May 2003

I would have to say that it has been quite an interesting week in gaming. We have had companies file for bankruptcy, new consoles announced, and games given away for free online just to name a few things. You may also notice that I don’t normally do the Week in Review, but we have decided to rotate the duties on this particular feature in order to give you different writing styles and that gives other people a chance to focus on reviews. At any rate, I hope you enjoy this.

The company I was just referring to was none other than 3DO. Trip Hawkins founded 3DO in the 1990s after having successfully starting EA in the 1980s. On Wednesday, 3DO filed for bankruptcy protection in a Northern California court. The company is seeking to either liquidate its assets or sell the company as a whole. Earlier this month the company had mentioned it was looking into merging or even selling the publishing rights to its game. The staff was also warned of massive layoffs to occur in July. It doesn’t look like they made it that far. As of this writing, the company website has no press release concerning the events.

In a move that I found incredibly surprising, Sony has announced the release of the PSX in Japan. The PSX will be a redesigned PS2 that has some added media features such as built in Ethernet, a 120GB hard drive, USB 2.0, memory stick capabilities, a slot loading DVD recorder, a TiVo style subscription service, a TV Tuner, and rear mounted controller ports… Yes, rear mounted. The US release is expected sometime next year. There has been no information released on the price of the PSX, but I just have a feeling that it’s going to be a little on the high side.

Front and Back of PSX

Vertical standing

In other news, Blizzard has said that the much anticipated expansion to WarCraft 3 has gone gold and should be available on July 1. The expansion will feature a new single player campaign, new units, an advanced world editor, and numerous multiplayer maps. I can guarantee you that Soda will disappear for a few weeks right near July 1st. Blizzard has also announced that Ghost has been delayed until sometime in 2004.

Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Operation Resurrection has shipped for PS2 while RtCW: Enemy Territory is available online for free. The retail expansion version of Enemy Territory was cancelled and released online free of charge instead. You do not need the original RtCW to play Enemy Territory.

Bungie has posted an FAQ on the PC version of Halo speculated to be released late summer of this year.

In an interesting move, Simon & Schuster Interactive has launched a website for one of the strippers from the upcoming Outlaw Volleyball game, Summer.

EA and Sega are currently in talks about a North American merger. This is a bad move in my opinion. I can see EA killing off the Sega Sports line and that would be bad for sports fans everywhere. I would much rather see Sega with MS and have the Sega games be Xbox exclusives. This is not due to
my love for Xbox, but my desire to see Sega develop some games properly on great hardware w/ online features. I would really love them to give EA a legitimate run for their money.

Just in case there was any question about if Enter the Matrix was doing well, Atari announced they had sold 1 Million copies in the first week on the shelf. They are expecting to sell a total of 4 Million copies when all is said and done.

Another surprising bit of news this week happened during a conference call with Take Two Interactive. During a Q&A session with Take Two’s Jeffery Lapin stated that an unannounced SKU would appear on Xbox in the fourth quarter of the company’s fiscal year. It wasn’t confirmed that a Grand Theft Auto title was in the works, but it was hinted by Lapin that that was the case. You can read more about it over at IGN. If that is the case, it will be a nice treat for Xbox owners and casual gamers alike. Many people had gravitated toward the PS2 strictly to be able to play games in the GTA series and w/ the exclusivity contract coming to an end with SCEA I have a feeling people will look towards the console as a whole instead of picking it strictly based on the availability of a certain GTA game.

That about wraps up my first Week in Review. It feels like one huge news post, but I guess that is really what this is supposed to be…

I want to start this review out stating that I am fully aware that there are many people out there who enjoy this game. I, however, am not one of them. I can’t quite put my finger on what I don’t like about it – oh wait; yes I can. Ei ei poo.

Wonderful Story Mode…

I started out playing Super Monkey Ball 2 in story mode. This involves four monkeys and a bad guy in a blimp – BADboon. The premise of the game is that you are this little monkey that speaks Japanese and you are encased in this clear ball and must roll through Labyrinth-like courses to reach a goal, while collecting bananas that BADboon has stolen from you. The levels start out really simple, basically rolling yourself across a bridge into the goal line. They, of course get progressively harder and you have to hop across mogul-like bumps and hurdle your monkey across moving conveyor belts. Each level consists of 10 courses that are arranged to look like pool balls in a cue. How cute. It took me about ten minutes to beat three levels. It is relatively easy to control your monkey ball, no difficult combinations, just simple moving of the joy stick. Oh yeah, I forgot the story. BADboon wants MeeMee, the girl monkey in the pink dress (how original) to marry him and she says A

Due to overwhelming demand the SB crew has decided to bring back
the Retro Review feature. Since it takes a lot of time to play a
game enough to give it a decent review and most of our time is spent
playing new releases to get reviews of those out, the Retro Reviews
won’t come every week. We are shooting for once a month. If
you’ve been a reader of the site for awhile you probably remember
that Pickle and myself spend more time arguing and going off on
tangents than reviewing the actual game. Usually they come out pretty
funny, and they are fun to write.

Today we’re going to be dissecting Balloon Fight
for the NES. Back in our younger years the SB crew got countless
hours of entertainment trying to pop each others balloons. Released
in 1985, Balloon Fight is an NES classic.

While many people focus on what video games came out and when,
I like to focus on what was going on at that particular time period.
What inspired Balloon Fight? What was going on in the mind of the
developers that encouraged a game where little guys try to kill
demons that float on balloons? Could it be Communism? The year 1985
did see the election of Gorbachev in the USSR. I do think that somehow
the developers were trying to give us hints as to what kind of politics
we should expect to see. Was capitalism the balloons, communism
the little demons that float to try to oppress the rights of citizens?
Was the lighting in the sky the A

CounterStrike (CS) is widely known as one of the
best multiplayer FPS games ever. Unfortunately it is also well known
for being a breeding ground for cheaters, spawn campers, team killers,
and other such fuckheads. Whether or not you’re a fan of CS you
have to admit that it reigned supreme over all FPS’ for a very long
time. Not to mention that it’s damn fun. If any of you have been
a fan of the site for a while you probably have heard me mention
that I almost lost a job due to a CS addiction. It’s a little hard
to explain exactly why every single person at my office played CS
non-stop all night every night, but there were six of us that didn’t
come into work until 5 pm and didn’t leave till 5 am. As if working
that schedule wasn’t boring enough, there was never anything to
do at this particular job. On top of all that no one who was in
charge ever came into the office. So what is the best way for six
computer geeks to entertain themselves who have nothing to do for
twelve hours at a time every day? CS, of course.

Everyone who has ever participated in a LAN party probably has
some pretty funny stories. What was different about this is that
every single night for more than three months the six of us were
eating, breathing, and sleeping CS. Being around each other for
the massive quantity of time that we were we were bound to get on
each other’s nerves. I could probably sit for hours and tell stories
that would make you laugh your ass off, but I will save those all
for another time, possibly another article. There is one particular
incident that will make me laugh until the day I die.

CS was such a way of life for us that after awhile we only referred
to each other by our player handles. Once you reach that stage in
your life you know that you’ve hit a new low. Before SB came about
I used to play under the handle “Dick Armey.” No, ARMEY
isn’t spelled wrong, he’s a senator, watch fucking CNN every once
in awhile. I shared an office with “Kyzer Soze” and “Weasel”
next door; the other three were down the hall.

For some reason Weasel wasn’t very good and he always played in
his office with the door closed. I think he was just annoyed with
the rest of us screaming at each other down the hall all the time.
One time a security guard was checking our office at 3 am and I
was screaming to Fenster down the hall at the top of my lungs, “Plant
the bomb! Plant the mother fucking bomb!”

We all laughed but I don’t think the security guard thought it
was very funny.

One night we were playing as the Counter Terrorists on the Canyon
Siege level. On this particular level all the Counter Terrorists
start out having to run across a canyon on a narrow bridge. If you’re
a CS veteran than you know that the start of every round is like
a rat race to get position before the other team does. Everyone
is off like a bolt of lightning trying to get to their spots.

For some reason Weasel kept spawning closet to the bridge so he
was always the first person to g
o across it. Normally Weasel sucking
didn’t bother anyone, but the bridge over the canyon is only wide
enough for one person to get across at a time. In addition to not
being all that great, Weasel insisted upon running with his gun
instead of his knife. Every CS player knows that you don’t run near
as fast with your gun out. So picture this; the only player of the
team who doesn’t run with his knife out hits the bridge first and
gets the other nine members of his team stuck behind him. The other
team was getting to their points way before we were and we were
getting massacred. Getting beat at any game is never acceptable
to me.

After four rounds of staring at the back of Weasel’s head and getting
really pissed off I yelled to Weasel “If you don’t quit running
with your gun I’m going to shoot you myself.”

I was pretty sure he heard me because I yelled pretty loud. The
next round started and I bought an AWP, just in case. I switched
to my knife and turned to run across the bridge, only to be greeted
by the back of Weasel’s head once again. I would like to make a
disclaimer that I don’t usually condone team killing, but there
are some situations where people are just asking for it. I stopped,
zoomed in and put a nice pretty bullet through the back of Weasel’s
head. Everyone on my team cheered and I could hear Weasel scream
“What the Fuck?” through his office door.

I felt good about myself, perhaps I had taught him a valuable lesson.
Except the next round started and I ran into him again! Apparently
he didn’t learn the first time, so I started to line up another
headshot. By the time I got my scope zoomed in on him I saw his
head explode before I even pulled the trigger. I turned around and
heard Kyzer cracking up. Talk about a “second shooter”

We heard Weasel spike his mouse and slam his door open. A second
later he came bursting into our office and lunges at Kyzer. The
lunge turned into a punch landed squarely on the back of Kyzer’s
head. Several swings and vulgarities were exchanged before the conflict
came to a conclusion. I would have tried to break them up but I
found the whole situation way too humorous. I’ll admit that it was
the only time I have ever seen a fist fight during an online game
involving two players on the same team. I would say that’s a rarity
during any game.

The moral of the story my friends, is don’t let your LAN party
turn to violence. If you suck at a game, make sure and get the hell
out of your team’s way. It makes things easier for everyone involved.

Fatal Frame

May 28, 2003

Everyone I know has played or seen Resident Evil at some point in time. It is what I would define as the start of the horror game as a full genre. While I can’t name any other games that I would place squarely in this genre like I would do with Resident Evil, the RE games have had more than enough success on their own to warrant Horror games as a separate genre. While I can’t say that I love horror games, cuz I don’t, I will say that they can be enjoyable as a group activity. Fatal Frame was exactly that. Soda brought it over we played it for a few hours on a Thursday night. It wasn’t since Soda and Pickle tricked me into playing the hallway part with the Licker in RE2 back on the PSX that I actually jumped at something I saw in a video game.

The red circle makes it a critical hit

Upon starting the game you are introduced to the story and the premise of the game, which is all done thru phenomenal looking cut scenes. You play a character that is searching for her brother who has disappeared while learning about a family that had performed some questionable rituals. The family lived in a large Mansion that is now abandoned and feared by the locals. In order to piece the story together, you collect journals, audio tapes, and film as you use your camera to absorb ghosts when attacked. The camera plays many roles that will be explained as the game progresses. The journal pages and audio tapes will be direct clues as to the fate of your brother and his group.

Notice the lighting from the flashlight

I played the game on both PS2 and Xbox about 2 weeks apart. The PS2 scenes were unbelievable when I first saw them, and then I played it on Xbox and it was even more impressive. The actual in game graphics are so crisp and clear that when the actual gameplay started I was still sitting there waiting for the FMV to finish. The entire game that I have played up until this point has taken place inside an abandoned Mansion so the shadows and lighting are a huge factor and have been done very accurately. I just can’t stress enough how impressive the graphics work in the game is. Everyone knows that graphics are not everything and that gameplay has a huge role in the success of a game. Let’s take a look at some of the things that I think make the gameplay in Fatal Frame great.

That’s it, Just stand there

As of late I feel like my main complaint with all the games that I have been playing has been the wild camera that swings around behind your character. This is not a problem in FF as it’s a fixed view style game much like Resident Evil. You do have the ability to switch to first person and look thru the viewfinder of the camera which can help you see things that the fixed view makes difficult. Given that I am not big into the RE games, the fixed camera annoyed me at first, but it gave that eerie feel when you would walk into a room and not know what to expect. The sound accompanied the game very well. The music added suspense and created the whole envir
ment that made the game truly worth playing.

Crazy Ghost ladies just aren’t my thing

I am not sure if I should attribute this to the suspense created by the game or my own apparent lack of mastery of the controls, but I felt like every time a ghost would jump out, I was fumbling to hit the buttons to pull out the camera and take its picture. This doesn’t even account for the ghosts that appear for a split second for photo ops that give you bonus points. On top of that, the ghost is generally very freaky looking and right up in your face. The whole thing gives an unsettling sense of panic. I guess that means the suspense has been properly done. The controls were really not that complex; I was just caught totally off guard by the ghosts every time. The game is really not that difficult either, at least not in the early stages of the game. It is a lot of flip this switch, go there and do this, read this and figure out this puzzle, but it was quite enjoyable.

Neither are freaky ghost zombie guys

I have to say that I was immensely impressed with Fatal Frame as a whole. I think each and every part of the game was well thought out and planned just right. It is definitely a great addition to the genre of horror games. If you enjoyed any of the Resident Evil games or enjoy watching games as movies (while someone else plays them) like my wife does then do yourself a favor and pick up Fatal Frame. I did notice that a sequel is coming out this fall for PS2 only and I could only find used copies of the game at EB, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying the story this game has to offer.