Shane Quast

It seems that prior to it’s release Stake
was being hyped as a game that would break genre barriers and bring
us a type of game play we have never experienced before. How did
Gameness Art Software and Metro3D attempt to accomplish this? By
blending the four-player split screen action of a First Person Shooter
(FPS) with the beauty and finesse of a 3D fighting game. Initially
the concept raised my eyebrow a bit so I decided to go ahead and
review this game for the fans.

Shit, My Blender
Is On Fire

The main problem with the blending of
the two genres in Stake is that they forgot to include good graphics,
game play, sound, control, plot and replay ability in the mix. This
game reminds me of something you would see in a movie about a science
experiment gone terribly wrong. Stake would play the role of the
early, deformed mutant experiment that got locked in the basement
when they didn’t really know what they were doing and screwed everything

I desperately wanted to like this game. After a few hours of playing I was desperately thinking
that I must have missed something, there had to be something else
to this game! In the end I was wrong, there is nothing else to this
game. I knew it was supposed to be some sort of party game, but
it didn’t seem like there was really any game at all.


Games that launch with movies have a history of being amazingly
average. Spiderman, Lord of the Rings, and Harry
quickly come to mind when I think of games that have
suffered this fate recently. There is nothing about these games
that really bothers you, but nothing that really stands out to you
either. This makes for a very bland gaming experience. Most of these
games are forgotten quickly and leave you with no lasting impact.
Will X2: Wolverine’s Revenge suffer the same fate as many
of its predecessors? The SB crew breaks this one down for you.

Insert Action Hero Here

I spent a good part of my day yesterday hanging out with The Wraith
over at EB Games. We discussed many things, from video games, to
The Matrix, to Pretzel’s susceptibility to panic attacks.
It was a good conversation. I made mention to him that I was currently
giving X2 a trial run. He pointed out to me that it was basically
the same game as Spiderman. I partly agree with him. It’s true that
they are both games that were probably rushed during development
to meet unrealistic deadlines. They are both third person action/
adventure games. They both rely on the popularity of the characters
to sell games rather than worry about graphics, game play, or story

How can you argue with the results though? Marvel characters =
game sales. It’s really a simple equation. If I had a say in a game
development company we would be cranking out super hero games. In
comparison with other games they don’t cost as much, don’t take
as long to develop, and sell like crazy. Even I will admit that
if some company released a game-featuring Gambit from the X-men
I’d buy it. I expect the upcoming Hulk game to be more of the same.

This strategy of swapping out graphics and changing the story reminds
me of what Nintendo games were like in 80’s. A successful game like
1942 would come out and would quickly be followed by a string
of games running off basically the same engine (i.e. GunSmoke).
I can’t say I blame the developers on this one. If the consumers
are going to continue to buy the same game over and over again why
would you quit repackaging it?

Left Shoulder Forward

X2’s graphics looked like they were slapped together from leftover
parts of a good game. While playing I get the feeling that the developers
saw something they liked in another game and just decided to throw
it in there. Several times throughout the game you will have to
trudge through the snow to get where you are going. Someone must
have liked the way that you left footprints in the snow in other
games, so they added it. Instead of footprints you leave some sort
of odd gray trench looking thing.

One of the most irritating examples of this is when your character
goes into sneak mode. It reminds me mostly of the “Aura Vision
Mode” in
Bloodrayne. During sneak mode everything on
your screen turns a tint of orange, everything except Wolverine
himself. Surrounding Wolverine during this mode is a thin line of
white pixels that make him look like he was cut-and-pasted there
using Photoshop. The most frustrating part of this whole “sneak
mode fiasco” is that Wolverine seems to be locked into this
strange walking stance where he leads with his left shoulder.

X2: Wolverine’s Revenge also features the return of the “Hyphen
bullet.” With all the technological advances and all the experience
of the game development industry one would think that you would
be able to come up with something to represent gunfire better than
hyphens. Orange tinted hyphens at that. The hyphen bullet is one
of those things that make my unforgivable sin list. It just shouldn’t
be done, ever, under any circumstances.

There are parts in the game where the graphics look pretty slick
and overall I wouldn’t call the graphics poor. As I said earlier,
it just looks slapped together. Some of the stealth kills and finishing
moves are very nice to look at, but after 50 times or so it gets
a little monotonous. I would say in the end that the graphics are
exactly what I would have expected from a game like this, nothing
too great, nothing too bad. Bland.

Less Hack, More Slash

I don’t know about you, but if someone hits me as hard as they
can in the chest with a butcher knife I do one of two things; 1)
fall to the ground screaming in pain, or 2) run for dear life and
hope to god I don’t bleed to death. Put “Get back up and try
to punch the guy still holding the knife” at the top of the
list of things I would not do. Amazingly enough the enemies in X2
are gluttons for punishment. Something deep in my heart tells me
that it shouldn’t take six slashes to kill each and every bad guy.
It’s not that they realize pose much of a threat, it’s just obnoxious.

The only thing that poses less of a threat than the enemy henchmen
are the actual bosses themselves. Even Sabretooth is cake to defeat.
I would spend more time worrying about falling off a cliff than
the ten enemies with guns who are standing there. This is yet another
part of the formula that is used when creating these super hero
games. “Make the game as easy as possible because all anyone
wants to do is see the story and super villains later in game. You’ll
find yourself with the controls mastered in five minutes or less
and you won’t have to do any thinking at any point in the rest of
the game. The only thing that could possibly inhibit you from beating
this game is the cocoon of boredom that you’ll quickly find yourself

Leave It On The Shelf

Don’t bother with this game. I’ll go ahead and tell you the two
best parts of this game. Patrick Stewart actually does the voice
of Professor X and you can unlock different costumes for Wolverine.
Of course you’ll soon realize that if you’re a fan of Wolverine
that you’ve seen all these costumes before and nothing new is really
going on.

It’s not that this is a bad game, but I promise that you’ve played
it before only it was called something else. Your time and money
will be much better spent watching the movie than playing the game.
Let’s all keep our fingers crossed that Enter The Matrix
doesn’t suffer the same end as many of its movie turned game predecessors.

Hello, my name is Soda and I am a Baseball Mogulaholic. I’d like
to share my story with you. I have been a baseball fanatic all my
life. I would say that I have invested more time playing baseball
games than any other type of video game. Before Baseball Mogul came
into my life, I’d say that I was pretty strong. I could play a game
for a few weeks and than be able to put it down. I wouldn’t say
that I ever really struggled with “addiction” to video
game baseball. Than came Baseball Mogul. I thought I would be able
to handle myself. “I’m not addicted, I can quit anytime I want.”

Boy was I wrong. Admitting you have a problem is the first step
to getting help.

When I first started playing I didn’t see how I could get addicted.
It’s just a sim; there is no actual game to play. Originally my
addiction began with Baseball Mogul 2002. My addiction carried over
it 2003 as well. One feature I always looked forward to with each
new addition was the new player pictures and action photos. I bought
Baseball Mogul 2004 over the web for download and I was disappointed
that it didn’t come with any player photos at all. Other than that
it was the same old Baseball Mogul screens that I have become so
accustomed to looking at. The best new feature graphically is the
ability to resize that game window. Sometimes that comes in handy.

Baseball Mogul is all about control. Being a GM of a professional
baseball franchise is my dream job, and Baseball Mogul puts you
right in that seat. You control every aspect of how your franchise
is run from how much money you have in your farm system budget to
how much you charge for hot dogs at the ball park. Trying to find
the balance of building a winning team while staying within your
budget and keeping all the fans happy is one heck of a job. At first
I would play as the GM of my favorite team, the New York Mets, but
because of their fan loyalty and high income and exposure they were
too easy to win with. You want a challenge? Try playing as the GM
of Montreal. I spent 25 years building that club into a respectable
franchise, and the only thing I could do to make them any better
was move them to Washington DC where I could make more money. Like
I said before, you have complete control. If you’re a franchise
sports junky, than this is your game.

The main challenge of Baseball Mogul is just keeping track of everything
that’s going on. You have to r
ember who you have in the minors
and who gets paid what and when their contract ends and if you can
afford to keep them. The best thing that they did with Baseball
Mogul 2004 is instead of player contracts and budget being based
on a “point” system, they are now in actual dollar figures.
It makes it a lot easier to put things in perspective. It takes
a lot of time and creativity to build a franchise that is successful
year after year. Another part of the challenge is keeping your cool.
One season I got swept in the series and got really pissed off.
I went out in the off-season and signed everyone who was anyone.
The results turned out to be a disaster. Plugging that many new
players into a core that I already had built turned into more losses
than wins, I didn’t make the playoffs, and because of the huge contracts
of every player on my roster I ended up going into debt. Once you’re
in debt you can’t negotiate with any of your players who’s contract
term ends, and I ended up losing five of my best players.

Baseball Mogul is the most fun and addicting baseball franchise
game I have ever played. Everyone who considers himself a fan of
baseball must play this game at some point in time. There are very
few games that I can imagine that you could invest any near as much
time in as you will to Baseball Mogul. If I were to rate games on
a scale Baseball Mogul would get a 10 out of 10 on replay ability.
Yes, it is that good.

The best part, its only 20 bucks. Do yourself a favor, go out and
get this game or download it online at It might
take awhile to get the swing of things, but we’ll be seeing you
in our Mogulaholic’s support group in no time.

-Soda Out

[floatleft][/floatleft]If I had to describe Dynasty Warriors 4 in one word, it would definatly be “fun.” There’s something to be a said about a good hack A

[floatleft][/floatleft]Long have I awaited the return of the AKI wrestling engine. Ever since THQ ran off with the WWE license every wrestling game that they tried to put out has sucked. I figured that since WWE wasn’t dishing out any new licenses, and the thought of THQ and AKI joining up to do another game seemed pretty far fetched that video game wrestling’s glory days had come and gone. License? We don’t need no stinkin’ license. AKI’s engine is just to damn good to let die, and thank god that EA had the sense to realize this. EA Sports Big, which is known for it’s over-the-top presentation style, and AKI teamed up for the development on Def Jam Vendetta. Fans of the NWO vs. WCW series have been anxiously awaiting the release of Def Jam Vendetta, but with that comes some pretty high expectations. Will the engine port well to next-gen consoles? Will the substitution of rappers for wrestlers be a success? Why on earth didn’t they make this for the Xbox? Hopefully I’ll be able to get to all this questions and more in this review.

First of all I would like to discuss the graphics. Here is where the difficulty lies in reviewing this game. Do I base my opinion of the graphics on what they are like compared to the N64 games with this engine, or do I judge it compared to other PS2 games? Something that always bothered me was the polygonal appearance and the EXTREME amount of clipping that took place on the character models in the N64 games. Def Jam Vendetta actually did a pretty nice job on the character models. The characters look pretty smooth without looking strange like the models in THQ’s Smackdown do. Of course, EA Sports Big did make the characters look gigantic and flashy, which they are known to do. For some reason though they made all the character’s hands enormous; if you pay attention to the hands for a few minutes while playing you’ll start to notice how funny they look. The movements of the characters are very natural and smooth looking. Overall clipping of the fighters wasn’t a problem, but there was a couple of times when I caught someone’s foot going through someone else; it hardly enough to be noticeable though. The worst part of the character models is that the lip-sync is terrible. None of the character’s lip movements ever look like they are saying what they are supposed to be saying, it’s pretty bad. Another part of the N64 games that was just god-awful was the crowds and backgrounds. Def Jam Vendetta’s developers did a really great job on the backgrounds in the game. One level in particular that I remember well had a couple of girls dancing in the background and every time they caught your eye’s attention their movements were really fluid and created a cool environment for battle’s to be raged in. All in all I feel good about the graphics in Def Jam Vendetta. I think the developers did a good job, there are some areas that I would like to see improved, but hey, this is the PS2 I’m talking about.

[floatright][/floatright]Since this game bore the name of a Rap label, I figured beforehand that sound would be its strong point. Instead it turned out to be the most irritating, skull cracking part of Def Jam Vendetta. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not because I don’t like Rap music or the tracks they selected for the soundtrack. Imagine with me if you will a 15 second loop of “DMX – X Gonna Gonna Give It to Ya” over and over and over and over. It’s not even a good loop either; you can hear where they looped it. That’s basically what you have to deal with every single time you fight a match. After a few hours you want to beat your head up against the screen or mute the game. The sound effects aren’t bad; they are almost exactly the same as the N64 games. This game is better played on mute than anything else.

The controls in Def Jam Vendetta are exactly what you will remember from the N64 series. Anyone who spent a significant amount of time playing any of those games will have the controls mastered seconds after picking up Def Jam Vendetta. Surprisingly enough the PS2 control actually is pretty easy to use. I was a little bit leery about how the shift from the N64 controller to the PS2 controller would be, but all the buttons are where you would expect them to be. What I never realized is how hard the controls would be to master for someone who had never played any of the N64 games. I had a friend over for a few hours and it was really difficult to explain to him the strike, grapple, and move progression. For him it turned into a button mashing fest, so much so that his thumb got so sore he had to quit playing. It was frustrating for me to watch because I’ve played this type of game for so long that I know exactly what to do and when and he had no clue. After awhile he was able to master some aspects of the controls, but there is so much you can do with every single move and reversals that it would take a long time for him to totally get the hang of it. For you AKI engine veterans you’ll find the controls very responsive and you feel like you’re in complete control of you character.

It’s tough to decide how to rate how challenging this game is. Def Jam Vendetta is designed to be a one-player game and the game’s main feature is the story mode. I played through most of it in one night, and it does a pretty decent job of progressive difficulty, as you get further into the story. Having played past AKI games as much as I have makes this game extremely easy to me. I played it with the difficulty set at medium and I was tearing through the matches like butter. My friend who had never played before could barely beat anyone. I would say that the most challenging part for any newcomer would just be mastering the controls. Once you have that down you can pretty much sail through this game. Def Jam Vendetta also has a “Survival” game mode, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. The only problem is that I think I’m too good at this game and it just gets boring. I beat about 6 guys in 15 minutes and got bored and turned it off. I’m defiantly going to have to jack the difficulty up a bit. Personally my favorite part of the games using this series was the multiplayer, so I can’t get myself too worked up about the difficulty of this game.

[floatleft][/floatleft]When thinking about the fun factor and replay ability of Def Jam Vendetta it’s impossible to separate my feelings for the N64 games. There are so many things that I wish they would have included that were some of my favorite parts of the old games. My favorite feature was always the Royal Rumble. We used to have 10-15 people crammed in Pickle’s tiny room all fighting over who gets to be the next character that runs in. The multiplayer was so much fun, I don’t understand why they would stray from that and make it primarily a single player game. There are some multiplayer aspects in the game, but that is pretty difficult to deal with. The camera angle is a little bit low and when you get involved in a tag-team match or any type of match with four people you spend a lot of time complaining about not being able to see anything that’s going on. The other thing that’s frustrating is that the story is very linear. In No Mercy the story would branch out a lot and you’d have people running smack and run-ins. It was great. But no matter what character you play with in Vendetta you always progress from match a to b to c, with the same cinematics every time. Speaking of character selection, this games big draw is that you can be these cool ass rappers. Strangely enough you can’t use any of them in the story mode though. Most of the guys you would want to play as don’t even start as being unlocked. All I wanted was to be Redman; I spent 3 hours trying to unlock him only to find out that I couldn’t use him in story mode. And why no create-a-fighter?

The previous paragraph is mainly for people who have played AKI wrestling games before. For those of you who never have, the AKI wrestling engine is like Mecca. All other wrestling games are nothing compared to the greatness that this engine is. If you are just getting started playing you are soon going to find yourself spending hours trying to memorize and master ever single move with every single wrestler, and than you’re going to want to get yourself a tag-team partner and master all the tag-teams moves. Pickle and I are a dominant tag-team; we used to do some of the coolest things in Revenge. If you are a fan of wrestling or fighting games at all you need to check this game out.

Although I have some complaints, it is so good to see the AKI engine back in action. Maybe I’ll have to wait for Ultimate Muscle: Legends Vs. New Generation to get some of the features back that I used to enjoy so much, but Def Jam Vendetta is defiantly something that can hold me over for now. If you have played the N64 games before than I would probably recommend renting this game prior to buying. It’s defiantly worth playing, but odds are you are going to be too good at it if you are a veteran to get the replay ability out of it you are looking for. I actually purchased Def Jam Vendetta instead of renting because I want to support AKI and I hope their engine never goes away.

-Soda Out