Monthly Archives: November 2012

Opinion I Guess?: A Video Game Research Paper

>This is what I’ve been doing and why I barely wrote the last two weeks<

It’s a research paper I did for my College Composition class. It’s about why games make us better. Yes…

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Opinion: Review Scores Are Lame

Hear me out; it’s not what you think.

“Combined with the host of subtle and overt improvements to the array of other systems, the additions to make it more appealing to Esports, and the more fleshed out Zombies mode, this is not just a fantastic Call of Duty game, but one of the best shooters of the last decade.”

– IGN’s review on Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.

IGN, in the past decade has given several First Person Shooter games a HIGHER score than a 93.

This includes the following:

  • Halo 2, 3, Reach, 4
  • Metroid Prime 1, 2 , 3 and the Trilogy (Separately)
  • Half-Life 2 & The Orange Box (Separately)
  • Bioshock
  • Resistance 2
  • Crysis
  • Killzone 2
  • Unreal Tournament 2004
  • Call of Duty 4, Modern Warfare 2

So why is this game “One of the best shooters of the last decade”? First off, this isn’t a slap to the wrist to Call of Duty, this is a slap to the wrist for review scores. This is evidence of why giving review scores is not something I do. I feel that giving a score will never do the game the justice it deserves, especially since they are usually either watered down to the point where anything below a 8.5 is bad, even when 8’s and 7’s are supposed to stand for good games with 6’s being fun but not great and 5’s being average. 8.5 is the new average. When people rely on review score averages, it makes the scores mean nothing. A 0-7 score means the same thing to most people: It’s a bad game. This isn’t supposed to be the case. This is why I use a badge system instead. It gets my point across, my feelings towards the game across, and it gives you something quick and easy to refer too.

Review: Halo 4

The day is here. Halo 4 is within our purchasing grasps. I along with millions of other Halo fans rejoice as the franchise makes the shift to a new developer, a new enemy, and a new play style. The question here, however, is if these new things hold up to the Halo revolution that once was. Halo 4 does exactly what Microsoft Game Studios and 343 Industries strived to accomplish; it brings Halo up to speed in comparison to the rest of the FPS games people are playing today. Some have called it “CoD-ifying” and some have called it milking. I prefer to call it a necessary, yet emotionally saddening, movement to an ever growing series. I love Halo 4, and am completely behind the direction 343 has taken the franchise.

The campaign for Halo 4 is one of the most ambitious entries to the already massive universe we’ve seen yet. Master Chief and Cortana have finally returned after four years of being lost on the remains of the UNSC Forward Unto Dawn. Contana wakes Chief up as they approach the Forerunner shield world “Requiem.” They soon discover that a group of fanatical Covenant has also come to Requiem with the intensions of worshiping the Forerunner technology there. After a “welcome back” fight with the Covies, Chief decides to crash to the planet’s surface and explore without shutting off the Forward Unto Dawn’s distress beacon, leading the UNSC Infinity to believe that it’s okay to get sucked into the shielded atmosphere of this uncharted, dangerous and concealing planet. New enemies called “the Prometheans” are Forerunner in origin, and open up new challenges for the player to take on. The plot further thickens when Chief and Cortana accidentally awaken an ancient evil and sparks the next chapter of this ever-expanding universe.

Honestly, I liked the Halo 4 story and I appreciate what they tried to do with it, but it packed too much information in too little amount of time. The campaign is about six hours while playing solo on heroic difficulty, so it’s pretty short compared to the other games of the franchise. There is about a nine to ten hour story packed into a six hour period, and when that happens it tends to throw people off, they get lost and confused. Not to mention there are several things never mentioned in the game that you’d have to look up or read the novels to understand, something I feel isn’t necessary. When there is a big title like Halo 343i should know that not everyone had read the extra story components. Setting that aside, the co-op is a blast, once again. There are plenty of action packed scenes, tons of awesome driving levels, new enemies to fight and a story that lives up to the expectations of Halo fans everywhere. It’s an overall win for campaign fans everywhere.

Taking place six months after the events of the campaign, 343i’s newest mode and replacement to Firefight, Spartan Ops, is an episodic and cooperative experience. You take the mantle of a Spartan IV who joins the fire team Crimson. Your commanding officer, Sarah Palmer, is another Spartan IV who directs several other teams under you. She sends you on missions to the Forerunner planet Requiem to fight the Covenant and Prometheans and take Forerunner artifacts back to the UNSC Infinity. There are currently five missions, but this is only the first chapter of the season. The first season is completely free and will feel fresh once a week when the new missions come out for everyone to enjoy. In total, Spartan Ops season one is apparently another twelve and a half hours of content that will be released over the first ten weeks of Halo 4‘s lifetime. That sounds like a good deal if you ask me!

Spartan Ops is quite fun, especially to play with friends. It’s very similar to Firefight, but with its own set of maps based on the campaign missions instead of multiplayer. Oftentimes you will be going from point A to point B while killing enemies and pressing buttons while listening to entertaining and sometimes even humorous dialog between the players, Sarah Palmer, and other Spartan teams. You get to choose a customized load out that you design. More on that later, Spartan Ops offers a cool and fun experience for you and your favorite cooperative buddy. However, I did find that playing online has bits of lag that was quite annoying. One mission, while playing with three other people, we found the lag so extreme that we couldn’t even shoot straight. Sometimes it’s not a problem, but it really seems to be prominent in Spartan Ops. Campaign and Multiplayer never seemed to have this problem. All in all Spartan Ops has been fun so far and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.

What else could possibly be in this package? Multiplayer, duh. Halo 4 truly takes the Halo multiplayer in a whole new direction. It’s even canon now, since the UNSC Infinity has simulations for the Spartans to train in. 343i has streamlined the Halo franchise in a way that fans old and new will all enjoy. I was very skeptical at first, but it really has grown on me. Halo 4‘s multiplayer offers hundreds of hours of entertainment with online matchmaking you and your friends will be playing all the way up until the sequel comes and takes your money.

You can customize a loadout for your Spartan by buying new weapons, armor abilities, and armor mods to give yourself a slight edge in one department or another. The weapons you can spawn with are classic Halo weapons like the Assault Rifle, Battle Rifle, and Covenant Carbine, although there are couple new ones like the Storm Rifle, which is really just a Plasma Repeater from Halo: Reach. I found there is an incredible about of balancing in these weapons, with every one of them hosting a different advantage over the other. Personally, I’d say that the DMR features the most bang for your buck.

In game, you earn points for everything you do, like killing, distracting, capping flags, etc. These points add to your personal ordinance meter, which when filled, allow you to spawn one of three random power ups or power weapons. This adds a random factor that core fans will love. As for the hardcore, they offer “Pro” playlist options which don’t have random factors. The maps also have spawned ordinance for you to snatch up for an upper hand.

Speaking of maps, they’re great compared to Halo: Reach, but not all of them are as good as the original trilogy’s. They blend very well with the featured gametypes old and new, one of which is Dominion. Dominion is the replacement for Territories. There are three bases to take over on the map which score you points and power weapons after taking them for a certain amount of time. All in all, Halo 4‘s multiplayer is something that people will be playing for a long time to come, or at least until Halo 5 comes out.

Forge has been re-defined and offers a bunch of new, useful features for creating all the maps to your heart’s content. Magnets allow snapping of similar objects, which eliminated the annoying coordinate-adjusting that fell upon both Halo 3 and Halo: Reach. Duplication now allows you to spawn the same item instantly for those times you just want to spawn many of the same building block. Trait zones allow you to create areas which power up or weaken players, a good example would be a low gravity zone. There are also three big forge maps for the player to build on, instead of just
one like Halo: Reach‘s Forgeworld.

It’s been streamlined, but it still feels like the Halo I know and love. The campaign was brilliant; it’s definitely the best looking yet. The multiplayer represents the future of the series as a whole, with new features as well as the same old features everyone knows and loves. It brings to light the direction the industry is headed as a whole. Spartan Ops season one will offer twice as much game time as one play through of the campaign will offer, as well as a fun experience for cooperative players and fans of Firefight. Overall Halo 4 is absolutely a must own for Halo fans and First Person Shooter gamers. 343 Industries has set in motion exactly what the Halo franchise needs to live on as a successful franchise in today’s gaming market.

I’d write more, but I have some more Halo to play before work!

Badges:

*Recommended

*Top of the Genre (FPS)

*Hours of Content

*Evolution of a Franchise

I give Halo 4 a 4/5.

Opinion: Why Dark Souls is Superior

In 2011 we were graced with many fantastic Role Playing Games. One of my favorite RPGs from that year, and of all time, is undoubtedly From Software’s Dark Souls. Dark Souls is the spiritual successor to the 2009 RPG of the year, Demon’s Souls and it certainly holds up to that legacy. Dark Souls brings players to the undead land of Lordran, where it has been said in prophecy that one day a chosen undead hero will rise up and reignite the primordial flame, prolonging the age of deities. I’m going to take an inside look at all the elements of this amazingly crafted RPG and explain why I believe this is one of the best games of this generation.

First and foremost, the tagline isPrepare to Die” for a reason. Dark Souls is famous (or perhaps infamous) for one reason, the difficulty. The game is known because of its difficulty, but is also known for being extremely fair. Checkpoints are created by “resting” at a bonfire, which also heals you fully and recovers your health potions, or “Estus Flasks.” If you die, it is one hundred percent your fault for not being careful, or perhaps not being perceptive enough. When you turn that corner, are you going to carelessly waltz in, or will you slowly proceed with your shields and defenses raised? This is the kind of difficulty the game wields. Dark Souls has a mighty learning curve, but it is not only fair, but also fun to learn.

In turn this leads to an extremely rewarding experience. When you lay the final strike onto a difficult boss that has been stumping you for hours, the next few moments are not only rewarding in game, but emotionally as well. Many others, as well as myself, have been overwhelmed by happiness after conquering a very challenging area of the game. I can’t think of another game I am as proud to say I have completed as I am of Dark Souls. It’s very common for people to rage quit before they even scrape the beginning of the game. These people are weak, and if you’re one of them, pick it back up! Once you learn the mechanics, you’ll get better!

Speaking of mechanics, the combat mechanics are fantastic. There are not many other Action/RPGs that use a system like Dark Souls. We have the basic, one handed light attacks. There are the fastest, but often the weakest. Next are the one handed heavy attacks, which are slower, but heavier hits. Then we tap Y and suddenly we wield our weapon in two hands which allows for a two handed light attack. These are often very similar to one handed, sometimes different. It depends on the weapon. Following we have two handed heavy attacks which are often drastically different and exclusive to that weapon. Our left hand controls the basic block or light attack, depending on if you have a shield or another weapon. Use the heavy attack of a shield or side arm, and you will parry an enemy’s attack, leading up to a riposte which deals critical damage. You can kick an enemy to deal a bunch of stamina damage. You can backstab an enemy to deal critical damage. You also have a jump-attack which deals quick and heavy damage. If you have the height advantage, you can plummet onto enemies below to also deal critical damage. These are the elements that make Dark Soul‘s combat unlike any other.

Following up combat, weapons and weapon customization is very fun to explore with. There isn’t a single weapon in Dark Souls which is the same as the last. They all have their own move set, abilities, perks and disadvantages. There are also many different elements of customization you can explore including Fire, Lightning, Magic, etc. Designing a weapon based on your gameplay is a very important part of Dark Souls, because after all, you are only as powerful as that poking stick you have in your right hand. Not only do you have these regular paths to pursue for regular weapons, but you also have special weapons with special paths. Dragon Weapons, for example, are powerful weapons that unleash powerful shockwaves with two handed heavy attacks. You can also take specific weapons and fuse them with the souls of bosses you’ve defeated to get powerful demon weapons, which are each special in their own way.

Dark Souls has a very different currency and experience system compared to other games out on the market. As you defeat enemies your “soul” count will rise, which is both your currency and experience. You use souls to level up your different skills to fine-tune your character, as well as purchase new weapons, armor and items for your character to use. You also use souls to enhance your weapons and armor at blacksmiths. As well as souls, you have the humanity system. Humanity can be sacrificed in different situations of the game such as to gain favor of certain NPCs or to make bonfires stronger. You are undead by default, but you can use humanity to revive yourself to human. As a human you can be invaded by other players online, which can be either very rewarding fights, or devastating against your efforts. You can also summon two players to assist you to defeat the area’s boss.

Multiplayer is an absolute blast in Dark Souls. In order to play co-op, you must be within a certain level range as well as place your “soul sign” with a soapstone item. Once you do this, another human player can summon you to assist their efforts. Co-op play can be extremely rewarding, because you get half of the souls from the defeated boss, humanity, and the real experience you gain as a player. There is no penalty when you die as a phantom, other than being banished back to your realm. As well as co-op, you can invade other’s worlds as a Black Phantom and challenge them to a duel. These battles can be a lot of fun, and very rewarding, as you get half of that player’s souls when they are defeated. In can happen almost anywhere and even when you least expect it while exploring the vast regions of Lordran.

Which, might I add is pretty expansive and open-world. The areas are also beautifully crafted works of art, more often than not amazing to gaze upon. The sights of this game can be breath-taking at times. There are many hidden secrets in the different areas of Dark Souls including items, lost souls, NPCs, and covenants. Behind locked doors and illusionary walls are great treasures and forsaken abilities for you to seek out and use to your advantage. Lordran is completely open-world, if you know what you’re doing. You can go almost anywhere at any time, as long as you have the right key, or know where to get it. Once you play through the game, you might find the temptation to skip certain parts very great. After reading all this, I bet you’re thinking “Oh, man! This game sounds awesome, but if I sign up now I’ll have to get a bunch of DLC or miss out on stuff people got for being early adopters (or pre-ordering).”

Think again. Dark Souls has been out for one year and JUST released a DLC that From Software didn’t even originally intend too. There is no hassle to make you buy anything extra to keep up with everyone else, and I feel this is something that games don’t do enough now. Everything is “online pass” this and “season pass” that. You bought Dark Souls and you have everything you need to experience the full game. This is something I love about From Software. Sure DLC is nice, but when it happens too much and is pretty much mandatory, is when DLC ruins games. The DLC Dark Souls does offer is fun but not necessary at all.

I’ve only scraped the surface of this great game. It has so many other elements that make it even better, but it’s something you really have to experience for yourself! This is my favorite Action/RPG of all time, undoubtedly. If you’ve never played Dark Souls, now is not too late to run to your local game store and pick it up. It shouldn’t be too expensive at this point either, since it’s over a year old. I will not recommend another RPG as highly as this one (yes, it even beats Skyrim!) The replay ability is off the chain with all these different features that just make this the superior RPG to the others out there nowadays. Real men play Dark Souls. Pick it up, play it, and Prepare to Die.