Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Of Obsession and Combo Links

As I mentioned in my last post, I have spent a great deal of time with the newest addition to my game catalogue, Street Fighter IV. To be honest, I have spent way too much time with Street Fighter IV; several nights have resulted in a disappointingly short sleep cycle due to elongated play sessions. All the magic from Street Fighter II Special Champion Edition on my Genesis has come rushing back with a vengeance. Blanka handles almost exactly like he did back in the 1990's, with a few extra moves (and meters) tossed into the mix. All I need now is a controller designed explicitly to accommodate its button scheme.

In an odd twist, I have yet to face another human being on the field of battle. The overwhelming majority of my time has been spent in the game's Trial mode. Before battling other players, I wanted to make sure I had a solid feel on the timing mechanics. As a long-lost fan of the fighting genre flagship, these challenges seem embedded especially for me. I am by no means an expert (the links in Blanka's Hard Trial Five are extremely fragile, and most other characters are still beyond me), but there is something strangely addictive about repeatedly flailing at the same button combinations. This, of course, is a large component of my lack of massively multiplayer experience. I also find myself frequently watching AI matches while having a snack; these breaks can turn into an hour or so of fascination as I watch the computer-controlled fighters have absolutely no answer to Zangief.

I will make my first forays into the world of Xbox Live fighting later this week, provided my Internet connection holds out. I will also be trying Team Fortress 2 soon, after I quizzed the folks at the Escapist about its viability off its primary platform.

Game well this week, and may you always have frame advantage.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I Was Excited About More Last Year

As virtually anyone who would be reading this knows, the gaming world experienced its own little Wrestlemania this month, when the Electronic Entertainment Expo (whose name is often redundantly shortened to the E3 Expo) hit Los Angeles. This time of year is a moment of wildly elevated expectations for gamers, as we are enraptured by flashy trailers, bold announcements of games we have known about since last year, and, lest my testosterone-fueled comrades shriek in indignation, women. I ended up watching most of G4's coverage of the event, barring an overall lack of interest in company press conferences. Unlike the majority of my fellow gamers, I came away from E3 underwhelmed.

Perhaps my ennui stemmed from nothing more than a sophomore jinx; last year marked the first time I had seen E3 coverage as the event was in progress. However, I had the distinct feeling I was repeatedly being shown the same game with a slightly different interface. Uncharted 2 and Splinter Cell: Conviction looked nearly identical to me in terms of gameplay, and Mass Effect 2 only differed in the presence of space suits. The same could be said of God of War III, Brütal Legend, and Assassin's Creed II, given the radical difference in those titles' respective art styles. Alan Wake, a game I have been watching with interest since last year, now looks to be plying itself as Resident Evil 5 with more nighttime. How will Halo 3: ODST and Modern Warfare 2 differ apart from the whole space marine/terrestrial marine thing? Each night, I found myself wondering if by this time next year, I would have four choices of video game: whiz-bang shooty fun, whiz-bang slashy fun, rock star fantasy simulator, and Peggle.

I was further puzzled by how much everyone in attendance was in love with this convergence. Why exactly do stealth games need to play like God of War and/or Gears of War? I kept hearing the phrase 'speed up' in connection to this phenomenon, although I had been unaware that stealthy covert agents and infiltrators were on such strict timetables. Has the gaming industry run out of room for genres which need not appeal to twitchy action fans?

Nevertheless, I do find myself looking forward to several games from this year's E3. You will find them listed in a new category to the right, called 'On the Radar.' Sadly, about half the games on the list would have been present in January, but there are some new additions. I was always interested in the Silent Hill series, since it focused on psychological horror more than 'gotcha' shock value. The Wii reincarnation of the first Silent Hill sounds promising, especially when I heard the words 'no combat.' I was pleasantly surprised to see high-powered console technology used on a potentially awesome two-dimensional game like Shadow Complex. I am reservedly optimistic about Alan Wake still, in spite of its possible focus on putting rounds in things. You may be surprised to see PlayStation 3 titles on the list, but both Heavy Rain and The Last Guardian give me great pause on the lack of a black monolith in my entertainment center.

Oh, and Microsoft and Sony seem to want to turn the Wii's motion-control shtick into another hardware arms race. Yeah, there's that. yay.

If you'll excuse me, I have to get back to Street Fighter IV now. Game well, and may the bar be higher for you than I.