September 2003

ESPN NFL Football

September 22, 2003


Football season is here and I am geeked up for Sundays. Football is by far my favorite sport and I keep up with it religiously, especially the Cowboys. Of course when football season starts an onslaught of football games get released. Leading the bunch of course is EA’s juggernaut Madden, and following close second is Sega Sport’s own title. This year Sega Sports took a different approach and got an ESPN license. They decided since cant beat Madden in gameplay (and no they cant) they will out present them in only the way ESPN can.

Great run!

This game shines in its animations and graphics. The character models are realistic and equipment, character heads, turf, audience, everything is modeled beautifully. The player mechanics are captured so well watching replays looks as close to real life as I have seen a video game get. Fights for yardage, fan reactions, player reactions are all represented. The game itself has helmet less players on the sidelines reacting to the happenings on field. The game has featured mouth movements as well and I swear you can make out players saying, A

Welcome back to another edition of… The Week In Review! DUM DUM DUM. Admit it, you thought that was funny. Alright, maybe it wasn’t. Whatever, I am the writer here and I thought it was funny. Before I run off too many people with my terrible jokes I do have some actual news for you.

I want to tee off this week with something that just cracks me up. People will always rip on the top players in every industry and walk of life. Gaming sites are no exception. It doesn’t help when they reaffirm what people say about them though. Case in point… Gamespot posted a review for Savage, a 5.4. S2 Games alleges that the reviewer only spent a measly few hours playing the game before he gave it a mediocre score. Gamespot then pulls the review to have it re-evaluated. This is something I could see happening with a site of our size as we don’t do this for a living, but if you get a paycheck to review games for a website you damned well better log more than 2 or so hours playing that game before you slam it in front of millions of readers. Sad…just sad. Way to go Gamespot!

I mentioned this week that Wraith was promising good things from Max Payne 2. HomeLanFed has a nice interview up with Remedy’s lead game designer Petri JA

What is it about FPS military games that just grab my attention? I mean really, is it the graphics? Is it the excitement seeing myself in the shoes of that character? Quite simply it’s both. If you have been here at Snackbar since the beginning, then you would know I’m the biggest FPS fan in the world. My judgment of FPS games, are strictly based on several different levels of reality. In the case of Ghost Recon series, you should know that I did the review on the first Ghost Recon release for the Xbox. That was actually one of the first times I have ever been exposed to the whole FPS squad management type genre. And as you can tell from the first review, I really enjoyed playing it. Now since this is my second time around with Ghost Recon, I expected many improvements since it’s first release on the Xbox. With average graphics, fun game play, great A.I., and really outstanding sound, I just could not think of way how Ubi Soft could top the first one.

Each Ghost Recon has a setting and a story to it. The first Ghost Recon on the Xbox took place in Moscow in the year 2008. The story behind this conflict was Ultranationalists were seizing power in Moscow to restore the old Soviet Empire. The Ghost, a special elite squad of Green Berets, were sent in to Moscow to restore order before a global war erupted. In the next installation to the Ghost Recon series, called Island Thunder. The story begins in the year 2010 in Havana, Cuba. Castro is dead and his heirs have not been able to maintain the Communist regime. A small hope for a democracy rises as the interim President promises free elections, and asks for international aid to protect the elections from being destroyed. Many factions in Cuba do not want to see a democracy, therefore rising and creating mass chaos to overthrow the interim President. The Ghost, have been dispatched once again to suppress any rise against the Cuba elections. I thought it to be very interesting to know that both stories deal with the rise of Communism.

Your platoon is divided into two squads of three, Alpha and Bravo. It is up to you to equip your team with the proper personnel and gear to successfully complete each mission. If you don’t know what to choose, then usually the computer will give you an indication whether or not you’re missing something before entering a mission. You have the option of picking from rifleman, demolition experts, snipers, and support. Each can be custom equipped with a light or heavy arsenal. If you’re like me, then you will equip all your men with everything you can. That’s just me; I like causing mass destruction in every mission. For each mission that you complete, you unlock better soldiers and better weapons. I personally hate to lose a man during a campaign, so I find myself restarting missions just to keep all my men alive. Although, I do allow them to sustain wounds, which is ok considering they’ll be awarded a purple heart after the mission. The only flaw is you have to sit them out for a mission, in order for them to regain full health again. The menu options to set up your squads can be a little difficult to function to begin with, but it gets easier as you progress. Once you begin a campaign you are thrown straight into the fire. Something notable that Ubi Soft did this time around was increasing the level of difficulty by a significant amount. Mind you, I am a pretty good FPS squad based player. I mean it literally took
e hours to complete the first of four missions. With that in mind, in order to not overwhelm you with such difficulty they decided to add better weapons and flexible movements per squad. What I mean by that is, if your like me and would rather split your squads up in a mission you really want your men to be able to execute those commands as accurate as possible. Whether you want your squads to recon, assault, or suppress an area those options are given to you under command mode. I find this function to be very helpful when you want to cover great deals of territory in each mission.

Let me transition to Island Thunders controlling mechanics. In order to be a successful FPS squad based player like myself, you must be efficient and patient with your squads. I like taking my time in order not to get my men killed. I really take each mission seriously, as if I was in combat myself. Shooting is very basic with the right trigger, and switching weapon mods, night vision, and reloading all can be done with your X, Y, A and B buttons. Crouching is simple with your directional pad, and zooming is done by pressing down on your right toggle stick. Now comes the difficult part to the game. Commanding your troops within a mission can be a pain if you are not careful. One good thing about this game is that it gives you a training level that talks you through how to command your troops within a mission. This can be tricky especially if both your squads are under attack. It’s obvious, the more you play the game the more you tend to use the command function in a mission. Using this function helps me so much during a mission, I can’t imagine not having it. This allows me to split my squads up and do more damage on opposite sides of the map, along with accomplishing my objectives much faster.

Game play is a huge factor that I take into account in a game. The first Ghost Recon had repetitive objectives to accomplish mission after mission. Island Thunder mixes its objectives around like defending a voting house, taking over command posts, finding intelligence, finding and protecting hostages. Island Thunder really made things difficult with not allowing you to have one friendly casualty in your squad or outside your squad. That really can get annoying sometimes. The game really draws you in with being able to out strategize the enemy. You start asking questions like: What will happen if I flank him to the right? Or should I hold this position until the other squad gets over the hill? I mean, real questions that can make or break your mission. Then of course comes the fun and exciting part of just plain blood shed. These guys drop like a sack of potatoes when you snipe them from afar, or when you get point blank on them. Either way they all lay in a pool of blood when you’re finished with them. Their bodies actually stay there throughout the entire mission. The bodies don’t disappear like they do in other games.

Island Thunders A.I. improved drastically this time around. The enemy is way more responsive to your movements and tactics. They don’t stand there for hours just to return fire. Most of the time, if they hear something in your direction they just start unloading. If they see you before you see them, they call for reinforcements. And let me tell you, you don’t want that. These guys have gone mobile with machine gun mounted trucks pouring out with squads of men. Stealth is a must if you want to keep your men alive. Your men can take care of themselves with out your help of course. I have gone missions where I have not gotten one kill because my men do all the killing. I find that hard to g

rasp, but its true. The A.I. is much more responsive with a shorter reaction times and better accuracy. I was really impressed with the improvements this time around in Ghost Recon. Unfortunately, it still frustrates me to know that when my men get shot and call for a medic, I can’t help them. In the next Ghost Recon they should include medics to go with the squads. Another unfortunate aspect of the game was the environment. I like games where the environment changes in weather and scenery. If I happen to be launching a grenade to some commies in a building, then I expect the building to have a huge gapping whole by the time I’m done with it. Only several times did I see bullet holes on surfaces after shooting at them. I did shoot out a few tires, which I thought was the only cool destructive thing I did besides kill commies. My word to Ubi Soft is to make destructive environments, more interactive objectives, and add some medics and vehicles to boot.

The graphics dynamics sure did not change from the first Ghost Recon. The environment still had invisible walls you would run into when trying to go up a hill. Grass, mountains, and water were flat and edgy with no detail and definition. The surfaces of all those areas looked like plywood or cardboard. Although the colors were much more colorful considering that it was in the tropical jungle. Buildings, soldiers, and men were much more detailed. The soldiers and civilians had detailed features with better face contours and a variety of looks. I personally like rounded environments with better lighting and detailed surfaces. Most of the missions were in foggy, humid areas which I thought looked great but you couldn’t see five feet in front of you. Island Thunder had very little night missions, so I could not judge the lighting and shadows. But it did have improved thunder and lightning effects. In addition to the graphical improvements, Island Thunder raised the bar from the first Ghost Recon with improved sound. Small detailed sounds such as crickets, wind, plants swaying, and drops of water falling on your head. Thunder and lightning was timed a lot better with different intervals and sounds, better dialogue, weapon sounds, echoes, whispers and city sounds. All was improved with a variety of sounds and noises in their given environment. Island Thunder does give the option of gaming in Dolby Digital, if you like playing at insanely high volumes.

Overall, this game was a great buy for me. I anticipated this game to be much better than the first Ghost Recon and it was. I was able to play Live a few times, and it was just as entertaining as the first was on Live except different maps and weapons. I really enjoyed playing hours and hours of Island Thunder because it gave me the reality of combat through tactics and management. And of course it’s an FPS so what do you expect. If you really enjoy playing squad based management games, then this will really do it for you. If you hate that kind of thing then at least try the Live game play where you can just go all out without the responsibility of managing your troops. Truly a keeper for me, I suggest trying it out. Cheers!

Otogi: Myth of Demons

September 9, 2003

Otogi is about a skilled warrior named Raikoh who is trapped between the world of the living and the dead. He is tasked with purging the world of demons to cleanse his soul from his past misdeeds. To understand the storyline any further might require the study of classic Japanese mythology. Lets be real here, I don’t have time to do that and most people probably don’t really care that much. The important part that you do need to know is that Raikoh is a bad to the bone warrior and he is out for blood. This is where you come in.

The first thing you will notice about Otogi is the very Japanese feel the game has. Everything from the menus to the loading screen and the music just screams traditional Japanese setting. This is obviously due to the origins of the game’s story.

As you begin your journey, you will want to become familiar with the game menu as you have the ability to purchase new weapons, magic, and accessories that affect your levels of magic, attack, and defense. You also have the ability to repair weapons you already own. This repair will restore the vitality of the weapon, which allows you to do better combos.

The entire buy/sell/repair aspect of the game adds a nice RPG feel, not to mention that you level up as you go along. I am a big sucker for games that have mild amounts of RPG in them as I enjoy the leveling up aspect as you feel like you are growing with your character as you play. I do not, however, enjoy full on turn based RPGs. So Otogi is a nice mix of RPG and hack and slash much like Dynasty Warriors 3 and 4 only in a much different setting.

The actual combat system allows you to lock on to enemies or just freely attack. You have a heavy and light attack as well as magic that can be used to build some devastating combos. Another interesting thing is that all weapons have a weight. This weight directly affects the power of your attacks. Light weapons boost your light attack and allow you to jump higher. Heavy weapons give a boost to your heavy attacks but put a slight damper on your jumping ability.

The entire concept of Otogi is that you are trapped in this sort of netherworld between life and death and the developers did an absolutely fantastic job of making you feel that way while playing the game. The soft lighting that is present in the game makes it feel as though you are battling demons in a dreamworld. I can safely say that I have not played a game that made extensive use of this kind of lighting and I was highly impressed.

The music in the game just seemed to add to the dreamworld effect. A nice feature to boot is the in game Dolby Digital sound (which I am still unable to utilize at this point).

One more thing I must emphasize about Otogi is the difficulty. I have played the game for a good couple of hours already and I am only on the 7th level. This game is not a walk
the park. There is a good reason you are allowed to replay levels in their current state, because you will not get 100% on them the first time around. The game actually borders on frustrating during some levels.

Let me sum it up for you… Otogi is a 3rd person hack and slash game with nice RPG elements in the form of a level and weapon system. It has beautiful graphics and sound that accompanies the game perfectly. It can get very frustrating, but it is not unbearably hard. While the story line is a tad bit hard to follow in my eyes, I think it’s a superb game that took a lot of people by surprise. If you are reading this then you probably don’t have a copy of the game and you might want to start hunting one down as most of the game stores that I know of only got 2-3 copies of the game. Even has Otogi on backorder. All in all, I have been extremely happy with Otogi and the $39.99 retail price is a nice change from the $50 we are used to paying.

It’s time to get jiggy folks. You know me, Mad Wanksta Pretzel giving you beautiful people out there in the gaming world a rewind of last week. On a more personal note, I just want to express to all you Snackbarians out there how much you guys rule. Without you guys we would be nothing! The great thing about this week was that alot of great things happened to me gaming wise. And I also have a bone to pick with other online gaming sites. Before I can get to that juicy stuff let me go ahead and get the obvious boring news out of the way.

The obvious news is that “Rockstar” is releasing GTA 3 and GTA Vice City in a double pack for the Xbox this autumn. Personally I think Xbox should have said the hell with GTA. So anyways, for you GTA lovers make sure you reserve your copies of that. Please folks don’t get to excited.I mean don’t all run to the stores now and reserve your copies.

The hype is building as Halo PC’s release date gets closer. I have been reading nothing but Halo PC stuff lately. At first I was a little hesitant about getting it. Mind you I’m the biggest Halo fan out there. But only on Xbox. But since I have just converted to being a PC gamer, I am now rethinking my past decisions. I’m sure the hype will continue to build as the end of the month draws near. All I have to say is, massive LANING!!

Oh yeah baby, new screens are up for “Medal of Honor Allied Assault Breakthrough”. Again, I have to say that I am one insane die hard MOH fan. The series are freaking awesome. I am actually very excited to see them adding more expansions to the series before jumping to the Pacific side of the series. Speaking of which I will be all over that series when it’s released. I swear if you were to look at my library of games for my systems, all you could find is WWII FPS or just FPS.

Ok folks, I know most of you hit it hard when the week starts. You know, work, school all that stuff that you have to do. Then when that stuff is done you want to get your gaming on. Or if your like me you want to find out what is going on in the gaming world 24/7. Well for the longest time I have been pissed off at the online gaming news industry, for always shutting down at five O’clock on Friday. I mean, I don’t know about you but the weekend is the best time when I get some great gaming time in. So I surf the web during the weekend to see what’s hot, and also to see some fresh news updates. Well much to Pretzel’s dismay, it will not be updated until Monday morning. I mean come on people, the gaming world does not sleep. It should run constantly 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Is that to much to ask for? We here at Snackbar will not let you down if you want some fresh gaming jazz 24/7.

TO DA HOUSE BABY!! That’s where I took my copy of Battlefield 1942: Secret Weapons of WWII last Thursday. I was so pumped to take it home and play it until 3 in the morning. WOW!! All I have to say is mobile spawning point. There is nothing better than to be spawning over enemy territory and parachuting to kill some Nazi’s. Make sure you guys stop buy and get your copy. Pickle and I should have a review up pretty soon. I’m still working on beating Ghost Recon: Island Thunder so I can get a review up on that. But this game is taking up to much of my time.

On Friday “Electrocity” ope
ned up for it’s beta testing of its game center here in Houston. I am proud to say that my good friend Fernando Maldonado is the owner of the LAN center. The place houses 25 PC’s with an Xbox station to get some HALO action in. It also carries a screaming fast T1 line to get the best quality of gaming in. You can also choose a variety of games such as Unreal Tournament, Counter-Strike, Rainbow Six, Medal of Honor, plus alot more. I am already spending mad cash gaming there, so expect me to be daily with bells on. The place looks great, and its just a great atmosphere to be in. They will be having a huge lock in about three weeks from now. And yes, yours truly will be there. Make sure you guys stop by if your in the area, and tell them that Snackbar sent ya.

Well my fellow Snackbarians, stay tuned for more action packed WIR’s in the near future. I know Pickle has some great things to tell you peeps. I mean he always has something to say. I’m OUT!!