Sunday, January 31, 2010

MAG Review by Hitman0769 and Hayabusaman

MAG Review by Hitman0769 and Hayabusaman

*This review contains 3 parts: In-Depth Editorial Review, Itemized Breakdown Review, and Review Scores Summary.*

In-Depth Editorial Review:

People said it couldn’t be done, it wouldn’t ever release, but January 26, 2010 Zipper Interactive released MAG the 256 person online Squad-Based Tactical First Person Shooter. MAG’s overall size is pure madness! It’s backed by the best possible scenario a dedicated server system of structured servers that make intelligent decisions relaying info to each player’s fixed bandwidth. The weapon fire is accurate, power balance and damage play out 100 times better than Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare 2 in every way. You will find none of the common balance issues, gameplay glitches, camping problems, spawn killing issues, etc. that plague some of today’s more popular shooters. (I will break down how the detail of the game stacks up side by side to Modern Warfare 2 a couple times in this review since it is a recent release which sold over 11 million copies in its first week, and many gamers can relate on the online tendencies of the game.)

The major difference in the game is that it hosts battles up to 128vs128 (on squads of 8). While some people have misunderstood this to mean it is actually 8 players online, that is not the case. Others have expected small maps stuffed full of players. Thankfully the game is neither of these and instead the maps are massive and game modes have you interacting and working together with the other 8-man squads on your team constantly. Whether one squad is providing cover fire, destroying Anti-Air cannons, the other squad might be rushing a gate and need cover fire from that squad. The leaders of squads, platoons, etc can jump in and out of exclusive leadership chats with the press of a quick and convenient controller macro. And there is also proximity chat with all your teammates. Quick and precise communication is key as every microsecond counts!

MAG provides a full function clan system allowing larger groups of players with more control disbursed through multiple leaders. The in-game integration of PSN features like sending a message, adding friends, sending clan invites, and party invites are completely integrated into the score board and player profile links and make using these features during the heat of battle easier then ever. One problem found in the game causing pains is the fact that you cannot join any faction but the original one you started the game with (Example: Raven, SVER, Valor). This splits up everyone in your clan that doesn’t want to start over and conform to one team. However, a simple solution : the game is good enough to make 3 PlayStation Network accounts allowing you to have a character on each team and giving your clan members the choice of which team they would like to be. This is optional solution for more advanced gamers and many would argue this takes too much time for them, however the game is so addicting and satisfying to play that it really only adds to the experience playing as all 3 PMC’s (Private Military Companies).

What is MW2’s clan system? Oh yeah! You change your clan tag by typing in whatever you want Johnny on the spot, and people you recruit have to ask you who your members are since there is no list. Two thumbs DOWN!!!

MAG actually offers you a ride to your destination; whether it is APC driven with cannon or the .50 cal at least you are getting a ride. Also if you get rid of the enemy’s anti-air defense you can ride in with the dual .50 cal chopper into enemy territory. Both the APC and Chopper are also used as mobile spawn points so you can choose where to spawn to help your teammates out. There is even parachute deployment in the game, which works out great for snipers getting to those hard to reach places!

Tactically speaking, this game makes sense. Take Acquisition mode for example, if you are going to get the vehicles you have to plant charges and take down gates, bunkers, and roadblocks to get to the destination that you are going to, and in the mean time these can be repaired by repair tools in the hands of enemies. The multiple squads have to coordinate and work together to achieve objectives and not always in an obvious order. A good squad leader must probe the weaknesses of the other team’s strategy and cannot simply win by running in and shooting or sitting around and camping like many other games. Furthermore, the ability to get shot from much farther away then most games puts the intensity level of your actions to maximum. Every move you make on the battlefield is crucial to your fate on it.

Itemized Breakdown Review

1. Graphics – The graphics in MAG are sharp and clear and provide the virtual perception of 100% visibility. Many people have expressed that Killzone 2 or other games have better graphics but the precision of clarity and realistic lighting in maps as used in MAG inspired by places like Russia and Alaska allows you to see all the way to the other size of the map, even though the characters are smaller down the horizon as they would be in real life you can actually still see them in this game. You do actually get to use the entire size of the maps in MAG and you can kill somebody from hundreds of meters away because of the clarity in the graphics. Score: 9.5/10

2. Sound/Music – The THX Theater Certified music and sound effects in MAG are top of the line. Nothing to complain about in this category. Score: 10/10

3. Gameplay – The only thing gamers might find tedious about MAG is a bit too much running in some of the smaller modes with no vehicles. Score: 9.8/10

4. Party/Invite System – The party/invite system works great!!! It is practically flawless, the first shooter in the past few years that works properly, right away, and robust and reliably. No party and joining glitches such as Modern Warfare 2’s problems. The success of the Party/Invite system can be attributed to dedicated server structure and the 5 betas which were used to work out bugs in the system. Score: 10/10

5. Dedicated Servers – This is a trend I would like to see much MUCH more games follow! The dedicated server system in Warhawk was good but ahead of its time. MAG takes the dedicated server structure a step further and the end result is a truly amazing FPS experience. Score: 10/10

6. List of Known Bugs (if any) – So far there is a small amount of cheaters in the MAG game. Because of the way the dedicated servers in MAG intelligently test your fire rate and reload rate and things like this at random to keep track of your bandwidth, the game will also be able to get rid of/ prevent people from cheating. One other inconvenience that will hopefully be changed soon is that to see the names in your teammates on other squads you need to be aiming at them very precisely. In the heat of battle asking a guy for help on proximity chat would be much easier if those teammates not on your squad had their names as large as your squad mate’s names and always displayed. Given the fact that Modern Warfare 2 has much more problems with cheaters and actual matchmaking bugs, I think this is not very bad as its MAG’s worst issue.

7. Compelling Reasons to Buy MAG (even if you already like a shooter you have) – 256 Players! Newest, biggest First Person shooter in gaming history! Gigantic state of the art maps with strategic value, live animation, and the sound of the battlefield are completely realistic. Tactical Shooting superior to many mindless killing and camping games out there! You actually get to ride in the helicopter without having to camp first and kill 20 people.

8. Replay Value – I personally can predict my replay value being greater then the previous 6 games I’ve purchased in this genre. Because of the amount of people involved in this epic proportion game, I don’t see it as a problem trying to play MAG with some one years from now. The gameplay can change at any given moment because of tactical approach, player skill set, circumstances of the battle, and more. Re-Spec feature allows players to completely re-tailor their character using the skill points they have earned throughout their career in the field various times as they earn Re-Spec points while playing. When players reach level 60 they can also use Veteran mode to roll over into one of the other three factions, carrying over their accomplishments, stats, and many other achievements with them. In addition optionally using three different characters will extend the playability to a whole new level by experiencing the different weapons sets and graphics of each different faction! Score: 9.5/10

Review Scores Summary:

Graphics - Score: 9.5/10
Sound/Music - Score: 10/10
Gameplay - Score: 9.8/10
Replay Value - Score: 9.5/10
Party/Invite System - Score: 10/10
Dedicated Servers - Score: 10/10
Overall - Score: 9.5/10

©Images Copyright to Sony Computer Entertainment and Zipper Interactive
All trademarked properties belong to their respective owners.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Upcoming Must Buy Games

So in my apartment, across from the kitchen there's a white board. That whiteboard has a special section, games I want to get.

If you were to look at my board, right now there's 5 games, 2 of which haven't been released yet. These are my must buy games.

The first of these games is Heavy Rain. Coming out on February 23rd, you can see our trailer review here. Calling this a game is a little like calling F1 racer a car. While technically true, this description doesn't really give you the whole picture. Heavy Rain is a playable movie and the first game to really embrace that aspect of gaming.

The other big game is Battle Field Bad Company 2. I'd like to highlight one passage from the Amazon review:
Destruction 2.0. Take down entire buildings, create firepoints or blow it up entirely. In Battlefield Bad Company 2 there is be no place to hide.
While there hasn't been a trailer review on here, I've talked about GameStop exclusives.

I'm keeping an eye on several other upcoming games, such as Valkyria Chronicles 2, but I don't have enough information to recommend anything else at this time.

Oh and for the other 3 games on my board? I'm just waiting for a price drop on Wii Sports Resort, Brütal Legend and Uncharted 2.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

WTF - BFBC2 Gamestop MP Mode

So I had the privilege of playing Battle Field Bad Company 2 during the PS3 beta. While I cannot say more than that (EULAs suck!) @mittense brought to my attention the whoring out of game modes. In the past retailers such as GameStop and Best Buy have had pre-order exclusives. Hell, they have enough purchasing power, that they can demand special prices and favors from game publishers. I mean it is their job to squeeze out the Mom and Pop game shops because they can then demand higher prices from consumers and control the publishers better.

Up to this point, the items have been costumes or special weapons for single player mode, they haven't limited the game play. Yes it affects the few of us who absolutely must have everything, the fanatics but for the general player, meh. But as Bob Dylan said, "The times, they are a changing".

GameStop, Best Buy and their pre-ordering system represents an immediate threat to gamers. Not because it is causing people in your community to loose their jobs. Not because they charge obscene prices and give back a pittance in trade in. It is because we have already given these companies far too much power in our entertainment and our lives.

Take for example the pre-order system. Let's say I pre-order BFBC2, from GameStop. Now I'm locked into buying from them, even if my local game shop comes up with a better deal.

Some gamers may not be too keen on that idea. So, instead of competing with the local game shop, GameStop went to the publisher to limit competition. And like the little kid bullied by for his lunch money, the publishers relent. I mean if GameStop won't carry their game, imagine the loss of audience. And just like a bully, once they get a little bit, they start asking for more. I expect in the not too distant future GameStop to demand that multiplayer mode on new games only be for GameStop pre-orders.

Let me be clear, I do not begrudge the workers at GameStop, but the management is trying to harm all of us.

This has to stop. And the best way to stop it is to vote with your money. If you've pre-ordered BFBC2 from GameStop, cancel it. If someone offers you an invite to the 'Squad Rush Mode' reject it. Not only boycott the store, but the game mode as well. Support your local game shop. Take a stand now, because if you don't you won't have a leg to stand on later.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Welcome, People from DualShockers

So after a month of horse trading, back room deals and a pint of goat's blood it is finally official. Full Frontal Gaming is part of the DualShockers' blog roll. (Okay, so it really wasn't that bad.)

I for one would like to welcome our new gaming overlords as well as any visitors from DualShockers.

5 More Games You Wish You Had

Uncharted 3, Infamous 2, Starhawk, Killzone 3, Resistance 3!!!
(Plus Uncharted 2 DLC Details)

With 2009 an overwhelming success for the PlayStation 3’s exclusive lineup there was no doubt in my mind that we would soon be hearing about more and more amazing exclusives. With Uncharted 2 holding down the Game of the Year crown jewel of gaming awards last year, it’s no surprise that Naughty Dog is hard at work getting the new Uncharted 2 DLC released!

Beginning with the***1/28/10---UPDATE NOT FREE $4.99*** Heroes pack users will be able to play in multiplayer matches as Nathan Hale (from Resistance 2), Chimera (Resistance 2), Zeke (from Infamous), Good Cole (Infamous), Evil Cole (Infamous), Sergeant Tomas "Sev" Sevchenko (Killzone 2) and Helghast Soldier (from Killzone 2). In addition to this free download pack expected to arrive in PlayStation Store on January 28th there is also a mysterious two more DLC packs being released which have not been completely detailed accurately yet but are expected to include more multiplayer maps and possibly Uncharted 1 playable characters as well as a new co-op mode.

As if this WASN’T ENOUGH to be excited about. Voice actor Nolan North, who has stated numerous times that he wants to work for Uncharted 3, is telling the media that ‘2010 will be a busy year’. Insiders speculate that Uncharted 3 has begun development, while nothing Naughty Dog says is quieting these rumors. On top of this Co-Lead Game Designer Neil Druckman has said Uncharted 3 will be graphically optimized significantly.

Next order of business, securing the future for PlayStation owners it seems a no brainier that rumors and press stirrings of Infamous 2 are erupting all over the place. When I called in Kotaku Blog Talk Radio to ask Amy Hennig about multiplayer in games she told me she fully expects more games such as Infamous to be given multiplayer segments. This seems also like a no brainier, but that does not lower the magnitude that we will possibly be seeing a multiplayer-enabled Infamous 2 in stores soon! Regardless of the multiplayer being added or not I think we can all agree Infamous 2 will be a PS3 Exclusive everyone will talk about.

Beyond these amazing franchises that made their debut on the PlayStation 3 and continue to grow stronger. We also have a major possibility that a certain crew who made Warhawk a household name again is working on possibly the most incredible online game of all time, the much rumored and anticipated Starhawk.

Another game that has come from other PlayStation systems to the PS3 and is advancing at a rapid rate now is Killzone. With Killzone 2 in January we saw room for improvement but a damn good game, some say the best! Guerilla Games has been rumored to be working hard on Killzone 3 and it should be no surprise. This is according to Official PlayStation Magazine rumors that I’d bet are leading us on to something true. While it seems the team has said Sony is not pressuring them for a 2010 release date, we can surely be excited for a new Killzone in either 2010 or 2011!

And how can I forget, perhaps the most official rumored exclusive of them all, Resistance 3. A billboard ‘showed up’ early in Louisiana recently showing off the new ad campaign of Resistance 3 already in effect. Perhaps this is the first out the gate for Sony’s next round of exclusives? As if our wallet's aren't being damaged enough by Heavy Rain, God of War 3, Final Fantasy 13, Gran Turismo 5, we now have a whole new lineup of some of gaming’s most incredible franchises that are making history on the PlayStation 3.

If even half of these rumors are true that means that gaming as we know it is about to advance in major ways. There are your new Five games you wish you had : Uncharted 3, Infamous 2, Starhawk, Killzone 3, and Resistance 3 about to take gaming by storm! Now all you need is a time machine and/or some type of Skeleton Key for Sony Beta Signup Forms!!!


*All registered copyrights belong to their respective owners, Pictures (C) to Sony Computer Entertainment

Edit: ***1/28/10--- UPDATE: Uncharted 2 DLC Heroes Pack NOT FREE $4.99***

WTF - XBox360 Hard Drive Upgrade

In a time where hard drives are a commodity and storage space on the next generation consoles is limited, Microsoft has figured out how to cash in. Let's say you have a cheaper 20 GB Xbox 360 and you want 120 GB, be prepared to shell out $149.99. To put that in perspective, as of today for your desktop computer that would be 1.5 Terabytes (Seagate Barracuda ST315005N1A1AS-RK 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Retail, 3 year warranty) or for your laptop/PS3 you get 500 Gigabytes (Seagate Momentus ST905003N3A1AS-RK 7200 RPM 16MB Cache 2.5" SATA 3.0Gb/s Internal Notebook Hard Drive -Retail, 5 year warranty) with 20 bucks to spare for dinner.

Why is Microsoft's hard drive less than half the size for the same price? Because they can. And god help any gamer who doesn't want to pay.

If they catch you using a non-Microsoft approved hard drive, well you're banned from XBox Live, Microsoft's online gaming network. They do this because to even support a bigger hard drive you have to mod your XBox360. Since it is modded, according to Microsoft you're obviously trying to pirate games. Rather than making it easy for gamers to upgrade the storage space, like on the PS3, the XBox360 isn't upgrade friendly. WTF!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Yellow Light Of Doom vs Red Ring Of Death

So, when the PS3 has a problem, you'll see the Yellow Light Of Doom. Similarly when the XBox360 has a problem you'll see the Red Ring Of Death. As for the Wii, I haven't heard what it does when it fails.

Both Microsoft and Sony have had problems with their next generation consoles. I keep seeing posts saying that every 60 GB PS3 has been put in for repair. The XBox360 isn't much better as I've had a co-worker go through 3 XBox360's due to the Red Ring Of Death.

So here's my anecdotal evidence. I have a 60 GB backwards compatible 1st generation PS3. I have 2 co-workers with the same model. None of them have shown the YLOD. I also have a 2nd gen 40 gig PS3, which performs like a champ. I've personally logged hundreds if not thousands of hours running my 60 GB PS3. While I've had online friends experience the YLOD, no reports from my co-workers.

On the other hand, the XBox360 hasn't been so lucky. Multiple co-workers have reported the RROD. As I said earlier, one co-worker has experienced this multiple times.

Furthermore, it is obvious that Sony has done something about the failing PS3s. While not 100% effective, the redesign seems to have quelled the uprising caused by failures.

The XBox360 on the other hand, shows no redesign. It may have happened and I'm not aware of it, but it seems like they would want to change the form factor as well to better address heat issues.

I don't know, it seems to me, while Microsoft has made strides to correct their design flaws externally (offering a repair program), Sony went and addressed the root cause (re-designing the hardware to prevent issues in the first place).

As for those with a broken disc reader on their PS3, it does suck that Sony isn't offering a repair program like Microsoft. And for anyone in that situation, I really feel for ya.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Adult Themes in Gaming Today

So, while not everyone who reads this is from the USA, we all feel the influence of American society. I'm talking about sexual themes in games. Companies like Nintendo and Sony will all out kill games that don't conform to their acceptable view of the world, but it seems the envelope is growing.

What you have to understand about he US is, seeing a women's nipple is considered more harmful to a kid than watching someone killed. Don't believe me? For those in the US, how many times have you seen a nipple during prime time? How many times have you seen someone killed?

Violence is considered OK, while sex is not. But now it seems, for Sony/Microsoft at least, violence is a way to slip things past. Take for example Conan on the PS3, it was the first game to actually show bare breasts in HD (at least on a major console). Now let's look at the next few games, Bayonetta, Dante's Inferno and Heavy Rain. All include violence, all include nudity (or partial nudity).

Is this a bad trend? In my opinion, no. The US is far too sensitive about nudity, which is a big part of art. Some of the most famous and influential art is of the nude figure. And when you talk about art, video games are the new medium.

Still, count the number of M rated games and compare that with the number of AO games (for sexuality) and you'll see there's a long way to go.

Friday, January 22, 2010

DyanJobe's Tweets - Starhawk?!?

So it was quick, a simple tweet:
@DylanJobe: One of our AI programmers today admitted he listens to "Dangerzone" while coding flight AI -- Awesome!
For those who don't know, Dylan Jobe is the public face of Warhawk. He left to start his own studio, LightBox Interactive and has been working on "Super Rub A Dub 2", or so he claims. In the mean time Sony has registered the trademark "Starhawk" and even started a website.

But this tweet represents more information than we ever had before. It indicates that they are working on (though again, it may not make it to the final game) computer controlled flying objects.

I say flying objects because of the following tweets:

@DylanJobe: Yeah, it's gonna weird for people when the proof of Alien life is finally disclosed...
@DylanJobe: ... but weirder still when people realize "Greys" are more like robots than aliens.

Oh and there's this as well:
@DylanJobe: Am I really *that* crazy for preferring the visual results of simple sphere env maps over cube env maps?!?
While the context isn't given, one could draw a couple of different conclusions.
  1. DylanJobe believes aliens are out there (plausible)
  2. In the new game, there are aliens which you're fighting, and they look like robots right now.
Also the team isn't forgetting their Warhawk roots:
@DylanJobe: Whole studio is playing Warhawk at lunch -- it's good to keep the team calibrated.
Hopefully this means there will be a ground fighting in the new game. But I've gotten off track. The reason Flight AI is a "game changer" is because in Warhawk there wasn't any real AI. This indicates LightBox is working on computer controlled flying objects to play against. This strongly indicates a single player mode to the game. "Rock on!"

That said, this is just conjecture at the moment, but keep an eye out.

Oh and a final note, I can't make heads or tails out of this:
@DylanJobe: Unwatered rain spout.
I suspect that he's just screwing with our heads. So take all of this with an appropriate amount of salt (about 1 ton should do it).

HEAVY7666 - Dylan Jobe is one to Riddle everything in his own mind .. this may mean that everything he says and "tweets" may in fact be of some relivance or importance ?!? .. The funny thing about the entire process for me is to look back and see certain things that are said (via Twitter) and wonder if Maybe ..just Maybe , His Dog has a Role in the New "Project" .. aka - Starhawk or Super-rub-a-dub 2 :the return of Ducky ... Only time will tell

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Trailer Review - Heavy Rain

For years, video games have relied heavily on movie like aspects. For example, Wing Commander over a decade ago had professional voice and character actors. That said, while this undertone existed none have really embraced their movie like quality. Heavy Rain is set to break that barrier, by ushering in a new type of game. Think choose your own adventure meets Hollywood.

So, finally acknowledging their movie roots, the Heavy Rain trailer plays more like a movie trailer than a game trailer. We start out with narration from one of the main characters. I say one, because this game has 4 main characters.

The antagonist in this game is a serial killer, known as the Origami Killer. He has taken a boy, and the narrator is that boy's father. While none of this is explained by the trailer, you need to have this background to understand what is going on. Que the shot of the boy and his father.

Of course the whole family has to be involved.

If you're like me, you'll recognize that this film style seems to be in vouge right now, showing several angles a the same time.

Although it doesn't show it, use of the motion control and quick time events are required to "watch/control" this movie. A main character can even die, and the story will continue skipping that character in future chapters. Que the diving save.

The story line appears intense and the characters draw you in, even in the trailer. This is more than just a movie, you want to save the child.

This game looks great from everything I've seen. It is done by a French gaming comapany Quantic Dream.

Word of warning though, this is rated M and does include nudity. Games are pushing the edge of the ratings finally, but that's another post.

So time for the scores.
  • Explosions - No
  • Game Play - Yes & No (Game is all about the video)
  • Pre-rendered Video - Yes (But that's the whole game)
  • See the trailer - Yes
  • Overall Rating 14/15
Buy, Rent or Skip the game - Buy (for now)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Hiatus is Over

As you may have noticed, there's been a steep drop off in the number of articles posted.

This is fully my fault, as the main contributor. While I could make excuses as to why I didn't update the site, the truth is, after the Logo Contest where no one entered, it was clear to me that no one really read this outside the few people I already knew on twitter.

To a certain extent, this is my own fault, but I had dozens of people (according to the tracker) that visited the rules for the contest and putting white text on a black background proved to be too much to ask. So I went on a hiatus.

I've never heard back from the lawyers about using screen shots of game trailers. Never heard back from a site that was asking for blogs about gaming for their blog roll. Despite these setbacks, I'm going forward with the blog.

Consider the hiatus over. And hopefully I can get the other contributors to post here as well.
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