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Sunday, January 10, 2010


With MAG doing an open beta this week (through today), me being a shooter fan, having access to a PS3, and wanting to see if they could pull off 128v128 online play, I spent some time tooling around the game.

Brass tacks is the game has tremendous promise, and I hope people look at for what it is: A PS3-exclusive massive military-based shooter, who's promise lies in its premise -- a large-scale game where squad combat and communication is key to success (and having fun).

That's where the game fell down a bit for me. Since friends and I were trying the game, and not everyone had a bluetooth headset, we actually used our Xboxes and party chat to stay in sync as we played the game on the PS3. Irony aside, this helped us keep tabs on each other and at least try to work in tandem between us to accomplish the goals (basically a Team Fortress or Modern Warfare version of "sabatoge" / "demolition"). Other people in our squad ... not so much.

This is a game where coordination and cooperation are key to winning; you can't be a lone wolf without getting yourself killed, everyone else killed, and failing the mission. Unlike some competing titles, it also allows friendly fire, so we had some dillweeds in our sessions that were running around killing everyone, friend or foe, really marring the experience.

But it was still an engaging experience; while you have to scale up to 128v128 (the demo may have gone up to 64v, but it may have been just 32 in our sessions), large-scale combat and frenzy felt really good -- an evolution over EA's Battlefield franchise.

People will make inevitable comparisons to Modern Warfare 2, the current reigning online military-themed juggernaut -- but that's unfair. Because of its shear scale, MAG will not have the graphical fidelity of the smaller scale competitor, though that won't excuse any gimped gameplay. It's also single platform, so it won't have the gamer penetration of the every-platform MW2.

Jumping into a game was wicked quick -- a welcomed change from losing entire Friends lists in Modern Warfare as people go do other things waiting to connect to a session. I think that comes at a tradeoff to any genuine skill level matching, though, as I (as a level 1-3) was getting matched against level 22-24s who had been playing all week -- and they had waaaay better guns.

The other thing I'm concerned about is how they're hiding lag in online play. The game felt smooth and lag free, but I found myself emptying 5 rounds from a sniper almost point-blank into an enemy's noggin, then have him stand up and cap me with a single shot. I like to know when I'm lagging, so I can compensate.

Overall, the game has great promise, and I'm looking forward to how the shipping version addresses problems and feedback from the beta, though since the game launches at the end of this month, improvements will likely be limited to the server side of the product.

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Sunday, January 03, 2010

Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

I've been playing Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks since it came out, and I'm pretty sold on it.

It's a great little adventurer that fits into the Zelda canon, with intuitive but clever puzzles that are for the most part challenging without being frustrating. It's got the trademark fun and humor inherent with the franchise (Princess Zelda is particularly a hoot).

I'll save my larger write-up for when I'm further into (or finishing) the game, but there are a couple of rocky spots in Hyrule.

First, I'm not all that thrilled with the train mechanic. It feels gimmicky, and while core to the story, I wonder if it was a good design choice, or maybe fast travel has ruined me and my patience.

Second, I dislike requiring the stylus to make a player move, because it gets in the way of being able to see what's happening on screen. I like having the D-pad as an option to move around the screen, and since there are (at least right now) unused buttons that could be assigned to the map and menu screens, using the D-pad for these functions (and requiring the stylus for movement) feel like forcing the DS mechanics for the sake of enforcing the DS mechanics.

Lastly (for now), the sketchy directional control of upgrades like the whirlwind are sucky at best, causing frustrating battle moments and required replays. Not fun.

But these are nits compared to the overall game, and that's why I call them out -- the whole game is great, so these shortcomings shouldn't be seen as taking away from the overall experience.

More later ....

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