How Sony killed the PSP Go

16 06 2010

Hey everyone time again for an article and this time out it’s not a review.  Nope today I am celebrating the death of the PSP Go by going back and looking at why the platform failed in the first place.  As a proud Go owner I feel it’s my duty to inform everyone that the reason it bombed was not due to the hardware but due to Sony’s udder lack of understanding of the Digital market.  As always be sure to follow me on Twiter @Zackysmack, check out the podcast on podbean or by searching Zacky and Friends Knows It All on iTunes, and finally hit my email with any questions or comments zackysmack@hotmail.com.  Now let’s do it.

PSP Go

You're looking at what used to be the future.

1 year ago right around this time the PSP proud were buzzing around E3 because we were supposed to be getting a new PSP model announced, the PSP2.  There were leaked screen shots, and product designs to be seen heading in E3 and everyone was expecting to get an announcement of the new hardware.  Mid way through the Sony press conference they dropped their bomb, but it was pretty much just an UMDless PSP 3000.  A more portable version of their portable gaming device, people got excited because it was going to be a totally digital piece of hardware, which would really open up the whole idea of portable gaming, supposedly going head to head with the iPhone.  Then the bomb was dropped, a price tag of $250 and total price parity between disc’s in store and the content for download.  The excitement was low.

Boring

This baby is bored by the PSP Go.

Post E3 no one really knew what to make of the device, it seemed like an attack on platforms like Steam and iTunes but without a price advantage to going digital download it was becoming a hard thing to merchandise.  The only way to look at it was paying twice as much for a device that’s only real advantage was a slightly longer battery and better LCD screen.  So now is when you expect marketing to come in and make it all better.  But no instead marketing decided to run almost no ads for the device and instead focus on the PS3 Slim, which was probably the smarter idea.  Also this new more expensive hardware was going to launch around the same time as Uncharted 2, Ratchet and Clank Future, Modern Warfare 2, and Assassins Creed II.  There was one big push for the Go and that was Gran Turismo PSP, so in Sony’s infinite wisdom they released a regular PSP entertainment pack which included a PSP-3000, Gran Turismo PSP, a memory stick pro, and a voucher for The Italian Job, for $200, which was $50 less than just the Go.  So with all these games, hardware, and SKU’s launching at the same time it would be suicide to launch a niche platform against it all, so being the smart and level headed individuals that  Sony is they pushed back the Go until after Christmas….just kidding they fucking launched it head on into a wall of bullets.  I believe it had about 50,000 units sold in the U.S. in the first month, which is terrible, the Dreamcast did better than that; hell the goddamn Virtual Boy probably did better than that.

Virtual Boy

100,000+ Units in the first month folks, and it activly tried to injure you.

Probably the worst part was the launch lineup and the way the PSN Store worked in conjunction with the release of games.  Look at it like this, when do games release?  Tuesday of course, when did the PSN update at that time?  Thursday of course.  So you, for your extra $150, had to wait an additional 2 days to get your games then the people who got them in physical stores.  This is if the game was even going to available for download.  Steam an iTunes do a simple setup, you put your content up for free and they take a percentage of the sales profit, Sony on the other hand makes you pay to host your content on a per Gig basis.  So as a publisher you would have to pay a massive fee to put your 2gb PSP game on the store for optimistically 20,000 people to download.  Essentially they made it impossible to turn a profit for 3rd party publishers, which meant that launch day was made up entirely of Sony published games, cutting roughly 60% of the games right out of the market.  An example would be Dissidia Final Fantasy, which sold roughly 2 million worldwide, none of which were on the Go because it wasn’t available.  That was the big post launch title for the Go, and you couldn’t play it on the Go, fantastic.

Dissidia

Kind of a big deal.

I believe somewhere into the second month, the Go was being outsold by the PS2 in most regions.  Sony attempted a re-launch around January and that fell flat too, mostly because no matter how you sell it, it was still twice the price for arguably less advantage.  Soon after the relaunch failed rumors already began about a PSP2 coming, and consumer interest continued to drop for the hardware.

I myself purchased one at launch; because I believed then what I believe now, the hardware itself is really good.  It handles better then a regular PSP, it was easier to use, the battery lasts longer, and it’s generally more convenient then a standard PSP.  Also, the big one is that the screen works on the Go, even when the room has light in it unlike the 3000.  The problem was never the hardware, that’s the best part of it, the problem has been in Sony’s management of the platform, the reason this thing failed was Sony’s decisions overall.

Gran Turismo

How do you lanch new hardware against this?

You cannot ask your consumers to pay the same price to download something off the store as they would to buy it in a store.  The simple convenience of not carrying a disc around is not enough, because it costs nothing to sell something to me over the PSN, it’s just bits of data being downloaded; in other countries I can understand it because your connections are limited but here in the U.S. you can suck bandwidth to your heart’s content.  Take a look at Steam, when they have an older game that no one is playing anymore they give you free play for a weekend to entice you to buy, or they discount it 80%, and they can do that because it’s still straight 20% profit for them.  Ever notice the $1 Steam sales, when they did that for TF2 it saw 1000% increase in sales, a 1000%, that’s not a typo, and that was consistent for 3 days.  Sony never did that, the best you got from them was 1 game a week discounted by maybe 50%, and even then it was still 2 days late to the store copy or a game that wasn’t worth buying even at that price.  There is a used market for UMD games and that serves the same purpose as discounts on PSN, but sense Sony never game discounts I would regularly walk into a GameStop and see a game I wanted for like 7 bucks and then be reminded that it was still 20 bucks new on the PSN Store.  This is not good marketing Sony, this is horrible, and this is how you guarantee to kill your platform.  Let’s not forget there is no effort to build an online PSP community either, most of the best friend PSN features are not accessible on the platform, so pushing a Wi-Fi ready pocket device is kinda pointless.

PSP with friends.

As close to a PSP community as it gets.

Here was a fun one, when  I bought my PSP Go I had to do a firmware upate before I could turn it on, but I didn’t have wireless, well that’s okay Zack just do it through the handy iTunes(if user friendliness is dialed back by about 2000)esq software to do it.   Ha ha voice in my head you lose this round, because you can’t do firmware updates over a corded internet connection, no you can only do them wirelessly.  So okay no problem I will do it at work tomorrow, sucks I have to wait 48 hours to play my new system but whatever I’ll deal, so next day at work I fire it up again, and am promptly told that it can’t handle the encryption at work, okay fuck I’ll go to Menomonie’s own Acoustic café they have unprotected wireless and chili soup two things I love.  I connect to wireless, and start the firmware download, my Go then informs me that it isn’t plugged in and cannot risk running out of power mid download(you know in case it take 9 fucking hours to download a 12mg file) so it won’t do it.  At this point I was ready to take it back and just get the Gran Turismo PSP pack like any sane human would have done.  But no I was committed to seeing the main screen of my $250 piece of hardware within 4 days of buying it.  So next day, back to the Café with power and over my lunch I did the update (about 2 minutes in case you’re wondering) and shortly after that I saw the launch screen and could play, it was fantastic, and listening to Patapon made it all worth it but I couldn’t help but wonder if others would have been so proud (Read: Stupid) and actually got it working.  The answer was of course ‘no they didn’t’, they hated it and either never used it, told people to never use it, or took it back and got one of the 5 more attractive PSP-3000 deals.

Licking PSP

A much more attractive offer.

Finally the last big mistake they made was the free game deals; it’s usually good to offer some free games up with new hardware to make it more attractive.  The Go works perfectly for this because you just email them a code after they register and they get a free 20 dollar game and you (Sony) have no cost because it’s all digital.  Europe and Japan, which I remind you is where the Go sells pretty well actually, got very attractive offers with Little Big Planet, Motorstorm, Gran Turismo, and Assassin’s Creed.  Europe also got three vouchers to redownload games they already owned on UMD discs.  So what did the U.S. get?  Why we got a free code for Rock Band Unplugged, I still have that code and if anyone wants it let me know I will send it to you.  All this did was once again prove that SCEA completely misunderstands their customers wants.  Now as time has gone on Sony has offered up several offers to people in exchange for buying a PSP Go, and they have all been really good but they have all been to new consumers.  I know that you don’t give free things to people that already own it, you give it to new consumers, but trust me on this one Sony it really really really jades your customers when 3 months after something launches you get nothing and all the new people who jump on the bandwagon later in the game get 3-5 free games.  It’s a fucking rip off and it really pisses off your core buyers.  I know it pissed me off a ton, and really made me apprehensive to the idea of buying more shit from you.

The worst part is that Sony freely says the reason they give such great deals now is it costs them nothing to give those deals to people, this demonstrates that they clearly understand this whole digital download thing.  But gloriously missed the point of it all, you don’t use it as a way to irritate your current owners by pandering to new ones, no you use it as a way to keep people buying more stuff.  I had to cancel my Steam account because it was fucking impossible for me to turn it on and not at least buy 1 $5 game.  Now Sony is saying that ‘The PSP Go experiment failed’ and that ‘We really learned how much consumers love their physical media.’   Again goddamnit you idiots that wasn’t the problem, the Go didn’t fail because people love UMD disks too much, it failed because you utterly missed the point of digital downloads.  This really could have been a cool thing, a digital only handheld, putting all the money in the pocket of the devs and publishers and out of the hands of GameStop.  As it is Sony repeatedly tripped over their own idiot tongue to an almost humorous point and squandered every advantage that they could have gained.  Now on the verge of a PSP2 launch you really have to wonder if Sony will go back to discs or not.  Digital is the future, maybe not this year but eventually that’s where it’s going, for handhelds at least, Apple already proved that it works for handhelds and Steam proved it works for PC’s.  Sony really could have been the spearhead for this and tried to get some market from Nintendo back, but they didn’t, instead they pushed a device out to its death.

Slaughtered by other software and hardware at launched, forced to compete with its own much more attractive brother, and finally replaced by a true successor in the PSP2.  I love this little engine that could but with the possibility of new hardware soon and Sony bullheadedly refusing to give you any incentive to buy it, I can’t even recommend it anymore.  Buy a PSP-3000 or wait for the 2, but for now have a moment of silence for what could have been, the PSP Go, for now it is truly dead.

NO GO

Goodbye Go.

Peace.

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The Zacky And Friends Know It All Show: Episode 7!

11 06 2010

Thursday night, it must be Podcast night!  Velius joins me again for another installment of the Zacky Knows It All Podcast and we cover a ton of news and introduce our first listener contest, first off we cover the movie Superman Doomsday, and then head into what we have been playing, after that we ask the tough questions of ‘what were they thinking?’ in regards to the big announcements of the week, we then give opinions on 3D gaming and the dreamcast integration for XBLA and PSN, finally we give a quick recap of the new Deus Ex Trailer, and finally our E3 predictions for next week.  Enjoy the show its our longest yet and our audio problems are all sorted out so you can actually hear us.  Be sure to follow me on twitter @ Zackysmack, email me at Zackysmack@hotmail.com, and finally check out the podcast on podbean http://zackysmack.podbean.com/ or on iTunes by searching The Zacky And Friends Knows It All Show  Thanks again everyone, enjoy the show, peace.





60 Dollar Tech Demo a Battlefield Bad Company 2 Review

8 06 2010

Hey everyone it’s time again for another game review, this week we’re blowing up the environment with D.I.C.E. and EA’s blockbuster FPS: Battlefield Bad Company 2.  The sequel to Bad Company 1 and the 200 Battlefield game overall.  BC2 is a modern military shooter with a high emphasis on destruction thanks to D.I.C.E.’s FrostByte technology.  You play as Preston a member of the titular Bad Company; the select group of individuals who are unfit for regular duty in the regular Army.  You are consistently sent in on suicide missions with no back up because ‘The spec ops guys are too expensive to waste.’  The overall story has you trying to stop Russia from invading the U.S. by means of a doomsday weapon invented by the Japanese in WWII.  The overall feel is more lighthearted then most games, with slapstick humor taking the place of gritty real world combat intensity.  Now onto the review, but not before mentioning that you can follow me on Twitter for bits of info about games while I work and play them @Zackysmack, you can also email me questions comments concerns ideas or articles you have written at zackysmack@hotmail.com, finally be sure to catch my podcast every Thursday night off the iTunes store or on PodBean.com for news reviews and insights.

Box Art

Not a goddamn thing to do with the game.

1 year ago I was standing in Wal-mart looking at two games, Army of Two and Battlefield Bad Company, trying to decide which one I wanted to get.  Basically what it came down to was B:BC had trophies and I had a bet to get 50 gold’s by summer’s end.  In the end I was incredibly satisfied with my purchase, BC is a great game, and the single player is fun and tight and genuinely makes you laugh.  So I was pretty excited for the second one, and was so excited I didn’t buy it at launch, I in fact got it last Friday and 7 hours later I had beat it.

Single Player Review

Short Sweet and to the Point, that’s the best way to describe the single player and it’s about 6 hours start to finish on Normal, I don’t think hard would be that much longer.  In the first game there were almost no scripted events, they set you at one end of a map and told you to get to the other end of the map and the rest was entirely up to you.  This one definitely takes its cue from Modern Warfare 2 with a much more serious storyline about Russian’s and doomsday weapons, as well as the inclusion of much smaller maps that are designed to give you a controlled experience.  This to me hurts the game and it comes back to discussion I had on my podcast last week, where people have a good game that sells well and for the sequel they decide to just copy what everyone else is doing.  So when you buy the next one you just sort of end up with a watered down experience akin to a different game.  Uncharted had a sarcastic main character and shortly afterwords every 3rd person action game had a sarcastic main character.  Modern Warfare Original dropped about 3 months after Bad Company 1 and sold about a billion times more copies, so EA must have assumed that meant Modern Warfare was better.  It’s not really better it’s just different and I really wish publishers and dev’s would just learn this before every game becomes Modern Warfare.  I liked the open feel and quirky characters in the first one, I liked that the plot was about accidentally invading Russia to steal a bunch of gold, it was actually an original story line where you weren’t really the hero.  One level had you ducking tank fire in a golden golf cart for Christ sake.

Golf Course

In a word, 'Awesome'.

But all that charm and light hearted fun was gone in number too, in fact it gets so brutal that at one point the heroes have to sit down on the ground and just sort of rock back and forth for a few minutes.  The characters are still there, and the interaction between Sweetwater and Haggard is as brilliant as it was in the first one.  The problem is that it’s so juxtaposing now because they’re making their wise cracks and jokes while trying to stop a plane from blowing up the US power grid.  My point is that the serious nature of the game no longer works with the unserious nature of the people in it.  So overall the story falls short of expectations for me; my lesson to D.I.C.E. would be that Modern Warfare is a great game because it’s not fun, it’s depressing as fuck.  BC has its own strengths and being deadly serious wasn’t one of them, its strengths were quirky characters, buddy cop attitude to storytelling, a great jazzy soundtrack instead of the Hans Zimmer clone it became, and a story that wasn’t generic.

Okay so that was the bad, now how about the good?  Well Bad Company 2’s major improvements can be seen in the game engine and presentation, and the improvements are really there.  Playing on my 1080p TV at home my eyes were bleeding from how beautiful this game is.  There is stage around the middle where you ride a small boat down a river in the jungle and it was like witnessing the grace of god.  Thank god they actually went out of their way to do proper motion capture and voice synching, not sure if there is some middleware involved with it now but it realllllllllllllyyyyyyyyyyyy helps with the cut scenes.    Next up is sound design, and once again it knocks it out of the park, I can’t really begin to tell you how great it is in this one.  Guns sound like guns, explosions sound like explosions, explosions have the desired effect in ear ringing and such.  I mean you really feel like you’re where the game says you are, and by that I mean when they tell you you’re heading to a bombed out village in Russia, the visuals and the sound really convey the feeling of a bombed out village in Russia.  The first time you are running through a village and hear the crackle of gunfire from one side and the deafening blast of a mortar from the other, and you realize that the game is actually balancing the distortion from side to side, that’s the moment where you understand how important sound is to the experience here.  Every single weapon has a unique sound to it, even the same guns with different ammo types will sound different.

Tank fight

The chaos of sound.

The destruction in the game is great too; it makes fights genuinely intense; however there are not a lot of set pieces that really utilize this.  There is a great level in tanks where you assault a village, but otherwise they’re really no moments of getting chased through buildings by thanks or choppers like the first game.  But there are a ton of moments in the game where a wall that you’re hiding behind gets blown out, or the floor falls out from under you.  They all add another layer of intensity to the game that really helps to just make you feel like you’re there.

Multiplayer Review

Alright so it’s a battlefield game this is of course where it’s going to shine the brightest, and it does.  This is probably the best battlefield offering to date across any platform.  D.I.C.E. didn’t exactly shake things up (gold rush is now rush, whoa innovation) but what they do have has been tweaked and polished so much you can practically see your reflection in it.

Dedicated servers are a godsend, meaning there are always matches to play when you want, and should the server go down your stats will resynch once it comes back up, which was greatly appreciated on a night were I would have normally lost 2 hours of play when the server did crash.  The drop in drop out squad system is working very well now as well, as well as the squad command system and the bonus XP you get from using it.  Of course pins and badges are back to get you working with all the different tools at your disposal, in a good rush round you can probably get 20 or so pins and its oh so satisfying to get one of the tougher ones.  Dogtags are a great thing, basically if you melee kill someone you take there dogtags and just have those in your inventory from now on.  So you can look back and remember who you knifed in the ass.

Dog Tags

Ah I fondly recall mudering the shit out of Ravengance.

The maps are showpieces themselves, massive in scale and scope; it can take up to 10 minutes to traverse one side to another.  This is great because you get tons of options for what you want to do, go around the sides if you want, up the middle in a tank, snipe from the treeline, etc. etc.  Never before have you played an FPS with so many ways to get the job done.

The real great part is the kit/unlock system; everything else is just bells and whistles onto the game.  As you progress with a certain kit(class) you get unlocks and benefits for that particular class, plus overall unlocks are you overall rank progresses.  So I started as an engineer with an RPG and an UZI, after 6 matches or so I have an Anti-Tank rocket, repair wrench, Combat XM8 SMG with red dot scope.  You are constantly getting new toys to try out and play with so with almost every match you get to change the way you play the game.  It’s a great and highly addictive system that really encourages you to keep coming back for more.  You know if you do one more match you can hit that next rank and unlock a bonus to SMG accuracy.

Unlocks

5 kits total, about 50,000 points each, GET TO WORK!

The game struggles with balance sometimes, I have been in matches where literally every player was about 15 levels higher than me.  You would think with the unlock system this would mean doom for the lower level guy, but that’s the beauty of it.  The bonuses never make you overpowered they just increase your ability to do your job.  My example is that no matter how good a medic is he will lose a 1-1 fight with an assault trooper, it’s just a fact.  If you like playing medic you have to change the way you fight those guys and the bonuses help that out but never gimp the game to one side of class.  As a rank 3 engineer I could beat teams of rank 15 medics.

Sniper

Except guys who have this, they kill everyone.

So overall the multiplayer is the star of the show, but that should come as no surprise.  The surprise is how good it is; it’s fast and addictive and lets even the little guy have a moment of glory from time to time when he sneaks around the side and knifes the #1 player in the back.

Final Word:

So all in all the campaign is, from a technical perspective, one of the most impressive I have ever played.  There are a ton of good ideas in place here, some really great pieces of tech working behind the scenes, but the in exchange you lose the writing and characters that made the game so memorable in the first place.   You get destruction, sound, visuals, but not a lot of substance; it seems more like a way to show off Frostbyte 2.0 then really about the single player.  I think you can tell the focus was on multiplayer especially sense the cover shows the multiplayer and says ‘Redefining Online Warfare’ but that doesn’t mean you just dump the single player.  If you’re someone who isn’t going to be much into online then I can’t really recommend this game for just the SP, not at 60 bucks.  When it drops to 40 then pick it up, however if you’re an online guy then damn you probably should be playing it right now.

Bad Company

Not to mention sometimes you get to do this.

Peace





The Zacky And Friends Know It All Show: Episode 6

4 06 2010

Hello again everyone, time for episode 6, and boy have we got a great for you today.  No less then 2 hosts come at you tonight with brand new recording equipment and microphones, dissecting the gaming news and rumors from the week.  First starting with a traditional movie review of the sleeper hit ‘The Human Centipede’, we follow that up with ‘what have you been playing?’ and then roll right into our taste in games we have been buying lately, after that its all about ModNation racers and Killzone 3.  Finally finishing things up with some rumor killers.  As always the show is very explicit and because of the two hosts is now twice the length, clocking in at around 1:10:00.  Be sure to follow me on twitter @Zackysmack or email me at Zackysmack@hotmail.com.

Catch the show on the iTunes store or here at PodBean: http://zackysmack.podbean.com/





It’s better then Assassin’s Creed II: A Bionic Commando Review.

28 05 2010

Hey everyone back and its review time once again, on the cross this week is Bionic Commando a 3rd person action title from 2009 developed by Grin, also Grin’s last game because it did so abysmally bad they went out of business.  Will I also crucify this game?  Or shall it be free to spread; peace, love and understand, also to smash things into buildings with its Bionic Arm.  Read on to find out, but not before making sure to follow me Twitter @Zackysmack, listen to my podcast either from the iTunes store or on Podbean, or email me at zackysmack@hotmail.com with any questions or ideas you may have.  I also take article submissions, you know in case you wanted to enter in the lucrative world of completely unpaid journalism.  If you’re bored feel free to count how many times I say the word ‘Bionic’ in this review.

Logo

So Bionic Commando, not exactly a big seller, okay so it’s literally the opposite of a big seller, it sold so bad that Grin went out of business and Capcom swore to never let a western studio handle one of its franchises again.  It’s typically lambasted by a lot of people (me included actually) for its forgettable story and the worst plot twist in the history of games.  However I am nothing if not a completely fair and honest man and I felt it was unfair for me to hate a game I never played.  Also I thought it would be kind of funny to buy and play such a shit game, kind of like watching a Syfy channel original movie.  So I ventured to Best Buy and acquired a copy for the low low price of the cost of a bottle of Fanta, which was due to the fact that I had a 10 dollar gift card and the game was less than 10 dollars, so I had to buy some Fanta to make it cost enough to get it for free.  Let me put this into perspective for you, Haze which is rated far worse the BC and also put Free Radical out of business, is still 20 bucks, Resistance 1 which was a launch title is still 25 bucks, I would venture you would be hard pressed to find a Madden game from 2 years ago for 10 bucks, but BC was 9 dollars brand new at Best Buy.

So if the price was to be believed this game was going to be worse than Haze, Sonic the Hedgehog, Shadow the Hedgehog, Rouge Warrior, Wet, Mirror’s Edge(don’t care how innovative it was, still wasn’t very good), Clive Barkers Jericho, Lair, Section 8, Gundam Crossfire, Dragon Ball Z: Whatever 2, Dark Void, Ironman 1 and 2, Transformers 1 and 2,Two Worlds, X-Blades, Wanted: Weapons of Fate, Terminator Salvation, Golden Axe: Beast Rider, Genji: Days of the Blade, and Kane and Lynch.  I challenge you to go to a major electronics retailer and find a copy of any of these games for 9 dollars brand new.  Seriously I will wait while you go check….alright given up already huh?  Loser.  Anyways, the point I am trying to make is that this game is universally regarded as the disc based version of pure shit.  So get in for a shock when I tell you that not only is this game better then all those listed above, but its better then a lot of high dollar popular games that you probably own.

Box art

This years Bionic Commando.

In fact, I will State Bionic Commando is better than Assassins Creed II….woah woah woah what the fuck?  Yeah that’s right, 9 million copies sold, 70 million dollar budget, winner of numerous awards and recognition, also total shit in comparison to the Bionic Commando’s fucking arm.  Let me explain that statement a little bit.  First off, the game Bionic Commando for me is really about two different reviews.

Review 1:  The first 4 hours.

This game is total shit, I fucking hate it so much, and I want to take it out of my drive and then piss on it, burn it, and then jettison the ashes into space.  Fuck this game, fuck Grin, I am glad they lost their jobs, that way they won’t make anything like this ever again, fuck.  Stupidly frustrating controls, linear goddamn bionic levels, ridiculously overpowered bionic enemies, arm doesn’t work and can only do one thing the bionic piece of shit, I have one fucking gun and it sucks beyond 3 bionic feet away, there is no music or sound, bionic or otherwise, I am the only character and there is no reason for me to be here, also some places instantly kill me and there is no way to tell before you go up there is this is going to happen or not.  I would rather sit on a bed of nails and hit my penis with a hammer into the nails then continue to play this.  God this wasn’t worth 10 dollars, I am just going to give it back to Best Buy and say they can keep the 10 bucks as a fee for taking it off my goddamn bionic hands.  Shortest review ever for the worst game ever.

Nathan Spencer

Fuck you, you angsty motherfucker.

The Next Day

Huh I wonder what its review scores are, I bet they hated it as much as I did….wait these aren’t half bad.  There actually good, what happened?  Am I just dumb?  Do I just suck at games or something?  Like I have been doing this a while, so I have trouble believing that I am just the only bionic person that didn’t get the game.  Okay well sense I won’t review something I didn’t beat, I guess I can give it one more bionic shot tonight, that way I can at least keep my reviewer integrity.

Review 2: The Rest of the Game

Holy shit music, new arm powers, more guns, characters other than me, plot, and bionic parts like eyes and legs!  WTF!!!  This is actually pretty fun, what gives?

Nathan

I love you, you angsty motherfucker.

Ladies and gentlemen I welcome you to Bionic Commando a game that can only be described as bi-polar.  The first 4-5 hours are among the worst games I have ever played, thankfully after that the game switches completely; everything that was wrong instantly fixes itself.  It’s as if they just forgot to remove all the alpha and beta code tests from the disc, or as if the first 1/3 is just one giant tutorial that runs out of things to teach you after the first 3 minutes.  I still can’t figure that part out, why they decided to bionically delay the start of their game for that long; the only thing I can think of is that they wanted the game to be over 10 hours, which is admirable, but there is plenty of bionic content here and encouragement for replaying.  So whatever it has a shitty start happens all the time, just usually not this long.  Let’s talk about what changed to make it better; first off it gets a story.

Arm shot

Shit like this starts to happen as well.

So the game starts with Nathan Spencer (hero from the first game) and he is on Death Row because he is a Bionic Commando.  Later on there is some reason given for this but it’s always really vague as to why exactly he is on death row.  In this future, Bionics, or people with Bionic parts, are viewed as dangerous people and so the government decided to take all there Bionic parts away from them by force.  Obviously people who have bionic legs don’t want to lose their bionic legs, who knew this would be a problem right?  If at this point your confused as to whom the bad guys are don’t worry I was too.  So all the Bionics formed some sort of terrorist group/army and then got themselves some nuclear weapons and then nuked the world’s capital called Ascension City.  This is a problem obviously, so the ‘good guys’ decide to do something about it and launch a fully fledged military campaign to destroy the armies of the terrorist’s, who are chilling out in what’s left of the city, in order to rid the world of their evil….no wait that’s not what happens at all, instead they get Spencer, who I remind you is a Bionic himself that was fucked over by the government, and send him in alone to do something…..not really sure what.

No I mean they never explain why Spencer is sent in, to illustrate this point think of what would be left over in a city after a nuclear weapon.  Probably some Radiation, and a lot of water because the city next to the ocean, okay now what are the two things that Bionics are really bad at dealing with?  Apparently Radiation melts the Bionics in about 5 seconds and there is no indication of when or where radiation will happen, it just does and that is probably the absolute worst element of the game.  If you climb a building, when you get the top, sometimes the radiation warning will pop up and you’ll start to die, but by the time it pops up and you realize what has happened you’re already dead.  No indication of when or where it will happen, it just does, and it’s incredibly frustrating when you consider that check points are so rare they might as well be made out of raretonium.  Water is really dangerous as well because who knew that giant fucking metal arms were heavy and cause you to almost instantly drown the second you touch water.  Later levels are almost always completely submerged in water, so again brings into question why you are the one they chose to send in.

Hard Rain

Christian Slater, clearly the better choice.

Got off track there, the point is that the whole setup to the game doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when you’re playing it at first; everything about you is counter-intuitive to what you’re trying to achieve.  This is compounded by the first half, again, because nothing happens story wise; you never get anything in the way of plot, characters, bionics, or any explanation of what is going on.  You hit that magic zone around hour 5 when you meet another character, and start getting some flashbacks to explain why you are there, and then meet another character.  Around hour 6 you meet a bionic villain, and then the reason for you being there becomes more apparent, because there is a dangerous government Magoffin hiding in the city and would be a billion times more dangerous in their bionic hands.  So they sent you in to stop it from falling into the wrong bionic hands.

Again that would have been good info to have at the start of the game, but you quickly forget about the issues with the first part when you hit the second part.  The story moves with such a breakneck pace after that that you don’t have time to even really criticize it.  On an almost level by level basis you either find a new bionic game mechanic, a new weapon, or meet a new bionic character.  By the time you get to the last 3 levels the amount of bionic options you have in combat are ridiculous.  You can swing bionically around and shoot missiles, or land and chuck a car at someone then get his body and chuck it at someone else then pick up the next guy and chuck him into the ocean all while shooting the last few guys with an assault rifle.  I mean what the fuck?  That sounds like a fun game right?  If that was what you got to play right off the bat it would have done better.  I understand that pacing is necessary and you don’t want to give everyone every bionic thing right off the bat but basically for the first half you get nothing then for the second half you get everything, and some of the powers you don’t get to use a whole lot.  Overall the game builds to a pretty good conclusions, not really dramatic because the ending kind of stinks of ‘We don’t know how to end this game……cut scene!’  But the ending is good and the fight leading up to it, including swinging around an old oil derrick under a hail of gunfire, is fucking intense.

Mohole

And there is this thing, which you will hate.

You know what?  Here is what the story is and you judge if it’s something your into.  Bionic Commando is a relic from the 1980’s, in the 1980’s the R –rated action flick was king.  Okay if you ever watched an 80’s action flick you know that there is a base formula to them; cool generic muscle bound action hero, weird gimmick to said hero, wafer thin story, big action set pieces, hilarious dialogue, and a stunning reveal at the end.  This game is that, a bygone principle to game making as far as story and characters go.  The problem is that it’s not the 80’s, in this day and age the average person thinks of something as mindless and stereotypical as BC as being beneath them.  So it no longer comes off as a big action movie, but more like a direct to DVD Steven Segal movie.  I like the presentation, and the style to it all, its forgettable but enjoyable, I mean I didn’t go into a game called Bionic Commando expecting the story and character to blow me away.  But when Spencer takes down a guy and yells out a variety of interesting one liners, I don’t groan, I laugh at it.  I love that sort of stuff because I have played a ton of serious shooters and serious games, and sometimes you have to remember it’s nice to play something that in no way takes itself too seriously.  So if you like 80’s action flicks like; Commando, Missing in Action, Universal Soldier, Red Scorpion, etc. etc. then I think this game will be right up your alley.

Commando

It's one bionic arm away from the same fucking story.

The general game mechanic’s of swinging works well, although it takes a little while to get used to the goofy controls.   Let’s get one thing straight here developers when I have a Bionic Arm and shoot it onto things I don’t want to hold the button down to stay attached.  Here is how it should go, hit button to shoot, hit button again to let go, not hit button to shoot and hold down to hold on.  Once you’re brain has wrapped around this concept you will be swinging around like a bionic monkey…or a bionic commando per say.  The shooting is competent if not a little frustrating, most of the time you hit what you want to hit.  But some of the guns you only really get maybe 5 times in the game, and those are usually the best ones.  The trick is that when you’re swinging it will auto lock, which the regular game won’t do, so that gives you more encouragement to swing and shoot, which is interesting because it encourages you to use the bionic mechanics of the game.  Beyond that there are in game challenges like hit three people with death from above attack, which start easy enough but quickly get hard.  The trick is that completing them get’s you unlocks for your bionic character, like more bionic armor, more ammo supply, faster reload, and so on.  So you pretty much have to do them which means learning all the game mechanics, which makes a huge difference.  The point is that most of the time in games with a lot of neat mechanics the average player will never use them, not because they’re not helpful but because they have a gun and the gun works, so they’re not going to spend the time to learn the rest of it.  So the challenge system here makes you learn all the new bionic powers and bionic mechanics, and they work so well and spice up the combat so much that even after you have the challenges complete you will keep using the bionic powers in combat.

Bionic!

Like the ability to do this for instance.

Visuals get an A+, the sweeping city-scapes are massive and just really pretty to look at and swing around in.  The environments are varied and interesting, going from underground tunnels, to giant gardens, to big ruined buildings, to stadiums, to water bound streets, to flying bionic armies in the sky.  This does come at a cost though; typically in these massive environments you are only fighting a maximum of 10 enemies at once.  Also the enemy types are not varied at all, seriously there are literally 2 base enemy types, 4 mech types, 2 bosses, and 1 flying unit, total of nine bionic enemy types.  But this works with the mechanics of the game because you get more and more interesting ways to off those enemies.  Music is excellent, I would even go so far as to recommend getting the soundtrack, funny part is that there is no music in the first 4 hours, after that though it comes in strong and really helps the game out.

So to round this guy out, let’s go back to the statement of ‘Better then ACII’, what did I think ACII didn’t have?  Well first off it didn’t have a difficulty curve at all; it was all just super easy.   BC ramps up the difficulty pretty heavily, it keeps checkpoints apart to give you a real sense of not wanting to die, so already better then AC.  Boss fights are no contest, ACII didn’t really have any, BC has 4, 3 of which are fun, and 2 of which are hard, one of which will make you want to kill babies because with every attack it gets a new slightly more bullshitty attack.  Story it wins as well, yeah AC is a sweeping epic adventure over time, and BC is about a Bionic Commando doing stuff Commando-like with some Bionic thrown in, but BC has a beginning, a middle and a bionic end.  AC II has no beginning really, and no end, the whole game is the middle, a whole bunch of nothing that goes nowhere.  Weapons are useless in ACII, admittedly they look cool and fit into the character, but in the end you can beat the whole game just using your (not bionic) fists.  BC has standard and pretty uninteresting weapons(Shotgun, machine gun, sniper rifle, rocket launcher, pistol) but they all serve a purpose, some parts require a sniper rifle some require a rocket launcher, so edge goes to BC for weapons.  Visuals and style go to ACII, even I will admit that AC looks really great and the world is way more necessary.  So out of 5 categories 4 of them are heavily in BC’s favor, it may seem like just personal bionic preference but really play both game, it requires almost no money to get as we proved earlier, and decide for you.  I would almost wager that you’re going to enjoy bionically swinging around and throwing cars at people, more then you will enjoy walking around and stabbing people in the back.  That is if you can look past ‘the plot twist’.

Nathan

His wife is his arm, boom I said it.

Peace.

P.S. how the fuck do you have a Bionic eye?





The Zacky Knows It All Show: Episode 5: Slightly Congested Edition

28 05 2010

Hey Everyone, back again on another beautiful Thursday night with the 5th installment of the Zacky Knows It All Show with a slide cold edition.  Today the movie and gaming is mixed together in a breakdown of the movies based on video games that are coming up, then I finally give my red dead redemption impressions, following that up with my thoughts on the supposed PSP 2, finishing it off with an early look at Killzone 3 and a weekend sendoff.  As always this podcast is explicit for language, features a massive amount of opinions and is generally a lot of good fun for your Friday afternoon listening enjoyment.  Check out the show by searching iTunes for Zacky Knows It All Show, or by hitting up podbean here http://zackysmack.podbean.com/, also follow me on twitter @Zackysmack or email me ideas at zackysmack@hotmail.com.  If you’re too lazy to do any of that just leave a comment here, I would love some user feedback.  Thanks everyone, enjoy the show its about 34 minutes long.





Is it Cheating? – Button Mashing By: EttenCo

25 05 2010

Hey everyone good news contributing author EttenCo is back with an article about what else but fighting games.  As are resident fighting and editorial expert he once again brings you an insightful insight into a world you probably haven’t experienced a whole lot.  So enjoy everyone, and be sure to catch the podcast on iTunes or Podbean by searching The Zacky Knows It All Show, or follow me on Twitter @Zackysmack and finally email me any ideas or comments you have, or any article submissions you might have at zackysmack@hotmail.com.  And by all means leave some comments people.  Alright I am done, all Etten from here.

So originally when I started writing this I had witty and dramatic buildups to the main points I was covering but those eventually gave way to the understanding that nobody, including myself, would want to read through that crap so here is the slightly more abbreviated version.

I started playing Tekken 6 again—Why?  Well I said I was going to leave out all of that crap now didn’t I, so stop asking questions and pay attention.  In short Tekken 6 hasn’t changed much from the last few installments.  The iconic characters appear again and the game also expanded its cast to include obese kung-fu experts and emo shoot-fighting practitioners.  Apart from that and some more spit to polish up the graphics a bit, it’s pretty much the same thing as the previous games.

So that was the review in short for anybody that cared.  But what I really wanted to talk about was something the fighting genre is known for as a collective.

There are basically two main groups of people when it comes to fighting games, and probably most other genres if I thought about it long enough.  There are those who learn and understand the controls of the game and dedicate themselves to learning the move-sets of one or more characters and then attempt to branch out from there onwards. That is Type-1.  Type-2 consists of what have come to be known as “button mashers.”  They resort to less refined means to accomplish their goals which involves playing the game as only a nervous epileptic with Parkinson’s knows how.  Simultaneously hitting as many buttons on the controller as possible in some spastic and random order in hopes that their fighter on screen will interpret that as “Tae-kwon-do your foot into that guys skull!”  Sometimes this pays off and sometimes the player ends up involuntarily spinning their fighter in circles that sets them up perfectly for a demolishing scrotum punch.

When done “correctly” though, it can be the most infuriating thing to lose to somebody who has the all the skill of a paint-shaker and half the creativity.

Paint Shaker

Still more creative than you, yes YOU!

So what I’m ultimately deciding is whether o not this should be considered cheating and in short, No it isn’t.

How did I come to that conclusion so quickly?  Well since cheating is considered to be a violation of established rules, when it comes to games at least.  Then mashing buttons is not cheating because the rules and limits are already programmed into the game so you can break them unless your Johnny-5 or Johnny Pneumonic.  Basically both players are given a hammer; one of them just chooses to use it by cramming it in his ear and then bashing his head against the nail to pound it flush.  This is a legitimate way to do it and will miraculously sometimes beat the conventional way.

Hammer head

He missed but darn it, he tried.

So for those of us who can’t deal with it and want to try and bring those people up a notch on the scale of societal standards, how do we go about fixing this?  Well one attempt was made already when EA Sports made Fight Night Round 3 (and the other Fight Night games that weren’t as well marketed).  Remember the joystick centered fighting dynamic that was included because the developers wanted to get beyond using buttons and think of something innovative?  It was great. Punches were thrown by moving the joysticks in the corresponding directions and combos were performed by stringing together correct joystick motions.  Well then the developers included the option to use buttons anyways and so they didn’t cut off the mashers cold-turkey, they allowed those people the option of weaning themselves off of the spree of face-to-controller mashing action into a more dignified world of processes and thoughts and thoughts with processes.

So when Round 4 came out the developers thought it was time to cut off button-mashers altogether and so they left out the button commands to move on into the future.  Well if alcoholism and drug addiction has taught us anything, it’s that it is a lot harder to give up something when it’s all you’ve known for so long.  So the first thing that happened was people complained about the lack of button mapping in the new game which allows you to designate which button performs what command in the game.  They raved on about how the joystick commands were flawed and how it wasn’t cheating to use buttons instead of the joysticks, which would be true if it was included in the game.  Basically these “gamers” were asking for a loophole in the code that allowed them to get their fix.  So since then, EA finally patched the game.  This doesn’t really make those people cheaters, just incorrigible whiners.

So if we ever want to get beyond something like button mashing then it’s going to have to be at the cost of ostracizing the whiners who can’t deal with change, which are far too plentiful for my liking.