Monday, July 2, 2007

Flooded and cutoff.

Well, not game related, but an important issue to me.

Over the past month, maybe longer, we've been getting heavy rainfall almost constantly. And this past week... it finally added up.

About thirty minutes away from here a small town I grew up in, Fredonia, completely flooded Friday. The town was completely evacuated Saturday and is without electricity or clean water.
Shorty after another town on the way here, Neodesha, began flooding as well. They lost power and drinking water as well. The town did not completely flood, but all the roads in or out of the town were covered in water, cutting the town off.

Again, shortly after highway 400 leading here to Independence flooded over. And water began building up in two more towns on our other side, Cherryvale and Coffeyville. And soon after the road leading to them flooded over... blocking us off from that direction as well. Both those towns were partially flooded and are also without drinking water and electricity.
As if it wasn't bad enough... an oil refinery there began to leak, seeping into the flood waters... contaminating it. This water has soon flooded into the southern parts of Independence... and into our water treatment plant.
Since yesterday we have been without drinking water and clean water to wash clothes, dishes... anything.

Me and my fiance, Bonnie, live on the north side of town. This portion of the town sits up much higher, so we are of no danger of flooding... but being without clean water is bad enough.
I also learned that the lake and dam at Fall River, were I grew up and my parents live is almost full... and the flood gates will have to be opened soon. The water from there is heading this way, into our local lake. We've already opened our flood gates Saturday night at nine.

Most of this area of Kansas is flooded, and cutoff from it's surrounding towns. The water should be going down over the next few days to make things easier... but then starts the cleanup.
Plus we have to the treatment plant to be cleaned up so we can get drinking water back.

It's gonna be one helluva week. And it's probably gonna be hell for a little while longer. Here's hoping things get better,and I know they will. It's just hard waiting... knowing people are out there with nothing.
Knowing the town I grew up in is basically a lake now... that we have no way of getting out of Independence right now.

Oh well... just needed to vent a little bit. Bon took some pictures of the flooding, I'll edit them into the post later.

Friday, June 29, 2007

An old title resurfaces?

Well, while browsing through the various thread of a forum I frequent I saw a title that actually made me rather... pleased. A thread about the current future of a game series titled "Soldier of Fortune".
Based slightly of off a real life soldier of fortune, John Mullins (which the game does use his name and likeness) it places you in the boots of a modern day merc.
Now, the original SoF was released back in 2000. And it raised a bit of controversy upon it's announcement. Coming from developer Raven Software as a brand new IP and spotting a feature never before done in a FPS... locational based damage modeling, or their Ghoul system. Which simply means... you have a shotgun... you shoot a bad guy in the leg... the leg comes off.
The game was very violent and graphic for it's time, and since it was the first of it's kind, it was extremely controversial. Being able to sniper in and actually blow some one's head off was a bit much for some.

Screenshots for SoF:

Soldier of Fortune: New York

But, what saved the game form being banned and torn apart by parent groups... it featured a parental lock out system. An adult could set the game up with a password, lock out all the gore and blood... and leave SoF as a basic FPS.
Also, the story was a bit campy and the gameplay felt a little arcade like... taking away from the realism.

But, in 2002 Raven revived the franchise with Solider of Fortune II: Double Helix. Reprising the role of John Mullins Raven dropped gamers back into the ultra violent world or a modern day soldier for hire.
But SoF2 got much more negative press and a lot more controversy than the first game ever did. Why?

SoF2 was much more graphic, more violent... and much more detailed. This time around, if you shoot somebody in the face with a sniper rifle... it depends on where you shoot them. In the first game a head shoot would either remove the head completely... or leave a bloody bullet mark. This time around you can shoot out eyes, blow off a jaw... blast off a piece of their skull and see the brain inside.
Raven upped the Ghoul system to new heights. Allowing for a much more realistic looking game, and this time it featured a bio terrorism based plot, and a slower paced game play... all in all they removed the arcade feeling and made everything seem more real.

There, a brief rundown of two of my favorite shooters from my past. But, to my joy, as I read... a third game in the series was already in development and was looking to be set for a November release.
But my joy was quickly slapped down as I read Raven was not making the third title. Instead they had sold the rights to Activision (their publisher), and Activision was now heading the project completely.

Only official news:

The game is going to be published by Activision's Value Label which produces budget titles. But, there is hope... the third SoF title will be developed by Cauldron, the company responsible for the cult favorite shooter Chaser.

More details will be released after E3 in July, where the game will be shown for the first time. After more details and media are shown for the title I will make a better judgement. But right now... I'm slightly excited, but a little hesitant. So we will see what happens, I'll update as news becomes more apparent.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

First review: Quake 4

Game website:

Quake 4, the direct sequel to Quake 2 and the only true sequel in the game series, picks up directly after the events that transpire in Quake 2. After an unknown marine shutdown the "big gun" and defeated the Makron (Strogg leader) the remaining human forces were able to make a full scale attack on the Strogg home planet Stroggos.

The game throws you in the combat boots of marine Matthew Kain and attaches you to Rhino squad. The best of the best and leader squad for most of the big attacks against the strogg. It's up to your squad, more so you, to disable most of the strogg's defenses and ultimately bring down the race. For those who don't know or have not played Quake 2, the Strogg are a brutal and violent alien race that attacks planets, only to harvest the inhabitants. The Strogg use the fallen humans and captured marines to create cyborg soldiers, use left over blood and body parts as fuel and various parts of their machines.
As Kain your often looked upon with awe from your fellow marines, due to an event that takes place long before Q4 begins, but nothing your ever fully made aware of. The dialog of fellow marines hints at the events... but nobody ever fully explains what happened. Leaving you wondering throughout most of the game... what the hell happened?

After the opening cinematic which depicts the Earth forces invasion of Storggos your finally given control and allowed to fully take in the game's atmosphere and visuals. Powered by id software's revolutionary Doom 3 Engine and developed by Raven Software the game looks very impressive. I played the game on my system (specs in My Reasons) a Ultra texture detail, 1280*1024, 4xAA and frame rates where always above 40.
With realistic lighting, detailed textures and level design that never leaves you confused or wondering were you should go, but also gives you enough room to explore. The levels depict the dark, war-torn world of the Strogg very well. The outdoor areas are vast and usually littered with the corpses or fallen marines and various destroyed machines. While the indoor areas are dark, often filled with machines powered by human bodies and blood, and very well detailed. Showing off the various important areas of the Storgg... from their processing chambers, hangers, communications, and even their waste facilities. Raven has done a great job as displaying how brutal and grotesque the Strogg are in their methods.
As their medical facilities floors are covered in a thin layer of blood, with various body parts and other entrails laying in piles in the corners. To their waste tunnels where giant blades run the floors scraping meat and blood from the floors, as failed soldiers crawl about and feast on the left over piles of human flesh.

To even amazing set pieces such as the Strogg's power plant which is actually a giant beating heart. That beats erratically as it is often shocked with electricity to keep it functioning.

Story wise the game is rather lite, with occasional cut-scenes and scripted events to push you forward it's all a setup for the action you find yourself in. And game does convey it's war surrounding well, with radio chatter from random marines that are cutoff or attacked. To the constant sounds of artillery outside.
The game does a good job of making you feel as if you are part of a war... but not completely. While at times you do fight with the rest of Rhino squad... most of the time you tend to be completely alone. And the rare times you are with another soldier it's usually just you and one or two other guys. And at those times the AI for your buddies is very well, they duck for cover, do a good job to stay out of your way and even rush enemies and change weapons. But in the end they are not needed.

About a third of the way through the game you are seperated from your squad and captured at which point you are taken to the Strogg medical center. Not so much a spoiler as it was one of the main points in the games press, you are then converted to Strogg. And in a brutal scene, where you see everything through the eyes of Kain, you watch in horror as you legs are sliced off and they tear your body apart and rebuild you as Strogg.

But as the surgery is almost completed your rescued by your fellow marines, without your mind linked to the Strogg's computer your still a good guy... but with all the abilities of a Strogg soldier. But ultimatly this doesn't really change any of the gameplay. Your able to run faster and jump a bit higher, your health and armor are a bit higher, you can use Strogg health stations, and you can understand the Strogg language... but that's all.
I would have loved to see an infiltration mission for you to sneak into a Strogg facility without getting caught. Or maybe have to fight against a few marines who refuse to trust you.
In the end it comes across as a cheap gimmick as opposed to a strong gameplay or story element.
Just a fare warning, those that felt that Doom 3's gameplay became boring or predictable will have the same feelings here. Though the game is faster paced, and does use vehicles in a few levels, it is a straight forward shooter that sticks to a preset pattern.

Sound wise Quake 4 is a mixed bag, the ambient sound effects of the world around you are great. The machines that make up the Strogg factory clank and grind as you would think they should, the enemies sound frightening and creepy.
But the weapon sounds, explosions... sound weak. Several of the guns, from the machine gun to the hyperblaster lack punch. They sound as if they came from Nerf. But some of the weapons do sound okay, the shotgun has a nice deep blast and the nailgun has a pleasing bass to it as you rattle of rounds.

Multiplayer... I don't play online. I'm a single player gamer so no MP review here. Sorry.

But all in all, Quake 4 is a fun, enjoyable sci-fi shooter with enough action and fun moments to make most shooter fans happy. Just stick with it past the rather average opening levels and accept that a game does not have to revolutionize the genre to be good.

Pros: Graphics, length, enemy and character design is top notch. Game manages to give the player a good sense of power.

Cons: Weapon sounds a rather weak, outdoor areas are not as impressive as they could've been. Some plot setups fail to deliver and feel rather bland afterwards.

Final Verdict: True shooter fans and anyone looking for a fun, action driven sci-fi ride should give Quake 4 a serious look. People looking for the next huge thing can pass.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

My initial thoughts...


This would be my first entry, hopefully one of many. I've decided to use this blog as a way of conveying my thoughts and opinions about the gaming industry and community.
And at time to review a few select PC titles I enjoy.

Now, for the foremost relevance, I'm a PC gamer first and foremost. It is on the PC platform that my passion for the hobby lies. But I do enjoy select titles on various consoles... but it is a very small list.

At this moment in time I do not have a whole lot to say, I'm in the Enemy Territory: Quake Wars beta, so I'm sure that in a later post I'll have something to say about this. But as of now I'm still forming my opinions of the game.
Another subject I will discuss openly is the rather heated and controversial rating and banning of Manhunt 2, an upcoming title for the Nintendo Wii system I was very excited about. But that will be a post in itself.

As of now I'm playing a few games... I've been replaying F.E.A.R. and making progress on replaying Quake 4. Also, I've started my second time through Call of Juarez.