Criterion has become the Valve of console games

I recently bought Burnout Paradise for the second time, this time of PSN and, to put it simply, it really blew me away.  The combination of the open city, the hundreds of objectives, and the awsome cars really made it a game I know I will be playing for a long time.  Then, I saw that a big game expansion is coming out in a couple of days and I came to a an amazing realization:  Criterion has created the Valve version of a console game.

First, let me explain what I mean by this crazy statement I thought I would never make about a console game developer.  Valve is known for how it over time releases free updates for its games to make players to keep playing the game, make players come back to the game, or make people buy the game because they have heard about all the great updates avalible for the game.  The perfect example of this is Team Fortress 2.  Valve has over the months and years since it has been released, released free updates like new maps, class specific achievements, and game modes.  This has made not only TF2 really popular, but also all of Valves games because of the updates.  Now, generally, most console games make their players buy the updates, maps, and new modes for their games, but Criterion has done away with this for Burnout Paradise.

Burnout Paradise has had periodic content updates over the past year since the game released in January, 2008.  This updates have been free and they have not been the ussual free updates.  They have been major updates that have made an already great game far better.  The most major one of these has been the addition of motorcycles, which along with the motorcycles, has added day and night cycles, and motorcycle specific missions.  These periodic updates have made the game a must buy for console gamers because they added a lot more depth to the game and the promise of more updates in the future makes for excitement to know what more they are going to add.  The next update (which is coming out on February, 2009) will add a party mode, an in-game store (you will have to pay for the stuff in the store), and will fix some of the problems in the game.  

Well, thats about.  Burnout Paradise is a game I can recomend to anyone who not enjoys racing games, but to anyone who enjoys free world games and games that let them complete objectives the way they want.  I hope that in the next Burnout game, they keep the open world and just improve the visuals and try to add liscensed cars.  Burnout Paradise has once again established Burnout as one of the top, if not the top racing game series in gaming.

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Paper Mario- A History

Well, a few weeks ago I decided to go back and plug in my Gamecube to play some Paper Mario:  The Thousand Year door and I came to a realization:  this is finally an RPG that I can play without sinking my entire life into.  What really makes Paper Mario really unique among console RPG’s is not only its simple gameplay mechanics or great graphics, but also its non-life consuming play time.  This is a game that you can play for an hour or two and still feel like you have made real progress in the story, unlike many other popular RPG ( *Cough* Final Fantasy *Cough*).  What else that really made each Paper Mario was the humor all throughout the game.  The games in the series all had their laugh out loud moments that really made the game fun and not have such a depressing feel (once again,*cough* final fantasy *cough*)  So, here’s a little mini history on the Paper Mario series, my favorite of all time.

Paper Mario:  The first game in the Paper Mario series was originally released in February, 2001.  It was one of the last N64 games ever released and was probably one of the best ones released on the console ever.  Even though it was released on a console as old as the N64, it still sold very well and critics all had a general consensus that it was a great game.  They particularly liked the art style and how accessible the game was.

Now, in my opinion, I totally agree with what the critics had to say about the game.  Even though the game was a little too easy, it still provided a great RPG experience that was really provided on the N64.  The game also had a lot of depth too it since you recruited many sidekicks throughout the game and each had his or her own unique abilities that you needed to use to get through the game.  The game also didn’t stray far from the Mario series roots with supplying some great platforming elements into the gameplay that did a great job in breaking up the battles.  Another element of the game that I really liked was how the game didn’t have any random battles.  This was because you could see your enemies and if they saw you, they would run at you.  Having no random battles really made the game a lot better because it allowed you to choose what you wanted to do.  Another element that made Paper Mario unique was the leveling system.  The amount of expirence you needed didn’t change as you gained levels, instead, you had to gain a hundred star points in order to gain a level.  This made leveling a lot more easy because you didn’t have to sort through a lot of menus to see how much more expirence you needed, instead you just needed to figure out how many more star points you needed in order to get to a hundred. 

The most important part of any RPG, though, is the story and Paper Mario really supplied a great story.  Even though the story was essentially the same as every other Mario game story with how Princess Peach has been kidnapped by Bowser and Mario needs to save her, the story also followed Mario’s quest to save the seven Star Spirits, who had been imprisoned by Bowser in cards.  This really made the story a lot more interesting and made it more than just about Mario trying to save Princess Peach. 

Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door:  The follow up to Paper Mario was released in October, 2004 and was released for the Gamecube.  While the gameplay in Paper Mario:  TTYD wasn’t changed very much from the original, the graphics were vastly improved from the last one.  There is no continuation in the story department, though, between the first and second games. 

The story for Paper Mario: TTYD was far more original then the one in Paper Mario.  The story begins very much the same, though.  Peach wants Mario’s help on finding seven crystal stars and when Mario goes to Rougeport, the hub city in the game, he isn’t able to find her.  Mario then goes on a quest to find the seven crystal stars before the X-nauts, the group who kidnapped Peach, can find them.  As in the first game also, you will recruit many sidekicks throughout the game and they bring their own unique personalities to the story.  I believe the characters in TTYD are far more memorable than the ones in Paper Mario.

Critical reception to TTYD wasn’t as good as for the original.  Critics were split on whether the graphics were much of an improvement over the original.  There were also issues with how the battle system deviated much from the standered RPG system.  Everyone, though, agreed the story was very good due to how whimsical and original it was. 

Super Paper Mario:  The third game in the Paper Mario series was released in April, 2007 and was a major departure from the series standards.  Instead of being a normal turn based RPG, SPM was actually a 2D platformer RPG.  Instead of doing turned based battles, the game reverted to the gameplay of Super Mario Brothers, in that you just jumped on enemies to kill them, instead of battling them.  Another unique change was to how you leveled up.  Instead of gaining experience from killing enemies, you gained points and this was added to your total point total.  Eventually, as you reached certain plateaus with your score, you leveled up.  Another change in the gameplay was that you could now play as more than one character other then Mario.  You could now play as Luigi, Peach and even Bowser.  Each character had different skills that you needed to use in order to progress through the levels.  This added a new layer of depth to the gameplay and really made the game a lot more interesting. 

The story once again begins with Mario and Luigi going to Bowser’s castle to save Princess Peach and well, this doesn’t exactly go according to plan.  Something goes wrong and Mario is transported to a city called The Void.  Mario the goes on a quest to retrieve Pure Hearts to save the void and the world.  In this game, Mario’s new sidekicks are little creatures called pixels that have unique abilities that you need to use to progress.  You obtain them as you go through the story.

Critical reception to Super Paper Mario was once again very positive.  Critics liked the uniqueness of the gameplay and how it was something never seen before.  They also enjoyed the art style that the game used.  One main issue, though, was how once again the game was very easy and didn’t provide very much of a challenge. 

Well, that’s it.  The Paper Mario series has also inspired the Mario & Luigi RPG series on the GBA and DS.  Both series are both very good games and top of the line RPGs.  Nintendo has not yet announced another Paper Mario game, but let’s hope they do so they can continue this great RPG series.  The Paper Mario series is probably not only one of the best RPG series, but also one of the best series in all of gaming.

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