Archive for January, 2012

The Witcher 2 or A Gaming Miracle

Posted in News on January 27, 2012 by Rabidgames

For a change, Rabidgames has got very good news: The proper RPG The Witcher 2 will arrive at the Xbox 360 on 17 April.

Developer CD Projekt has just announced this glorious piece of news – and wait, it gets even better:
Xbox 360 users will receive the “most polished and definitive” version of The Witcher 2 to this date.

But the Polish developers don’t stop there. The Witcher 2 will come to the 360 with a new intro cutscene, more than half an hour of new video sequences, up to four hours of additional gameplay, two new stories, new characters, new locations, an improved camera system, a new target-lock, a new menu (probably optimised for the 360) and overhauled controls.

This means we will get all DLC so far – for free.

This news is incredibly unbelievable and unheard of in this days and age. Come on, we live in an era where you usually get fucking horse armor, two meagre weapons or yarn as pricey DL”C” (although the yarnie vehicle in Saints Row The Third is awesome).

The Witcher 2 comes on two discs (yay, who doesn’t like switching discs?) and will cost £45 – including a “quest handbook”, a soundtrack and a world map.
There will be a special edition, too. You’ll get a special box, and art book, a DVD which contains the making of The  Wticher 2, a medallion (OK …) and three amazing stickers – if you think those goodies are worth 60 quid.

Sadly, CD Projekt have jumped on the “different pre-order DLC” bandwagon …
Still, if you want to reward a developer for not being a greedy cunt, Rabidgames commands: pre-order or buy The Witcher 2.

Mass Effect or A promising start

Posted in Blast from the past with tags , , , on January 22, 2012 by Rabidgames

Although Mass Effect was published roughly 4 years ago, it feels like forever. You don’t believe Rabidgames? Mind you, barely 7 years ago, we were all playing GTA San Andreas, wondering about the incredible size of its map …

Anyways, in order to prepare for Mass Effect 3, Rabidgames had to play Mass Effect again … wait, had to? Yes, because our dear Krogan friend Wrex only lives when you import a save file where you saved him. Of course, you could also buy Mass Effect Genesis (the comic which told the story of Mass Effect to the PS3 newcomers before starting to play Mass Effect 2) … but fuck that! Yeah, thanks EA for making us pay for that DLC.

In fact, Mass Effect was definitely worth the playthrough. It might have one of the last games when Bioware was really independent. It is also a game where the story shines. Throughout 90% of the game, you have no clue what’s going on, but in the end, all pieces fit perfectly. Another great design decision was you could convince the final boss not to fight you RPG-style … sort of, at least …

However, Mass Effect is not perfect. There are some minor gameplay flaws – and a huge one. Rabidgames is not rambling about the awkward combat – that’s actually quite fine. In the beginning, you cannot shoot straight – seems dumb when you’re an elite squad, doesn’t it? But hey, it’s an RPG, so we deal with it. However, Rabidgames cannot deal with the Mako. It’s crap, incredibly fucking awful crap. The controls are awkward and not really responsive, and climbing steep hills is way too sloooooooooooooooooooooow … To make it worse, Bioware chipped in an abysmal world design. Who the fuck enjoys mountain ranges with that unresponsive Makos? Your QA? Damn! Also, Bioware gave us a strong stinking flavour of things to come: All interiors were recycled from 3 or maybe 5 different models. Sounds familiar?

But those issues and the famous long lift rides aside, Mass Effect is a great game. Bioware created a huge and credible universe from scratch – it is both, good science fiction and an allegory to many issues earth has to deal with these days. Just think about the hardly hidden xenophobia many humans still have. Or about all the discussions “what does justice really mean?” – we could ask the Krogans about it … Bioware also did a great job about some of the alien races being really alien: The Rachni singing throughout the galaxy (and possibly victims of the Reapers), the Asari concept of mating, and of course the Reapers who are completely different … that’s what Science Fiction (or Fantasy, for that matter) should be about, and that’s where Mass Effect does an awesome job. Furthermore, while the main story develops in good pace and is definitely great, virtually all important story planets have their own micro-plot which are still related to the main plot. The countless side quests follow their own little stories, too.

Also, thank you Bioware for making achievements useful in-game. Rabidgames cannot believe why virtually no developer uses this option. It makes achievements worth hunting (well, at least more than “LOL, I got 34.454.665” gamerscore points, I am Da Man!). Complete Mass Effect game with certain achievements unlocked, and your next playthrough will be a breeze (unless you play on Hardcore or Insanity of course, but every little help counts there).

However, it is impossible to reach level 60 within one playthrough (unless you cheat exploiting a well-known glitch for hours). Why? Why would anyone play Mass Effect with the very same character again? For instance, Rabidgames finished a playthrough with his level 55 Paragon do-gooder – so one playthrough to get 5 levels (and it’s a big gap from 59 to 60)? That’s not roleplaying, it’s dumb. There are no new extra missions, no hidden conversations, nothing. And all the hassle just for one achievement and some negligible goodies (in Mass Effect as well as in Mass Effect 2) is certainly not worth it. Shame.

Rabidgames says: This game was the perfect start for a trilogy: It started a great story arc with more to come, it introduced interesting characters and decisions with possibly far reaching consequences. 4 years later, Mass Effect has certainly aged well. Of course, there was room for improvement in the gameplay department (especially combat); but to relive the beginning of the story of the first human spectre alone is well worth it. It is also an opportunity to honour Bioware as the RPG giants they once were …

Is Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning a matured Fable?

Posted in Played & Explained, The Latest on January 20, 2012 by Rabidgames

From the first announcements to the first videos, Rabidgames has wondered about this question. Now, the demo of Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning (hence known as KOAR) has given us the opportunity to seek answers and see what the fuss is all about.

The beginning is original, that’s for sure. You are dead. A corpse. Hopefully, you can experience your own demise in the full version of KOAR … Anyways, after you are reborn, you have to fight your way out of the tutorial dungeon which is overrun by the enemies (don’t worry, Rabidgames won’t spoil the story).

The first thing you’ll realise when wielding swords, bows or magic is the following: Yes, KOAR definitely feels like Fable. It totally does. And yes, it feels like grown-up and more challenging Fable. Hell, you can even die! Next thing you see – there are a shitload of moves to learn and master. Let’s say you like swords. Pressing attack two times means two slashes, attack, pause, attack is another attack, dodging or blocking lead to more attacks and so on. They have different effects, too (from area attacks to uppercuts). Even more, different weapons have different effects. Bows are good for long-distance fights (thank you, Mr. Obvious), daggers for stealth kills and magic kills enemies really fast … a bit too fast, actually – but you’ll run out of mana quickly, too.

The fighting system is by no means original, but it is fun and fast-paced. But it is really easy and repetitive … we’ll see if it can entertain Rabidgames for 50 hours or more … Sadly, there are also too many wretched quick time events in the demo: if you press a  button repeatedly in special occasions, you’ll get more experience. Lame.

Levelling up works in 3 different ways: First, you choose from mostly non-fighting skills like blacksmithing, alchemy, defusing magical traps or stealth (each category has 10 slots to unlock). Second, you put points directly into your abilities (unfortunately, they are all common), which are divided into your 3 RPG stereotypes: warrior, thief and mage. Lastly, you choose a “destiny card” which grants you special powers. To unlock some, you must have invested in certain abilities first. These are the most interesting ones – and hopefully, you can unlock special cards by completing special missions or killing hard monsters in KOAR.

But the KOAR demo really starts after you escaped the tutorial dungeon. You’re in an “open” world and can it explore pretty freely – within 45 minutes! By the way – when you have completed the tutorial once, you can skip if you want to play the demo again later. Good move there, EA.

Here, the game really starts to shine: You can talk to people (about many topics), accept several quests and explore the world. You can also start blacksmithing weapons or tinkering around with alchemy. Alternatively, you can start stealing stuff if that’s what you like. KOAR is not really an open world game though – you clearly follow linear paths, but there are many distractions if you leave the main roads. The world map looks pretty big, too.

In terms of content, the demo of KOAR promises tons of fun. The gameplay is hardly original (except the destiny cards, we’ve seen it all before) and repetitive button mashing could become a pain in the ass in the course of KOAR. The art design is pretty much generic and reminds Rabidgames of – you know it – Fable. The story seems one tale of “us hopeless bastards against the mighty evil enemies”. Let’s hope there’s more to it. The demo often hints to the possibility of “changing fate”. Hopefully, KOAR does the job of changing the game world better than most RPG games have so far.

For obvious PR reasons, starting the demo gives you some goodies to use in KOAR – and one that can be used in Bioware’s and EA’s Mass Effect 3. Completing the demo grants you an alleged super duper special weapon in Mass Effect 3 … while these bonuses are by all means better than the “preorder bonus x from shop y only” scam (although KOAR is guilty of this fucking disease as well), it’s still some lame PR stunt to motivate people to rush through the tutorial level and then simply leave your 360 on for another 45 minutes … what an achievement! Focus on your games, guys.

Rabidgames says: Judging from the demo, KOAR is one of those games you’ve seen before and you’ve played before – but it still is fun to play. If the fighting does not turn into button mashing and if the story is good KOAR could become one of the first hits in 2012. Let’s just hope it won’t follow its brother Fable in the promises department!

Rabidgames supports the war against SOPA and PIPA

Posted in News with tags , , , on January 18, 2012 by Rabidgames

Yeah, wikipedia is gone today. Shame, but it’s for the greater good. And the bigger shame is – most people don’t even know why!

Well, it is against some U.S. legislation that only serves one goal: To censor the internet. Those bills have been given sweet-sounding pet names: SOPA and PIPA.
But what the hell do those names mean?

Let Rabidgames explain (in wikipedia’s own words):

“SOPA and PIPA represent two bills in the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate respectively. SOPA is short for the “Stop Online Piracy Act,” and PIPA is an acronym for the “Protect IP Act.” (“IP” stands for “intellectual property.”) In short, these bills are efforts to stop copyright infringement committed by foreign web sites, but, in our opinion, they do so in a way that actually infringes free expression while harming the Internet. Detailed information about these bills can be found in the Stop Online Piracy Act and PROTECT IP Act articles on Wikipedia, which are available during the blackout.”

Doesn’t sound too bad? After all, who likes pirates anyway?

Well, it’s about more than that. Just watch the following video:

Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it?

Even if parts of it are exaggerated, the bottom line is: Do we really want corporations to control the internet? Do we? Do you?

Today, it’s just the illegal use of music … May Rabidgames remind you: These days, “illegal” means you are not allowed to put a video on youtube when there is some music playing in the background … for some obnoxious reason, even that’s called “copyright infringement”. Pretty Orwellian way of thinking …

Let’s think further: Tomorrow, your internet provider and youtube (or facebook or any other social media site for that matter) will get fines if you put such a video online. Of course, they will make YOU pay that fine, and of course, the poor music industry will hand over a hefty bill to YOU, too. If SOPA and PIPA are successful and become effective laws, it will mean the following: it will be legal to shut down whole websites for one tiny “copyright infringement” (e.g. copy-pasting a song from youtube). What a brave new world.

Imagine what could happen within a week’s time …

And Rabidgames tells you gamers not to be naive, please:
Lawyers within the video games industry will also hunt you down if you upload some amazing things that have just happened in your favourite video game (and don’t you dare to accompany the gameplay with music!). But hey, there’s an upside: It’s a good way to tackle unemployment at least! Who would not want to get paid to scour social media sites for ruthless “pirates” who show off precious copyrighted content for free and for everyone to see?

But it goes beyond piracy and shutting down websites for copyright issues: For some reason, such bills are always introduced with pretty vague phrases – who’s to say such laws won’t be used as a means of censorship to shut down whole websites? Such websites which dare to speak out against miserable working conditions or against polluting the environment? Wouldn’t it be a good thing to legally empower our leaders to shut down sites that report about corruption or the many crimes of our armed forces abroad?

It should be clear a medium where everybody around the world can partake and share his opinion without fear of reprisal is bad. It is a threat to governments of all sorts (the British government as well as the Iranian one). This has been proven in 2011 when social media like facebook played a big part in the Arab Spring.

Rabidgames says: We all should support the actions against such devious bills. After all, they are not about the war on piracy, they are about the war on freedom. It’s not just about mass media controlling the internet, it’s about crooked regimes following the corporate whips. It’s not just about some internet geeks, it’s about free speech in the internet.

Yes, piracy is a problem for all entertainment industries – but what about proportionality and common sense? Would you nuke an entire country to capture 3 criminals?

Is THQ dead?

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , on January 16, 2012 by Rabidgames

Rabidgames doesn’t know. Probably no one knows.

Between rumours THQ will soon sell itself to some mystery investors and cancel all 2014 games, and the company’s statements all of the above is pure bollocks, the truth is certainly obscured – at least for now. What is known is the following: THQ certainly awaits a rather dire future. Stocks have plunged from $28 to mere 50 cent (sweet irony THQ once published an awful 50 cent game). That weird udraw tablet experiment thingy bombed, as did Homefront and Red Faction: Armageddon

But why should we gamers care anyway?

Well, for once, THQ is the studio responsible for the great insane Saints Row series, the WWE formerly known as Smackdown games and also [insert your favourite THQ game, please]. And even a rather mediocre title such as Red Faction: Armageddon had some unique and individual ideas you rarely find in EA’s or Activision’s portfolio. Furthermore, Rabidgames has some sentimental memories because THQ has always allowed pretty the most outlandish games and scenarios: We all know the insanity of Saints Row, but what about the (originally) extremely funny Destroy all Humans, the ambitious RPG series Summoner (where both games were pretty different and equally great), the Red Faction series which was always bent on destruction … the list could go on.

So the company now wants to rethink its business model. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
However, the following statement from THQ is very remarkable:

“As we have previously announced,
we have dramatically reduced our commitment to the kids’ boxed games sector which leads to a significantly more focused release schedule moving forward. Our slate for calendar 2012 and beyond is focused on high-quality core games and continues to build our digital platform and business.”

That digital thing aside, it sounds like music to Rabidgames‘ ears indeed: A publisher who decides to scrap all those low-quality casual kiddie games and to focus on core games instead? Well, thank you, THQ.
Please do it right though – please, for the love of gaming, don’t focus on annual updates of Saints Row and Darksiders, ok?

Anyway, let’s be honest – it could be worse. Half a year ago, the future looked even bleaker than now.
But by the end of 2011, life looked healthier for THQ: Both, Saints Row The Third and WWE ’12 sold way better than expected (maybe they did because both are “high-quality core games” – who knows?), the UFC game in the pipes seems to be ok (though Rabidgames doesn’t care) and Darksiders 2 should do well, too.

Also, Rabidgames definitely wants to see more outlandish and unique games like Insane (developed by Devil’s Third and Guillermo Del Toro) and – of course – that South Park RPG developed by Obsidian which sounds just awesome!

Hang on, THQ … if it is for the greater good Rabidgames will even buy your over-priced DLC!

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves or That’s it? Really?

Posted in Played & Explained, The Latest on January 10, 2012 by Rabidgames

Finally, Rabidgames decided to take a closer look at the Uncharted series. He started with Uncharted 2: Among Thieves simply because it was convenient. And the first thing Rabidgames realised while playing Uncharted 2 was that the title “Among Thieves” fits perfectly: Nathan Drake must be the bastard child of Indiana Jones and Lara Croft. Or maybe Markus Fenix was his father, who knows …

First, let’s give credit where it is due: The graphics of Uncharted 2 are simply amazing – and proof what the PS3 is really capable of! Jungles, cities and especially snowy landscapes – Naughty Dog made it look almost perfect. Or think about the amazing train level (although it is a big loop). Great job. The sound is also alright. No problems here.

However, Uncharted 2 has some technical issues – 3 freezes right before the final boss and while fighting him are way too much. How could that have happened? You could argue that the game ran perfectly fine until then, yes – but take better care of your flagship next time, Sony!

So what does Rabidgames mean when he accuses Uncharted 2 of stealing?

Well, let’s start with the obvious: Nathan Drake is an Indiana Jones rip-off who jumps and runs like Lara Croft. The story is also ripped out of the brain of another, not yet released Indiana Jones movie: Evil guy searches precious treasure. Treasure turns out to be ancient device to conquer and control the entire world – in a pretty bloody way, of course. Want more stereotypes? Alright, Nathan is a young idiotic fighting machine who happens to be lucky all the time. You have one female sidekick who is a egoistic thief, another one who is a naive journalist who wants to help everybody and save the world on her way. More? Throw in a smart-ass mentor and a betraying bastard who also is an old mate of our dear protagonist. Somehow, the writers managed to incorporate all those stereotypes and still be fun. As far as the story goes at least.

Gameplay-wise, Uncharted 2 is a thief as well. Climbing and jumping reminded Rabidgames of Tomb Raider and also of the Assassin’s Creed games. Unfortunately, the climbing is boring. Most of the time, you automatically jump to your next dedicated spot after looking around and pressing the jump button. The climbing is also slow and feels cumbersome. Compared to Ezio, Nathan seems to be an arthritic old gaffer.

The shooting in Uncharted 2 is also bland: You take cover, shoot enemy A, wait for enemy B to leave his cover, shoot him, you wait for wave 2, rinse and repeat. Alternatively, you can throw grenades. Sometimes, the enemies try to flank you, but mostly they don’t. You A.I. friend is dumb by the way. Really dumb. Late in Uncharted 2, you’ll meet a new, annoying kind of enemy which takes dozens of rounds from your normal weapon – but is vulnerable to one shot of his own gun. Balancing, anyone?

There is one aspect where Uncharted 2 fails miserably – melee fights. Each and every goddamn fight is basically the same: Punch, punch, block, punch. And all accompanied with obvious QTE events. And there is no logic in having to defeat a boss with your bare hands when you could shoot him to pieces. That said, the stealth kills are cool at least. Rabidgames recommends to try stealth kills whenever you can. It’s fun and makes you almost feel like Solid Nate. Unfortunately, you can’t most of the time. Shame.

The pizzles of Uncharted 2 are ok. They’re nothing special but in today’s gaming world it’s great to see puzzles which involve more than “find Key A and bring it to Door B” or our very favourite “Where’s the fucking switch?”. Sadly, there are only a handful of proper puzzles to be found and solved throughout the entire game.

Another shortcoming of Uncharted 2 is its predictability: As soon as you start a level, you know what awaits you in the blink of an eye: Lots of walls mean shoot-outs, a gaping hole means climbing. And then you start doing one of the above actions for 5 minutes at least. You proceed to the next area, and then, you know it … rinse and repeat. There are a couple of levels though where you have to climb and fight enemies vertically at the same time – those were great fun.

All single gameplay aspects are good but nor great. The story is pretty cool but not original, same goes for the characters. Put all pieces together and you get an enjoyable game called Uncharted 2, that’s true. Yes, it works if you steal from all kinds of games and movies. But that’s about it. It feels like all the movies you’ve seen before and all the games you’ve played before. Hell, it even copies its predecessor, doesn’ it? Maybe Uncharted 2 is one of the prototypes of Hollywood popcorn gaming. Short (it took Rabidgames 12 hours to beat Uncharted 2 on easy – with lots of sightseeing), simple, enjoyable fun with no depth in gameplay. Another examples for this kind of fun would be the Transformers movies or the Call of Duty series.

Rabidgames says: Many people say Uncharted 2: Among Thieves  is a masterpiece – Rabidgames simply wonders why. The game seems like a graphically stunning experience with some meagre meat beneath its shiny shell. Yes, the graphics are amazing, yes, it is fun to explore some levels, and the fire fights are sometimes fun. But each gameplay part has been done before – and mostly better. So what makes this series unique? Again, can anybody explain to Rabidgames what the fuss is all about? Please!