Frothing Demand

Rabid commentary on video games, movies and television.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


I spent the majority of my Sunday editing the GTAIV review that will hit Internode sometime this week, the reason being that neither the copy editor nor content editor had played the game.

As a critic/review in this industry, I make an effort to play the vast majority of releases in the industry, regardless of their quality. I can accept that the two editors had not played it, as their roles do not require them to have insight on the majority of releases, but I was shocked to find that many big name reviewers and bloggers had little to no experience with the Grand Theft Auto series prior to the release of the fourth game.

There are certain big name games that I have missed over the years, due to not being behind a particular piece of hardware or perhaps not even owning said piece of hardware, but I’ve made it my duty to try and track these games down and play them to enhance my perspective. It’s a time consuming exercise, but I think it adds to the work that I do churn out, and will hopefully benefit those who read my articles.

This week’s entry is a little rushed as I’m likely to be playing catch up all week. There are certain parts of the Warp Pipe I’m now preparing in advance, I’ve got reviews to write for Okami and NBA Ballers, and the first part of the Warp Pipe’s Metal Gear Retrospective to plan and write.

Iron Man (Xbox 360) at Internode Games Network

The Warp Pipe at Internode Games Network

posted by Matthew Keller at 5:29 pm  

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Software Drought

After struggling with a belated Mario Kart Wii review all week, it struck me that there are no major releases for another four weeks. Typically there would be a “drought” of games until early September, but I think the industry is finally getting their act together. They may have realised that it would be better to position some of their software outside of the holiday season, where it’s bound to be eclipsed by superior first party efforts. June, July and August, traditionally quiet months for me, will be pretty busy – July more so with the rescheduled E3 in its second year.

Playing through Heavenly Sword this weekend – I like a condensed, action-packed experience like this, i.e. “the perfect rental”. Should I manage to beat it later today, it will be the 34th game I’ve knocked over so far this year. I’ve decided to try turning my attention away from going after a large achievement score on Xbox Live, after I couldn’t crack the #50 barrier without lowering myself to playing childrens games and hunting sims like the rest of the community, so my scoring rate will slow down to reflect the type of releases coming out.

My hoarding tendencies and backlog have changed quite a bit with my financial situation. I’ve spent roughly half of what I normally would have on games by this point in the year, and have made an effort to rent a lot of titles I want to play, or get Charly to bring them home from work for a brief period. The backlog of games to beat is in the 70-80 range, I’d like to knock over 30-40. My goal for finished titles this year is 100, and with games needing to be reviewed, I should exceed that in the end.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village (Nintendo DS) at Internode Games Network

The Warp Pipe at Internode Games Network

posted by Matthew Keller at 11:17 am  

Monday, May 12, 2008


Left it a little late tonight to write this, since I’ve been tidying up a number of little jobs today, and finishing some games that I’ve had on rental for about 3 weeks now. Most of my time this weekend was meant to be spent with Mario Kart Wii and Okami, but they fell by the wayside as I finished Viking. Of course, since I’m supposed to be reviewing Mario Kart and Okami, that’s bad prioritising on my part.

The Mario Kart series may be one of Nintendo’s strongest selling franchises, but in terms of quality, it has been on a steady slide since the initial entry. The main cause for this is the need on their behalf to make the game accessible. The thing is that Mario Kart always was pretty accessible – what Nintendo does to make the game more accessible only frustrates skilled players by stacking the odds against them. If you’re in first place in any Mario Kart game from Super Circuit onwards, chances are you’re going to cop a hiding from a blue shell and lightning at least once in a race. If you’re in last, you’ll get a blue shell, super star, bullet bill, golden mushroom or any other object that’s going to spit you into the top 3 in the next 15 seconds.

Normally I just grin and bear it with Mario Kart, but when I was playing on Friday, I experienced the game’s help from both perspectives – it happens very blatantly in the Wii version, a factor which makes me really not like the game at all. If I’m losing in a race, I would like to learn my lesson – if I race like crap, I deserve to come last and have to try again and do better by say, learning the course. Instead, the game gave me a series of power ups which put me from 12th place to first within 10 seconds, giving me the race and the cup.

I’ve yet to try the game online, but its safe to say at this stage that Mario Kart Wii is a bit of a bust. Maybe they should just do an update of the SNES version on Wii Ware with 4 player GP and Battle.

UEFA Euro 2008 (PS3) at Strategy Informer
Army of Two (Xbox 360) at Internode Games Network
Castlevania: Dracula X Chronicles (PSP) at Internode Games Network

The Warp Pipe at Internode Games Network

posted by Matthew Keller at 12:06 am  

Sunday, May 4, 2008

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.


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


The Warp Pipe at Internode Games Network

posted by Matthew Keller at 10:08 am  

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