Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Welcome back to Silent Hill.

It's been a long time coming but Silent Hill has finally arrived on next-gen platforms. Was it worth the wait? Well read on and find out.

Silent Hill Homecoming follows the story of Alex Shepard a soldier returning from war to his hometown of Shepard's Glen. However not all is what it seems. The town seems to be in a state of disarray and Alex's younger brother is missing. So Alex sets out to find his brother and it's not long before he finds out Silent Hill's involvement in all the problems with Shepard's Glen. Now as far as storyline goes there is good and bad. The storyline is solid however Homecoming borrows alot more from the sub par Silent Hill movie then it does from past Silent Hill games. This isn't to say Homecoming doesn't have a good story because it does but if you disliked the film you may be offput by all the similarities such as monsters the way the hell state appears. There are many more things to mention however I may be entering spoiler country by doing so. So lets leave it at that.

Visually the game is a bit mixed. The creatures look great and there is real time damage in place so as you slash at a creature you will see real time cuts and slashes appear on them. Most of the time Alex looks very detailed and great however there are a few instances in which he looks unfinished but they are few and far between. All other characters models however look unpolished and rough when compared to Alex. The fact that you will often see them on the same screen as Alex makes it that much more noticeable. The environments look pretty good most of the time and they look downright incredible during the Hell state. The transformation into the hell state was also handled very well. It is all in real time as the world peels away and the Hell state begins to show it self. Again very similar to the film.

This time around the combat system really allows you to fight back against the horrible creatures of Silent Hill. You can combo and dodge attacks as well as Counter attack and the like. Fire arms also are easier to use as they are far easier to aim. The combat system does take some getting used to and at first may seem a bit clunky however once you get the hang of it you will have no problems at all. The classic Radio and Flashlight return again and believe me when I say you WILL need them as Homecoming is a very dark game.

When it comes to sound design you are talking about Homecomings strongest point. The Voice acting is well done for most of the characters with no one standing out as horribly bad. But it's the sound you hear while around and about that makes this game. There always seems to be a tension in the air and hearing the white noise of the radio often adds to this as you near a enemy. Creature sounds are also very well done. Akira Yamaoka again did the soundtrack and once again delivers great music that fits the game very well especially in some of the boss encounters.

Overall Homecoming is a solid entry in the series but doesn't approach the level of the first 3 games which I consider to all be equally as masterful and are very much my favorite. If you are a fan of the franchise or a fan of survival horror in general it's certainly worth playing.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

So StarCraft II is big.

So recently Blizzard let out that StarCraft II is going to ship as 3 different games. The reason behind this is because the campaign is far to big to be done the traditional way. Now obviously there are alot of questions to be answered about this issue.

One of those questions is just how big are we talking here Blizzard? Well some reports state that each races campaign is as long as the entirety of all of the original StarCraft. Now if that's true that's quite a large game we are going to have.

The biggest worry right now is how the pricing is going to work. If Blizzard charges 50$ per game we are talking 150$ to play the entire StarCraft II saga. That's quite a pretty penny and may not be within the range of alot of gamers out there. Also remember that this figure doesn't account for any expansions the game may have down the line so the game could quite possibly end up more expensive. Even if Blizzard decides to sell the games cheaper then a normal product the combined three will still cost far more then a single game alone.

Would it have been better if Blizzard simply split each of the campaigns and then finished them via a expansion? Possibly. But I guess we won't know until the game finally ships. Or I guess I should say until the first part of the game ships.

Be open minded about evil kids.

So the latest entry in the Disgaea series is finally upon us and it seems alot of people have been giving it a bit of a hard time. But I'm here to tell that not only is it the same great game we have come to love but it's even better.

First off we are gonna talk about graphics now if you have played past games in the Disgaea series you know what to expect. Now the game has been criticized for not using the power of the PS3 to it's advantage and I'm here to tell you that it does. While technically the game looks exactly as Disgaea 2 and Disgaea 1 before it that isn't to say it isn't using the PS3. There are countless animations for abilities and spells that would have never been possible on the PS2. Those who have played Odin Sphere and saw the slow down when the game got intense will know exactly what I'm talking about. So while the game isn't a next gen graphics masterpiece that's ok as I would think the series would lose a bit of it's charm if it ended up looking to much different.

The soundtrack is another great highlight of the game with Tenpei Sato delivering another catchy upbeat soundtrack that we have come to expect from the series. The Voice acting is also great and has pretty good anime cast in the line up. The original Japanese is also included so that is a definite plus.

Now the game play is the way you remember from Disgaea 1 and 2. It's you general turn based strategy action with great over the top animations. Now where the game changes it up a bit is that the game is far deeper. In past Disgaea games you would simply level up and learn things as you go and things would get more powerful the more you used them. While that's still true to a certain degree you are now able to customize the way you want a character to grow. You all remember the Mana you are rewarded with after each kill. In past games Mana was simply used for the council to get certain things like making new characters and getting better items. However in addition to all of those things Disgaea 3 allows you to use that Mana to let characters learn new abilities and spells and even new Evilties which are basic native traits that are always active. The great thing about this system is it allows you to make the characters into what you want them to be.

You will also be using Mana for other things as well such as creating new Clubs. That's right folks you can make new school clubs. You can appoint members of the party to the clubs and they gain a benefit from being part of the club. For example there is a club that allows characters seated in the corners of the classroom to earn 25% more experience. There are plenty of clubs as well and you will be sure to unlock plenty of them first time around. The Item world also returns. For those unfamiliar with the item world it basically allows you to enter a Item and level it up as you progress through the stages and it's a great way to level and make items even more powerful. Find a great weapon? Well enter the item world and make it even better and even more powerful.

The great Disgaea humor also makes a return. This time around you play as Mao Number 1 Honor Student of Evil Academy. Now when I saw honor student it's really not what you think. Mao is a demon after all. Being a honor student in the netherworld means being evil not attending class and never doing your homework. On the flip side those who do go to class, do good deeds and always do their homework are the delinquents of the school. This alone makes alot of the conversations between characters extremely funny. The story is basically about Mao wanting to defeat his father for destroying his games. It just so happens that Mao's father is also the Overlord of the netherworld. The story has plenty of laugh out loud moments and that's not easy to find in gaming nowadays so it's great fun.

All in all if you liked the past games in the series then you will love Disgaea 3. If you haven't played any of the previous games there is no better place to start. The only excuse not to play is if you aren't a fan of the humor or the game play. Otherwise pick it up.