Thursday, March 18, 2010


With the sudden announcement of SOCOM 4 for the Playstation 3, I suddenly find myself with old wounds being reopened. These wounds, caused by the train-wreck of a game SOCOM: Confrontation developed by Slant 6 (instead of SOCOM creators Zipper), were in fact pretty deep.

SOCOM: Confrontation appeared at my local store from out of nowhere. I recall being aware that a SOCOM game was in the works for the PS3, however i was under the impression it's release date wasn't anytime soon. I was shocked to find the game on the shelf as well as shocked at the apparent lack of warning from the video gaming press (i'm willing to meet everyone half way on this point, there's a chance i simply didn't notice any press on the release)... and most importantly there were NO reviews of the title before it's release.

I was not about to let any of this bother me, because after all, this was SOCOM! A Playstation franchise that's an automatic buy for MANY people. So i proceeded to pick up 2 copies with the premium Sony Blue Tooth mic - one for myself and one to surprise a friend for his birthday. That's a $120 blind buy. Based on the SOCOM name alone.

That first night of it's release i was unable to actually try the game - the servers were simply overloaded. The 2nd night i actually managed to get into a game... and thus began a long road of broken game play, server instability, glitches, and many times - the inability to actually get into a game. Slant 6 promised patches - which never seemed to fix as many issues as promised, and always introduced NEW issues. Long story short - S:C was released 10/14/2008 and it's STILL broken. To add insult to injury, Sony and Slant 6 released a map pack (timed with yet another patch) for $15.

Good luck with that Slant 6.

So now, much to my surprise, Sony has announced SOCOM 4, and it's under development by Zipper (the team responsible for creating the first bunch of SOCOM games and building up all the good will for the franchise).

Look, SOCOM 4 will sell like crazy on it's name alone. There is a small percentage of SOCOM fans who claim S:C is a great game. But i am not one of them. SOCOM 4 will not be a title i will purchase after the hell that was S:C. I am fully aware that one sale won't make a difference one way or another, but whatever, I'm done with SOCOM.

(HOWEVER - I'd be more than happy to do a 1:1 trade of S:C for a SOCOM 4 disk. You shipped me a broken game that still doesn't work, how about you replace it with a working game?)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Current Gaming

Hello and welcome to Pixelated Palace and it's inaugural post!

I love video games. I have for as far back as i can remember. My first gaming experience i remember was the old Atari 2600 my parents owned from before i was born. This machine and my parents modest collection of games built the foundation for my love of pretty much all things video game related. Through the years i have owned and loved game consoles from all the major players, and currently own a Wii, a Playstation 3 and an Xbox 360 (on the portable front i have a couple Nintendo DS and a few PSPs). I like to think that i'm not really biased towards one system or the other - but i am very biased towards good games.

In any case to kick things off i figured i'd write a little about what i am currently playing. In the interest of full disclosure, i am currently beta testing two games (one console and one pc) that i cannot and will not write about. These titles are currently taking away from my overall game playing time, but i'm always happy to participate in a beta program. I do attempt to split up my time evenly, but we all know sometimes you just get sucked into a title.

First up - a friend of mine reminded me of a somewhat rare Sega CD title that i had never gotten a chance to play - Snatcher. Designed by one of the top names in video games, Hideo Kojima, it's an homage to the cyberpunk and scifi stories and movies Kojima enjoys. Right off the bad the visual style for the game world and it's characters is *VERY* reminiscent of the classic Ridly Scott movie Blade Runner. The main character, Gillian Seed, even looks like a very young Deckard. It's story thus far is about these artificial life forms called Snatcher who happen to look like humans (a little bit of The Terminator here...) but have a robotic skeleton just under the skin.

This game is more like an interactive digital comic, as you move and progress and play the game via a series of menu options. There are parts where you'll be required to shoot at enemies on screen (either with the game pad or via the Konami light gun commonly found with Lethal Enforcers), but for the most part you are investigating, asking questions and watching cut scenes.

Unlike many Sega CD games of the time, this game was not a full motion video game. Just pure, glorious, 16bit era graphics with CD quality voice acting and music.

This is a great example of how the Sega CD should have been used (right up there with Sonic CD), and totally worth dusting off that Sega CD/Genesis you might have in your closet. I'll report back on this title as i progress.

Next up, the 800lb gorilla in the room - Final Fantasy 13 (Playstation 3). I've sunk in about 6 hours since picking this up Tuesday night, and the first thing to come to mind when i want to describe it is "Whoa".

I personally did not really care for Final Fantasy 12's battle system so i never finished it. FF11 was an MMO, and i simply was not into MMORPGs at the time, so i skipped that one. FF10 was fun from what i played, but my copy grew legs never to be seen again. Anyway enough rambling here - the last Final Fantasy game i really enjoyed was in fact 8. I know that i'm in the minority here but seriously, i loved 8. I don't understand the flak it gets.

Fast forward to last Tuesday, i found myself initially on the fence with FF13 but in the end decided to risk it. It's paid off. This is the RPG i have been pining for, for some time. The latest battle system is part something new, and part something old and familiar. The addition of the Paradigm Shift (it changes your party's job/role on the fly) is rather awesome. There are some other small tweaks to the game here and there (1 potion now heals the entire party!) that make the experience very fun. Another addition is "auto-battle", which seems like a way to get a first time FF player into the swing of things quickly. All in all, 6 hours in and this feels "right". It's Final Fantasy, but it's a new game and not just some pretty HD graphics slapped onto a dated battle system.

Do i really even need to gush about the graphics? It's Final Fantasy - of course they are amazing. This time around though, it's a lot harder to notice the switch from the cut scenes to the actual game engine. I am really impressed.

And that my friends is what i am playing right now.

So again - hello, welcome, i hope i have something to say that interests you. Thank you Pat for getting the mental gears moving on this little project. And thank you to all the video game companies and the software studios that make my hobby so much fun. I hope you're enjoying my money ;)

Till next time...