June 2005

Ace Combat 5

June 30, 2005

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/acecombat5/cover.jpg[/floatleft]If you have ever played an [i]Ace Combat[/i] game, you should already know what to expect from [i]Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War[/i]. It’s a good simulation-looking flight game with an arcade feel. On top of that, it has absolutely stunning graphics and an interesting storyline.

[i]Ace Combat 5[/i] takes place in an alternate reality, similar to our near future. There is a war brewing between two rival nations. You are Blaze, a rookie pilot who soon becomes the leader of one of the most decorated squadrons in the conflict. The reason behind the war and Blaze’s relationship with his fellow pilots unfold in the heat of battle and in the beautifully crafted cinematics between missions. This actually can make the story hard to follow. The radio chitchat in missions can be both helpful and extremely annoying. A lot of it tells parts of the story, but at inappropriate times. When I am making a bombing run on a heavily fortified complex with projectiles and explosions all around me, I’m not in the mood to hear about how beautiful the bird of peace is. The scripted chatter can also be somewhat confusing. After you have destroyed the enemies in the area, it is weird to hear allies complaining about enemy fire and being shot down. The cut scenes, however, are mostly interesting and worth a watch.

[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/acecombat5/ss02_thumb.jpg[/floatright]The gameplay itself should not disappoint fans of the series. The attention to detail might be intimidating when watching the gameplay, but the game itself is very easy to pick up and play. And if you are nervous about jumping into a mission right away, there is an optional multi-step tutorial mode, which is quite helpful. Like other [i]Ace Combat[/i] games, the core concepts are dogfighting and ground assaults. With the large quantity of heat-seeking rockets each plane carries, most dogfights require you to get behind an enemy, fire off two missiles, and let them do the work. A few missions are actually easier if you conserve ammo, but if you can get into range, enemies aren’t entirely difficult to destroy with your machine gun. Mission objectives aren’t extremely exciting. You have the traditional escort, base assault, base defense, and intercept missions. Then there are the attacks against large enemy vehicles, which strikingly resemble boss fights.

The most innovate gameplay feature in [i]Ace Combat 5[/i] is the implementation of wingmen. Unfortunately, it is a mixed blessing. Your three wingmen add a touch of depth to the story. They are with you in the heat of combat, and their radio chatter does a good job of portraying their personalities. Too bad their personalities are clichA

War Chess

June 30, 2005

I recently received an e-mail from Kozmo Games letting me know they had a new game released. I typically get quite a few e-mails notifying me of similar game releases by smaller studios that specialize in small Popcap-style computer games. On occasion, a game will interest me, and being a budget-conscious gamer, I feel it is my duty to inform the gaming public when there is a neat game out that may only run you $10 or $15.

Kozmo Games’ newest release is called War Chess, and it is exactly like it sounds: a game of chess with the added flair of your pieces destroying your opponent’s, and vice versa, when a move is made. I vaguely remember a commercial for the U.S. Armed Forces from my childhood that displayed a similar concept, and while I am a total chess “noob,” I always thought the idea would be great. Kozmo has turned that dream, if you will, into a reality.

Being that it’s from a very small studio, I didn’t expect some topnotch Ubisoft-style game, but in the end, I was happy with all aspects of the final product. War Chess is a standard chess game based in a 3D environment which allows you to rotate the game board, zoom in, and control your overhead angle from bird’s eye all the way to ground level. The controls are similar to those of the fantastic RTS Ground Control in terms of controlling the environment.

My favorite part of War Chess was the fact that when it was my move I could select any of my pieces and the squares on the board that I was able to move to were highlighted. This made learning the game much easier. There is also a mini view of the board that shows the layout and current piece locations using their standard pieces since it may be hard to remember which character on the board is your rook or pawn.

I did manage to crash War Chess during my time with it, which was a little frustrating. The bonus to that is that I was able to forward my game log to the game’s creator and a patch was issued the next day that fixed my problem. That kind of support and quick acting gives small development studios the upper hand.

In the end, War Chess is a decent chess game that caters more to very casual chess players. Hardcore players may find the added fantasy aspects of the game unnecessary and annoying. I will probably enjoy the occasional game of War Chess when I am feeling strategic, but the beauty of PC games is that there are demos available. I suggest you head on over and give the demo a try and make up your own mind about War Chess.

PS3 Price Speculated

June 29, 2005

Gamespot is [url=http://www.gamespot.com/news/2005/06/28/news_6128295.html]reporting[/url] that the magic number for the PS3 is more than likely going to be $399 compared with the expected $299 for the Xbox 360. Everyone knows that $100 price differential will make things very hard on Sony especially with Microsoft’s plans to launch Halo 3 on the day of release for the PS3. Microsoft would also have between 5 and 6 months to streamline their process and lower the price before Sony’s launch.

The problem is that the PS3 has an estimated cost to build of $494. Losing $95 per console would have Sony losing close to $1.18 Billion during the first year of release. This is the same situation Microsoft was in with the Xbox, but the deep pockets of Microsoft made it a necessary loss to enter the market. I highly doubt that Sony could afford such a huge loss without so much as the blink of an eye. Factor in the $2B in R&D for the Cell CPU and Sony may sell a lot of consoles but starting out over $3B in the red is never a good thing.

Look out Intel…

June 28, 2005

Today in federal district court AMD has filed an Anti-Trust lawsuit against Intel. A few of the things that AMD is alleging include:

[*]Forcing major customers to accept exclusive deals,
[*]Withholding rebates and marketing subsidies as a means of punishing customers who buy more than prescribed quantities of processors from AMD,
[*]Threatening retaliation against customers doing business with AMD,
[*]Establishing quotas keeping retailers from selling the computers they want, and
[*]Forcing PC makers to boycott AMD product launches.

I think most people assumed that Intel used their weight to keep themselves on top, but the fact that AMD continues to eat into the market share is a testament to their strength as a company. As for Intel, I have a feeling there will be some changes. I also forsee lower pricing for consumers, which is never a bad thing.

For you legal junkies, you can head over to AMD’s website to read the full [url=http://www.amd.com/us-en/Weblets/0,,7832_12670_12684,00.html?redir=CORBF02]announcement[/url].

Destroy All Humans

June 24, 2005

While I watched the Spurs defeat the Pistons, Dots indulged in a little mindless action with Destroy All Humans. I recently mentioned that I had been in a kind of a lull where nothing really seemed to catch my interest and Destroy All Humans just might be the kind of game to pull me out of that. I can’t really say how fantastic the game is because I don’t really know. I only got to play for a few minutes but I can definitely say that the fun factor of extracting human brains is very high. Did I mention you can toss items around like cows? Oh yeah, you can.

I am not sure if Dots or myself will be taking on the review of this one, but expect it soon.