 2011.

It still feels behind the times compared to more modern titles like Batman: Arkham City and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. What Nintendo needs to do, is take more elements from these modern titles and implement them into their game. Skyward Sword did this with quite a few, such as the Stamina Meter and item reinforcement. Not only that, but Nintendo needs to take Zelda to the next level. Zelda once revolutionized gaming. It needs to do it again.

The only problem with that, is that Nintendo thinks they have. Series producer and director, Eiji Aonuma stated in an interview “I honestly think we cannot go back to button controls now, so I think that these controls will be used in future Zelda titles, too.” They believe Motion Controls is what people want, when in reality this isn’t true. Why is Zelda the only nominee for Action/Adventure Game of the Year in 2011 with motion controls? Why didn’t it win Action/Adventure GotY? Because Motion Controls are unnessisary and actually turn more away than they realize.

The Legend of Zelda has to find it’s own place in modern gaming before it will be able to stand at the top again. If I had it my way, I’d have a massive fantasy world with multiple side quests, epic dungeons ten fold of what we’ve seen before, and some of the most exciting boss fights a player can handle.

This is what the Zelda series needs. The Legend of Zelda used to be able to blow my mind. It hasn’t since 2004.

Opinion: Steven’s top ten songs in games. (Originally written October 27th, 2011)

10. Whistle theme by Riyou Kinugasa

Very memorable and catchy. I whistle it at work all the time.

9. Downstream by Shira Kammen

The song is memorable and is downright beautiful. An unbelievable song for an unbelievable game.

8. Guile theme by Yoko Shimomura

It goes with everything.

7. Corneria by Hajime Hirasawa

It’s a really exciting way to open an action game and fits right in with the first level.

6. Route 24 & 25 by Junichi Masuda

You hear this song at the start of your journey in Pokemon Red & Blue versions. You again hear it partway through your journey on routes 24 and 25. It gives me the feeling of progression, but with still a long way to go.

5. Nerevar Rising by Jeremy Soule

Very inspirational and brings this amazing RPG to life.

4. Green Hill Zone by Masato Nakamura

Hearing this song brightens my day. Its a great start to a video game and will remain in my heart forever.

3. Halo theme by Martin O’Donnell

Like Halo or not, this masterpiece is the grandfather of modern console shooters, and its theme song suits me just fine.

2. The Legend of Zelda by Koji Kondo

The Legend of Zelda is my favorite franchise in the history of mankind.

1. Super Mario Brothers by Koji Kondo

The Super Mario Bros theme is a classic. People who don’t even play video games have heard this song. It is an icon to gaming and represents the third generation of video games, which is the milestone that birthed later generations and brought North American gaming back from the dead.

 

Honorable Mentions
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Final Fantasy Victory

Droopy Likes Ricochet

Mortal Kombat

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Opinion: Fight “The Man”! (Originally written on May 12th, 2010)

(This was written as a note during the Brown vs EMA case where Arnie was trying to ban the sales of M rated games to people under the age of 18. They lost. In the US, stores like Gamestop and Best Buy will not sell a minor an M rated game, simply because it is against their store policy.)

I’ve been playing video games since since I was three years old – I grew up with them because of my older brother. I am now 17, turning 18, and after all the games I’ve played, I feel I am a better person. I’ve been playing violent video games since I was probably around 11 years old. I’m not a violent person- video games don’t cause this. Mental Illnesses cause this. They put you in a different state of mind. The first amendment protects our love for video games, and taking that away is unconstitutional. They are already censored enough through the Entertainment Software Rating Board. Mature rated Video games are no worse than R rated movies, often the movies are even worse than Mature rated games! Please hear our plea, we are not just gamers, we are gamers in the United States of America. This is OUR right!