Archive for December, 2011

The new Xbox 360 Dashboard a.k.a. Fugly Mess

Posted in Gaming these days ..., The Latest on December 11, 2011 by Rabidgames

It’ s been some time now since Rabidgames has started using the new dashboard … which is still a massive mess.

To those who don’t agree, here’s a small test:
Please find the DLC “Manhattan Project” from the underrated RTS R.U.S.E.
Good luck.

Basically, all gaming-related contents (except the game in your tray) are now part of a section which is located past and beyond the likes of social applications and video options … in a device which allegedly resembles a gaming console: Games. WTF, Microsoft?

Rabidgames has some more questions:
Where is the list with all the games Rabidgames has ever played (no, not the achievements list)? Give it try. “All” your games now is defined as your 30 most recent games, while there are 19 games in Rabidgames‘ “Recently played” list. Excuse me?
Where has the list of Rabidgames‘ (not many) 1000/1000 games gone?
Why do we scroll lists from left to right now? Do you want to have a similar design in Windows 8? Lists from left to right? Really?
Oh, here’s one more task. You get a cookie from Microsoft if you find their well-hidden easter eggs: The indie games. Good luck.

This list of weird, confusing and misleading stuff could go on and on and on. And on. It doesn’t make sense. At all.

It’s safe to say comfortability is not a strong point of the new dashboard and Microsoft obviously discarded the term “user-friendly”. Remember when 360 fanboys were gloating over the hilariously bad design of the PS3 menus? The joke’s on us now, the tables have turned.

Aesthetically speaking, the dashboard is fugly. Plain and simple.
It does not even look like it has been designed for HD TVs when everything is centred and the edges are devoid of anything; “edges” actually meaning “half of the screen”.  And we are all forced to look at big ads. Great. Just start your 360 – you got big ads for stuff you don’t care about and a small window which tells you “oh yes, there’s the game you want to play, but look it’s small, please buy some stuff.”

Ok, so it is uglier than most wet dreams of modern artists and navigation makes you wonder if the Titanic was run by the dashboard’s creator. But is it any good?

Well, for once, you start your console and press one button and you’re in your latest game. The small window below your game in the tray lets you choose from your 10 most recent applications – comes in handy if you like Arcade games. Then, there’s cloud saving which is helpful if you want to save games and show them to your friends on their 360 – of course, you could also use a USB device which packs more than 500 meagre MB …

It’s also great for those who want to use a gaming console for social media, listening to music or watching movies, Sky or TV and soon youtube … well, there might be good reasons but a) you can buy movies cheaper, you might have Sky on your TV – and hell, you probably watch TV on your TV and youtube videos on your computer anyway. But alright, to each his own …

The Bing bar might be actually helpful (try finding anything using it, you’re fine). And look, it even features voice recognition. So let’s just use our good old headphones and … oh no, it’s Kinect only. Of course. Anyway, beside it being Kinect only and beside the “keyboard” being a bad joke, the Bing search is quite useful when you know what you’re looking for. If you don’t have fun browsing and getting lost on the new dashboard … Rabidgames‘ new favourite pastime.

Rabidgames says: Obviously, the Xbox 360 is no longer a gaming console with some other bonus stuff – it is now a multi media powerhouse you might also use for gaming. That’s a sad thing for approximately 95% of all 360 users. But worse, the new dashboard simply sucks. The design is uglier than fuck, navigation is clumsy at best and illogical and time-consuming at worst and the few good things are easily outweighed by the sheer nonsense Microsoft chose to impose on us.

But hey, what do you expect when the most important thing on a gaming console is to bring it in line with Microsoft’s other toys? Yeah, that’s really more important than a good service for gamers these days …

WWE ’12 or The Road to WrestleMania is paved with good intentions

Posted in Played & Explained, The Latest on December 7, 2011 by Rabidgames

First of all, Rabidgames would like to sincerely apologise for the excessive use of catch phrases.

WWE ’12 is a rather strange game. On the one hand, the new engine definitely is a huge improvement. Due to the so-called “predator engine”, the fighting system is now more realistic than ever and WWE ’12 almost looks like the real thing. On the other hand though, the customisation options are almost exactly the same (except the amazing Create-a-Arena) – and the single player’s most fleshed-out mode is a bit stinking pile of crap.

The Road to Wrestlemania wasn’t that great in the predecessors to be honest. You chose one from five wrestlers (yes, Mr. McMahon, they are wrestlers, not entertainers) and you had a scripted succession of matches with some branching storylines. Last year, developer Yukes implemented some rudimentary free-roam (which actually wasn’t that great).

This year, it changed completely – for the worse. The Road is now a downward spiral of scripted events, useless fights in the ring and way too many backstage brawls. The saddest thing is: The stories are awesome (and better than everything WWE has done in the last 10 years). Well, at least two of them are: Sheamus founds a stable called “United Kingdom” (dear whoever-is-responsible-for-this-travesty: Ireland has not been part of the UK for quite some time now; do your history facts!), and a newcomer defends the WWE from a hostile WCW takeover – and believe Rabidgames, the finale of this story is epic. The Triple H story however is a giant ego trip to please the Game: The hero takes out everyone and everything and then rides off into the sunset.

But what is it that sucks worse than John Cena’s gimmick in the bumpy Roads to WrestleMania in WWE ’12? For one, 80% of all matches are scripted: you beat people up until a “Y” appears over their head, press the button, and you see a cutscene (which pretty often makes you think “that’s why I beat Big fucking Show up for 10 minutes? Really? Really?”). But the backstage brawls are even worse. You beat up an opponent (or rather up to 4 at the same time) with a limited move set until the Y appears and you take him/them out. Rinse and repeat. And Rabidgames means Rinse and Repeat because you will keep doing it over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again …

Ok, now that we have the bumpy dirt track to Wrestlemania out of the way, let’s talk about the stuff WWE ’12 does right. Which is actually a lot. The new engine makes animations and gameplay more realistic and more believable than ever before. You can have epic 10 minute battles where one wrong move means defeat – even on Normal! The AI is way better now – hit a finisher and the opponent will quickly roll out of the ring if he has this ability (although it can only be used 3 times in a match). Of course, there are still some glitches here and there (play Big Show versus Mysterio and you’ll know what I mean, and long hair looks better but still bad) – but additions like Wake Up Taunts (mock your opponent and hit your finisher on a helpless enemy) or Comebacks (yes, the 5 moves of doom are in) make WWE ’12 close to the real deal – it is now to wrestling what PES is to football.

WWE ’12 features around 60 wrestlers (+ 14 DLC) and you can create (or download) up to 50 more. Customisation is basically the same incredible amount of choice as it was last year – you can create virtually everybody (from Hitler to alien, it’s all possible), give him a cool moveset, build finishers and create videos and proper stories. While all of this is old news to WWE games veterans, the Arena editor is the only new feature: you create your very own ring (mostly colours and design).

But the best thing is you don’t have to go to caws.ws and work according to their formulas anymore; you can download wrestlers – completely finished with entrance and move set again. If the servers work … and it is rather an if than a when you think about the servers of SvR 2011 which never seemed to work properly … Truth is, the servers of WWE ’12 are even worse. Lately, there has been some improvement but server stability is certainly a foreign word in THQ’s dictionary.

Why would you want to download wrestlers or arenas, you ask? Well, you can create your own shows in the hugely improved Universe Mode of WWE ’12. You don’t have to use the brands RAW and Smackdown any more. If you like to, feel free to start a ratings battle between TNA and WCW – or create your very own shows like the LWO (the Luxembourg Wrestling Organisation). It’s all up to you. There are way more cutscenes this year in Universe and your guys can even get injured – but sadly, it’s all random. And the ratings thing is still part of your imagination – would it have been that hard to implement parts of the good old General Manager mode again?

While it sounds overwhelming in general, there are many odd design choices if you look at things in detail: Why is there a Nexus armband – but no Nexus theme or entrance movie? Come on Yukes! It’s really the same procedure every year: Each time Yukes adds 11 new moves but removes 10 others. Why do you keep removing stuff? Another blatant stupidity is the “choice” to buy the Diva DLC if you want to play with more than a handful of female wrestlers. Let’s leave PG territory for a short time: Stop fucking around with us and stop milking us with fucking DLC!

Rabidgames says: If it wasn’t for the troublesome Road to Wrestlemania, minor gameplay hick-ups and the servers, WWE ’12 would have been a strong GOTY contender. The gameplay is great and fun, Universe Mode is a long term amusement if you are gifted with some imagination, and customisation is great as usual. But Yukes always does the same mistake over and over again: It’s always about two solid steps forward and one stupid leap back again. Admittedly, Rabidgames is rather nitpicking – apart from the truly abysmal RtWM – but after 10 years of experience, you would actually think Yukes would be able to give us a perfect wrestling game. Anyway here’s the bottom line: WWE ’12 is the best wrestling game since Here comes the Pain or No Mercy (whichever you prefer) for sure. If you smell … what Rabidgames is cooking.

Saints Row The Third or When the Saints running wild

Posted in Played & Explained, The Latest on December 4, 2011 by Rabidgames

If you start playing Saints Row The Third, it just feels like the ultimate rollercoaster: It starts off great with one of the best first missions ever. Afterwards, you get punched by the fact Volition took away tons of customization options. You will keep on playing nonetheless and enjoy some great missions again – only to get kicked in the nuts when you realise the activities are mandatory now (at least the introduction to each). And believe Rabidgames, they are a chore … but you will still keep playing!

Why? It’s the very missions. Imagine San Andreas on crack – yes, that’s your typical Saints Row The Third mission. So you thought Saints Row 2 was crazy? Well, let’s see: Free-falling with Shaundi and one parachute – or later on in a tank? Check. A city-wide full-blown three-way war? Check. A wild ride in cyberspace? Check. A deadly wrestling match? Check. And so on. The missions are hilarious, they greatly differ from another and they are full of wacky, immature humour – you gotta love it! Add in a new city named Steelport – which sadly lacks personality and exploration – and let chaos reign supreme in Saints Row The Third. And there’s even more: Wait until the middle of the game when a new faction enters the city – mayhem will be guaranteed!

Activities are back as well, but in a new form: Instead of building respect to gain access to new missions, they serve as milestones to take over Steelport. Unfortunately, Volition took out some of the best (Crowd Control, Demo Derby, Fight Club, FUZZ, Septic Avenger). Of course, the lame and annoying ones are still in: Escort is still tedious, Snatch is outright boring and Trafficking is a pain – mostly because in Saints Row The Third, the A.I. fucking sucks when it comes to driving  and especially when evading tiny obstacles like skyscrapers. There are some new activities, too: The reality game show “Professor Genki Super Ethical Reality Climax” is pure fun (and remember: killing human mascots is fine but shooting a cardboard with a panda painted on it is UNETHICAL). Guardian Angel is great as well and Eye of the Tiger is actually a good version of Escort – with a tiger in your passenger seat! And then, there’s Rabidgames‘ favourite – Tank Mayhem. Incredibly easy but even more satisfying: You sit in a tank and shoot everything in sight.

But activities come with a huge drawback – they are now embedded into the story. It means you have to play one instance of Snatch even if you fucking hate it! Plus, if you want to control all of Steelport, you have to do each and every activity. Good luck. And patience.

But what about more content outside missions and activities? If you’re tired of missions and activities, there are still tons of things to do in Steelport. You can find hidden gang operations and obliterate them, receive phone calls to fight waves of enemies (great fun but better call some reinforcements). Your phone also gives you some special activities to earn respect and money: There are dozens of cars to steal (which tends to become ridiculously hard) and dozens of people to eliminate – yes, Chop Shop and Hitman are back indeed! And believe Rabidgames, Hitman is still fun! There are also many challenges to master – mostly random stuff like “taunt gang members 50 times”, “kill 50 brutes” or “drive lots of kilometres” but it will keep you busy for quite some time. Saints Row The Third also features gamers’ favourite pastime: finding hidden stuff. Luckily, you don’t have to shoot fucking pigeons: You have to find sex dolls (ask Pierce why), money and tourists who like to have a picture with the Saints boss.

Sadly, not all is good in Steelport: The lack of customisation in Saints Row The Third is a big let down to some: You have less clothing to choose from (especially if you play with a woman), no more design choices to prettify them, no clothing layers anymore … in short: Disappointing character creation compared to Saints Row 2, still awesome compared to every other game. It gets worse for us veterans: You can’t customise your cribs any more. Hell, there aren’t that many cribs in the first place! The reason for this change allegedly is the new physics engine which looks really good compared to the predecessor (however, not that great compared to other games).

There are also less weapons than before, but you can now upgrade them. Some of the new ones are downright insane – we all know the purple wobbly “thing” and the fart in a jar (which actually is a level 4 upgrade of one grenade type). The best additions certainly are the military drone (which is available from early on for some strange reason), the RC car control device which lets you control any car (great tool for major mischief) and, last but not least, the hilarious shotgun that summons a shark.

Yes, Saints Row The Third is different from Saints Row 2. From what you realise in the beginning, it would not even be entirely wrong to assume the Saints Row series went the hated GTA IV way: Take away customisation and size, but freely give a new engine and better graphics and physics. But here’s the thing: this notion is mostly wrong.

Yes, Saints Row The Third lacks lots of stuff which we held dear in Saints Row 2 – but what we get is still a very good sandbox experience. Even more important, fighting cops and gangs randomly is still fun. Actually, it’s more fun than ever before. The new notoriety system works perfect: First, you fight ordinary grunts, then the gangs call specialists (the Deckers have the best one, wait till you see her) and later one, they call huge brutes to smash you. It works the same with the authorities: Beat cops are no match for the Saints, SWAT teams are harder to survive – and the military brings tanks. You could see tanks as a threat – or as your toy! Steelport becomes your playground of mayhem! It’s such a shame you can’t bring down buildings. Also, Rabidgames officially orders a nuke for use in Saints Row 4. Thanks, Volition.

Technically speaking, Saints Row The Third is far from perfect (we’ve been used to it by now, haven’t we?): There is lots of screen tearing on the 360, there are annoyingly late pop-ups which make you relive the old classic: crash into invisible cars. Also, the sound is somewhat broken: Sometimes, you hear no engine or braking, sometimes guns seem to have silencers attached. In coop, weird situations happen quite often – you drive off with your buddy in the passenger seat, then he tells you “hey, why did you leave without me!” However, it runs more stable and is a big improvement to the incredibly laggy Saints Row 2. But still – you don’t have to be a graphic whore to realise the graphics of Saints Row The Third could have done better. Also, consumers still expect to receive a finished game without any bugs or glitches. Call it naivety, but if you pay the full price, you should get a finished and full game.

Rabidgames says: Saints Row The Third definitely has its ups and downs – but at the end of the day, the fun outweighs the mandatory activities. While you sometimes struggle with motivation (especially during the activities), there is always the stress relief of killing bystanders, gang members or cops indiscriminately. Also, the big strength of Saints Row The Third are now the missions – there are tons of memorable ones – and every time you think “that’s it – it can’t become crazier” you’ll see the next mission and you learnt another lesson in insanity. However, despite all the fun and chaos, it is not the true masterpiece of sandbox gaming it could have been. The lack of customisation and exploration leave a desire for more content.

A word of advise for inexperienced Saints: If you prefer GTA IV’s gritty realism, be warned! Saints Row The Third might kick you in the balls very, very hard. There is neither a virtual friendship system nor fetching newspapers for Roman – it’s all about money, sex and mindless destruction. And laughs, of course. If you don’t laugh out loud at least 5 times during your adventure in Steelport, you’re probably dead – or you really enjoy bowling with your annoying cousin.