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Where in the World is [Enter Video Game Related Entity Here]?

Well now that Duke Nukem Forever is (finally) becoming more than the biggest mythological creature in the video game industry, I thought I’d figure out what the f*** happened to some of the other stuff that was promised to come or just disappeared off of the face of the Earth. We, as gamers, don’t always get everything that was promised to us (ie. the entire Too Human game), but sometimes it would be nice to get an explanation as to why some properties suddenly dissipate. There is a fine line between not wanting to spoil too much about your game (which I personally feel the video game community does too much), waiting for some big event (ie. E3), and just being a complete asshole tease. These are the games/ideas/properties that I feel have crossed the line.

If anyone has any games or entities they would like to find out about, just leave a comment and I’ll update the post with my findings.

The single biggest tease in all of video games

X-COM

Officially Announced: April 13, 2010 | Release Date: TBA 2011 | Developer: 2K Marin

Aliens vs. the FBI in 1950's America? Count me in!

What is it?

Based off of the classic game X-COM: UFO Defense, a PC strategy game developed by Mythos Games in 1994, X-COM is a reimaging of that fabled property. Now a first person shooter (I know we have too many of those, but don’t fret, this one actually looks good), 2K Marin is bringing the game into the new generation. It tells the fight between man and alien as the FBI fights the spread of the unknown enemy. Remembering its roots, the game will feature intense story, complex strategy, and against-all-odds action to increase the suspense of this thriller shooter.

Where is it?

We first heard of this game in April of 2010 and were shown it hands on at E3 2010. After a promise from 2K Marin at E3 2010 that the game would be released in 2011, we haven’t heard much out of them since then. It is currently the middle of May in 2011 and 2K had yet to spill any beans on this coveted title. Once E3 2011 rolls around I’m sure the story will be different, but a little tidbit of information (like a more specific release date) now wouldn’t hurt.

What do we expect?

2K Marin will most likely spill their guts at E3 this year and will most likely get a holiday 2011 release, maybe a first quarter 2012 release if they’re falling behind.

BattleBlock Theater

Officially Announced: January 2009 | Release Date: TBA | Developer: The Behemoth

He's sad because the game isn't out yet

What is is?

The next game from the studio that brought you Alien Hominid HD and Castle Crashers, this is a side-scrolling, action-filled platformer. It features a heavy basis on 4-player multiplayer (a la Left 4 Dead). Expect the same cartoony violence you got with the blockbuster hit Castle Crashers

Where is it?

Unlike the other items on this list, this one has actually been seen recently. The last time we saw this game was at the Behemoth stand at PAX in March of this year. It was a playable game alongside Castle Crashers. So, as far as it looks, this game is nearly complete and ready to be distributed.

What do we expect?

Well, if we don’t here anything out of E3, expect a release at some point later this year. If all is said and done, nothing will be holding The Behemoth back from making their hard earned money. The best bet though? We will get a concrete date at E3, and it wont be too long of a wait either.

Respawn Entertainment Project

Officially Announced: 2010 | Release Date: TBA | Developer: Respawn Entertainment

Zampella and West: The founders of Respawn

What is is?

After the big fight/lawsuit between Vince Zampella, Jason West and Activision, those two decided to run off and form their own development company under publisher (take a good guess) EA. And with this comes the tumblings of their first big project. After originally stating that they were working on a blockbuster hit to compete with the monster they helped create, Call of Duty, not much has been coming out of Respawn.

Where is it?

No one really knows. Zampella and West started an entire new development studio AND are staring a new game in a new franchise under a new publisher from scratch. It is bound to take some time for them to hire enough people to staff the studio, come up with an idea, and then make enough of said idea to get a solid amount of info to share with the public.

What do we expect?

Don’t expect anything for a little while yet. Even if they do throw us a bone at E3 this year, don’t expect a game until at least mid to late 2o12. But don’t give up hope! Whatever they come up with is bound to be great and, in my opinion, the longer it takes for a game to come out, the longer the development team is taking to make sure their game is perfect.

Vitality Sensor

Officially Announced: June 2009 | Release Date: TBA | Developer: Nintendo

I just...I don't even know what Satoru Iwata was thinking...

What is is?

Also known as the biggest joke from Nintendo yet, the Vitality Sensor was supposed to be the next great thing for Nintendo and their healthy gaming craze. It was meant for people to track their pulse and other bodily numbers to use in sync with other health games, like Wii Fit. It was designed to help people relieve and manage their stress as well. The only other practical use for such a device is to monitor peoples stress levels while playing a horror survival game such as Resident Evil (but what could you honestly do with that data?)

Where is it?

Quite frankly, who cares? Is anyone honestly sitting around saying “Man, I really wish Nintendo would release that Vitality Sensor already.” Only the hardcore crowd really knows about it now, and we could care less about it. All the health freak moms are the ones who care, and unless they watch E3 press conferences each year, I’m pretty sure they’ve never heard of it. All the sub par feedback isn’t stopping Iwata though. He says the peripheral is still on track for a release…sometime.

What do we expect?

Don’t get your hopes up. It was announced at E3 2009 and hasn’t been heard from since. After being the laughing stock of the gaming community for a month or so after it was announced, it dropped off of the face of the Earth. And now that we know “Project Cafe”, Nintendo’s next home console, will be shown at this years E3, I’m pretty sure that little announcement will overshadow anything relative to the Vitality Sensor.

Half Life 2: Episode 3

Officially Announced: 2006 | Release Date: TBA | Developer: Valve

Valve Logo

The masterminds behind TF2, Portal, Left 4 Dead, and Half Life.

What is is?

Hinted to all the way back in 2006, Half Life 2: Episode 3 is (obviously) the successor to Episode 2. It continues the story of theoretical physicist Gordon Freeman

Where is it?

This game here is arguably the most anticipated game for PC gamers. It has been far too long since Episode 2 to take. And the sad thing is is that Valve has not said much about it at all. They said it was coming, but we don’t know much other than that. They have been pouring out game after game, update after update, but nothing on this game. Valve did, however, promise in September of 2010 that there would be three big announcements over the coming year. What could they be?

What do we expect?

This one is a mystery to all. The best we can do is hope for something at E3 or just wait for more of those “big announcements” Valve promised to come.

Well, that’s the list. Overall, the main thing we can do is wait. If you didn’t get the hint by now, E3 is the thing to look for. It’s coming fast and is bound to show us at least one of the games on this list. Keep your fingers crossed.

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Why Gaming is Still Stuck in the 90’s: The Female Image in Games

May 14, 2011 3 comments

All too often I find myself enjoying a game only to get jolted into reminding myself, “Yup, this is a videogame.” Not necessarily because of bad graphics or a poor story, it’s because the portrayals of females is more offensive than not. Listen, I enjoy a pair of knockers as much as the next guy; but when it’s in a game because a developer said, “BECAUSE BOOBS!” doesn’t mean there should be a place for it.

"There's all these heavily armed ninjas chasing me you gotta... nevermind... I'll find someone else..."

Games are becoming increasingly more immersive, their purpose is to remove you from your boring life for a few moments so you can be empowered in another. Story-telling and graphics help to significantly sell the experience. But, every once in a good while your experience is rudely interrupted by a pair of gozungas. You’re probably thinking, “But Chris, I like sex appeal in videogames don’t you?” Sex appeal is fine in video games as they’re more “mature” now than ever. However, if a developer is trying to sell me on an empowered female character, she shouldn’t be wearing a cheerleader outfit with her rack hanging out; I won’t be able to take her seriously. Imagine yourself playing a game and you’re unraveling the finer mysteries as to why the world is ending. At some point (in pretty much every game) you’ll set out with a goal in mind to stop certain catastrophe, when all of a sudden a porno-esque female librarian/secretary “briefs” you on a mission. This particular scenario isn’t from any particular game, but we’ve all been there; playing a game and a pornstar comes out of left field to shove a “set” in our faces.

Lady Gaga kills demons too... and then unnecessarily turns into a recurring character...

“Whoa hot chicks in videogames are awesome!!! What’s your beef?!” My “beef” is that promiscuity can often times TAKE AWAY from a female character instead of adding to them. I don’t know what it’s like for a female gamer to play some of these games. I can’t speak for all of them, but I can’t imagine feeling “okay” with some of the female depictions that are out there.

WHAT DOES THIS EVEN MEAN?!?!?!

This isn’t something that has recently surfaced in the industry; it’s been around since the dawn of gaming. I don’t want to remind everyone of Custer’s Revenge on the Atari 2600. Even during the NES era with the Battletoad’s Dark Queen; while she may be “tame” by today’s standards, keep in mind that 5 year olds (including me), were getting our hands on these games. Double Dragon 2’s Marion was also another one from the NES era that needed to pull up her blouse in front of the kids. Perhaps what sparked the fire was the PS1 era’s Lara Croft from the Tomb Raider series. Gameplay-wise the series got increasingly poorer, but her bust size kept increasing along with her sales. No other female videogame character has received as much notoriety as Lara Croft in the 90’s.

Blame her. She won't care.

I’m not here to rain on everyone’s parade saying, “No more boobs” in games. Let’s not forget that the gaming industry is growing up and developers are targeting adults now more than ever. The God of War series is known for it’s sex minigames and female characters that never fail to be topless. Bayonetta is just oozing (no pun, no pun goddamnit!) with sex appeal in EVERYTHING she does in the game. I can’t state that these are the only exceptions, but they’re M-rated and perhaps the developers want to push the envelope a bit, but they can do so respectfully. I’m sure there are female gamers out there whom enjoy these titles, but I can’t imagine myself playing a game where I control a man that gets naked-er as I’m vanquishing foes. Fighting games are infamous for their cast of female fighters. Most fighting games don’t exactly support a strong story for the characters to grow in, so the extent of their “character” boils down to their movesets and how “cool” they look. Soul Calibur is a beloved fighting franchise with a strong roster. However, EVERY female character in that game is… just look at the screenshot below, it tells all….

YOU'RE A NINJA?! HOW AM I SUPPOSE TO TAKE YOU SERIOUSLY?! HOW DO I EVEN FIGHT YOU?!

I’m sure character designers and artists are thinking, “How do we give her more personality?” Most will increase the polygon count in the chest and buttocks region and call it a day. Creating a believable and rich female character avoids that completely. Bonnie from Red Dead Redemption is a tough gal that doesn’t take crap from nobody. She doesn’t look like a dominatrix armed to the teeth. She’s a an appropriately-dressed western girl that has her head on straight. Her blue-collar attitude is what makes me interested in her character; not her bra size.

Being a blockbuster series; Uncharted could’ve easily fallen into the pitfall of having a female protagonist that “dresses for success”. However, Elena Fisher finds herself at the opposite end of the spectrum. She’s a woman that is guided by her career and supports the main character you play as. She doesn’t carry a whip, she carries a camera. She doesn’t rock a school-girl outfit, she wears jeans and a half-tucked shirt. Elena has a way of motivating the player through her dialogue and the energy she projects, not by unbuttoning her blouse. These are only a few of the female characters that are exactly what they are – female characters; not sex goddesses.

She looks nice, but she's got a vicious hook and can handle a piece.

The videogame industry can do a better job of depicting females in games. There are developers out there who understand that an overly-revealing character can be annoying or distracting for all the wrong reasons. It still seems like most game makers are still targeting males, they need to be mindful that women also play videogames. As a male gamer, an army of under-dressed virtual woman would not make me change my mind as to whether or not a game sucks. A bad game is a bad game. Undoubtedly, there are other gamers like me, male and female, who are sick of “characters” that are no more than virtual strippers. If I’m laying down $60 + tax for a video game, I’m paying for the experience and the potential fun, not a shameful peep show. If I want that, I’ll find it at the bar on the Touch Master, not on my home consoles.

Summer Movies ’11: The Geek Edition

May 1, 2011 1 comment

So apparently Fast Five has officially kicked off the summer movie blockbuster rush (although I really think they just need to stop with that series already. Enough is enough). As per usual, the summer is going to be full of geek movies geared to me and my kin, a.k.a. comic book, superhero and sci-fi thrillers. So I figured I would take the time to go through the big box office movies that interest me and that I think nerds nationwide will pay attention to and give my opinion and hype factor on them.

The movies that I’m going to talk about are as follows (in order of release): Thor, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, X-Men: First Class, Super 8, Green Lantern, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Captain America: The First Avenger, Cowboys & Aliens, and Rise of Planet of the Apes. As you can see, this summer is going to be packed with movies that are catered to the nerds of the world (and I’m pretty excited). So, without further adieu, let’s begin.

*Before I start, I would like to mention that these are my opinions on these movies and how much I believe they will either live up to their hype or please the geek crowd.

Thor (May 6th) 

(Directed by Kenneth Branagh; Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, and Anthony Hopkins)

What’s It About?: Thor (Hemsworth) is the third Avenger to make his movie debut (Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk being his predecessors). Thor is the God of Thunder who lives in the city of Asgard. He is extremely arrogant and violent and ends up reigniting a long forgotten war. As punishment, he is sent down to Earth to live with the humans. After befriending Jane Foster (Portman), Thor learns from his mistake and helps defend Earth from enemies sent from Asgard to cause havoc on the humans.

What Do I Think?: The first thing I notice when I see the information about this movie is, no joke, the director. Kenneth Branagh (Gilderoy Lockhart in the Harry Potter series, director and star of Hamlet) is one of my favorite people in the movie industry. I just love a lot of the work that he does, and I especially loved his version of Hamlet. Besides the director, I very pumped for this movie. It’s something we haven’t seen yet in the super hero movie industry: a God. I am extremely excited to see how well Chris Hemsworth pulls off the role. If you don’t count his short appearance as George Kirk in the 2009 Star Trek, this is Chris’ first big time role on the silver screen. Hopefully Thor will be for Chris as The Hurt Locker was for Jeremy Renner. He looks promising and I honestly can not wait to see this movie.

Hype Factor: 9/10

EDIT: Go see this movie. I saw it about a week ago and it is an amazing Marvel film. It lives up to the Hype Factor.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (May 20th) 

(Directed by Rob Marshall; Starring Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, and Geoffrey Rush)

What’s It About?: In the fourth Pirates movie, Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) finds himself running into a woman from his past on his way to find the Fountain of Youth. Entranced by what he thinks may be love, Sparrow is brought onto the ship of the most feared pirate in history: Blackbeard (McShane). The race goes on to beat Blackbeard to the Fountain and possible discover if his love is true.

What Do I Think?: First reaction? Is this necessary? This spin off story is just a ploy to milk the Pirates series for all its worth. Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightley, the other two main stars besides Johnny Depp, both quit the series after the third installment. Now it’s up to Depp to hold up the entire movie and, to be honest, I am tired of Jack Sparrow. He was amazing in the first movie, still pretty funny in the second, got repetitive in the third, and now after watching the trailer for this film, it just seems like they’re trying too hard. His act is old and repetitive and I’m tired of seeing the pirate in a drunken stupor running around like a chicken with his head cut off and acting completely scared around all the big bad guys: it’s overplayed.

Hype Factor: 4/10

X-Men: First Class (June 3rd) 

(Directed by Matthew Vaughn; Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence)

What’s It About?: A precursor to all past X-Men films, this movie tells the story of Charles Xavier (McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Fassbender) during the 1960’s. In the beginning they were two young men with great powers and became great friends as they helped the nation with their abilities. As time goes on though, the void between them grows and they eventually become the enemies that they are today.

What Do I Think?: When I first heard that this movie was coming about, I immediately thought “Oh great, another X-Men movie”. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the original trilogy and I didn’t even bother to see Wolverine’s spin off movie Origins (I think he is severely overrated). After watching the trailer and digging into this movie, however, I feel that it is actually going to turn out to be a great superhero movie. I’ve always like Magneto and Professor X a lot and it will be cool to see how they started out and how their friendship turned into a hatred. Although I will miss Ian Mckellan as Magneto, I’m getting good vibes from this movie. I just hope I don’t see too many more X-Men films.

Hype Factor: 8/10

Super 8 (June 10th) 

(Directed by J.J. Abrams; Starring Elle Fanning, Amanda Michalka, and Kyle Chandler)

What’s It About?: A group of kids, while filming a movie, witness a horrific train accident. What they don’t know, however, is what was being transported on that train. With mysterious military undertones, the citizens of one town start to notice disappearances an the deputy tries to pry some answers out of the government. The truth that they discover may be more shocking than they ever imagined. 

What Do I Think?: Like with Thor, the first thing I noticed was (a) J.J. Abrams wrote and directed it, and (b) Steven Speilberg produced it. These are two very good things. When I watch the trailer for this movie, I get a mix of Cloverfield, E.T., and The Goonies. Don’t ask me why, but that’s just what I pull from the trailer. Just by the way the movie was filmed it illicits a sense of wonder from me and makes me deeply interested in what exactly is on that train. I am very excited for this movie and the fact that J.J. Abrams is so good at keeping things secretive only makes my excitement even greater.

Hype Factor: 9/10

Green Lantern (June 17th) 

(Directed by Martin Campbell; Starring Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, and Peter Sarsgaard)

What’s It About?: Hal Jordan (Reynolds), an over-the-top jet pilot, is selected to join the Green Lantern Corps., a group of warriors from all different races in the universe that help keep peace and balance. He is given a ring that grants him superpowers that he must use to defeat Parallax, a new enemy that is threatening the Green Lantern Corps. in a way they have never been attacked before.

What Do I Think?: Cliche. I know that these superhero movies are already pre-written and their stories already exist, but I still can’t help but feel like I’ve seen this so many times before. I get a very strong “Tony Stark” vibe from Ryan Reynolds character, and although that works for Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), I don’t know how well it’s going to work for Reynolds. It’s going to be the same old thing: eccentric protagonist gets super power by some means and learns the values of life and what’s really important as he grows with the power. 

Hype Factor: 6/10

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (July 1st) 

(Directed by Michael bay; Starring Shia Labeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Tyrese Gibson, and Josh Duhamel)

What’s It About?: The Autobots and Decepticons are back for a third time as they get involved with the space race between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. A space craft from Cybertron was discovered on the moon and now a race between the Autobots and Decepticons has begun to reach the ship and learn its secrets.

What Do I Think?: After the catastrophe that was Revenge of the Fallen, I am not expecting much with this movie. I know that it’s going to be exactly the same as the other two: explosion after explosion within an explosion. It’s a Michael Bay movie; what else would you expect? Probably the biggest complaint I have is the replacement of Megan Fox. Now I wasn’t really a big fan of Fox herself, but I wish Bay would have kept her on board for the sake of the “plot” (I used quotations because the “plot” of the Transformers series is so convoluted and disorganized that it can hardly be called a “plot”). I mean, after two movies of Sam chasing after Mikaela and developing their love life, it seems incredibly stupid to just erase her from the picture and have Sam fall in love with some new girl (who is played by a Victoria’s Secret model with no previous acting experience). All in all, I will be seeing this movie for two reason: to see how they manage to explain Fox’s departure in the movie / laugh at the new girls most likely horrible acting and to see all the robot fighting action (I’m a guy; I’m allowed to like explosion and action).

Hype Factor: 4/10


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (July 15th) 

(Directed by David Yates; Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint)

What’s It About?: Harry (Radcliffe), Ron (Grint), and Hermione (Watson), as well as the entire Hogwarts gang, are back for the finale to the Harry Potter series. The second half of the Deathly Hallows book, this movie depicts the final fight between Good and Evil, Harry and the students of Hogwarts against Voldemort’s army. Answers are given to all of the most pressing plot points and the series finally comes to a close.

What Do I Think?: Being the Harry Potter junkie that I am, I am already pre-disposed to love this movie. Putting all bias aside, I still believe this will be an amazing movie for those who have seen the rest of them (obviously). The movies don’t stand a chance against the books of course, but as long as nothing big has been changed drastically, I feel this will be a quintessential summer movie. Unlike the first half of the book, which was more of the trios quest to find Voldemort’s Horcruxes, this movie is going to be an all out action flick, which is a nice relief from the previous installment. I have high hopes for this movie, but I have a small tinge of apprehension as well; I just feel like something will be changed from the books that I could never forgive Yates for.

Hype Factor: 9/10

Captain America: The First Avenger (July 22nd) 

(Directed by Joe Johnston; Starring Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, and Richard Armitage)

What’s It About?: Set during WWII, Steve Rogers (Evans) is an eager man who wants to fight for his country but is denied because of his small body size. He opts to be part of a government experiment to create super soldiers. After a successful transformation, the army turns Rogers into a spokesperson for the army, making tours to different conferences and press events. He is given a patriotic uniform and paraded around to show the armies strength. The Nazi’s, on the other hand, employ an evil plan that requires Rogers to step up to the plate and fight for his country.

What Do I Think?: It’s completely ironic that the “First Avenger” is the last one to see their movie debut, but I have to say that Captain America seems to be the Avenger that I am going to like the most. I love learning about WWII and any story based off of that time period is bound to catch my attention. I am a fan of Evans’ character, who is just an honest guy trying to fight for his country. Another thing I am excited about is to see how the other Avengers get incorporated. If you notice in the trailer, right before the experiment begins the one scientists tells ‘Mr. Stark” to start it up. This is Howard Stark and is just another way in which the lives of the four Avengers are intertwined. Just think back to how many references there were in Iron Man 2. I think I’m really going to like Captain America.

Hype Factor: 9/10


Cowboys & Aliens (July 29th) 

(Directed by Jon Favreau; Starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and Olivia Wilde)

What’s It About?: A mysterious stranger named Jake Lonergan (Craig) is found in the town of Absolution with no memory of his past, he quickly becomes unwanted and must come under the orders of Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde (Ford). A sudden alien invasion of the town requires the townsfolk to forget their fear and hatred of Lonergan and create a team of men to fight off the aliens. Lonergan holds the key to the towns survival in a shackle-like device on his wrist that can help save the town.

What Do I Think?: When I first heard of this movie, it sounded like the dumbest thing I had ever heard. “Cowboys & Aliens” just sounded so weird to me. But then I watched an interview with Favreau, the director, and realized two things: (1) this is actually a comic book, and (2) it has never been done before. I had never heard of this story before, so finding out that it was a comic book came as a shock to me. I thought it was just some random idea. Secondly, Favreau questions why we can’t have an alien invasion movie set in the Wild West. Just because we think we see aliens now doesn’t mean they didn’t see the same types of things back then either. I took this to heart and decided to give this movie a shot. Also, I just like Harrison Ford a lot. He may be old, but he’s still got what’s needed to be a badass action hero. It will be cool to see him work side by side with Daniel Craig, who I have not seen outside of James Bond

Hype Factor: 8/10


Rise of Planet of the Apes (August 5th) 

(Directed by Rupert Wyatt; Starring James Franco, Andy Serkis, and Freida Pinto)

What’s It About?: Will Rodman (Franco), who is a scientist, experiments with genetic engineering on apes in San Fransisco. What he ends up doing is creating a whole new race of super intelligent monkeys that create a fight with the humans for supremacy.

What Do I Think?: Dumbest nerd movie of the summer. I never liked Planet of the Apes and I never will. The whole concept just seems so stupid to me. Just another “lab creation gone wrong” movie. And the fact that the trailer boasts that it used the same visual effects team as Avatar just made me even more mad considering I really did not like Avatar. So its visuals are all it’s got going for it, huh? That means the story must really suck. No thanks.

Hype Factor: 1/10

Editorial: Why “Call of Duty” Will (or at least should) Come To An End

April 26, 2011 4 comments

In this day and age, everyone and their mother knows what “Call of Duty” is. The T.V. spots, the online ads, and just the overall popularity of the series has made this one of the top grossing video game series to date, joining the ranks of other big shots like Mario, Pokemon, and Grand Theft Auto. Black Ops, the latest title in the series, is the number one selling video game of all time (and it didn’t even take it that long to get there). So obviously this series is huge. Enormous. A titan among the video game industry. There are reasons why these series get popular, stay popular, and continue to produce game after game after game: people enjoy them, and Call of Duty is no different. I am here to rain on everyones parade and explain to you why Call of Duty will, or at least should, come to an end.

The title that started it all

Now don’t get me wrong, I own the majority of the Call of Duty games for the home consoles and have at least played the ones I don’t own a fair amount. They are addictive and hard to put down; I do not deny this. I have probably put around 60 days worth of time into Modern Warfare‘s online mode alone. This, however, does not make Call of Duty and more special to me than the other games in my collection like Bioshock or Dead Space. I have put an ample amount of time into all of them as well and love them a lot more than I do Call of Duty. That doesn’t matter though, that is my personal preference. I can see past the smoke and mirrors and flashing lights that Activision is throwing our way and I have come to the realization that Call of Duty may very well be doomed to the same fate as True Crime, Tony Hawk (Tony claims they’ll still make games, but come on, lets be serious, no one likes those games), and the music titan itself, Guitar Hero.

The COD series has changed so much from its roots in the passing years. Probably the majority of the changes were with the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. New war, new time period, new weapons, completely revamped online system, and so much more. From there the changes just get more and more drastic from the original three. If you don’t recall, Call of Duty 1, 2, and 3 were all set during WWII, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare switched things to present times, Call of Duty: World at War went back to WWII, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 came back to modern times again, and finally Call of Duty: Black Ops went for the Vietnam War. In the beginning Call of Duty was a fast paced shooter for its time and had a strong level of complexity for its time, but as time has gone on the complexity has increased to a point where I believe it to be too convoluted for its own good. I have barely even played Black Ops (amidst rave reviews from all of my friends) because, among other reasons, I didn’t care to learn all the new features that had been added. Especially not all the new “Zombies” features. Back when “Zombies” was initially released with World at War, I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. I played that original zombies level countless times with my friends, just resetting it every time we finally lost. I like “Zombies” back then. It was simple: start off with the basics, buy weapons off the wall, take a gamble with the mystery box, and just board up and defend all the entry ways so the zombies didn’t get you. I don’t even have that much fun playing the “Zombies” mode on Black Ops. The funky weapons, the different juices, the electricity and teleporters, the different forms of zombies. Sure, I’m all for innovation, but too much too much. I can’t handle playing it because it’s just too much to worry about. The Call of Duty series has become so wrapped up in being a twitch shooter that it’s lost almost all sense of realism and pacing for me.

Zombies mode

This plays over into the online matchmaking. I CAN NOT stand the Call of Duty online community. It is a bunch of slanderous words and 12-year-olds. I know other games suffer from this syndrome as well (…coughcoughHALO) but it still doesn’t make it right. Nine times out of ten I find myself in an argument with some internet tough guy because the fact that he can hide behind the anonymity of a Gamertag automatically means that he can spout all the homophobic, racist, and sexist remarks he wants. It ruins the fun for me. If I’m not playing in a private chat room with my friends, I don’t use a headset anymore. I can’t stand listening to the garbage that comes through Xbox Live. And this kind of defeats the purpose of the communication aspect of the game, seeing as you’re supposed to use the headset to communicate with your teammates to work together and win the game. Although it’s not like you could actually for a good strategy and play it out. Call of Duty has become so fast-paced and so twitchy that almost any strategy you want to employ wouldn’t work because of the speed of the game.

Back to the complexity. The online modes suffer from this as well. I really liked Modern Warfare‘s online mode. There was enough there to keep me busy (like working towards the golden guns), but not too much to make it seem laden down with unnecessary crap. As time has gone on the additions have just kept coming and coming. Some of them I praise, like host migration. No more rage quitters ruining my kill streak fun. Most though, not so much. Modern Warfare 2, and especially Black Ops have become so burdened with extra garbage in their online modes that I find I have too much stuff to take care of. Modern Warfare 2 was about the max I could stand in terms of complexity. The leveling up on each weapon to unlock new upgrades and attachments, the leveling up of your perks, all the challenges, the kill streaks, camouflages; it all seemed like so much, but I managed (I was severely disappointed in the removal of golden weapons). Black Ops, however, introduces a whole new money-based upgrade system which I really just can’t stand. Just another number I have to watch.

Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer

Why such a big hatred to the complexity? It’s not because I can’t necessarily handle it, because I can. I play many complicated games that require a lot of time and effort. It’s because of two reasons: (1) Im not compelled to learn all the new features, and (2) it detracts from the single player. Call of Duty got to it’s high position in the video game world because of it’s single player campaign. That was the original reason why all the critics raved and why everyone originally fell in love with it. Over time, however, the focus has switched from the single player to the multiplayer. Of course this is where the majority of your time is going to be spent now, but that doesn’t mean they need to neglect the single player. Now, from what I hear, Black Ops‘ campaign is amazing, and I’ve been meaning to play it. This was refreshing to hear since lately the reviews for game shave been saying there was not enough time spent of the story or it’s too short. I still worry though, I love a good story.

Another small little reason why I believe Call of Duty is doomed to fail is that they are running out of wars. WWII is definitely overplayed, and I am starting to get sick of modern shooters as well. If they don’t switch to a new time zone after Modern Warfare 3 is released, I think they’re going to be in a lot of trouble. With every other major war shooter series out there now switching to the modern era, the market is overflowing with sand and turbans. The Vietnam War was a good play on Treyarchs part; there just aren’t that many wars to make games out of. Anything earlier than WWII would just be boring in my opinion, with such low tech they had back then (and plus WWI was 99% trench warfare, which doesn’t exactly pan out for a fun video game). The Vietnam War is a fresh, new face for the video game industry and I see that sticking around for a while, but it won’t take long for the market to get tired of that war as well. The market wouldn’t be getting tired of these wars so fast if they would pace out the games a little  more, but I’ll talk about that later.

Call of Duty: Black Ops

My main inspiration for writing this editorial is all of the news circulating Activision, the loss of Guitar Hero, the news surrounding Infinity Ward, and the switching of developers for the Call of Duty series. Activision’s name has now become synonymous with evil in the world of video games. We’ve all seen the the things Bobby Kotick has said. They have a history of taking something great, milking it dry, and then throwing it to the side. This happened with Guitar Hero. What was something great was taken over, forced to pump out countless games every year, and then tossed to the side when people stopped buying plastic peripherals. This is exactly what is happening with Call of Duty. All of the above mentioned complaints may not be quite so bad if the games had more than one year between each new edition. I do not think that Call of Duty needs an annual release. They try to pack so much stuff into the games and then try to pack as many games into the market as they can. There is more than enough content in Modern Warfare 2 to hold me over for at least 2 years. The problem comes when Activision expanded the development community of the Call of Duty franchise. As of right now, there are FIVE developers working on the franchise. FIVE! They are as follows: Infinity Ward, Treyarch, Raven, Sledgehammer, and Beachhead. Let’s start off with Infinity Ward. The creators of the series. It’s good to know that at least the original guys are still behind the games…oh wait, scratch that. We all know what happened over a year ago. The giant fight between Activision and Infinity Ward. The epic battle that resulted in the loss of the two heads of Infinity Ward, Jason West and Vince Zampella. They were let go by Activision, which lead to lawsuits and a huge chunk of Infinity Ward’s staff quitting on the spot. West and Zampella were forced to open a brand new development studio: Respawn Studios. Well, there goes the original talent. But what remains of Infinity Ward is still here, working on the 2011 installment to the Call of Duty series.

Next is Treyarch. The other main Call of Duty developer. The ones who made Call of Duty 3, World at War, and Black Ops. I have never been a particular fan of Treyarch’s Call of Duty games, but they aren’t too bad. I much prefer Infinity Ward though. They’re still around and doing fine. No big deal. Now comes Raven. They  have been reportedly working on DLC for Black Ops. Why is this necessary? Why are you outsourcing Call of Duty to other developers. Infinity Ward and Treyarch know how it works and how everything is designed. Handing it off to another developer and just saying “Here, make us some DLC” is stupid. What sort of busy schedules do Infinity Ward and Treyarch have? Are they too busy trying to working on the next installment in the series that they can’t stop to support the one that’s already out? Here’s an idea: STOP MAKING COD ANNUALLY.

The C.O.D. Developers (minus Beachhead)

Now the one that makes me livid. Sledgehammer. This fourth developer is reportedly working on a whole new, completely separate Call of Duty game. But it’s not a shooter. It’s an action adventure game. What? Why is this even here? Remember that time I said Activision likes to milk popular property for all it’s worth? Yeah, that’s whats happening here. We do not need an action adventure Call of Duty game. It’s made to be a shooter and that’s the way it should be. Lastly, with all that extra money and space Activision had from getting rid of Guitar Hero, True Crime, Tony Hawk (and I didn’t even mention Activision dropping Bizarre Creations, the development studio that brought us Geometry Wars and Blur), they decided to open up a brand new studio to, guess what, focus on the Call of Duty franchise. What is this fifth developer doing? They are in charge of developing an online hub/waypoint/community for the franchise, a la Halo Waypoint. For the third time I ask, why is this necessary? Why can’t Infinity Ward or Treyarch take a break from making annual Call of Duty games and make this new community thing. It was not necessary to create a whole new studio for it (especially at the cost of losing Bizarre Creations).

Have I made my case? With all of these new studios opening up just for Call of Duty, Activision is going to find it hard not to have those development teams create their own Call of Duty games. Then the market will really be crowded. Just look at the other big blockbuster series. Halo had its time and it has come and gone. There were spin off games, like Halo Wars, and a giant online community with their own community hub. Bungie could easily have made more Halo games expanding on the rich world they created, but they decided against it. Enough was enough. Don’t saturate the market. Leave something to be desired, don’t stuff game after game down our throats until we get sick just by looking at them.

I could be wrong about all of this. Call of Duty could live on for a long time, thriving in our video game world. But I personally don’t see that happening. Halo was the game that people thought of when you mentioned video games. Now it’s Call of Duty. If the developers were fewer, the games fewer, and the had a different publisher paving the way, the future of Call of Duty may be a little brighter. But right now it’s pretty bleak.

UPDATE: Well the rumor pool is churning when it comes to the newest edition to the series: Modern Warfare 3. Some apparently “leaked” details suggest that the game is a direct sequel to Modern Warfare 2, features “Soap” MacTavish and John Price, will travel to locales such as Dubai, NYC, and Paris, and has been jointly developed by Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer Games, and Raven Software.

UPDATE NUMBER 2: It has been recently announced that the fifth developer, Beachhead studios, which was the developer working on an online community, has come forward with their upcoming product. It is called Call of Duty Elite and is a paid online stat-tracking service, similar to what Bungie.net does for free.

4-19-2011: What I’ve been playing

So I figure that I’ll update every once in a while with what I have been playing as of recently. Without further adieu, here are all the games that I have been playing for the past week or two.

Blur (Bizarre Creation)

You must probably be thinking “Blur? Why Blur?” Well, you see, I have a limited selection of games that I brought to school with me with my 360, and this happens to be one of them. I remember this game being advertised as the “Mario Kart for adults”, but when it came to release, it didn’t get as much attention as I think it deserves. This game is a fun, fast-paced arcade racer that I can thoroughly enjoy sitting down and playing. The campaign mode is nothing special and the multiplayer is completely empty, but I still find it fun to sit down with a couple of my guy friends and kick the crap out of each other as we race.

Halo Wars (Ensemble Studios)

Yes, Halo Wars is one of the other random games that I decided to bring up with me to school (if you’re wondering, the other two games I brought were Black Ops and New Vegas). I decided to bring some games with me that I hadn’t played in a long time, and Halo Wars was definitely one of them. I may not play the campaign all too much, but I have a lot of fun just skirmishing against the computers, 3 vs. 3, for an hour or two. I just like seeing all of my “minions” scrambling around, attacking what I want, when I want.

Words With Friends (Zynga)

Now this game comes completely out of left field. A simple, free to download app that’s basically Scrabble that I play with my friends over the internet. It’s simple, stupid, and addictive. I’m always refreshing the app to see if any of the multiple games I’ve started has had an update. I’m almost checking this as much as I do Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. It’s almost sad how much this game addicts me.

Family Feud (Ludia)

Now this game was definitely not expected. Another app downloaded on my iPod (this one was actually paid for) and I can say that it has also kept me addicted for multiple hours. The graphics may be sub-par, the computer can be both extremely stupid and unbelievably intelligent at the same time, and there may not be too much to do with the app, but it’s simple fun and I guess I’m just easily entertained sometimes. Don’t get me wrong though, I still like my complex games like Fallout just as much.

Geometry Wars Evolved/Touch (Bizarre Creations)

Now this includes both the XBL version and the Touch version. I have been playing both equally as much (although the console version is easily ten times better). Now this game is a very special game. It is probably my second favorite XBL game that I own (second only to Castle Crashers). This game manages to invoke so much chaos in such a simplistic form that is very easy to just pick up and play at any moment. The visuals are just astounding and I can never just play one round of this game.

So there you have it, the games that have been consuming my life for the past couple of weeks.

Life Culture Geek’s 3DS Unboxing/Impressions

March 29, 2011 1 comment

Let it be clear that this is simply an unboxing and a quick overview of my first impressions of the 3DS. This is NOT a system review. Quite frankly, when I see reviews for a gaming system it makes me feel a little dirty inside. I’ve seen a few members of the gaming press give out scores to handhelds and consoles and I feel like it’s undervaluing what the system is capable of. The system will make a name for itself once the games are released and the library is expanded. So here’s my impressions of the new 3DS.

Love at first sight?
As far as form-factor goes, the 3DS is just as glossy as every other piece of handheld tech out there. The “interior” also comes complete with the shiny finish that’s sure to gather some smears and fingerprints. The clamshell design isn’t a far departure from previous iterations of the DS, but if it isn’t broken don’t fix it. Hardcore and casual gamers have fallen in love with the dual-screen experience that only the DS provides. However, since the dual-screen gameplay is rooted deep within the 3DS’s DNA, it doesn’t really allow the system to be any smaller. That’s just the reality of it. The 3DS is still a small system, but gamers looking for something more compact than the DSLite or DSi may find themselves a little disappointed. But this shouldn’t stop any potential buyers to shy away from the 3DS altogether, it’s still compact enough that it will fit in most pockets. It’s not like Sega’s Game Gear or anything, but people who are use to DSLite or DSi’s occupying the pockets for some time may find their pants a little tighter (lolz). But there’s no denying it’s a sexy piece of hardware.

How bout that glowy thingy that lets me see games?
The top screen is 90mm in diameter and wider than the bottom screen’s 77 mm display. It’s a little strange to open up a DS to see two differently sized screens, but it’s all for the better. The top screen… wait for it… displays games in 3D!!! (insert dance music + fist pump) In all seriousness, the wide display is a great showcase for the system’s stereoscopic selling point. People wondering about the quality of the 3D should cast aside their worries. It’s legitimately good 3D that displays depth in an impressive manner. Not everything punches out at you, games will also allow you to see “into” them. I REALLY hate to say it but, “it has to be seen to be believed”. I wear corrective lenses and I have no issues enjoying the 3D with or without my glasses on. While some games even warned against playing it for long periods of time, I sank a couple straight hours into Super Street Fighter 4 3D without any strain on my eyes or a resulting headache. The bottom screen is basically the two-dimensional touch screen you’ve come to expect on other DS systems.

The 3D won't kick your ass... Ken will.

What about the clackity clacks?
The 3DS has the typical assortment of “Nintendo buttons” that consist of L, R, Y, X, B, and A. Of course there’s the d-pad along with “Select” and “Start”. What’s new is the “Home” button that has been popularized on home consoles. It lets players suspend their game and open up a different program if they choose to. It’ll simply close out the existing game/program and launch the other one with relatively no trouble or lockup. This function itself makes the 3DS feel more like a modern handheld and sure beats restarting the entire unit just to reach the home menu. The analog “stick”/nub/disc sits above the d-pad and feels surprisingly good. There’s a little concave groove you can nestle your thumb into comfortably. It kind of feels like you’re rubbing your thumb on a smooth tablet of Pepto Bismol (weird analogy I know). The button real estate has changed a bit from the DS models of yesteryear. “Start” and “Select” now join the “Home” button right under the bottom touch screen. The power button is no longer a slider, but it’s own independent button that will allows you to put the system in sleep mode or power it off entirely. All the buttons along with the analog nub feel great and give satisfying feedback. They all feel “clicky” instead of “mushy”.

What’s under the hood?

Who thought zombies would look this good on a portable system?

A custom PICA200 processor is the source of the 3DS’s graphical horsepower. The hardware upgrade from the normal line of DS units is far from incremental. Just from playing SSF4, it’s very apparent that there’s more fight in this dog. With promising titles like Kid Icarus, Resident Evil: Revelations and Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D in the pipes, it’s hard not to be impressed. It’s a shame that those games aren’t readily available at launch, but they offer an exciting forecast of the games to come. In terms of audio, the 3DS has two speakers; one on each side of the top screen. Pretty standard, but people may notice it’s a tad quieter than previous DS models. No big deal, I’m splitting hairs purely for the sake of observation. There’s also a camera facing inward that takes pictures as well as two facing outward that takes 3D pictures. The cameras aren’t the greatest quality. They’re simply functional enough to let you mess around and add in your own 3D effects. Wifi functionality will let you go toe-to-toe online with people in your region and across the world. My online experiences thus far have been serviceable and my time online with SSF4 3D was comparable to that of the console versions.

Looking forward…

The 3DS’s power of appeal is undeniable. The thought of 3D gaming on a portable system sounds like a mad man’s design, but Nintendo has nudged (pushed?) the gaming industry forward into the age of 3D gaming. The mass market appeal of glasses-free 3D will keep gamers and non-gamers talking. Coupled with a chipset that is powerful enough to run some of the most stunning visuals ever seen on a handheld yet, the 3DS certainly has potential for innovation. While the launch lineup is lacking, there is still room to grow for Nintendo’s new handheld. The new e-shop coming in roughly a month promises to bring classic Gameboy and Gameboy Color games. However, Nintendo’s track record for steadily releasing classic content has been largely shaky. Hopefully they can make amends and really turn it around with the 3DS. Hopefully…

Ocarina of Time may not be new, but it'll show a new generation of gamers the magic it showed me

Hopefully with some innovation and a little faith in the hardware, developers can come up with some creative new experiences to appease the nomadic gamer.

Check out Life Culture Geek’s unboxing of the 3DS below!
NOTE: In the video I did say that the 3DS doesn’t have a mic. I’m very mistaken as it DOES have a microphone. I apologize for the misinformation. I ended up trading in Ninja Gaiden for nothing 😦


PSA: How Gamers Can Aid Relief Efforts in Japan

While the country slept, Japan was struck with a 9.0 earthquake and the resulting tsunami further devastated the country’s coast. The unfathomable devastation has left millions without shelter, warm clothes, food, and clean water. Relief efforts are currently underway to help get the nation back on it’s legs. Many philanthropic entities are raising money and sending whatever aid they can to ease Japan’s recovery. While we may be on the other side of the globe, here are several ways that gamers across the world can use our beloved past time to help our fellow man.

Facebook – People can join groups to stay informed on the relief efforts in Japan. These groups will often have links to charitable foundations that will take donations over your Facebook account. Facebook members who are addicted to Farmville and Car Town can purchase in-game items in which the proceeds go to charitable foundations in Japan. Farmville players will get special crops that are exclusive to those that donate and Car Town players will get a limited-edition Red Cross ambulance for their contributions. Buy virtual cars and plots of land + do good = Win.

Playstation Network – PSN users can donate money straight from their virtual wallet in $2, $5, $10, $25, $50 increments. Those who donate will receive the exclusive theme pictured below.

Fiesta Online – Those who are into the cult MMORPG Fiesta Online can make a donation of $5 and receive an exclusive in-game pet. Apparently this pet has some “sweet stats”. I’m not too familiar with this game, but if you happen to be a community member of Fiesta Online be sure to pick up this “epic pet” for a good cause.

Nexon – Gamers who enjoy the free-to-play titles such as Combat Arms and Maple Story can purchase various in-game items in which 100% percent of proceeds from sales will go to humanitarian efforts in Japan. As far as I know, Nexon is not offering any exclusive content, but c’mon that $5 magical sword you’ve been eyeballing is bound to buy itself eventually. Plus, those five bucks can go a long way where it’s needed.

Capcom – Capcom has reduced the price of Street Fighter 4 on the App Store to 99¢. All the profits made from the purchase will go to aid those in Japan. If you’ve got an iTouch, iPhone, or iPad this is a small sum that will bring help to those in need. You’ve already blown a ton of money by getting an iPad anyway, what’s another 99¢ you Apple hipster you?

Bungie – Strange how a developer so renown for making games where you mercilessly blow aliens to bits is lending a helping hand. Jokes aside, the folks at Bungie Studios are people too and they’re sending out some pretty cool looking wristbands to those who donate $5. Here’s the link to the donation page:

http://www.bungiestore.com/Japan-Quake-Relief-Wristband-Adult/M/B004S8L9LY.htm

It comes in Covenant Blood Blue (or just blue)

GameStop – While gamers may cringe at the thought of Gamestop; they’re partnering with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to deliver much needed donations to The Land of the Rising Sun. A link for donations can be found here:

http://www.ifrc.org/

While these are only a handful of ways gamers can donate, non-gamers (or just about anybody) can of course still text REDCROSS at 90999 to donate $10 that will help efforts in Japan. The calamity that has befallen Japan has certainly saddened the nation. And that’s a severe understatement, but with the world’s collective effort and charity we can help our fellow man and participate in rebuilding a beautiful and humble country. Times are tough and some of us may not have the money to donate; but we can at the very least keep Japan in our prayers. I sincerely appreciate your time.