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Malik (11/7/05)  

I did get in that time with GTA and Fable that I was so needing when I last posted. In fact, once again, Fable was a bright and wondrous point in my geeking out this weekend. On the other hand, GTA is still showing me that the PSP does not have a must have title yet. 

While playing GTA, and I did play enough to get through a good dozen missions, I am seeing more and more on how Rockstar Leeds just didn't put their full effort into this game. The best example of this is the ridiculous difficulty found on some missions. 

This is sorta a spoiler...I actually didn't find that Chainsaw Masquerade to be that bad of a mission. In fact, this one only required patience (which is a fine requirement). As you run around a small room filled with chainsaw wielding maniacs, you only have to remember that you are faster than them to stay alive. All that's needed is to keep running until these guys clump together. Then you turn, shoot one, and then run some more to put more distance between you. Then you turn again and shoot once more before running. If you use the python (pistol) found in the level, it only takes one single shot to kill each of these guys. It's simply a waiting game. 

However, when you have missions that require perfect timing and aiming with rocket launchers, that's another matter. Or if you are doing a mission that requires a constant 2+ star wanted level...and the missions requires car the cops have popped your tires with spike I even need to elaborate? Let's just say, for those who stay below the 2 star level, that the cops are obsessed with spike strips, and they will turn a fun mission into a chore in about 10 seconds. 

I honestly can't say I've ever dealt with so many frustrating missions in a GTA game in the past. This game is like constantly doing the High Stakes, Low Rider mission on GTA:SA, or the race required for the bank robbery in GTA:VC over and over. It's not like just a bunch of slightly difficult missions. It's like being thrown constantly from one annoying mission to another, with no chance for an escape. 

At least Fable has been good to me. I finally am beyond the final battle of the original, and am now fully in the new areas. Not only am I finding some fun new places to battle through, I'm also enjoying finding some armor to replace my overly used plate suit. I just wish there was some sort of incentive to collect experience. Despite the extra content, you still will find yourself maxed out on all of the skills you care about long before you get near the new content. I'm now about 20,000 XP away from having all abilities at full (including the ones I don't care about). 

However, the most important part is that I have a good deal of new story to go through. The best of this is found in the new town. When you accomplish your first mission in the new area, you will be given a chance to learn even more background on the game's plot, characters, lands, monsters, and whatever else there is. 

Anyway, I have no real news to go off about, and am a little too frustrated with GTA:LCS to think clearly. So, I'm out. 


Malik (11/8/05)  

If you still care, there's more stuff about Jack Thompson today. Basically, in the lawsuit in which he was representing the plaintiff, in which he was to make an argument that GTA was responsible for the violent deaths of three police officers, he has stepped down. What does this mean? Not a damned thing. The judge didn't dismiss him, his clients didn't dismiss him, and the law didn't somehow dismiss him. He just decided to step down before a ruling could be passed on if he is going to be allowed to serve as a lawyer on the case. In fact, more than anything, this doesn't mean a thing considering his thoughts on this; 

The suit will go forward for now, although the judge hasn't yet ruled on the motion to dismiss the case. Game Politics also reports that Thompson said his departure from the case was inevitable, as he would likely have to take the stand in the case. 

So...yeah...I guess the real lesson in this is that Jack Thompson will continue to do as he pleases, and the best solution, it's not ignoring him. The real solution for gamers is to realize that this man exists, what his tactics are, and to follow the outcome of these types of cases to understand either the inequities of American law and the brighter moments of American law. That's it. He's here and he will constantly be a person who represents the idea of censorship (which I am personally very strongly against). 

Anyway, I am nearly finished with Fable: The Lost Chapters. At least the new content really does open a lot of interesting plot twists and morality involved quests. I won't spoil, but I'll just say that many of the final missions give you a great choice between the easy way out and the morally good way out. Plus, the easy way out is also the world changing way out, so it's not like you'd be skipping anything by going for the quicker and more evil path...except for some hardcore battles. 

To change thoughts...with the XBox 360 launch only two weeks out, there are some thoughts that have been weighing on my mind. While Microsoft started off doing a hell of a great job with the 360 launch, it seems that things are unraveling. For example, a few months back, we were promised an awesome launch lineup that included the first US launch with a solid RPG (Oblivion), a worldwide launch that would ensure consoles for all, and more openness than any launch that Sony or Nintendo ever gave us. Well, that has gone to shit. 

As for the launch lineup...who honestly knows anymore. We have only two weeks to go and the only things that seem to be guaranteed is that Oblivion is not showing up until next year and that Rare will have at least one launch day title and another before Christmas. Well, that and Madden will be here since Madden is always at a launch. Beyond that, we, the geeks, don't have a real list of launch games. We know what should be in the "launch window", but not what we can count on when we hook up the console for the first time. 

Then there's the idea of consoles for all around the same time period. This holds up if we consider countries to be the same of geeks. There will be 360s in North America, Europe, and Japan around the same general time, for the first time ever. However, it's looking like the amount of people who will have the system will make it look like the PS2 had a solid launch. In fact, there are some strange rumors about this whole mess. They range from how the consoles are either being limited to about half or less than half of what was originally anticipated to how you are only getting one if your pre-ordered by the 24th of May. Either way, there is a lot of confusion and the sounds of it say there is going to be a shortage that is probably only making Sony happy. 

So, with all the confusion of what games will be on the system and how many systems will be out there, Microsoft seems to have taken the fifth. Actually, that's wrong; they are just stalling until the 20th of this month to show anything substantial. That is when Microsoft will throw it's big pre-launch shin-dig. It's also when we supposedly may have solid info on the launch titles and maybe on the real nature of their supply shortages. Yeah...two days before launch. 

It seems to me that Microsoft started this generation with the type of news that would make any geek excited, and they are ending the per-launch phase with about the biggest fumble possible. It just goes to show that no matter how hard a company tries to sound good, it's only when the final hours approach that you see if they have the balls to back up their claims. Microsoft is looking like it's lacking the balls right about now. 

Personally, my advice to Microsoft would be simple. The ball is in their court, the fans are excited, and the launch still has potential. However, unless they get off their asses and start to share some news, things could turn out as bad (or worse) than the PS2 launch in about zero seconds flat. It's time to speak...not just promise new exciting events a couple days before when news would no longer be news. 


Malik (11/9/05)  

I just have to ask why. The chain of video game movies just keeps coming, and there is no reason for it. When this trend began, we had such bad films as Super Mario Bros. Now it just keeps expanding into things like Doom, and the soon to be released Halo and Bloodrayne movies. It just doesn't end, yet it doesn't improve. Now it's being announced that an animated Kameo movie is in the works. 

I have strong opinions on some things, but few subjects are as filled with pessimism and annoyance as the constant chain of movies that just seem to make games look like nothing more than a crappy and ingenuine experience. It's about time that someone just steps in and regulates this industry...not all of the movie or game industry, but the small fraction that fits into both realms. These are not good for anyone, and it's time they end...or better yet, they come with warning labels for the children (and sad adults) who expect quality movies only to find their money poured down the drain for a chance to see what 90 minutes of crap looks like...or worse yet, the thousands of hours of crap that makes up an anime series based on a game. 

Last night I finally laid Fable: The Lost Chapters to rest. I have to say that I wasn't disappointed. Especially, I'm happy to see how amazing the final boss fight could have really been. The final battle in the original Fable was short and easy, while the final fight in this game was actually a bit of a challenge. Well, I should say it would be a challenge if I didn't know the brokenness of multi-shot and physical shield. That and how I always carried about 200 will potions. At least the last boss did something that no other enemy could do to me during this play through of Fable; it destroyed my shield spell with almost each attack. 

In the end, the plot still feels like it was a lot better coming in to the game than it was being concluded. I guess that's the bane of video games with good plots; the endings always suck (maybe this means that GTA:LCS has an awesome ending...but then again, Rockstar can't handle a good ending). At least the extra story between the original Fable and this release of Fable does fill in some nice gaps in the plot. It answers how you could have defeated the legendary Jack of Blades so easily the first time around, and it answers the question of if your mother really simply died and found rest. Plus, with the oracle (a know it all thing that loves to tell the back a book, but with voice acting), you can also learn what happened to your sister and where the monsters of the world came from. 

I would write a review of The Lost Chapters, but I don't think it's really needed. I'll say that this game is worth the $20 for any fans of the original Fable. I'll also say that in the end, it doesn't really add or remove from the final score of the game. I loved the original Fable, and I loved The Lost Chapters all the same. 

Speaking of reviews; I am wanting to write a GTA:LCS review. I really do want to. The problem is that this game is just really hard to play. I loved all the GTA games, but this one is just too much of a step backwards. I understand that the visuals and world can't be as all encompassing as GTA:SA. I also understand that the controls will have to suffer to make a portable GTA game. I even can understand that Sony is the real blame for the unresponsive analogue nub. I cannot understand why the plot and missions are so half-assed. I also can't understand why it's no longer about finding hidden packages as much as it's about finding them and then having to figure out how to get to them in the most insane way possible (one requires you to slam a Sanchez bike into a curb while popping a wheelie to fly you body onto a roof...). 

To show how bad this is...I'm currently stuck (partly from challenge, and party from being bored by it) on a mission that requires me to buy a flame thrower...which means I have to remove the far more useful rocket launcher. Then I burn a warehouse of paper while Mafia goons come at me. After I get through the damned thing, I then have two stars (this game goes to only four...which gives two a little more challenge to it than it was in the other GTA games) and a broken down van that I have to use to chase down and destroy two other vans before they get away. The worst part of this boring and uninspired mission is that while you chase one van, the other will be getting closer to escaping since they part ways as soon as this part of the mission begins. This is not as much about facing a challenge as much as it's about facing a really frustrating goal. 

The sad thing is this is not an exception. This type of mission is standard issue. Instead of facing brilliantly designed missions, you have missions that feel either far too short, or like the developers decided to pull random goals from a hat and stick them together with no real reason. 

Anyway, I'm quite fatigued today. I feel like I'm about to drop off.  So, as I log off for the night, I just want to share something. I knew nothing about this Warren Spector controversy, but I do like his response to it. It's a long-winded letter, but it is pretty damned good at explaining some important facts. Especially that part about how our beloved games have been looked at too casually by the media and Spector's take on Jack Thompson (and his "frivolous lawsuits"). Also, I personally enjoy his point about how someone can say a short thing and if (or should I say when?) it is taken out of context, it always takes far too much effort to clarify the facts. Anyway, I suggest reading this to see how one of the few legends of game design thinks.


Malik (11/10/05)  

Some news has finally shown up that would normally be nice to see. It seems that a major class action lawsuit against Sony has reached settlement. I'm talking about a lawsuit against Sony over those damned DREs (and if you know four people with a PS2, then statistically you would probably know one person who is effected by these damned flaws). So, basically, this lawsuit, if approved by US and Canadian courts, would entitle a sufferer of PS2 DREs to $25 (USD), a free game from a specific list (which will probably be Greatest Hits games since Sony is that cheap), or a free or cheaper priced replacement system. That is all assuming it is cleared by the courts. 

Now, I said this would "normally be nice to see" for a reason. To actually take advantage of this would be one hell of a hassle. First off, your DREs had to occur within 13 months of your receiving your, people like me, who started to get DREs about 18 months after getting their system are not so secure. Secondly, do you have proof of pruchase (a receipt, canceled check, or credit card bill)? I doubt it. Who still has their receipt for a game system after 13 or more months? I sure as hell have enough crap in my home to not consider filing every damned receipt. Maybe I should start to get to be this anal, but I don't think that's reasonable. Thirdly, you will probably have to send in your PS2 for repairs or to be inspected. So, if you're like I was for about 2 years, you still use the PS2, but you just have to fight it to get it to work. A DRE doesn't mean it's's just a bitch to use. My XBox is that way now, and I sure don't plan to get it repaired or replaced if the 360 is just around the corner... 

So, this would be good news if...and this is a big was not a pain in the ass to get in on this shit. I still have my DRE-killed PS2, but like I said, it took voer 13 months for problems to occur (might I add that my Saturn, Sega CD, and Dreamcast are all much older and all of them are DRE free...I miss Sega). So, to this, I say "f$#@ it". It's a half-assed settlement, and the cost of shipping it off to get inspected makes it unsatisfactory in my eyes. Plus, with the PS3 not too far away, if you do have a DRE and the system is only partially dead, then I'd suggest you just hold on to it. When the PS3 comes out, you will probably find used PS2 at local game stores for far cheaper and with less inconvenience than this settlement would make you deal with. 

Speaking of random bullshit...I got a call yesterday from my local EB. It ends up that Kameo was in, and I was being given the option of either picking up my reserved copy within 48 hours or...well, there was no second part. So, now I have a game with a return receipt valid for 14 days (the day after the 360 comes out is the day when I can last return the game if it's teh broken) and no system to test it out on. That makes a lot of sense. I can understand that EB would not want to hold on to the merchandise when their stock room is a limited physical space. So, naturally, they would want to get it out of their hands and into the customer's. However, I cannot understand Microsoft in their plan to release this game so damned early. It's one thing when a game comes out a few days before the system, but we're talking two f$#@ing weeks on this one. Also, I can't help but find it funny that the game that was delayed on two old systems is finally out before the system it's actually on. 

To wrap things up for today, I did get in some good GTA:LCS time last night. By "good" I mean that the time block was sizable. I sure as hell don't mean the game was "good". I might say it was "above average", "ok", "moderately enjoyable"...I definitely wouldn't say "good", however. This game, despite how the fanboys are frothing at their mouths for it, is not the first must have for the PSP. Actually, it would be better to say that if GTA is the first must have PSP title, then the PSP was a horrible waste of money. If this is what is supposed to pass for a "great" game, then I seriously f#%$ed up with wasting $250 on this steaming pile. 

So, I went through about 9 missions last night. I have to say, in all honesty, that there is only one mission I can even clearly remember...and that's only because it was the last mission I did last night. As for the other missions...I can vaguely remember shooting stuff. That's it. On the other hand, if you ask me about GTA:SA, I could name each and every mission on that game, if I passed the first time, and what strategies I used both if I failed and when I passed. It's not that I'm obsessed with GTA:SA, but rather that I have an excellent memory for the things I enjoy, and I sure don't seem to have a memory for GTA:LCS (if you get what I mean). Plus, it's not like it's just my memory not doing too well right now, since I'd be happy to recall all that I just finished with Fable: The Lost Chapters (ask me about the mother-f#@%ing dragon! I can give every detail of that awesome...). GTA:LCS is just a really half-assed game. 

If it was just the limitations of the PSP, then I wouldn't mind. I would love to say that GTA is the first must have PSP title, AND that Sony should f#$% themselves for thinking that the nub is anything close to being a quality input device...however, I instead can say that GTA:LCS is not a good game AND that Sony should go f#$% themselves for even thinking of the half-assed analogue nub. 

Anyway, I am determined that I will not write a full review yet. I will wait until I finish the entire main story before I touch FrontPage about this one. This is the only way I can be fair. I have played enough to normally write a review, but this game is so far from solid that I can't afford to rush it. If things go well, since I have nothing else to play (not counting Kameo...oh...wait...the system comes out in two more weeks!?! Why do I have this game?!), I should be done with this game by the start of next week. Assuming I don't throw my PSP in the toilet before then. 


Malik (11/11/05)  

Gamespot has an interesting rumor about the PS3. It seems that by using the current technology that Sony has patents on, they could actively make it where a new game would only work on a single console. What this ultimately mean, if Sony does implement this software on the PS3, is that used, rented, and barrowed games could no longer be an option on the PS3. If this comes to be true, a few things will become obvious. 

Firstly, the highest priced system will have further prices attached. The big additional cost will be that you will no longer be able to rent a game before buying it. This means that all games that fall into the grey range (you can't quite tell if it'd be worth dropping full price on) would not be rentable or barrowable...thus, for many gamers, they would fall into that range of "I'll buy it when it's cheaper" or "not worth it". 

Secondly, it would be another concession by Sony. Not only do they have the most expensive console, but they will have the least user friendly. Yippee....? In fact, this will definitely make Sony far less desirable in the long run. I mean, they use this same shit on their music CDs and just look at the controversy and problems associated with it. 

Thirdly, with how Sony is the master of making expensive pieces of shit (DREs anyone? I know I've had one on every Sony console I've ever fact, I had three bad Playstations and one bad PS2), how will this factor in? I'll tell you; basically, when you first PS3 goes to shit, and you inevitably replace it, your old games will not work anymore. In fact, if you have 10 games when your PS3 needs replacing, then you will have to spend over $500 extra to replace those games. Plus, you could not just use the old copies as trade-in credit towards buying used versions. Talk about weak. 

I know it's not a fact that Sony would do this, but they've done it with music CDs (to a lesser extent). I can also say that if this happens, I will, for the first time in recent history, wait on buying the PS3 until about a year after it's been out to know the DRE risks. I can also tell you that I've been avoiding Sony BMG music CDs for this same type of problem (I don't need an easy trojan horse that will constantly waste my system resources on my PCs). 

Now to bitch about the cheapest of the next-gen systems...the Revolution. So, it's pretty much solid now that HD-TV will not be a useful thing when playing this thing. I just have to add one thought on this. In the US, all TVs will be forced to be either HD compatible, or at least you'll need a tuner to downgrade HD signals, only about 2.5 years after the Revolution will supposedly be available. So, this basically means that the Revolution will be antiquated before it's normal generational life span is over. I can understand not making HD a required thing, and not making it a major selling point, but I cannot understand not supporting what will be required in American homes (and I don't know about Japan, but I'm guessing similar circumstances are buzzing around that country). 

Beyond the fact that it will be commonplace soon enough, the lack of HD support means one other thing. The games will suck on a widescreen TV (and practically every good HD-TV set is 16:9). I say this from experience. My 16:9 TV makes my GCN and PS2 (I never got the component PS2 cables) look either too small or like shit. That's because I have a choice of stretching the screen to make it wide, which makes the games look less than brilliant, or I leave it in normal 4:3 perspective...which just looks tiny. When the entire next generation, excluding Nintendo, is doing the right thing of making HD games, I can tell you that while graphics shouldn't matter, the compatibility issues will...and that alone will make the Revolution look all that much more unworthy of gracing my living room. 

So far, say what you will, I have to say that Microsoft is the only console maker who doesn't look like anything besides greedy. Sony is on crack with their expensive 2 HD display system, and Nintendo is living in the past a bit too much with their lack of support for soon-to-be standard technology. Too bad Microsoft can't have the PS3 exclusive games and the Revolution exclusive games. I am no Microsoft fanboy, but I can see when a company is not just blowing a lot of smoke up my ass or living in their own fantasy world. 

Anyway, to completely change subjects, I played some GTA:LCS last night. I'm well over halfway through the main story, but I can now finally say I saw the first good mission of the game. I don't mean the first one that looks good compared to the rest of the shit on this game. I mean the first original mission that I actually killed myself so I could play again. In it, trying to keep spoilers to a minimum, you have to take out a bunch of members of a rival gang. However, your weapon in the mission is a car. Not just any car, mind's a car that a member of a third mob family is driving. So, after the mission begins, you have the ability to take over said car via remote control, and then you have to run down some foes while making it look like it's this other family that's responsible. 

The part that really makes this mission rock is that you are treated like this car is remotely controlled. In other words, you are given a grainy greenish viewpoint from the steering wheel (like as if you were looking through a camera located on top of the dash), and your controls are a little unresponsive (and not like the rest of the game...but rather it's intentional this time) to simulate how you are only remotely controlling this thing. Once you start, you have a limited about of time and damage to run down all of the gangsters before either you destroy the car (which is bad since it leaves no alibi for who caused the carnage) or before the poor fool in the driver's seat frees the car from your control. 

If only there was more originality in this game like you'd find in this mission...this type of intelligently designed mission could've been awesome. I just hate to see the rest of the game playing out of either shoot a bunch of people, or drive to this place. If only Rockstar Leeds had some more foresight to see what a steaming pile they were making. 


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