Friday, February 29, 2008

More Metal Gear IV News

Konami makes many of the Metal Gear rumors official with today's press release:
Following opening remarks made during the General Session at the 2008 Destination PlayStation retailer event in Scottsdale AZ, Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc. confirmed several new initiatives related to Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, including a North American street date, online multiplayer, and pre-sell program.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is the final chapter in the saga of Solid Snake which sends him around the world in pursuit of his arch nemesis, Liquid Ocelot. Armed with new gadgets and abilities, Solid Snake must shift the tides of war into his favor, using the chaos of the battlefield to infiltrate deep into enemy territory. In his globetrotting final mission, Snake must sneak deep into enemy locations in the Middle East, South America, and other corners of the Earth to foil Liquid Ocelot's plans for total world domination.
Street Date
Opening remarks revealed that the final chapter in the saga of super spy Solid Snake is expected to arrive in stores in North America on Thursday June 12th, 2008. "Blockbuster events and premieres are a tradition of the summer," said Kazumi Kitaue, Konami Digital Entertainment Inc. Chairman and CEO. "We anticipate that Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots fits that bill perfectly, and consumers will be waiting in line to get their copy of the game just like it's a hit Hollywood movie."
Metal Gear Online Starter Pack
It was also confirmed today that Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots will launch with the Metal Gear Online "Starter Pack" supporting online gameplay. In addition to the single player experience, gamers will also be able to take the action online with up to 16 players and battle it out using the latest weapons and stealth techniques.
Pre-Sell Program
Beginning April 2008, consumers that pre-order Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots will receive the Metal Gear Saga 2.0 DVD, containing a Prologue that recaps the Metal Gear franchise, a 20th Anniversary retrospective, character bios for Big Boss, Liquid Snake, Solidus Snake, and Solid Snake, plus a collection of international trailers of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. This pre-order package also contains an insert with a download code and special instructions for accessing the Metal Gear Online beta test when it goes live in late April. This special pre-order package will only be available while supplies last.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Metal Gear Solid IV release date

The hoodrat gets a makeover - All sorts of good news for PlayStation 3 owners today. Metal Gear Solid 4 officially has a release date, June 12. But wait, there's more! In April there's going to be a Metal Gear 4 online beta. Details for the beta aren't known yet but I do know MGS 4's online service is a seperate feature of the game, meaning gamers will have to buy a second disc. This sucks but not many fans of the franchise (its my second all-time favorite right after GTA) will pass up the chance to play online with Snake.
But wait, there's even more. The long awaited Dual Shock 3 will be released April 15th for $54.99. Now I can finally get rid of that crappy lightweight controller my unit came with. In even more news from Sony, a PS3/Metal Gear IV bundle will be available this year, probably right around the launch date for the game. Besides coming with Metal Gear, the package will include 80G console and one Dual Shock 3 controller. It'll sell for $499, pretty nice. If that's not enough, rumor has it that the PlayStation store is getting a major overhaul in April.
I guess the hoodrat actually read the letter I wrote her because this makeover sure is making me stand up and take notice...for the moment.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Lost: Via Domus Achievements

What, you were expecting a shirtless pic of Sawyer? - There's been some interesting headlines lately. Phil Harrison leaving SCE after 15 years and EA doing its best Microsoft impression by trying to add Take-Two to its stable and possibly even Ubisoft. Yikes! I'm not quite ready to weigh in on this yet, not until things are a little more clear. Everybody started jumping to conclusions with the whole Microsoft/Yahoo thing so now is not the time to decide if this is a good or a bad thing for gamers. Although you sure can tell a lot about EA by their intentions.
While we wait for the smoke to clear, there are a couple of good looking games coming out this week. In Turning Point: Fall of Liberty, the timeline of history has been altered after Winston Churchill dies in a car accident that in reality he lived through. The Nazi's take Europe and everything goes to hell from there. I've played the demo and the concept plays well. For Lost fans like myself, Lost: Via Domus looks even more intriguing. Playing as a previously unseen character from the series could be awesome...or suck. Being the optimist and Lost fan that I am, I'm hoping its awesome. Here are the Achievement Points I could find for the game.
1. Crash survivor: Complete Episode 1 -25 points
2. Locate the cockpit: Complete Episode 2 - 25 points
3. Via Domus: Complete Episode 3 - 50 points
4. Into the hatch: Complete Episode 4 - 75 points
5. Behind the wall: Complete Episode 5 - 100 points
6. Through the Flame: Complete Episode 6 - 125 points
7. The way home: Finish the game - 200 points
8. 815: Discover all the memories in Flashback 1 - 20 points
9. Sweet memory: Discover all the memories in Flashback 2 - 20 points
10. Behind the glass: Discover all the memories in Flashback 3 - 20 points
11. Identity crisis: Discover all the memories in Flashback 4 - 30 points
12. Persephone: Discover all the memories in Flashback 5 - 30 points
13. Whatever it takes: Discover all the memories in Flashback 6 - 30 points
Achievements 14-30 were impossible to find.
And finally - Click here to read up on some of the casual games I've been reviewing for GamePro.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Microsoft says goodbye to HD DVD

So where's the Blu-ray add on? - Today Microsoft sent out the following press release:
As a result of recent decisions made by Toshiba, Hollywood studios, and retailers, Microsoft plans to withdraw from HD DVD. Xbox will no longer manufacture new HD DVD players for the Xbox 360, but we will continue to provide standard product and warranty support for all Xbox 360 HD DVD Players in the market. As we stated earlier, we do not believe this decision will have any material impact on the Xbox 360 platform or our position in the marketplace. HD DVD is one of the several ways we offer a high definition experience to consumers and we will continue to give consumers the choice to enjoy digital distribution of high definition movies and TV shows directly to their living room, along with playback of the DVD movies they already own.
Short, snappy and to the point. I'm just glad I traded in my HD DVD player when it was still worth something. With everybody jumping off the HD DVD ship like the Titanic this announcement is no surprise, Microsoft was bound to pack it in. But what about all those people who believed in the format and bought movies for it? Hold onto it. You may now have a format more extinct than Jessica Simpson's career but at this point who cares? Instead of selling or trading it for 35 cents on the dollar, enjoy the HD DVD movies you own and keep it. Twenty years from now it'll be a collectors item and you can sell it on ebay. You can also use it as a DVD player to keep your 360 fresh and pretty soon you'll be able to get some sweet looking movies on the cheap. I highly recommend The Bourne Ultimatum, The Last Starfighter and Serenity.
What if you were smarter than me and all the other jokers who guessed wrong and waited it out? Don't stress, you won't need to go out and buy a PS3 or a stand alone Blu-ray player. I guarantee that sometime this year Microsoft makes an announcement that they'll be making an add-on Blu-ray player and eventually a Blu-ray 360. I guarantee it. There's no way Microsoft - who has invested so much energy, effort, time and most importantly money into its gaming platform - will let Sony keep such an obvious selling point exclusive to the PS3. They have the better gaming machine, why would they give up their advantage now all because they bet on the wrong horse? Nobody at Microsoft is sweating this, they've probably seen it coming for the last 2 years. They took a calculated risk and lost, no biggie because this is Microsoft we're talking about. Bill Gates lights his cigars with $100K bills.
Even if Microsoft has to pay Sony a cut of their sales, which they probably will, they'll do it. If they're willing to take a $1billion hit for its RRD issues, they'll pay royalties to Sony because its what their customers will demand and in the long run it'll be profitable for them. Whether your a fan of Microsoft or not, in one aspect they're just like every other successful corporation - they'll eventually give you want you want so they get what they want, your money.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I wish I could quit you!

Open mouth, insert foot...the PS3 and I kiss and make up, sort of
Hey Baby,

How ya doin'? What's new? How was work today? What's that? You didn't really do much today except sit around while I was playing Spiderwick for a review on the 360? Sorry about that. I know I've been pretty busy since we got back together but I just wanted to check in with you. I know our reunion has been kind of rocky.
I know what you're thinking. You think you should never have let me back into your life but the money I was waving at you was too tempting. You're thinking I just came back because I'm covering casual games for GamePro and I'm just using you for reviews. You're thinking that I'm an idiot for ever getting rid of you for a stupid HD-DVD player that is now as valuable as a Wang Chung Greatest Hits CD. You're thinking that right after I bought you like a mail order Russian bride that things were great because we were playing PixelJunk Monsters and Uncharted Drakes Fortune together but now all you do is watch me search in desperation for a good game on the PlayStation Network or sit in my ass groove and watch Blu-ray movies. You're still bitter and hurting and because of my inconsistent attention span so getting back together with me has been more awkward than the Coach Dale/Myra Fleener kiss in Hoosiers.
I feel your pain and I can admit when I made a mistake. I never should have traded you in, mostly because it cost me money buying two of you, but also because I didn't appreciate you. I underestimated your value as a gaming machine and as a next-gen DVD player. So far though, I mostly underestimated you as a next-gen DVD player. That being said, I do think your future as a game console is looking a lot brighter then when I let you go and I should have recognized that. No, your future isn't as bright as my beloved Xbox 360 but you have Gran Turismo going for you, you have Home coming out this spring and you have Metal Gear 4 coming out. Those are things that I can look forward to, they give me hope that we have a future.
What's that? You want us to be as tight as the 360 and I are?!? Whoa, whoa...lets not get carried away! Back off baby, you're pressing me! You got a ways to go before you can measure up to her. I won't be leaving my 360 any time soon. You'll need a better online service, you'll need a better downloadable game library (you can start off by getting me Pa Rappa the Rappa...and a ham and cheese sandwich), you need some console exclusives that can hold my attention longer than a week, and you'll need to develop something that's equal to Achievement Points, and that's just for starters. You'll also need something that makes you unique. Right now you have Blu-ray but you'll need more than that.
I'm sure that's painful to hear but we're back together, right? Sure I might be putting the 360 on a pedestal but right now you're a hoodrat I'm hanging with for fun and that'll have to be it until you bring your A game. And yes I've watched 40-Year-Old-Virgin about 100 times but so what!?! These are the ABC's of me baby, that's how I roll! Just enjoy the ride while it lasts because if you give me an attitude or I see any signs of weakness I'll kick you to the curb!
Hey! Stay calm! Everything's alright! I'm sorry to get harsh with you, that wasn't my intent. I just wanted to be honest with you and let you know where you stand. Things are starting to get straightened out now and you'll be getting more of my attention from here on out, so just relax. Wipe your tears now, go on, here's a tissue. Now go make me a ham and cheese sandwich.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Happy Anniversary

We won’t really be getting lanyards will we? – Its recently come to my attention that the As the Gaming World Turns blog just turned two years old, last month. Of course somebody else had to tell me because I don’t really remember these things but I’m pretty proud anyway. Two years isn't bad in this business and the way things have been going, I don’t see why I can’t last at least two, maybe even three more years until I get really tired of writing this blog for free.
After spending some time looking over the posts from the past two years I started getting nostalgic. As a writer, I like to consider myself my toughest critic. While reading through the posts some of them were already pretty dated while others still made me laugh. Some of the predictions were spot on, others were horribly off. Not only has the blog changed in 25 months but the gaming industry has as well, a lot of which was reflected in what was on the blog. Below are my ten favorite posts (click the title to go to the original post, misspellings and all) along with some comments.
Terry's Top Ten Favorite Posts from the Past Two Years in No Particular Order
1. Top 5 Games You Should Keep Until You Croak - I like this post because even after the release of the Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360 I wouldn't substitue one game from the original list. At least not until GTA IV comes out. Notice all the comments are spam. Ah the good old days when I didn't filter the comments.
2. Best. Top 5. Ever. - This was the list of Top 5 Simpsons quotes I hoped to see in the next Simpsons game. Sadly I don't remember hearing any of them while getting a migraine through the last tiring Simpsons title.
3. Why the Wii Will Fall by the Wayside - Here's a good example where I made a calculated guess and ended up looking like an ass. Not the first time that happened and certainly not the last. I was so indignant I even had a guy curse at me on the comments. Yes! Now I know what Stephen A. Smith feels like! I completely underestimated the Wii at the time. Oops.
4. Interview with OXM's Fran Reyes - This was my first of two interviews with Fran and the first of many with people who cover the industry. Besides being a pretty good read I knew I impressed her with my questions and the positive way the discussion went (anytime you can make somebody laugh a lot during an interview, you know they'll remember you). This ended up helping me in the future as I interviewed Fran again and would later meet up with her at E3. This interview was my foot in the door to freelancing for gaming mags so it carries a lot of importance for me...or maybe it was because I emailed Fran about 100 times and she wanted to shut me up. I love doing interviews by the way, not only are they easy to write but its a lot of fun talking to other people about games.
5. Top 5 Most Memorable Video Game Music - Another top 5 list I'm pretty pleased with but a horribly titled post. I must have been drunk when I wrote this one. After reading through it today I thought long and hard (that's what she said) about what I'd switch out and the only thing I could think of would be trading Vice City for Portal but I just couldn't do it based on one song (Still Alive).
6. Are Video Games Art? - This post is a little over a year old and sometime this year I want to write it again. I was prompted by Roger Ebert's dig on gaming at the time but in light of the stupidity of all the talking heads who blame gaming for everything but the rise in gas prices, this should be something that needs to be addressed every year because there are still a lot of morons out there who just don't get gaming.
7. Grading the PS3 - My digs on the PS3 in December of 2006 remain the same as they do right now - no killer app (sorry, Uncharted is fun but not great), lame online service and a wimpy gaming linup. Things have been looking up for the PS3 lately though. Its online downloadable game library has gotten better (I love PixelJunk Monsters), Home should be up and running this spring, the lineup for this year looks great, and Blu-ray finally knocking out HD DVD is big. Still, its a system built on potential, not achievement.
8. Old Spiced - Another tale of my long held addiction of inflating my Gamerscore. Achievement Point binges are like rum and cokes binges, so good going down but you regret it in the morning. On this post I particularly like the line "I don't plan to make a habit of buying games like "Pocket Bike Racer" just for the points". What a load of crap! Just this weekend I rented Avatar so I could get over the 40K threshold. I have no shame.
9. E3: Cooking with Gas - When I feel shitty about where my game writing career is going, I go to this post and remind myself how lucky I've been so far. Pretty much everything I wanted to see and do at E3 I got to do in this one day. Got to play a ton of great new games, met Adam Sessler, Morgan Webb and drank beer with Peter Moore? It was an incredible day.
10. Games You Wish You Could Download - The king of this list, Cyberball, ended up being available soon after this post and was a dud because it lacked an online versus mode but the rest of these titles still needed to be made available yesterday (especially Sunset Riders and Pa Rappa the Rappa).
Honorable Mention - I just couldn't leave this off the list.

Friday, February 15, 2008

BioWare Wants You

Want a job in the video game industry? - BioWare announced today that its looking to expand and they're searching for new talent for their Edmonton and Austin offices. If you just so happen to be in San Francisco next week during GDC bring your resume, pocket protector and bow tie to booth 230 at the Moscone Center. If you're a little too busy, go to and see what they have available. And if you do get a job because I gave you a heads up, I expect you to use my name as a character in the next Mass Effect.

Dream On - Today Activision announced it will be releasing Guitar Hero: Aerosmith sometime in June. Aerosmith is an okay band but somewhat of an odd choice. The last time they were popular was when they were making cameos in Wayne's World movies. And does anybody remember the last time the band was associated with a game? Revolution X sucked. Hopefully this version will be better, the humble Steven Tyler sure thinks it'll rock.
Any band that can go from ‘Don’t Want to Miss A Thing’ to the ass-kicking ‘Sweet Emotion’ to the cheekiness of ‘Love in an Elevator,’ to the classic ballad ‘Dream On’ shows why Activision chose us to headline this game based on the diversity of the Aerosmith catalog. Not only is songwriting a bitch, but then it goes and has puppies.


I don't know if I'd compare a classic like Sweet Emotion to the love song from Armageddon but whatever you say Mr. Tyler. I personally prefer guitarist Joe Perry's comments.

“Having a game built around Aerosmith has been a huge honor and really a great experience for us,” says Joe Perry. “We’ve put a lot of ideas into the game so that fans can have fun interacting with our music, getting inside our body of work and learning about the band’s history. On a larger scale, it’s cool for us to be pioneers helping to rebuild the music industry through a format like video games. It’s great for rock since the record companies are struggling to make sense of how things are changing. Fans want to get and experience music in new formats--and there are going to be some of them who will play the game, then pick up the guitar for real and start bands. It’s what’s happening now, and it’s only going to build more momentum in the future. It’s a massive change for the music business.”


Very true. With the music industry in shambles, the gaming industry sure looks like an awfully cute partner. You know, like that chick in high school who doesn't know how hot she is and seems thrilled to date the backup quarterback until she realizes she could do better, than dumps his ass and ends up with some college guy. Yeah, that's video games right now.


Further proof that PC's are inferior to consoles - Today Yahoo! Games posted a story about yet another life ruined by PC game addiction. Whether its paying subscription fees, buying expensive upgrades, not being able to trade games, or dying from sitting in front of a monitor too long - PC gaming has it all. Click here for the story of how a WoW addict lost his wife due to his inability to let go of his games and bang his wife everyone once in awhile. And yes I realize I just challenged all you PC gamers out there, but I could care less. The debate between the underappreciated console gamer and the elitist PC gamer has been long overdue. Bring it on.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Burnout Paradise Achievements

Earn the good kind of driving points - Here are the Achievement Points for the very fun, arcade style racer Burnout Paradise.
1. Lookin' Good - Repair your first wrecked car. (5 points)
2. Watt? - Set a Time Road Rule on Watt St. (10 points)
3. It's Showtime - Set a Showtime Road Rule East Crawford Drive. (10 points)
4. Great Start - Win a Race. (10 points)
5. Misdemeanor - Collect 5 Billboards. (10 points)
6. Off the Beaten Path - Collect 25 Smashes. (10 points)
7. Bottom of the Class - Get your D Class License. (20 points)
8. Perfect Rage - Get 10 Takedowns in Road Rage without Wrecking. (5 points)
9. Rising From the Ashes - Repair your car at critical damage in a Road Rage event. (10 points)
10. Spinnin' Around - Perform a 360 Flatspin in any car. (10 points)
11. Underachiever - Get your C Class License. (30 points)
12. Learning to Fly - Successfully land 5 SUPERJUMPS. (10 points)
13. Duckin' and Weavin' - Win a Marked man without being taken down. (10 points)
14. The Show Must Go On - Get a 10x multiplier in Showtime. (20 points)
15. Rampage! - Get a Takedown Rampage. (20 points)
16. Must Try Harder - Get your B Class License. (40 points)
17. Parallel Park - Power Park with a 100% rating. (20 points)
18. Daredevil - Landed a 2 barrel roll jump. (25 points)
19. Boosting Around the World - Get a x20 Boost Chain. (25 points)
20. Flying Colors - Get your A Class License. (50 points)
21. Millionaire's Club - Score over a 1,000,000 in Stunt Run. (25 points)
22. Supercharged - Win 25 Burning Routes. (20 points)
23. Car in a China Shop - Get 500 Takedowns (online and offline). (20 points)
24. Paradise Won - Win your Burnout Driving License. (60 points)
25. All Pimped Out - Win all Burning Routes. (10 points)
26. Explorer - Find all Events. (10 points)
27. Paid and Displayed - There are 3 in Harbor Town, 4 in Palm Bay Heights and 4 in Downtown Paradise. Enter all 11 Car Parks to unlock this achievement. Whether you leave the way you came in, or jump from the top is up to you! (20 points)
28. Bustin' Out - Collect all Billboards. (20 points)
29. Totally Smashed - Collect all Smashes. (20 points)
30. Flying High - Successfully landed all SUPERJUMPS. (20 points)
31. Speed King - Set a Time Road Rule on every road. (20 points)
32. Crashin' All Over The World - Set a Showtime Road Rule on every road. (20 points)
33. Shopaholic - Find all Drive Thrus and Car Parks. (10 points)
34. Elite - Win your Burnout Elite Licence. (70 points)
35. Criterion Elite - Get your Elite License, win every event, find all discoverables and beat every Road Rule. (20 points)
36. Online Racer - Complete an online Race. (10 points)
37. First Win - Win Your first 8 Player online Race. (10 points)
38. Online Champion - Win 10 online Races. (20 points)
39. Online and Kicking - Complete 20 online Events. (30 points)
40. Firestarter - Make 50 online Rivals. (20 points)
41. Just for Pics - Make Your First online Rival. (10 points)
42. Happy Snapper - Send 5 Camera Shots. (10 points)
43. Notorious - Send 50 Camera Shots. (20 points)
44. Hotshots - Get 50 Snapshots in your Lineup. (20 points)
45. Join the Party - Complete 1 online Challenge. (10 points)
46. Party Crasher - Complete 25 online Challenges. (15 points)
47. Party Animal - Complete 250 online Challenges. (25 points)
48. Block Party - Complete 2 whole sections of online Challenges excluding PDLC. (35 points)
49. Burnout Skills - In 8 Player online Freeburn lead 6 of the Today's Best Scores. (30 points)
50. Criterion Fever -Everyone at Criterion Games is infected with a virus. The virus is passed when those with it are taken down online, and from there it just spreads... You will unlock this achievement when you get infected. (20 points)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Press Release Tuesday

Chokin' on a splinter - A deluge of emails today with some good news and some news that could only make Rich Uncle Pennybags happy.
- Mass Effect is coming to the PC in May. So much for it being a console exclusive for the Xbox 360. At least PC gamers (I guess this means you Eli since you're the only PC gamer I know) should be happy with this news, its a great title. But does this mean we could see some hot side boob action on the PS3 in the future? You never know.
- Today EA announced its release date for its long awaited title Spore. The game, created by well known game designer and The Simpson's Game cameo actor Will "The Sims" Wright, will be available September 7 for the PC, Mac and DS. Everything I've seen of this game looks amazing.
- The monopoly continues as EA has renewed its exclusive agreement with the NFL through the 2012 season (see I told you there was an Uncle Pennybags connection here). This means gamers will be listening to 96-year old John Madden for another 4 years! The announcement isn't really a surprise but I don't see how this is good news for gamers. Since 2K has been ousted from adding any kind of competition to the pro football market, the Madden series has gotten pretty stale. Sure its a huge seller and gamers can always count on it being a good game, but without anyone to push the Madden team the innovation has really been lacking. To be perfectly honest, I get pretty bored with the game about 2 months after I pick it up. Maybe its time I took out the old electric football set out from under my bed, dusted it off and played with it instead.
- Tired of the 11-month long football season? So am I and thankfully 2K has some new and added content for Major League Baseball 2K8 coming out for the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PS2, and PSP on March 4th. Check them out below, straight from the horses mouth because I'm too lazy to paraphrase.
Total Pitch Control – A new, innovative pitching interface that allows players to emulate the realistic motion of pitching a live baseball. Execution of speed and precise accuracy involves matching specific gestures and release with the right analog stick, simulating the arm and wrist action involved in throwing that particular type of pitch.
Swing Stick 2.0 – Improved batting controls that offer players unparalleled ball-to-bat contact that will be determined by timing, direction, and pitch location for a greater variety of realistic hits including grounders, blooper singles, dribblers, gappers, long home runs, and more using the right analog stick.
All-New Baserunning – Simplified controls that allow fans to easily select players with the left analog stick and guide them toward specified bases with ease.
Full Minor Leagues – Fans will be treated to 90 authentic minor league teams, along with 18 minor league stadiums in franchise and exhibition modes.
Two of the Best Commentators in the Business – 2K Sports proudly brings back to the broadcast booth the popular duo of Jon Miller and Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, delivering the most entertaining and deepest commentary available in any baseball franchise.
And finally - I was pretty stoked about my SOE Denver studio tour, it was set for this week, but its been moved to next month. Damn! I guess this leaves me a little time to work on the As the Gaming World Turns First Annual Beerfest (ATGWTFAB for short). I know there were some ideas floating around but because of my short term memory problems I forgot what they were. So if you're interested in attending, throw out your ideas and lets get this baby planned out.

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Adam Sessler Interview

Sorry, Morgan Webb not included - Late last week I spoke with G4TV’s Adam Sessler. As usual when we talk I found him to be very funny, direct and blurting out big words that I didn’t understand. While he treaded lightly on some topics, he gave me his take on casual gaming, gave even more love to Cooper Lawrence and managed to use the phrase “Orwellian” in proper context – all in one interview.
TT: Last time we talked was at E3 and you were pretty excited about the holiday releases. Which games blew you away and which ones were you trading in the next day?
AS: On the whole most of them did blow me away and actually I was more surprised by the ones that surprised me that I didn’t expect to. Obviously, for everyone, the most amazing was BioShock. I didn’t expect anything as unique and rich as the game actually turned out to be. I’ve come back to play it I don’t know how many times because there’s enough of a unique sensation that you start to miss it. I just want to get back into the game and get back to Rapture.
I think the biggest surprise for me was Assassin’s Creed, I never thought that the game wasn’t going to be good but I didn’t think it would be so unique. The combat system itself is deceptively simple but it builds up into something really visceral and satisfying, something that I haven’t used in that kind of melee combat in I don’t know how long.
I’m trying to think of stuff that really didn’t blow me away, I think the biggest one was Crysis. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the game but outside of the basic graphical wow factor it didn’t have any kind of innovation on the level some of the other shooters that we saw coming out at the later part of last year. It just didn’t hold my attention the same way.
TT: Casual gaming seems to be the next big thing, what about it makes it so attractive to developers and do you think hardcore gamers can embrace it or just consider casual gamers noobs?
AS: There are some hardcore gamers who are going to get on a soap box with what I call the “Red Hot Chili Pepper” factor. You don’t want to share it for fear that it will dilute the quality. I don’t believe that whatsoever, even though I do think the Chili Peppers started to suck once everyone started liking them. I think casual games do have a place and a large part of their appeal is based on the fact that its not as much of an investment on your time. If you don’t have the kind of schedule or mental commitment to really put yourself into a game that you have to learn, get better at, and is going to last a long period of time, you can still get a lot of satisfaction by playing games like Calling All Cars or Geometry Wars. These types of games are immediately satisfying and isn’t something that you have to grow into, but still have a fairly addictive quality. I do think there are a large group of hardcore gamers who are more than happy to pick these up. They probably want ones that show a little more pop and creativity because just as with any other entertainment medium, for all of these good ones you’ll get games not as well thought out, or easy copies of existing games. When you look at the release of Rez HD, that’s definitely going to get people to look at an area on PSN or Xbox Live Arcade to look at other games because every gamer worth his salt knows you should be playing Rez.
TT: Despite being a multi-billion dollar industry, gaming gets about as much respect as Britney Spears' parenting. What does the industry have to do to be viewed with the same regard as the big three of movies, TV and film?
AS: I think the game industry just has to wait around until all of the heads of the predominant newspapers and news channels die and young people take their place. After watching the Bioware/Mass Effect thing, and you probably caught some of my more thoughtful words on the subject, it was really just a hopeless thing. They are playing to an audience that is older and seems to live off of a sense of fear and anxiety on things they don’t understand and games fall into that perfectly. I’ve always used this analogy – in the early 1950’s Dr. Wertham wrote the book Seduction of the Innocent which made the exact same claims about comic books that they’re making about video games today. We look at that as an anachronistic piece of pop psychology on how silly we were back then. Fortunately it’s just a matter of time until you get people to really see gaming for what it is.
TT: The alleged ouster of longtime Gamespot writer Jeff Gerstmann for his negative review of Kane and Lynch has brought up the very serious topic of ethics in gaming journalism. What are the short and long term effects on every reviewer’s credibility?
AS: It’s an interesting question because the entire situation kind of kept me up at night, it took me aback. I for one don’t believe that there are enough facts to really come to the conclusion that everyone sort of jumped to initially. I’ve been doing this for so long, I find accusations that someone is on the take to be very, very severe, even though its been said rather whimsically on the internet. I don’t believe there are people like that. It would have to be a very certain minded mercenary to take money, and most people come into this job doing it out of a sense of enthusiasm. I don’t really see that corrupting influence really coming down the pike. Granted people who have reviews run a business but they also run the risk of compromising all that the business built itself up to be by allowing that to happen. Call me an idealist but I don’t think this is widespread. When it does become a problem is on the internet, which sometimes gives a voice to those we never wanted to hear from. The way in which suppositions about guilt and the way in which everything is black or white is so prevalent in online discussions and many blogs, that a situation like that never gets the sober minded treatment that it probably should. It really can hurt careers, it can hurt reputations, it can hurt legitimate businesses. It’s one of those things that on X-Play I’d like to try and get in front of those conversations before they get so out of control by people who aren’t really in a position to be passing judgments.
I do think there is an error to CNET’s claim that they are not allowed to discuss these situations of internal procedures and their employees out of a respect for privacy. Many companies have that, and granted they had something of a public persona in Jeff Gerstmann, but if that is their policy it seems like they’re using that to hide behind what seems like such an odious crime – it’s just not fair. Legitimate reporting, legitimate investigation would have had to acknowledge that that was a fact and not just jump to conclusions.
TT: On a recent episode of X-Play you took Fox News word vomiter Cooper Lawrence to task for her sight unseen take on the sex scene from Mass Effect, something even Jack Thompson has been quoted as saying he had no problem with, and you used big words like "demagogue" and "simpleton". While I have no clue what those words mean, do you feel the frequent backlash gaming receives from people with no gaming experience makes it akin to rock and roll in the 50's or rap in the 80's?

AS: Completely. It’s a new language and all they know is that young people seem to be deriving something from it that they don’t understand it and it scares them. Any kind of influence that isn’t under the control or comprehension of the powers that be becomes demonized, it’s a way to retain their power. It may be an Orwellian, political, way of looking at it but its coming out of the same source – its unknown and its worrisome. That’s why 30 years from now I believe we’re all going to look back and have a good chuckle. Unfortunately because we have a 24-hour news cycle and it was a slow news day, Fox was looking for some filler and their philosophy is – “if it gets the old people worried, we’re going to put it on the air.” That kind of cynical treatment of video games is just obnoxious. They used to say rock music was going to make you have orgies and as much as I like to think that’s what it did, I have a feeling it didn’t. I know for a fact it didn’t do it for me.
TT: There have been some sizable studio mergers/acquisitions/hostile takeovers recently. Do you see this becoming a continuing trend and is this good or bad news for gamers?
AS: I think it will be a trend, smaller studios are going to have a harder time competing and in order to survive they’re going to need to join forces with a larger organization. In terms of whether or not it’s a good thing, I don’t 100% know. I think for some smaller studios they’d get all the marketing muscle and the promotion and the funding that could really help turn their profits into what it should be. But at the same time, with these large mergers, sometimes it gives you a little bit of pause. Big companies are usually involved in franchises tied to comic books and movies, stuff that looks on paper as the easy sell, but really don’t end up being the best product.
With big mergers there are a lot of unique IP’s of great value that could really turn into the next Assassin’s Creed but maybe get lost in the shuffle because on paper it doesn’t have those marketable qualities.

TT: This year E3 will again be journalists only. Is this the best thing for E3, or has it lost its luster because of other conventions (GDC, CES, etc.), the Christmas Eve-like excitement the fanboys brought and the sad disappearance of the booth babes?

AS: There’s two different Adam’s. There’s the Adam that’s there for the television production side, who loves crowds and all the flashing lights and nuttiness that makes for a beautiful backdrop. I think there’s going to be more of that this year than last because everybody will be under one roof. On the other side is another Adam, the journalist and reporter who really was absolutely fed up 2 years ago because it was so unmanageable. It wasn’t allowing me to do my job and at the same time game companies were hurt in the process. There was a point a couple of years ago when you had the PS3 launching and the Wii launching and you think, “look at all the millions of dollars spent on all these other things, it might have served them better to dump a couple of million back into their marketing budget to try and tell people about their products so they’d buy it, rather than just doing it so we as press wander into their booth”.
TT: What about the booth babes? You have to be disappointed by that. Last year I only saw one, at the Eidos booth for Conan.
AS: You know I have a thing about booth babes and I got this from Cliff Bleszinski who said this to me years ago. When you travel to France and you go see the Eiffel Tower you make sure you take your picture next to it. Why? Because you want to document it since you are rarely next to the Eiffel Tower. So what does it mean when you have to wait in line to get yourself photographed next to a beautiful woman?
TT: Point taken. And for the record, I only took a picture OF the booth babe, I didn’t take it with her. Alright Adam, lets look into your G4TV crystal ball, and don't say you don't have one because I know they issue it to you. Do you ever see a day when gamers are buying a WiiStation 360? You know, a 1 console world?
AS: I don’t think its feasible. I’ll get on a soapbox on this one because I completely know where Dennis Dyak and Jaffe are coming from on this (Silicon Knights boss Dennis Dyak and game designer David Jaffe have previously stated in separate interviews that they believe a one console world will happen). On one level if everyone had that base taken care of, all the money you’d spend on R+D just to build the base technology could be put into the creative manipulation of the game and into all of the fun parts that really affect the game play and not how it looks and how it balances. At the same time it would remove a level of competition that probably is far more responsible for some of the great games we see and what resulted in what was so cool at the end of 2007. Both have benefits but both have severe deficits as well.
TT: Last year was a redonkulously big year for the gaming biz but this is 2008. What will be the huge titles on each console this year and what are the sleepers?
AS: I think there’ll be more big games this year than last year, or at least it comes across to me that way because they’re not all happening in a one month period. I know the last time I did an interview with you I was just complaining about the November smash up. There are so many games that are going to be big. For the PlayStation 3, the buzz at the beginning of this year has been high for Turok. That game might make people sit up and take notice. On the 360 Ninja Gaiden 2 is probably going to be a big hit but I think we’re going to see something big we don’t even know about yet. The only one I wonder about is the Wii. They’ll have played Zelda, Mario and Smash Bros. but what are we going to get later in the year that’s going to blow people away.
For some sleepers, we just had Prototype on the show and I’m a huge, huge fan of that game. I think the concept behind it is really very cool. The other one, also from Sierra, is Brutal Legend. The kind of buzz Shafer (Tim Shafer created Pscyhonauts and was a longtime LucasArts employee) has swimming around this game is pretty stunning and when you know the creative guy behind it, you can’t wait to get your hands on it. There are so many others out there that when every time I start looking at the roster I start just drool. I’m looking forward to Too Human as well.
TT: The people want to know - What games are you playing right now?
AS: I just finished up playing Turok but can’t tell you what I thought because I haven’t reviewed it yet. I enjoy playing No More Heroes, I love that game. That game has more crazy ideas that actually work than any game I’ve seen in a long time. That’s about it right now. Of course because of my job, most days I don’t even play games, I just go home and stare at the wall because I need something that isn’t interactive.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Steven Spielberg is a gamer...

...just don't make any jokes about all those E.T. catridges in a landfill somewhere in New Mexico when he's around - In a press release today, EA announced its partnership with Steven Spielberg to make the game Boom Blox for the Wii. The family friendly game, scheduled to be released in May of this year, offers single, co-op and multi-player action with hundreds of levels, 30 characters, goofy themes and a game editor. The description of the game was kind of innocuous, but all you really need to know is that chickens and monkeys are involved. Said Mr. Spielberg about the game:
“I am a gamer myself, and I really wanted to create a video game that I could play with my kids,” said Steven Spielberg. “BOOM BLOX features an enormous amount of fun challenges and cool scenarios for your kids to solve or for you to master together."
Since Steve-O is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, I guess I'll give him a pass on the E.T. fiasco and not hold it against him when I try out this new game.
New Xbox Originals, still no frickin' Achievement Points for them - On Monday three new Xbox Originals will be available for download - Ninja Gaiden Black, Sid Meier's Pirates and Black (what's the color theme here?) - each for 1200 MS points. I love the Xbox Originals idea and there are about 2-3 games out for it that I would buy right now, but because they don't offer Achievements I'm not even remotely interested. I'm an Achievement whore to be sure (try and tell me you wouldn't play through the first Halo and enjoy earning points for it), but if you offer Arcade games with points why the hell not do it for Originals. It makes no sense and is certainly costing them money. It sure is keeping my wallet closed. Here's a brief breakdown of the new releases available February 11.
Ninja Gaiden Black (M) Not available in Australia or New Zealand...suckers
- Play Story mode or Mission mode, including boss battles, time challenges, and more
- Hurricane Pack content: Encounter new enemies, big bad bosses, and new costumes from Hurricane Packs 1 and 2.
- Difficulty levels: Choose from five levels of difficulty for all kinds of gamers, from "Ninja Dog" to "Very Difficult Master Ninja."
- Bonus extras: Play the original arcade versions of Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Ryukenden.
Sid Meier’s Pirates! (T) Not available in Korea, Japan, or Germany...sorry David Hasselhoff
- Engage in fierce naval battles: Fight single enemies or multiple ships.
- Build a fleet: Take the helm of 27 different ship types enhanced with assorted ammo, cannons, and other upgrades.
- Integrated melee: Parry and slash your dueling opponents into submission with lightning quick moves onboard ships, in seedy taverns, and even in the Governor's mansion.
- Take your crew ashore: Dig up buried treasure or plunder enemy ports in strategic land battles. Sneak in and out of towns, escape from prisons, and avoid guards, or surprise them and knock them out
- A pirate's life: Increase your riches and win the heart of the Governor's daughter to earn gifts and valuable information.
- Multiplayer combat: Grab a controller and jump into four-player ship battles in Versus mode.
- Make your own story: Challenge and pursue the most infamous pirates in history, including Blackbeard, Captain Kidd, and Henry Morgan. If you prevail, they’ll teach unique skills to you
- Online bonuses: download sail emblems, flags, and other content.
BLACK (M) Not available in Korea or Japan...sorry Mr. Roboto
- Lots of guns: An explosive arsenal of weaponry is at your disposal.
- Every bullet counts: Everything in the environment is affected by gunfire.
- Death is an opportunity: Every enemy dies like a stuntman.
Paradise found - I usually don't get into racing games but I've really been enjoying Burnout Paradise. One of the things that drives me nuts about racers is the high learning curve, Paradise has a very low one with cars that are easy to control and a heck of a lot of fun to crash. Its the anti-Gran Turismo. Even online play is fast and easy with a quick press on the d-pad. If you're even remotely into racing games, I highly recommend this arcade-style racer.
Coming Friday - My interview with Adam Sessler.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Call of Duty 4 downloadable maps...

...are on the way - I love getting cryptic messages like the one I received from Activision today that had the title of this post in the subject heading. The email didn't say when these maps for COD4 would be coming out, how many there would be or how much they cost, just that they were coming soon. Of course soon is a relative term. If you ask my brother what soon is, it means two weeks, if you ask me it means 5 minutes. Still don't believe me? Fine, here's a copy of the email I received today below.
Santa Monica, CA – February 4, 2008 – Fresh intel from Activision headquarters (Nasdaq: ATVI) reports that new global conflicts are planned in the form of downloadable multiplayer maps for the award-winning Call of Duty® 4: Modern Warfare™. In development for both Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system, the upcoming downloadable content will thrust gamers into a hot zone of added combat across a variety of intense multiplayer locales.

“We’ve demonstrated our commitment to delivering the best multiplayer experience in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and that continues with our plans for new downloadable content,” explains Infinity Ward’s Community Manager, Robert Bowling. “We’re excited about the new maps, and the added gameplay variety, and we can’t wait to wrap things up and get online with everyone.”

See, I told you. And you guys think I just make this shit up. Since I'm pretty chummy with the people at Activision (they're the ones who gave me an invite to E3) I'll try to get more info and hopefully even a redeemable code to give away since I'm not playing the game anymore. Stay tuned.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Chessmaster Live and Rez HD Achievements

Finally, some great XBLA games - While its great that new games come out for Xbox Live Arcade every week, excellent releases have been pretty rare lately. Thankfully, this past Wednesday gamers were given not one, but two must have games - Chessmaster Live and Rez HD, both selling for 800MS points ($10). I'm only an average chess player, but I love to play. If you're even remotely into chess, I highly recommend it. If not, Rez HD is a blast to play and shouldn't be missed. Below are the Achievements for both games.
Rez HD
1. The Earth - Clear play mode area1 (20 points)
2. The Mars - Clear play mode area2 (20 points)
3. The Venus - Clear play mode area3 (20 points)
4. The Uranus - Clear play mode area4 (20 points)
5. Eden - Clear play mode area5 (20 points)
6. The Forgotten - Get a local ranking of 1st in lost area (15 points)
7. Laser Assassin - Shot down over 95% in areas1-5 (15 points)
8. The Rezident - Achieve 100% shot down and support item in areas1-5, or play for over 10 hours (15 points)
9. Trance Hacker - Clear direct assault (trance) 15 points
10. Firewall Buster - Get a local ranking of 1st in boss rush (15 points)
11. Power Breaker - Clear score attack over 30 times (10 points)
12. Ultimate Cracker- Get a local ranking of 1st in all 5 areas in score attack (15 points)
Chessmaster Live
1. Annihilator - Capture all your opponent's pieces in Classic Chess (Single Player) 10 points
2. Apprentice - Win 1 game (Single Player) 5 points
3. Blitzkrieger - Win 1 game (Single Player) in less than 5 minutes (personal time) 20 points
4. Champ - Defeat a chess personality with an ELO rating of 1000 or more (25 points)
5. Chess Regular - Play 20 online games (10 points)
6. Glorious - Achieve an online rating of 1200 in any type of chess (15 points)
7. Grand Strategist - Complete 30 puzzles. (20 points)
8. Jack of all Trades - Win 1 online game in all chess variants (15 points)
9. Master - Win 20 games (Single Player) 25 points
10. Pro Player - Win 10 ranked online games (25 points)
11. Rising Star - Win online against a higher ranked player (15 points)
12. Veteran - Play 100 games (Single Player) 15 points