Archive for December, 2010

Year’s best PC releases

As the year comes to an end, I believe I should state my opinion on the year’s best release on the PC platform. Before doing so, I just want to wish all of you a happy new year and good luck in the future! Here goes the countdown.

5. Amnesia: The Dark Descent : The horror elements are what make this game truly enjoyable…or scary. You will fight for survival in a virtual world with no way to defend yourself. That’s right, this aint Left for Dead.

4. Battlefield Bad Company 2 : 64 players fighting in a brutal multiplayer deathmatch. Sounds fun? The action, guns, vehicles make it an enjoyable experience. Greatest part of this game is the realistic aspect. Vehicles, infantries will move like in real life. This is one of the greatest shooters of all times.

3. Call of Duty : BlackOps : For the sake of the popular Call of Duty series, this new instalment deserves 3rd place. A new hero with a new multiplayer system delivers a very solid and impressive gameplay.

2. Mass Effect 2 : The characters are unbelievable and add a lot of value to the storyline. The action is very enjoyable and won’t disappoint. But the real part of this game that makes it so great is the fact that the decisions you make will affect the future.

1. StarCraft II:Wings of Liberty : Yes, you’ve seen it coming. With all the great titles this year, the long awaiting sci-fi real time strategy does not disappoint. It has one of the best campaigns ever with a great storyline and arguably the most competitive multiplayer. Old veterans and new players will not be disappointed with this long anticipated game.

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Call of Duty:Modern Warfare 2 vs BlackOps

It’s that time of the year! First I’d just like to wish everyone happy holidays and hope you guys enjoyed a wonderful Christmas! (If you don’t celebrate Christmas, then I hope you guys had a great time) Seeing as how it is the holidays, I believe many of you are still pondering about what presents, or “video games” you should get. Which brings me to today’s topic. I will be comparing 2 of the most popular FPS (First Person Shooter) games to help you decide on your purchases. What are they? Call of Duty : Modern Warfare 2 and Call of Duty: Black Ops. There has been much hype about which of these 2 games is better. Today, I’ll attempt to compare the strengths and weaknesses of these 2 games and provide a unbiased answer to that question. (I’ll try and be  unbiased as possible as I do prefer one of these games over the other…) But with all that being said, let’s start!

Campaign:

The campaign in Modern Warfare 2 picks off where its’ predecessor left off. Again, you play as different characters depending on the missions you choose. The AI does not go easy on you (unless you play on easy) and provides a good challenge for new/old players. The campaign focuses greatly on the environment. Terrains, weather effects, textures are strongly emphasized. While these points are emphasized, some texture and environment qualities may not be top-notched. However, with the never-stopping and fast-paced action, such small issues will only seem minimal. There are also a variety of cut-scenes and in-game moments that build on the intensity and quality of the games story. With that being said however, the story line in Modern Warfare 2 is darker than its predecessor. Campaign mode feels more like a non-stopped action movie. One of the “criticized” points of the campaign is the length. Many players will finish it under 8 hours of gameplay, depending on the level difficulty. However, it may seem unfair to say the short-length campaign is a weakness to the game because some people prefer a short, but intense campaign. The storyline seems nontraditional to its past games and may seem far fetched at times. However, with the improved visual effects and level design, you won’t be disappointed with the spectacles and actions.

In Blackops, you play as an elite covert operative, Alex Mason, and the story is set during the 1960s with a variety of settings. Some of which include Russia and Vietnam. The missions you attempt are pieces of your character’s memory so by playing all of them will form a puzzle. This is an interesting way of going about campaign mode. This method provides much dramatic moments which builds upon the climax of the story. The environment is richly designed with many details focusing on the terrains and textures. The campaign mode provides many levels of “fun”, such as urban firefights, blowing stuff up from vehicles, gunning your way through a number of obstacles on the back of a vehicle. The AI is actually rather poor. They may act very stupid at times and may end up harming its’ teammates. And there are many bugs, some of which will make you restart a whole mission. Once again, the campaign is short-length. Many will finish the game under 6 hours of gameplay. Despite the negative performances, Blackops has a well-crafted storyline and the characters don’t seem to disappoint.

Overall, Modern Warfare 2’s campaign mode beats that of Blackops. The graphics are much more focused and emphasized in Modern Warfare 2. The storyline of Blackops is better handled, but the superplus of action in Modern Warfare 2 will not fail to amaze players. Finally, the major amount of bugs presented in Blackops will just frustrate players and make it a less enjoyable session.

MW2 Campaign: good graphics, fun and entertaining, a lot of action, good level design and visual effects, good game mechanics, smart AI, short gameplay,

Blackops Campaign: good storyline, a lot of bugs, less-emphasized environment but still enjoyable, bad AI, short gameplay

Game Modes:

One of the great modes in Modern Warfare 2 for “single play” is special ops. The mode consists of many timed missions that you solo or play co-op with a friend. Objectives in these missions vary. You may need to avoid enemies, survive waves of enemies, ride snowmobiles, etc. As you complete missions and depending on your ratio, you will unlock new ones. This game mode provides a good variety of challenges. The game modes in Multiplayer will include the original team deathmatch, the classic free-for all, domination, ground war, search and destroy, headquarters pro, demolition, capture the flag, sabotage, and mosh pit.

A special mode in Blackops is the return of zombie mode. The player must survive endless waves of zombies, and buy weapons and power-ups. There is no limit to the levels. Players are able to play this game solo or co-op. The new combat training lets you play with AI opponents and allows you to set the enemy difficulty to match your skill level. You can gain money and weapons through this mode and is a great way to play multiplayer without having to play against real humans. Another new mode is the Theater, which lets you share your screenshots or videos. Other multiplayer modes include Team Deatchmatch, Mercenary, Free for All, Domination, Ground War, Demolition, Sabotage, Headquarters, Capture the Flag, Search and Destroy and Team Tactical.

Overall, Blackops holds more game modes to play compared to Modern Warfare 2 and it shines in this category.

Multiplayer:

In Modern Warfare 2, the multiplayer system is straight-forward. Your performance in games earn you experience points. These points increase your level and unlock new guns, new equipment, and new skill-boosting perks. Different classes have different skills so this may prove to be strategical on the battlefield. You are allowed to equip both a rifle and a shotgun and this allows for a variety of gun combination in game. Not only are you allowed guns, you’re allowed other equipment as well. Riot shields, blast shields, insertion flares can be very fun and valuable in games. Perks in this game are upgraded by using them and they will eventually have a second ability. These perks boost your character’s abilities in-game. There a lot of perks so different combination of different perks will allow for more competition and strategies. There are also perks to help people who are getting killed many times in a row, such as painkillers and copycat. This lessens their chance of dying. Finally, kill streaks will yield rewards. Rewards will include predator missiles, AC 130s, and much more, depending on your kill streak. You can only equip 3 rewards at a time so don’t expect to equip a predator missile if you miss frequently.(Haha, sort of like Chris Smoove on youtube. The dude’s a beast but always seems to miss his predator missles :P)  These rewards encourage competitive play on the battlefield and getting rewards will satisfy users greatly. You will also be able to prestige at lv.70. This adds a different symbol for your rank and unlocks other challenges. Multiplayer in Modern Warfare 2 is great. The action is always intense and rewards are enjoyable. There is a great level of depth and strategy to multiplayer games and this just makes multiplayer even more enjoyable.

In Blackops, we see the new contract system. You will have to pay to complete goals. If you do so within the allotted time period, you receive rewards. An example would be getting 5 headshots without dying. You pay 250 points and get 3500 points and 3500 experience. You may get points after a level up. However, this system may make leveling less enjoyable because once you buy something with your points, you can’t get them back. This new feature is plenty fun although it may frustrate some new players. There is also the new addition of the wager matches. You pay an entrance fee and play a game mode. At the end of the match, the total amount of money wagered will be split among the top three performers and everyone else leaves empty-handed. These 2 systems function accordingly to points and may make levelling less enjoyable than it was in Modern Warfare 2. The point system allows you to add more customization to your character, but will require you to buy them. The level design is nice in Blackops. There are elements that change every time you play. An example is the target dummies that appear in different spots when you load the map. Overall, the map design has many spots that suit the play style of different players. Snipers will find high places to snipe; campers will find places to hide, etc. The new perks avoid unbalanced gameplay. The additions of the RC Car, gunship, dogs makes gameplay more interesting. Although there are many features in multiplayer that make it shine, the one thing Blackops fails to do is make it enjoyable. The point system is interesting, but is it enjoyable for new/old players? The perks may balance gameplay, but does that make it “fun” to play the game? Multiplayer seems to be more challenging and frustrating with the new point system. The gameplay is more realistic but fails to capture the enjoyable aspect of what made the series so popular.

Overall, the multiplayer in Modern Warfare 2 beats the multiplayer in Blackops. The variety of attachments, guns, maps, perks, is just that much better than in Blackops. While Blackops offers a higher level of customization and realism, it fails to make the game seem fun and instead makes gameplay rather boring at times.

Conclusion: In conclusion, Call of Duty : Modern Warfare 2 wins this competition. The campaign provides an intense experience that you won’t be disappointed with. The real aspect that makes Modern Warfare 2 shine so much is the competitive multiplayer. The realistic aspect fails but the level of fun is always there and does not disappoint. These strong points make Modern Warfare 2 the better game out the two.

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God Dammit LeJOS (or Should I Say, “God Dammit Ubuntu?”)!

It’s been a while hasn’t it? I’m not going to apologize because our four viewers per day are probably spambots anyways (don’t be offended, I hold you guys very close to my heart! Please don’t stop searching the blog for email addresses!)

As you may or may not know, I am the proud owner of a Lego Mindstorms NXT kit, on which I have spent more money than is legal or healthy. As my friend (and contributor to the NXT Step ) has kindly pointed out, I have been so busy programming my little heart out that I have forgotten to blog about my experiences. So here I am, complaining blogging about one of my favorite NXT programming languages: LeJOS NXJ.

Now, one might ask, “Steven, why would you complain about LeJOS? It’s the best NXT language on the block!” Presented with that question, I might answer, “It doesn’t work on Linux.” As you probably know, that’s actually my answer to all questions of that particular format, but I digress. To be accurate, LeJOS does run on Linux, and even Ubuntu, just not on my Lucid machine. I don’t know why, it just doesn’t. I have tried everything, and it just won’t run. Truthfully, I had it running perfectly for about nine minutes before I decided to work on my Computer Science Assignment (a Java program). Preceding my spontaneous decision to install LeJOS (spawned by my NXT making a funny clicking noise), I was running the OpenJDK JDK. Blindly following the instructions on the Ubuntu Forum, I uninstalled it in favor of the Sun JDK. Don’t you love Linux, we get two JDKs, neither of which work with anything. I continued following the aforementioned instructions until the end. Everything was working, even Bluetooth. Everything was working, I had succeeded, I was a Linux god!

Until I compiled my Java code.

It seems, as it always does, that the Sun Java compiler won’t compile Java code, only Fortran. Actually, it won’t compile anything (I don’t know what’s worse). As naive as we geeks are, I decided to reinstall the OpenJDK Platform, you know, so I could pick and choose which JDK I would use for what. Bad idea. Now all my LeJOS files compile to *.class files, and my Java code still won’t compile. Considering my Computer Science code was due the next morning, I uninstalled everything, finished the assignment and didn’t dare touch LeJOS until now. I can tell you, It’s not any better than it was three weeks ago. Now it just looks like Java vomited on my hard drive.

Maybe it’ll work when I switch to Fedora, I’ll keep you four delightful spambots posted.

The worst part it that Minecraft stopped working!

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Reviewing NBA 2k11

For my first post I decided to review 2k sport’s NBA 2k11. Being a fan of the NBA and nearly all the basketball titles since 2006, I knew I had to play this game when it first game out. The cover features Michael Jordan and is the main focus in this game. His legacy makes him the greatest basketball player ever and this is the best NBA game ever made. This is the most responsive, detailed and accurate basketball simulation up to date (for now anyways) and does not disappoint. But instead of listening to me, let the review inform you.

Graphics and life of the NBA:

Graphics in this game are good, but not great. The character models seem to be the same from last year’s 2k10 without much change. Some players and coaches appear weird in this game. One of the most criticized is how Kobe looks like an alien. But other than the sloppy graphics, the new move sets and animations are simply amazing. There are a variety of new move sets from last year and old veterans of the game will definitely see the difference. Add that with polished and realistic animations, you’re good to go. There are over hundreds of different animations for different players, such as Dwyane wade pulling himself up and down from the basketball rim at the start of a game.

Another important feature of this game is accuracy. If your team is doing well in a regular season, a lot of fans will show up to games. Or, in “My Player mode”, if your customized player decides to say something bad or negative about the team in the press conference room, your teammates may not be willing to pass you the ball. The crowd will stay quiet if your team is losing badly and vice versa. This game stays accurate and realistic to the real NBA.

Overall, arenas and player depiction look nice. The lightings and special effects/features (such as the sprite slam cam and player of the game) add to the overall “feel” of playing in a real NBA game.

Gameplay and Control:

Controls in this game have been taken to the next level compared to its predecessor. Play calling has been made much easier and ball control has improved. The redefined IsoMotion controls allow for a variety of combinations of ball movement on court. This makes the game feel more “natural” as you will have better control your player. In the past 2k NBA games, many players just watch their player go for a double clutch lay-up with no way to control him. But with the new control sets, you can change your direction of ball movement instantly and beat defenders with the right timing. The ShotStick also adds to the creation of new moves. It allows players to change the way his/her player goes up for a shot. An example would be switching hands when going up for a lay-up in a game. But this feature is quite challenging so don’t expect to master it right away. The new level of control is truly amazing to the gameplay and allows new possibilities on the court.

The AI: Are you kidding me?

The AI in last year’s game was disappointing to say the very least. It was easy to cross, dunk, outplay it. This year, it is much smarter. In other words, it might as well be a pain in the ass. The reason for being so is its’ ability to exploit and mirror moves. Now this has its positives and negatives. For a good thing, it adds to the difficulty of the game so once again, it adds to the realistic aspect. (So now don’t expect to pull off any crazy dunks EVERY possession). This means the AI will adapt itself to the way you play. So if you got Dwight Howards dunking on everyone in the paint, the AI will try to shut him down and make you utilize your shooters more often. It can also exploit weaknesses, as mentioned above. If you got Steve Nash guarding Dwight Howard, then you might hear a rim rattle in the near future…The AI is truly fascinating and it is obvious that developers put a lot of effort in delivering the best (realistic-wise) match-ups possible.

Now comes the negative part. Sometimes, the AI is TOO smart and just makes gameplay frustrating. Think you can throw a fast-break pass to Vince Carter with someone guarding him and succeed? Think again. The AI is so insane at times, it’ll deflect your passes even when its’ not looking at your player. Another frustrating part of such awareness is scoring in the paint. Because the AI has a tendency to mirror moves, it’ll counter most of your offensive drives into the lane, making it hard to score inside. Once again, this sort of awareness adds to the feel of a real NBA game but it can really get frustrating at times!

Overall, you will have much more competition against the AI this year. Its’ abilities to exploit moves may either leave you happy because of the competition, or frustrated due to the difficulty of beating it.

Game Modes:

Once again, we see the huge variety of game modes 2k has to offer, with the addition of the “Jordan Challenges” and “MJ: Creating a Legend”. In the “Jordan Challenges”, you attempt to replay the greatest moments of Michael Jordan in game simulations. Once you complete all of these challenges, you unlock “MJ: Creating a Legend”. In this mode, you will attempt to play as Michael Jordan. This time, you control which teams he plays for and such. This mode is very much similar to “My Player Mode”. The different modes will keep you happy and occupied.

Audio:

Audio never disappoints in the previous games and certainly does not disappoint this year. The sound quality during a game is phenomenal. The level of chants, on court chatter, play calling makes it that much better of an experience. The in-game announcers remain the same from last year. Clark and Kevin both return to deliver you the best NBA experience possible. (Not to forget Doris Burke that throws in interview news between periods) The commentary always manages to keep up with the in-game action, while throwing in fun NBA facts to go along with it. Finally, the songs played are pretty good. Artists include Snoop Dogg, the Russian Futurists and much more.

Online Play:

There isn’t much to say about online play. Connection issues may annoy you a lot more than intended. You may be playing an online game and suddenly disconnect due to connection problems. Frustrating isn’t it? You may also notice sudden lag issues during online play as well. Definitely not one of 2k’s stronger aspects.

The Good: Variety of animations, accurate portrayal of the NBA, redefined control, smart and competitive AI, huge variety of game modes, great music and sound effects, realistic gameplay

The Bad: Sloppy graphics, frustrating AI, bad online experience.

Overall:

Overall, the goods of this game greatly outnumber the bad. This is a must-own game for any NBA fan. NBA 2k11 adds on what made the series so great and is a huge step-up from last year. The detail, effort, hard work spent into making this game makes it shine in so many ways. Once again, 2k has succeeding in creating the greatest basketball game of all time.

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