By dankempster 9 Comments
Hey guys. It's been a while since I last blogged, so I figured with E3 now out of the way, this is the perfect opportunity to return to the blogosphere with some opinions on the conference and a little info on what I've been playing recently. As a minor disclaimer, this blog is likely to end up being quite long. Consider yourself warned in advance.
E3 2009While I didn't follow this year's E3 conference very closely, I kept track of it thanks to Snide's live blogs and round-ups. I don't have too much to say that hasn't already been said about the show itself, although I will agree with the general consensus that this year's E3 was a hell of a lot better than last year's. Rather than give a detailed analysis, I thought I'd just mention the stuff that really grabbed my attention, as well as the stuff that left me feeling a little disappointed.
- Forza Motorsport 3 - The trailer that was shown off at E3 looked incredible, although I suspect it wasn't put together using the in-game engine. That being said, all that I've heard about the third instalment in Microsoft's racing simulation series has got me really pumped. Roll damage for the cars, an impressive cockpit view, and a wider scope of cars and tracks are just some of the features that I can't wait to check out when the game hits stores in the near future.
- Golden Sun DS - One of those announcements that came completely out of nowhere, the mention of a new Golden Sun game has me mega-stoked. The first two games in the franchise were some of the best turn-based RPGs in recent times, harking back to the glory days of the genre on the SNES. Between this and GTA: Chinatown Wars, the temptation to replace my stolen DS is growing ever-stronger.
- Gran Turismo PSP - I'm not even that big on racing games, so the fact that two of them made this Thumbs Up list has me a little worried for my own sanity. We've been waiting for the Gran Turismo series to hit the PSP ever since a port of GT4 was promised as a launch title for the original PSP. Now, around four years later, we have the renewed promise of a portable Gran Turismo game for the newly-announced PSP Go. If it makes it onto shelves in UMD format, I'll definitely be picking up a copy.
- Jak & Daxter: The Lost Frontier - I'm a big Jak fan. Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy was the first game I got for my brand new PlayStation 2 back in 2002, and I thoroughly enjoyed it along with its two sequels. So much so that last year I pushed out a walkthrough guide for the third game right here on Giant Bomb. I never played Daxter on the PSP (although I do intend to pick up a copy at some point), but I'm super-excited for the most recently announced game, even though Naughty Dog aren't at the helm.
- Just Cause 2 - In case you're not aware, I like open-world action games. I also like doing bat-shit crazy stuff. So it's no surprise that Just Cause 2 grabbed my attention as soon as I saw the gameplay footage here on Giant Bomb. I never played the first Just Cause, but the sequel looks outrageous. The grappling hook/parachute combo looks like it makes for some really crazy gameplay options, and the go-anywhere, shoot-anything mentality evokes fond memories of my time with the original Mercenaries game. I'll definitely be looking to pick this up as soon as possible after it launches.
- The Last Guardian - I love ICO. I love Shadow of the Colossus. So much so, I recently re-played both games to share the experience with my girlfriend. Anything Team ICO is working on is bound to be excellent, and the footage shown of The Last Guardian has definitely piqued my interest. While I can only speculate as to what the gameplay involves, it looks gorgeous and seems to preserve the distinctive Team ICO style. Now if only I had a PS3...
- Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker - As a huge Metal Gear fan, Kojima's pre-E3 countdown definitely had me intrigued. I'll say this now - only one half of the announcement satisfied my intrigue, and it's this half. Touted by Kojima as effectively being MGS5, it chronicles the events between Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops and the original Metal Gear and seems to illustrate Big Boss putting together the nation of Outer Heaven. As with Gran Turismo PSP, if this comes out on UMD, I'm going to be all over this.
- The Saboteur - As I said above, I like open-world action games. While Pandemic may have made a bit of a misstep with Mercenaries 2, I have high hopes for The Saboteur. I'm really liking the setting and the art style, and the gameplay shown off at E3 looked very promising. I'm not completely sold on this yet, but I'll definitely be keeping a watchful eye on this in the time between now and its ultimate release.
- Final Fantasy XIV Online - As a big fan of the Final Fantasy series, the announcement of FFXIV left me disappointed on two counts. For a start, Final Fantasy XIII hasn't even made it into stores yet, and Square Enix are already diverting attention onto the next instalment in the series. Second, I'd have thought Square Enix would have learned their lesson from FFXI and avoided awarding a roman numeral to this MMO. I have no problems with the concept of an FF MMO, but I don't believe they honour the spirit of the series enough to warrant numbering.
- Left 4 Dead 2 - Although I never played the original Left 4 Dead, I am a big fan of Valve. One of the reasons for this is their "we'll release it when it's done" mentality. The mentality that kept people waiting six years for Half-Life 2, nine years for Team Fortress 2, and that continues to keep people waiting for Half-Life 2: Episode Three. Thus, like many people, the announcement of Left 4 Dead 2 less than a year after the original doesn't sit well with me. Unless Valve really pull out all the stops and make this well worth £40, I can see myself losing a lot of respect for them with this move.
- Metal Gear Solid: Rising - Onto the half of the announcement that I didn't like. I don't honestly know what I expected after following Kojima's countdown, but Metal Gear Solid: Rising was something of an anticlimax in my eyes. I have no problems with playing as Raiden, but something about Rising doesn't really sit right with me. When Kojima seems keen to distance himself from a project, it doesn't put a great amount of faith in the mind of the average consumer. Regardless, as a fan of the series I'll probably end up picking it up anyway. I guess time will tell.
- Red Dead Redemption - I stress for the third time, I like open-world action games. The debut trailer for Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption looked very promising, seeming to offer a GTA-style adventure in a wild west setting. I eagerly anticipated seeing more of the game at E3... but it didn't show! That's why it's down here - it's still going to be a day-one purchase, and I'm still majorly stoked for this, I'm just a little disappointed that it didn't put in an appearance at E3 so we could see more of it.
What I've Been PlayingOf course, while all this video game related talk has been going on, I've been playing plenty of video games of my own. Which ones, you ask? Well, since you asked, allow me to tell you...
BioShockA friend bought me a copy of BioShock as a belated birthday present back in March. I'd been meaning to get around to playing it, but my hands had been full with games like Oblivion and Dead Space. I finally gave it a chance last month, and finished it in the last few days of May. The storyline was incredible and really gripped me, proving to be the game's saving grace in the opening couple of hours. I quickly became wrapped up in the struggle for Rapture and the feud between Andrew Ryan and Frank Fontaine. In terms of how it plays, BioShock starts out feeling like a very underwhelming first-person shooter. Thankfully, it really picks up the further in you get, as more weapons and plasmids become available to you. Graphically it's a tour de force, with a memorable art style and some truly beautiful water effects. The first time I saw water running down a staircase in BioShock, I gasped. Honestly, there were witnesses. Other similarly small touches, like the way a pool of blood catches the light at a certain angle, really helped to make BioShock feel immersive and envelop me in the story. The excellently realised world of Rapture was a joy to behold and to explore, and I look forward to revisiting it in the game's upcoming sequel.
Final Fantasy VIAfter the awesome time I had with Final Fantasy V over the last couple of months, I decided to continue the trend by jumping to the next game in the series. I started up on Final Fantasy VI about a week ago, although I haven't played it much since I've been distracted by some other games (more on that a little later). I'm about four hours in and I'm currently at level 14, having just descended from Mt. Koltz. I intend to play more of this over the long summer I have ahead, so stay tuned for more info on that.
Forza Motorsport 2Despite owning Forza 2 for around a year, I'd never really given it a chance, preferring to stick to the original game and Gran Turismo 4 for my racing simulation fix. But after seeing the E3 footage of the upcoming Forza 3, I decided to give it another spin. It's actually a lot better than I initially gave it credit for, offering a little more depth than in predecessor with the inclusion of Car Levels as well as the Driver Level carried over from the first game. I'm currently at Driver Level 22 with around 20% of the game's Career mode completed. Unfortunately I'm not hooked up to LIVE at the moment, so pretty pictures of my nice cars are out of the question, and so is the chance to take part in any online races or auctions. Maybe I'll get re-connected over summer and take some of you guys on. One minor gripe I do have with the game is its damage modelling, which was excellent last-gen but doesn't really cut it in an age where games like Burnout Paradise and GRID are showing off much more sophisticated vehicle damage. That aside, Forza 2 is an excellent racing game and has really got me in the mood for the third game in the franchise.
Metal Gear Solid: Portable OpsSome time last week, at a loss for something to do while I waited for my washing to dry, I decided to bring my trusty PSP out of retirement and try to finish one or two of the outstanding games I own for it. I was initially leaning towards trying to complete Grand Theft Auto: VIce City Stories, but I then spotted Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops sitting on the shelf. Probably inspired by seeing the announcement of Peace Walker only hours earlier, I popped it into my PSP and started playing. It looks incredible, even by PSP standards, and the squad-based gameplay adds a fresh twist to the standard stealth action I've come to expect from the series (although I wouldn't say no to a more streamlined inventory management interface). As the only game in the series' canon that I've not yet finished, I feel like I owe it to myself to reach the end of Portable Ops, if only to prepare myself for the imminent arrival of Peace Walker next year. You'll no doubt hear a lot more about this when I finish it. It's definitely shaping up to be of Discovering Gaming Greatness quality.
PortalAt a loss for something to do one afternoon, I whipped out The Orange Box and decided to play through Portal for the first time since I played it back in August last year. Three hours later, watching the credits roll while listening to Still Alive, my initial opinion of the game still stands. It's an incredible feat of technology that offers a truly unique gameplay experience supported by interesting mechanics and a wicked sense of humour. I also went back to try and tackle some of the game's advanced maps, most of which are truly mind-bending and make for a great mental workout. I implore you; if you haven't played Portal yet, do it now.
Sonic The Hedgehog 2There's a great story behind this one. After reading Disgaeamad's blog chronicling his greatest gaming achievement, I felt compelled to return to Sonic The Hedgehog 2. A classic from the darkest depths of my childhood, in all my years of playing the game, I'd never completed it. Dis's blog inspired me to return to the game and show Dr. Robotnik exactly who was boss. I picked up my copy of the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection and made my way through the early levels quickly but carefully, the intention being to amass as many extra lives and continues as I possibly could before the final showdown where the maniacal doctor had bested me so many times before. I traversed the greenery of Emerald Hill Zone, dodged the unstable machinery in the Chemical Plant Zone and the flying arrows in the Aquatic Ruin Zone, won big in the Casino Night Zone, ran from rising lava in the Hill Top Zone, rolled under falling stalactites in the Mystery Cave Zone, narrowly avoided drowning in the Oil Ocean Zone, nearly got crushed in the Metropolis Zone, contended with flying turtles in the Sky Chase Zone and shot through the sky in the Wing Fortress Zone before I arrived at the spot where I had failed so many times before. Thankfully, my huge store of banked lives and continues paid off as I cautiously memorised the enemy's movements and finally shut down Dr. Robotnik after fifteen long years of trying. I'd like to thank Disgaeamad for inspiring me to put this childhood dream to rest, so thanks Dis.
Whoa, long blog. Thanks for reading all this, assuming you have. A few extra points before I close this blog. First, thanks to everybody who joined me in commemorating my fiftieth blogday a couple of weeks ago. It means a lot to have readers like you guys, so thanks a ton for your continued support. Secondly, I have about a week and a half left at University. The good news is, this means I'll be heading home very soon, where I'll have access to Xbox LIVE, so I'll be resuming my online gaming activities, no doubt. The bad news is, my parents are coming to pick up most of my stuff in three days, and "most of my stuff" would appear to include my 360, my PS2 and my TV. Long story short, I anticipate that I won't be playing many games for the next week or so. That being said, I'll still have my PSP and my PC. Maybe I'll use the opportunity to check out some stuff I've been overlooking for a while. Anyway, thanks very much for reading guys. I'll see you around.
Currently playing - Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops (PSP)