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Archive for February, 2010

David Jaffe, the creator of the insanely popular God of War franchise (the third one being released in the coming weeks) spoke to Kotaku about his cancelled anti- George W. Bush game, Heartland. Games are starting to become more liberal with their storytelling (just see the controversial playable terrorist scene from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 recently) which I personally welcome with open arms. Just so long as the game is mature in it’s unique storytelling, games should start taking these risky leaps if they want to be considered serious forms of art.

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Online gaming has been around since the 90’s and in that time, many words and phrases have been invented or altered to be used commonly during gameplay. Most gamers (including myself) are guilty of using them often but there are certain phrases that just need to die (but of course won’t). These are the top ten most annoying phrases used during online gaming, whether through text or voice communications. These phrases were ranked on a combination of how common they are and how annoying they are as well.

10. “You just got PWNED!” – A phrase that’s close to every hardcore gamers heart, “pwned” is derived from misspelling “owned” on online forums. Like “getting owned,” pwned is a phrase used when a player is humiliated during a game. It’s funny and fun to use at first but when people bring it into the real world or, like the others, use it too often, it can grate on the nerves a bit.

Game most often used in: Just to show you the clip of it, World of Warcraft

 9. “BK” – Stands for “Bad Kid.” How this became popular, I do not know but I hope it dies a swift and painful death soon enough.  The phrase never really offends the victim but actually embarrasses the one delivering the phrase. Saying “You’re such a BK” is lamer than verbally saying “LOL!” and calling someone a “bad kid” just sounds stupid.

Game most often used in: Halo 3

8. “Stop lagging!” – It is possible that lag (when a game skips because of a bad connection) affected the turn-out of a match. It happens a lot and it is very annoying. But when players start blaming lag to compensate for their poor performance during a match, then it gets ridiculously annoying.

Game most often used in: Any online game

7. “n00btube” – The “noobtube” is simply the grenade launcher that can be attached to assault rifles in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. The second I heard this stupid phrase I hated it. Yeah, getting easy kills with the grenade launcher (in Modern Warfare 1, they were simple one-hit kills) was noob-ish but it’s just a dumb phrase. And now with the fixed grenade launcher in Modern Warfare 2 (the grenade does not explode up close, it needs at least some distance between the shooter and the target) it’s all but useless.

Game most often used in: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

6. “Chainsaw n00b” – One of the many things Gears of War is famous for is the introduction of the chainsaw. Like the bayonets used centuries ago, a chainsaw was attached to the bottom of the game’s assault rifle for very exciting close-up combat. Though the use of it was fairly acceptable in the first game since the overpowered shotgun easily countered it, the chainsaw became a power-house in the game’s sequel. The developers wisely tuned down the shotguns strength to allow for a more accessible multiplayer experience but veteran players became possibly the worst whiners in gaming history when they couldn’t stop the chainsaw. A simple way of countering getting torn-up by the chainsaw was to keep your distance and shoot from afar but even with the knowledge of this common sense move, players still managed to complain.

Game most often used in: Gears of War 2

5. “Campers”Camping is the art of staking out a discreet spot on the map and waiting for an opponent to walk by so you can sneak up on him or her to get an easy kill. Many players find this tactic cheap. I’ll agree, camping can get really annoying sometimes and I’ll even lash out at campers. But if you’re playing a game like Call of Duty where they show you where the player killed you from (the Kill Cam for those who don’t know), then stop complaining cause they clearly show you where the player is hiding. Also, campers take advantage of hasty, run-and-gun players. For the run-and-gunners: stop rushing in like a chicken with it’s head cut-off and be smart! Instead of complaining, do something about it!

Game most often used in: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

4. “Stop stealing my kills” – In a game like Halo 3, a player has to shoot an opponent a few times before he goes down. Often times while a one-on-one match is going on, a third player will enter the battle to help his teammate finish off the other player. And usually, the third player will receive the point for the kill where the person originally engaged in the fight only gets an assist point which is of lesser value. In any other form of competition or sport, this would be seen as team work but for many of the selfish players online, this is called “stealing a kill.” Get over yourself and play for the team and not for yourself!

Game most often used in: Halo 3

3. “Oh my God, how is he still alive?! I shot him in the head!!” – Look, if you shot the player in the head, he would be dead right now but he isn’t. You missed. Get over it! This is a reaction from most players attempting to snipe in a game. Players can believe all they want that the player is glitching or that they hit an invisible wall in the game but the fact of the matter is, they just aren’t that good at sniping.

Game most often used in: Any game involving sniper rifles

2. “Wow, how did I die?! I definitely shot him first!” – So what, when you’re bad at the game, it doesn’t matter who shoots first. Getting the first shots off is a huge advantage but when you can’t finish the kill, then don’t complain, it just makes you look bad. Look, this is such a common phrase that there is even a Facebook group dedicated to its use (which I of course joined).

Game most often used in: Halo 3

1. Any and all of the racist, sexist, homophobic and flat-out stupidly offensive phrases briskly thrown around This is not just a problem in video games but online in general. The internet is like a shield for pathetic low-lifes who still define people by their race or sex. Steps have been made to prevent this kind of atmosphere (being able to file a report on Xbox Live) but it has not stopped the millions of ignorant players from spatting their hate speeches online. Once again, I need to implore that this does not just go on in games but all over the internet and in most cases you don’t have to deal with this crap. Also, parents can take precautions to prevent this like family friendly gaming zones for example

Game most often used in: For some reason, these type of people love Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Got better and way more annoying online phrases than what are listed here or just want to discuss the lame ones already listed? Post them in the comments section!

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Video game sales are down 13% this month. Console sales decreasing makes sense since we’re a few years into the consoles’ life times. Usually around this time, we would hear about new consoles getting announced at the upcoming E3 convention. But because of how these new systems are developed with heavy online support and new projects like 360’s Natal and PS3’s new motion controls, these consoles still have life in them yet. Analyst expected the video game sales to drop. Big name titles in the next month like God of War 3 should boost overall sales.

Video Game Sales for January 2010

  1. New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii) – 656,700
  2. Mass Effect 2 (360) – 572,100
  3. Wii Fit Plus (Wii) – 555,700
  4. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (360) – 326,700
  5. Mario Kart Wii (Wii) – 310, 900
  6. Sports Resort (Wii) – 297,600
  7. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (PS3) – 259,000
  8. Army of Two: The 40th Day (360) – 246,500
  9. Just Dance (Wii) – 191,900
  10. Darksiders (360) – 171,200

Hardware Sales for January 2010

  1. Nintendo Wii – 465,800
  2. Xbox 360 – 332,800
  3. Nintendo DS – 422,200
  4. PlayStation 3 – 276,900
  5. PSP – 100,100
  6. PlayStation 2 – 41,600

Source: NPD Sales Figures

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As you can tell from my Mass Effect 2 review and some of my favorite games (particularly Chrono Cross and Bioshock), I love narratives in gaming. What’s exciting about the gaming industry right now is how fast it is evolving as both a more mainstream entertainment and an outlet for downright artistic means. In my mind, video games are currently where movies were at in the 1920’s, quickly evolving into an art form.

Heavy Rain for the PlayStaion 3 seems like the next game that will push gaming forward artistically. If not, it still shows what is possible in games in this day and age. Though one could argue it’s not a game at all, according to critics, it’s as intense as a game can get. Adam Sessler of G4’s X-Play gives his thoughts on the game.

This is another game that’s making me crave a PlayStation 3. Up until 2010, I didn’t much envy PS3 owners but with recent games like Uncharted 2 and of course, Metal Gear Solid 4, I’m considering dropping my paychecks on one. Whether I get a PlayStation 3 or not, I want to see more games like this. The only way developers will continue to risk so much money on games like this is if they begin to sell well. Luckily Bioshock sold well but many great and quirky games like ICO, Okami, Beyond Good and Evil, and Psychonauts failed to gain much money. So I implore all PS3 owners to try this game out like Sessler asks. Rent it at the very least. Developers need to know that taking these risks are worth it in the long-run.

Some reviews of Heavy Rain for PlayStation 3:

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There are  a lot of games out there and only one of me. For my blog, I’ll post impressions on any games I play, reviews often times. But when a monster of a game like Mass Effect 2 is released, I’ll write up a comprehensive review like I’ve done here. I will rate games out of five. A one is just a poor excuse for a video game. A two is below-average, having potential in spots but nothing at all redeemable. A three is a dull and average, run of the mill game. A four is a good, even great game that has a flaw major enough to prevent it from gaining a five. And the five is reserved for games that will be remember in years to come. Just because a game gets a five doesn’t mean its completely perfect, it can still have flaws but minor ones.

There are no spoilers for either Mass Effect 1 or Mass Effect 2 in this review except for a basic plot description of the second game (which says less than the back of the box).

Mass Effect 2 (Xbox 360/PC)
Released: January 26, 2010
Rated: Mature

The Good:

  • Incredible storytelling with one of the best casts in gaming
  • Unprecedented presentation, especially the star-studded voice work
  • Updated combat system rivals the best third-person shooters
  • Overall streamlined design makes it supremely polished

The Bad:

  • The text on SDTV’s could make you go blind
  • Mining is a chore

Sequels are a tricky thing; especially the ones bridging a trilogy together. Though flawed, the original Mass Effect had a charm and freshness unrivaled by other console RPGs at the time of its release in 2007. A common problem with sequels is that they change little to the initial winning formula, following the mentality “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and because of its familiarity, the charm and freshness that made the original so beloved is all but gone. Luckily, the team behind Mass Effect, veteran RPG hit-makers BioWare, recognized this and made a bold move to overhaul the gameplay for its sequel. And what do you know, they pulled it off. Not only is Mass Effect 2 BioWare’s masterpiece, it is a landmark title in video games, successfully combining streamlined third-person shooter gameplay with one of the deepest and most thoroughly satisfying narratives in gaming.

Welcome Back to the Milky Way, Commander Shephard

It’s obvious from the opening minutes of the game that BioWare aren’t slouches when it comes to presentation. Two years ago, the original Mass Effect was lauded for its breathtaking graphics and sound. Mass Effect 2 continues the trend with some of the best production values in the business. From start to finish, Mass Effect 2 will keep jaws on the floor with the almost creepy realism of the game. The characters move more fluently during conversations and the locales you’ll be visiting on your trip are simply awe-inspiring. Unfortunately, there is a minor and fairly annoying flaw. The game was designed to be played on HDTV’s and because of this, the in-game text and subtitles will suffer on SDTV’s. The text is small, blurry and very difficult to read. Also, the load times can drag on a bit. Fortunately, they usually don’t occur in the middle of missions, just between levels.

Though this will sound like a complete exaggeration, I simply cannot think of a game that’s performed better when it comes to voice acting. The characters, though terrifically written, are pushed to the next level because of the incredible voice talent. It’s startling how spot on these actors are with each character and there are plenty of them, both minor and major. Each one, no matter the size of the role, is complimented with a poignant performance by the actors and actresses. The cast is absolutely jam-packed with talent: Carrie Anne-Moss, Michael Hogan, Yvonne Strahovski, Adam Baldwin, Tricia Helfer, Shohreh Aghdashloo, returning funny-man Seth Green and of course, the incomparable Martin Sheen. If there is a game with better voice talent, please forgive my exaggeration, but I really think BioWare knocked it out of the park with this aspect of the game. As far as the music goes, the compositions are as strong as ever, further driving home the classic sci-fi thriller feel.

Previously on Mass Effect

The story was ultimately the main reason to play the original Mass Effect. Yes, the combat was new and fun at the time but the story was doing things unheard of in the gaming world, especially with the player’s involvement in the story. So obviously, Mass Effect 2 has a lot to live up to as far as storytelling goes. Though it’s simple, the story of Mass Effect 2 is an emotionally gripping second act, showing the different emotional colors of each character and making it a more than worthy addition to the trilogy. Commander Shephard, the returning protagonist, is tasked to put together a team to embark on a suicide mission. The amount of character development that occurs within the game is what gives the seemingly thin plot a lot of weight and by the end of the game, the story feels as heavy as the original.

Every character in this game is brimming with intrigue, both human and alien. Where you may have skipped over some conversations in Mass Effect 1, you will feel compelled to learn absolutely everything you can about these rich characters. The games main focus is building a team for a suicide mission but once you’ve recruited team members, you are given the option to go on a character-specific mission to gain trust in each other. These loyalty missions are often the best and most rewarding in the game, revealing the emotional core of the characters and really fleshing them out. And when I say every character, I absolutely mean every single character. In Mass Effect 1 (and most RPG’s actually), I had obvious favorites. But in Mass Effect 2, I wanted to talk to everyone an equal amount.

Mass Effect‘s greatest strength is still the open-ended character development. The first game presented many moral dilemmas for the player; choices that affected either individual people or whole species as well as affected the way people thought and interacted with the player’s character. One thing BioWare made clear long before Mass Effect 2 was released was that you would be able to import your character from Mass Effect 1 into the game. The mind-blowing aspect of this is that all the decisions you made in the first Mass Effect crossover into its sequel.  It’s astonishing how something seemingly so simple could elevate the narrative to new heights. The references, both minor and major, are so rewarding and make the galaxy of Mass Effect 2 feel even more massive. BioWare ups the ante with decision making in this game. At one point I had to stop playing and think about what decision to make for around twenty minutes, especially since I knew the decision I was making was going to have consequences in the next game. It’s rare that a game make the player care so much about a virtual decision but that’s exactly what Mass Effect 2 will do.

The Paragon/Renegade system returns where strong morals add to the characters Paragon bank while depraved actions garner more Renegade points. This has been expanded with the exciting Interrupt System. You still have heavy Paragon and Renegade speech options now and then but you also have more physical options now. During certain conversations in the game, you will be prompted with performing either a very strong Paragon or Renegade action. The game doesn’t tell you what will happen if you interrupt, only that it’ll be intense and undoubtedly entertaining. You also don’t have much time to think about the action; you have to choose on the spot or the opportunity disappears.  I’ll admit, a lot of these moments literally made me giddy as a school girl. I personally described the two as either pulling a Jack Bauer or pulling an Obi-Wan Kenobi (or a Qui-Gon Jinn if that’s your cup of tea) but you can refer to them however you like I suppose…

Change We Can Believe In

The initial feel of Mass Effect 2 is a shock. Highly influenced by the modern king of third-person shooters Gears of War, the frenetic and quickly-paced action of Mass Effect 2 is in stark contrast to the slower, less hectic mold of the first Mass Effect. In the first game, it was common to pause the action to change a weapon or use a biotic/tech skill. Though the option to pause is still in the game, they also allow you to map powers to certain buttons. This makes the combat faster, more cinematic and a whole lot more fun. Where as you didn’t really need to use the cover system of the first game too often, you need to employ the overhauled cover system in Mass Effect 2 to survive the many battles you get into throughout your journey. Enemies are faster and smarter and the player will have to keep their wits about them to make it through. Luckily, your team is a lot smarter, requiring little if any managing.

Of course, this hybrid of third-person shooter and light RPG will undoubtedly ruffle the feathers of traditionalists looking for a more RPG driven combat system. Though I still believe the combat system is highly influenced by your traditional RPGs (using certain ammo to take down certain defenses, still have plenty of biotics and tech to strategize with), if you want to have a more strategic and RPG-driven combat experience, boost the difficulty up to Insane. Unlike the first game, this difficulty truly is insane and it will require players to formulate the best possible plans of attack, use the smartest combination of teammates, and use often the very valuable biotics and tech at your disposable to survive.

There are lots of small tweaks and additions to the gameplay that ultimately make the game smoother and quicker, one of them being redesigned side-quests. Besides the main quest, there are plenty of fun side-quests to get involved in, all of which do not involve the terribly made Mako vehicle from the first game. The developers made the wise decision of eliminating the use of this chore of a vehicle. Instead, you find anomalies by scanning planets and land right at the missions start point (with a flying car no less). The side-quests feel more substantial this time around, having more variety and better rewards.

Another small change which helps make a big difference is a mid-game option to relocate your earned stats. I for one often get stressed during RPG games when I need to place stats on my character. Things that I think sound interesting turn out to be a waste of points and I’m never quite sure how many stats I have to work with until it’s too late. With this option (which can be done multiple times), the stress and risk put into placing stats is gone. You’re free to experiment with no penalty. I really hope this system is incorporated into future RPGs.

A consistently annoying aspect of the first game was the inventory system. The screen was unnecessarily messy and convoluted. In order to fix this problem, BioWare decided to eliminate the inventory screen all together. Instead, it’s replaced by a load-out screen accessible when going out on missions and from lockers scattered in levels. When you obtain a new gun, it’s added to the load-out screen for everyone on your squad to use. Guns that are deemed improvements over the previous models are automatically equipped. Now, not having an inventory screen in an RPG sounds utterly ridiculous but in Mass Effect 2, it works very well. It is simple changes to gameplay like this that makes Mass Effect 2 feel so polished. Pausing the game constantly to switch your faceless gun with another faceless gun would have killed the flow of the game.

And finally, upgrades for your weapons are no longer small pieces of equipment that get added to slots in your guns. Instead, you have a research bay on your ship where you combine schematics you either purchase or find during your missions with resources found while mining. The upgrades work very well, simplifying things the way the eliminating the equipment screen does. There is one problem, however, and it’s the biggest flaw of the game. Mining is completely mind-numbing, offering no real substance or fun factor. Mining involves traveling to enriched planets, scanning for heavy resource deposits, and probing the area (and in case you were wondering, yes, you can in fact probe Uranus). Mining is time consuming and really bogs the games tempo down.

These updated features do present a slight problem, however. The game’s economy has to be tight in order for all of these new features to work and if you’re not careful with how you spend your money, you could run out of it all together. But there are a few obviously useless items in the game so as long as you avoid them and get store discounts (very easy to do) you shouldn’t have much of a money issue.

To Be Continued…

Like in 2005 when Resident Evil 4 was released, 2010 may have just seen the release of the Game of the Year within its first month. Put simply, this is BioWare’s magnum opus and stands proudly with the best sci-fi from any medium. They break rules and boundaries to deliver a streamlined experience that shouldn’t be missed by anyone. Of course, if you try to plow through this game, not doing the loyalty missions or getting to know your crew, you won’t have nearly as rewarding an experience as someone who does. Though the combat is completely visceral and worth playing the game for, it’s still the open-ended storytelling and characters that makes the Mass Effect galaxy one of a kind. And besides that, most of the replay value (and there’s a lot of it) comes from experimenting with different characters to see how it will affect the story. I can only imagine what BioWare has in store for the conclusion to this already outstanding trilogy.

Overall Score: 5/5

*Downloadable Content: There are two gameplay downloads available right now. Both of them add new items and side-quests to the game but one is clearly better than the other. A new character and loyalty mission is the crux of one download. The character is another great personality to have on deck and the loyalty mission is very intense and offers some tough decision making. The other download is a short, but poignant mission (further explanation may spoil a few things in the story so avoid the download list until you’re past the prologue). Since they’re both free, there’s no reason not to pick them up.

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With Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 having the biggest launch across all forms of entertainment and your mom hogging the computer to play Farmville all day, there are more and more gamers emerging each and everyday. So I’ve created this piece to highlight the new and veteran gamers alike here at Rowan University.

Name: Matt Perez
Major/Year: Journalism/Freshman
Currently Playing: Dragon Age: Origins, NHL 10, Mass Effect 2 on Insane
Most Anticipated: Super Mario Galaxy 2, Halo: Reach, Red Dead Redemption, Splinter Cell: Conviction, Final Fantasy XIII, Green Day: Rock Band
Top 5 Games: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, Chrono Cross, Bioshock, Resident Evil 4, Halo 3
Top 5 Systems: Xbox 360, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, PlayStation 2, Nintendo 64, Nintendo DS
Favorite Gaming Moment: The climax of Bioshock, beating The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past when I was only about six, the finale of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and playing games like Halo 3, Super Mario Bros. 3, and Counter-Strike with my brother (I got a lot, so what).
Favorite Part of Gaming: The social and competitive nature of certain games and the unique and often powerful form of storytelling in games.

Name: Steve Gennaoui
Major/Year: Computer Science/Freshman
Currently Playing: Mass Effect 2, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Most Anticipated: Bioshock 2, Fable III
Top 5 Games: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Jak and Daxter Series, Bioshock, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Top 5 Systems: Xbox 360, GameCube, PlayStation 2, Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo DS
Favorite Gaming Moment: Playing Modern Warfare 2 split-screen with four people on a twelve inch screen.
Favorite Part of Gaming: It’s twofold: for single player games I like the plots and how the writers can always throw us for a loop with twists in plotline. Multiplayer games… I like the competitiveness and for local games the social aspect of having something to do that brings everyone together.

Name: Chris Massari
Major/Year: History/Political Science-Minor: Journalism Freshman
Currently Playing: Assassin’s Creed 2, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, FIFA 2010
Most Anticipated: God of War 3, UFC 2010, EA Sports MMA 2010
Top 5 Games: 1. Call of Duty Series 2. FIFA 3. Halo Series 4. God of War Series 5. Fable Series
Top 5 Systems: 1. Xbox 360 2. PS3 3. Wii 4. Gameboy 5. PC
Favorite Gaming Moment: The release of Halo 3
Favorite Part of Gaming: The relaxation and competition factor

Do you wanna be featured on my blog as a Rowan Gamer? All you need to do is copy and paste the template here and shoot me an email at: nintendomaster@comcast.net

  • The title of the email should be “Rowan Gamers”
  • Use your Rowan email so I know you’re a Rowan student
  • Try not to make the last two sections too long, two or three sentences max

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Hello and welcome to my blog, Gaming Decoded. My name is Matt Perez and I’m a Freshman at Rowan University. I am a Journalism major and I hope to one day become a writer, specifically a game journalist. I’ve been living in the quaint college town of Glassboro, New Jersey my entire life and since I can remember, I’ve been playing video games.

So, what is Gaming Decoded? This blog will revolve around the ever-evolving world of video games. My main focus will be exploring the current and future state of gaming, whether that be reviewing new and upcoming games, talking to local gamers, going to gaming events occurring around the South Jersey area, or investigating the impact that games have on not only avid gamers, but society in general. I’m hoping to cover a lot of topics this semester, some more daunting than others.

Either this week or next week, I’ll have an extensive review on the highly anticipated Mass Effect 2 and following that, a review of the sequel to one of the most critically acclaimed titles of 2007, Bioshock 2 as well as some interviews with gamers at Rowan and my first big article.

Thanks for reading and keep posted!

Technorati Code: NGM7589R8F8N

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