SWEET FREEDOM! SWEET- huh?
My apologies. Greetings, salutations, and welcome to the seventy-eighth edition of RPGamer's Currents column.
Yes, I am free of higher education's oppressive yoke, if only for a brief time. Wednesday was my last day, and now I am free to... work 50 hour weeks at work. (Sigh.)
But hey, it's not all bad. I should have some extra time to devote to games, or at least, that's my hope. I have completed Crisis Core, begun on Final Fantasy Tactics, (for the PSP of course) and I am ready to start Persona 3: FES. Oh, and I'm still playing XI, but I've had pathetically little time to play that these days, as well as nobody to really play with. Although I actually plan to play it as soon as I get this thing done, so LET'S HURRY.
However, let me take a brief moment to give Crisis Core a shout-out. From the Nibelheim events until the game's mind-blowing conclusion, it is, quite literally, a five-star game. I had fun with Crisis Core from beginning to end, but the game really doesn't start until you reach Nibelheim. The Nibelheim sequence has always been one of my favorites in gaming history, and Crisis Core's retelling is nothing short of spectacular. Furthermore, I can say with the utmost conviction that the ending to Crisis Core is, bar none, the finest ending for a videogame that I have ever witnessed. I won't elaborate, for fear of spoiling any aspect of it, but know this: you must play Crisis Core to the end, because you simply must see it for yourself.
With that, we shall move on. To my slight disappointment, the majority of the news I could dig up this week was related, in some way, to a certain game that was just released...
So Yeah, GTAIV has been Released
Grand Theft Auto has never done anything for me, other than provide me with entertaining controversies. I've never played a single game in the series. To be frank, when I read about the games, I just don't understand the appeal they're supposed to hold. It seems to be a game that strives to portray the most vile and twisted side of humanity, and allow the player to take part in it. I don't mean to offend any GTA fans, but that's just how it looks. I have heard some people say that the game functions as a parody of gang life, which makes it sound slightly more legitimate. In the end, I've never played one, so I really don't know what they're about.
However, Grand Theft Auto IV's critical reviews are hard to ignore. To see what I mean, just take a look at the GameRankings page. Almost every single review has graced the game with a perfect score. That's right, 10/10's and 5/5's. If it was but one review, like from GameSpot for example, (sorry GameSpot) then I would dismiss it as corrupt and bought-off and whatnot. But it's practically every review, and the few that don't give it perfect scores give it 9.8's. To be frank, it blew my mind, and it actually makes me want to check it out just to see what all the fuss is about. Of course, I know I won't, but still.
In any case, GTA IV has generated a few interesting news stories. In fact, I think it makes up the majority of this week's column, which is a bit of a sad statement. But hey, it's news, and it's certainly relevant.
Rockstar's Blockbuster Not Shown in True HD
I guess they had to cut costs somewhere
Apparently, the PlayStation 3 version of the game is NOT sporting full HD output. As the title suggests, while it's difficult to tell at a casual glance, the game is running at a mere 630p. The Xbox 360 version does not have this issue. Supposedly, Rockstar opted to take some of the processing capacity devoted to resolution and use it for effects such as filtering and lighting, which accounts for the "warmer" or "softer" appearance the PS3 version has.
This isn't a huge deal, and you'd likely have to be a pretty big HD aficionado to even discern the difference in quality. To me, however, this is a bit of a disturbing trend. Yes, I used the word "trend." Why? Because, if you remember, the last blockbuster-caliber videogame release did the exact same thing. So yeah, to me, it's a disturbing trend, especially when developers continue to slap "1080p" on the back of their boxes. I mean sure, it's likely impossible to tell that Halo 3 has a native resolution of 640p, and the same goes for GTA IV, but what's next? 620p? 600p? 540? How long until we finally just slide all the way down to 480, and all developers have to say in their defense is that you can't tell the difference from 25 feet away? Sheesh. Please, just make HD games run in HD. It can't be THAT hard.
Inconvenient PS3 Fix Proposed, no 360 Fix in Sight
That would be the epitome of suck
If I was a GTA fan, I can't picture a worse scenario than waiting four years for a sequel, waiting in line for a midnight launch, rushing home, and popping the disc in my PS3 or 360, and then discovering that the game likes to lock in place on a regular basis. However, many GTA fans have experienced that very thing. And, as it stands now, Rockstar has no idea how to fix it, nor are they offering any replacements. The problem is affecting both the PS3 and 360 versions of the game, although according to reports, it seems to only be freezing on 60GB PS3's.
Rockstar is more or less dumbfounded at this point. Kotaku's Brian Crecente actually called them up, claiming that he was experiencing freezing problems on his PS3. (He was lying, but hey, he did it for the good of his readers.) The rep, who he described as "very friendly, and very unhappy" gave him a few suggestions, such as checking to see if his hard drive was full, and ensuring that he had the latest firmware update. However, he then admitted that those two factors really weren't causing the problem, and that their tech guys were all but stumped. The fact that it's affecting both the PS3 and 360 versions is especially puzzling, and he said that he had no idea when a fix was coming.
Well, that's a spirit breaker for GTA fans. Have any of you experienced this problem? If so, what system was it on? I'm interested in knowing if it really is just the 60GB PS3 that's being affected. That seems strange to me, especially considering the 360 version is experiencing the same troubles.
UPDATE: Rockstar has released a rather complex, elaborate, twelve-step "fix" for PS3 owners. It involves uninstalling the game, turning off every feature you can find on the PS3, and juggling explosives whilst dancing a jig on the back of a raging bull. Okay, so I exaggerate. Slightly. Click here to see what the fix entails. And no, there is no 360 fix as of right now. If I were you, I'd try warm, steaming towels. And some aloe vera. Ooh, and maybe some sugarcane, just for good measure.
Obama: These Games are Raising Our Kids
Perhaps he should choose Jack Thompson as his VP
We all know that the President's job is to ensure that we live comfortable, happy lives, and to slap litigation on any icky problems we may have to otherwise address ourselves. Right? Of course. ( The president doesn't possess any level of legislative power outside of the veto, but most people don't seem to take that into consideration.) Barack Obama has promised many things to the American people, and in any case, has done a fine job of making himself appear as the Bringer of Hope and Change, as it were. And when he's not too busy addressing petty issues such as the war, the economy, illegal immigration, and other such things, he finds time to comment on real issues such as Grand Theft Auto IV. What a guy. During a campaign stop in Indian, Obama had this to say:
I was just catching the news this morning about Grand Theft Auto, this video game, which is gonna break all records and make goo-gobs of money for whoever designed it. Now, this isn't intended for kids, although I promise you there are kids who are playing it, but these video games are raising our kids...
Across the board, middle-class, upper-class, working-class kids, they're spending a huge amount of their time not on their studies, but on entertainment.
And so part of our job is going to have to be to inspire the entire country to say, 'How are we giving our kids a thirst for knowledge?' And turning off the TV set, and getting them to be engaged and interested, like their future really does matter on how well they do in school.
Okay, okay. So there's nothing particularly ridiculous about what Barack said, I admit. In fact, if you watch the video, he even says that this is more of a parental issue. He has some fairly valid (albeit rather cliched) points. But I have to ask him the same question I ask every politician who deigns the mass media and its supposed ramifications worthy of their attention: what exactly do you plan to do about it? Push some type of legislation that would require children to study instead of watching TV or playing GTA? If they're too lazy to keep up with their studies, isn't it a failure on their part, or on part of the parents? Such comments don't make for good campaign material, of course. People out there want Barack to promise crazy things. They want to believe that, if they cast their vote for Mr. Obama, he will honestly find a way to keep kids away from the GTA IV, and focused on their studies. And believe me; neither Barack, nor any politician on the face of the earth has any qualms about promising such things. When it comes to delivering such promises, it will be a different story.
Jack Sends Picture, Terse Message
THE TRUTH REVEALED
Brace yourselves, as this is likely one of the more disturbing images you'll ever see.
You're likely aware of how fond Jack is of sending out his own personal "press releases," usually concerning some ridiculous litigation he's attempting to pioneer. Well, this image was sent to all the usual places, and according to GamePolitics, it included a single, cryptic word: "Evidence."
Frankly, I'm not sure what's most disturbing about this image. The horrid stubble he's wearing? The wrinkled, puffy grandpa face? His disturbingly pleasant little smile? Two things that can be deduced from this: Jack likely just pulled an all-nighter; the question is whether he was waiting in line, or actually playing the game. Secondly, it's clear that Jack has an Xbox 360. But what is this "evidence" he speaks of? Surely he's referring to something more than just the case and disc. What is he scheming now? And what can he do, now that his ability to address the court has been so severely curtailed?
Be afraid, gamers. Particularly those of you who enjoy GTA. He's scheming something, I'm sure of it.
Actually, don't bother being afraid. In fact, if anything, be happy. If he follows through with whatever he's trying to do, he'll likely provide us with some quality entertainment. That's all he's ever succeeded at in the past, to be frank.
Ubisoft Releases New Logo, Promises More Info on the Way
I'm unsure how many Prince of Persia fans we have among my readership, but this news makes me glee, so I'm posting it. Ubisoft has recently announced that a new Prince of Persia title is in the works for the Xbox 360, the PlayStation 3, and the PC. The game is tentatively slated for a 2008 release. In addition, another PoP game is in the works for the Nintendo DS. Not much was said about the upcoming titles, but Ubisoft did promise that the game would feature "a new breed of gameplay" as well as a new "illustrative art style." (I presume they are talking about the 360/PS3 title, although they could be talking about the DS game as well.) And while they didn't announce the title, there's a good chance the game will be called "Prince of Persia Prodigy", as the series' creator Jordan Mechner recently trademarked that exact title.
All I can really deduce from that is that the plan to introduce a new art style, which is fine by me. I'm unsure what this "new breed of gameplay" is, but I'm guessing that since the last three games utilized the time-bending sands of time mechanic, this one will be introducing something new. After all, the sands were a lot of fun, but the series really needs to turn in a new direction if they want to stay fresh. Personally, I'm hoping for an all-new prince, an all-new storyline, and the same excellent platforming and combat we've come to expect from the series. The only complaint I have at this point is that since Ubisoft Montreal is currently occupied with this, they're likely not working on a sequel to Assassin's Creed.
That's the new logo depicted above, and here's a link to the official website. Ubisoft promises that if you register, you'll be the first to know when they finally get some new content up, such as screenshots or videos. Can't wait...
UPDATE: An article on the game has appeared in a French magazine, and Eurogamer has gone to the trouble of translating it! If you're a PoP fan, take a look, and even if you're not, take a gander at this screenshot!
Nintendo: Different Services Do Things Differently
You mean BETTER
I have not picked up the recently released Mario Kart Wii, and I doubt I will, for I have little interest in the series. However, one interesting thing I've heard about it is that the online, surprisingly, does not suck. Not only is the lag minimal, but they've even included a handy-dandy in-game feature that lets you send an automated invite to anyone on your Wii friend list. (The invite includes your Mario Kart friend code). Obviously, this is a step in the right direction. However, in my eyes, it hardly makes up for the atrocity that was Super Smash Bros. Brawl's online play. If anyone listened to our podcast a few weeks ago, in which the panel engaged in some vicious Brawl matches, you remember that we spent a great deal of time complaining about the lag. And we were justified, because the lag you experience while playing Brawl is annoyingly frequent, and can occasionally render the game unplayable. Also, more than a few people couldn't even stay on the network for more than a few minutes before being booted off. And of course, you had to deal with the standard mess of fumbling around with friend codes. In short, it was a real disappointment.
So, what does the big N have to say about their online services? Well, while talking to 1UP, Eric Walters, manager of public relations for Nintendo of America, had only this to offer:
1UP: Many Nintendo gamers are disappointed with the communication options in Nintendo online games- the Friend Codes, lack of universal friends lists, lack of chat, etc. Are these barriers in place meant to protect younger players?
Nintendo: Different services do things differently. Nintendo's three goals for Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection are to make the service free, easy and safe. These goals are there not just for young players, but also older ones and new players. Nintendo is bringing a lot of new people into the world of video games, and we want to reduce barriers while making the online experience as enjoyable as possible.
They've more or less succeeded at "free" and "safe," but they've kinda failed at the "easy" part. Oh, and how about "functional"? "Streamlined"? "Not crappy"? Just a few more goals they may want to consider.
QUICKIES: In Which I Make Passing Mention of Some Relatively Small, But Inherently Awesome News Stories!
Kotaku's Brian Ashcraft on Bringing Western Games to Japan
Mr. Ashcraft of the popular gaming site Kotaku has written an article that would likely be of particular interest to RPGamers, as most of our favorite games originate from Japan. However, rather than speaking about bringing Japanese games to North America, the article deals with the difficulties behind bringing American titles to Japan. It also touches on the differences between the strengths of Japanese vs. American developers, the tastes of the Japanese gaming demographic, and much more. It's an interesting read, and if I'm including the link here for your clicking pleasure, you KNOW it must be worthwhile. Right? Right.
EA's Chief Creative Officer Leaves
One of EA's founding members, William "Bing" Gordon, is taking leave of the company after 26 years. He will be joining with venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers as a partner. While speaking with N'Gai Croal of Level Up, he had this to say about his new position: "Being on campus with young people in videogame classes; seeing what they're interested in; seeing what's going on with the Internet turning into new kinds of platforms, from iPhone to Facebook and Amazon Web Services -- I've gotten fired up about an all-new ride." Gordon is currently EA's Chief Creative Officer. (His last week is the first week of June.) In addition, Gordon hold a faculty chair position at the University of Southern California's Interactive Media Division, and he also acts as an advisor to Yale University's computer science faculty. I had never heard of Mr. Gordon until this story broke, but it sounds like a sore loss on the part of EA, a company that can ill-afford to lose what creative talent it has.
Iwata Comments on Wii Storage Space
Personally, the Wii's piddley 250MB flash memory drive has never really been an issue for me, because, well... I don't play my Wii. Or, that is, hardly at all. But apparently there are some hardcore Wii gamers out there who find the available storage space to be GREATLY UNSATISFACTORY, and are obviously too cheap to pick up some SD memory cards. Nintendo's illustrious president Satoru Iwata has deemed these people and their woes worthy of attention. From a statement he made: "Because this small number of people are none other than the most avid players, we know we have to review the best possible solution to eliminate their inconvenience." This is just one of the many interesting things Iwata addresses in a rather lengthy Q&A session. For all you Iwata fans out there, take a look here. It's another good read.
Activision Snubs E3 2008
Yes, you read that mini-headline correctly. Activision, possibly the largest publisher in North America, will not be attending E3. In an official statement to Gaming Nexus, they simply said that "for business reasons, Activision has decided not to participate in any official E3 activities." In my eyes, this is a huge blow to the E3 convention. Activision obviously doesn't feel that the once-revered show can serve their needs anymore, and after the disaster (yes I called it a disaster) that was E3 2007, I'm unsure if I can blame them. My guess: Activision will host their own event. They've got the money to do it, and they have a plethora of stuff to show off. ActiCon 2008 anyone?
I make you this promise: there will be a Currents EVERY WEEK from now until the fall semester begins, unless extraordinary circumstances intervene. I love this column, and I want it to FLOURISH under my care, not wither and fade into obscurity. Oh, and please take note of the handy little link I've given you to Lusipurr's e-mail address. Send him a letter about this stuff, and I guarantee you it will appear in Q&A. Just be sure you're at least slightly coherent, as he finds individuals with poor english skills to be altogether unbearable.
Time to get this thing posted, and then go play some XI. Sleep? Nowhere in sight right now.
'Till next week, my fine readers!
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