Obscured View

A few chosen words on the world of video games

Archive for June, 2008

Thank you, Target.

So I’ve been trying to get a Wii Fit for a while now, and have always found them unattainable.  So today, I get up early, pour over the Sunday ads, and find that Target says they have them.  Ok, on my way…

I get to Target around 7:45 and there’s two people already waiting there.  By the time 8 rolls around, there’s about 10 people behind me, waiting.  I have a feeling they’re all here for the same thing.  I figure, OK if at least they got one box in, all of these people will go away happy.

So the doors open, we get in, and… they have two Wii Fits.  Two.

Two?!

Two is more of an insult than having none.  Two, for an entire store?  On a day you’re advertising them in the sunday paper?!  What sense does that make?  I would love to have had a (limited quantites) disclaimer, at least then two would be acceptable in some way.

Walking out, I hear the lady that was in the front of the line say “thank god I got here at 6:45”.

Ok, that’s a bit extreme.  I guess in hindsight I’m really not hardcore enough for a Wii Fit.  She earned it.  I don’t want to work that hard for my casual excercise device.

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WALL-E and Wanted — does the R rating do anything?

So my wife and I went to see WALL-E Friday night (great film), and were waiting in line for our 7:15 showing to start.  There were about 20 people ahead of us, and about 20 behind us that got there a bit early.  Most of them were couples with or without kids, and some families with friends and kids in tow.

Right next to us was the line for Wanted’s 7:10 showing.  There were about 100 people in line at least, and most of them were large groups of kids that weren’t anywhere near 17, and families with their kids, which ranged in age from 11 and up.

I was confused and had to go ask an employee if I was in the right line.  Yes, I was in the right line.  So there were more under-age kids in the line for Wanted (an R rated film) than in the WALL-E (rated G) line.

I have no problem with Wanted being more popular on a Friday night… but the number of 11-14 year old kids seeing the movie really threw me.  Did anyone even bother to check their IDs?  I’m figuring there was one kid that was 17 in the group, which allows the entire group in under the “parent or guardian” clause.  As for families with younger kids… OK, that’s cool if you want to parent that way… but WTF?

So what does the R rating mean any more?  Does it even have a place?  Most of what you see in an R rated film is on TV (cable at least) these days.  It seems like perhaps PG-13 is enough, and R should be what NC-17 is now, and NC-17 removed.

How the hell does the ratings board even make sense any longer?  I went and saw Orgazmo in the theater and it was NC-17… after which seeing it (and laughing until it hurt), I have no idea why it was rated as it was.  Oh wait that’s right, it made fun of religion (although it didn’t really).  Instant NC-17 for that, because kids could get the wrong idea!  Slow-motion bullet through the brainpan in full graphical detail?  Oh, that’s a bit graphic… but kids can handle that as long as they’re with a guardian.  We’ll say R.

I’ve made some violent games in the past, but I certainly wouldn’t expose kids to them at an early age.  The world is violent enough as-is that I don’t think kids need to see that kind of stuff until they’re older.  Be a child for a while, eh?

Amusing tidbit: “The Blues Brothers” was R rated when it came out in theaters.  Man, how times have changed.

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MGS4 Review

Is it entertaining? Yes.

Is it fun to play? Yes, most of the time.  Some of the aiming mechanics are a bit off for my tastes, but for the most part your character does what you want them to do when you want them to do it.  The controls become second nature after a bit, although CQC combat isn’t explained at all through game play.  You have to read up on it via a menu.

Does it wrap things up? Yes, for the most part it does.  I’ll not give anything away, but you certainly get a lot of payoff.

Should you play it? Yes, absolutely.

Should you buy it? Depends.  If you’re going to play it more than once or play online, yes.  It has tons of collection items, rewards, and achievement-like things to gather in both multi and solo play.

Adam, you finished it already? Already?  There’s an achievement for finishing the game in under 5 hours with no kills… even bosses.  So yes, at my more lethargic pace, I finished it in about a week of on and off play, with at least one “holy crap it’s 3AM?!” session mixed in there.  That’s one nice thing about this game — you can actually finish it — and it keeps your interest throughout, unlike some other major releases this summer.  I’m looking at you, Niko Bellic!

If Michael Bay, the director, was a character in a book by King or Koontz, Bay would go off into some secret chamber somewhere in his compound, play MGS4 in some kind of all-encompassing aural and visual experience, and pleasure himself (in either simple or twisted ways, author dependent) while dreaming of making action scenes in his films that work on the level that some of the stuff does in MGS4.  When MGS4 is good, it’s really, really good.  It kicks Bay’s ass all over the place.  It laughs at him, then headlocks him and knocks him unconsious, steals his rations, and dumps him in a locker.  It may even put a claymore outside the locker for when he finally wakes back up, just for laughs.

Of course, you have to give Bay credit for creating the kind of patriotic bad-ass film that inspired Kojima’s team, but man if the Japanese didn’t just take it and run off with it, improving it at every turn.

If Kojima took any influence from Bay, it’s unfortunately in the lack of having a good editor, or listening to an editor if indeed they had one.  Anything you do in MGS4 is a time-commitment.  Watching a briefing can take 30 minutes… or more.  Try 90 minutes.  That’s almost half as long as Bad Boys 2 (yes, I’m joking).  Although you really don’t notice the time going by (unless your spouse is waiting for you for something) while playing the game, you still notice that you just burned hours of your day in a “quick” session once you’re done.

Gear selection choice is through the roof in this game, and frankly I don’t know why half of them are featured.  I realize that most are real weapons (neat to see the FN in the mix) and we’re traveling around the world, so different ones would be represented, but do we need 15 different rifles?  Really?  How about three diverse ones and one really customizable one?  No, 15?  Really?  Oh, ok.

I can’t tell you the chills I got playing this late at night with the lights down while Laughing Mantis was screaming “SNAAAAAAKE!!!” at me (complete with great reverb effect) and taunting me to find her.  Creepy!

So far this year, Metal Gear Solid 4 is the first must-play game of 2008.  Highly entertaining from beginning to end, and even more so if you’ve played the previous series entries… all the way back to the NES.

And just think!  You can now skip the next 4 or 5 (movie ticket price dependent) Michael Bay movies and still come out ahead, because MGS4 likely just did it all better.

P.S. I really have nothing against Bay or his films, it was just fitting to use him in this post… although he does need to get a better editor, or listen to one.

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Metal Gear Solid 4

Holy shi–

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The Green Effect Happening

I didn’t see the film, nor will I, but I had the displeasure of ending a wonderful stay on an island in Australia by reading “The Green Effect” script. Like most, I really enjoyed The 6th Sense and Unbreakable, and had varying love for Signs and The Village. I didn’t bother with Lady, although Giamatti is always engaging.

From what I understand, Green Effect was turned down by every studio that read it. I really don’t blame them, because it was just awful. But, I have to blame the one that signed it as “The Happening” because it can’t be that different from the original script, in which trees kill everyone because we’re over populating… and an old lady in the middle of nowhere was crazy and talking evil to her plants for 60 years.

Oh, and Green is the color of love, which is what you better be feelin’ 24-7 or the plans will pwn you.

So far this summer:

  • Caspian : –
  • Iron Man : +
  • Indy IV : –
  • Hulk : ?
  • Happening : –

Will we be redeemed by WALL-E and Dark Knight?

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Breaking the reality barrier

There’s always been this “uncanny valley” in trying to make computer generated characters feel real. Although I have no idea why you’d want to make CG characters appear to be real, especially for anything outside of porn, people keep trying to find a way to merge the illusion of computer reality with the “real” reality of daily life. I can’t wait for the day we can play World of World of Warcraft with realistic avatars. Oh wait, my bad. I can totally wait for that. A very long time, actually. Please?

So of course today was a big Apple news day. 3G Phone being the highlight. So unwittingly or not, Apple has opened the door to breaking the reality barrier with games in an entirely different direction. A GPS and camera enabled wireless gaming platform.

OMGWTFBBQ!!!1!

So what am I so excited about? Well, going by the facebook-like application they showed today at the keynote, games can now cross into the real world easily. The app they showed could track your friends that are within 10 miles of your location, updating their own locations in real-time. I can’t wait to see how many cheating spouses this application alone catches…

“Honey, I’m at the office, I’ll be working late…”

“Gee, that’s funny dear, your phone says you’re not anywhere near the office… you’re at… hey that’s a movie theater… and they’re showing… Sex and the City?! Oh god, all those gladiator films you watch — I should have known then! I’m taking the kids!”

So yeah, that’ll be amusing. But what about game application? Ohhh, the mind reels with possibilities. Imagine a territory conquest game in which you have to encircle free space in order to score points, while your opponents try to do the same. Now imagine that you draw your territories by your movements, and all of downtown New York is the game board… yeah you get the idea. You may just get some exercise and whoop up on your friends at the same time.

Since there’s something… wonderful looming on the horizon (hopefully only a few weeks from now!) I can’t get into more cool stuff you could do as a gaming platform with that tech. Suffice it to say there’s some amazing potential that can be tapped with that thing and new types of games.

I love my DS, and almost never touch the PSP. At $199 for an entry price-point with the 3G, does Apple have what it takes for the iPhone to become a legit gaming platform?

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So, is that it?

My brief enjoyment from Lego Indy dwindling (down to just milking a few random achievements), I have to wonder what else is out there on the gaming horizon to play. I’d like to try Age of Conan, but no Mac version and no PC trial = not going to happen. Anarchy Online convinced me to wait on Funcom games for at least a few months before jumping in.

As for other games coming out down the road, what sounds exciting? Perhaps I’m just not in direct touch, but I don’t see much coming on the horizon that has me jumping for joy.

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Lego Indy is more entertaining than Indy IV was

Yeah, I know — just let it go, right?

After having a beloved series (ok, realistically one really, really beloved film and two others with moments of greatness) trashed by the lethargic 4th film, it’s nice to see that Traveller’s Tales is still making entertaining Lego tie-in games with Lego Indiana Jones.

It’s a lot more explore / puzzle oriented than the Star Wars ones, but that’s likely because everyone’s not packing explosives and blasters.  There’s been at least one puzzle that made me scratch my head for a few minutes before remembering all the abilities I have at my disposal (hint: don’t forget what the whip can do!) and figuring out how to advance.

It’s pretty in that lego / real style, and the cut-scenes and reworked plot to always have a partner are amusing.  I haven’t played it co-op yet, but I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.

I can say that melee oriented combat gets old after a bit, and the whip is a bit slow and has weird hit-collision, but really you know what you’re getting into if you buy it, so if you enjoy the Lego games, don’t hesitate to pick it up.

On an aside, I didn’t realize how annoying Willie Scott’s screaming in Temple of Doom was until I went back and re-watched the film.  What’s amusing is that TT obviously found it annoying as well, so much so that they turned it into an attack for her, allowing you to shatter glass objects with her sonic emanations.

Now if there was only an achievement for repeatedly dropping Short Round off a cliff…

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