Thursday, May 25, 2006

If Guns Can Roar, Can Lions Shoot?

The "special something" alluded to last week is something I've handily managed to avoid over the course of the days following. Needless to say, but said anyway - that's not something in the cards for today's post.

As someone who keeps as close an eye on the scene as I do, it's nothing other than a damn shame that it's taken me so long to get around to playing Kenta Cho's latest game, Gunroar. It's a mystery to me how one man can consistently create some of the best shooters I've ever encountered, but it's not necessarily one I'd like to see solved. All the Cho trademarks are in place: Abstract blocky yet startlingly beautiful graphics? Check. Crazy music? Check. Frequent boss battles? Check.

While I'm not sure yet if it's going to claim the place of my favorite of the "series", Gunroar is most definitely a strong contender. For the first time in a Kenta Cho game, the element of cover has been introduced in the form of islands scattered about the vertically scrolling levels, complete with emplaced weaponry. This seemingly inconsequential new element gives the shooting a much more tactical feel, as the islands do block shots.

You'll be warned of enemy ships from a distance, as you see their red tracking beams long before you see the ships themselves. Not only is this incredibly handy when the difficulty picks up, it's a nice looking effect as well. In fact, Gunroar may be Kenta Cho's best looking game yet, a fact not to be understated when discussing someone with such an impressive body of work under their belt. Particle effects fill the screen so completely that, at times, you may briefly become confused as to where on the screen your ship is. Luckily, in my time playing, this never became an issue that effected playability.

There are a large number of control schemes available, including gamepad support. The mode I found worked best for me was the "mouse" control scheme, which basically lets you control the game as you would a first person shooter - the WASD keys control movement and the mouse controls aiming.

If you enjoy shooters at all, and have an OpenGL capable videocard, do yourself a favor and download this game. It's only 5.5mb, so even the slowest dialup can fetch this game with ease. If this is your first Kenta Cho shooter, be warned, you'll probably download the rest immediately after trying Gunroar.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Wii-bles Wobble, But They Don't Fall Down

Weeks without posts are starting to become routine around here, but let me assure you, I'm not exactly happy about the current state of affairs. Last week I was still halfheartedly absorbing the E3 coverage, and the only game I'd played all week was the latest alpha of OpenArena, which is in such an alpha state that it didn't really deserve it's own post. Anyway, more on that later.

As I'm sure most folks are aware, Nintendo's Wii had a good time at E3 - enough so that people aren't talking exclusively about the name anymore, but not enough to stop people from dubbing the controller the "Wiimote". I've got to say, over the past week my opinion of the system has shifted from something I was merely keeping an eye on, to something I'm genuinely interested in. If the price point is as low as some people are speculating, I'm even more interested. There's just the one problem, something I was discussing with a friend the other day - I'm not a kid anymore.

When I'm gaming, my primary reason for doing do is to relax. My days of jumping around like someone being stung by bees on the mat that came with the NES Track and Field game are, how do you say, over. I really can't see myself standing ready for battle, sweat on my brow, swinging the controller, shouting "Hyah!", or "Take that!" with each thrust of my pseudo-sword. It's something my neighbors could probably do without as well, especially since I do most of my gaming at night. I suppose we'll see. If the same results can be achieved in a more relaxed fashion, I'll really be inclined to take a look at the system.

I mentioned OpenArena at the top of the post, or rather, I mentioned it's un-postworthy-ness. I suppose, coming from the Linux world, I'm used to the possibility of things labeled alpha being usable. OpenArena is not one of these pieces of software yet. It has a lofty goal for sure - to (as the name implies) implement a completely free (as in freedom) version of Quake 3: Arena. Hey, I'm all for that. But, for now, there's just not a whole lot there. I'm in no way writing the game off, and I'll revisit it again for sure, but there's just not much you can do with the game in it's current state.

Well, that's about all I've got prepared for this week. I've been planning on doing a "special feature" of sorts for the past few months, but it keeps getting sidetracked. Seeing as the loyal people still reading after all the missed posts deserve something special, I'm going to try to pull it together for next week. See, AYE is pretty much a "Oh crap, it's Thursday, what the hell am I going to write about?" thing most of the time, and this is going to take a bit more time than that. Anyway, if it's not up next week, it is on the way, so stay tuned.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Two To The Uh Oh

Once again, apologies are in order due to two weeks of missed posts. Every time update day has come around I've felt like a wet sack of sick - something that doesn't exactly manage to put me in the prime mood for posting. Anyway, enough of that. The linux installer for the 2.0 version of Glest came out on Monday, so I figured I'd give it a whirl and try out the new techs/units.

Although both factions have received some fancy new units and tech upgrades, a lot of the focus seems to have gone towards the Magic faction. It definitely needed it. Previously, Magic was a heck of a lot harder to win a game with than Tech - now it's just somewhat harder. Units still don't seem to stand head to head with the opposite faction's rough equivalents - the new Golems are too slow to be of any use (they're basically defense structures that can move), Drake Riders seem to keel over nearly instantly, and the new Daemons (whatever the hell comes from a Wicker Daemon, I can't remember the name at the moment) don't seem much stronger than their lower-class brethren.

Still, it's the same old Glest we've come to know and love. Maybe a bit too much so, considering this is not a point release upgrade. I'd have loved to see more new maps, maybe a new tileset, and maybe some refinement in the pathfinding code. Hang on a second, what's that other thing? That thing I can hear people screaming off in the distance? Oh yeah. Multiplayer. Actually, I don't give a rat's ass (or any other part of it, for that matter) about multiplayer. Maybe I will when I stop getting my ass handed to me by the (non-Ultra mode) AI.

That handily brings me around to a subject that I've managed to safely avoid over the course of the 2+ years I've been doing AYE - I absolutely suck at real time strategy games. How I still suck at one of my favorite genres is a complete mystery to me. Turn based, that I can handle - I know my way all around Alpha Centauri; Final Fantasy Tactics is like taking candy from a baby; whatever Wesnoth (the AI, not other people) throws at me, I can handle. Change the "T" to an "R", and suddenly I'm curled up in the fetal position on the floor as flames cover the entire viewing area on my monitor, tiny enemy tanks rumbling over the ruins of my base, pissing on my corpse.

I don't know why I continue to take the abuse, but I know that I do. As long as there are games like Glest around to drag me through the dirt - I'll cough it up, wipe the blood from my chin, and grab back on. Keep up the good work, folks.