Saturday, February 27, 2010

Is PC gaming dying?

I've noticed that the regular mentality lately is that PC gaming doesn't stand a chance against the Xbox 360 or the PS3, and I strongly disagree. The PC has had some competition when both consoles were first released, but at this point, the specs of both machines don't compare to modern gaming PCs. I think that, if anything, console gaming is limiting the potential of PC gaming. As developers produce games primarily for consoles, they are creating them for less customizable systems, making them easier to make, but also limiting the technical potential of the game. The reason is that console games are generally more popular and advertised greatly on television and the internet.

The reality is that consoles are simply a computer, a computer with a specialized OS and proprietary hardware. This makes development easier, but also means that for simplicity, the hardware will not improve over time. When developers create a console game first, and then port it to PC(this happens more often on the 360), you get a game hardly better from a technical standpoint, but the public won't say anything, because the expectations are already there for the console version. Therefore, the PC is classified instantly as a gaming machine no better than the console versions without good local multiplayer.

There's a few ways we could restore the Personal Computer back to it's gaming glory. After all, if the PC is a more costly system, then why should it be in any way worse than a console? First of all, developers should start with the PC as a base system for development, then downgrade when porting to other systems, the PC usually being the far more powerful machine in general. The perfect example of a game like this is Crysis, and although it wasn't ported to other systems-CryEngine 2 not being portable-this showed what a dedicated PC game engine could do.

I am primarily a PC gamer, but the one thing that ticks me off more than anything is the lack of any split-screen multiplayer on pretty much any PC game. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't mind resorting to controlling Call Of Duty 4 using a gamepad if I could play with three other friends. Since a basic corded dual-analog gamepad on a PC is cheaper than what you can find for either major console, I wouldn't mind picking up a couple of Logitech Dual Actions so I could play COD with my friends. The PC is a great system, it's just not "cool" to play with friends at this point. We have a few great cooperative games(Lego Star Wars, anyone?), but these are usually limited to only two people, and we have very few options for playing competitively.

There are two important things the PC needs. The first is more cutting-edge games like Crysis, and the second is some old-school split-screen multiplayer.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

WTF: Work Time Fun

I got a crazy Japanese game yesterday, which is funny, considering I usually can't stand anything crazy or Japanese(anime, manga). But WTF is crazy, in a great way. It's got a crazy premise, crazy minigames, and a crazy title, but it all works together to make one of the funniest, enjoyable and satisfying games I've played in a long time. Like Gamespot's review stated, Work Time Fun shouldn't be fun. It's games are repetitive and mundane, and many of them are blatant rip-offs of popular arcade games. Yet it's the game's unique craziness that makes it different, and cracks you up at every corner. Replay value is incredible with hundreds of (useless, but often very funny) trinkets, 40 minigames to unlock, and enough weird humour throughout the whole package. WTF isn't for everyone, but for those that can leave their sanity at the door and have a good time, WTF is some great addicting fun.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My Opinion/Review of Mass Effect

Developer Bioware has quite an arsenal of games under their belt. From the famed Knights Of the Old Republic to the classic Baldur's Gate, Bioware has always developed top-quality role-playing games. Once again they have created a masterpiece of a game, combining the satisfying gameplay of classic RPGs with groundbreaking character development and exciting action.

Every RPG has choices, but how many actually effect matters of life and death? Thousands of games let you pick answers, but with no effects on the story. A few create branching storylines, but in the end, all roads lead to the inevitable ending of the game. But there are a select few games that let the player shape their own story, and even decide the fates of their teammates. It's games like Mass Effect that raise the bar for the term "moral choices", bringing the player to a world that depends on them for leadership and protection. A world where great power means great responsibility.

Mass Effect puts you in the combat boots of commander Shepard. The only limits are your character's name and race(human). Everything else, facial features, hair, gender, and even your character's background can be dynamically changed to fit your preferences.  The game puts you right into commander Shepard's role as a military officer in the Human Alliance Navy, where you must complete a mission aboard the Navy's top vessel, the SSV Normandy. I won't spoil the story for you, but in the events that follow, Shepard's role becomes much bigger, as a threat greater than all organic life in the galaxy is slowly revealed.

However, it's not the game's great story that steals the show, but it's the deep, likable characters. Most of your squad members aren't human, yet you will learn to understand each of your soldiers' back story, culture, and even their views towards other races and squadmates. The game's script is detailed and involving, worthy of any science-fiction book or movie, and the fact that you choose your own dialog only amplifies the sense of control over the relationships you make with other characters. It's even possible to pursue relationships with some characters, as well as friendships and trades. A new system called the “conversation wheel” lets you choose between a self-serving, ruthless path, a selfless, kind path, and options for ending the conversation quickly or drawing it out for more detail.

The graphics are top-notch, even for a game released in 2008, and many modern PCs could run it at max settings. The sound design is complimented by an interesting synth-heavy soundtrack, and plenty of science fiction sound effects.

The gameplay may be it's weakest point, but that's not saying much. Shooting is simple at best, but is still satisfying and fun enough due to the heavy RPG influences. Weapon-modding is extremely intensive, and if you don't play RPGs, you could be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of items at your disposal. Action sequences aren't hard at normal difficulty, but some battles will have you rethinking your tactics. There is also some slightly awkward planet exploration missions using your six-wheeled tank, the Mako. The gameplay, while slightly lacking, is still extremely fulfilling and weapon modding is a great game mechanic. There are many other parts of the game I don't have the time or space to list, but overall, the gameplay is Mass Effect's weakest point, but it is still excellent.

Bioware's efforts in sci-fi RPGs have paid off in the Star Wars universe, and they've done it again, this time creating a world that draws you in, and this is a world you won't wish to end. You'll want to save the galaxy, if not only for the sake of the great characters, then simply for some great, satisfying gunplay. The setting of Mass Effect is a galaxy that you won't soon forget.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I need to review a new game, what will it be?

I've just finished my review of Mass Effect, hopefully to review Mass Effect 2 next month for the school newspaper. Now I don't know where to go next, any ideas?