February 28, 2009

First Impressions: Killzone 2

In a word: awesome. In two words: ummm...super awesome?

There's certainly hasn't been a shortage of first person shooters since the holidays, but even if you are a little tired of the genre, Killzone 2 gets enough right to pull you in regardless. The most obvious thing is the game's graphics, which are nothing short of mind-blowing. It is easily the best-looking game on the system to date, and probably the best looking game ever released. That being said, graphics aren't everything, but the good news is the Killzone 2 has the gameplay to back them up.

The first thing you'll probably notice is it is a "slow" shooter. I mean a couple things by that, but most literally I mean that your character moves and controls very slowly. Your actions feel like they have some real weight to them, and it takes a little time to get used to, but in the end I think it's one of the things that really makes the game feel unique. In addition, the game features cover-based "stop-and-pop" gunplay over running and gunning. While your character can still take a beating, it's important to move intelligently from cover-to-cover, and never stay out in the open too long.

Having spent a little time with both the single-player and multiplayer offerings, I can say that they are both great, but I find myself really enjoying the multiplayer right now. Much like the single-player campaign, the multiplayer gameplay is very slow and strategic which is right where I want it to be some where between Call of Duty 4 and Gears of War in terms of bullet-to-death ratio. In addition, the list of potential unlocks for the game seems insane, and having put in a few hours now I feel like I have only scratched the surface of what the multiplayer gameplay truly is once more people (including myself) have access to different weapons and classes. Now that I've pulled myself away from the game long enough to write this, I think it's time to dive back in.

If you own a PS3 and don't completely abhor the FPS genre, you should do yourself a favor and pick this one up. Of course, if you fit into that category you probably already have, so I'll see you in the Warzone!

February 25, 2009

Recipe for Disaster

Still at work...need to pee...they are cleaning the one restroom on the floor...


February 23, 2009

A Thought on Dawn of War II

If I had an actual fanbase (no offense to my friends and family who actually read my insane ramblings) I imagine this would start some sort flame war. That being said...

The Tyranids are currently ridiculously overpowered. Discuss.

February 22, 2009

Review: Dawn of War II

Dawn of War II's very focused, tactical gameplay make it a unique and enjoyable strategy experience not to be missed.

Well, over the last few days I have had the chance to play a fair bit of Dawn of War II's single player campaign as well as enjoy some of its multiplayer offerings, and I have to say the game is quite good and a title that any strategy gamer should definitely check out. That being said, the biggest thing to be aware of is how much this game differs from its predecessor. Outside of being based in the same universe, and having some allusions to characters and places from the previous games, the two games have relatively little in common, at least in how they play. Proceeding along the same line of thoughts as Relic's Company of Heroes, the game focuses very strongly on tactics and micromanagement of your units, instead of economy management and base building.

There are no longer bases to build, and all the resources used to produce the game's units are found out on the battlefield, where they can be very hotly contested. In addition, moreso than any game I can think of, units are very expensive compared to the rate at which you acquire resources, so it's imporant to know exactly what kind of units you need in a given battle and try to keep them alive as long as possible. Units also acquire experience and multiple levels of veterency by defeating other units, further encouraging you to keep your units in the fight. Throughout a battle, you will only ever be dealing with a handful of units which allows you to focus very intently on making sure your units are positioned well and use their different special abilites effectively, and nowhere is this more true than in the game's single player campaign.

Dawn of War II's single player campaign has you commanding a very small team of space marines against hordes of aliens including the Orks, Eldar, and a new comer to the Dawn of War series, the Tyranids. In any mission, you can have at most four squads deployed, with each squad having only a couple units a piece (except for your force commander who chooses to run solo). Each squad has unique advantages and disadvatages for ranged and melee combat as well as defense. In addition, throughout the campaign the squads gain experience allowing you to choose how they should progress in order to gain better statistics and new abilities. Finally, similar to a classic dungeon crawler, some of the enemy combatants will drop 'loot' in the form of different equipment you can use to outfit your squad. Together, these two systems allow for a great deal of customization, so you can really make your squads suit your playstyle.

The campaign also has an interesting structure that sits somewhere between the completely open style of the Dark Crusade and Soulstorm expansions and the linear style of the original Dawn of War and Winter Assault. At times, you will have to take very specific missions in order to progress the story, while at others you will have a number of missions to choose from including optional missions that can be used to improve your squads, acquire better equipment, and improve your overall score in the campaign. In addition, the game has the option for you to hook up with a friend and play through the game cooperatively, which actually works out very well. With each commander controlling two of the four squads, each player can put additional focus on managing their units and communication is a must. The cooperative play is very good and, in my opinion, feels much more natural than Red Alert 3's cooperative gameplay from last year.

Finally, the last thing to bring up is the game's competitive multiplayer which comes in two flavors: one-on-one, head-to-head matches and three-on-three team battles. Both experiences are very enjoyable and add to the game's already impressive replay value. In both modes, each player controls one stronghold which produces all that player's units. From there, the player must capture points on the map in order to generate requisition (the main resource) and power in order to build units. One-on-one game's feel very tight and action-packed, while the three-on-three matches offer a real battlefield experience with player's coordinating attacks across multiple fronts with many units involved in the skirmishes. The only real complaint I have about the game's multiplayer offerings are the very small map set the game ships with, only 7 in total: three 1v1 maps and four 3v3's. Compared to the twenty or so from Red Alert 3 (my most recent multiplayer RTS) the selection seems a bit thin. Relic has said more maps should be coming soon (ostensibly for free), but no specific details at the moment.

All in all I have been very happy with my time with Dawn of War II and I would definitely recommend it to any strategy gamers. To fans of the series, it's definitely not the same game as its predecessor, so you should definitely try it before you buy it, but if you give it a chance, I think you'll find there's a lot to love about Dawn of War II. Now I've got some aliens that need purging...

February 20, 2009

Home By 8:00, Hot Diggity!

Well, it's been quite the week. We did get Monday off which technically made this a four day week, though I'm pretty sure we just crammed five days worth of work in there. Anyway, this is the first night I've gotten back before 9:00 P.M. and also the first night I can remember not feeling completely bushed after work. We've got a big deadline coming up next week, but I think I managed to get a lot done this week, especially today, so my level is in a good position.

Heh...my level. It feels pretty awesome saying that. As I was working on my stuff today, I really started to see how the level was coming together and what it will be in the end, and it just got me really excited about work all over again. This is one of the only jobs I've ever had where the work itself has actually kept me going. Like just seeing what it was and what it could be inspired me to work harder. It's all very empowering.

Anyway, as I said, it's my first night at home in a while, so I am going to try and make the most of it and play the crap out of some Dawn of War II before I head to bed for the evening. I'll write up a preview or first impression sometime this weekend probably, but in short, I am enjoying it quit a bit. It's pretty much exactly what I wanted it to be: awesome.

February 16, 2009

The Last Box

Well, the last moving box has officially been unpacked as of a few hours ago! Hooray!

I suppose I may be using the term "unpacked" a bit loosely as there is still a great deal of random crap sitting around my apartment waiting to be organized and put away (or discarded/donated), but there are no more boxes waiting to be broken down. I still need to get rid of all the packing remnants as well as a rather large pile of cardboard boxes and packing paper is currently blocking the direct route between my bedroom and the living room forcing me to take a minor detour through the kitchen.

Outside of organizing my apartment, I played more Warhammer Online today, and decided to start yet another class. Last night I got involved in some open RvR (realm vs. realm) content and decided I thought it might be more fun to have some more support abilities like a healer. I really enjoyed being a Bear Shaman in AoC (by far my favorite class in any MMO to date), so I picked the class that most closely resembled that within the Forces of Destruction, the Disciple of Khaine. So I introduce to you, Nalrel the Wise...
He's still new so he doesn't have much in the way of cool looking gear, but he's full of potential. Like most of the time when I start up a new MMO, it's all I've been playing for the last few days. Also, since I've been bouncing around from character to character, there's not much I can say except that I have been enjoying it, especially the PvP content and how it is such a central part of the game experience. Now, if only there was a Warhammer 40K MMO...

February 15, 2009

Warhammer Online: Day 4

So, lately I've been really jonesing for a dungeon crawler, and I ultimately decided to start playing an MMO again now that I have some more free time on my hands. As the subject of this post clearly suggests, I decided to startup Warhammer Online last Thursday. I haven't played it that much since the first couple days I spent most of my time trying to resolve an annoying bug that mad the game stutter as it loaded in new assets despite the fact that my computer should be more than capable of handling it. The issue turned out to be caused by the game's lightmaps which I was unfortunately forced to disable, taking away an unfortunate amount of the game 's visual appeal (in my opinion), but it's more important that it run smoothly...

After that, I've spent the last couple days trying to settle on faction and class (I like to try out several different classes before settling on one), and have decided to go with the Forces of Destruction and the Marauder class - a melee DPS class that can mutate its limbs to get different abilities and attacks. Anyway, my limited experience with it thus far hasn't given me too much to say about it. The PvE content thus far seems a bit lackluster (admittedly, my "main" character is only level 4), but the PvP/RvR content seems very enjoyable. Right now, I've only played with pickup groups, often with very little communication, but it seems like the PvP content could be very enjoyable with a group of friends and some voice chat involved.

I intend to keep playing the game for the rest of my freebie month and decide whether to continue from there. I'm going to try to play it sort of intensely, at least as much as my interest level allows, to see how the content changes at the higher levels. The furthest I've ever been in an MMO was my brief stint with Age of Conan last year, where I managed to get a character to level 47-ish, before deciding to quit for school, though I've heard there isn't a lot more for me to see at that point anyhow. Well, seeing as Insomniac has kindly decided to give its employees tomorrow off I think I'll take some time now to experience a little more of what Warhammer Online has to offer...


February 10, 2009


I was checking in on my LinkedIn profile tonight, and I didn't realize that you can apparently look at who is looking at you. Check it out:
  • Designer at Bioware
  • Recruiter at Electronic Arts
  • Designer at The Guildhall at SMU
  • Designer at 3D Realms
  • Recruiter at GameRecruiter.com
I'm pretty sure I know the Designer at Bioware and The Guildhall isn't a big surprise, but beyond that it's kind of neat. Anyway, just thought I would share. If anyone super cool decides to check out my profile, I will certainly let you all know :D

February 8, 2009

First Impressions: Mirror's Edge

Well, I'm still debating how personal I want the blog to be, though some counsel has indicated that completely removing the personal stuff would be a bad thing, so I'm just deciding how personal to get. That being said, what I am certain I can and should be writing about on my little blog is video games - thoughts on what I am playing and other going-ons in the industry. With that, I will offer my brief first impressions on Mirror's Edge, which I just received from GameFly this weekend.

The truth is, I like it a lot more than I expected, certainly more than I liked the demo. I am already through two of the game's chapters after less than an hour of play so it doesn't seem very long (and thus not worth purchasing in my opinion), but I've certainly enjoyed my time with it. The key for me, it would seem, was to turn off "runner vision" (the thing that highlights the path you are supposed to take in bright, immersion-breaking red). I'm not sure if this was a new feature in the patch I just downloaded, but I think it makes the game 100% better for me. Instead of just following the predetermined path, I find myself constantly looking trying to figure out where I am supposed to go and how to get there all while running across rooftops under a constant hail of gunfire. I find it makes the experience much more immersive and exciting, and makes it feel more legitimately like actual parkour (at least as I would imagine it).

Also, I should make a point to say I love the game's music, though I am a sucker for a piano. Pretty much any game music with a piano in it gets an A+ from me. I am not a big fan of the visual style as of yet. The ridulously bright contrasting colors are a bit much for me and pull me out of the experience as the environment doesn't seem even close to realistic even weird, clean, sci-fi realistic (the accounting office I quickly sprinted through that was suffused with an unreasonable amount of bright green light seems like a prime example). Still, I enjoyed my brief stint with it this afternoon, and will no doubt continue playing it throughout the week, so keep your eyes out for a full review in the near future.

I should also mention that I finished the single player campaign of Resistance 2 this afternoon, and though the ending is a complete cliffhanger, it certainly ends with a bang. Despite my general happiness with the game, I have decided not to review/critique it as I don't think I would be able to do so in an unbiased way, and I intend maintain a similar standpoint for all news/reviews surrounding Insomniac games. Sorry if this dissappoints anyone, but I just think it would represent a huge conflict of interest that I don't feel like touching with a ten foot pole. Well, that's the post for today, I hope you all enjoyed it!

February 7, 2009

Lazy Saturday

I'm almost positive I've used that post title before...oh well, it's probably not the first time, and it certainly won't be the last...

I spent most of the day just playing games and enjoying having my weekends back. I started the day with a quick errand, then I sat down for a co-op Resistance 2 session with a few friends from my last job and my brother. The co-op in that game is definitely very unique...it is very simple, but nevertheless very enjoyable. The classes are all very specialized and so they rely on the others for support in order to survive which promotes natural teamwork. Then, like a good dungeon crawl, the game spawns legions of enemies for your crack squad to make your way through. Personally, I'm not very partial to the whole co-op fad that seems to be all the rage right now, but I've definitely put my fair share into R2's co-op mode (more than the competitive multiplayer) and I imagine I will continue to for a while yet.

After Resistance, I spent some time wandering around the internets, mostly reading about an expansion to Space Rangers 2, that had somehow completely slipped under my radar last year. I'll blame it on my thesis or the job search or just trying to finish school....yeah, one of those should work. It's funny, I still think about my interviews sometimes, particularly Insomniac. I realize it shouldn't matter as I already have the job, but I guess because I was so anxious and excited it was really emotionally charged so now it is sort of permanently etched in my brain. Well, as permanent as anything in my brain is....

I also played a few matches of Red Alert 3 with Rick where I think I went 4-1, though he can feel free to correct me if I'm wrong...(all those wins just start sort of blending together :P) When I think about Red Alert 3 apart from it, I can never cite anything particularly good or noteworthy about its construction. I mean, the differences in the sides and units are pretty cool, and I think the micromanagement in the game is actually handled pretty well (which is personally very important to me). Each unit having only one special ability makes it a bit easier to metabolize, for me at least. I guess that is something particular I can cite, also the game is dazzling. When battles start really going colored lasers and missiles and smoke just fill the screen and it makes it feel like a huge battle is taking place even if only a few units are involved. Generally, I guess I would say it is a very solid, well balanced, well polished RTS. I personally think the single player campaign is a bit lackluster, and I think that mostly rests on the efforts to make the campaign cooperative.

Since the campaign is structured around having two commanders who are always available to participate in the mission, I think it made creating more interesting and involved mission structures a bit more difficult. As such, most of the missions are, build a base, blow up other guys base(s), repeat until done. No commando or storyline missions, no desperate defenses or strategic retreats, mostly just a series of what feels like skirmish battles. In the game's defense I have only finished the Soviet campaign and played through about half of the Allied campaign, but it hasn't done a good job of making me want to come back, which is a sign to me. On the other hand, I think the multiplayer is quite good, with a number of interesting units and strategies, and no particular dominant strategy that I have seen so far.

After that I watched the most recent episode of Battlestar Galactica, and ended up buying the Space Rangers expansion I mentioned. I played that for a little bit, then went back to Resistance 2 and played a couple more missions in the single player campaign, before stopping to check my email and write this post. And that was more or less my lazy Saturday, which sort of brings me to my final point.

I've been thinking lately about what this blog should be and why I am doing it. On the one hand, I use it simply as a means to keep people in my life informed of what I am doing and I think it has done that pretty well. At this point however, I can't talk about a lot of what is going on (my job) and the rest of it is my personal life, which is either too personal or not interesting enough to write about. So I ask you all, going forward, what do you think this all should be about? Just my day-to-day adventures, my thoughts on design, games, the industry, or the games I play? I've been finding myself in a bit of writer's block lately when it comes to the blog, so I think I need some new material in order to break out. So what do you all think? I'm open to pretty much anything at this point...

February 5, 2009

Mmmmm...RTS on couch...

Just got done playing with the Halo Wars demo for the last 2+ hours. Lots of fun, go give it a try!

February 3, 2009


Been pulling some longer hours at work lately (not crunch, but more than average...I think), and I'm just tired. Maybe its just me adjusting to a normal sleep schedule, or the fact that I've had a headache the past couple days. Anyway, I'm tired to I am going to unpack a few more things and relax. Work still seems to be going well. This week's a little crazy, but I am starting to get used to everything so that's good. Alright, rest time...

February 2, 2009


Been feeling kind of under the weather lately and I worked a long day today (~11 hours), so I think I'm just going to relax and head to bed early tonight. I got a lot done at work today despite some technical difficulties, and one of the leads took the time to compliment my work, so I think I can feel good about that for at least a little while. Later!

February 1, 2009


Thanks to my sister-in-law's sister, Gracie (who came to visit today), I have spent pretty much the entire day unpacking and basically trying to get my apartment in order. She helped unpack the rest of my kitchen supplies and also cooked me two meals today, so her company was as always appreciated, though I didn't expect to keep working another 4+ hours after she left, but whatever.

There are only a handful of boxes left now, though they are mostly the small things out of various drawers from my former apartment, so they will take a bit longer to sort through. In truth, the majority of it should probably just be thrown out, so I'll take the opportunity to get rid of as much of it as I can bear (I'm a bit of a pack rat). Anyway, I've still got a little more clean-up to do from today's unpacking, and I'd like to play something today before I go to bed so, later!