Comic Movie and Gaming Console news plus more Dead Space update

A few intereting tidbits is movie news:

  • Looks like director Robert Rodriguez (“Machete”) may not be the director afterall for the Ryan Reynolds ‘Deadpool’ movie spinning off of Wolverine.  Rodriguez cites a tight schedule with Spy Kids 4 and other commitments puts his timeline in jeapordy.
  • Speaking of Wolverine, it looks like the sequel has found a new director in Darren Aronofsky.  The sequel will be ‘somewhat’ based on Wolvie’s lore of finding love in Japan (sans Jean Grey).  Maybe we’ll see the Silver Samurai?
  • In more sequel news, it’s noted that Honathan Liebsen has signed on to direct the ‘Clash of the Titans’ follow up.  It appears that the sequel will be filmed in native 3D as opposed to the post conversion process of the first and filming will kick off in January.
  • Now that Pirahhna 3D is out, someone is making a Sharks 3D movie…*sigh*
  • Rumor has it that sunglass make Oakley will have a tie-in with Disney’s new TRON movie, meaning cool new glasses ala the game grid?
  • Major Nelson over at XBOX has revealed that a new XBOX 360 controller will be released in North America shortly with an enhanced D-pad.  This will make the pad more accurate for hard-core gamers that love their fighting games such as Street Fighter, but unless you’re one of those types of gamers, no real need for it.  Said to also launch in Europe most likely in Feb. 2011.  One draw back?  The cost.  It’s reported to have a U.S. street price of $64.99
  • Also, expect Xbox Live to raise the price on their Gold membership by $10 come November.  That sucks, but they site the cost and demand of delivering and maintenance on more streaming and enhanced content. Boo!
  • In funny news, a compnay going by the name of Mojowijo has developed and will be marketing/selling ‘sex toy’ attachments for the Wii controllers, taking advanatge of the vibration technology.  Somewhere, somehow, bluetooth will be involved, but really?  Is there really a need to turn your Wii remote into a sex toy? Why not use the billion other products or your electric toothbrush for that matter.

Now onto my Dead Space updates:

The book, ‘Dead Space: Martyr’ – As of this writing, I’ve had the novel for about 9 days now and am close to being 3/4’s done.  It is not what I expected at all, but intriguing none-the-less.  Overall the book is a bit slow, but the good news is the chapters are relatively small and makes for a swift and easy read.  It’s definently geared towards mature adults with the language and descriptions inside and weaves an origin story about ‘The Marker’ and the church of Unitology as depicted in the game.  As far as I can tell, The Marker, very similar to 2001’s Monolith is a device of alien origin that has the ability to drive people slowly insane, mad, and violent when exposed for lengths of time or in close proximity to it. 

Of course, enter the cliched scientist who is discovering teh real meaning behind it, and the cliched military man who has his own ideas for The Marker and you cover a good a portion of some sci-fi rehash.  That being said, it’s not a bad book.  I actually find the authors writings very clever and it appears he’s taken great thought and care into developing a story that will have a good payoff for Dead Space fans.  I’m having a hard time deciding how predictable the events within actually are.  I can see some of the elements a mile away, but how the author gets there still holds my interest, and even this far in, The Marker, and its symbols are just as mysterious to me the reader.

Now that game: Beginning with Chapter 4 & 5, I have noticed the game is indeed getting harder.  I still love audio, text, and video logs I’m picking up and really help to set the tone.  I’ve also picked up the ripper and contact rifle as weapons.  I find the ripper is good in tight quarters when low laying necromorphs are surrounding you from various angles at once, but it’s damn slow on the reload.  The contact gun on the other hand…..I’m having a hard tiem figuring out exactly what it does.  It has a low ammo capacity, and shots are either hard to come by in the wild or expensive at the store and I just haven’t figured out how to best use it.

I’ve found a few more schematics, but the best upgrade so far is to Suit #3 and extra oxygen capacity.  There were a few moments in both 4 & 5 where oxygen is key, so make sure you have at least one extra air canister on hand.  I’ve also been using teh med packs a bit more as well.  There is one baddy in general that shoots off a ‘spore’ to the ground, which in turn sprouts a tentacle, which in turns spits out a deadly projectile at you.  Those projectiles pack some punch, so make sure you are in run-n-gun mode, have extra health packs, and are willing to use stasis.  You need to take these out quickly, because if you don’t they tend to multiply and once that happens, you’re as good as dead.  The key here is to sever all the vital points of the creature generally stuck to the wall that spits them out.  I think there are 6 vital points that must be dealt with and through trial and error, I found the good old Plasma Cutter and Stasis combination do the trick.  There’s one sequence here that the creature is at the end of a long hall….you need to run up to it (not to close though as it can one-shot you and rip your head off in one strike), but close enough to use Stasis and then ‘aim’ for the six points.  This may take a few attempts.

One other part I found very difficult was the manual gunnery station against the asteroids using the rail gun.  There’s a sequence where you sit in a chair and take aim at asteroids headed to the Ishimura and you need to pulverize them into dust before they hit the ship and take out the armor and bulkheads.  Sufefr enough damage and you’re dead in a fireball sequence.  Suffice to say, your aim, even with an analog stick must be true on and fast.  If too many slip by, you’re toast and you can’t recover.  Thus far this was my most frustrating moment in the game.  The whole sequence takes about 1.5 minutes, but after the first 60 seconds, it seems like it takes forever.  I must have died at least 10x in a row before I made it, and I made it by the skin of my teeth.  It’s a fun part and a nice departure from the rest of the game but it’s a little agressive and I felt it out of balance (meaning more difficult than I think it should have been). 

Too put it in perspective the ‘boss’ sequence at the end of Chapter 5, I got on the first try (cryo freeze 2x) and run, where this mid-level challenge seems very unforgiving.

These last two chapters, 4 & 5, I was able to complete each in about 1.5 hours instead of 2.  So I’m starting chapter 6 with about 9 hours under my belt thus far.

Dead Space: Downfall

So maybe I was a little overly excited yesterday with my Dead Space post.  Yeah, I realize I’m talking about a game that is two years old, but when you’re married, have a slacker teenage daughter, and a mundane job where you’re more educated than those you report to, it’s the little things in life that get one excited.

My wife happens to bowl on Monday nights as part of a league, so that usually affords me Monday nights to myself for entertainment.  As I was so enthralled with the game over the weekend and began reading ‘Martyr’ yesterday in earnest (currently Chapter 15, pg 79) I came home and fired up Netflix over my Xbox360 account.

I looked up Dead Space: Downfall and added it to the instant queue and began watching this 74 minute anime movie.  The events of Downfall take place over the course of a few days and lead up to the opening credits of the game itself.

In the game, as Isaac Clarke, you are fighting for survival on this large derelict ship, but just days before, the Ishimura was teaming with hundreds of crew members going about their daily lives and jobs until the ‘artifact’ is unearthed and brought aboard the ship.  The unearthing of the artifact itself unleashes a certain paranoia and an unseen force amongst the people, and throw is a good alien flying face hugger (kinda looks like a Star Wars ‘mynock’ to infect people and turn them into necromorphs for good measure).  By the time the captain and crew figure out what’s going on, it’s too late, the ship is doomed.

This anime is not really intended for kids.  It’s a ‘mature’ movie, filled with lots of bloody content made of nightmares and tons of colorful language (i.e. liberal swearing).  While there are some subtle stylized differences from what the game presents, the overall look of the interior of the USG Ishimura is pretty close.  You’ll recognize a few areas and even a few names.  You’ll learn the fate of the Captain, and even get hints of the overall Unitology conspiracy taking place.

While it’s not the best animation on the planet and a far cry from any CG work these days, the style fits just fine; even some of the rougher parts doesn’t detract from the story.  That being said, the story itself, while entertaining, seems to ‘borrow’ a few concepts and ideas from other sci-fi movies and shows.  It’s not to say that Downfall isn’t ‘original’, but if you’re an avid Sci-Fi fan like myself you’ll note some common themes and ideas throughout.

But the movie was intended to be a prequel, to lead the viewer upto the point where they begin to play the game, and it does a fine job, (not stellar), but fine job at doing just that.  Anything longer that 70 minutes may have been a detriment.  There’s plenty of action, recognizable locals, faces, and names that the gamer will identify with and that light bulb will begin to glow over your head.

One of the final scenes of the movie is the Isaac Clarke’s rescue ship approaching the Ishimura just as it did in the opening cinematic of the game which is a great tie in that marries the two together, so you know what your up against and where on the time line you fall.

Not sure if I’d buy the movie and unsure what the Blu-ray version would give you since it is standard animation.  If you are able to rent it, or even better, stream it like I did, then you’ll be happy.  Assuming you are playing the game as well, I’m not there is much replay value in the movie, so I wouldn’t buy it.

Shifting gears a bit, I was then able to play Chapter 3: ‘Course Correction’ last night afterwards.  Again, it seems I’m averaging about 2 hours a chapter, so if there are 12 chapters in this game, I expect I’ll get at least 24 hours of play time out of it.  I’m a cautious gamer as well….I don’t run headlong like Han Solo, guns blazing down cooridors.  I tend to creep, flashing my headlamp all about into all the dark spaces, and I also take the time to look for hidden items, power-ups, and all the logs strewn about.  I really enjoy the text, audio, and video logs.  They add so much backstory to the game, it’s a shame if you are the type that just balzes through the enemies getting to the objective in the fastest times.  If you are, then you’re missing out on some good lore.

I really enjoyed the centrifuge room last night.  The one in zero-g, in which you need to start up the engine manually and then dodge the centrifuge itself while in the vacuum fighting of a few necromorphs.  Ahhh….the silence is just so tense at times, and when you finally make it back to an airlock with seconds of air left to breathe, and your suit re-pressurizes, you really get a sense of gratification and unloading of a burden.

The last standoff in this chapter is pretty intense.  You throw the ignition switch in the bay, turn around, stars at your back, engine wailing super loud, and you spot a team of running necromorphs headed your way.  Gotta love the line gun at this point.  I also bought the ‘ripper’ weapon last night as well, but haven’t gotten the chance to use it yet.  I really need to get me some more power nodes and get some extra capacity on my rig (bio-suit) as my inventory slots are on the low end and now that I have a host of weapons, I need some more slots to carry ammo.

Dead Space..better late than never.

I have a hard time finishing games I start.  It’s not because I don’t enjoy them or I don’t wish to finish them, it’s that there have been so many this last year that have gotten my attention I just can’t seem to find enough time to play them all.

As it stands right now I am currently playing the following on my Xbox, but haven’t finsihed any of them: Grand Theft Auto IV, Assasins Creed II, Batman: Arkham Asylum, CoD Modern Warfare 2, Tiger Woods 2010, Dragon Age Origins, Mass Effect 2 (still in the cellophane), Saints Row 2, and Crackdown (yes, i still play the original Crackdeon).  Most of these I am anywhere from 50-75% done, although I think Grand Theft Auto IV and Saint Rows 2 is way down, but they have such an unforgiving failure structure in missions, I get frustrated if I have to start over so far back because there aren’t any real save points.

It doesn’t help there are also a bevy of games that all have high ratings that all came out or are about to come out as well, that I really want to play, but these $60 price points are just killing me these days.  There’s Red Dead Redemption, Splinter Cell Conviction, Alan Wake, Limbo, Gears of War 2, just to name a few. Oh, and I can honestly say I’m looking forward to two Wii games as well: Epic Mickey, and Kirby: An epic yarn.

All this being said, and realizing I need to get the most bang for my buck these days, I recently saw a preview for Dead Space 2. It looked pretty cool and then that seemed to trigger a lot of memories of all the positive buzz the original Dead Space got back in 2008. The whole action packed, horror/survival genre intrigued me and since I tend to get pwnd by players half my age anymore, the thought of me picking up the original Left 4 Dead and getting lambasted over the headset didn’t sound all that appealing to my ego.

I went to check out Dead Space and learned it is now part of the Xbox line of Platinum Hits, meaning it has a price point of $19.99, or a fraction (34%) of the original price. I went to Game Rankings and Wikipedia (89% favorable rate on average) to get their impressions and I was really surprised to learn that there is such a backstory and supplementary products and lore to support this franchise.

There are prequel comic books, an actual prequel novel “Dead Space: Martyr” (dated even earlier in the timeline of the comics), an anime movie, a Wii rail shooter (Dead Space: Extraction) that takes place days before the events of the original Dead Space game. In short, I love games or franchises that take on a life of their own and a new universe is created around them with so much deep and original content. I now have Dead Space fever and went out to buy both the Platinum Hits version of the game and also the novel, Martyr.

The book, Dead Space Martyr by B.K. Evenson clocks in at 414 pages and is a slightly oversized paperback. I started reading it today and am already enjoying the slow build of events that are taking shape all the way to my current page of 57. I will most likely read a good portion of this book by this week and it reall sits the tone and mood for events that I can only guess so far already took place just prior to the start of the game. So far it appears to me a very smart novel and not hokey schtick, minutae, or shovelware to get a few extra coins and milk this franchise. Already it makes me think of Indiana Jones meets “Abyss” meets the X-Files. Something spooky, mysterious, scientific, paranormal, alien, archeleogical, and conspiritorial all wrapped into one. If I enjoy this novel as well as I think I will, I just may have to buy the 6-issue comic collection and get the anime movie from Netflix to satiate my appetite and round my experience out.

Now about the game itself:  My initial impressions is that it is indeed very fun and a visual treat.  Right from the get go, there is a beautiful cinematic that sets up the initial quandry and within minutes I’m already tense.  This derelict planet cracking ship is quiet….too quiet.  With only the strained voices of my A.I. controlled, yet seperated from me crew members, its clear from teh get go I’m on my own and I need to survive.  From both lighting direction and sound design, my personal mental state is elvated on trying to be alert.  Not only am I being very cautious in my movements as I push the left analog stick forward, while looking all around with my right stick, I’m really trying to use my ears.  Everything makes an isolated sound, and the majority of the sounds are not that of a joyous ice cream truck looking to off load some delicious treats.  Nope, there are thuds, and scampering, and moan, and howls, and shallow breathing, and then nothing.  The silence is deafing, and even though I am on high alert, I am still scarred shitless at times.

The game is broken up into 12 chapters, and although I’ve taking my time (4 hours to complete the first 2 chapters), I have plenty aways to go.

The ship I am on, the USG Ishimura feels gigantic and vast.  I’ve only explored a few sections so far, but I am intrigued and in awe of some of the design and magnitude of the environments.  One minute I feel clausterphobic, pulse welder ready and aimed for discharge, the next I’m in a large mechanical ship bay, or medical lab that also feels too big, as if my sixth sense is telling me I’m not alone in here.

The environs are pretty diverse as well.  I’ve already experience both zero-gravity, and the dead silence of the vacuum of space.  I’ve run down blood stained cooridors, jumped when the lights flickered, and cringed at the sight of medically tampered fetuses in statis tanks.  There’s the sound of flies buzzing near body bags, cryptic blood drawn symbols on the walls, and then there is the occasional audio or video log tape that I find that fills in some blanks or drops a clue on what happened to the crew.  None of it is good.

The voice acting in above average, and the story is rich and tense.  No doubt the novel and anime will even do more to flesh everything out.  There are some criticsims that our protaginist Isaac clarke (an amalgam of Isaac Asimoc and Arthur C, Clarke me thinks) is a bit silent and uninteresting as we really never see his face or hear his thoughts, but in this case, I’m okay with it.  I hadn’t really noticed myself until I read that from other sites, and in no way do I think it affects my game.

Games controls are slightly different from other first person shooters I’ve played up to now, but the online ingame tutorial is both very unique and refreshing.  Once you get the hang of things, the U.I. actually seems very clever and intuitive and now I wonder why more games haven’t taken this approach before.  Here’s to hoping that EA keeps this formula in the sequel with only a few minor tweaks.

Weapons are unique to an extent and I like how they handle upgrade options in the game, either via used power nodes or found schematics.  Isaac’s HUD is really original as well, and really does have a futuristic feeling to it.  My only beef is with the amount of inventory he can carry on early in the game.  He’s very dependant on his plasma welder and thus needs to pick up ammo early on, but the ammo tends to take away from his ‘backpack’ space whcih can be frustrating early on until you get the hang of the game and work on your own personal strategy.  Now that I am starting chapter 3, I think I kinda understand the mechanics a bit better and I can do without as many plamsa clips.  The other weapons are pretty brutal as well, especially the line gun, alhough I’ve yet to buy/try the flamethrower.  You don’t need all these weapons thouugh…there is an achievemnt for completing the game using only the plasma welder which makes me believe the other weapons are for pure mayhem and eye candy value only.  However, that being said, the line gun has saved my ass a few times and I think a much better addition than the pulse rifle.

I don’t want to spoil anymore for you, but the necromorphs (aka bad guys) are downright scary.  While they may seem a bit repetitive (there may be more variety later on), they still seem gruesome in their size, stature, and movement when you do encounter them.  The animations of dismemberment and blood squirts and sounds are visceral to boot.

All in all, a great game, albeit from 2008.  A highly recommended buy for $19.99, and now I’m not sure if I can wait for Dead Space 2 to hit Platinum status in a year from now.  As a budget minded gamer, I may have to splurge at $39 or $29 when it happens.

Keyboards for Rock Band 3?

Harmonix released a teaser picture for it’s upcoming Rock Band 3.  Notice the new icon including a keyboard?  Hmmm….sounds interesting and makes perfect sense.  I figured it was only a matter of time before this happened, but I wonder how many instruments can actually be plugged in at any given time?  With my current RB 1 & 2 on my 360 the USB peripheral allows for upto 4 devices, but then again, the 360 has anotehr USB port on ther front as well, so maybe 5 devices isn’t a stretch afterall.

But also notice the microphone icon….it has multiple mics….Is it possible we’ll be singing harmony ala Beatles?  I guess we’ll find out more details come mid June when E3 2010 drops.

I’m looking forward to RB3, although my friends and I have’t finished RB1 or 2 yet.  Not sure why as we always have a blast playing.  It’s just been getting harder and harder to round us all up.

In other music gaming news, I’ve almost completed DJ Hero on medium.  I have no fricken idea how people are scoring 5 stars on Hard or Expert modes.  Now that I’m ending my tour on medium, I just think how hard my hand/eye cooridination was on a few beats/sonsg in the Vinyl Cuts section, especially with the cross fader.   Here’s hoping that Activision throws a few more songs our way before DJ Hero 2 drops as well.  I understand the game didn’t deliver the sales numbers they were hoping for this past holiday season, but come on…the game did retail for over $120 on debut during a recession and just after The Beatles and sucky Tony Hawk’s Ride dropped.  Tough market to compete in, and thus they didn’t follow up with DLC support for months.  It was months before a second set of DLC was released after the initial offerings.  That’s just not cool when RB & Harmonix are pumping out tracks on a weekly basis.

Games I’m currently working on: Dragon Age Origins, Assassins Creed II, Modern Warfare 2, and beleive it or not, I still have an un-opened copy of Mass Effect 2.  Haven’t even had time to play Tiger Woods 2010, let alone think about Red Dead Redemption, Alan Wake, Splinter Cell: Conviction, and Borderlands.  By the time I get to those, hopefully the price will drop on all of these to $29.99-$39.99

And Natal?  I can’t even think about that right now.  Though I am curious to any news of upcoming games for it.  I think it has a ton of potential, but I’m just really scared that there may be a lot of shovelware crap like the Wii.

Star Trek Online: First Impressions – Beta (part 1)

Admitedly I got to the open beta a little late in the offering.  Beta closes on the 26th until the game releases on Feb 2nd, although I’ve read some rumors there may be a ‘early start’ date for pre-orders, but I haven’t seen any official email yet.

As of this writing I spent about 4 hours playing this past Friday night, another 4-5 hours on Saturday, and another 4-5 hours yesterday (Sunday) and have managed to level up my ‘Captain’ to lvl 5 and am pretty close to 6.  Keeping in mind this is beta and with that comes some unexpected world server crashes, frequent patching, and a few disconnects, I think I got in at least ten solid hours of Star Trek Online gaming.  So in no particular order, here is what I found so far:

  • Lack of a bonafide manual in the early stages made the ‘trial by fire’ learning curve on the UI a little less than stellar.  Only by ‘really’ fiddeling around with the UI buttons and options was I finally able to get my experience bar legible.  However, I still don’t get the various nuances of the character/ship/interface slottings.  This is a little confusing.
  • Space battles are pretty amazing on a artistic scope.  Ships, phasers, sound effects, lighting, and backgrounds are very, very pretty to look at.  That being said, issuing commands and steering your ship in three dimensions takes some getting used to.  You are using multple keys to control pitch and yaw as well as turning and speed controls.  Controls can sometimes get confusing especially with so much on the screen against a black space background.  I often found myself over-turning at times, trying to stop, or finding the pitch/yaw not always as responsive as they should be.
  • While I understand the idea behind ‘open instances’, they are both a blessing and a curse.  Sometimes random people who are very skilled prove to be very beneficial in their tactics on helping complete a space mission.  However, since the AI ‘threat level’ seems to scale up with more people, this can be a teams undoing if one or two people aren’t the best of ‘captains’.  An unskilled ship (player) can be dead weight very quickly, and since these are open instances, many people show up to the fight with or without your asking.  Generally a few people I teamed with were very nice and cooperative and we all seemed in synch.  However, there were a couple of skirmishes where the maturity level and blame-game sunk to new lows. 
  • Starbase defense is very fun, but Klingon spawn points and amount of contacts are ridiculous.  If you just happen to be in the wrong place and the wrong time, you just resign yourself to defeat.  Don’t run, don’t fight, you’ll just prolong the inevitable.  During one such defense, as soon as the in-game counter reset, before I even knew what was happening, multiple, over powered Klingon ships spawned all around me.  I was dead before I could even type help.
  • Chat, or what passes for the ‘chat channel’ is also way too crowded.  There is no way you can keep track of a conversation without creating a specific friend or team channel.  It was worse than the infamous Barrens chat that WoW players are familiar with.
  • 85% of my missions thus far have been space battles.  Hardly any ‘away team’ or surface missions so it’s kinda hard to judge this component of the game fairly.  If anyone has ever played City of Heros/Villains, away missions are very like office building missions.  You interact more or less the same way with ‘glowies’, and the map structures are very similiar.
  • Speaking of City of Heros/Villains, let’s talk about the 100 pound elephant in the room right now.  STO for all intents and purposes is perhaps a more sophisticated and graphically enhanced, reskinned version of CoH.  I mean it is made by NCSoft/Cryptic, but seriously…so many things are the same:  The interface with NPC’s, the way they act, the choices offered, even down to the font is more or less the same as CoH, just set in a Star Trek theme.  This isn’t meant to be a knock, and again, I realize this is a beta and many portions of the game have yet to be revealed and/or rolled out, but so far what I have seen, this reeks of CoH (and I played CoH for 5 years before I got bored and moved on).
  • Character creation and ship modification is very, very detailed out of the gate.  It is very impressive on how you can design both your ship and captain and also have the ability to write backstories for not only yourself but your crew as well.  Just as NCSoft made additions to this engine with CoH, I can only suspect the same will happen here and that’s a good thing.
  • You unlock the ability to play and start as a Klingon at lvl 5.  I unlocked it, but haven’t even attempted to create a charcter yet.  It may not even be allowed in beta yet.
  • The starting tutorial is adequate and gets you into the action very quickly, but could have been fleshed out and a bit more details on controls….Something I’m sure will be in the manual not yet available.
  • In game ‘help’ looks robust if you want to take the time and read while you’re playing.  I don’t, so I’m looking forward to digesting this in traditional book/manual format.
  • You can visit your bridge, but I have no clue what purpose that serves right now other than eye-candy.  It was cool to look at, and walk around, but as of right now, I see no ingame value.  It is more or less just a set piece.  Hopefully they will be able to find a use for it later.
  • In a very un-Star Trek/Rodennberry way, most missions I’ve played thus far are all about shooting and destroying first.  ST is supposed to be about unity, exploration, strange new worlds, etc.  So far, I’m killing Orions, Klingons, and the radom Borg every time I warp into space.  Guns first diplomacy seems to be at odds with the Prime Directive.
  • Overall galaxy map seems huge right off the bat and they tackle ‘fog of war’ in a unique way.  Hard to describe, but it’s there.
  • Scanning seems simplistic and repetitive right now.  You collect ‘loot’ in space, and has to be some sort of ‘crafting’ component ala Memroy Alpha, but I haven’t gotten into it yet.  Again, seems a little daunting and confusing without a better explanation.

Okay, so for this entry, I’ll stop it short right there.  I plan to play a bit more tonight and I’ll have more to say on part II.  I can honestly say I have mixed feelings so far.  If you never played CoH/CoV, then you will undoubetdly love this.  However, as someone who has played CoH/CoV for the aforementioned 5 years, I can say while there are graphical improvements and customization, this does feel like I’ve played this before, just in a super-hero skin.  That doesn’t make it a bad game by any means, it just isn’t innovative enough to really knock my socks off as I was hoping it would.  I guess I may play for a year, until SW:TOR comes out.  If I had to give this a rating right now, I’d give it a ‘B-‘.  But things can change in the future and hopefully things will be fleshed out with a future purpose, because if it’s just about shooting Klingons and Borg mission afer mission, rinse and repeat, then it’ll be just a casual game for me.

Star Trek Online (Beta) – First impressions (prologue)

After some initial wishy-washy, going back-and-forth within my own head thoughts, I plunked down a bit of cash to secure myself a copy of Star Trek Online when it releases in a few weeks, and thus also securing myself a spot in the current ‘open beta’ test the that currently going on for the next few days.

So why this MMO?  Well, Bioware’s “Star Wars” is at the very minimum a year away, and as these things go I won’t be surprised if it is delayed even beyond that.  Of course, with Bioware backing that one and it’s history of great RPG styles games going on for over a decade, everyone has their eyes salivating for this one.  Could SW:TOR be the first ‘real’ challenger to WoW?  We’ll see.  I’m pretty confident that it will be much better than SOE’s attempt at the Lucas’ universe that Star Wars Galaxy: An Empire Divided will ever be.  That has to be my own biggest personal let down in gaming.  I had such hopes for that one, and pretty much from day one it was plagued by bugs, major sweeping gameplay changes, and not delivering on promises it made, it left a sour taste in my mouth.  What’s left of that game today (SWG) looks nothing like how the game was introduced years ago, and I can’t help but think how much money I threw away on a subscription that just wasn’t fun to play anymore.

The last two MMO’s I’ve been playing is the aforementioned Blizzard’s “World of Warcraft” which is fun, yet can be a grind most of the time (and to be honest, fantasy genre’s aren’t my favorite) and NCsoft’s (aka Cryptic) “City of Heros/Villains”.  When CoH first came out, practically 5 years ago, I loved it almost immediately.  I really took to my first created character and was proud to work on his backstory and build him up, level by level in Paragon City.  Then came the expansion CoV which was fun in it’s own right, although one could say it was very similiar in premise to CoH (I guess one could argue, “Why wouldn’t it be?”) with just some re-skinning of powers and costumes, but it gave players the ability to live out some sort of muted sadistic and anarchistic fantasies in classic comic book faction.

However, after a couple of years, it just seemed to lack any further innovation.  I give NCsoft/Cryptic a lot of props though: they actually opened up a new genre (superheroes) instead of the tired and overplayed orc, dwarf, goblin stuff that every other developer for a time thought players wanted.  Yeah, it just got a little stale after a few years, and while they added things like bases and lairs (which never worked out the way developers intended), a ‘crafting’ element, and new badges….the graphics and missions/quests began to seem dated, and the game resorted to the same ‘world eveents’ at regular intervals, and at least to me, began to feel like ‘been there, done that’ most of the time.  They did have some awesome instances and Task Force missions, although a bit long at times to have a whole team stay intact until the very end.

I won’t even get into WoW.  Most of you know what’s that’s like, and I still play it, but I’m currently on break from it right now until I get the urge to get back into it again.  That too can become a grindfest at times, and I’m pretty tired of some of the missions.  Although my main Paladin is only lvl 74 right now, even after owning Lich King for a year.

Anyway, I’m getting way off track here.  Back to Star Trek.

So after seeing some online movies of the game in which the space battles and ship models won me over, I began to read a few player takes on their beta experiences and I was intrigued.  The idea of a space based genre MMO in an established franchise by the developers who did CoH/CoV and Guild Wars pretty well mitigated the risks of it being really ‘sucky’.  Most, not all, but most games based on Star Trek tend to blow and I’m not sure why.  There is so much potential and lore and characters and created history, I can’t begin to understand how many developers in the past blew it…or just didn’t get Trekkers/Trekkies.   Dare I say that the Star Trek experience goes way beyond just big ships and Klingons?  It is about exploration, strange new worlds, new civilazations, etc., etc.

Now will STO capture this?  Hard to say right now only having played the beta a few hours (more on that later).  I can see the potential, but there are parts that already feel like re-skinned WoW or CoH missions.  But the space battles are HELLA cool and very pretty.

NCsoft/Cryptic/Atari also went full out on the pre-order exclusives.  There are a ‘TON’ of varying exclusives depending on where you made your pre-order.  Tribbles or Targs for pets….”KHANNNN” emotes….exclusive uniforms or ship equipment….Borg as a playable chracter…and of course if you got from GameStop/EB you get yoru grubby hands on the original Constellation class starship (of which Kirk’s Enterprise was).  Out of all these choices listed (and not listed), I went for the Constellation class starship and look forward to piloting a retro-enterprise in my adventures.

So I plunked my dollars down at GameStop and was granted a ‘beta’ key that I rushed right home to begin downloading….Mafia Wars and FarmVille be damned!!.

One thing right at the start, that was forgotten but quickly remembered, was how wonky the “signup/account creation/login” process still is with NCSoft.  After a few false starts and having to reset my password reset and resent to my mail account at least twice for who knows what reason I was able to enter my ‘key’ and begin the download process.

The download was over 7GB in size, and I’m sure so many people were hitting it up that evening along with my local ISP bandwidth issues after 6PM (as everyone is getting home to jump on their own PCs) it took right around 3 hours to download.  Thankfully the checksum was right on, as even though it was a lengthy download, I encountered zero problems so far.  The executable took another 10 minutes to unpack and install, and to my chagrin as soon as I got excited to begin my adventures and hit the ‘Play’ icon, of course another 800MB beta patch now needed to be downloaded and applied…..another few minutes.

Next: Initial impressions…..

GamesCom: Sony drops PS3 price

ps3-slim-comparison-1It’s old news, at least by Internet standards anyway, but at Germany’s GamesCon, Sonty final made some hardware announcements.

1st, effective immediately (or until online stores make the appropriate changes) the PS3 80GB model has dropped in price $100, to a new attractive price of $299.

2nd, for those that can wait until the end of the month, Sony also confirmed and unveiled the PS3 Slim, 120GB model also at $299! So a few more weeks and 40 more GB for the same price, yeah….I’ll wait.

The PS3 slim is 32% smaller than the oringal PS3 and consumes 34% less power (250W as opposed to current 280W), and supposedly run quieter than it’s big brother. When the PS3 is released in just a few weeks, a frimware 3.0 upgrade will also be unleashed which will have support for Bravia remotes, modified friends lists, tweaked trophies, some interface changes, blah, blah, blah. Linux is dropped from the OS. Wonder if anyone will still use Home or what changes are in store for Home…do you even care?

Well, it looks as if I’m finally going to get a BluRay player….I’ve been witing for a significant price drop for some time. Even though I’m still mainly 360 guy, you can bet I’ll be getting this eventually for movies, and, well maybe Killzone & Little Big Planet.