December 07, 2006

Console War- XBOX 360 vs Playstation 3

When it comes to the industry of gaming, the company that develops a gaming console with the biggest and baddest hardware will usually be declared the victor. However, in the recent years, two companies have leaped ahead of all the rest and have become the "kings" of the gaming industry. But, as everyone knows, there can be only one true "king". Those two competing kings are currently the companies of Sony and Microsoft. The Playstation 3 is Sony's weapon and the XBOX 360 is the weapon of Microsoft; and with their weapons, the two are going to battle in an all out war.

Many believe that the new Nintendo Wii should-be/is a valid participant in this gaming war, and no one can really blame them for that line of thinking. Although the Wii has some great innovation and has made a splash in the gaming industry, it has neither the firepower nor the fan base that the XBOX 360 or PS3 currently has. Therefore, it may creep into the battle once or twice with a good game, but it won't stand up to the big boys for very long.

Most gamers are familiar with this war and know that it is probably going to last quite a number of years. Although gamers claim to know much about this war, no one really knows what cards are going to be played next, by each company that is. Even though both companies have the "Great Game" card, which they pull out occasionally, both of them still have their own tricks and tactics to pull in more gamers. For instance, instead of the Sony just going with a normal controller for the PS3, they developed the Sixaxis controller; which happens to have motion sensing capability. It may not be as innovative as the Wii controller, but it adds something special to the PS3 experience.

Its obvious that the XBOX 360 has much more footing than the PS3 at the current time. The reason being: the XBOX 360 has been out for a little over a year, while the PS3 has only just been released (November 17th, 2006). That means anyone who wants an XBOX 360 either already has one or can go down to the store and get one within minutes. The Playstation 3, on the other hand, is still in the "list" phase, which means that it is near impossible to get one without actually being on a list. But, within a few months to a year, the PS3 will leave the list phase and be available to walk-in shoppers; allowing many more people to get their hands on the console system. The playing field will then become slightly more level for the two consoles.

From a visual point of view, the PS3 and XBOX 360 do not appear to differ all that much. Some would say that the PS3 graphics look a bit more detailed, and that may be true, but the difference is hardly noticeable. In terms of hardware, it seems the PS3 is packing more of a punch, which would account for its higher price. That is partly due to the fact that the PS3 has a built-in Blu-ray disc player that supports high-def resolution. The only problem with that is the fact that gamers want to play games, and the ability to play movies (whether they be DVDs or Blu-ray discs) is a bonus, rather than a necessity.

The XBOX 360 did not try to push its movie playing software onto it's fans (which is a HD-DVD player). The XBOX 360 did/does not come with the HD-DVD player. Thats because it is an add-on, which may be perceived as a good thing or a bad thing. Either way, making it an add-on has saved money for the people who didn't/don't care about watching movies on their gaming system. Many gamers believe that the same method should have been taken with the PS3, which would have allowed people to make their own decision about getting a Blu-ray disc player or saving some money.

As anyone could have guessed, this battle is not going to be won so easily. Each company is going to do whatever they can to pull ahead and get more fans. Whether gamers know it or not, this is actually a good thing for the gaming industry. Two competing, gaming companies will only strive to come up with more innovative and fun games for their fans. This means that consumers will see more games that are more fun, more frequently. It's true that these gaming titans might be fighting a never ending battle, but end or no end, it is still going to be one heck of a fight to the top.

December 02, 2006

Game Review: Gears of War- Online Play

A game has emerged for the XBOX 360 that has truly risen the bar for all games that are to come after it. That game is "Gears of War", and aside from its overwhelming excellent single player campaign, the game is even better when played with a friend. As every gamer knows, a single player campaign gets boring after awhile. You can only replay a game so many times before the game itself disgusts you and you have to move on to something new. Well luckily, thats where online play comes in, as it breaths new life into an otherwise dead concept. "Gears of War" is one of those titles that can be replayed over and over again on different difficulties and still be quite fun. But even "Gears of War" has a breaking point. Before you reach that point, it would be wise to try to have some fun playing online, via a broadband internet connection that is.

Each and every online match can have a maximum of 8 players, thats 4 players to each team. One side is made up of humans soldiers and the other is made up of Locust soldiers. There are no differences between the two sides, apart from the obvious visual appearance and the voices. So neither side has the upper hand during a match; its basically survival of the fittest.

The matches you participate in are not your standard frag matches either. When an opposing player kills you, you stay dead. That means you will not simply respawn every time you die; you will have to wait until the next round in order to play. Opinions often vary with this feature, as some like the idea of being careful and cunning on the battlefield, while others simply want to "run & gun" over and over. This "one life per round" feature means that you and your team must come up with a plan and coordinate with each other in order to win. You only have one chance to "Kill or be Killed" each round, so you have to make it count. Therefore, the team that says "Every man for himself!" is going to be brutally slaughtered by the team that says "Everybody, Stick together!"

A player can participate in three different types of online matches, which are Execution, Warzone, and Assassination. Each of the matches has the same basic guideline, which is "Kill 'em All!" Although, there are a few minor differences in each of the online matches:

Warzone is a rather simple concept to comprehend, and this has to be the most common match that players will come across. In Warzone, you simply kill every member of the opposing team to win. In this type of match, when a player drops to his knees (which is basically pre-death), an enemy can just keep shooting and that downed player will die quickly. Once every player on an opposing squad is killed, the round ends. The squad with the most "round wins" will win the overall match.

In an Execution match it is slightly different. When a player falls down in execution, he can not be killed simply by firing at him. To kill a downed player in Execution, you have to get up close and personal. The chainsaw bayonet is a great way to finish off a downed player, but that can take a little too long. Every second counts on a battlefield; so while you're cutting your enemy in half, another enemy might be getting ready to blow off your head with a shotgun. Most players stick with the curb stomp (X button on downed player), as it delivers a fast crushing blow to the head. Execution matches are much more strategic because they allow players to be easily revived by their allies. Even though a player may have downed you, it doesn't mean your going to die. Obviously, your not in good shape. However, that player still has to risk coming out from behind cover to finish the job, and thats always a risky proposition in "Gears of War". The good news is that you can actually revive yourself if no allies are nearby. If no enemy is aware of your "vulnerable" state, you can frantically tap the "A" button to keep your heart going. After a few seconds, you will be revived and ready to get back into the fray. As you might have guessed, Execution matches seem to be the most popular of the three.

Assassination is, without a doubt, the least popular of the online matches. In this match there will be 1 team leader and then 3 "grunts". The team leader has no extra damage potential, health, or special attributes, he is just the leader. It is rumored that the leader was a bit stronger than the others, but it was false and he is just as fragile as the rest of the squad. However, the leader can pick up different weapons throughout the map, while the rest of the squad can not. Once the leader dies, the round is over. The person who killed the opposing leader then becomes the leader for his/her team. Players rinse and repeat this for every round, then the team that won the most rounds wins the match.

As usual, there will be unranked and ranked matches. Those who like to shine up their record will play in ranked matches, where the competition seems to be much more fierce. Players who want a friendly match with not as much pressure will choose to play in unranked matches. Either way, you will still be going up against real live players who can think and switch up their game plan in the blink of an eye. So you'd better be a step ahead of your opponents if you want to survive.

You can expect the graphics & sounds to be the same as the campaign mode, simply amazing. But, its not easy to marvel over sounds and visuals when you are being fired upon, so only do that when you are safe and under cover. As for in-game lag, it doesn't seem to be that big of an issue. Obviously, it will vary from player to player and each match will have its share; but overall, the lag seems minimal.

If your tired of beating the campaign mode on insane for the 5th time in a row (which is no easy task), or you just need a break from the campaign mode, check out the online aspect of the game. It has lots of things to offer players and is simply fun, period. If you're an XBOX 360 owner, "Gears of War" is a must have title that you truly need to get your hands on. If you don't have the money, save it up then buy it some time in the near future. Its a great gaming investment!

December 01, 2006

Playstation 3 Game Review- "Resistance: Fall of Man" Multiplayer Mayhem

Every gamer knows that a game can only last so long before it gets boring. Sure, you can beat a game on all the different difficulty levels, but that still does not change the inevitable destination of boredom. Its not the games fault, as the game was fun at a time. Its just that you have beaten it and there really is nothing else to do with it. Or is there? Well, for some games there is another choice that can lead away from boredom. That choice is the multiplayer option, or online multiplayer to be more specific. More and more games are being released with online capability. Its really getting to the point that if a game does not have any online capabilities, gamers just move on to something else. Well, "Resistance: Fall of Man" is one of those great online multiplayer games; and those who own a Playstation 3 (as well as a copy of the game) can partake in the all out carnage that ensues during an online match.

As far as the overall gameplay goes, there is not a big difference from the campaign; its basically kill or be killed, with subtle variations in the matches of course. A great aspect of online play is that players can choose between being a human soldier or a Chimeran hybrid. Both races have different perks, which can often be used to turn the tide of a battle. You just have to figure out which advantages you find more useful.

The Chimeran hybrid can enter into a "berserker", or "rage", mode that will increase its damage, speed, and ability to withstand incoming fire. Not only that, but they can also see through walls when in this "rage" state. The downsides to hybrids are few, but they can make an impact on the battle field. For one, hybrids are big bulky creatures,; therefore, they are bigger targets and enemies can hit them more easily, if not under proper cover that is. The other big disadvantage is the loss of a radar, which can be a players best friend in hectic & dangerous situations. The humans aren't really anything special; just average soldiers with a hint of toughness. They can sprint from cover to cover quickly, plus they have a radar that reveals the location of both enemies and allies (huge advantage). But other than that, they are just typical soldiers with fancy weaponry.

Most gamers familiar with online first person shooters will automatically know what types of matches will be available in "Resistance: Fall of Man". Those matches are: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture-the-Flag, as well as a few other variations of common FPS matches; those of which will either be ranked or unranked games. Players will be able to participate in small to medium sized battles via their broadband internet connection. Smaller matches will contain about 8 players, while the slightly larger ones will contain about 16. However, this game offers a player the chance to battle with up to 39 other players. Thats 40 players in a single online match!

Many gamers would believe that 40 players in one match is too good to be true, as the lag would ruin those types of matches. Surprisingly, that is not the case. Its true, every match, big or small, will have its share of lag issues from time to time, but these 40 person matches have much less lag then a player would expect. Obviously, not everyone is going to be operating from the same high-speed connection as the player next to them; so results may vary from match to match. Either way, there definitely seems to have been some extra effort put into the lag issues.

As any gamer can see, "Resistance: Fall of Man" has it all, for a first person shooter anyways. Great single player story as well as fantastic online multiplayer capability. You truly can't go wrong with this title; its a must have!

PS3 Game Review - Resistance: Fall of Man

Anyone who has picked up a news paper or has seen a news broadcast in recent weeks knows that the Playstation 3 has arrived. With it has come a whole arsenal of new and remastered games for Playstation 3 fans to enjoy. The most anticipated title of the PS3 was/is undoubtedly "Resistance: Fall of Man", which is from the developers of the Ratchet & Clank series (Insomniac Games). Although they have not been known for their "realistic" looking games, Insomniac Games has always done its best to produce quality games. This time they have taken a new turn in gaming; and with this exclusive, action packed, first-person shooter for the PS3, they are sure to get lots of praise from gamers.

The setting and storyline of "Resistance: Fall of Man" seems to be an interesting one. Instead of World War II taking place, a strange alien species, known as the Chimera, has invaded and is slowly taking over the planet. They are vicious looking creatures and they will destroy and/or consume whatever is in their path. The reason they are spreading throughout Europe (which is where they supposedly originated) so fast, is the fact that the Chimera infect humans, who then become Chimera themselves.

Heres the deal: you are Nathan Hale, an American Soldier, and you have been sent over seas to support the defenses in Europe; more specifically the UK, as Europe has been almost entirely consumed by the Chimera. Not much is known about the origin and why these Chimera have risen, but as you progress through the game, you will learn more about the Chimera and where they truly came from. The strange thing about the storyline is that the narration and perspective of the War is not done by Hale, but by a female soldier who has encountered Hale in the UK. She will give you plenty of information and feedback on the situation, but many gamers would have preferred Hale to play a more "active" role in the narration. Overall, the story seems to be very well developed and is sure to entertain and excite Playstation 3 fans.

The control scheme for this game is your standard run-of-the-mill FPS (first person shooter) set-up. Analog sticks control movement and looking, while the other buttons let you fire, change weapons, and interact with the environment. The Sixaxis controller seems to have been implemented nicely as well. There will be times when some Chimera creatures will grab hold of you; this is when you begin shaking the controller in order to try to break free. It may not sound too thrilling in the description, but it can get pretty intense during gameplay when surrounded by those creatures. The feature won't be used around every corner; but when you do use it, you'll find yourself appreciating the game, as well as the PS3, much more.

The weapon choices seems to be pretty basic; pistols, shotguns, rifles, snipers, grenades, and, of course the big gun, the rocket launcher. Although they may be "basic" FPS guns, the detail of each one of them is quite astounding, as well as the visual presentation when each of them is fired. There are also a few special guns that you will find throughout "Resistance: Fear of Man"; not to mention a few advanced weapons that you can unlock once you have completed the game. The only non realistic thing in the weapons department is "weapon carrying". Most games today allow only a few weapons to be held, rather than an arsenal. However, "Resistance: Fear of Man" goes back to the roots of FPS gaming, where you can pick up any and all guns you come across. Now to some gamers, this is somewhat of a bad thing. They believe it is bad because any soldier carrying 5+ different heavy weapons is going to be slow and ineffective when it comes to fast paced combat; and therein lies the lack of realism. But, many people find that carrying many different weapons is a good thing; as they can change weapons instantly to better deal with the situation at hand. Therefore, that small lack of realism is easy to bare and people get used to it quite quickly.

In terms of performance and overall appearance, this game definitely gets an A+, and then some. The graphics and cut-scenes are excellently done, as well as the explosive special effects and character detail. The sound is of an exceptional quality also, which makes every shot fired that much more intense. As far as some of the visual displays and designs go, you may notice similarities to other big titles; but that will be left up to you to find.

"Resistance: Fall of Man" is sure to be a PS3 "Great One" for several months, and should always be remembered as one of the PS3's greatest launch titles. If you happen to have the honor of owning a Playstation 3, this game should, without a doubt, be in your game collection.

XBOX 360: Gears of War game Review

Every so often, a game emerges that puts all other games to shame. Well, "Gears of War" is one of those great games and it is exclusively for the XBOX 360. Not many titles excel in every gaming area, but "Gears of War" has proven to be an excellent gaming experience that no gamer should miss.

The storyline is a vital part of the game itself. Its true that games don't have to have detailed and immense storylines to be considered good, but the ones that do shine even more. "Gears of War" has an excellent story about a war between the COGs (Coalition of Organized Governments, which is the rest of humans) and a strange monstrous species known as the Locust. The Locust seem to have been buried deep beneath the ground and have risen to take control of Earth. You are given the role of a soldier named Marcus Fenix, a man considered to be a traitor (the game doesn't go into detail about that) but reinstated to active duty. Your squads primary assignment is to locate Alpha squad. They have a trinket in their possession that could possibly end the war once and for all.

"Gears of War" is not your standard first person-shooter. As a matter of fact, its not even a FPS (first-person shooter) as many people may think. You will play from a third-person point of view, which is actually a pleasant change for action packed shooters such as this. This game isn't "run & gun" either. Its more of a strategic shooter in which you must choose your shots and plan your movements. Taking cover is one of the biggest aspects of this game, and if you fail to do so, you will end up with quite a few bullet wounds; or worse, dead!

The mechanics of covering are easy to get use to; not to mention, performing a "take cover" move is really fun to watch. Fenix will do about 2 quick steps and literally smash his shoulder into the object in front of him. From there, you can then perform a "over the top" move and quickly scramble over the object (if it is waist high that is). You can also perform a quick side movement that will make you take cover behind another nearby object. Taking cover is not only the best way to avoid incoming enemy fire, but its the only way you can recover from damage. Like most next-gen games these days, "Gears of War" has ditched the old "health bar" and gone with the "duck & cover" health regeneration technique. That means when you're badly wounded during a fire fight, the only way to survive is to retreat to a safe area and take cover.

You will do the majority of your shooting from behind cover as well. Blind fire is useful for keeping charging enemies at bay, while popping your head up and taking aim is much more efficient for taking out enemies. However, you will not be the only soldier that takes cover. Both the Locust soldiers and your allies will also use cover when the situation arises. Just as you were protected from fire, they will be well protected also. Therefore, you must take well aimed shots to get the upper hand on the battlefield. The Locust soldiers are not stupid, they will react to their surroundings and switch up their game plan when the situation calls for it. Obviously, some of them will be cannon fodder and run into an array of incoming bullets, but the majority of Locust enemies will make you work for the kill.

A game doesn't have to have 100 hundreds of different enemy types to be fun, but it should certainly have more than one or two. Luckily, "Gears of War" does have a few different enemies that you can unload your ammo into. The most common enemies will be the human-sized Locusts that carry around shotguns and rifles, just like you. However, there will be small differences in some of them, such as weaponry and the sound of their voices & commands. The smaller ones are much less of a nuisance. Thats because they can be gunned down relatively quickly and without any clever planning. However, if a few of them get close, they can cause utter chaos amongst you and your squad. There are also a few bigger enemies that you will encounter and they will usually take much more time and ammunition to bring down. Also, a few of the enemies you come across will be invulnerable to your average weaponry and you must use a special weapon to take them out, but you'll find out more about that while playing.

As far as weaponry goes, you won't be shocked with your choices. You will comes across a few pistols, a shotgun, grenades, a sniper rifle, and your average automatic assault rifle, as well as a few other more "destructive" weapons. There will be one weapon that you will never want to get rid of, as it is your golden ticket to blood and gore. That weapon is called the "Lancer" and it comes fully equipped with a chainsaw bayonet, which you can use to saw enemies in half (vertically). The whole chainsaw scene is very gruesome, yet unbelievably entertaining. Doing it once, though, is not enough, as you will find yourself looking for many more opportunities to saw enemies in half.

Each of these weapons has a reloading feature that will allow you to reload it faster. However, doing this can also result in a weapon jam, causing it to take longer to reload; which could end in your demise if an enemy is charging. A perfect reload will actually give you a small damage boost for a few seconds, allowing you to drop more enemies even faster than usual. Of course, it takes some practice to get the hang of it in the heat of battle; but once you get it down, you will so much more dangerous.

All of this extraordinary gameplay would not be nearly as enjoyable in black & white or with just basic dull textures. However, that is not the case here. "Gears of War" has stunning visuals and textures, which is what each and every gamer has been waiting for. The frame rate is absolutely excellent, as there are very few visual glitches or out-of-place textures. The environment makes traveling and exploring all worth while, as the designs and overall look of each area has been excellently designed and crafted. Each detail is truly a work of art, but in an action packed shooter like this, it can be hard to appreciate the smaller things.

Above all else, "Gears of War" is definitely "Game of the Year" material and should be experienced by every gamer. Even though the XBOX 360 has been out a full year, this is the first, 100% true "next-generation" game.