How many cool first person games for the 360 can you count? Plenty. How many first person games starring an Asian chick, running about town can you count? One. Mirror's Edge really is a one of a kind game and if you haven't heard anything about it, you must be living under a rock or you're 80 years old, and you can't be bothered with such fancy inventions like the internet or games.
Lately I felt that games are not evolving as quickly, as they used to. After seeing the whole E3 2009 lineup, I couldn't help but notice it was mostly sequels or games built on tried ideas. Mirror's Edge doesn't exactly break any boundaries, but it tries hard to show something new. Something that wasn't seen before. When you get to the innovation of Mirror's Edge, I guess it could be [in some ways] compared to what Portal was a while back. It was still a first person game, but its unique mechanics made it so much different. That's how I see Mirror's Edge.
Through the course of the game, we'll be controlling a female "runner" named Faith. The story is set in the near future - in a vast city, where digital information is always monitored and controlled. Runners are outlaws, who carry information for their clients and deliver it personally. This means a lot of jumping on the rooftops, climbing fences and pipes while staying out of trouble and out of sight at the same time.
This is the main focus of the game - running. Faith doesn't carry any weapons and can only rely on her own skills. She's extremely agile and climbing most obstacles is not a problem for her. The game guides Faith through the city using so called "runner vision". This makes various objects appear in different color, to let us know where we should be going. A nice solution that guides the player without forcing him or her into a narrow corridors with locked doors. Ok, that happens too, but runner vision is something that's supposed to be of most help when on the rooftops.
The developers have decided to use Unreal Engine 3 when making the game and what a great choice that was. Everything looks sharp and well designed - the main attraction being the colors. Art direction of Mirror's Edge has very little competition and anyone who likes first person games should try it, if only to admire the vastness of the city we get to explore.
The graphics are cleverly constructed, too. Most city buildings are not that complicated in terms of geometry. This saves a lot of processing power and allows to create really impressive objects, like cranes, etc. Texturing and lighting need processing power, too - and if anything is perfect in Mirror's Edge, it's the lighting. DICE licensed an advanced lighting system called "Beast", developed by Illuminate Labs. This gave the developers more control over how the lighting works and it did pay off.
And then, there's music. Mirror's Edge has a superb soundtrack with a wide selection of great ambient tunes that contribute a great deal to the whole feel of the city. The beats are clean and melodious, but at the same time the music manages to be sophisticated and it doesn't make you want to turn it off. The main theme is great, especially the version with Lisa Miskovsky's vocals that can be heard over ending credits. I already wrote a bit about the music after I bought the single CD containing several remixes of "Still Alive". You can check it out here.
There is something that comes up frequently, when Mirror's Edge is discussed, and that's motion or simulation sickness. When in game, we don't see any kind of HUD and the camera movement is designed to closely resemble a first person view. This might cause some people to feel nauseous. I myself, however, have not experienced any kind of discomfort. The only thing that was disorienting at times was the forward roll after a landing. For a second we don't really know where our character is, but I can't say it made me feel sick. If you have motion sickness, that's too bad. I suggest you take some pills and play the game anyway.
Mirror's Edge isn't without its shortcomings. My main problem with this game was its length. I finished it rather quickly and I felt that I wanted more. More out of the story, and more running in the sun soaked city. I really hope that DICE and EA decide to make a sequel, which will improve the formula and give us some more exciting parkour action. I highly recommend this title to anyone who is into first person games. Keep in mind that this will be a trial and error type of gameplay, and not your standard kill everything that moves deal.
It's OutRun - It's OutRun again, for the 100th time, and you'll love it, just as you did when you first played it. What am I talking about? I'm talking about OutRun Online Arcade, of course, which hit both the PSN and XBLA distribution systems within the past few days. Now both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 owners can enjoy OutRun 2, OutRun 2 SP and Coast 2 Coast tracks online, in a crisp 720p. I have to say, for a five-year-old game that got converted to every platform capable of handling it, OutRun 2 - because that's essentially what OutRun Online Arcade is - managed to create alot of buzz.
Even though the game now runs at a slightly higher resolution, the polygon count remained the same and from the look of it, so did the textures. This however doesn't bother me one bit, since the game runs at a high framerate and when you're speeding at 250+ km/h, who cares if a palm tree bark texture is crisp enough. Sadly, Sumo Digital, while doing a great job of porting this magnificent piece of software to current generation platforms, omitted all of the additional content we got when buying regular OutRun 2 and Coast 2 Coast. Scud Race and Daytona tracks are not here and neither are the missions.
Seeing as Sega likes to bring back the bigger hits every once and again, I couldn't help but think that a return of Phantasy Star Online is in order. I played the Dreamcast version, and I played both the GameCube and Xbox versions. Servers for all of these have been down for quite some time, yet, the PSO community refuses to let go of the title, and for years now we have had access to homebrew PSO servers, such as SCHTHack. Believe it or not, first two episodes of PSO are more popular than more current installments, like PSO Universe.
This should be a clear signal for Sega - People want PSO, so why not give it to them? If this ever happens, I hope that Sega will go with a more open server architecture like Demasked, where game servers are ran in a clustered environment and each game server scales dynamically, therefore maximizing stability, saving energy, and never having to retire the usage of an online game. Ultimately, all we want is to be able to pick up an old online title and be able to play it whenever we feel like it.
Welcome, to yet another entry dedicated to a Capcom fighting game. It seems like there's alot of them on my shelves lately, or maybe that's just my imagination, since Street Fighter Alpha Anthology was four titles on one disc? No matter - Capcom Fighting Evolution, for the good old Xbox is here. I've been playing it off and on for a few weeks now, and I feel like the time is right to finally write a thing or two about it.
Let's start with some weirdness - Even though it clearly reads "Capcom Fighting Evolution" on the box, as it does on the disc, once you boot the game, you'll see "Capcom Fighting Jam" on your screen. What's up with that, Capcom? Getting lost in your own web of title changing madness? To add some more to the confusion, I bought this game in Europe, but the box is marked "NTSC". This obviously indicates that publishers and manufacturers have no idea what they are doing and they couldn't care less. The interesting thing is, European PlayStation 2 version kept its original title, "Capcom Fighting Jam".
Weirdness aside, let us go directly to my first impressions. Anyone who knows how things work at Capcom pretty much knew what to expect from this title, and they got exactly that - and so did I. Capcom Fighting Evolution has "recycling" written all over it. It runs on Capcom vs SNK engine, and there is only one original sprite that was created expecially for this title. In other words, all Capcom artists had to do was to create new backgrounds and these aren't too hot either.
So what is this game all about? As the original name says, it's a jam, or a mix of characters from previous Capcom titles. We have some fighters from Darkstalkers / Vampire Savior, Red Earth / Warzard, Street Fighter II, Street Fighter Alpha, Street Fighter III, and last but not least, one original newcomer named Ingrid, who looks like a slightly revamped Karin sprite. She was originally to appear in Arika's 3D mix, Capcom Fighting All-Stars, but when this project died and Capcom decided to pick up the pieces, she ended up as a 2D Karin look-alike in Fighting Evolution, or Jam.
Capcom has proven to us that re-using sprites from the '90s can work, and their Capcom vs SNK series was extremely successful. Few complained about Morrigan looking like a bunch of pixels, and SNK characters not really blending in with the Capcom crowd, but solid gameplay came on top, and the CVS series is popular even today. It was clear that Capcom, despite being too lazy to draw new sprites, tried their best to create a polished product. One could say that Fighting Evolution has no excuse for not being a good title, but despite Capcom's experience in the recycling field, this new mash up job falls short of its predecessor.
The main issue is the obvious lack of balance. Darkstalkers characters are way too strong, some Red Earth charasters are just too slow ... the list goes on. Capcom knows that bringing together characters from completly different worlds requires major adjustments - why did they fail to make these adjustments is beyond me. It's possible that a good Darkstalkers player will kick your ass every single time, because for some reason Capcom thought it would be a good idea to make these characters so much stronger than the rest of the lineup.
The lack of balance isn't the only shortcoming of this title. I have mentioned the backgrounds - Being the only major job the artists had, they should be good, right? They're not. While Capcom vs SNK featured nicely rendered 3D bacgrounds, stages in Fighting Evolution are flat. Not only that, they're also a bit blurry and the colors lack saturation. I'm not sure what happend, but because of the undersaturated palette, the stages look lifeless and boring. This might not be visible on the screens in this entry, but I assure you, once you see the game with your own eyes, you'll know what I mean.
The soundtrack is just fine and nothing more. You won't catch yourself whistling Fighting Evolution tunes while shaving, but the music is not bad, and I'm pretty sure you won't have to turn it off. Capcom did however include some original tunes for all of the characters, coming directly from the games in which these characters have originally appeared. To unlock an original tune for a character you'll just have to complete the game once and that's about it. I'm not sure if there are any hidden features in this game, but judging from what I've seen so far, I doubt it.
So is that all? Well, not exactly. Capcom did try to add to the gameplay by implementing a tag team mechanic. You'll choose two characters before you start playing, instead of just one, but while this worked in Tekken Tag or in Dead or Alive, it doesn't really work here. Even on a higher difficulty setting, the computer will almost never switch, and while I'm aware that these games are meant to be played against other players, you should be able to practise befor you face a real opponent.
Despite all my whining and pointing out all these flaws, Capcom Fighting Evolution is a half decent game and if you can get it for cheap, go for it. The important question you have to ask yourself is: Am I an advanced player? If you are, you might end up dissapointed, instantly noticing the flaws a sunday fighting game enthusiast would simply overlook. If you enjoy fighting games, but you don't get obsessive about mastering advanced techniques, you might aswell give Fighting Evolution a chance.
I always meant to pick up Prey, but for one reason or another, I never did - until now that is. I was considering getting the PC version, but ultimately I found a cheap copy for the 360 and bought it. I rather sit on a sofa in front of my TV, than sit in front of my computer screen on a chair that's not exactly back friendly.
Prey is one of those games that went through serious birthing pains, and being a title that started out at 3D Realms, that's not at all surprising. I don't know what the deal with 3D Realms is, but after they hit it big with Duke Nukem, it's been nothing but delays and unfinished projects from them. On multiple ocasions I have asked myself where the hell do they get all the money to be able to develop games and just scrap them at a pretty advanced stage. I guess this will forever remain a mystery.
The beginnings of Prey's development reach as far as the year 1995, when the initial idea was born and first actual work on the game started. 3D Realms was supposedly striving to build a game engine that would revolutionize the industry in the same manner as ID Software's subsequent ID Tech and Epic's Unreal engines had done before. The first real showcase of Prey took place during the E3 of 1998, and judging by what was shown back then, 3D Realms had great game and a monster engine at their hands, with all probability of a huge success. Too bad they screwed up, like they always do, and the game didn't come out until july of 2006.
3D Realms' screw-ups aside, how does the game, which had been in off and on development for over ten years, look and play today? Sadly, the game is not all it could have been, but don't get turned off just yet. Prey can and will surprise you with some creative solutions and gameplay gimmicks - "gimmick" not being a negative word in this particular case. So, what's this game all about? Like 90% of FPS titles out there, it's about pesky aliens and you, alone against all evil.
As a player, you'll take control of Tommy Tawodi - an indian with a bad case of "I don't give a shit", tired of living on a reservation. One evening, while Tommy is whining about how he hates his indian life, aliens invade out of the blue and snatch not only himself, his girlfriend and his grandfather, but also the whole bar everyone was in. Tommy doesn't give a damn about the bar, he hated it anyway, but he does care about his girlfriend Jen and so, in a stereotypical storyline kind of way, he decides to fight against the alien abductors.
There is nothing particularly exciting about the plot, even though indian themes are not all that common in games nowadays. The story barely justifies Tommy's struggle, and his attitude doesn't help the player to like him. You may wonder how is Tommy able to fight off a whole alien race if he's just a regular man. That's the thing - he's not. He is fully loaded with indian spiritual powers and he has an elderly, wise shaman guiding him every now and then. Oh, and he can't die. Here's where the creativity comes in: Whenever Tommy kicks the bucket, he's automatically transported to the spiritual realm, where by shooting lost souls with a bow, he is able to replenish his health and come back to life.
Despite the fact of posessing and actually using these awesome indian powers, explained to him by his grandfather Enisi, Tommy doesn't believe in them. While Enisi is trying his best of educating Tommy in the ancient ways of Cherokee, you'll hear Tommy making remarks like "Enough of your indian bullshit, grandpa!" or "I don't care about all of this indian shit!". That's one crazy indian, right? Either that, or ten years of game development wasn't enough to avoid paradoxes such as this one.
So, let's sum up some of the gameplay features. You can walk on walls on designated paths, you can leave your body and pass through forcefields to get to switches, etc. In many places in the game you'll be able to change gravity, or to be more specific, you'll be able to switch gravity to some or any of the walls within the room. If this wasn't enough, Prey is the first game to feature portals, as seen in Valve's famed production. The only difference here is that it is not possible for the player to create them. They will appear where the game wants them to appear and are often parts of various puzzles.
Prey runs on ID Tech 4 engine, and while the game look is entirely up to the designers, the title really does look like Doom 3 or Quake 4. Sometimes you'll go through levels which could be swapped between any of those games and you'd never be able to tell the difference. There are many original solutions design-wise, but generally prepare yourself for corridors and techno junk seen in aforementioned ID Software titles. This isn't bad by itself, since ID's games look great and it's never wrong to copy the best, but it's nice to see an original design every now and then.
The game is fun to play and Tommy's resurrectional abilities completly remove the fear of dying or screwing up. You will still try avoiding death, but when you do get slaughtered, it doesn't really cost you anything and you can get yourself back on your feet by shooting down a couple lost souls. This might make the game a bit easy, but the way I see it, games are supposed to entertain, and that's what Prey is trying to do. You don't have to remember saving your progress, which can be done at any time by the way, and you don't have to drag your ass back to the boss from a save point.
It's 2009 and while Prey might not be the hottest title out there, if you're looking for a decent first person shooter, you might want to invest a couple of bucks in Tommy's for his girl and for finding his spiritual self. A sequel to Prey is already in the works, but it's supposed to be handled by 3D Realms and that might just mean it will never come out. But let's say it does come out and it's good - you don't want to get into the new game without completing the first one.
P.S. - Above is a link to the aforementioned E3 showcase video from 1998. As you can see, Valve and their Portal have nothing on 3D Realms, and it's a shame that this title was never finished. 3D Realms could have established themselves as a game engine supplier, focusing on constantly improving the technology, just like ID, Epic and Valve are doing today.
It must have been a hundred times already I said this, but I am going to say it again: Supermarket deals rock and there are no two ways about it. Not too long ago I was able to get Guitar Hero III: Aerosmith bundled with Les Paul controller fitted with a neat faceplate for only 299 Swedish kronas [about 38 US dollars]. This time, the very same supermarket decided to cut the price of "Legends of Rock" bundle.
After I spotted the ad, it didn't take too much time for me to decide I wanted this nice set. After all, you get a new game with tons of songs and another Les Paul, this time with a regular faceplate [shiny black surface, perfect for fingerprinting]. The "Legends of Rock" bundle had a bit higher pricetag but at 399 Swedish kronas [roughly 48 US dollars] it was still a bargain. The game by itself sells for more than that.
Like last time, the store had all possible versions on sale, but again I chose to go with the Xbox 360 one. Supposedly PlayStation 3 version has some controller issues, Wii version doesn't have downloadable content and on top of that if you're out of luck, you can buy the version with mono sound. I wasn't interested in PC or PlayStation 2 versions so the choice was obvious. Yet again, Microsoft's machine came out on top. Way to go.
So what's in the box this time? I could say "the usual" because the contents is very similar to the Aerosmith bundle. Again, we get the Les Paul controller, guitar belt, two sets of stickers to pimp your guitar with and of course the game. There's also a pink manual explaining how to sync your controller with the console but who needs a manual for that? Not me, because I'm awsome.
I really enjoyed the Aerosmith edition but it had one major problem: almost all of the songs came from band's discography which, if you're not a rabid Aerosmith fan, can be quite a drag. I guess I could say that I like Aerosmith enough to enjoy all of the songs they put on the game disc, but I would much rather go for diversity. Well, "Legends of Rock" is all about diversity. It features over 70 songs by various artists and if that's not enough for you, you're impossible to please.
What bands can we rock with this time? Slayer, Kiss, Tenacious D, Scorpions, The Smashing Pumpkins, Sex Pistols, Weezer, Muse, Alice Cooper, The Rolling Stones ... You name it. The list just goes on and on. After you've unlocked all of the songs in career mode, there's just as many waiting for you in the store. In case you don't know how this works, in Guitar Hero you earn money by playing concerts, the cash can later be spent on various things like new characters, clothes, new guitars and of course new songs. It's fairly easy to earn enough cash to unlock an impressive number of tracks and that is a huge plus.
Every Guitar Hero game comes with a bunch of characters for you to choose from and play as. Legends of Rock has the exact same lineup of standard characters as the Aerosmith bundle, which makes sense because it's a part of the GH3 line. The only thing that bugged me was the lack of official characters for the artists. There are only two real artist models in the game: Guns 'n Roses' Slash and Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello. I don't know if it was a question of licenses and money, but I'd like to see more familiar faces.
After Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock came out, I read about the complaints many people had concerning the difficulty level. I thought the Aerosmith game was nicely balanced, but when I played Legends of Rock on normal setting, I instantly knew that this game meant business. I guess Neversoft tweaked the difficulty for Aerosmith and World Tour, so if you're getting Legends of Rock, know that it's not going to be easy to reach the expert mode.
Obviously, the game has some serious replay value and if you ever come across a nice, cheap bundle, no matter what the platform, I suggest you invest some money and later time in this game. It's a bucket of fun. And you might just get all jazzed up about starting to learn an instrument.
Before I finish this entry I wanted to include some videos so that you can get a clear picture of how things look and how it works. I'm sure most of you already knows this game well enough to pick up a controller anytime and start playing, but still, It's fun to watch someone else have go at a harder difficulty. Here's one of the coolest songs on the disc: Knights of Cydonia by Muse.
Knights of Cydonia is not only a kickass song, but it also has one of the coolest videos out there. Since I'm such a nice guy, I'll share the original music video with you aswell [simply because someone has already uploaded it and it doesn't require too much work to link it]. And that's the director's cut! Spot the difference between this one and the regular edition [which you'll have to find on your own, because I cant't be bothered].
That's it for today, good folks. I guess it's time let my fingers rest after they've done a magnificent job of beating the whole game on easy and half the way through on normal. Rock on!