Game reviewers used to be so much better

Posted on December 20th, 2011 in Video Games by andrija

I keep saying it to my friends but now I have a vindication. The old editor in chief of Gamespot back in its heyday when it was the ultimate authority on gaming (along with PC gamer but also for consoles) – Greg Kasavin – appears to have successfully transitioned into a designer / writer role in actual game making industry. Bastion, the game he was involved in, is excellent. It has all the right ingredients, the gameplay is just right, it flows well, the variety of gameplay and upgrades is well done, difficulty is well balanced, and some small things that mean a lot to real gamers but often get lost in the shuffle are there as well (hello Game Plus). You could almost say it has a design by committee because it looks like it goes after just about every item on the checklist – except that the finished product actually works like that. Yes, people like these were doing game reviews back then – which is why the reviews were good and well valued, why Gamespot Game of the Year awards were something to eagerly anticipate and why you could take the scores “to the bank”. Today’s reviewers – well, let’s just say they have no idea what a good game is.

I suppose the quality of today’s reviewers goes hand in hand with quality of the websites in general. As in, they’re measured on quantity, not quality and are expected to obey the guidelines where advertisers are more important than honesty. Or even worse, page hits are more important than honesty – every bad game getting a middling review is far preferable to good games which don’t drive the site’s revenue getting bad reviews just to get more hits. It is not surprising that anyone who’s any good would want to go do something else. So the people that actually end up doing reviews often aren’t suited for the job.

FOV in games–why do some people get sick

Posted on December 19th, 2011 in Hardware & Software,Video Games by andrija

There’s an excellent video here that explains why do some games makes you feel sick (nauseated, dizzy or worse) while others don’t. If the screen you’re playing on doesn’t fit into your cone of vision so some of it end up in the peripheral vision, then your brain isn’t going to like it. Some people never have a problem but quite a few does.  Most often this happens in PC games as the monitors are ever larger yet stay at the same distance from our eyes. So, demand FOV control in your games – or play them from farther away. Another good reason to sit back and play with a controller, even on a PC.

2008 Game of the Year

Posted on January 7th, 2009 in Video Games by andrija

My 2008 Game of the year is – Grand Theft Auto IV (as played on Playstation 3).

Bear in mind this is the first game from that franchise that I played.

Top games of the year in approximate order of goodness were:

  1. GTA 4 (Playstation 3)
  2. Fallout 3 (PC)
  3. Dead Space (Xbox 360)
  4. Gears of War 2 (Xbox 360)

All of these games were fairly close to each other in quality and excellent overall.  GTA 4 however was a highly polished, high production value game and was clearly a notch better.

Biggest dissapointment of the year award goes to Resistance 2 (Playstation 3).

2007 Game of the Year Awards

Posted on December 16th, 2007 in Video Games by andrija

2007 Game of the Year – Winner

The way this winner was decided was simple – what gave me the most enjoyment for the longest time.  Runner-ups were just as good this time around.

Mass Effect

Runner-Ups

  • Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
  • Call of Duty 4
  • Half-Life 2 Episode 2

PS3 Game of the Year

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

Xbox 360 Game of the Year
 

Mass Effect

Runner-Ups

Halo 3

2007 Best Audio

Bioshock – for licensed music, voice acting and dialogue writing

2007 Biggest Disappointments

Crysis

Runner-Ups

  • Bioshock
  • Heavenly Sword
  • Assassin’s Creed
  • Stalker

2007 Platform of the Year

Xbox 360

Xbox360 Now Supports Divx/Xvid – a Cold Day in Hell

Posted on December 8th, 2007 in Hardware & Software,Video Games by andrija

I was expecting PS3 would do this first.  But Microsoft beat them to the punch.  What’s even better, it simply just WORKS – I tried to browse and stream files from my Vista machine and they all worked fine.  Even HD files and even operations such as fast forward and backward (while streaming)!  Take that, Sony.

PS3 1.80 Firmware – Should have been called 2.0

Posted on July 9th, 2007 in Hardware & Software,Video Games by andrija

I have never seen as much functionality added with a “minor” update.  Not to a mainstream consumer product at any rate.  Or perhaps my memory is short, and this used to be the norm – I would not be surprised.

The three most useful new features:

  • DVD upscaling
  • PS1/PS2 game upscaling
  • Media Streaming (DLNA support)

DVD upscaling is simply amazing.  This is the best implementation that I’ve ever seen.  People still claim Toshiba is doing it slightly better – but I don’t have that.  What I do have is HQV benchmark and that one when run on PS3 gives me the best score I’ve ever seen.  Only one frame sequence failed to deinterlace properly!  And apart from not doing all the noise filtering that it could do, I have no complaints whatsoever.  It only does 1% overscan on top and 0% on all other sides!  The picture looks great.  I turned off my DVD player and am using my PS3 for DVD playback all the time.

Game upscaling is also great, though I have not been able to establish quantitatively how good it is, other than it is considerably better.

Media streaming… it took a while to even get it to work.  Photos and music were not too tough but video took me more than a week.  It took much longer to get it to play back my lossless audio, but it can do even that now.  The only remaining problem is video – the quality isn’t all that good but more importantly, other than 1.5x fast forward, you can’t do anything else without it restarting.  So it’s not really useful for video at all.  Hopefully this will be improved in the near future.

Xbox360: Yes, the Red Ring of Death has visited me, too

Posted on July 9th, 2007 in Hardware & Software,Video Games by andrija

Well, I never doubted reports of Xbox360 consoles dying in large numbers, but I never knew how likely it was to happen. Seven and a half months later, it happened to me too. All it took is playing back a HD-DVD for 10 minutes while it was 30C in my apartment. The box froze. After reboot it froze on the splash screen. I insisted and eventually was able to continue playback… only to have it freeze again. I switched to playing a game – Enchanted Arms, not a very demanding game – and except for the initial freeze during load, I was able to finish an entire chapter, playing for over 3 hours. Then suddenly, during a boss fight, it froze. After reboot I was greeted with – you guessed it – the famous Red Ring of Death. I plugged and unplugged the hard drive with various success, occasionally managing to get into the dashboard and rarely getting the red ring, but eventually it stuck and didn’t let go. Microsoft was nice and courteous but this was Wednesday. It is Monday today and my shipping box (so-called “coffin”) is still not here.

Of course, the big – very big, billion-dollar news – happened on Thursday. Micro$oft will be pruning that $ tree of theirs and grant all of us owners a godly extension of warranty – to 3 full years, worldwide. They also apologized for the mistake in their hardware.

So I know I will eventually end up with a permanently fixed Xbox360. I just doubt it will be my next one.

PS3 firmware update to 1.6 is good

Posted on March 27th, 2007 in Video Games by andrija

After the lacklustre launch, PS3 is finally shaping up to be a decent, usable machine. Firmware upgrades were incremental, but if you compare what you have today with what you had 4 months ago, you’ll find it a considerably more refined experience.

Latest firmware – 1.6, rolled out for European launch – brings the long-awaited background downloading. Bluetooth mouse and keyboard are finally supported natively. Web browser is finally fast and user friendly. Sony Store is faster and has more content. Various other issues with XMB menus have been fixed or improved. Owners of PSP and 20GB version can now use remote play – something I never expected to see (and the reason I wanted the 60GB version). I was very happy when I was finally able to remove the Bluetooth dongle and register my mouse and keyboard with the PS3. The process was very simple – just as it should be. And the integration seems good – you can use mouse to navigate the menus, or in the browser. You can use keyboard too. I don’t think either worked before, but I might be wrong. The browser itself is much faster and more compliant than before, and menus are now properly labeled so you don’t need to guess which key does what. But you can also use mouse if you wish, and it will even let you navigate menus without clicking.

Controller button menu has been reshuffled so its new layout means less work and time to activate most frequent commands. I hear you can now resume BluRay playback where you stopped, if you leave the player, and you can also set up the console to automatically launch the disc that’s in it upon power on (be it game or movie).

Folding@Home is a very neat addition that looks and works impressively for a 1.0 version (it may not be new outside PS3 world, but it’s still a new architecture). Background downloading worked pretty well, too. Unfortunately it will not continue with downloads if you’re within the Folding@Home – presumably because there’s a network connection active – but it’s much better than before.

And of course, if you have North American or Japanese version, PS 1/2 game compatibility has been improved since launch and is now excellent.

Of course, not all is well. The machine still only plays a very limited set of video formats, making it pretty useless for that purpose. It is also still unable to access content shared folders on the network. It doesn’t upscale DVDs. It doesn’t let you import music in losless format. Linux is still just a gimmick (unless you want to use Cell). There are still no AAA games other than Resistance. There’s still no option set up your own background (come on, even PSP can do it). The list of exclusives is shrinking by the week (they just lost the exclusivity of the Devil May Cry franchise). It’s not quiet. And it uses a lot of power to operate, even if it’s just sitting idle.

The potential is still there; whether PS3 will ever became a real media center – or even a must-have gaming machine – still remains to be seen. But at least I’m starting to feel at least a little bit pleased as I move around the XMB.

PS3 fixed

Posted on January 27th, 2007 in Hardware & Software,Video Games by andrija

New firmware for PS3 – version 1.5 – has fixed the PS2 game rendering issue!  Thankfully, this means that PS3 is now a viable platform for playing those PS2 games you haven’t played yet.  Which is very important, seeing how there’s almost nothing made specifically for PS3 that’s worth playing (and buying ports is pointless given the higher price of PS3 games compared to Xbox360 – or, in other words, PS3 games never go on sale while Xbox360 games are on sale quite often).

There will be some good games for PS3, though

Posted on January 7th, 2007 in Video Games by andrija

Despite my dire predictions for Sony, there are some good games in the pipeline.  If you do have a PS3, do yourself a favour and download Grand Turismo HD demo.  And while you’re at it, Motorstorm demo as well.

Grand Turismo HD is truly a sight to behold.  There are a few pieces that look unpolished (some parts of graphics look amazing, some look only average) but this is still only a demo of a game that’s not yet close to being released.  I’ve seen only one track, but there’s plenty of cars to choose from.  Well, at 600+MB it is not a small download, so it’s understandable there wouldn’t be many tracks (or perhaps even more than just one, given how detailed the picture is).

Motostorm also looked good but it wasn’t as much fun to me, because I seem to suck at it rather badly.  I hope I can improve since this is the only game I can imagine buying for this console in the next few months.

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