games

Halo 2 Vista delayed again

Halo 2
Halo 2

Interestingly enough, reports are now surfacing that nudity is the cause for Halo 2 PC release. In an email statement received by Next-Generation, Microsoft said, “It has come to our attention that an unfortunate, obscure content error which includes partial nudity was included in our initial production of “Halo 2” for Windows Vista. As such, we have updated the initial game packaging at retailers with a label, so customers are aware before purchasing the game. Additionally, we’ve developed an online update which can be downloaded from www.halo2.com to remove the content. At Microsoft we take the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) guidelines very seriously and hold ourselves to high standards, with our customers always in mind.”
- Source

If there's ever a reason to delay a game recently, it's for this sole reason. Hell, if I was in charge of a dev team and we found nudity (even if accidental) in our product I would make damn sure it wasn't in the final retail release. Before the whole Hot Coffee deal this would have been a funny little Easter egg.

Maybe "Nudity" is going to be the new "Dog ate my homework" excuse for game devs.
"Why is Half-Life 3 being pushed back 2 years? Uhh... nudity!" and nobody asks any questions.

Halo 2: Vista was supposed to be released on the 8th of May, and be the debut game for the Games for Windows system. It then got pushed back to the 22nd. Now that it's been pushed back to the 31st, Shadowrun, another highly anticipated game will be the debut game for Games for Windows, being released on May 29. I think this is a pretty big deal, because being the debut game for Games for Windows was really the only thing Halo 2 Vista had going for it. Now it's just another Halo port.

Funnily enough, when Halo 2 Vista didn't arrive on the 22nd, nobody really cared. I don't think anyone would have noticed until Microsoft released the revised date.

I'm still looking forward to playing it. I'm not much of a console gamer and as such haven't even played Halo 2 yet. I enjoyed Halo very much (on both Xbox and PC) and am looking forward to kicking some Combine Covenant arse.

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games

S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Texas Ranger

Rainbow Six: Vegas was the game that made me switch back to XP, at least for games.
Before playing Vegas, I was gaming on Vista. Vegas kept crashing at various points (which is very frustrating considering you can't save) so I pissed it off when Stalker came. So that means, unlike my previous game reviews, this game will be running on a fully capable, up-to-date XP Machine, not a dodgy, broken, stuttery Vista machine.

The World Awaits
The World Awaits

First off, the graphics are beautiful. The game looks awful in just about every screenshot I've seen of it, yet in motion it really does look amazing. The FMVs are also beautiful, and have an awesome style that really suits the game. I started off with a nice and smooth 80FPS, the lowest I got in the beginning area was around 40 during a fire-fight. However after a while it slowly started to decrease, and the average I get now is around 30. During hardcore fire-fight with lots of lighting and shit the lowest I got was around 12, and it didn't stay there for long. And I must say, by the way, whatever engine they're using has perfected dynamic lighting. This is the first game I can honestly say that I didn't lose a single frame when several guys all with flash-lights on their heads (mine included) ran through an underground area, their lights moving the shadows of the near-by objects around the room. Ace job, guys.
Sometimes the game appears to finish loading the level before it's actually finished loading the level. So I'm running around while it's still loading, bringing my FPS down to 2-5 while my CPU is furiously spinning away doing complex mathematical equations for a few minutes before finally settling back to normal. I'm not sure if this is related or not, but several times I've had enemies spawn in large groups right in front of me. I'll just be walking along minding my own business then suddenly the game stops for a second and the next thing I know there's 10 or 20 bandits all shooting at me, or a dozen or two wolves gnashing at my feet.
I booted in to Vista for shits and giggles to try this game, receiving a frame or two every other second. The most I got was eight at one point. Exact same settings as they were in XP. I don't think I'll be gaming in Vista for a long time.

The one thing this game lacks? Alternate methods of transportation. We're talking about a LARGE fuckin' world here. They expect me to walk everywhere. I can run, but I get easily exhausted, and every two minutes I have to stop to recover my energy. One of the big features of the game when it was in development was the vehicles. You could find jeeps and shit and drive them around the place. Oh God how that would help. Or at least some kind of quick-travel feature like Oblivion. But no. I need to walk everywhere. I got so sick of it I downloaded a trainer specifically for the unlimited run function.

gloomy post-apocalyptica
gloomy post-apocalyptica

The game is full of bugs. I've only been playing for a little over a day but I've already had to back-track a save twice because obscure bugs rendering my saves unplayable. The first time I loaded my game and I was stuck inside a wall. Clearly I didn't save there, at least I don't remember saving there, and there's no clipping cheat to get out of it as far as I can tell. The most recent time I saved inside a building, and one of the NPCs lodged itself in the only door leading out. This game isn't like Half-Life or Oblivion either, where NPCs will move out of your way if you push them around. No, this guy was quite content in blocking the only door out of the building. Several times throughout my game I've had to wait for NPCs to get out the way of doors.

Speaking of NPC bugs, the biggest and most frustrating bug this game has is the repeating voices bug.
Walk in to The Bar and you'll see exactly what I mean.

Guy 1: Get out of here, Stalker!
Guy 2: Why won't someone help me?
Guy 1: Get out of here, Stalker!
Guy 4: Don't just stand there, I said come in!
Guy 3: Psst! Come over here!
Guy 3: Hey! I've got some information you...
Guy 1: Get out of here, Stalker!
Guy 3: .. could benefit from!
Guy 2: Why won't someone help me?
Guy 3: Psst! Come over here!
Guy 4: Don't just stand there, I said come in!
Guy 4: Don't just stand there, I said come in!
Guy 1: Get out of here, Stalker!
Guy 4: Don't just stand there, I said come in!
Guy 4: Don't just stand there, I said come in!
Guy 4: Don't just stand there, I said come in!
Guy 2: Why won't someone help me?

If it weren't for the strong presence of enforcers I would kill them all.
Apparently there's a mod to fix this, but it's pretty lame that we have to rely on a mod to fix quite a considerably annoying issue.

When you decide to physicalise everything in the game, you're going to have the same problem Half-Life 2 has. Debris blocking you. Run along the road and hit some debris, and you're going to stop, or launch off the ground at mach-5 speeds. Sure that's understandable, I mean, how much debris could there be on the roads? Just wait until you start creeping around dungeons. There is shit everywhere. I've also managed to kill myself by running directly in to a barrel. I was running and I guess I hit some debris, which launched me in to the air a bit (1 or 2cm, nothing noticable), and when I hit the barrel it hurt me so much I died. Games have a long way to go before physics are perfected.

I've come across a not-so-unique bug. I can't finish the game properly. I can't get the "true" ending. You get the true ending by following the main quest, and then getting a triggered special quest "Find Guide", where you basically have to find a Stalker named Guide. I've searched around and I'm not alone, quite a lot of people have run in to this bug.
I believe my problem is that one of the main quests wasn't properly cleared. It was still in the "active quests" section of my PDA. The quest had me go down in to a sewer area and find a secret stash of stuff. After I did that I was supposed to exit the sewer, so I did, I went back the same way I came in, talked to the guys at the top and figured the quest was done. NOT SO! Apparently the game wanted me to go out a different way. I was supposed to go further in to the underground area, kill some more guys, kill a big mutant freak thing and then find the exit there. This wasn't told to me though, I only figured this out after exploring the sewers again later and finding the other exit. Upon exiting, sure enough "Task Complete!". Because I've done several other main storyline quests before properly finishing this one I can't get trigger the "Find Guide" quest.
I've actually had to figure a lot out on my own, things that weren't told to me at all throughout the game. Like what those flashy numbers mean under my radar. At first I thought it was some kind of radiation level indicater. It's a "contact" (other Stalkers) counter.

The church of DEATH
The church of DEATH

I don't think I've said one nice thing yet. The game area is massive, but a little repetitive. Wait. Nice! Think happy thoughts! What did I like about this game? It was entertaining. I think the bugs and issues really outweigh the good though. The biggest issue I have is really the method of travelling. And the fact that I keep getting random quests from people that I've never spoken to. I'll be walking along and then a giant "KILL BANDITS AT SOME CAMP OVER THERE" pops up and I have 1 Day to complete it or I FAIL it. Where the fuck is this camp and why do I care that bandits are attacking them? Furthermore, why do you assume I have time to help you defend you're stupid arse camp. If I don't do it I get a giant message flash on my screen "TASK FAILED!" like I just shot your dog or something. Like I care that you can't defend your stupid camp on your own. Speaking of warring camps, I find it cool that there are constant wars between rival groups. Like one time I was going past this building and there were several neutral Stalkers there, and when I come past the next day there's a heap of hostile ones that had apparently taken over the place. Another time I walked past the same place and saw the neutrals had taken over it again, and the hostiles were coming in to attack.

My final issue is the patches. A version 1.00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001 patch has been released. It's a very minor patch, according to the version number, yet if I apply this patch, every save I have with the retail version (1.0) will be rendered obsolete and non-functional. Bravo!

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games

Episodic

Half-Life 2: Episode 2: Vapourware
Vapourware

Valve have really dropped the ball with their "episodes".
SiN: Episode One was released, what? Two and half decades ago? Sounds about right. I can't even remember when Half-Life 2: Episode One was released.
Recently Valve announced that Half-Life 2: Episode 2 will be pushed back until the end of the year. That's over a year between episodes one and two.

The whole idea behind episodic content was that there were supposed to be constant game releases with short development times between, a month or two, three at the most.
First you create the initial game. In this case, Half-Life 2. Half-Life 2 brings the engine, the sounds, the models, textures and everything else. Then the episodes come, short bursts of gameplay that bring new levels and further the story. Maybe throw in a new weapon or enemy every few episodes. Like short little mods.

Sam and Max 03 - Being Dead Is Boring
Being Dead Is Boring

Now let's take a look at someone else. Telltale Games. The developers of the new breed of Sam and Max games. Also in episodic form. Yesterday they released the third episode in as many months (not including December which they took off for the holidays). They are following the rules of episodic content to perfection. These are short games, released every month that continue an overall arc, but have self-contained plots themselves.
And, might I add, they are doing an amazing job with Sam and Max. Great games, so much fun.

There are two theories that I have as to why Valve can't keep releasing their episodes on time.
First, I think maybe they've set their standard too high. Taking so long to create Half-Life 2, which isn't the longest game in the world, they probably can't even meet their own standards.
My other theory is maybe they've piled on too much work for themselves. Episode 2 was to come in package containing not only the episode but two other mods, Team Fortress 2 and Portal. Maybe they just can't get it all done in time.
Either way I think it's about time they remove the "episode" and "episodic" labels from the game. It's not episodic.
It's an expansion pack.

I don't think even the devs know when SiN Episode 2 is coming out. I wonder if they are even working on it. I wonder if anyone's even wondering where the second episode is? Probably not.
Well, I guess I was. Just then.

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games

Infernal Demo

Pretty Effects
Pretty Effects

This game is pretty slick. From what I understand from the in-game banter, your character has been given various supernatural power by your boss, who goes by the name of... Boss. I'm not sure why he's given you these powers, or why I'm going around killing various mercenaries and monks, and to be honest, I don't really care, this is fun! Screw storyline or plot when you have gameplay as great as this.

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games

Hitman: Bloody Awesome

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Careful, the floor is wet!

Update!
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