Friday, April 10, 2009

How can Nintendo save itself?

"Save itself?"

A valid question. To look at the state of Nintendo and say that it needs 'saving' at this point in time sounds ludicrous. The Wii has sold over 50 million units globally since its launch back in 2006, and the hand held Nintendo DS has sold well over 100 million units. Unlike the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, Nintendo are actually gaining money with every sale. So what needs saving? Since the bleak days of the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube -- Nintendo is now thriving, expanding into markets that have been largely untouched by Sony and Microsoft.

What needs saving now is Nintendo's integrity.

The Nintendo 64 and the Gamecube, whilst not financially prosperous, were amongst the best gaming consoles of wall time. In so many ways, we have been wowed by the degree of quality that Nintendo delivered: The Legend 0f Zelda: Ocarina of Time, GoldenEye, Perfect Dark, Banjo-Kazooie, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Pikmin. The list goes on.

Now, the Wii is plagued by titles like Wii Sports, Wii Music, Wii Fit, Wii Play. What happened to the old Nintendo? Flagship titles like Metroid and Zelda have lost their lustre. Super Mario Galaxy, whilst being the most critically acclaimed games of 2007, has been a diamond in an ocean of mediocrity.

Nintendo needs to act fast. These are ways that it can restore -- not its sales -- but its reputation.

1. Bring out: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker 2

Look at it. Just look at it.

Within this game lies so much awesomeness, and I wish Nintendo could realise this.

The Wii will never be a graphical power-house in comparison to the PS3, or Xbox 360, but with the Wind Waker's cell shaded charm, this is easily forgettable. The gameplay and magic of the Zelda series should not be just limited to the Nintendo DS, with Phantom Hourglass or Spirit Tracks. It needs to be on the big screen! Everything about Zelda is so good, that you could take the same game, add some different levels and quests: and Voila! You have Wind Waker 2.

Twilight Princess took a totally different route -- but can we say that this has the same charm or likability as Wind Waker? Graphically, Twilight Princess is sterile and out of date.

This title alone would justify my purchase of the Wii.

2. Stop putting 'Wii' in game titles!

Seriously. if there's a Legend of Zelda: Wii -- people will die...

3. More cell-shading / artistic graphic design.

Let's do a comparison shall we?

How, Nintendo? How can you possibley say: "We have the best exclusive games", when your competition have a graphical leap above you of this kind of calibre? Nobody will be able to take you seriously. If you want to look like you are in this to win this, you need to make your games stylised and charming rather than realistic. Nobody expects you to have amazing textures, nobody expects you to have detail and finesse - they expect colourful and charming design aspects (both of which, you can accomodate).

Again, Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, is one good option -- that kind of style is easy to create and looks great no matter what platform it's on. Or Super Mario Galaxy, with a kind of charismatic, colourful animated effect.

Whatever you do, don't try to get technical.

4. Restore the 'Quality' in Quality Assurance.

That means none of this crap, Nintendo.

And Box-Art aside, none of this either:

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hath Humanity Lost its Soul? Shadow of the Colossus - The Movie

Movies based on video games have not typically been successful. In fact, they’re usually catastrophic failures. In lieu of these facts, it’s easy to see why your heart might (or perhaps should) sink when you hear that Team ICO’s Playstation 2 game, Shadow of the Colossus is being made for the big screen.

To rub a little bit more salt in the wound, it’s being scripted by Justin Marks. Does the name ring any bells? He’s the guy who scripted The Scorpion King, Doom and more recently, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li. His portfolio of titles does not exactly recommend him for the job.

But who knows? The Street Fighter and Doom franchises have never been saturated with outstanding narratives. Shadow of the Colossus certainly has opportunity to experiment. However, do I really believe that this movie will turn out to be anything other than a catastrophe? No.

The only video-game-movie that I’m currently excited for is Bioshock. Other than that, I’ll keep away from movies inspired by video games like mosquitoes keep away from insect repellent.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

There's Something In the Sea...

Can you guess what this footprint belongs to?

The Answer:

That's right. We will get to venture into Rapture once again in Bioshock 2 - Only this time, with a new breed of enemy: Big Sisters. The game came to light through its teaser trailer released inside the Playstation 3 version of Bioshock, in October 2008, although the game had been unofficially mentioned earlier in March.

Now, a new website brings more information about the games story - clues to moisten our tongue whilst we hungrily await the games' inevitable release sometime this year:

There's something in the sea!

The website uses a map with scraps of photos, notes, letters, drawings and more attached to it. With a frantic, perhaps insane person annotating each piece of evidence. The website gives clues rather than spoilers, and it also helps to piece together an idea of what kind of direction Bioshock 2 will be heading with its already intruiging storyline.

But don't take my word for it! See for yourself! Visit the website now.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

PS3 - Killzone 2 - Review

Killzone 2 is arguably the best first person shooter out on consoles. The infamous E3 trailer released in 2005 created an air of controversy around the game – and many people believed that whilst CGI delivered the initial ‘wow’ factor, the playable game could only ever live in its shadow. Guerilla was a small and relatively inexperienced Development Company at the time of the game’s announcement. Their first game, Killzone had already been considered a failure amongst most leading critics. So whilst the trailer was visually dynamic and exciting, perhaps people were justified in their belief that Killzone 2 would ultimately fall victim to the same fate of its predecessor: a ‘Halo-killer’ that collapses under the pressure of intense fan anticipation. Justified perhaps, but catastrophically wrong nonetheless. In a similar fashion to the Ghost of Christmas Past, Guerilla match and surpass the graphical prowess of the 2005 trailer – and proving their observational skills at the same time, as the gripes that critics had with the first game seem to have all been addressed second time around. Killzone 2 does not reinvent the combat mechanics of first person shooters, but perfects them. And whilst the story remains ever so slightly shallow, the arresting visuals, refined gameplay and addictive online multiplayer make this game a must-buy for any Playstation 3 owner who likes shooters. Who knows? It could be the right excuse to buy the Sony console if you haven’t done so already.

Killzone 2’s premise is interesting, but fails to expand on the key points in the narrative, and some questions never really get answered. Essentially, if you haven’t played the first game, or Killzone: Liberation on the PSP, there really isn’t any need to go back and revisit them, because there isn’t a lot else that can be learned. All you need to know is that the Helghast started ‘the war’ when they invaded planet Vekta, and in a move of retaliation, the Interplanetary Strategic Alliance (ISA) are now taking the fight to Helghan. The motives for both of these invasions remain very limited. The lack-lustre story telling elements in Killzone 2 aren’t helped much by the game manual, which merely says that the ISA are trying to stop the Emporer Visari from releasing untold damage to the galaxy after he ‘managed to steal a set of nuclear warheads’ when retreating from Vetka. So indeed, the contextual elements of the story are really none-existent. The game really focuses on the acts of a lone soldier, ‘Sev’. This plays out quite nicely, because it throws the player into a realistic viewpoint of a soldier, showing you a relatively narrow perspective in terms of overall purpose, but capturing perfectly the emotions of watching comrades fall, and episodically records your growing loathing the Helghast. Your ‘story’ in this sense, consists of certain objectives such as ‘secure this position’, ‘destroy that building’ etc. but never losing sight of the player’s overall aim – capturing Emperor Visari, and ending your war for good.

It’s ironic, because whilst your perspective as a soldier is integral to the game’s atmosphere, the characterization is relatively shallow. You play as ‘Sev’, a man of very few words, and like every other member of the ISA, an even more limited vocabulary – swearing liberally. You are a member of Alpha squad, alongside Natko, Garza, and Rico, and whilst they fit perfectly into the role of the macho and overenthusiastic band of soldiers, the game successfully secures your affection for each member. Killzone 2 also does a good job of creating interesting enemy roles, with Emperor Visari, dictator of Helghan and the Colonel Radec, leader of Pyrrhus’ defense. Brian Cox’s voice acting for Visari is superb, his speech in the opening cinematic will undoubtedly give you goose bumps, and overall he manages to create a well-constructed villain.

The gameplay in Killzone 2 is refined and well paced. Killzone 2’s gunplay and movement definitely feels heavier than most other shooters. Aiming feels slightly sluggish at first, but you will quickly adapt to this change, and eventually relish it. The weighting on your movements are firstly, a degree nearer realism – but also force you to adjust tactics. Guerilla has nicely implemented a cover system that allows you to attach yourself to any flat surface, then peak out and fire off a few rounds of ammunition. The advantage of this is that advancing through enemy lines requires more strategy – you need to find cover, locate the red eyes of the Helghast, kill as many as you can and then proceed forward. The Helghast aren’t ignorant to the idea of cover either, and will use it to their advantage regularly. The artificial intelligence in Killzone 2 is another highlight of the gameplay. When plentiful in number, the Helghast confidently fire at you from open positions. However, if a Helghast soldier’s team has been wiped out, he will be more reserved – choosing to blind fire instead. They also appear responsive to your actions; so if you choose to throw a grenade, your enemy will dive out of the way. Fighting against a dynamic and intelligent enemy is challenging, but never too frustrating, as you can utilize a number of tactics in order to defeat them. Throwing a grenade near their position can flush them out of cover, or using bursts of suppressive fire can allow you to safely advance to a more ideal shooting spot.

The variety of foes you have to face is limited, but this doesn’t necessarily have a negative effect on the game. All of your foes adhere to the Space Nazi archetype, with demonic red eyes – but there’s enough variety in the uniform to keep the game dynamic; with the regular Helghast, sub-machine gun wielding Assault troopers and shock troopers. There are also a few boss battles, which keeps things interesting – ‘Heavies’ wielding mini-guns, agile flying sentry units and more. There is always a technique in killing these bosses, although you will generally be told what this is by squad-mates. One of the more gratifying elements of Killzone 2 comes from the feeling of firing the different weapons. Guerilla have added a nice mix of standard guns, like the trusty ISA assault rifle with a green scope, as well as more original guns like the bolt gun, which pins your enemy against any wall behind it, before exploding. There’s also a Helghast version of the assault rifle, alongside the rocket launcher, a sniper rifle, the trusty shotgun and the rarely seen but ridiculously powerful lightning gun. There’s some nice tweaks to the weapons that have been added, such as for the sniper rifle, the Sixaxis function is implemented so that holding your controller steady will improve accuracy.

Graphically, this game is unparalleled. Gun models are well designed, explosions are awe-inspiring and realistic, textures are crisp, animations are put together excellently and Guerilla certainly weren’t afraid to coat everything with a layer of blood. What makes Killzone 2 special however, is its art design. Light effects set the mood perfectly, with a bold colour palette and dramatic angles – Helghan is turned into a living and breathing warzone. Anti-aircraft shells and lightning create the backdrop to many battles, explosions are regular and the flash of gunfire is often the most potent source of light. As you lose life, the colour will slowly fade from screen, and you’ll have to watch as blood trickles into the edges of your screen. Never before has a game blended technical prowess and stellar artistic design so effectively as Killzone 2, and this is undoubtedly the finest looking game available.

On this final note, it becomes easy to conclude that Killzone 2 is a game that can definitely be recommended. It features an intense campaign that, whilst lacking in a cohesive plot, has great pacing and an epic conclusion. The game is aesthetically outstanding, and has the addictive gunplay to match. Beyond the single player campaign is a superb online multiplayer addition, which is almost certain to occupy much of your time. This game raises the bar for first person shooters everywhere, and if there is a game deserved of your hard earned money: this is it. Stop reading now. You owe it to yourself to go out and buy Killzone 2.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Rumour Alert - New PSP Slide Screen?

Apparently so according to "highly trusted sources". The PSP is labeled the PSP-4000, and will have a sliding screen.

This seems like a good idea to me - Sony have been struggling slightly with their PSP, and the trendy new look will perhaps appeal to the people who don't want games, but would like a very nice screen to watch movies on. It's also, of course, nice for gamers who can now play in much higher resolution than in the past.

Alas, I get ahead of myself. Whether this rumour is true, is yet to be seen.

Capcom Uncover Sequel to Lost Planet

The highly anticipated sequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition has finally been announced. The confirmation of the title's development came via a video, available on Xbox Live. The 'Extreme Condition' segment of the title has all but disappeared, with arctic environments being swiftly replaced by tropical rain forests.

Game Director Kenji Oguro has hinted at a shifting of perspectives as the player progresses through the narrative, 'There are various different groups of Snow Pirates living on E.D.N.III, the story in 'Lost Planet 2' will be told from the perspectives of some of those different groups'.

The first game received generally solid reviews - so this game is perhaps one to keep an eye out for.

Monday, February 23, 2009

God of War III Set for 2009 Release!

If you haven't heard already - God of War III is coming soon. Very soon. Video game website, GamePro have enjoyed the first impressions of the game. The most notable information that can be taken from this is that the game has been confirmed to be mere 'months away from completion'. Yes, Kratos might be arriving onto the Playstation 3 even sooner than most have expected.

The icing on the cake is that the game apparently 'looks so good that the only closest reference [Sid Shuman] can draw is Crysis'. I think that there might be an air of hyperbole in this part, but you get the idea - the game is notable for its visuals. Gamepro describe the graphics with a bit more precision further down the article:

'His 3D character model is shockingly well-rendered on the PlayStation 3: his Golden Fleece armor now sparkles with high-resolution reflections, the scars that crisscross his body glow with malevolence, and he scowls and grimaces during trying battle scenes. The visual fidelity is so off-the-charts that you can make out folds of flesh on the knuckles of his realistic-looking fingers, catch an occasional gleam in his ferocious eyes, and see a soft glow off his smoothly shaven skull.'

But will the game excel in gameplay? 'God of War III will either live up to the hype or it won't.' says Shuman, 'The pedigree is there, the technology is there, and Kratos is there. Speaking frankly, this one looks like a slam-dunk.' This game is likely to be one of Sony's heaviest hitting exclusives this year. Hopefully it will continue to grow and improve as the development process continues.

Stay tuned for more information!