Friday, November 28, 2008

Guild Wars news

Still not much news about Guild Wars 2 unfortunately, except a recent update to the Guild Wars 2 page on Guild Wars Wiki claims that it's confirmed that Jeremy Soule will score the sequel which is a big thumbs up in my books! :)

Also there's apparently going to be a series of books released next year that describes what has happened in between Guild Wars 1 and Guild Wars 2.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Red Alert 3 Factions Map

I thought it was interesting to see which nations had made the Allied side in the most recent iteration of Red Alert 3 so I decided to paint up a map to get a pictorial representation of it. I haven't quite finished Red Alert 3 yet so there may be some countries missing but it should be pretty close. There are probably heaps more countries on the Allied side (probably all NATO members) but the Allied countries coloured in are ones which have Allied bases in them or Allied units manufactured there.

EDIT: Added Hawaii since apparently it belongs to Japan in RA3.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Need for Speed: Undercover underperforms

Unfortunately it seems that Need for Speed: Undercover isn't doing too well. Apparently the problems with it according to IGN and several other reviews are:

- Early part being too easy
- No point in roaming the open world
- There's no cross-traffic to deal with. Traffic drives in the same direction as the race course since it's closed off.
- Poor acting in FMV
- Graphics issues

On Metacritic the game has got about 60% so far.

We'll see what the score is after a week or two but things aren't boding well at the moment!

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Video games once again blamed for poor driving skills

Once again there's been another report of how video games promote irresponsible behaviour. Apparently researchers in Germany found that men take more risks on the road after racing in video games but women did not. A NSW acting superintendent Dave Evans said that "in games you race, you crash and it is a matter of pressing the buttons and off you go again. In real life it doesn't work that way, you can be killed."

I'm getting sick of how patronising and condescending the general public view gamers. Fortunately, with the average age of gamers going up eventually we will be rid of people with such luddite views on what is said to be the fastest growing sector of the entertainment industry.

By the logic proposed in the article it's probably not a good idea for people to play Civilization - since this could encourage people to become fascist dictators who seek to rule the world through the stockpiling of nuclear weapons! [sarcasm]This is obviously due to them being unable to tell fact from fiction [/sarcasm]. The funny thing is though, this has always been happening throughout history and the more impressionable of us are sadly going to be very easily influenced by what the media or even competent orators tell us. Yes, use the OFLC to give higher ratings to games that may influence a younger person's behaviour adversely; yes, reinforce the fact that speeding and reckless driving can kill, but don't ban driving games just because some people are unable to act like responsible adults when it comes to driving on the road - these people are probably irresponsible in other aspects of their lives too and it isn't the video games that are to blame! I know people who didn't grow up with video games and still think speeding is cool...

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Gamespy's Picks for X-mas Gifts

As X-mas is almost upon us, Gamespy has compiled a "Holiday Buyer's Guide 2008" to help give advice to those of us who aren't so savvy when it comes to good games out there. There's actually quite a few games on the list I already have (in bold font) but I thought I'd go through their picks for the PC platform one by one (ones that I'm interested in are in italics):

1) Fallout 3 (Haven't got this one yet, hoping to get it for X-mas though :D - otherwise I'll probably purchase it a bit later)

2) Spore (Already got this one. As you can tell by my review, it's a reasonably good creative tool but might not be for one who is into a more challenging experience - unless you consider challenging your patience as one)

3) World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King (Not so keen on this. Never got into WoW and MMORPGs in general)

4) Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (Again, not really into MMORPGs, but with a focus on PvP, this'd probably be one of the more appealing ones to me)

5) Call of Duty: World at War (Hoping to get a copy of this too at some time. I haven't played Call of Duty since the very first one and the co-op feature should be a blast!)

6) Grand Theft Auto IV (Not such a big fan of the GTA series - the concept of stealing cars and all is kind of cool but the gratuitous violence for the sake of it isn't too my liking)

7) Left 4 Dead (Thanks to the generosity of a friend at work, I now have a copy of this game that could prove to be the best co-operative experience of the year - this game was built around co-op and not helping teammates could result in you being, "Left 4 Dead"! :P)

8) Mass Effect (Purchased this earlier in the year and it's looking to be the best game of 2008 for me, if the review scores are any indication. Besides a few flaws in game design and a nasty DRM scheme - *cough* SecuROM *cough* - it's an awesome sci-fi epic.

9) Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 (Playing through this game at the moment and so far the single player campaign is hilarious thanks to ridiculous units and the funny remarks you get from troops in the field. Have yet to test the multiplayer and co-op yet but looking forward to it)

10) Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Colonization (It's great that Sid Meier revisited this classic game after 14 years. While the game retains some of the classic gameplay, some of it has changed quite dramatically too, so much so that it is almost nothing more than a glorified Civ IV mod... almost. Check out the review for more of my thoughts)

11) Dead Space (Read a PC Powerplay review on this and it highlighted the fact the game had a lot of gore and violence - probably too much. Because I'm not really a fan of games that are violent for violence's sake, I'll probably give this one a miss. However, the game has been getting good reviews so don't let me discourage you from checking it out! :))

12) Mirror's Edge (An interesting concept from the developer of the Battlefield series. Although the game looks impressive and kudos should go to DICE for trying out a parkour game, initial reviews appear mixed so I may give this one a miss too)

13) Prince of Persia (I used to be a big fan of the original Prince of Persia games but as soon as they went into 3D I think the game lost some of its simplicity which made it great. Although I think that Prince of Persia is a great console game, it's going to sink or swim with PC players)

14) Sins of a Solar Empire (Now this is probably one of the only games that I don't currently have which appeals to me. It seems to be a game similar to Master of Orion in some respect - one of my favourite games of all time - except with an RTS slant to it. Might not get it anytime soon but if there's a sale on I might grab myself a copy)

15) Crysis Warhead (I used to be a big fan of the original Prince of Persia games but as soon as they went into 3D I think the game lost some of its simplicity which made it great. Although I think that Prince of Persia is a great console game, it's going to sink or swim with PC players)

16) Far Cry 2 (This game was given a 10/10 from PC Powerplay and good reviews from several online magazines. There are some flaws with it but apparently it's still a pretty good open-ended game. One I'm hoping to get)

17) Lord of the Rings Online: Mines of Moria (As mentioned before, not a fan of MMORPGs)

18) Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures (see comment above)

19) King's Bounty: The Legend (This sounds like quite an interesting game. Apparently it's a remake of a tactical fantasy strategy game. Although I like tactical strategy games I may wait until this one is on sale before I decide to get it)

20) Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor (This is another game that appeals to me, mainly since Stardock has got a good rep in my books and I liked the initial Galactic Civilizations. Still, I may want to wait until this is on sale to get it and it'll be competing with Sins of a Solar Empire for my hard-earned cash :))

21) LEGO: Indiana Jones (While the LEGO: games are fun, I found that my interest in them waned rather quickly - especially when you're playing it with a stubborn 8-year old who doesn't know how to co-operate! While the cut-scenes are fun this won't be a game I'll be getting)

22) World of Goo (I've heard good words about this game and it's apparently a 21st Century version of Lemmings - Lemmings being an old favourite of mine. Since my girlfriend is also into puzzle-like games, this one may be one to get)

23) Sam & Max: Season Two (I do want to get this, but I'm still stuck on the original Sam & Max: Hit the Road! I haven't even touched Season One yet! So I'd better get a move on...)

So what do people think about the picks? Any games you're planning to get from here or any they disagree with in terms of being listed?

Left 4 Dead available in 8 hours

According to the Steam Store page for Left 4 Dead, there's only 8 hours left before the game is released! I wonder how the servers will handle the load of players rushing to try it out? I've already had trouble connecting to dedicated servers and that was just for the demo!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Three Cards to Midnight delayed

According to the official Three Cards to Midnight website, the game has been delayed. You can expect a demo of the game just before X-mas but the actual game won't be finished until sometime in January next year.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Worst video game voice acting ever

I stumbled across this video on YouTube and it reminded me of the Sega game, House of the Dead 2. The game itself wasn't too bad for a rail shooter but the voice acting was the worst I've ever heard in a video game - it's so bad, it's good :). If people don't believe me, check them out:

Any other people notice how bad the voice acting is in some games? Which one would you pick for the infamous title of "game with worst voice acting ever"?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Battlefield Heroes delayed once again

It appears that the Battlefield Heroes have been struggling to get the game out the door. Actually I lie, to be honest, according to this post, the game is actually pretty much finished - what they've really stumbled upon is the website/database/back-end stuff. Not the most exciting stuff in the world but pretty crucial! Now it appears that the closed beta will eventually close and they'll open up another beta next year. You heard right, it appears that the game won't appear until sometime next year :(.

Thoughts on Left 4 Dead

Thanks to a generous friend (who actually went on a shopping spree as soon as Left 4 Dead was available for pre-order!) I've landed myself a copy of the game :). The official public demo for PC should be out already according to this Gamespy post.

From what I've played of it so far, the game lives up to its promise of being a game that rewards teamwork and not doing so can make life difficult. The demo consists of two stages you can play with each of them taking probably 10 minutes of your time - which is a good thing since it means that it's more likely that you and your mates will have spare time to play it together. It gives you an idea of how the game mechanics work and what enemies you face.

In terms of guns you can choose to use pistols, sub-machine guns, shotguns, auto-shotguns, assault rifles and hunting rifles (there's even a stationary machine gun nest on one stage of the demo :)). There are also Molotov cocktails and pipe bombs for explosives plus you can also bring medkits and pain pills for healing (the latter being temporary). At first, I thought each character in the game would have different strengths and weaknesses (and different weapons) but it seems so far that they're all pretty much the same besides looks.

You'll encounter a lot of zombies in the game but there are special "boss" zombies and in the demo you get to experience Hunters, Smokers, Tanks, Boomers and Witches (the Witches being the most creepy and deadly IMHO). Hunters can pounce on you, Smokers can strangle you with their long tongues, Tanks are just that, Boomers spread bile on you so you become a homing beacon for more zombies and Witches just about kill you, instantly.

The game is expected to be released very soon - the 18th being the release date.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lord British abdicates from NCSoft

It appears that Richard Garriott aka "Lord British" according to a Gamespy article is leaving NCSoft to pursue "some new interests that [he] would like to devote [his] time and resources to." Considering he's just recently achieved his life-long ambition of going into space, it is believed he maybe temporarily (or maybe permanently) taking a break from his game development career for more space-based pursuits.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Red Alert 3 Original Soundtrack Review

  • Name: Red Alert 3 Original Game Soundtrack

  • Label: N/A (Included with Red Alert 3 Premier Edition)

  • Composer(s): Frank Klepacki, James Hannigan and Timothy Michael Wynn

  • Number of Tracks: 44

When I heard that there was a Red Alert 3 original soundtrack coming out and that Frank Klepacki was returning to do some of the tracks (unfortunately, not enough IMHO!) I knew that I just had to pre-order the Premier Edition of Red Alert 3. A few days before its release in Australia, people were already posting some snippets of the music on YouTube and to be honest I started feeling a sense of dread. Hell March 3 didn't seem as good, there seemed to be too much orchestral music for a Red Alert game and overall the tracks didn't seem funky enough.

So was this album going to be a total flop, a blasphemy to what Frank Klepacki laid out in his excellent compositions for the previous Red Alerts? Or will the new direction actually fit this latest iteration of Red Alert to the tee?
Artistic Merit (61%)
Red Alert Music/Frank Klepacki purists when first hearing Hell March 3 may also share the sense of dread I felt. It's basically a remix of the Hell March 2 theme (which IMHO is inferior to the original Hell March) and not only that, they got a live orchestra to play parts normally reserved for an electric guitar and it just sounded clumsy. At first, I thought the From First to Last remix of the original Hell March was far superior (and it still is one of my favourite tracks on the album), however, Hell March 3 started to grow on me and I can now see its merits and how it fits with the rest of the album as a whole.

Lots of music in this album uses orchestral music and to great effect on some tracks. The most noticeable of these is the first track on the album, Soviet March. If you weren't listening carefully enough you might mistake it for the real thing, although apparently the choir they used on the track were singing lyrics that would sound rather silly in Russian. There's also a nice reprise of this track later in the album too :).

The rest of the album consists of many short pieces that are mostly mission music. The interesting thing about Red Alert 3's music is that it changes it depending on how well the battle is going for you. There'd be "neutral" music, winning battle music, losing battle music and even music dubbed "Up Yours!" music by the composers, which is played whenever you are subjected to an enemy's superweapon (these tracks are amongst my favourites).

Value (100% - Good)
Besides the problem with availability at the current time (hopefully you'll be able to buy the album separately in the near future) the value of the album is pretty good. To purchase the Premier Edition here in Australia you usually have to pay $20 more than the normal price of Red Alert 3 and I think it's $20 well spent, just on the album. However, consider you get a bunch of other goodies with the Premier Edition (e.g. "Making Of.." movies, extra maps, a poster, a beta key, etc.) and it's looking like even better value.

Length (100% - Good)
No complaints about the length. In fact, this soundtrack has even more tracks than the last soundtrack I reviewed! Once again, many tracks are very short (1-2mins) but altogether there's a decent amount of music here.

Total Score: 87%
For those wanting the album, the only way I know you can acquire it is buy ordering RA3 the Premier Edition. There should be several stores selling it though.

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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Colonization Review

It took me awhile to finally complete the game successfully (and unfortunately, only on the easiest difficulty!) but now that I have finished the game at least once, time to write up the review!

Colonization Gameplay Video

Sound (3/5)
The audio used in Colonization can be considered to be average, considering there hasn't been that much effort put in trying to get new sound effects - all sound effects heard in the game is re-used from Civilization IV. This isn't a bad thing although it means it won't stand out from the crowd either (some unique sound effects to the game that are more relevant to the actions they represent would've been better).

Music (3/5)
The development team have chosen to take the same approach to the music as they did with Civ IV by employing historical pieces and similar sounding music that would fit in the era (i.e. 15th-18th century). There aren't really any complaints about the music since the authenticity helps to immerse you in the time, however being a Colonization fan of way back, it would've been nice if they could've redone more of the old themes, since besides the military themes (after you've declared independence) there's only one tune that has been remade for the new Colonization. Thankfully, a modder has rectified this problem already and added an original Colonization music pack here!

Graphics (5/5)
The graphics for the Colonization remake may not be exceptional when compared to some recent RTS games or even RPGs but when it comes to the turn-based genre I'm pretty certain this remake is up there. Everything has been upgraded and consequently that means you'll need a new video card that supports Pixel Shader 1.1. There is now much more detail in the maps - zooming in close to your colony will verify this and the water effects are magnificent.

Plot (4/5)
The plot to this game (if you can call it that) is that you are to basically relive the colonisation of the New World, build up an economy, declare independence from your motherland and then fight the War of Independence. Like Civilization, Colonization derives much of its content on actual historical events and this makes the game quite educational in some regards. The only problem with the game (and if you want to listen to some really negative comments about it, check this article out) is that even though it's historical it doesn't quite tell the whole story (with the transporting of African slaves for example), although Firaxis have always tried to avoid being too controversial (their disclaimer in the manual with the addition of religion to Civ IV is an example) in order to retain their focus of giving their games sufficient historic detail to make the game fun.

Old Colonization fans should rejoice since it's a new take on Colonization! While the overall mechanic to the game remains the same there are however some changes. For those of you who haven't played the original, Colonization is a game set during the Age of Exploration and Empire where you start off with a small band of settlers on a ship on its way to the New World (i.e. the Americas). Here you will settle your first colony and start building some more. There will be native peoples that you will encounter and you can choose to respect their beliefs and wishes, or raze their villages to the ground. You can also earn lots of money by exploiting the resources to be extracted from the New World and even value-add some of them by building factories. For example, you can turn cotton into cloth, sugar into rum, tobacco into cigars and furs into coats which would offer you more money than the base product if you decide to trade them. Once you've got an economy going, your population is booming and (most importantly) you're manufacturing heaps of guns, then it's time to get rebel sentiment up in your colonies and declare independence (since if you don't your King will tax you like crazy on any exports you sell back in Europe). To be successful in the game, you need to defeat the King's Royal Expeditionary Force which he will send once you have your own version of the Boston Tea Party.

Okay so that's the game in a nutshell, so what has changed? Well money for starters. In the old Colonization money wasn't too important except for buying stuff from Europe. Now however you require it to build improvements since your pioneers, the land-improving units in this game, no longer use up tools to modify the terrain - overall this is probably a welcome change. Also you need money to pay off the King every so often but besides that, money still remains pretty useless, except perhaps earlier on in the game. Also most importantly the combat part has changed quite considerably. Now the game's combat is similar to Civ IV and unlike in the original Colonization where you could get Continental Forces (which are basically units that are as good as the King's REF forces) the new Colonization has your normal units not as powerful as the REF troops from the start. Also in the old Colonization you could train veteran soldiers and artillery had 2 "lives". This makes combat considerably more challenging and you need to be in the right mindset. Whilst in the old Colonization if you had a good economy you could generally win, now not only do you need a good economy but good battlefield tactics too. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but makes the game much more difficult.

Another issue with the new Colonization (that has translated from the old) is that there is a lot of micromanaging in this game, even more than Civilization IV since you have to do a lot of trading. Although some measures have been implemented to alleviate it like colony governors that automate production priorities for example, they don't seem to work too efficiently from my experience so you'll end up wanting to do things yourself anyway.

Replayability (4/5)
As with many Sid Meier games, the new Colonization is quite replayable. You've got 8 leaders to pick from which confer different benefits to you and you can try different approaches to winning. Would you rather gain production bonuses from Founding Fathers and rebel sentiment early on? Or would you prefer to lay low so not to incur the wrath of increased numbers in the Royal Expeditionary Force back home? It's up to you.

The only downfall to the game's replayability is its difficulty. I used to play Colonization heaps as a kid and I'm not exactly a newbie at Civ IV either but it was a struggle to win even a single game on Pilgrim difficulty (which is the easiest). Considering that you'd only spend less than 10% of your game actually fighting the War of Independence (which is at the end) it can be a bit heart-breaking when you've spent several hours building up your country only to have it conquered in a few turns - a good way of discouraging you to play again!

It's hard to fault the UI since a lot of it is borrowed of Civilization IV. The City screen is similar to the old Colonization however (more or less) with the addition of a couple of neat features to help speed things up. For example, now you can specify trade routes and assign wagon trains to them which means there's less micromanagement involved in sending goods back and forth to your colonies. However, this still doesn't get rid of the problem of the overproduction of goods that can't fit in your warehouses and it results in warning messages every go. This isn't too bad if you've only got maybe three colonies but if you end up with say 20+ colonies, each turn starts to become a bit tedious. I encountered no bugs while playing the game too which is also a plus.

Unfortunately, like many games nowadays it appears that Colonization is bundled with the dreaded SecuROM for its DRM. However, so far, I've heard no news of it having activations placed on it (which occurs in other games like Mass Effect, Spore and Far Cry 2) - so fingers crossed it's only a simple disc check.

Overall - 71%
The new Colonization, although not a totally faithful remake, is pretty close to the mark and offers some fun gameplay for new and old players alike. However, the difficulty of the game maybe off-putting for some and the old-school micromanagement may seem annoying too. However considering the price is half of what you'd pay for a full-price game, you really can't complain too much and if you want to play a game that simulates the colonisation of the New World and the War of Independence, there's no better game out there than this.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Left 4 Dead Demo available on the 11th

Those of you who have already pre-ordered Left 4 Dead are probably playing the demo right now. For those of us who haven't pre-ordered it though and want to get a taste of this co-op zombie shooter, we'll have to wait until the 11th to try it out (which isn't long to go!). I can't see any further details besides that though, but I'm sure they'll provide details either on their website or on Steam once the time comes! :)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Red Alert 3 Released Today!

For all you Australian readers, Red Alert 3 is being released today in Australia. I managed to pick up my pre-ordered copy of the Premier Edition yesterday from GAME and got more extras than you can point a stick at (where did that expression come from anyway?). All up I got:

- Red Alert 3
- Red Alert 2
- Beta key for a "future C&C game"
- Key to get a bonus item in Warhammer Online (yeah as if I'm going to use that! Might give it to one of my guildies if it's possible)
- Poster of the girls in Red Alert 3 (conclusive proof of which demographic the game is targeted for)
- Red Alert 3 original soundtrack CD
- Bonus CD with exclusive wallpapers, Making of.. documentary, outakes, etc.
- And another Bonus CD with God knows what on it
- Exclusive GAME map.

Funnily enough, I was only interested in RA3 and the soundtrack but anyway, can't complain! So far, haven't had too much time to play it but I've done a bit of the tutorials which are narrated by three tanks from each of the factions (you heard right). Not such a bad way of doing it!

So far the game has crashed once during the tutorial (which is a bit of a worry, considering I've already patched it to 1.03 too!) although fortunately haven't experienced any crashes since then.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Quest for Glory II Remake

Apparently this was released not long ago but the remake of the classic Sierra adventure/RPG, Quest for Glory II is now ready for download from those legends at AGD Interactive. Corey and Lori Cole have given the game the thumbs up (even though they don't actually have rights to the game universe anymore) and commented it was quite a feat for a bunch of amateur developers to create a remake *and* get a limited license from the current holder of the IP (Vivendi/Sierra) to use the name "Quest for Glory" (they were allowed to on the condition they distributed the game for free).

Anyway for those Quest for Glory/Sierra adventure game fans out there, you can download the game here.

SecuROM Affected Games List

If you're curious about whether your game has SecuROM as its DRM check out this list:

I was shocked to find several games I had already purchased already had SecuROM on it (in fact, 13, going just by that list). Now while it doesn't bother me too much that a publisher is trying to protect its games (even though it's probably futile since in the end, the pirates *will* find a way to get their hands on a copy) and to be honest, I can put up with the odd disc check I think the final straw for me was when EA decided to add activations to its DRM (which seems to be a customisable feature).

I'm surpised the second-hand game sales stores are not up in arms about this issue since it'll most likely affect them more than anyone else by preventing the sales of every second-hand PC game that has SecuROM and its activations scheme (it won't take long for a user to use up his/her 3-5 activations, unless he/she only plays it once or for a short time).

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

What does Red Alert 3 and David Hasselhoff have in common?

Well not much if you asked me a month ago but apparently David Hasselhoff is endorsing Red Alert 3 in adverts similar to infomercials. Yes, I know, sounds almost as crazy as the Red Alert series having Soviet attack bears and dolphins as naval units but check them out:

Also there's an Epic Launch trailer for Red Alert 3 that will keep you abreast of the background story:

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Fallout 3 runs SecuROM 7 on it

Apparently, Fallout 3 uses the same DRM that exists in Spore and Far Cry 2: SecuROM 7. Some users have been reporting issues installing their games thanks to this. However, Blue's News have apparently followed up some comments made by Bethesda earlier about it applying only a "simple disc check" to their system and they've responded by saying that yes they do have SecuROM 7 but it's a cut-down version of it when compared to what EA has been using. There are apparently no activations and no programs running in the background.