Archive for the ‘Video Games’ Category

It may seem unlikely, but the desert is one of the most beautiful and impressive set pieces in the Uncharted series.

Uncharted 3 is an awesome interactive experience. The graphics are superb, the gameplay is fun, and the cutscenes amazing.

The game is a fine piece of storytelling, at times feeling like an interactive movie – and that’s a good thing. You’ll escape the crumbling roof of a burning cathedral, scale abandoned ships during shootouts with pirates and crawl through a sprawling desert, each moment trying to be more epic than the last.

At only about 10 hours, the game is much shorter than it’s predecessor, but that’s not a bad thing. It never feels like it’s dragging on too long and it’s truly some of the most enthralling ten hours in gaming.

The story is great and the voice acting is top-notch. Drake undergoes a bit more character development in this story, including an awesome flashback to his early teen years and some tension between him and Sully. There’s even a few trippy moments towards the end, something different and very welcome in the series.

London, the French jungle, the ocean, the desert - no matter where Drake goes, people want to kill him.

Multiplayer is also back and as fun as ever, with more customization and bigger maps. It’s no Halo or Gears of War, but it’s not trying to be; it’s pure, simple fun. Customizing your character and guns, leveling up, the constant rewards and a few different game modes will keep you hooked for hours at a time. (Yes, needing a online pass blows, but that’s a much bigger discussion.)

Unfortunately, the game is held back a bit by it’s shooting mechanics. I still don’t understand why headshots don’t count with most guns, something that should have been corrected at this point in the series. And while the stealth missions aren’t as annoying, they still feel unnecessarily difficult and somewhat clumsy.

That the said, the best gun fights in the game don’t take place in the closed rooms you’re forced into, but the active, moving battles that have you running and climbing while baddies try to take you out. There’s even an epic battle on horseback, worthy of any summer blockbuster and the final boss fight this time around is much better than the last game’s.

After you’ve beaten the game and some time has passed, you may feel Uncharted 2 is still the (slightly) better game. But once you’re sucked into Uncharted 3, you’ll never notice.

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In Brave New World, soma is a pill that satiates the masses.

Aldous Huxley’s classic novel Brave New World is often best remembered for showing the dark side of genetic engineering. What seems to get less publicity is the novel’s study of rigid socialization and using pleasure to control the masses. The latter is what interests me as a gamer.

In the novel, the hallucinogenic drug soma is distrubeted to all citizens by the government. The drug takes users on a vacation without ever having to leave their rooms. If reality’s hard, they can take soma and enjoy a week at the nicest hotels in the sunniest locations, and still show up to work the next day. It’s more than a recreational drug; it’s a literal opiate of the masses.

Now, I’m not suggesting that video games will come to become a government tool to suppress dissidence and promote mindlessness. But I am suggesting that can become an eerily similar escape, one that people may turn to rather than take action or initiative. I’m also not the first to notice this connection. It’s one of the reasons video game company Soma chose it’s name.

Video games are constantly evolving. Graphics constantly improve and become more realistic. Story-telling is improving, unfortunately not as fast as the visuals, but enough to add another layer past the graphics to emerge you further. The scope of games is also much bigger; open-world games are more common than ever, and if the graphics and story are excellent you will find yourself emerged in a huge world full of possibilities, drama and rewards.

First, we need to establish that most video games are designed to be addictive (Yeah, it’s from Cracked. So?). They draw on the model of the Skinner box, making games that behaviorally condition gamers, getting them used tot he fact that certain conditions need to be met for their rewards. And people love these virtual rewards. It’s most readily seen in MMORPGs and psychologists have confirmed video game addiction is real.

Think about how addicting games are now, and how much escape they provide. Technology may soon evolve to the point where they provide virtual fantasies on the same level of Huxley’s soma. Again, I’m not suggesting games will be used for sinister, authoritarian purposes, but imagine video game addiction on a larger scale, as common as nicotine or alcohol addiction. More families torn apart and more dreams and lives ruined by video games. Fewer people taking the initiative to improve their lives and more people complacently going home and gaming. (more…)

Uncharted is one of the best game series in recent history. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune introduced us to treasure hunter Nathan Drake with an epic adventure through jungles and ruins. The game was fun, graphically brilliant, and feature great platforming and shooting sections. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves blew it away, winning an insane amount of awards, including several game of the yearhonors. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is due this Novemeber one of the most anticipated games this year. If you’re not excited, here are five reasons why you should be.

Amazing Graphics

The first Uncharted was beautiful. The jungles were vibrant and detailed, the caves dark and perfectly crafted.

Uncharted 2 was even better, as the polished graphics now brought to life more than just jungles and ruins. We saw cities, mountains, trains and village under attack. Every environment was full of lush, colorful details, the lighting was great, and the water and snow effects were awesome.

Uncharted 3 looks to be just as beautiful, offering new, gorgeous environments to explore. The desert featured in the trailer is huge, bright and visually impressive. The burning chateau combines lush vegetation with aged architecture. The London alleys are dark, dirty, and gritty, where every brick in the walls seems to be perfectly rendered.

There’s no doubt it’ll be one of the prettiest games of the year once released.

Multiplayer Will Be Even Better

Uncharted 2’s multiplayer was fast paced, action-packed third person shooting at its finest. The emphasis on constant movement through the large, multi-leveled maps made you feel like the hero of an action movie, jumping, climbing and shooting from one kill to the next.

Uncharted 3’s multiplayer will be even better.

The beta’s out, go see for yourself! While it still needs some polish, additions like better boosters and power plays make the multiplayer experience even more fun and addictive than the last. Weapon mods will also be added, as well as new game modes like Free for All. If you have a PSN account, treat yourself to the free beta.

The Story

There was no reason to make an Uncharted movie. The games are cinematic, well-written and well-acted epics. We didn’t just play a movie, we played a great movie.

All the characters are interesting and likable, especially Drake and his buddy Victor “God Damn” Sullivan. Drake’s love interest, Elena, isn’t a damsel in distress but a witty, likable and pretty badass character. The Uncharted villains are pretty one-dimensional but the writing and acting makes them memorable and entertaining. And Uncharted 3’s villain looks to be the most interesting of the bunch, if only because she’s an older woman and not the war criminal or treasure hunting pirate of previous games.

The Gameplay

The Uncharted games feature some of the best platforming since Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Jumping from ledge to ledge, swinging from a vine, jumping from foothold that just gave way – it’s all enhanced by the beautiful environments you’re exploring.

The puzzles also got an upgrade. They were bigger, required more clues from your journal to solve, and were difficult enough to be fun and rewarding but not too frustrating or tedious.

Then there’s the gunplay.

Uncharted has a great third-person shooting engine that includes cover, blind-fire and some fun weapons. The second game is full of epic firefights, taking place on a series of trucks, on a train (while a helicopter hunts you), hanging from a signpost in the middle of the city, in a village while a tank hunts you down – and that’s just the short list.

Naughty Dog’s Always Improving

The first Uncharted game was great, but it wasn’t perfect. It was short and got a bit repetitive towards the end. Naughty Dog saw what worked and didn’t work in the first game and used that knowledge when making the sequel.

Uncharted 2 was bigger and better in every way.

The environments were bigger and more diverse, from jungles to mountain caves to a war-torn city. Chase scenes weren’t rail shooters but had Drake jumping from truck to truck like a scene from an action movie. Stealth was improved and actually pretty fun.

They also lost most of the weak stuff. There are no awkward jet ski levels and the game doesn’t become a gauntlet of enemy-filled rooms towards the end.

Naughty Dog strives for perfection. Uncharted was great, the second was amazing and there’s a good chance the third will be the best.

From left to right: Good, bad, weird, OK.

The Sega Dreamcast is a revered console among many gamers as a short-lived system ahead of its time. It saw many classic games like Jet Set Radio and Soul Calibur. It would make sense for Sega to release a collection of some of the systems best-loved classics.

Unfortunately, this isn’t that collection.

Dreamcast Collection brings together four games that poorly represent the system’s legacy: Sonic Adventure, Crazy Taxi, Space Channel 5: Part 2, and Sega Bass Fishing.

The first game, Sonic Adventure, was bad on the Dreamcast and it’s still bad on the Xbox 360. This game isn’t a classic, it’s the game that marked the decline of Sega’s mascot.

Crazy Taxi was a fun, popular game both on the Dreamcast and in arcades, so it makes sense for it to appear here. There’s still some fun to be had, but it hasn’t aged too well. It feels clunky and clumsy, even for an arcade driving game.

It’s a little confusing that Space Channel 5: Part 2 appears here since the first one was much more popular. It’s an odd rhythm game that won’t appeal to everyone. And in this day of Kinect dancing games and fake instruments, button-based gameplay feels dated.

The best game on this collection is Bass Fishing. It’s simple fun and aged pretty well. That said, it still doesn’t redeem the collection. Add the fact that both Crazy Taxi and Sonic Adventure are available on the Xbox Live Arcade, and there’s really no reason to pay $25 for this.

Save your money.

Stay away from this game. Far away.

Knight’s Contract is a gory, gothic hack-and-slash game similar to Dante’s Inferno and the Devil May Cry series. Unlike those games, it’s not fun or interesting.

The player controls Heinrich, a former witch executioner cursed with immortality. He teams up with Gretchen, a resurrected witch who cursed Heinrich for killing her, to help her defeat six evil witches and their boss. Heinrich uses a giant sythe to rip enemies apart while Gretchen can cast various magic spells.

The game is one big, frustrating escort mission.

While Heinrich can’t die, Gretchen can and will. The player can’t let her stray too far, otherwise enemies will annihilate her. Gretchen’s AI has no sense of self-preservation. She’ll often stand in front of enemies as they attack rather than run away from them. And while Heinrich is immortal, he’ll still collapse or even get dismembered if he takes enough damage. The player has to tap the “X” button for a painfully long time, waiting for the knight to revive himself while Gretchen lets monsters hack at her.

It’s a frustrating experience that makes an already sub-par game worse. The combat is simple and repetitive: mash Square and Triangle repeatedly until everything around you dies. Combat can get slow and choppy when a lot of enemies are on screen, a technical problem we shouldn’t see on the PS3. The game is full of long load times, the cutscenes are painful to watch, and the poor level design results in you getting lost a lot. The graphics are inconsistent. Some of the characters look great but the environments are often ugly or boring.

While some of the bosses are well-designed, the battles themselves aren’t very fun, and end in quick time events because the developers figured “hey, they worked in God of War.” As always, Gretchen and the camera are your worst enemies during these battles.

It’s a slapped together product and no fun to play. Avoid it.