Friday, January 29, 2010

Mass Effect 2 Impressions

By Kirk Hamilton

I thought I'd post and update a spoiler-free collection of thoughts from my time with Mass Effect 2, a.k.a. the game I've anticipated more than any other game ever. From the outset, I'd like to point out that I am in no way impartial in my impressions of this game, since I loved the first one and, from the look of things, the second one just may be the best game I've ever played.

I'm a few hours in as "Blade Shepard," (shut up) my renegade soldier I imported in ME1. You're given the opportunity to change class, and so I did, so good old Blade has been reconstituted as a biotics-and-shotgun-wielding vanguard. I've probably finished six or seven of the main story quests, and have six people in my party.  If I had to guess, I'd put myself at 25-30% into the main storyline, with only a bare bit of sidequesting under my belt.

Without further ado, random impressions and thoughts (and again, aside from some vague allusions and character references, I'll keep it spoiler-free):

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

We Are All Beta Testers

By Kirk Hamilton

More than any other type of creative enterprise, software developers rely heavily on iteration.  That's why we see so many versions of software, why we get new releases of our operating systems and web browsers each year or two, and why terms like "2.0" and "Beta" have become part of the common parlance.  You certainly don't see movie-makers or recording artists releasing "The Return Of The King 2.3," or "FutreSexxLoveSounds Closed Beta."

For some reason, I never really thought of this concept of iteration going much past functional software - MS Office gets a new year in its title every year, Apple releases a new cat-themed OS, Windows does... whatever the hell it is that Windows has been doing lately.  However, this past year, it's become clear that iterations are as much a part of gaming as they are any other software.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Bayonetta in 100 Words or Less

By Kirk Hamilton

Video-Gamey Awesomeness distilled to borderline-illegal levels. A leading lady that's one part Dante, one part Ryu, one part Buffy, and one part glam dominatrix; all parts awesome. Button-mashing worked for three levels, then I had to actually learn how to play, and that's when things took off. The combat has a crazy amount of depth, incredible style, and pits you against the most imaginative beasties and the most mind-bending environments I've seen in years, possibly ever.

Simply put, Bayonetta is more fun than a barrel full of Kratoses. (Which wouldn't actually be all that "fun," more like "scary.")

You'll laugh, cry, beg, etc.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Gamer Melodico's Favorites from 2009

2009 was a damn eclectic year for gaming - we thought we'd take a moment and share each of our favorite games of the year - no rules, no pomp or circumstance... the games don't even have to have come out in 2009.  Without further ado:

Our Favorite Games of 2009

Kirk: The usual suspects duked it out for supremacy this year - Assassin's Creed 2 really blew my mind, Uncharted 2 had the best graphics and characterization I've ever seen in a game, and Arkham Asylum was probably the most complete, enjoyable gaming experience released in 2009.  So, it makes sense that my favorite game I played this year was... Psychonauts.  Wait, what?  Well, I hadn't played the game before, and knew that it was available as a download on the Xbox Classics store; anticipation of Brutal Legend got the better of me, and I downloaded it.  I was expecting a really funny game, but I wasn't expecting the absolute most brilliantly creative, well-written, and fun game I've played in... well... in almost ever? Since Grim Fandango, anyway. The characters in this game are amazingly well-drawn, from the leads down to the tiniest supporting characters, and the writing brings more imagination, humor, and flat-out joy to the table than anything that came out in 2009 (including, I thought, Schafer's own Brutal Legend). So for that, and for having a level that takes place within the subconscious of a giant mutant lungfish named Linda, Psychonauts is my GOTY 2009.

Runners-Up: Shadow Complex, Assassin's Creed 2, Batman: AA, Uncharted 2

Notable Disappointments: Brutal Legend, Modern Warfare 2 (already sold it), Ghostbusters (we've talked about this).

David: Batman: Arkham Asylum - Easily the best comic superhero game ever made. This game for me captures the Dark Knight better than the movies. Right off the bat, hearing Kevin Conroy as the voice of Batman and Mark Hamill as the Joker you know you are in for a fun ride. Everything about this game is a win for me. There is no greater satisfaction than a nice quiet take down of a thug and watching every other thug freak out knowing that the Batman is in their presence.  I was torn between this game and InFamous which is also a superhero story. What pushed Batman over the top is simply that fact that they captured all that is awesome about Batman and made it so wonderfully atmospheric and downright creepy. You can leave Arkham Asylum, but you'll never forget it.

Runners-Up: InFamous, Torchlight, MLB '09: The Show, BlazBlue

Notable Disappointments: Brutal Legend, Assassin's Creed II

Dan: Can't help it, I'm just a sucker for Dwarven politics, flanking bonuses, and randomly strewn treasure. Dragon Age: Origins is all that and much, much more--an immersive fantasy epic that plays like a novel you can't put down. While the game goes to great length to provide a fiction that is as deep as it is long (the in-game codex all but squashes the impressive mythology of Bioware predecessor Mass Effect), what's truly staggering is the breadth of choice afforded to the player, and the feeling that decisions [finally] have real consequences. If second playthroughs are not your thing, DA:O will almost certainly force you to rethink your position--even at the cost of 60+ additional hours of your life.

Runners-Up: Left 4 Dead 2, excellent Fallout 3 DLC

Notable Disappointments: Beatles Rock Band, and maybe that I didn't play more new titles!