Shane Quast

[floatleft][/floatleft]It seems that baseball games have started to get worse and worse as times goes on. Back in the glory days of the NES it seemed like every game broke new ground. Personally I invested many hours of my youth into games like Baseball Stars, Baseball and Basewars. Then came the Genesis. Great baseball games were plentiful. Games like RBI Baseball ’94 and the first induction in the Triple Play Baseball series were my obsession during this time. To a lesser extent I enjoyed the Triple Play Baseball games on the PSOne. So then we enter the present. Both Triple Play games on the PS2 have been total crap. Instead of building on the foundation that EA had built with the PSOne series they half-assed their way through two games. The games were so bad that it eventually led to EA scrapping the series and starting over with MVP Baseball. The All Star Baseball series on PS2 had a lot of potential, but the downside outweighed the upside way too much. For the past few years I’ve been left without a baseball game that I considered adequate and it’s been a big frustration in my life. Sadly I’ll admit that this is the first time I have given any of the games in the High Heat series a chance. In the past I’ve never really been impressed with anything that 3DO has done. Finally Pickle got me to cave one day and give this game a chance.

The first thing I noticed about the graphics on High Heat was that they actually weren’t bad. That’s right a PS2 game with graphics that aren’t half bad! The player movements were pretty smooth and realistic; the batting stances looked pretty nice, players weren’t running through each other, all in all not too shabby. The areas I felt that lacked the most were the menus which were extremely hard to navigate and the end game victory celebration were it looked like the players played leap frog on the field from a blimp view; very bizarre. The lack of a more extravagant home run celebration was a little disappointing, but I can do without that. 3DO did such a good job with the graphics in this game that even the bean balls looked realistic. Afterwards the batter would get up and shake his fist at the pitcher; which immediately got me worked up into a frenzy hoping that he would charge the mound. Wouldn’t that be cool if they made a game where if you beaned a guy twice he would charge the mound? Damn that would be sweet.

[floatright][/floatright]Sometimes in a video game the phrase “Less is more” can be applied. The developers at 3DO really took this seriously when they programmed the sound for High Heat. The announcer’s commentary is actually pretty good, and they don’t go off on tangents like they used to in the Triple Play games. They keep it short and to the point, no complaints from me. Other than the announcers and some crowd chatter the game is pretty quiet. The music in this game is so off that I almost want to say it’s a glitch. Maybe one out of every ten batters that walk to the plate will get music played before their at bat, and it usually lasts about four seconds. On top of that, the menu music will mysteriously vanish for 20-30 minutes at a time. It’s not that the music is bad; it’s just never there. It leaves you scratching your head as to why they even put it in at all if it was going to be like that.

The control in High Heat Baseball is a bit simplistic. Instead of trying to line up a cursor with a pitch location indicator, like most baseball games have been doing lately, you just have to hit the button to swing and time it right. This works pretty well when you’re a video game baseball rookie and you just want to knock the crap out of the ball, but it gets frustrating in late inning clutch situations when you want to hit a sac fly or something like that, because you really have no idea where the ball is going. It’s also a bit difficult to pitch because you have no cursor either. You just have to hold down the directional pad and hope to god that the ball is going to go where you want it to, and not hang over the plate giving up a ninth inning, three run homer to Jim Edmonds sending the game into extra innings. That’s the other thing, the damn Cardinals in this game are the bane of my existence. For the life of me I can’t freaking beat them. The one time I actually had a lead on them they teed off on me in the ninth like I was throwing beach balls down the middle of the plate. But back to the topic at hand, even though the batting/pitching controls are a bit basic, they are still good enough to where you can get some enjoyment playing this game. The controls in the field are a bit more difficult to get the hang of. The buttons on the PS2 controller are arranged in a diamond pattern, and each button corresponds to the base you want to throw the ball to. If you want to hit the cut-off man you hit the R1 button. It gets a bit confusing sometimes and you’ll end up throwing the ball to the wrong base a lot in the beginning. On top of this, every runner in the base is as fast as a bullet, making it nearly impossible to turn a double play on the computer. Once again I reiterate that although the controls take a bit to master, it is well worth and you’ll be enjoying playing High Heat before you know it.

I made reference in the last paragraph to my on-going feud with the Cardinals. It’s that kind of challenge that makes this game fun. 3DO did an excellent job of adding realism into the game play. One time you’ll play and your pitcher will be off and you’ll have a 12-10 game. The next time you play you’ll win a 2-1 pitching duel. On the rookie mode the game turns into a home run derby, but so far the next level up has been perfect for me as far as challenge goes. Even if I get better I still have two more levels of difficultly on top of that. I really can’t say enough good things about the challenge on this game. I’ve had problems in the past where I get too good at a baseball game and it gets to be no fun anymore, but I don’t really see that happening with High Heat 2004.

[floatleft][/floatleft]High Heat 2004 is fun, really fun. The graphics are good, the controls are decent and the challenge level is perfect. Those three together are a good formula for a fun game of almost any genre. Those of you who follow the forums here know how Pickle and I have been begging and pleading for a quality franchise mode in a baseball game. I personally feel that building a franchise is one of the most fun parts of any sports game. I wasn’t quite expecting the depth that High Heat included in their franchise system. You have to manage your major league, AAA, AA and A rosters. On top of that you have to work within a budget that corresponds to what market your team is, manage injuries, draft rookies, negotiate with free agents. It really is a lot of work. Great job 3DO, but it really takes a die hard to have to patience to manage this one.

If you’re a fan of video game baseball I highly recommended making High Heat Baseball 2004 your next purchase. It is by far the best baseball game that I have played in a long while. Like I said earlier, the challenge and the franchise system are good enough to keep you coming back for more. This game defiantly has the replay value to make it a permanent part of you collection. Much props to 3DO for a job well done.

Since I got my Xbox pretty much every waking hour has been spent
playing Halo online. For those of you who don’t know, yes
you can play Halo online. Just go to GameSpy and download the arcade
software. I was surprised at how many people I met who played Halo
but had no knowledge of this. I am a capture the flag freak and
I usually don’t play anything other than that. My roommate
and two other guys from down the hall have been playing Halo with
me, almost religiously.

Once we started playing we learned very quickly that we’re
not very good. Quite frankly, we suck. Everyone on GameSpy for some
reason feels the need to tell us that we suck, as if you whipping
our ass didn’t clue us into this earlier. The worst part about
having all this shit talked towards us is that I know that it’s
just a bunch of twelve year old punks who don’t do anything
but sit around and play this game all the damn time. I swear to
god, next time I see a twelve year old I’m gonna kick his
ass just out of hatred for all you Halo shit talker’s.

After about eight straight hours playing on Saturday we were exhausted.
It was close to four in the morning and we had run into every spawn
camper, sniper bitch and rocket whore known to man that day. At
one point I got so frustrated that I threw a book at my desk and
broke one of the little legs off of my keyboard. After dropping
every explicative known to man on these little shits that kept kicking
our ass I was pretty much ready to give up.

It was at this point that my roommate, FemiNazi, came up with
the idea to just start messing with people. The original idea was
for us four to get into a capture the flag game and just go hide
from them in the mountains and never shoot at them for the entire
game and make the other team wonder what the hell was going on.
Unfortunately it was four am by this point and we couldn’t
find anyone playing CTF.

Just about when we were about to give up I found a game called

Soda Fizz is an idea that Pickle and I had a few months back. Regular visitors to the site know that I am easily annoyed and generally an irritable person. Something in the brain chemistry of dumb and annoying people in this world causes them to gravitate to a person such as myself. With that said you can imagine what a usual day in my life is like. So I’m starting this column as a way to vent some of my frustrations I encounter on a day-to-day basis. I’ll do my best to keep everything game related, but occasionally something will piss me off so much that I’ll have to share. Those of you who are visiting the site for the first time, I am usually not this disgruntled, but this is my forum to blow off steam. I hope everyone enjoys.

Late night trips to Wal-Mart are a Snackbar ritual. Cone and myself are two people infamous for never getting enough sleep and being up all night wasting time. Being awake and bored at 4 am usually calls for a trip to good ole Wal-Mart. I mean hell, where else can you buy a new video game, a DVD and underwear in the middle of the night? Unfortunately every other freak in the world has the same idea. The only thing more bizarre than the patrons of Wal-Mart at 4 am is the cashiers and stock-boys. Without fail some idiot always decides to try and strike up a conversation with the SB crew every time we go in there. Idiots! It’s 4 in the fucking morning and I’m looking at PC games, do I look like a person you would want to try and kick off a friendship with? Leave me the hell alone and go back to looking up Barbie’s skirt or whatever the hell it was you were doing in the girl’s toy aisle.

One night after several hours of getting our asses kicked while playing WarCraft III on Cone and I decided that we were never going to be any good at this game and it was time to head the Wal-Mart for a new one. To the Cone-mobile we go. Little did we know what awaited us at the store this particular evening.

When we first got there nothing seemed amiss. The cashiers all looked cracked out and pissed off. Several people in line were buying very strange items for this hour of the night, such as Windex. There was that family that thinks it’s a good idea to take their 5 year old and their 3 year old to the store at 4 am. Cone and I immediately passed all this and headed straight for electronics. Same overweight, shabbily dressed, toothless, white trash cashier was working in electronics. Nope, defiantly nothing out of the ordinary, typical late night Wal-Mart crowd.

We then proceeded to browse around some of the game display cases. We were having a pretty typical conversation that two friends would have when video game shopping; talking about games we’ve played, what we liked and didn’t like about them. We ended up stopped in front of the PS2 display case. I can’t even remember what game it was that Cone mentioned, but my immediate response was A

[floatleft][/floatleft]Although I’m not a terribly huge fan of golf, I do enjoy a good golf game from time to time. Never having played any of the previous entries in the Tiger Woods series I really didn’t know what to expect from this game.

Since I was about to play this game on the PS2, I really didn’t expect much from the graphics on Tiger Woods 2003. In no way was I prepared for what I was about to see. From the cheesy pre-rendered cinematic with Tiger Woods in the intro to the craptacular background landscapes, the graphics in this game are terrible. Terrible with a capital “T”. The only thing about the graphics in Tiger Woods 2003 that is quasi-acceptable is the character models. I would consider this game to have the worst graphics I have ever seen in any golf game, and among the worst I have ever seen on the PS2. The fairways looked like concrete painted green and the greens look like ponds with some sort of green sludge floating on top of them. In summary, get yourself a 5 year old, give him a green crayon, and you’ll be able to generate graphics better than this game.

[floatright][/floatright]This EA Sports Trax thing has got to go. It seems like whoever selected the music for Tiger Woods 2003 had no idea what the demographic for this game was going to be. The soundtrack is chocked full of metal and rock. That’s right, metal and rock; on a golf game. Insert your own blank stare here. Aside from the soundtrack that seems completely out of place, the actual golf sounds aren’t bad, although there are a few oddities that pop up from time to time. Pickle and I were playing on a course in England and we kept hearing this strange sound in the background. After about an hour of this Pickle blurts out, “Was that a cow?” Strangely enough, it was a cow. This game’s sound wierds me out.

Control is Tiger Woods 2003 solo strong point. It only took me a few minutes to get the hang of the angles and the spin control. I still don’t feel like the controls were very realistic though. You have to tap the L2 button repeatedly while the ball is in the air to get the ball to spin the direction you want it to. I don’t know of any pro golfers who have psycho-kinetic powers and are able to adjust a ball’s spin in midair. Additionally, I don’t think that the PS2’s analog joystick lends itself very well to this type of game. You pull back on the joystick to start your back swing and slide to forward to complete your swing. The PS2 analog joystick seems too “sticky” to do this motion fluidly.

Tiger Woods 2003 presents little or no challenge whatsoever. It took me less than an hour to get good enough with the controls to win my first tournament. The putting in this game is the only thing that presents any sort of challenge at all, and that is only due to the fact that you have no grid or any other type of device to line up your putts with. The only thing you have to work with is your “caddy tips.” Your caddy tips will be something ridiculous like “5 ft. 4 in. long and 4 in. right.” This would be great if you had any point of reference. You spend a lot of time asking yourself “Does that look like 2 feet?”

[floatleft][/floatleft]To be honest, Tiger Woods 2003 just isn’t very much fun. There are several mini-games included in the game, but none of them represent any real challenge. After about an hour or so into this game you’ll be wondering why you’re still playing. It doesn’t take long to master the controls, and Pickle was holing out from 30 yards less than 30 minutes after we started. A visit to the dentist for a root canal or two would be more entertaining than an afternoon playing Tiger Woods 2003. If you’re looking for a fun golf game I would recommend Outlaw Golf for the XBox.

My best advice would be to avoid Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003 altogether. Don’t rent it, buy it, or even borrow it from a friend. This game is just the icing on the cake from a series of sub-par games from EA Sports as of late. It just seems like they are rushing everything and not taking the time to make the game quality. Hopefully they will fix these issues soon because in the past I have been a huge fan of EA.

No One Lives Forever 2

February 4, 2003

Every once in awhile you come across a game that you just feel good about from the second you put the disk in. You can’t really explain it, but somehow even the install screen manages to keep you in awe. The game is great from beginning to end and you’re instantly in love. [url=]No One Lives Forever 2[/url] is definitely this type of game. Having never heard much about it and never having played NOLF I didn’t have much interest in this game until one of the guys from [url=]Paladin[/url] giving it “game of the year” hype. Regular visitors to the site know that I’ve been on a bit of a gaming exodus lately, for some reason I’ve felt the need to try out genres that I typically haven’t enjoyed in the past. I even found myself spending my free time immersed in Final Fantasy VII. So when I heard so many positive things about a game in such a short amount of time I figured it was time to give the old “sneaker/ spy” genre another go.

In my opinion there are two basic schools of spy work. One is the “sneaker” style, you might find someone like James Bond employing this tactic. You know the type, the guy slips into the party undetected to snap some pictures of a secret lair hidden under the bathtub. The other school of spying I like to call the “Run n’ Gun.” Obviously the Run n’ Gun is self-explanatory. For some reason game developers seem to feel that everyone prefers the sneaker style and they design their games accordingly. This has really turned me off to spy games in the past, because I would much rather sit up on a peak and snipe everyone before I smash my way into the party with crossbow in hand. Instead of forcing you to do things a certain way, the game developers at Sierra decided to give the player the option. Each mission can be completed by using the “sneaker” tactic or the “Run n’ Gun.” Giving the user the ability to complete the objective the way they want to complete it is what it’s all about. Many spy games I’ve played in the past give you one way to do something and give you a “this is the only way to do it because I said so” attitude. Allowing for various ways to complete a mission paved the way for endless hours of replay value. Props to Sierra games for letting me decide what type of spy I want to be.

Even though I was playing NOLF2 on a GeForce 2 the graphics were great. NOLF2 was trying to achieve it’s own type of style with the graphics and the results were a huge success. Instead of going down the path of pre-rendered cinematics they did a somewhat cartoony/ live rendered style. It’s hard to describe, but trust me, it’s very well done. One of the major problems I’ve run into with FPS games in the past is the clipping. NOLF2 is done so well that you don’t even pause to say “Hey, there’s no clipping in this game,” because you don’t even notice. I just couldn’t possibly say enough good things about the graphics in this game. The guns look great, the enemies look great, scenery and backgrounds are perfect, footprints in the snow are great, the list could go on and on. Normally I don’t rate things on a scale, but if I had to rate the graphics on a scale from 1 to 10 I would defiantly give this game a 9.

Amazingly enough the sound matches the graphics in quality. The voice-overs are excellent and humorous, the gun sounds are fantastic, the background music doesn’t ever get annoying, and they did a great job of incorporating sound proximity. As you get closer noises get louder, like they would in real life. If you sneak around you can eavesdrop on two enemies having a conversation that might give you a good chuckle or reveal an integral part of the puzzle you are trying to solve. If you get too far out on the ice with the snow mobile you will start to hear the ice cracking. And the music and sound fits in perfectly with the style of the graphics and story. In case you are just catching on, the developers did an excellent job with this game.

Another reason that I have hated many FPS in the past is that there is just so many damn buttons you have to push to accomplish anything. The first thing I usually do when I play a new FPS on my PC is set up the controls similar to the old [url=]Counter-Strike[/url] style that I used to use. In my opinion you should be able to pick up a game and be able to play it within five minutes, even if you only think you are playing but are just going through a tutorial like in [url=]WarCraft III[/url]. NOLF2 is pretty much grab-and-go. The buttons aren’t very complicated at all and the game will tell you what you need to press from time to time. For the most part the controls make sense too, like you press “Enter” to “Use” and item; that just seems natural to me. The only weak point about the controls is that my mouse seemed to be a bit hypersensitive and not very smooth. This could be due to the optical mouse of use, or that my graphics card is outdated. I tweaked with the settings for a little while, but nothing really made a significant difference. It just takes a little getting used to, and defiantly does not deter from the game very much at all.

Ever play a game that is too hard? Ever play a game that is too easy? Either way you are pretty much going to be done with that game in a very short amount of time. I’ve been playing the Single Player mode of NOLF2 on easy mode and the difficulty is nothing short of perfect. The only time I’ve had to play has been at night after work, and it will usually take me about two or three nights to beat each level. You can also save your game in the middle of a level and resume there later without having to restart the whole level. You’ll find this feature pretty handy because it will take you awhile to beat some of the levels. As you progress further into the game new enemies are introduced and they increase in difficulty, bigger and badder guns come into the picture as well.

While I haven’t had time to play the multiplayer mode much the single player mode is enough to make this game great. NOLF2 brings back the joy I used to have for video games when I was a kid and to be totally honest is one of the most fun games I have ever played. There is enough variety in the missions to not feel monotonous, and once I learned how to use the compass right I didn’t spend a lot of time wondering where I was supposed to be going. This is one of those games that you can’t wait to get home and play because you can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next. And of course I can’t say enough about being able to pin a ninja to a wall with an arrow shot from a crossbow. Few things in life bring a gamer as much pleasure as scoring a headshot with a sniper rifle from 300 yards away.

Again, I hate to go to the rating scale, but this game is as close to a ten as you could possibly get. NOLF2 is a must own for fans of spy games, FPS or hell if you like games at all you need to have this game! I am still a huge fan of WarCraft III but this game defiantly deserved GameSpy’s game of the year award with all the new ground it broke. NOLF2 has earned itself a special place in my heart and I will be using it as a standard for PC FPS games in the future. Go buy this game!