June 29, 2009

So, you want free music do you?

In my experience on the interwebs, I have come to discover what I believe to be the best free and legal music services in existence. Albumart.org used to have free mp3's to download but has since removed them and the website khinsider.com used to have a vast archive of game soundtracks to download but it hasn't worked in years.

Thus, I turned to something else: Internet radio. No doubt you have heard of the hugely popular Pandora Internet Radio. Well, it sucks in comparison to what I am about to show you. Don't get me wrong, check out Pandora if you want to find new music based on your listening style, but if you want a more random experience like something you'd find from a real radio, do I have a site for you:

It's called SHOUTcast Radio and it compiles Internet radio stations from all over the world. It literally boasts thousands, probably tens of thousands, of stations to listen to in a vast variety of genres ranging from decades to indie to pop to even anime. Not only that, but it goes hand in hand with my next pick:

Grooveshark. If you discover some new band that sounds good on SHOUTcast (or even Pandora, if that's your thing) Groovehark is just the tool you need to discover more. Simply type in the name of a band and Grooveshark's massive database will find and list albums and tracks by that artist that you can listen to, for free, to your heart's content. I like this system much more than Pandora when I just want to listen to the damn band I entered and not people like them. It's got a lot of playback options, too, and lets you create your own custom playlists.

It is far easier to operate SHOUTcast within a program plugin rather than via their website. While you can use WinAmp if you use a PC, I recommend Songbird, an open-source media player that, not only has SHOUTcast built in but also supports iTunes integration as well as other plugins in addition to an Internet browser- perfect for running Grooveshark and SHOUTcast simultaneously. I'll become the only audio player you need.

June 25, 2009

Mergers and buyouts

Interesting news this week. It seems that, lately, game companies just can't keep their hands off other game companies. Earlier in the week, EA merged together BioWare and Mythic (developers of Warhammer Online). Eh? Who knows. EA is weird like that. That means that, although combined, BioWare, Mythic, and Pandemic will continue to operate separately. Then why merge them?

In weirder news, Bethesda parent company Zenimax Media purchased developer id. Yeah, i don't get it either. For those of you who need a refresher, id developed Doom, Quake, and Wolfenstein. But, again, the two companies will operate individually.

Would someone like to explain just what the hell is going on here?

June 24, 2009

Ratchet Clank Future: Tools of Destruction and Quest for Booty Reviews

I remember getting the first Ratchet Clank game a long time ago for my birthday. The game introduced me into a world where this talking cat, Ratchet, and his robot friend, Clank, went around traveling the universe and blowing/bashing stuff up. I loved the first game. Then came the second...well, same thing. Second was fun. Then the third...same thing again....okay this is starting to suck. This pattern went on until I gave up on the series and decided that, since the game was the same over and over again on different planets, that I would stop playing the series forever. Well, I have a friend who has owned a PS3 since it first came out, and he guaranteed me that this game was different. In his opinion, he said Ratchet Clank Future: Tools of Destruction was the best game on the PS3 (granted, this is pre-MGS4). Well, he's wrong. It isn't the best game, it's the second best. It is also the most fun game on the PS3.

June 23, 2009

Uncharted Drake's Fortune MicroReview

So first with an incredibly overrated game, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. Yes, that's right, I had very high expectations for this game and Uncharted did not come close to meeting them. This game let me down so badly that I'm not putting a picture up. Before I begin, a quick background. Basically, you play as Nathan Drake (relative of Sir Francis Drake) and the game takes place basically on one island the entire time as you search for Drake's treasure. Now on with the review, starting with everything that sucks.

A large part of Uncharted Drake's Fortune involved shooting enemies. No surprise here, but Naughty Dog violates a principle of enemy shooting game: Don't put too many enemies in too little space with too little cover and too little ammo. The entire game you jump distances that are impossible even for Superman to jump until you get to a courtyard with either pillars or pillars that have been knocked down. Then, you get about 30 pistol shots to kill 60 enemies or 60 machine gun rounds (which expire very quickly) to kill those enemies. Sounds easy? Well it would be if you could actually hit your target, for you see, the Rebel Mercenaries you fight in the game (as opposed to the Trained Mercenaries which I will mention later) dodge bullets! And not like the matrix, they just kinda move right or left and dodge. I even went through the pain of running up to a Rebel, aiming for the heart, and firing, only to have him dodge. Not only are the Rebels magical, but you can't shoot them twice back-to-back, meaning you have to hit them, wait, and then shoot them again. What's worse is that the game refuses to register head shots as head shots!? This really pisses me off. To get a head shot, you had to aim around the middle of the chest and hope the enemy didn't dodge, otherwise, what should be a headshot, will just be a bullet that hits the target for minor damage or is dodged. Apart from shooting, the game involves hiding behind cover. Yes, it basically tries to copy Gears of War but fails. If you hide behind a pillar, you will die. If you hide behind a knocked down (horizontal) pillar, you face 50% death rate. Compile this with the horrible gun mechanics and you get a repetitive game whose shooting fails. Oh, and did I mention that after you kill 60 enemies, often times 3-5 more waves of 10 enemies come in from all arround the room, so basically you get surrounded. I am very good at shooting games and I died more in this one than all my previous shooter experiences combined.

A quick word on Trained Mercenaries. As you progress through the game, you eventually fight well trained mercenaries, then undead, and then a mix of rebels, trained mercs, and undead. Somehow, the Trained Mercenaries that carry Dragonuv Snipers, Desert Eagles, and MP 40s with laser sight are incredibly easy to kill, whereas the rebels that only use AK-47s dodge bullits and can't be killed. This sucks because 85% of the enemies are the rebels, and only about 10% are the trained mercenaries. Damn.

So what makes this game good? Well the graphics are nice, but the only reason I give this game a high rating is the story. The story is basically a myster/treasure hunt tale along the lines of National Treasure and that entertained me a lot. The characters (well, the good guys anyway) are very endearing and you quickly like them and their adventure. If Naughty Dog made this game about puzzle solving, exploring, and adventuring, or if they did the shooting system right, it would be a great game. Sadly, they didn't, altough they did get another thing besides the story right: jet ski shootouts! Twice, Nathan mounts a jetski and armed with a grenade launched you blast the hell out of enemies.

Overall, I would not pay more than $20 for this game. If you are bored, $30 because, after all, the story is awesome. It has marginal replay value because there are 60 hidden treasures, but the rewards (cheat codes) suck for finding them and they are really easy to find (they sparkle and shine, literally). There are also Trophies, which are basically PS3's version of the 360's achievements.

Rating: 6.5 (the reason being the graphics, storyline, characters, and mild entertainment)

Second opionion: 5 (with so much emphasis on shooting, I can't give it a higher rating).

June 21, 2009

MicroReview: Wario Land: Shake It

Before the actual post, I think I should explain what a microreview is. It's something new I've created for the blog that's basically a mini review. I didn't call it a miniview because that sounds lame, nor did I call it a quickview because I'm pretty sure that's copyrighted. I'll microreview stuff that I think doesn't deserve a full review (for a number of reasons) or is old. Most movie reviews in the future will probably be in this format.

First of all, I realize the box has the wrong name on it. I used the PAL version because it looks better.

I both enjoyed this game and was annoyed by it. On the one hand, it's finally a return to form for Wario- a classic platformer after years of microgame crap. On the other hand, I wish it were better. The visuals are sharp, colorful, and lovely, but the music, while nice, doesn't seem to fit Wario. Likewise, the level design seems repetetive and uninspired. Wario's got his classic moves in addtion to some new tricks, but I feel like the levels make more use of motion control gimicks than classic Wario platforming and puzzle solving. Still, there's some nice homages to the Wario Land games of yesteryear. The game does get very repetetive after a while not just because of the level design, but because of a lack of enemy variety and the fact that your goal is always the same: get lots of money, free the little elf dude at the end of the level, then race back to the begining within the time limit. The game's saving grace is it's excellent and creative boss battles.

Overall, I'd recommend the game just for some Wario nostalgia but I wouln't pay more than $20 for it.

June 13, 2009

Metal Gear Solid 4 Game Review

Yes, it's a year late, but for many of us who are considering purchasing a PS3 or just bought one, this review will be very helpful. Why? Because this IS the game that makes the PS3. Plain and simple.

The best soundtracks of thier time

I will now attempt to pick the best original soundtracks from each generation of games. Why did that sound like a magician?

I'm not going to start at the NES (which could arguably be Mega Man 2) or do the following generation (though it would probably be something like Super Mario World) but I shall work my way from the first 3D generation of the N64 and the PlayStation all the way to this generation so far.

Era 1:
I almost gave this to Metal Gear Solid, but I thought the rest of the series had stronger soundtracks. It's a tough choice between Mario 64 and this game, but I ultimately chose Ocarina of Time because it has many timeless tunes from it that are instantly memorable and recognizable. The thing I think that sets it apart from Mario is that each Zelda game is totally unique, taking place in an alternate Hyrule with an alternate Link and, thus, having an alternate soundtrack. In short, these iconic pieces don't repeat. With the exception of Smash Bros., you probably haven't heard these tracks again. Mario games have been known to remix tracks and use them again, as evident in Galaxy.
There are so many good tracks, but here are a few:
Era 2:
Unfortunately, while MGS2 and 3 had excellent soundtracks, when I think of last generation's soundtracks one game immediately jumps to mind. Surprisingly, it beats out the Zeldas, Halos, and Metal Gears. The greatest soundtrack of last generation comes from none other than Shadow of the Colossus. When I first played the game, the soundtrack instantly caught my attention. It is simply unlike anything before or, quite frankly, after it. Unfortunately, the soundtrack is not available for purchase outside of Japan.
Pretty much every track is fantastic, but here's a small taste:
Era 3:
While it may be hard to choose the best soundtrack of this generation when we're not nearly done with it yet, I can pick the best so far. The honor goes to Super Mario Galaxy. It's simply beautiful, plain and simple. Have a listen and you'll see why it has the best music of this generation yet.
Hooray! Time for another flame war! Agree, or not?

June 12, 2009

E3 Results

Well, E3 is over and I have the results because, apparently, E3 is some sort of contest. It took me a week to recover from it, but here are the results:

Regardless of what the Big Three had in store, this year's E3 was a true return to form for the year's greatest gaming event. This year's show was much bigger than last year's toned down show and much better than 2007's showing in a Santa Monica airplane hangar.
This year was games galore and even the return of booth babes! And who could forget the joy of watching Steve Wiebe fail at the Donkey Kong world record on national TV (that douche didn't deserve it anyway).

Let's take a look at how each of the Big Three fared:

Microsoft- A
Microsoft was first this year, holding their press conference before the event even officially kicked off. And they brought the big guns. Though the Beatles Rock Band wasn't the greatest kickoff ever, things picked up slightly with a demo of Modern Warfare 2 (mountain climbing!) but it wasn't until Microsoft got to the exclusives that things really got interesting. Alan Wake lives, and it looks pretty decent! Crackdown 2 and Left 4 Dead 2 were both announced, which was pretty awesome. The illegitimate child of Contra and Metroid was revealed in Shadow Complex. FFXIII was demoed on the 360 and dated for 2010. Microsoft showed why Xbox Live continues to dominate by unleashing a slew of new features. ODST was demoed and dated for September 22nd. That got me excited. Probably the three biggest announcements for Microsoft were Halo Reach (!), Project Natal (!), and that they're finally taking away of Sony's final classic cornerstone of exclusivity with Metal Gear Rising and its Lightning Bolt Action! Overall, Microsoft pulled out all the stops this year for a stellar performance. They did everything right to build upon the momentum from last year and propel themselves forward with another stellar year of games.

Nintendo- A-
You know, Nintendo surprised me this year. When their press event began I thought it was just going to be another lackluster year for them, but they really stepped up this time. While their demos of Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit Plus were boring, and the announcement that I can now take my pulse with my Wii left me baffled, Nintendo proved they still care about the hardcore gamer. They even showed a short montage of all their core games coming soon! They announced a new Golden Sun for the DS and Final Fantasy for the Wii and COP: The Recruit, though the name remains uninspired, looks like a great alternate to a full GTA experience on the DS. They had a whopping four Mario games to announce, the highlight being Mario Galaxy 2, but didn't stop at that. They went as far as to announce their collaboration with Team Ninja: Metroid: Other M, which pretty much made the show for me. Not only that, but they announced and showed off the first artwork of the next Zelda (not happy train time Zelda) behind closed doors. Though they dragged a little, they had enough major announcements to warrant a low A.

Sony- B+
I'm not hating on Sony for the sake of hating on Sony, but come on, guys, don't let all your major announcements leak before the big show! The PSP Go, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, and The Last Guardian all leaked out before they were supposed to be officially announced. That took a lot of air out of Sony's balloons. The only other downside was that their event was significantly longer than all of the others. Naughty Dog earns Sony bonus points, however, for having a stellar demo of Uncharted 2- the best demo of the show, in my opinion. The demos of GoW3 and Assassin's Creed 2 were also impressive. Mod Nation Racer also looked very promising. Unfortunately, though Sony showed they still greatly support Home, it still looks depressing. Come to think of it, the PSP Go is a ripoff at $250. I could buy a Wii for that. Actually, I could buy a regular PSP for less. What's the appeal here, again? MAG was demoed in real time, which was impressive, but unfortunately the game looks pretty generic and boring. The two big announcements not leaked were the PS3 motion controller and FFXIV. The controller shows a lot of promise, but sill doesn't seem that different from the Wii remote. FFXIV was not expected. Too bad it's one of those crappy online titles.

So, there you have it. Looks like it was Microsoft's year once again. This post is sure to start a flame war, so go ahead and argue in the comments.

Full Circle

Way back in 2004, the blog called GameWeb was born. I worked on it, Doegab worked on it, and Battsman worked on it. The site began to evolve and my good friend RaiderBear joined the team. GameWeb closed, and Raider and I went our seperate ways. Installation 04 was then born and now, 5 years later, the team is once again complete. A warm welcome back to an old friend of mine, RaiderBear! Huzzah!

And the team is complete once more.

Raider will be our main Playstation correspondant (because the other three of use don't own one...) with news, reviews, and previews (I assume) for the PS3, though I guess there is nothing stopping him from writing whatever he wishes.

Anyway, welcome to the team, old friend! We have come full circle.

Introduction and Review

Hi everyone. I'm new to the Installation 04 team and, as the title suggests, this is my introductory post. You can all refer to me as Raider, Raiderbear, or RaiderBear30, take your pick. Anyways, just a little background into my gaming experience, I got a Super Nintendo when I was six, seven, or eight; I honestly can't remember. Ever since then, I've loved games and have been a gamer. I still own that SNES, as well as an N64, Gamecube, PS 2, Xbox, Gameboy, Gameboy Advance, Gameboy Color, Gameboy SP, Nintendo DS, Sony PSP, the Wii, Xbox 360, and very recently (2 weeks ago) I purchased a PS3. My job here at Installation 04 is mostly going to be about me speaking on the PS3 and PS3 games.

June 3, 2009

Game Review: Empire Total War


I know it's already been a few months since this game has been released. But a game this massive and complex needs some serious play time before it can be fully reviewed. Not to mention that I had to wait for a few patches to update the game before I could truly play it.

So I'm sure by now you've all heard about the excellent reviews Empire Total War has received. Across the board, websites, magazines, and other sources of game news have given this game top scores. Many of these game news outlets are also saying that it is the best game in the series so far.

I'm here to tell you right now that Empire Total War is one of the most over hyped games of all time, right up there with Fable 2 and Spore.

But I'll start out with the positives of Empire Total War before I tear in to it.

E3 Day 2 trailers

More to come. Bear with me, my internet's lagging out because of all the E3 videos of awesomeness at once. Also I WILL NEVER EMBED IGN VIDEOS AGAIN BECAUSE THEY DON'T FREAKING WORK! I had more, but I had to delete them because stupid IGN's code is apparently broken.

June 2, 2009

E3 Day 2 rap-up

Jesus, what a day! I'm worn out from watching press conferences.

First, was Nintendo:
  • Nintendo's got a crazy new finger sensor thing that measures your pulse. Just what I always dreamed of with my games!
  • Nintendo is still very casual, but it's nice that they had a section highlighting The Conduit, Resident Evil, and Dead Space for the core gamers.
  • Wii motion plus is coming... still.
  • New Golden Sun for the DS and Final Fantasy for the Wii. That's good, right?
  • This game actually looks good. COP: The Recruit for the DS. Open world and GTA style. Sweet!
  • New Mario game is... New Super Mario Bros Wii with four player support. Whoohoo.
  • But wait, there's more Mario! It's... the new Mario and Luigi game. Ok, so it's finally coming to America. That's nice.
  • What's that you say, more Mario? Oh, it's a new Mario vs. DK game for the DSi download service. It has a level editor.
  • You can't be serious? Even more Mario!? It couldn't possib- OH. MY. GOD. IT'S MARIO GALAXY 2! That's the first time ever two 3D Mario games will be released on the same console. Strangely, it's also the first time a 3D Mario game has had a direct sequel. I hope it's different enough from the first. Usually, every Mario game since 64 has tried to raise the bar from the last.
  • Ok, one final announcement. It's a collaboration with 3rd party. Whoa. It's Team Ninja. What is this? Zelda!? No, it's in space now. Star Fox? Holy pumpernickel, it's Metroid! Jesus, it looks awesome!
  • Nintendo made my day and, quite possibly, the entire show for me!
Next was Sony:
  • Demo of Uncharted 2. Looks to play like Gears. Also, what the hell is with all these games with characters climbing walls!? Sweet demo, though. Very action-packed. Probably the best one so far.
  • Lot's of random stats! More PSN content, Home is still depressing.
  • MAG demoed in real time. Impressive amount of players, but the game doesn't look all that fun. Interesting it'll be out this fall. Wasn't it only announced a year ago?
  • Oh joy Grand Turismo for PSP. By the way GT5 is still coming... eventually.
  • PSP Go announced officially. It's going to cost $250!? Seriously!? Why the hell would I buy a stripped down version of a PSP, which has a larger screen, for so much more money. Screw that!
  • Project Trico shown. Big surprises, people. It's officially called The Last Guardian. Trailer is similar, but updated. New gamplay. Looks sweet. No date.
  • MGS: Peace Walker (which most certainly was not leaked yesterday) officially announced for the PSP. Long winded trailer shown with lots of Snake creeping about in a crouch. Out next year.
  • New FFXIII trailer. Wait, what's this? HOLY HELL IT'S FFIVX! Oh wait, it's an MMO. Whatever.
  • Hm, PS3 motion controller. Looks impressive (though a bit silly) although I don't think it's much different from the Wii motion controls besides having a camera. It'll be out next spring.
  • Assassin's Creed 2 demo is sweet.
  • God of War 3 demo is also sweet.
  • No slim PS3. How dare you lie to me Internets!
  • Mod Nation Racer looks pretty cool. Let's you build your own everything in a racing game.
  • New game from Rockstar called Agent. That's about all we know beyond it being exclusive.
Video soon.

June 1, 2009

Animal Crossing: Not a childrens game anymore

Finally the truth about animal crossing has been revealed...

E3 day 1 trailers

More soon.

E3 Day 1 rap-up

It's easier to do these rap-ups than constantly update the site all day long. Microsoft's press event was today and it was big. I was right about this E3 being a big year (well it is so far for Microsoft at least) or, at least, I was thinking it.

  • Xbox Live will continue to dominate the world with update coming soon incorporating Facebook, Twitter, Last.fm, an improved video marketplace, and probably more.
  • Microsoft has been working on a motion-sensing add on of their own. It's not what you think. It's not what I though. It actually looks quite revolutionary. It does two big things: it lets you control games without a controller and it lets you interact with games like never before in a 3D space. Lionhead showed off something that can only be described as "artificial intelligence" that has you interacting in unseen ways with a character on screen. I guess that was their big announcement.
  • It turns out Crackdown 2 was the game recently formed Ruffian Games. It was announced and accompanied with a trailer, but that was about it.
  • Alan Wake lives! It was demoed live and will be available in Spring 2010. It actually looks pretty awesome.
  • Left 4 Dead 2 will be available on the Xbox and PC November 17th. Trailer was shown. RELOADIN'!
  • Epic Games releasing a new XBLA game this summer called Shadow Complex. Looks like a Bionic Commando/Metroid mix.
  • FFXIII 2010. (Big surprise there.)
  • Halo 3: ODST September 22nd!
And the biggest announcements of the show so far:

Actually, this is possibly bigger:

More vids up soon.