Wednesday, October 28, 2009

00 Gundam: The Movie

New footage from the Gundam 00 movie recently surfaced, showing off the new mobile suits. The video isn’t a trailer, per se, but rather a behind-the-scenes look at the design of the new mobile suits. The four new Gundams are shown in action, flying around in space and showing off their weapons. However, the video does show some concept art for the GN-X and an altered model of the flag, which could be the rumored “Ultra-flag”.

00 Qan[T] (formerly known as 00 Quanta) is shown to be rather similar in design to both 00 and Exia. It sports the same basic color scheme, and carries a shield/sword on the shoulder (similar to the seven swords version). This shoulder attachment is shown to be able to break into rifle bits. On the opposite arm, 00 Qan[T] carries a sword similar to Exia’s GN sword.

Raphael (Tieria’s new Gundam) carries a design scheme more akin to Virtue than Seravee in my opinion, sporting two large blocks on his back which are attached be cable and act as cannons. Raphael itself seems to be a much thinner mobile suit than either Virtue or Seravee, and looks to be a cream/tan color (though this could merely be an effect of the lighting).

Harute (Allelujah’s Gundam) looks to be a more compact version of Arios. Harute is shown to sport wing-like appendages on either leg and – when in flight mode – has a small open area in the rear (perhaps for docking with the GN Archer or upgrade of said GN Archer?). Harute dual wields two beam rifles, but no other weapons were revealed.

Zabanya (Lockon’s Gundam) rings closer to Dynames that Cheridum in its design. It sports a primarily white color scheme, with green on the chest. Zabyana is shown wielding two pistols, and has a grey weapons case of some sort attached to either leg.

Below is the new video:

And for those who have not yet seen the original teaser:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Shoot 'em full of lead

I’d like to do something a little different for this post and focus on a broader spectrum than the specifics of a single game or series. This particular topic has been bugging me since about the midway point of last generation’s consoles. First-person shooters have been rising in ridiculous numbers over the past five or six years. A large part of this surge was initially due to the big three companies feeling the pressure of online gaming (or in Nintendo’s case, the lack thereof). And while games like Goldeneye 007 and Perfect Dark have stood the test of time, there are plenty of others in the FPS genre that will be forgotten in a sea of mediocre games.

When I take to a game, my overall impressions are based on three major factors: originality, story, and game mechanics. Obviously not every game has to be original to become popular. Perfect Dark was essentially a re-skin of Goldeneye 007 with a new story and weapons. But that didn’t stop it from becoming one of the more popular N64 games. That said, both those games were released in the late 1990s, during the heyday of 3D gaming. During that time, most FPS titles were still popular in arcades with laser-response gun controllers to boot. Getting back on track, both Perfect Dark and Goldeneye 007 had easy control schemes and almost never dropped frame rate. Perfect Dark obviously had the more creative and original story, as Goldeneye 007 was heavily based on the subsequent film, but that didn’t stop gamers from flocking to either N64 title to get their shooter fix.

During the last generation of consoles, the Gamecube was left lagging quite a ways behind in sales and critical reception. And while the Playstation 2 arguably won that generation of console wars, the Xbox gave the PS2 a run for its money with its more successful online gaming. The success of the Xbox was due in no small part to its flagship game Halo and sequel Halo 2. Halo was one of many FPS games that would shape Microsoft’s gaming market to make it more accessible to casual gamers. Is Halo a casual game itself? It’s difficult to classify. On normal difficulty, almost anyone can kick ass as the Master Chief. But turn it up to legendary difficulty and the game is almost definitely hardcore status. It’s unfortunate, however, that the three main Halo games don’t include a longer campaign. Bungie realized that they can basically sell the games on their multiplayer alone, but I feel that they could do a lot more with the story for those who haven’t read the novels.

Halo may have been the single most important game in relaunching the FPS genre. Games like Call of Duty and Medal of Honor were given a new lease on life and sold like hotcakes. Today it seems like there is a new FPS being announced or released almost every week. And while the Halo franchise does deserve kudos for having a strong story and a very unique arsenal, there are few other FPS games from the two most recent console generations that can come close to comparison. Call of Duty certainly has a good variety of weapons, but with the exception of Modern Warfare, the story is always a rehash of the previous game. Multiplayer is mediocre at best, and the controls are clunky (I know they want to be realistic with the weapons, but having the sniper scope fling all about gets annoying pretty damn fast). Certainly some improvements were made with Modern Warfare, particularly with the multiplayer. But the campaign was even shorter than that of Halo 3, and the story not even half as engaging.

The worst part about all this is that Call of Duty and Halo are at the top of the FPS pyramid. Medal of Honor has since been left in the dust, regardless of the fact that its games were almost the exact same as Call of Duty’s. The Conduit had both a decent story and game mechanics, but didn't really stand out as a must-have for Wii owners. And then of course there are games like Haze which promise the greatest shooter experience ever and end up being a giant pile of crap. As creative as the weapons in Resistance: Fall of Man are, the story and characters are forgettable. Killzone has decent mechanics and an okay story, but the characters are rather one-dimensional. It seems that few companies want to put forth the effort of releasing a shooter that combines fluid controls with a good story. Do I think it’s impossible? Certainly not – it happened over a decade ago, multiple times. But considering the current state of the industry, I wouldn’t bank on seeing another truly engaging FPS for some years to come. In fact, you’re better off playing adventure-shooter crossovers like Metroid Prime 3: Corruption or Bioshock for an excellent FPS experience.

Friday, October 9, 2009

"I've been waiting for you, Leon..."

Over the past year, there has been a surge in shooter games on the Wii. This may not come as a surprise to many, as Nintendo really tried to advertise their Zapper gun as incentive for developers to choose their system over that of Microsoft and Sony. And while Call of Duty was one of the first franchises to jump on the bandwagon with this idea of the player actually holding a virtual gun, the shooter genre is being reinvented by motion-controlled horror games.

House of the Dead and Time Crisis used to be the pinnacle of game design at arcades just a little over a decade ago. Even Duck Hunt utilized a similar technology, years ahead of its time. So why would game developers revert to a rail-style shooter based on motion controls for horror games? Simply put, it makes the game scarier – a lot scarier. Resident Evil 5, though it garnered plenty of positive reviews, received a lot of criticism for not being very scary. Left 4 Dead, though it may be filled with an unrivaled amount of zombies at any given time, gives the player a plethora of semi-automatic weapons and a nearly limitless amount of ammo. This makes staying alive seem like a cakewalk, and while protecting yourself with a molotov cocktail may create some cool results, it also makes the zombies seem a lot less menacing.

The first title in the horror genre to really stand out for using the Wii-mote successfully in a horror title was, ironically enough, Resident Evil 4. The title was first released on the Gamecube (later ported to the Playstation 2 and iPhone) and was one of the more successful titles on the system. Many gamers and critics felt that, all though they had played the game before, Resident Evil 4 felt more engaging on the Wii. Not long after, Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles debuted and wowed gamers with a retelling of the original Resident Evil, as well as tying up some loose ends in the series. Zombies would spawn at random locations in varying numbers, and while advancing through a level was predetermined by the game, the player could take alternate routes each time. This combined with the dark moody atmosphere and the nostalgia of the original cast of characters gave gamers a truly terrifying and enjoyable experience.

With the success of Umbrella Chronicles, Capcom quickly started work on a sequel, entitled Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles, which will be released next month. Darkside Chronicles will cover events from Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil: Code Veronica, offers even more enemies, and brings back some familiar boss fights. Judging from their formula so far, I’d say it’s a safe bet to assume that Capcom will continue releasing these retellings of the series for at least a few more years. Also in the works in a retooled version of Resident Evil 0, originally released on the Gamecube, though largely overshadowed by Resident Evil 4. It will follow a similar formula to the Wii version of Resident Evil 4, altering the control scheme but maintaining the same game at its core. Also onboard with the rail-shooter revival is EA with Dead Space: Extraction. And even though it may not utilize the controls in the same way, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories makes excellent use of the Wii-mote to solve puzzles and navigate through the game. While I am looking forward to Bioshock 2 next year, I don’t think it will be as chilling as Darkside Chronicles.
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