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Forgot to update for seven years, sorry!

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On The Spike VGAs

Ads. Pre-rendered trailers. Ads. Sponsor name drop. Ads. Casually rush through bunch of irrelevant awards, which are given to games you don’t give a shit about/don’t deserve recognition/came out in the last two months. More sponsor name dropping. D-List celebrities making awkward jokes. Ads.

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Reviewing the system

Over the last seven years, I’ve written 420 game reviews – about half of those in the last two years for “professional” rates. I’d love to review games for the rest of my life, but over the last three months, I’ve been educated on just how volatile this industry can be, having gone from reviewing 8-12 games per month to none.

In the extra time I’ve had to twiddle my thumbs and watch other people review games that I wanted to cover. Much of it, even from alleged “seasoned veterans” has made me want to bang my head against the wall until I pass out.

Reviews of AAA titles have become superfluous. The sheer amount of media – screenshots, previews, videos and demos – provided before a game’s release is enough to influence the consumer’s decision to buy a game well before a review hits. People who read websites for games news are well-informed compared to what we were 15 years ago when we solely relied on magazines for all gaming news – there’s no need to provide these consumers with advice. Most people who read online reviews basically come to see whether or not you agree with their opinion on the game so they can feel validated.

The system is so focused on reviews of these mass-market titles that many smaller projects and independent games – games where a review could have due influence – go uncovered. From a financial perspective, it’s well and truly understandable, but there’s a gap there – one that I intend to start filling.

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RROD

Copped it again. Not sending this one in for repair since it’s out of warranty – going to hold out until the 23rd for the pricedrop + Halo 3 ODST bundle. In the mean time, I can use Charly’s machine to get my work done.

Time for some quick capsule reviews in the mean time.

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box
The Layton sequel brings more of the same sorts puzzles and mystery solving – fortunately it fantastic the first time around and works well again here.

Dissidia: Final Fantasy
Battle of the Androgynous Sissy Boys with a decent fighting system and solid RPG elements surrounding it. Jarring difference in the quality of character conception between the first six Final Fantasy heroes and the later four.

Batman: Arkham Asylum
Latest Caped Crusader outing is one of only two games he’s in that doesn’t make me want to puke. Succeeds as both a Batman product and a video game due to high production values (including the involvement of the animated series crew) and some fantastic gameplay that makes players feel like Batman for once.

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Quick Capsule Reviews

Sometimes the best review is a quick one. My bank account doesn’t necessarily agree, but sometimes you can tell someone all they need to know in 50 words or less. I figured I’d do that here and slap on a traffic light styled rating system for those people with even shorter attention spans and ratings fetishes.

Shadow Complex
Everyman stumbles upon extremist plot to take over USA while looking for kidnapped girlfriend in action/adventure inspired heavily by Super Metroid et al. What it lacks in gameplay originality is made up for by its sheer quality.

G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra
Deplorable tie-in to a not-so-bad summer action film feels like it was rushed together in record time. Very basic gameplay structure, difficulty is absent, and variety is minimal. Plays like a bad Contra game.

Ashes Cricket 2009
Latest Codemasters cricket title features a very in-depth bowling system, which came at the expense of the rest of the game’s quality. Far too many glitches than acceptable in a retail product, poor presentation and too easy to master.

Madden NFL 10
EA’s latest American Football effort still feels inferior to their 2005 game on last gen hardware. Some nice new presentation features, but everything feels shakey and disjointed; only die-hard fans will be able to detect and appreciate any changes.

Trials HD
Don’t let the dirt bike fool you – Trials HD is a devious, spectular and addictive physics based puzzle game. Starts out easy and gets crazy hard but never becomes exceedingly frustrating. Level editor and excellent leaderboard implementation will make it go further if you’ve got a few friends.

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Changing things.

I don’t really make good use of this blog, mainly because I find most bloggers to be really annoying, and I don’t really think I can add anything of value. However, I did pay good money for this domain name and a year’s worth of hosting, so usefulness be damned.

Obviously, the whole daily update thing just isn’t me. I’m hopeless at being on the cutting edge of news – that’s the kind of stuff I’d rather just read than write. Also, my work is posted at inconsistent times on varying days, so I thought that maybe I could write some sort of topical rant here each Sunday, and accompany it with links to all of my work that has been posted over the last week. Everybody wins.

This week has all been about Grand Theft Auto IV. I had to rush through four reviews this week in order to get time to play it, and I’ve now put in about 24 hours worth of play over the course of four days, so everything’s sunk in a little. I’m not doing a review of the game for any of the sites I write for, but I will say that I do not agree with the critical consensus.

This critical consensus is something of an emerging problem facing the writing side of the industry. It’s almost like game reviews are written on the basis that they are kept within a certain range dictated by a hive mindset (usually the first few reviews to hit the internet). Any deviation from this hivemind rating will earn you the scorn of readers and PR people alike. Gamerankings and Metacritic are used on the corporate side of things to determine various factors – if you are not in a standard deviation of the meta score, then obviously, you’re full of shit.

Grand Theft Auto IV is not worth a 10. It is a fantastic game, with a great story and solid gameplay, but in focusing on the story, Rockstar North has lost a lot of the freedoms previously presented in the preceding three games (or five, if you count the PSP games). While players can still roam Liberty City at their whim, there is not the wealth of other play options. Cab, Courier and Vigilante missions are back, but work on a one at a time system, while missions for the fire service, ambulance and such are nowhere to be seen. I expected a certain level of cutbacks, but this game keeps you much more tightly bound to the story than before.

There are a lot of little things that are very frustrating. The most frustrating one comes in the form of SMS retries – sure, it’s nice that the game lets you keep all of your equipment in the event that you die (which is now bloody expensive), but most missions start with a ridiculously long drive to a certain point, really negating the point of a retry option. I’m really feeling the length of some of these missions too – would it kill them to have a checkpoint in some of the larger missions (like Three Leaf Clover)?

I’m getting towards the end of the game, and I’m finding many of the missions to be really difficult. The odds really get stacked up against Niko; I’d compare these missions to the Area 52 mission or the final mission of San Andreas, based on the sheer number of enemies you come up against. Fortunately, the game’s greatly improved mechanics make it much less frustrating than it could have been. I want to wrap the game up today so I can get on with my work for this month.

Reviews

Time Crisis 4 (PS3) at Internode Games Network
Turning Point: Fall of Liberty (Xbox 360) at Internode Games Network
Condemned 2: Bloodshot (Xbox 360) at Internode Games Network

Features

The Warp Pipe at Internode Games Network

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Update

Taking a much needed long weekend after busting my ass for two months without a day off. Internode has posted a lot of my stuff while I’ve been away, so here it goes.

Warp Pipe – GTA Retrospective Part 3
Sega Superstar Tennis review
Super Smash Bros. Brawl review

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Daily Froth – 15/2

Next-Gen.biz deal fell through.

Webcomic is cancelled.

Warp Pipe will be up on Sunday.

People from last house have not sent my mail over. Boo-urns.

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