Metal Gear Solid 4 Trophy Patch ANNOUNCED

UPDATE (8/3/12): When news of this first spread last month, sites like the Examiner reported a total of 34 trophies, though the list released by Sony contains only 20. Additionally, some quick figuring by the folks at IGN tells us that there aren’t enough trophy points here to justify a platinum for snagging them all. These two pieces of information imply that 14 hidden and likely story-related trophies will also hit with this patch. Whew.

ORIGINAL STORY (8/3/12):

Metal Gear Solid 4 Demo screensHideo Kojima and Sony have officially announced a trophy patch for Metal Gear Solid 4 after talk of the news hit a couple weeks ago. There are a lot of us that have been fooled by (multiple) April Fool’s jokes as we’ve been anticipating (praying for) this day.

 

Bronze You enjoy all the killing, that’s why. Killed many enemies in one area, and vomited.
Bronze Divine Wind Caused a “divine wind” using the Tanegashima.
Bronze Hands Up! Held an enemy soldier at gunpoint and performed a body check.
Bronze Emotion Control Controlled an enemy soldier’s emotions using an Emotive Magazine.
Bronze Hurt me more! Shocked an enemy soldier using Mk. II/III.
Bronze Drum Can Addict Knocked an enemy soldier flying using a Drum Can.
Bronze That Tune Is His Mind Control Music Played Oishii Two-han Seikatsu and made one of the BB Corps dance.
Bronze Overhead view — just like old times… Used overhead view on Shadow Moses Island.
Silver SUNLIGHT! Obtained the Solar Gun.
Silver I Just Don’t Fear Death Caused ALERT status while wearing the Corpse Camo.
Silver Where I Can See Ya Located enemy soldiers using the Scanning Plug.
Silver Ghost Photography Addict Snapped at least 5 shots of ghosts on Shadow Moses Island.
Silver FaceCamo Addict Obtained 10 or more types of FaceCamo (excluding types obtained via password).
Silver Can you feel my power now!!!? Took control of an enemy soldier’s body using the Mantis Doll or Sorrow Doll.
Silver Are you an Otaku too? Viewed all model posters.
Silver You’re pretty good. Got kissed by Ocelot during the final battle.
Gold Flashback Mania Viewed all flashbacks.
Gold Sounds of the Battlefield Obtained all iPod® tracks (excluding tracks obtained via password).
Gold I am THE expert on weapons, equipment and cutting-edge technology. Obtained all weapons (excluding weapons obtained via password).
Platinum The Legendary Hero Obtained all trophies.

Check out the official reveal here!

While the trophy list is probably not what everyone was looking for in that it lacks many of the standard “advance this far” trophies, it’s nonetheless a great excuse to revisit one of the best titles on the PS3. Additionally, they’re all pretty time-consuming and should challenge players to tackle the game differently than they have in the past.

Needless to say, I’m stoked. Thoughts?

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Changing the Model: Keeping AAA Afloat

 

There has recently been talk of the evolving landscape of video games and the future of the triple-A model. With indie studios like thatgamecompany pushing our concepts of games and price points while OUYA is raking in cash hand-over-fist on Kickstarter, you can almost smell the urine dripping down the legs of EA big wigs fearing for their franchises.

So what’s all the Wariocommotion about? Cost. Big publishers, from a business standpoint, are having trouble making the ends justify the means in the face of low-cost iPhone games and the freemium model, or that’s the prevailing belief. How can these companies keep the triple-A market afloat?

First, eliminate the notion that we, as gamers, will only buy blockbusters. It’s a blatantly wrong misconception. Angry Birds has made all kinds of money, and while this isn’t something that’s going to grab the attention of the core market, other small titles have. Small studios like thatgamecompany are setting a new precedent for what will sell and what won’t. Titles like Journey, Fez and Super Meat Boy received critical acclaim and have managed to profit due to small production costs without anyone writing them off as unappealing to the mass market. I’m shooting myself in the foot here as an aspiring programmer looking to get his foot in the door, since these smaller studios require more experienced talent, but it’s a shot I’m willing to take if it means jump-starting the risky and boundary-pushing titles that the small budgets of small studios allow publishers to make. Niche genres have suffered as of late with watered-down, mass-appealing versions of their former selves, and smaller investments may push a resurgence of the creativity that resulted in such games. While these will never replace the Grand Theft Autos and Elder Scrolls, paired with other changes to the business model of big publishers, it can be an effective tool for turning a profit. Sony has already taken to utilizing “incubator studios” that they help fund – small studios pushing out these innovative games.

This leads directly into longer development cycles for the big titles – Dead Space, Resident Evil and the like. While those two certainly aren’t the worst offenders, the point remains. My backlog is huge, and though I’m certainly excited about every title there, I would certainly be able to wait for some while I get through others. Gamers – how many boxes have we overlooked while too busy with the latest installment of Assassin’s Creed? Longer development cycles could bump sales of the titles that are releasing. Then we can stop listening to EA moan about the sales of Dead Space required to constitute a sequel, regardless of its quality, and quit wringing our hands hoping they don’t ruin the franchise by turning it into Lost Planet to push said sales. Starting from scratch is expensive for studios, and perhaps a more polished game with a longer development cycle supplemented by the indie-style ventures would be more cost-effective.

Of course, not everyone is going to jump on these indie-style games. There will always be those that laugh in the face of “art” or similar gobbledygook. What of them? While I’m not particularly concerned that they will abandon their games (look at Team Fortress 2, which has had a massive following since the release of The Orange Box), it doesn’t make a lot of sense to let the record sales of a new Call of Duty fall by the wayside every other year to make way for assuredly smaller profits from those downloadable goodies. How to keep players paying? I’m about to cross over to the dark side – DLC has its place. Indeed, it has many advantages both from the business and consumer standpoint. Call of Duty faithful have proven they’ll pick up the same game at full price year after year without blinking, but they’ll also drop the same amount of money on a few map packs with similar indifference. I imagine profit margins are higher on these map packs, so keep them coming to further supplement a longer development cycle. Gamers won’t complain if they’re waiting on a truly new Call of Duty experience and their friends keep playing the current one.

The same can be said for other games. Shave off cheap, cash-cow antics like Nightwing and Robin challenge maps, as these make it all-too obvious that pockets are simply being padded. I urge companies to look more to extensions of the game à la Harley Quinn’s Revenge. Give me a reason to pick up Mass Effect 3, Saints Row the Third, even a Fallout game and I’ll get on it. Nobody ever likes the main Fallout quests anyway. A new add-on pack would be not only warmly received by many, but would be much cheaper to produce than a full title. Rarely do we see great games properly and lovingly coddled. Red Dead Redemption got lots of love over a massive period of time, including multiplayer expansions and Undead Nightmare, which also stood alone as a full game. Saints Row the Third has received similar attention with more DLC still on the way halfway through the next year.

This is without mentioning the shift to downloadable triple-A titles. As the digital model gains ground, we’ll naturally see a fall in production and dwindling associated costs like brick-and-mortar upkeep and materials. Will we eventually see it disappear? We collectors hope not, but time will tell. It certainly wouldn’t hurt the feelings of any publishers, as EA is already shopping around the Origin store to PC gamers like no one’s business. Steam is strong evidence for the cost-cutting possibilities of digital distribution – gamers are currently mourning their wallets as the Steam Summer Sale draws to a close.

So as a gamer, I offer this friendly advice to publishers as a sort of compromise. Will they ever be able to retain the massive profits they’re used to? Perhaps not, not without taxing the consumer with higher game costs. A recent article on Gamasutra cites estimates that to keep up the current model, costs for game companies in the next generation will jump 25%. Putting all that weight on the consumer translates to $75 games, and with the freemium model making waves, it’ll never fly. Cost-cutting alternatives that, in reality, are good for everyone, are the only solution.

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No Bosses?

English: Company logo for Valve Corporation. E...Check out this article from the Wall Street Journal about companies like video game industry favorite Valve Corporation that function without bosses and managers!

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Okami HD Coming to PSN This Fall

The cover of the North American Wii version of...

The Nintendo Wii doesn’t have a lot to brag about outside of first-party IP, but Okami, originally on PS2, was definitely a standout title in the console’s early days. Though it wasn’t perfect, suffering as many games have from the WiiMote’s relatively unresponsive motion controls, Okami was a beautiful adventure that garnered tons of critical acclaim.

The title is now getting an HD makeover and coming back to its Sony home with the Playstation Network this fall. This includes trophy support and hopefully some fine-tuned controls to really nail this title and make it the industry stalwart it should have been from the start.

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Lolliopop Chainsaw – “Zombies taste like chainsaw death!”

As any college-level English class veteran will tell you, it doesn’t matter what Steinbeck or Milton or even Dante for that matter intended to convey when they wrote their respective masterpieces. Even if they were just writing a fun story, we make it our business to make up what it is they wanted to say. I’ve often been a firm believer in not overstepping our bounds with this as consumers of media, however…

As my roommate witnessed me playing “Lollipop Chainsaw”, and in her sixteen seconds of exposure saw the screamo Purveyor of Darkness shout “WHORE!” at me, she exclaimed sarcastically “Wow, that’s not sexist.”

Inside, I was livid. “What? What!? WHAT!?” She has watched mere moments of this game and has gone so far as to call it sexist!? Nay, I say! This game is not sexist! This game is so insanely sexist, that it is, in fact, no longer sexist! It rises above the conventions of rhetoric! Or does it align with them all-too perfectly? The inner AP Lit student inside me roared to life as I shouted, “If anything, this is a SATIRE of sexism in video games!”

Yes, Suda 51 has never really advertised it as such, but looking at “Lollipop Chainsaw”, it really is making a mockery of the way we treat women in video games. Juliet is an outrageous and, for the most part, unbelievably unrealistic high school cheerleader, both bafflingly stupid and respectably heroic. Her skimpy cheerleader outfit paired with, as she might describe it, a “ginormous” chainsaw, poised against hoards of zombies, is laughable.

Sonya Blade

Sexism in video games is female soldiers with bare midriffs fighting alongside properly armored gents taken completely seriously. It’s scrawny yet busty Sonya Blade fighting the macho Liu Kang and pretending she has a chance. “Lollipop Chainsaw” is one massive joke on the industry. This game may be outrageous, but it forces other developers to look at their own characters and say “How different are they, really?”

All that aside, a rhetorically-fueled subtone does not a game make. How does “Lollipop Chainsaw” stack up as a zombie-slashing, pom-pon waving good time?

Pretty well, if I do say so myself. A lot of skepticism surrounded the release of this latest title from Suda and Grasshopper Manufacture, but “Lollipop Chainsaw” has dispelled any such concerns.

It should be noted that if you’re a “Devil May Cry” combo fiend, you may be disappointed. Combat in “Lollipop Chainsaw” is pretty simple. A dodge button, a standard attack button, and two buttons for chainsaw slashing both up and down. Combos string these together without any directional input, and so it’s pretty easy to get the hang of mowing down enemies, and it works pretty well. Things start off slow, as the player must unlock combos over the course of the game, but once you get going, your attacks get more and more satisfying.

Since these are so simple, the game forces you to use them. With some titles, like Mortal Kombat, you can sort of get through it without actually using combos. Not so here. Large numbers of enemies and being forced to wait for an animation to finish before taking another swing make it pertinent to get a grasp on Juliet’s various methods of dismemberment.

Killing zombies fills up a star meter. Activating it kicks off “Mickey” and an invincible mode granting one-swing decapitation for a short time. This will get you out of more than one jam, and you’ll usually have it if you need it. Additionally, killing three or more zombies at once grants a “Sparkle Hunting” medal bonus.

Standard melee moves are coupled with the long-range chainsaw blaster, which is indispensable over the course of the game, though it suffers from some awkward auto-aim issues. Though facing an enemy directly, the camera may swing to a blank wall when pulling it up to aim.

Finally, there are a few situational combat strategies, including various uses of Juliet’s bodiless boyfriend Nick and some variations on pole dancing.

While this may seem rather limited, the game is pretty short, so it doesn’t get old. To keep shaking things up, several mini-games take place ranging from boring to nostalgic, but boss battles are never a disappointment. Varied and intense encounters make keep you on your toes.

Wrapping up combat, the camera can often be an issue. The lock-on mechanic is pretty useless considering you’re often facing too many enemies to focus on one, but without it, you’ll sometimes find the camera working against you.

The writing is solid throughout thanks in part to James Gunn, the writer for “Evil Dead”. All of the writing is over-the-top. Dialogue is inappropriate, demeaning and hilarious. Juliet isn’t without her memorable quotes, while Nick is downright dependable for something hilarious. Other characters range in my taste for them. Juliet’s sister Rosalind is annoying, and Cordelia, while useful, doesn’t offer any dialogue to bolster the script. A large part of their chatter will come via phone messages, most of which aren’t funny or related, and so are really just a nuisance when you have to go through menus to get to them. Perhaps if they integrated better with the game they would be worth keeping, but not when mom is asking you to pick up milk only to realize moments later there’s some right in front of her on the counter. “I’m such a dingbat.” Yes, yes you are.

Once you’re finished with the six or seven hour story, you can replay all the levels in ranking mode to up your score – the big draw of the game. Similar to the way we kept shoving quarters in the X-Men arcade game at the skating rink, the point here is to replay the level and top Juliet’s dad’s high score. Then go for worldwide fame as you face the leaderboards. The game is short enough that replaying this way is feasible and fun, not to mention required if you actually want to unlock all the combos and the myriad concept art, outfits and other collectibles.

Graphically, this game isn’t pushing any boundaries. Decapitated bodies are laughable, and I was overall reminded of “Tony Hawk Underground 2” on Playstation 2. We’ve come a long way, people. On the flip side, the soundtrack is fantastic. While tunes like “Mickey” and “Lollipop” are played often, they aren’t over long periods of time, and so they don’t get annoying. Little Jimmy Urine of Mindless Self-Indulgence, in addition to voicing the first boss, did a lot of the music for the game, and it all fits perfectly.

All-in-all, not a lot to complain about here. I expected hiccups, and perhaps even major disappointment in my first adventure with Suda 51, but “Lollipop Chainsaw” was a nice divergence from my usual string of serious, sometimes heavy titles.

Bottom Line: 9/10

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100,000 Strong for TimeSplitters 4

PAL region PS2 box art

While I doubt that a strong response from this effort will garner much attention, it’s worth putting the link out there.

In recent interviews, Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli has firmly stated that there isn’t a future for the TimeSplitters series, a long-dead franchise mourned by many after Crytek purchased the TimeSplitters developer Free Radical. His curiosity was piqued, however, and he tweeted for a response from the community. How much support is there?

In response, fans have created a Facebook page called “100,000 Strong for TimeSplitters 4”.

Now I am a huge fan of the series and would love to see it garner fans. The page is currently sitting at #40 on Reddit’s gaming forum and is cropping up on video game news outlets across the Internet. While it isn’t particularly encouraging considering that many of these sorts of efforts go by the wayside, Yerli’s tweet does spark some hope.

If you’re a TimeSplitters veteran, it’s time to split, get over to the page, and join the action.

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Catherine

Catherine (video game)

Catherine (video game) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Platform: PS3*/Xbox 360
Genre: Puzzle
Players: 1
ESRB: Blood, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol, Violence

Atlus’s title “Catherine” is making strides for the content of video games. Amid your Isaac Clarkes fighting aliens, your Soaps shooting up Russians and your Links sword-and-shielding their way to a safer world, you have Vincent – a man simply trying to sort out his love life.

The story revolves around this Vincent, long-time boyfriend of Katherine. Katherine wants to get married, which has Vincent running scared to his favorite bar, the Stray Sheep. This is where he meets Catherine, a young, bubbly, scantily clad bombshell blonde. In a drunken stupor, he takes her home and sleeps with her.

At night, Vincent is haunted by nightmares of crawling up pyramids of blocks that he must push and pull to create his path. This is where the gameplay takes place as you must escape the dream before the blocks fall out beneath you or you’re stabbed by a baby with a fork or something. It makes sense when you play it.

First, I have to say I really appreciate what Catherine is doing. Video games generally surround a plot that is larger than life – something one would often never encounter on a day-to-day basis. Vincent, however, is dealing with a problem nearly every man will one day face – commitment. It’s a mature topic when juxtaposed against saving the universe, and Atlus handled it in a superbly mature fashion. What really ices the cake is that Vincent’s story is, in many ways, your story, as you get the chance to make several of his decisions along the way, which affect a morality meter and give you one of several endings.

To make this more enjoyable, at the end of each level there is a confessional where the player must answer a relationship-related question. “How would you feel if your spouse had a good friend of the opposite sex?” and so forth. After answering, your submission is polled and added to the first answers everyone else gave when playing the game and a pie chart tells you how the world answered. I really enjoyed this feature, as it also allows you to sort by men and women to see how they answered, and it revealed some interesting data.

At a core gameplay level, the game is also really clean. The mechanics are simple, so there’s really nothing to go wrong. Various kinds of blocks keep the puzzles fresh from night to night, and those puzzles are incredibly difficult. This is likely the most difficult game I’ve ever played, and I had to consult video guides on more than one occasion on the  normal difficulty.

Surprisingly, there’s a lot of replay value as well. Not only is the game a solid 12+ hour endeavor to start with, there are several “side-quests” to keep you busy, too. Vincent will encounter several men whose lives are also in shambles when it comes to women, and through various encounters, he can save each of them from the same dreams he’s having. This is made more difficult when you’re only allotted so much time in the bar each night before customers trail off, so choose your conversations wisely. Additionally, there is an arcade game in the bar based on the nightmare stages where the player can hone their skills. There are a lot of levels here, but prizes wait those who get to the top. Outside of the main game, there’s a mode called “Babel”, also revolving around the puzzle gameplay and offering different challenges for one or two players. And finally, of course, the player may want to view many different endings to the game.

The plot is interesting and often intense, but can also drag due to some odd scripting. Vincent really likes to use interjections – “Uh”, “uhm”, “eh”, “gasp!”, “eeee”, in addition to his fits of sweating bullets and inner monologues. This can make things feel like they’re going on forever. He’s also a terrible liar, which can be frustrating to watch.

Behind the plot lies a lot of real Sumerian mythology. I had Wikipedia open as the game was drawing to a close, looking up various names that were dropped. To avoid spoilers, I won’t divulge anything here, but expect another post brushing over the demonology “Catherine” surrounds.

This is all accompanied by a very cool visual scheme. While it sometimes appears you’re watching a Japanese anime, at others it’s an odd 3D presentation, and then while playing as Vincent it takes on yet another visual feel. This actually works really well and is a fresh feel for games that are all trying harder and harder to look like real life.

Catherine (video game)

The soundtrack is great. Composer Shoji Meguro puts a modern spin on several classical pieces including works from Bach, Chopin, Holst and Beethoven. While most classically trained musicians will recognize them, they aren’t common enough that the average ear will necessarily notice (outside of Handel’s “Messiah”).

I do have to say that I’m curious about Atlus’s cover art decision. The average Joe will look at this and assume it’s a grossly inappropriate game, and rightfully so. Perhaps they were going for a sex sells mentality, as Atlus’s games are not known for selling well in the United States. Indeed, “Catherine” did manage over 200,000, which Atlus was very excited about, but for shame if that’s a cover-art-induced number, because not only is it misguiding of the game’s exceptionally mature attitude and lack of full nudity, but the game was very good in its own right.

Bottom Line: 9/10

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