Twisted, DS, and MUT Chemistry

February is here, with promises of great Super Bowl Sunday football (Lord I hope for a Colts victory), V-Day and inappropriate lingerie (keeping my fingers crossed), the start of a new NASCAR season, and yes of course, a brand new month for me to rehash old videogames. Yes, I am a broke bloke.

PS3 Gets Twisted
Over the weekend PlayStation LifeStyle ran an article that sort of, kind of, hinted (hopefully confirmed) that a re-boot of Twisted Metal is on the way. Twisted Metal 1 and 2 are still all-time favorites. Not so much with the others, but Black was a distant third.

Silly rabbit, DS is for kids!
In Retrospective: Listen, We Have to Talk, EuroGamer writer John Walker waxes and wanes about the dark days of mass market gaming on the DS. This is a great read, and any gamers with kids will be sure to appreciate how far the DS has fallen. Sure, there are still some gems to be found, if you can escape the sticky sweet goo from all the “my pretty pink princess pony pet shop” games.

MUT Chemistry
I dedicated time to eight Madden Ultimate Team (MUT) articles last week, so it would be a major contradiction to start off a new month without another daily dose of MUT. This time I will keep it brief.

In theory your team can be much better than the ratings indicate. How? By playing around with something called chemistry, and while I have a BS in Mathematics, I usually looked at the hot chick’s ass in chemistry class.

As you can tell from past MUT articles, I have not had time to concentrate on building a team with any sort of chemistry; instead I have concentrated in survival. If I could build a decent base, I could turn my attention towards my chemistry rating, but for now that seems to be a way off.

The good news is that just by playing around with my depth chart I was able to improve my chemistry several points (to 59), hopefully allowing me to put off a few contracts from expiring for another two or three games.

As mentioned yesterday, right now my MUT strategy is threefold and fairly simple. I do not want to have to inject a lot of “real” money, I do my best to hold on to any Bronze 70 rated cards, and I try to make judicious use of selling cards in the auction house to help fund new Bronze (and hopefully one day, Silver) packs. Right now I am just trying to put together a decent team with 70ish rated cards. Much like that hot girl’s ass, chemistry will have to wait. And no, I never really had a chance with that girl, but I landed pretty damn well.

Happy Monday!


Indianapolis 500 Legends DS

My brother wanted to get Nathan, my seven year old son, a DS game for Christmas; something bargain bin’ish in the $15 and under price range. Not because he is cheap mind you, but because the boys already had a haul worthy of Fort Knox. I picked out Indianapolis 500 Legends (Indy 500) because it looked interesting and because my middle kid likes Indy racing. Of course this is a “legends” game, so he does not recognize any of the drivers, but that is only a minor quibble for a seven year old getting a new game for Christmas!

Indy 500 has received really poor reviews; it has a metacritic score of 51 (based on 8 reviews). Nathan does not read the reviews, so he has no preconceived notions about the game. To him it is fun, but a little on the difficult side.

I gave Indy 500 a go last night and earlier this afternoon, and I am actually digging it. This is the type of game that I thrive on – a racing game that has limited appeal to all but the most diehard of racing fans. My hands were not made for a DS; after several races and missions, my thumb is score from holding down the “A” button (gas), and my hands feel cramped, which is a small price to pay for a couple of hours of fun.

I have only played a couple of 10 lap races, and worked my way past the first set of 1961 missions, which unlock A.J. Foyt, but I enjoyed the game enough to plan to spend some more time with it later this week. I am not sure if that is a testament to Indy 500, or more of a sign of my current gaming funk, which I suspect has been brought on in my dotage.

I am not sure if Indy 500 will have any sort of lasting appeal since it only includes a single track (Indy), but I think Indy 500 should provide a few hours of fun working my way through the various missions.


Random Saturday Gaming Links

Some random video gaming links for your reading pleasure …

The demise of a once proud franchise?
Bill Harris (Dubious Quality) on the possible demise of EA Sports NCAA Football (and possibly basketball) series:

Physics-based gameplay, an offensive style that is now common, and “authentic offensive styles of play” are possible additions to the game? WTF have you guys been developing for the last ten years? If you’ve been developing this game for ten damn years (at least) and teams aren’t ALREADY playing like they play in real life, then that’s a fail.

It would be disappointing to see the NCAA series get canned, but then again it has become rather stale. This year was the first time I completely passed up the game. EA Sports obviously has some work to do to recapture the magic and popularity of this once great franchise.

The Nintendo DS kicks core gamers in the nuts.
Eurogamer has this bit on the unexpected success of the all UK conquering Nintendo DS:

Bitter core gamers, annoyed at the invasion of their sacred domain by a host of newcomers, occasionally dismiss the DS in the same terms as they do the Wii – it’s your mother’s console, designed for the “casuals” and with nothing to appeal to real gamers. They miss the point. The DS has something for everyone, successfully filling almost every niche in the market – and it’s only by filling an enormous range of niches that a platform can ever truly become mass-market. Yes, the DS has fitness and brain training applications for the older generation, but it also has core games for the traditional market – and so much more besides. It has software for small children, for teenage girls, for language learners, for music fans, for tourists, for aspiring chefs and for everyone else in between.

Nintendo’s popularity is obviously at an all time high, and the DS (or its latest incarnation – the DSi) shows no sign of letting up anytime soon.

Holiday gift giving guide.
These things are typically a dime a dozen, but GameShark’s stand out thanks to Santa’s helper. She is very cute in a sexy sort of way, and all decked out for Christmas! I started to say that I would like to unwrap her for Christmas, but figured this is sometimes a family site.

HVB still alive and kicking
High Velocity Bowling has to be one of the better implemented motion sensor gamers on the PS3. The developers have done a damn good job of keeping the game fresh with cheap DLC (usually $0.99 a pop). If I break out my PS3 anytime soon for something other than movie watching, I am sure that HVB will get turn or two.

Sony slims down losses
An article that picked up shows that Sony is still taking a loss on the PS3 Slim. $37 per console sold adds up after a while. Prorated over 10 years (you know, the Sony lifetime achievement console plan) and things do not sound so gloom and doom for Sony after all. I should be a spin doctor.

Happy rainy Saturday!


Shopping deals on Blu-ray and video games.

Shopping was easy this year – my wife and I did almost everything exclusively by Amazon, which means we beat the crowds and got plenty of great deals.

I ordered my boys “replacement” Nintendo DS systems because 11 and 7 year-old boys cannot keep these things damage free for two years. I managed to snag my 7 year-old one of the sliver systems for a shade under $99, or about $30 off the regular price. There are also golf clubs and Nerf guns in their future!

Some combination of birthday, anniversary, and Christmas, will land me Dragon Age: Origins for PS3 ($34.99), and a whole host of Blu-ray movies – Braveheart Sapphire Edition ($10), Gladiator Extended and Theatrical Cut / Sapphire Edition ($10), X-Men Trilogy ($29.99), 300: The Complete Experience ($12.99 – but this one will not arrive until after Christmas). Blazing Saddles ($8.99 – this one is for date night after the kids are in bed; my wife loves this movie). So I have a lot of quality time in front of the boob-tube in my future!

Some of the lightning deals were fantastic – I snagged the X-Men Trilogy set (it sold out super fast), same for the sliver DS, and I got some great deals on jewelry for my wife (these sold out seemingly in seconds).

I started to get the kids DSi systems, but decided they probably do not need unsupervised access to the internet, and they have some GB Advanced games that they still play (DSi is not backwards compatible with the older, larger Advanced games).

All in all, it was a great couple of worry free, trouble free, no hassle shopping. Except for a few stocking stuffers, we are more or less done with Christmas shopping.

Happy Saturday!


Is portable gaming going the way of the dinosaur?

Will simple (and much cheaper) games available on the iPhone/iTouch eventually kill off portable gaming as we know it today? Will systems such as the PSP become a thing of the past? PS3Center has an interesting article on this topic.

Now here is the point of this article, what does Sony absolutely need to worry about in order to stay in this game? Firstly, make it easier for developers to make games for the PSP Go. A lot of developers are flocking towards the iPhone, because it’s so simple and easy to make money off of. Secondly, make sure to pay attention and listen to the fans when the time comes for PSP 2. We definitely need two joysticks, touch screen is almost a must, tilting the PSP via SixAxis of some sort is also very much needed, but to top things off it needs to stay portable like the Go.

Of course Nintendo is Nintendo; there will always be a GameBoy/DS type platform. Mario and company will live on forever. As for the rest, I wonder how long Sony will be able to maintain its current model. I have written often about how f’ed-up their decision was to do give a discount for games available via digital distribution. I thought that was going to be the hallmark of the PSPGo. Little did I realize that Sony would not see the light. If Sony is going to continue to find itself in the portable gaming market, they do have to make some changes, but before even considering a PSP2 they need to get their pricing model in line with gamers ever changing expectations.


Mario goes multiplayer.

IGN has posted a nice GamesCon 2009 New Super Mario Bros. hands-on impression article. Of particular interest is the multiplayer aspect of the game.

Which leads me to the single biggest improvement made to New Super Mario Bros. for Wii (over its DS predecessor, since let’s face it — these games are otherwise very similar): the four-player-compatible cooperative and competitive multiplayer mode. The title is frankly doubly engrossing when you play with a friend or two because you will find yourselves working against each other just as often as you team up to take on enemies and challenges from the Mushroom Kingdom. I played in Germany against Peer Schneider, former IGN Nintendo editor turned traitorous VP of content at our little network, and we were laughing and groaning as we both made like we were going to help each other out and then instead tried to sabotage one another’s characters. You can, of course, blast through levels as a comprehensive team, disposing of goombas simultaneously, planning jumps on the tops of each other’s heads to gain height, and so on. But if you play like Peer and I did, you will do just the opposite, picking each other up and trying to hurl one another off ledges, stealing away power-ups before the other can get at them, and even throwing koopa shells at each other on occasion.

Day one purchase for the kids, and of course dad needs to play with the kids. Nothing says fun like a new Mario game for the Wii.


Going, going, gone. Or another story on how Sony sucks eggs.

The only reason I am posting a link to this story from the escapist is because their content is always well written, provoking thought, and of course entertaining. But really, do we need another “Sony lost, blah, blah, blah …” story?

Only the Game Boy kept Nintendo in the race, while Sony led two hardware generations. It seemed immovable.

Then, a series of events brought Sony crashing down to earth. Microsoft released the Xbox 360 at the end of 2005 and enjoyed a full year as the sole next-gen console. When the PS3 eventually arrived, it did so practically in tandem with the epoch-making, zillion-selling, game-changing Wii.

On the handheld front, Sony’s attempt to remove Nintendo from its portable stronghold was equally disastrous. The PSP went head to head with the DS and came off far worse, hitting 50 million unit sales earlier this year as its rival reached 100 million.

Then the iPhone came along, but we won’t talk about that.

The article then goes on to talk about how news of the PSP Go was leaked prior to E3 and explains that third parties could give a rats ass about Sony. All true? Probably.

I did a write-up on this many moon ago; will have to see if I can dig up the original article. If anyone wants to write about Sony’s struggles, just lament back to the days of 3DO. The hardware was ahead of its time, and the price point was into the stratosphere as far as the average Joe was concerned. Oops, Sony failed to learn from history.

Playing second fiddle to Nintendo’s DS variations probably sucks for Sony, but when you consider the number of PSPs sold is 50+ million, that is a lot of opportunity to make some money. Even if the PS3 stays in third place for the remainder of this hardware generation (however that is defined) at some point I assume that Sony wins the high-def format war. Sony gets a little slice of paradise every time you double dip and purchase a Blu-ray upgrade to your DVD library.


Monday Gaming Stuff.

These days I get gaming in very small doses. The same goes for looking at videogame centric sites. Hell, I cannot remember the last time I even logged onto a videogame forum. Right now, that is just not my cup of tea. I have such little time to play games; I cannot be bothered to read about them, much less write about my gaming experiences.

What has changed over the last 18-24 months? Well, lots. For starters, I just realized that E3 was last week (maybe the week before last … not that I care). I also let my Official PlayStation Magazine subscription expire. I am not up to date on the latest Qore downloads. I have not preordered the twin football releases of NCAA Football 2010 and Madden 2010.

Things are different, but you will notice that I am actually writing about gaming. What gives? I still enjoy the hobby; I just do not find that much spare time – probably has something to do with work and having three boys. Usually real life events get my gaming jones churning. Last weekend, Le Mans got me into some video game racing. I even ordered a new game. Hmmm …

Over the weekend I started looking for a new racing game. I was really curious if a new F1 game was going to be published, but the best I can tell is that the PS3 version by Codemasters is either unconfirmed or cancelled. Oh, that was when I came across Ferrari Challenge. One thing led to another, and I started reading news about this that and the other, which was when I realized that I missed E3!

There was a time and place when that would never have happed. I even attended E3 years ago when it had a two year run in Atlanta. I realize that E3 is no longer as important as it once was, but it was a sort of reality check that I was so far removed from gaming that I did not give a shit that E3 had come and gone. Strange times …

One of the E3 related spin off bits that I read about this morning was the pricy new PSPgo. My PSP does nothing except collect dust, so a new PSP seems in order. I keep debating if I should sell mine and convert over to a Nintendo DSi, but I cannot convince myself to but bait and take a loss. At any rate, at first glance this newest revision of the PSP seems ill conceived. The system price point is too high, the game downloads are too expensive, and the downloaded selections are rather limited. This commentary from Sports Legends points out all these problems and more:

But the truth is that I would consider paying that much if, and only if, I knew my long term investment would pay off in lots of cool digital-only toys. If the PlayStation store was ready to go with lots of cool applications for the PSP, a system that screams for just such products, I wouldn’t even mind paying a little more for the really premium content. But, from Sony, nothing. It’s like putting a Porsche body on a Chrysler LeBaron and selling trying to sell it for $200,000.

To be blunt,if I’m on a budget I go with Nintendo’s continued DS juggernaut and if I’m looking for a technology novelty or vanity piece of hardware, I get an iPhone or iPod touch with access to an absolutely obscene amount of applications.

Love that Chrysler LeBaron quote! I had a good friend in college that could barely keep his LeBaron going, but man was he proud of that car.

Print magazines such as the Official PlayStation Magazine are antiquated. Except for quality reading time on the throne, I am not sure what they offer, but it still feels odd no longer having any video game magazine subscriptions. Well, I suppose that is not quite right because I do have a digital subscription to Qore. I think that one runs out in July or August, which gives me plenty of time to catch up on the last seven months of downloads.

I think the biggest nut chaser has to be that I have not bothered to order a 2010 EA football game release. I am somewhat torn here. First, do I have the time to take on a new football game, much less two? Second, do I really want to spend $120+ tax just to see if anything changes? Finally, do I try to get a few bucks for my 20th Anniversary Madden while it is still worth $15-20? I got rid of last year’s NCAA Football in enough time to collect close to half price, but it is far too late for last year’s Madden. The real travesty is that I am not even close to getting my $90 worth out of the Head Coach/Madden experience.

Finally, there is the whole “will it even work” thing that I have going against me. My PS3 is as fickle as a teenage school girl. Some days it plays discs, and others it just ignores my advances (err … you know what I mean … the drive will not read games, movies, etc). Right now I do not think I am going to bother sending it off for costly repairs. Replacing it with a new version that does not have the proper PS2 Emotion Engine emulation hardware does not seem like a good option. Besides all that, money for a system repair or system replacement would be better spent of a tailgating grill for the upcoming Falcons season.

So where does this leave us? I am not really sure, but this is a start.