Review – Metal Gear Solid : Portable Ops (PSP)

Anticipation : 9
Expectation : 9
Initial Reaction : 10
Overall : 9
Genre : Third-Person Action/Adventure

I was first introduced to Metal Gear on the Playstation 2 console. The gameplay and story was incredibly engaging and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Based on that experience, I purchased Metal Gear Solid for the Gameboy. The graphics were horrible compared to the Playstation, but I expected that. The game itself was pretty good.

Fast forward to the PSP launch and Metal Gear Acid. While I was caught a little by surprise at the card based gameplay, I was pretty satisfied overall with the experience. In fact, I plan on getting Metal Gear Acid 2 at some point in the future.

I picked up a copy of Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops after reading up on all the hype. I was pretty excited about the game prior to it’s release and couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. My enthusiasm was not in vain, MGS:PO is an incredible game.

The game opens with Snake being captured by his old unit, FoxHound. After rescuing another prisoner and escaping from the prison, Snake start on a mission to save the world. Again. Think Jack Bauer, but cooler.

General gameplay is similar to what previous MGS games provided. Sneaking around, attacking from hidden positions, sneaking up on unsuspecting enemies… It’s all there. It seems that Konami spared nothing when preparing this game for the PSP. The graphics are simply incredible, the controls are almost perfect, and the gameplay is amazing.

But wait, there’s more! You can recruit additional troops by capturing them. Each recruit comes with unique skills that assist you in accomplishing your goals. You can place each recruit into special units that give you additional abilities within the game. The spy unit gathers intelligence about locations you visit in the game. The tech unit manufactures new technology for combating the enemy. The medical unit heals your injured troops and sometimes produces useful items.

Multiplayer has a number of modes that you can take part in. Cyber Survival pits your team against other teams around the world. Cyber Survival is mostly hands off, outcomes being determined by a central server. However, loading up your troops with advanced gear can help to make your team a winner. During these missions, teams can encounter unique characters or capture prisoners of war which they bring back to your system.

There are also other multiplayer modes such as deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture. These games can be played in either Real or Virtual mode. The difference between these modes is rather simple. In real mode, if your character is killed, he’s a permanent loss from your game. Virtual mode allows you to play to your hearts content without the chance of losing a character forever.

MGS:PO is the first game I’ve played that has Game Sharing. Game Sharing is a method by which the game can be played with other PSP owners that don’t have their own copy of the game. They download a client from your PSP and then join in the multiplayer fun.

Overall, MGS:PO is an incredible game. The gameplay, story, and controls are all top notch. Definitely check this one out, it’s worth it.

Nerdcore Rising

I can’t remember when exactly I was introduced to MC Frontalot, but I do know it was a few years ago. It probably had something to do with Penny Arcade at the time.

Regardless, MC Frontalot is a rapper. I’m not really a rap type of person, but this particular rapper grabbed my attention. He raps about technology, gaming, and other topics that so-called Nerds are into. If you’re interested, he has a bunch of MP3s available on his site.

The interesting part of all of this is that he has a movie coming out called Nerdcore Rising. Well, that is, a movie is coming out that has him in it. Well, it’s more of a documentary, but you get the idea.

I’m actually finding myself pretty excited about seeing it and I thought I’d pass on the info. There are, to my knowledge, no confirmed bookings at this time, but you can request a booking via their homepage. And if you don’t get to see it in a theater, then perhaps you can pick it up on DVD when it comes out.

Check out the site, and check out some of the other Nerdcore rappers :

And if you’re interested in video game music in general, check these out :

Review – Wii Sports (Wii)

When purchasing a new console or handheld gaming system these days, it’s not uncommon to have to purchase a game to play on it. So when Nintendo announced that Wii Sports would be bundled with the console, it came as a bit of a surprise to many.

Wii Sports is a collection of five sports, Tennis, Bowling, Golf, Boxing, and Baseball. Each game is played by using the Wii Remote to mimic the actions required to play the sport in real life. So, for instance, when you’re at bat in baseball, you literally need to swing the Wii Remote like a bat in order to hit the ball.

Wii Sports is also the first game on the new console to integrate with the Mii Channel. Each avatar you create on the Mii channel will show up in each game as you play. The game will also keep statistics regarding your play and display them at the end of each game.

In addition to the main sports simulations are two additional modes, Training and Fitness. Training mode presents the player with a series of exercises designed to teach the player. For instance, boxing training teaches you how to use combo punches, dodge, and throw accurate punches. You can earn a bronze, silver, or gold medal depending on how you do in the exercise.

Fitness mode presents the player with three randomly chosen exercises from training more. It then calculates the players “fitness age” depending on how well the player does. You can only play this once per day per Mii, but the game keeps track of your results and presents them in a graphical format so you can check your progress.

Overall, Wii Sports is a ton of fun. In fact, despite purchasing more “polished” and “professional” games such as Zelda, my kids are inexorably drawn back to Wii Sports. I’m pretty impressed with this title and I definitely recommend it. Of course, being bundled with the console makes it a little easier to try it out.

Review – Nintendo Wii

On November 19th, Nintendo released it’s latest console, the Nintendo Wii. Instead of focusing on an evolution in graphical capabilities, Nintendo focused on a revolution in the way we play games. With a unique controller and a new outlook on gameplay, the latest in Nintendo gaming may well be the hit of the season.

After standing out in the cold for a few hours, I drove home with a nice new Wii and a couple of games to check out. Of course, being a Christmas gift, I wasn’t able to check out the console until the night of Christmas Eve, after the kids went to bed.

The time in between allowed me to find another controller and nunchuk. I also picked up a set of component cables after reading that the graphics looked a LOT better with them. Unfortunately, I was only able to find the Psyclone cables, which ran a hefty $60. But, they do seem to be well built, so I’m not too upset.

A total of three games made it home for the holidays, Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, and The Legend of Zelda : The Twilight Princess. Full reviews of these games will be coming sometime in the near future. All three of these games are excellent, however, which I find quite surprising for a console launch. In addition, the Wii comes with Wii Sports, a collection of sports games for general entertainment. While not as in-depth as some of the more popular third party titles, these games are polished enough to make them a lot of fun.

So what makes this such a great system? After all it’s really just a glorified Gamecube. Well, sort of. The processing power of the Wii is a bit more. The Gamecube clocked in at 485 MHz while the Wii clocks in at 729 MHz. Likewise, the Gamecube GPU ran at 162 MHz and the Wii runs at 243 MHz. There are obviously more differences but I won’t get into them. The real revolution is in the new controllers.

The Wii controller are wireless, using Bluetooth technology to wirelessly connect to the console. At launch, there are three different controllers. The Wii Remote is the primary controller with the Nunchuk and Classic Controller as add-ons. Most launch titles use either the Wii Remote, or the Wii Remote with the Nunchuk attached. The Classic Controller is primarily used for the Virtual Console games which I have yet to try.

The remote contains a number of accelerometers that allow the Wii to determine the speed at which you move the controller. Coupled with the Sensor Bar, the Wii can determine the location of the controller in 3D space, allowing for some interesting gameplay dynamics.

In addition, the Wii allows for online content such as a weather channel, news channel (not yet launched), a web browser (in beta), and an online store. There are likely more channels in production and will be released later in the consoles lifecycle.

Overall we had a blast playing the Wii and have clocked over 20 hours on it since Christmas day. There are still a number of launch titles that look excellent so I’m sure our library of titles will be growing. I highly recommend this system if you can get your hands on it. It is truly a revolution in gaming.

Flash Game Fun

I ran across a few flash games recently that were pretty fun to play. I thought perhaps I’d share the fun with everyone.

As part of his college thesis, Jenova Chen produced a game with Nicholas Clark and Austin Wintory. That game was called Flow and has since caught the eye of Sony and become one of the hottest downloads for the new PS3 console. Fortunately, they initially wrote the game using Flash and it’s online for you to play.

Flow is a very unique game with some interesting mechanics. It’s kind of like a free-form pacman type game. You start out as a small creature, something akin to a paramecium or plankton. You move around the screen and can “eat” other creatures in the world around you. As you feed on these creatures, you grow longer and more complex. Depending on the type of creature you eat, you can grow different parts.

There are also two very specific creatures that cause you to move up and down the levels. You can find these creatures easily by following their pulse. Every so often a pulse emanates outwards from the creature and appears on your screen. Follow the direction of the pulse and you find the creature. The black pulse creature causes you to descend a level while the white pulse causes you to ascend a level.

Overall this is a rather addicting game despite it’s simplicity. I highly recommend checking it out.

The next game is called Snack Dash. This game is very similar to the Sonic the Hedgehog games but with a twist or two. The premise of the game is to teach kids to eat foods that are good for them. So, the objective here is to snack on the carrots, apples, and other “good” foods.

One neat addition to the normal sonic formula is the “bad” foods. If you eat the bad foods you grow fat and need to exercise. If not, you can’t run as fast, can’t jump, etc. Simple, but effective. The game itself is pretty fun and I recommend checking it out.

And finally we have ZWOK. ZWOK is sort of a Worms clone, but is multiplayer. You have a few weapons to choose from and fire your shots at the other team. Each team has 3 players.

The interesting aspect of this game is that you can’t see the other players move until you have finished moving. This means that any shot you take may not matter since the target may have moved. It puts a neat spin on the game and makes it a little more challenging. A fun game for those periods of downtime between work assignments…

Review – Deus Ex (PS2)

Anticipation : 7
Expectation :6
Initial Reaction : 8
Overall : 8
Genre : First-Person Action/Adventure

Way back, around the year 1996, there existed a small company called Ion Storm. Started by two of gaming’s most widely know figures, John Romero and Tom Hall, Ion Storm set out to change the face of gaming. That it fell flat on it’s face and was subsuquently closed has nothing to do with this review.

In 1997, Warren Spector joined Ion Storm. Warren previously worked on titles such as Wing Commander, Ultima, and System Shock. Wing Commander and System Shock are still some of my all-time favorite games. By all accounts, he avoided the main office and was able to develop the only truly successful Ion Storm titles. One of these was Deus Ex.

While dated by industry standards, Deus Ex blasted onto the scene in 2000. The game centers around a character by the name of JC Denton. JC is a nano-augmented UNATCO agent. The United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition, UNATCO, was formed to help defend the world against terrorists, some of which have already been successful in attacking the Statue of Liberty. JC is plunged into a dark world where a rampant disease known as the Grey Death is sweeping across the country, countered only by a substance called Ambrosia. Ambrosia is developed by Versalife and happens to be in very short supply and JC’s first mission is to obtain a number of canisters that were stolen by a terrorist organization known as the NSF.

Deus Ex allows you to make choices throughout the game that affect the story later on. While the story itself is mostly linear, always leading to the same locations, you do have some freedom in play. Ultimately you make a choice at the end of the game that hepls decide the fate of man in the future, a decision that should not be taken lightly.

The graphics are a bit dated, even for the year it was released. The game engine itself was built on a modified version of the Unreal Engine. There are a number of role playing elements within the game as well. You earn skill points as you accomplish tasks and find secret areas. These points are then used to enhance your abilities in various areas such as weapons, lockpicking, hacking, and more. This allows you to tune your player to your own playing style, building upon your strengths. In addition, the nanotech augmentation system allows you to transform your mostly human character into a super enhanced superhero.

The nanotech system is pretty interesting. Throughout the game you can find augmentation canisters. These canisters contain nanites that will re-program your body to enable special abilities. Each canister generally lets you decide between two different abilities. For instance, one of the first canisters you find will allow you to enhance combat strength, increasing melee abilities, or enhance your physical strength, allowing you to lift heavy objects. This choice can significantly affect gameplay later in the game as you come up against obstacles that can simply be moved out of the way, or must be worked around. Additional augmentation canisters allow you to enhance the abilities you chose.

Weapons can also be customized using weapon modifications. Modifications include scopes, larger clips, silencers, and more. Starting out with a simple pistol, you can create a very deadly, highly accurate weapon that will definitely help you later in the game. Beware, however, if you drop that weapon, those modifications are gone forever. Picking up the same weapon later in the game does not automatically return those modifications. After all, it is essentially a different weapon.

Overall the game was a lot of fun to play. There are a few frustrating parts of the game that may take you a little time to get through, but that’s ok. I enjoy a challenge and Deus Ex provided a decent one. It’s definitely not the toughest game I’ve ever played, but the storyline and excellent gameplay make you forget the fact that some parts are overly easy. I definitely recommend checking this game out, even though it’s over 5 years old. This is a definite must for any System Shock fans as well.

The PS3 Cometh

So today’s the day. November 17th. The official launch date of the Sony Playstation 3.

Looks like I’ll be missing out on the launch day fun as I don’t have the cash to purchase this new behemoth. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing. There have been scattered reports of problems already ranging from simple backwards compatibility concerns, to DPMI downsampling. As with most launches, things generally don’t go smoothly.

Even before the launch, there was the usual problem of muggings, rowdiness in the lines, etc. Since then, reports of scratched PS3s, downsampling, and backwards compatibility have come out.

Not owning an HDTV, I don’t much care about the downsampling. And I don’t own any of the games on the no-play list, so I’m not too worried. Of course, the downsampling and backwards compatibility issues may be resolved in firmware updates, but it’s still something to think about.

One really positive note, however. Apparently the PS3 supports homebrew. It’s about time Sony. Now how about the PSP?

So maybe this lack of money will be a blessing? Only time will tell. At the very least, by the time I can afford one, it will either be a success or a failure, and many of the original bugs will likely have been worked out.

Review – Grand Theft Auto : Vice City Stories (PSP)

Anticipation : 10
Expectation : 9
Initial Reaction : 10
Overall : 9
Genre : Third-Person Action/Adventure

Rockstar has released their second GTA themed PSP game. This time the action takes place 2 years prior to Vice City for the PS2. If you played GTA:VC, you’ll be familiar with the look and feel of GTA:VCS.

But there’s more. Rockstar has added a ton of additional content. From swimming to empire building, there’s something here for everyone. Empire building allows you to take control of 30 different sites, building businesses such as protection rackets, prostitution, and drug smuggling. Each evening, the day’s pay comes directly to you, infusing you with cash. As an added bonus, each business has a save spot, allowing you to quickly find a place to save when you’re in a pinch.

The mission structure is slightly different as well. Each mission tends to be a little longer than the previous games. Some missions have a single objective, while others have multiple ones. This makes the gameplay a little more interesting as there are longer periods of action. However, if you die, or fail the mission, you need to start from scratch. Unfortunately, that means you’ll need to travel to the mission start again, but if you’re also empire building at the same time, chances are there’s a save location nearby.

Rockstar also added some other small additions. For instance, you can show new items on the map such as your empire locations, as well as some of the “secret” items that you’ve discovered. These include the red balloons and insane stunts. As with previous games, you can zoom in and out and mark locations on the map. Also, you’ll see cops riding motorcycles. Unfortunately, the police cycle is rather slow, although it does have the siren and lights.

The game does have some bugs, however. For instance, I have been completely unsuccessful in getting the garage at the first safehouse to work. I can store cars there, but as soon as I load a game, the car disappears. This, of course, is incredibly annoying. I have seen this problem reported elsewhere, but it seems to be a hit and miss type of bug.

Other bugs include some clipping problems, detail popping, and some small AI flaws. For instance, a rival gang tried to attack my building, but kept getting stuck on the building in front of it. Not a huge issue, but distracting nonetheless.

Overall, I’m very pleased with the game. I love the GTA series in general and this game keeps that spirit alive. I would recommend it to any fan of the series.

Small but amazing PC Games

There’s a post over at LetsKillDave about a small, 96kb, game called .kkrieger. It’s more of a demo than anything, but still interesting. It’s pretty amazing what computers can do these days. As I understand it, all of the graphics and levels used within the game are generated using procedural content generation. Essentially, they’re created using a mathematical algorithm. Quite amazing stuff.


I’d like to highlight some other really great games as well. Each of these is pretty small, the largest weighing in at just over 2 megs. They’re incredibly fun to play and very well written. The first two are written by Hikoza.T.Ohkubo.

Ray Hound is a unique 2D shooter where the object is to destroy the turrets that are firing at you. Problem is, you have no weapons. So, you use a tractor beam of sorts to capture the missle fired at you and sling it back at the turret. It takes a few minutes to get used to, but once you do, it’s incredibly addictive.

Warning Forever is a top-down shooter similar to 1942. The biggest difference is that there is no general gameplay, it’s all boss battles. And depending on how you destroy each boss, the next boss is adapted to defend against the strategies you used to kill the previous bosses. There’s a great article over at Wikipedia describing how the bosses evolve.

The last game is called Cave Story. I don’t know who wrote the game, but all the information you need to download and run it can be found here. This is quite the amazing side scroller, reminiscent of Castlevania or Wonderboy. I’ve played through once so far and found the story to be pretty deep and engaging. I’m planning on checking it out again as there are apparently multiple endings. It’s a pretty addictive little game and I suggest checking it out!

Gamefest 2006 Content & XNA

I noticed over at Let’s Kill Dave that the content for Gamefest 2006 was released and is available for download. Head over to Dave’s blog to check it out!


Also, XNA Game Studio Express is out. Go get it. You’ll need Visual C# Express as well, but the complete package looks pretty slick. Time to learn yet another programming language!