Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Darris Reviews: Blood Stone 007

Blood Stone 007 -- A Raptor Inc. Review

What is it? - The latest offering from publisher Activision on the James Bond series. But unlike most 007 video games, this one is not based on a movie. Bizarre Creations, the developers and creators of the fantastic arcade racer Blur, stepped in to give the franchise their take on Bond.

Bizarre Creations... what else did they make? - Their most notable titles include the Project Gotham Racing series, along with the newer Geometry Wars games released on LIVE Arcade, PSN, and NDS.

Had they ever made an action shooter before this one? - Yes, but with mixed results. The last shooter they released before Blood Stone was a very bland, yet fun shooter called The Club. Before that they released a Dreamcast game called Fur Fighters, which I enjoyed a great deal as a young child. All of these shooters, including Blood Stone, are third-person shooters.

So! A Bond game not based on a Bond movie... how did it turn out? - Bad. I am a huge James Bond fan, and I found this story to be almost an insult to 007 movies, even by today's Bond standards. All of the characters that have to do with the story feels like excessive stereotypes of other bond characters, and leave you wishing it were a movie, so you wouldn't have to deal with them for another six hours. Bruce Feirstein, the writer for the game, really slipped up with this title, which is too bad because he usually does well with Bond, writing the film 'Tomorrow Never Dies', and co-writing 'The World is Not Enough'. Its not like he got confused by the video game format either, as he worked on the Bond games 'Everything or Nothing', and the game adaptation of 'From Russia with love'.

Was the writing really that bad? - Never had I played a game and hoped a character would die for no reason. The characters are useless, besides Bond and M, played by Judi Dench. Every created character feels like a waste of ink on the paper they used to write the plot. Joss Stone, a singer, voice acts as Bond's love interest as Nicole Hunter, a jewelry designer. And by the way, that's the only connection to the title of the game. The game centers around bio-weapons and other niche plot devices, and yet the title has almost nothing to do with the game, besides the end, maybe. Overall, I could have never played this game, and would be quite content as a Bond fan. It adds nothing to the series in any way.

OK, so your not a fan of the story. Does the gameplay make up for those shortcomings? - Not exactly. Gameplay consists of three different things; Investigation, in which you use your smart-phone to look for evidence and enemy locations, and also hack doors or computers. Cover-to-cover fighting, in which you move from positions across an area, shooting as your enemy's, and then progress to the next area. And Chase Scenes, in which you chase your target either on foot, or most likely, in a vehicle, as you try to keep up with them. Each part has fun concepts, but in repetition, so get used to doing them over and over and over again.

Investigation sounds fun. What do you do, exactly? - Basically, any time while your playing, you can press down on the d-pad. This allows to you view where your next objective is, where enemy's are if their around, what weapons are in the area, and intelligence to collect, which are usually optional. That's it. It's your only gadget, so get used to using it. It's only real use is to show you where to go, and to hack a door that doesn't even have to be there. The hacking sequence has you press a button in quick succession, with no real penalty if you fail. Overall, a bit of a letdown that there isn't more to do and use.

Right, but what about the meat of the game, the shooting? - The approach to shooting in this game is simple. Hide behind a wall. Shoot bad guys dead. If one gets too close, you can take him down using a single button. After doing a take down, you are given something that slows time and aims at an enemy for you, killing them with one shot, copying the system used in 'Splinter Cell: Conviction'. On the easiest difficulty, you could literally run through the game, hitting one button, and performing take downs on all your enemies. On harder levels, you may need cover every now and again, but not usually, as the A.I. in this game are STUPID. They lose your location easily, and will walk right up to you after you broke their friends arm as if nothing happened, waiting for it to happen to him. The shooting could be better, and I encountered a few glitches with the cover system, but its solid overall. Just boring after a while.

Well, Bizarre Creations are known for racing games, right? How were the chase scenes? - Good, but they don't feel like they belong in this game at all, and some of the chases felt very unnecessary. The vehicles handled well, for the most part, and look very good. One major problem with the chase scenes is the lack of direction while moving. You usually end up crashing right into a wall, or into water, having to restart from a checkpoint, making it feel more like the game 'Stuntman' than anything because of how many times you will spend replaying the same part over and over until you get it right. The cars controlled well, but acted strange when hit at odd angles, sending a car spinning all over the place. Also, the chases scenes seem waaaaay to amped up. I mean, there are explosions everywhere, and everything is falling down from somewhere.

Well, you didn't like it to much, obviously... Any final thoughts on the game? - Bland shooing, bland story, terrible fucking ending. Did I mention its short as well? I played through it on Recruit mode (easy) and Agent mode (hard), and both lasted about 5 hours, 6 for Agent difficulty. There is mutiplayer, but it adds almost nothing. Just your average shooting experience, where other game do the online shooting much better. Chase scenes were OK, and the voice acting wasn't too bad, but the character models look bad. almost as if James Bond was a puppet, and his face would barley move while talking or fighting. In fact, most of the enemy NPC's had better facial animations than Bond, but maybe that because Daniel Craig isn't exactly the best Bond ever.. And that's about it.

Score -- 3 out of 10
With nothing for Bond fans, and nothing for shooter fans, that only leaves racing fans, and this does them no justice as well. If you need to play it, rent it. Re-playability is almost at nothing, but a sub-standard multiplayer makes it so your poor investment choice would at least offer something else after the six hours spent on single player.

- Darris Pratt

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ryan's Rants (tentative title) 001 - Introductions and DLC

Right, so here's how it is, nerds- This is my first contribution to the blog, so I'll go ahead and get introductions out of the way first. The name's Ryan, and I've been a friend of Frankie's for quite some time now, next meeting his brother Dillon and eventually the rest of the bunch in this collective of people that he has put together. Interests are video games, cartoons, and sometimes music. I'm currently working on a comic that I'll be posting when I get the whole thing finished, since it seems all the kids are doing it these days, among a myriad of other things, but those are not what I'm here typing this shit out for on this brisk January morning of the year two-thousand eleven. I'll be writing my own columns for the site on various things I take interest in, but don't expect the weekly revue like you'll get from Darris, or anything. And with that, I suppose I'll segue into the main article:

DLC and the role it's playing in the destruction of the video game industry.
Goddamnit, they're releasing ANOTHER map pack?!

With the advent of the internet and the current rise of the digital marketplace, more and more video game companies are starting to realize the potential of digitally distributing add-ons, updates, and expansions to their products, released as downloadable content, or DLC. And why wouldn't they? Players get more content for their favorite titles, support for the game can continue even years after first release, and most of all, they can make money doing it. It's easy to see why developers and publishers are pushing towards releasing more and more DLC these days. But, is this big move towards DLC really a good thing for the industry?

The problem is, developers have gotten so eager to release DLC, that some games are severely gimped and designed around selling DLC. Capcom, for example, with its recent releases of Megaman 9 and 10 are particularly bad about this- selling the basic game and then releasing DLC "packs" later, which are actually just unlockers to content that's already IN the game. The content provides many extra features such as whole new game modes, playable characters, and even the extra difficulties. What should be a fun ten dollar game turns into a ten dollar demo with the rest of the game being held for ransom. There are even some companies that are allowing you to PRE-ORDER downloadable content, before the game is even released.

In a lot of ways, downloadable content has become something of a subscription fee for multiple games. In particular, the Halo series, (the Battlefield series has been doing this for quite a while), MAG, and the
Call of Duty franchise. Subscription fees meaning the seemingly rapid-fire release of map-packs and other content packs that are used solely for multiplayer. In a scant 3 months after the release of Halo: Reach, Bungie has already released a ten dollar map pack, which itself only contains three extra maps (or an infinite amount if you count forge maps, but honestly, why wouldn't you just use forge world instead? Maybe the space map or something might be neat, but, eh). To the individual that eats, sleeps, and breathes Halo, it'd be easy to justify such a purchase, but for those who just enjoy playing the game with their friends now and then, they're suddenly struck with two choices: Either they bite the bullet and purchase the pack because everyone else is doing it, or they don't buy it and then get to be the odd man out when everyone wants to play the new maps.

But, just because a few companies will take advantage of the system, doesn't mean that the system itself is bad. Some examples of how to not be greedy assholes with downloadable content would be games like Rock Band, and LittleBigPlanet. With those two games, it's entirely unnecessary to purchase the extra content available, being that all players are going to have the same experience with the game, anyway. With Rock Band, the reasoning for purchasing songs is obvious, however it's important to note that (aside from the Beatles edition of Rock Band) ALL dlc is backwards AND forwards compatible with all editions of the game. (Guitar Hero, the competitor, doesn't come with that option.) It also helps that the songs aren't completely unreasonably priced, with free songs and discounts to songs being offered frequently. LittleBigPlanet also offers a favorable method of releasing downloadable content, being what amounts to a cash shop, selling only extra costume pieces and stickers. They also sell maps/levels, much like some other games might sell maps, but the difference with this is that you don't NEED to buy the maps in order to play on them. You can play on other user made levels created with the extra maps just fine without spending a single dime. The only reason one would buy a map would be if they wanted to make their own levels to submit. Also, much like Rock Band, dlc is forwards compatible with LBP2, so you can still use the stuff you buy from LBP1.

I'd also like to talk about single-player DLC that gets released, like with Rockstar's Undead Nightmare for Red Dead Redemption, and Bioware's Lair of the Shadow Broker for Mass Effect 2, but I don't particularly want to drag this article out more than I already have. I'm not directly opposed to DLC for single-player games, but sometimes have issue with the pricing for said content, but often, companies will offer discounts and bundles (Game of the Year editions that include a lot of the DLC as well) that kind of helps with that issue. Putting a price on purely extra digital content such as that will often come down to the consumer and is difficult to make a stand on. I kinda wish some companies would wait a while before releasing that kind of dlc, but often, one can just wait and get a discount anyway, so /shrug.

So, in closing, DLC isn't necessarily destroying the industry, but some companies will abuse the system simply to take more of your money, and the real problem is in the way that many consumers are just peachy about that. But, that's just business, I guess, and it'll continue to be that way until it gets completely out of hand. I just wish that day would come sooner, rather than later. In any case, that'll wrap up my first article for the site (and it only took me about a month!), so in my next article, I'll talk about... Well, I don't know what I'll talk about, but I'll talk about it, damnit! Maybe it'll be out before ANOTHER month passes. I guess we'll see, won't we?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fear From your Gaming Cartridges

Happy Birthday. You just got home from your 14th birthday party at the mall. You had a long day playing at the arcade, and you got some games as gifts! Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando, Mario Kart: Double Dash, you even got a copy of Final Fantasy X-2 (ugh). But you also got another game, this one from your older sister. Siren? Never heard of it. Looks cool, like a scary movie. You're not a big fan of scary movies, but you like scary games, and you eagerly tear the game open as you close the door to your room. You place the disk in your PS2, and lean forward.

20 minutes later, you have to stop playing. You do like scary games, but in very small doses. You won't play this game again for about a week.

What was just described is exactly what happened on my 14th birthday. Let me tell you as bit more about my own personal fears, and my experience of fear in gaming. Because being scared in a game is more than just being afraid. It's also the unknown elements that keep you scared during the quite moments.

I can remember several games that have made me feel uncomfortable, and each for different reasons. Super Metroid for small, subtle reasons. Clock Tower for more obvious ones. But to understand what one person finds scary, one must understand ones fears.

One of the first nightmares I can remember having still chills me a bit today. Its very simple, but real to me. Picture it if you can:

You're standing in a large room, in an empty house. This house is very familiar to you. You don't know how, but you know for sure that the house is empty besides you. It's very, very quite. Suddenly, you can hear voices outside. You don't know what they are saying, but you can almost recognise them. You go through the front door, and step out onto the sidewalk. You look around, but there is no one outside at all. Its very quite again. Then, just like before, you hear voices, but this time they are coming from inside the house.

That's usually when my nightmare would end, sometimes with empty cop cars outside. It always got to me, and I hated it. I must have had it at least 10 times in my youth. It seems like a sign that I'm afraid to be alone, or that I depend on others for my own sanity, but I'm not exactly a specialist on dreams. Other nightmares I've had include me dying, going back in time, then trying to prevent my death from occurring. I can also remember one with me being in a train accident with others, going to get help, and returning, only to find what the other left behind, and an old doll a girl was holding.

Now, enough about my head. Lets get back to the games I have feared, and feared playing.

One moment I can remember quite well happen in one of my favorite games. In the N64 title The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time there is a moment that stopped me from playing for a good week or so, before I gained the courage to continue. During one moment in the game, you must enter a grave, and head to the end to learn a new song, the Sun's Song. At one point, you run into enemies called ReDead.

I had yet to encounter any enemy like this one, but I treated it like any other at first, running up to it and attempting to slash it with my sword. This was a mistake. As I approached it, I hear a woman's scream, and I am no longer able to move, as the ReDead slowly advances. I started to flip out. I turned off my game, and sat in the dark for a moment, then went to bed.

Ever since this gaming moment, I felt silly. I wanted to overcome it, and at last I've been dealing with it, challenging myself to play more and more scary games. Now, I love them. Maybe my fear lead me to it.

But scary game shouldn't just be a jump out and "boo!" kind of game, and there is ton's of those. Now, I need atmosphere. Suspense. True horror. Games like Silent Hill, Clock Tower, Dead Space, Siren, and many others. I didn't think there would be any other scary titles recently, but then I am reminded of Amnesia, an incredible PC title. Also, when it comes to pure pressure in atmosphere, games like Limbo and Braid give you a true feeling of fear, without being afraid.

Whatever the case, remember that courage isn't not being afraid, but being afraid and continuing anyway. Remember this as you play, and go try something new and scary.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Comic - Clowns Vs. Mimes : By the Pricking Of My Thumb... by Frankie Sanabria

Yeah it sucks but it's good for this week. Piss off, you!

*On a side note, I have colored this comic. I'm not too proud of it but it will do.

**Background can fuck off.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Yes, the shirts are finally finished. To acquire or purchase one call 912-530-7647 and say you're calling about said Raptor Inc. shirt. We have them in M, L, and XL, and supplies are limited so act fast! The price? $15. Payment will be by paypal, details to be discussed upon calling said number above. Trust me, they're awesome

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Moon 3 Brings the Magic Home

Feel that chill in the air? Well, it must be the weather, you dopey cunt. But besides that... I think It might be...

MoO0OoN 3!!!

That's right folks, the lack of any real effort and skill continue for the third time in a row with Raptor Inc. leading the way! I hope you all enjoy/despise this lazy attempt to cash in on, well, nothing really. Presented in three parts, Moon 3 is 3x's the Moon than you've ever had before!



And now... MOON!

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three: