August 2003

Alter Echo

August 18, 2003

It’s rare that we see games take chances, so in that vein I have to give Outrage and THQ some credit with Alter Echo. They took some risks, especially in terms of game design, and while not flawless, it does sometimes work out for the best. Still, it all comes out of the wash as another action platformer in a sea of similar tiles. There are enough bells and whistles to make Alter Echo appeal to some, such as the title’s unique combo system that serves to make combat quite entertaining. Sadly, however, the game is far too short to be considered anything other than a weekend rental. Alter Echo takes place on a world where certain individuals, called Shapers, are able to use something called plast to shape and form nearly anything at will. The greatest of these individuals, Paavo, has managed to create a new, more powerful form of plast, called echoplast. Paavo quickly is enraptured with the newfound power afforded to him by the new substance. That is where you come in. As a young shaper named Nevin, you must seek out and prevent Paavo from using this power to destroy humanity.

Donning a suit made entirely of echoplast, Nevin begins the adventure to stop Paavo. This suit is sentient, and also quite powerful in its own right. While it begins as just a normal melee suit of armor and a sword, it soon gains the ability to change into two other completely different forms. The stealth form looks much like a lizard, and allows Nevin to become invisible, and attack with much more speed and agility at close range. This form can also walk up some walls ala-Gex, which is both useful and cool. The other form, the gun form, is a lumbering hulk with substantial firepower. This firepower is upgraded through the course of the game as well. The ability to attack from a distance comes in very handy, as you can no doubt imagine.

So what this all boils down to is the aforementioned combat. Alter Echo is an action/adventure title in name, but the action is what makes this title work. Through the game’s Time Dilation technology, players can slow time down so Nevin can attack the enemy without them being able to react. This allows Nevin to target multiple enemies at once, and to string together a combination of attacks. This is played out in a separate mode called TD mode. Players must string together attacks by pressing buttons within a A

Why is it that every time I hear about a game I have to got out and buy it before trying it out first? I don’t know, maybe I’m just a freak and an impulsive buyer. A while back a friend of mine told me to check out Devil May Cry 2, just for the plain reason that it kicked major ass. Well I was never into the first one that much so I didn’t give it much thought. But because I’m a freak like that I just went ahead and bought it. Well I am here to tell you that I am glad that I made that purchase. This game is full of massive demon slaying and crazy game play.

Let me give you a quick rundown of the games story line. You are a famed demon slayer named Dante that possesses the power of the strongest demon and the toughest street thug. You and Lucia, a fellow demon slayer, have to rid the world of the oncoming invasion of demons and all kinds of hellish creatures. You’re armed with a massive sword that can lop creature’s domes off with just a swing. Or if that doesn’t do it for you, then you can always use your automatic pistols that fire magic bullets. If you are asking if that’s all the weapons you get, don’t fret, throughout the game you get plenty more. Starting out playing the game you really need to know how to use your weapons to take out your enemy quickly. Your weapons are not that powerful to begin with, but during each level you can use these orbs that you collect to upgrade the power of your weapons. Orbs come in different colors, so each color can help you in many ways. The more you collect the better. So look out for those orb thingys. At the end of each level you have to face a boss. So if these weapons aren’t helping you take out the bosses then you can always transform into a magic demon that inflicts more damage than your normal self. Your magic demon self can either fly or run abnormally fast. In order to transform yourself into a flying or running demon, you have to collect an amulet. That amulet determines which demon you transform into, and each demon has a powerful strategy of fighting. You only have a few seconds of using your magic demon, so use it wisely. Again, the orbs and devil stars help you gain more magic devil time. The more stars and orbs, the longer you can be a demon. If you want to see how your doing on health and magic demon time, gauges will be provided for you at the top left of your screen. The great thing about this game is that on every level there are tons of health orbs and other helpful stuff along the way. This game really helps you out as you get further and further. Because of the different colored orbs, stars, weapons, and the such, the game will pause and always let you know what you have just acquired and how you can use it.

As a demon slayer you are probably thinking, “Well damn I need to do some really cool tricks to fight these things off right?” Well you do. The controls are a big factor to be able to kill tons of demons at one time. Being able to do combos with your acrobatic moves and using two weapons at one time is crucial. It’s obvious that your not going to be a pro in doing combos at once, so as you progress in killing demons you start getting creative. The more creative you get, the better the stylish combo points you get. My favorite move is the rainstorm. In this move you jump really high then turn your body like you were diving back down, but then you use your guns to shoot the enemy from above. Th
the name comes from the fact that you are releasing a rainstorm of bullets on your enemy’s head. There are plenty of other cool moves that you can do with both characters. This then leads me to the fact that the controls are insane in this game. I had to look at the manual dozens of times just to get some of the combos down. Your analog sticks and your directional pad can be used to move and strafe. Pulling out your weapons and using them are pretty basic along with jumping and evading. These movements can be executed with your shape buttons. Getting into the combos is what really threw me off the freaking wall. I mean I wish I had a freaking third hand to help me out sometimes. Combining the top buttons with the directional pad and the shape buttons, I mean seriously… that’s a lot of work. This is one game that I really needed to continue to play just to get use to the controls. I’m still not used to them.

The game has some major flaws to it during game play. One thing that annoyed the crap out me was the camera angles. You have no control as to how the camera will frame your shot as you try and battle demons. So many obstructions get in the way if you move from your centered shot. Sometimes it will cut between a birdseye view to a close up if you move an inch. Because this game involves demons, castles, cults, and the such, then it’s simple enough to say that this game will have a dark overtone to it. This game is nothing but dark. I felt like I was in a Dracula film playing this game, which leaves the colors in the game to be dark and real mushy with no definition. Each level there are boundaries that are set up in certain locations. These boundaries block you from jumping onto ledges, buildings, or other things that might help you. It’s pretty much like running into an invisible wall. I hate that so much because it just cheapens your AI environment. Speaking of AI, the enemies AI is horrible. It takes them decades to fight back once you have destroyed half of their buddies. Again I was disappointed to see that part of the game being so unfulfilling. Going down the same lines of killing off massive amounts of demons, let me just add that once you start fighting, the music gets really intense and heavy which I liked. I would have to say the sound did not play a major factor in this game whatsoever. Fighting one of the first bosses sounded like a looping scratched record. It was quite horrifying hearing this monster screech. The sound was pitiful and very annoying. Ok Capcom, feel free to create more elaborate sounds for your hellish creatures in your Foley studios next time.

Overall, the game is a decent entertaining hack and slash game. It does get involving at times, but then it becomes very repetitive level after level. The more I upgraded my character the cooler things I did. The game does get challenging on each level like every game should. The numbers of demons just increase level after level with no creativity involved, and that’s when it gets repetitive. But I must say the game was entertaining and I really enjoyed spending some sleepless nights on it. I really thought a demon slayer with two guns who can jump off walls and do all kinds of cool tricks while killing the masses was sweet. Try this game out if you just want some old fashion hack and slash action. I’m Pretzel… peace out!!

I would like to call myself an intermediate gamer. An Avid gamer lives and breathes video games of all platforms night and day with out hesitation. As for me I have been exposed to the world of gaming since the age of 5. I myself have liked all platforms of gaming especially now with the advancement of technology. I would have to say that gaming has evolved into a more massive industry especially with the world internet community at our disposal. Leaving me with the simple answer that as time goes on, the strides of gaming will only develop into a more advanced, and widely used form of entertainment in this world.

Being a member of Snackbar has really tested my knowledge of gaming and the such. I have been able to expose myself to readers, gamers, and many others who have been in the industry of gaming longer than I have. After hearing certain conversations and talking to several people at The Austin Gaming Expo, I learned that my knowledge of gaming was very minimal. But I realized that most of the people that I had overheard or encountered, were people who immerse themselves in the full world of gaming, and do nothing else in life. I can honestly say that I am not that kind of person. I enjoy gaming very much, but there is a limit to my enjoyment. I think for those of you who were there can understand what I am saying.

Recently I wanted to expand my world of gaming to that of the PC world. Not that I was getting tired of gaming on consoles, I just wanted to try something new. Mind you, I have no knowledge of PC’s and what makes a good PC for gaming. I myself am a Mac user and use Macs quite frequently to edit, and simply a Mac was my very first computer. I have no opinion whatsoever on which computer is superior, it’s an endless debate. Moving on, I then proceeded to call upon my good friend Cone. Cone, I would say, has a more extensive knowledge of PC’s and the computer world than I will ever have in my life time. For example, this is an excerpt from one of our conversations that we had when I was inquiring about building a PC.

5/16/03, 4:41 PM AIM Message with Cone
Cone: What was your question?
Pretzel: Oh yeah… give me a sec… what should I buy to start off with besides my case? Wait… there is no sound card!
Cone: It’s onboard bonehead!
Pretzel: On board what?
Cone: It’s on the Motherboard.

Now by the conversation we were having, I think you can tell my knowledge of PC’s is absolutely zero. Since then, Cone and I have talked about what specs makes a top notch gaming PC for gamer as myself. Let me just add that everything that I am about to list here is based upon my need and my pocket book. If you think that the components listed here suck, then EAT ME and take it up with Cone!! I will go down the line here and do the best I can to try and list the different components that are used to make a good gaming system. Cone with his supreme skills of gaming said it’s crucial to have the right components to have a kick ass PC. Cone gave me a basic run down on the things that I need to purchase so he can assemble it. Prices changed as time progressed; therefore I was able to buy better equipment. Here was the recipe Cone cooked up for a kick ass gaming PC.

  • Motherboard: Abit NF7-S
  • CPU: AMD Athlon XP 2500+ Barton
  • Ram: 512MB Crucial PC2700 DDR
  • Videocard: ATI RADEON 9600PRO 128M
  • HD: Western Digital 120GB WD1200JB 8MB-CACHE
  • CDRW: Lite On 52x24x52
  • Speakers: LOGITECH Z-340 3 PC
  • Router: LINKSYS BEFSR41 4 Port Router
  • Power Supply: Antec True480 480 Watts
  • Case: Radiation-Blue/White-Front USB Acrylic Blue Frost Face, Spider Side Window, Blue Cathode Light Kit
  • Fans: Vantec 80mm Fan, Coolermaster Blue LED Fan
  • Monitor: Sony E440 Black 19in CRT
  • Keyboard: Microsoft Multimedia Keyboard
  • Mouse: Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer

It was maybe a few months until everything was bought and assembled. Cone being the genius that he is, tightened a few things and did a few cosmetic touch ups to the assembly. After testing the computer and running it to make sure things were operational, it was ready to go. I was eager to see what this machine could do after hearing Dr. Frankenstein (Cone) talk about how awesome the computer was. Before picking up my gaming machine, I went to the EB Games and ran to the PC section and bought BF 1942 and The Road to Rome. I am fairly new to the world of PC gaming, and to be honest with you it was quite intimidating. All my life I was used to using console controllers and now things were drastically different. So I was looking forward to learning how to use the keys and mouse at the same time to game. After installing BF 1942 and gaming for a few hours I was totally impressed with everything the computer did. The graphics were beautiful, and it was insanely fast. Using the keyboard for controlling got easier, and the PC just looks beautiful. I really got my money’s worth in this machine.

Since then I have been nothing but happy with my PC. I suggest to those of you who do not own a gaming PC to totally build one, or find someone with knowledge to build one for you. If you would like to see some pics of my PC go here. Again, I would like to thank Cone for doing a superb job on building a beautiful machine, and would also like to thank EB Games Huebner for hooking it up with BF 1942 and The Road to Rome. I am one happy gamer!! Here are the following places I purchased most of my gear from if you are interested. Pretzel out!!

Madden NFL 2004

August 14, 2003

Madden Football is one of the most anxiously awaited games every
year. Gamers everywhere spend hours drooling over the display boxes
in their local video game stores for weeks on end prior to Madden’s
release. Sadly enough the Madden series has been on a slow and steady
decline over the past few seasons. Madden 2002 was hardly any improvement
over 2001, and 2003 was extremely disappointing. The hype surround
Madden 2004 has been huge however, and the fact that it’s following
so closely behind the shot heard round the video game world from
NCAA Football 2004 have this reviewer’s video game sense tingling.

New This Year

This year’s edition of Madden boasts, among other things, the new
“Playmaker” offense and defense. To be honest, the Playmaker
controls only complicate things. I have a hard enough time trying
to find a hole in the defense, let alone guide my blocker to pick
up a defender. Good idea, bad implementation.

One of the best features of Madden has always been the “Franchise
Mode.” In addition to the “Franchise Mode,” this
year has a new “Owner Mode.” The “Owner Mode”
gives you the ability to set ticket prices, set concession prices,
spend money on advertising, build or renovate stadiums, among many
other options. I found this mode to be too in depth. I like running
a franchise, but I have trouble caring about how much big foam fingers
cost at my stadium.

The best thing that EA added this year was the tackling animations.
Defenders will lunge to shove ball carriers out of bounds, drag
a runner down from behind, and even gang up to bring down a running
back. In addition to the new defensive animations the new running
animations are extremely smooth. Stiff arms actually look like stiff
arms and your back will even fight to get extra yardage after a
collision with a defender.

Like a Snail

The most noticeable difference I found this year was that the game
absolutely crawled. It’s an agonizing task just trying to play a
game from start to finish. Your offense crawls to the line, your
defense crawls into their formation and then you have to make two
or three adjustments on every play.

Madden and Michaels only magnify how boring playing the actual
game is. Their commentary is slow and dead; it drowns out the crowd,
which sounds like they couldn’t care at all about what’s happening
in the game. Amazingly enough the home crowds cheers for the visiting
team when they score. Sitting and watching paint dry is about as
exciting as playing a game of Madden 2004.

Running Into A Wall

There are two things I have found extremely difficult in Madden
thus far. One is running the ball. Gaining a hundred yards with
your running back seems like an impossible quest, gaining twenty

yards seems like a more realistic goal. You should be proud of yourself
if your back manages to average two yards a carry for the season.

The second thing that I am incapable of doing is defending against
the pass. The worst pass offense in the league can throw it downfield
all over my secondary. Fortunately I can do the same thing to the
computer’s defense. Basically what you end up with is a final score
of sixty something to fifty something with each team running about
400 plus passing yards. It’s a bit ridiculous.

Another Year, Another Disappointment

I couldn’t be more pissed off that I shelled out fifty of my hard
earned dollars for this piece of crap. It’s not that Madden is a
bad game; it’s just that I am sick of playing the same damn game
every year. It’s almost coming to the point where EA needs to do
the same thing with Madden that they did with the Triple Play series,
scrap it and start over. The worst part is I know their not, and
I know that next year I’m going to forget how much I hated 2004
and get all pumped up about 2005 and be disappointed all over again.
In a perfect world I’d like EA to refund the money I spent on this
game, and refund the gas money it’s going to take me to drive my
ass over to EB Games and trade it in for something that I will actually
enjoy. Do yourself a favor and keep Madden 2003 if you have it,
don’t waste your money.

Great big shout out to all you Snackbarians out there in the gaming land. I’m Pretzel and I will be guiding you through the WIR. Before I can give you a rewind on last weeks haps, let me give you quick spill on the drama around here. I have been super busy in trying to transition out of the department that I am currently working for and into another department at my job. Yes folks its true, Pretzel does have a job regardless of what you have heard from Soda and Pickle. You ask why I am telling you this. Well for the simple fact that I am really backed up with gaming at my pad. I mean, I have like three new PC games, one new PS2 game, and two new Xbox games that I have not gotten to yet. Its really frustrating folks not to be able to dedicate your time to gaming. Last week in midst of all the drama, I was able to stop by the EB Games here in Houston and buy Ghost Recon: Island Thunder. So far I have liked it a bit more than the last one. I will hopefully game on it a lot more so I can get a review out for you folks. To add to the horra, I have been harassed from some friends of mine here about getting Counter-Strike for the longest time. So finally I did. First off, if you know me, then you know that FPS is my favorite genre in the gaming world. I was promised that this game would be the most dominated FPS of all. It wasn’t! Not only did the graphics blow, but the game was giving me massive problems on my comp. It was big disappointment for me. Needless to say I returned it and got No One Lives Forever 2. Now that’s a fun FPS, I have not given it enough playing time, but the time I have spent on it has really impressed me a ton. That says a lot to me cause I still think the best FPS of all time is Halo. That’s enough about me, let me get to the news.

To start the week off Vivendi announced that it has signed a deal with graphics developer NDL to use their 3D graphics technology. The 3D graphics has already been used in several games such as Morrowind, Freedom Force and about 60 other Vivendi titles.
“LucasArts'” announced it will give those who pre-order Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike, a bonus disc. The bonus disc will have tons of features, surprises, demos, and other cool stuff. The game will be released sometime next month, so expect it to be on the shelves for pre-order soon.

EA Games announced the release of A