Sunday, September 30, 2007

Chris Redfield in Resident Evil 4?

Well, with a catch.

I found these videos of a player using a Chris Redfield mod for the PC version of Resident Evil 4 on Youtube and thought it was amusing. This is during the Krauser fight so beware of SPOILERS if you haven't played RE4 yet.

Part 1

Part 2

Take a look at that chainsaw knife!

I'm quite amazed at how well the Chris Redfield model fits. Besides Krauser yelling Leon's name, it looks very natural.

There are actually a few more if you look around, such as this one.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Shadow of the Colossus - Current Gaming

Every now and then, a game is released that I will ignore because of the constant hype and praise that the game receives. I don't know, it seems to lower my interest at times when some games receive too much praise and they don't fall under the categories that I generally rush out and buy.

Anyway, after about 2 years of putting it off, I finally played a copy of Shadow of the Colossus that I picked up about a month ago. The introduction was ok and fairly normal, but then I moved the camera around for the first time. Good lord, the level of detail in the backgrounds and environments for this game is fantastic! I'm quite amazed at the sense of scale while fighting the colossi also - it definitely helps to make them feel more epic.

The only problem that I have had is some minor problems with finding the next colossus at times, but this is only minimal. So far, I haven't had to resort to a walkthrough. There are a few colossi that I was totally puzzled with until the colossus made a certain move then everything clicked on the method of beating him. I think the third colossus was the one that had me quite puzzled until I found out how to weaken him.

So far, I'm up to the 15th Colossus. Very good game so far. Glad that I finally decided to play it!

Now I need to go and grab Okami and Katamari Damacy since I've been putting them off for the same reason.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Poll #2 - Upcoming Games

Quite a few interesting games will be released within the coming months. Which ones are you planning on picking up?

Here's my thoughts on the game's listed in the poll:

-- Assassin's Creed

I'm interested in this, but I'll only get it if I have enough when it is released. Really I could see myself doing without this game for this year. I'm a little undecided at the moment.

[ ] Buy [X] Maybe [ ] No Buy

-- Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

War games are not my cup of tea.

[ ] Buy [ ] Maybe [X] No Buy

-- Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles

From the moment it was announced, I have planned on picking this up. A Dracula X 3-D remake, the original Dracula X, and a (supposedly) enhanced Symphony of the Night. What's not to love if you're a Castlevania fan?!

[X] Buy [ ] Maybe [ ] No Buy

-- Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings

Even though I love FFXII a bunch, I probably won't be picking this up.

[ ] Buy [ ] Maybe [X] No Buy

-- Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions

It's hard not to get this since I absolutely love the original FFT. I'm still deciding on this one.

[ ] Buy [X] Maybe [ ] No Buy

-- Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction

No PS3 and also I don't really like the Ratchet games that much from what I've played of them.

[ ] Buy [ ] Maybe [X] No Buy

-- Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles

Partially the reason why I bought the Wii. All other games will be put aside when this is in my Wii console. An extremely positive buy.

[X] Buy [ ] Maybe [ ] No Buy

-- Silent Hill Origins

A definite buy. I haven't watched too many trailers for this so it will be all new to me. I just hope that the lack of a second analog doesn't mess up the experience of the game. I have a feeling that it won't, but you never know.

[X] Buy [ ] Maybe [ ] No Buy

-- Super Mario Galaxy

If I do buy another Wii game this year then it will most likely be this, but at the moment I don't plan on buying it.

[ ] Buy [X] Maybe [ ] No Buy

-- Super Smash Bros. Brawl

I'm not much of a fan of multiplayer games, I guess since I don't have many people to play games with, but even if I did, I still prefer a single player experience over all else, so Brawl doesn't interest me that much. I still haven't played Super Smash Bros. Melee yet.

[ ] Buy [ ] Maybe [X] No Buy

-- Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow

Before playing Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror, this release didn't even cross my mind. After playing Dark Mirror, I would love to try this out if I have the extra money to afford it (while still holding onto enough for the main games that I want). The story to this one looks very interesting judging from the trailers that I have seen.

[ ] Buy [X] Maybe [ ] No Buy

-- The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

To be honest, I am tired of Zelda games. Twilight Princess was great, but they just don't interest me like they used to. I actually enjoyed Wind Waker more than Twilight Princess, so Phantom Hourglass may be somewhat enjoyable, but I'd rather just skip it.

[ ] Buy [ ] Maybe [X] No Buy

-- The Orange Box [Half-Life 2]

I heavily enjoyed Half-Life 2 on my first time through and this is really one of the best $60 buys that I see for the 360 this year, but then there's Virtua Fighter 5 there too, and I want to make sure to have enough cash for that. I may try to get this later in the year though, but not on release date.

[ ] Buy [X] Maybe [ ] No Buy

-- Uncharted: Drake's Fortune

If I had a PS3 then I would be excited about this game. It looks really fun and it's from the makers of the Jak and Daxter series, which I enjoyed quite a bunch!

[ ] Buy [ ] Maybe [X] No Buy

-- Virtua Fighter 5

I must have this. I wanted it during the summer when it was delayed and I still want it just as bad right now. This game needs to release so I can satisfy my fighting game needs. It needs to release now.

[X] Buy [ ] Maybe [ ] No Buy

EDIT: Forgot to list Mass Effect (X360) on the poll and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (Wii) for the Europe readers.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Poll #1 - Results

I went ahead and ended the poll to the side. I kind of get the point as to the feelings of a good chunk of site visitors - a bunch of you like Final Fantasy, and for good reason, since FFXII is truly a wonderful game.

Here's the final results:

Out of all of my recent guides, which one do you feel is the most helpful?

Dead Rising - 01 (5%)
Final Fantasy XII - 11 (61%)
God of War II - 00 (0%)
Lost Planet - 00 (0%)
Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition - 03 (16%)
Tomb Raider Anniversary - 00 (0%)
They all helped me out. - 03 (16%)
None of them. They all fail. - 00 (0%)

Votes: 18

That's about 17 votes more than I thought I would get! Very nice.

Big thanks to everyone that voted!

Since Final Fantasy XII dominated the charts, I've since started updating that guide again and will try to complete it fully this year like I mentioned in the post below. I'm on the Loot list right now that will list all the ways to obtain every piece of loot. Once that list is finished the rest should be a breeze. Well, for the most part.

I'm still not done proofing that RE4 guide either, although that's about all that is left to do there.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror (PS2) - Review

- this review originally posted on Gamers' Temple

Syphon Filter's first PS2 outing was an online game that offered little of a single player experience reminiscent of the rest of the Syphon Filter series. Later Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror was released for the PSP and achieved high-level status for its interesting story and online multiplayer gameplay. Now Dark Mirror has been brought over to the PS2 but this is no mere straight port like GTA. The PS2 version drops the online multiplayer and adds enhanced graphics as well as enhanced controls.

The story of Syphon Filter throws around many names and organizations and takes Gabe to numerous areas of the world. To summarize the basics of the plot, a para-military group known as "Red Section" uncovers a project known as Dark Mirror. Gabe Logan, along with his partner Lian Xing, is sent to several destinations around the world to infiltrate this group. The story builds with each mission until ultimately the key players are exposed then the plot really takes off for the remainder of the game. It delves a lot more into Gabe's past than one might expect as the main story progresses.

Dark Mirror features a training mode, story mode, and mission mode. Training mode allows a player to get the feel of the gameplay and I would highly recommend starting with this mode since the game doesn't really teach the basics during the story mode. Story mode is the basic single player experience of Dark Mirror. Once each mission in story mode is completed, that mission will be added to mission mode and can be replayed at any time.

Each story mission has a set of objectives that must be completed and will usually offer a checkpoint once each objective is fulfilled. Once each mission is complete the game will automatically autosave then load the next mission. "Hidden Evidence" is strewn throughout each level and can be optionally found to unlock a few bonus extras per mission. There is also a ranking system that judges Gabe based on his approach taken to finishing a level (such as stealth kills, knife kills, certain weapon use, etc.) and this can lead to unlocking a bunch of extra weapons and content.

The gameplay itself is loaded with tons of action, but there are still plenty of stealth opportunities. It's basically up to the player how to handle a situation most of the time. The gunfights in Dark Mirror can get very intense with the smart enemy AI. The enemies can run, climb, use ziplines, and roll all while in pursuit, so most of the time they don't just sit and wait to be shot.

To let you know what this enemy AI is like, one time, I was on the first floor and a guard started to fire at me from the second floor walkway near a column. I quickly crouch and take cover behind the side of a bar table. When I pop out to fire at him from my cover, he quickly moves back behind the column. I think to myself, "OK, I'll just pop him when he decides to shoot again". Well, he darted out from behind the column and ran behind the column across from him then actually ran to the side of the second floor that was up above me and started to fire from the railing. The enemy AI starts to become more aggressive and smarter later in the game such as this little example - they try to take cover as much as possible and can be surprising with their actions.

Shootouts often force Gabe to take cover behind a crate or wall and wait for a chance to shoot during the constant gunfire from the other end. And these shootouts can get quite intense at times making enemy encounters very enjoyable. The levels are set up to where there is almost always an opportunity to take cover behind a wall or other object. While flattened against a wall, Gabe can peak out just a bit and get a steady aim on any advancing enemy then jump out and fire once the target is pinpointed, which works well for quick headshots.

Dark Mirror uses the ragdoll physics engine, so bodies will fly quite easily from gunfire. Shooting enemies in the legs can cripple them - they will actually hobble or move slowly toward Gabe when he shoots them as such. The familiar headshot can still take out just about any enemy in one hit.

There is quite a bit of variety within the shooting action. There are a few escort missions, boss fights, collection missions, and even a few platforming areas - such as grabbing a ledge to move across a gap or climbing some boxes to get up to a high walkway.

The escort missions don't get frustrating like in a few other action games. The allies will listen to commands that can be issued out by Gabe and there are some allies that will run ahead of Gabe and try to take on a situation by themselves. Fortunately Gabe can heal his allies so escort missions never really are annoying like they could be. The ally AI is usually pretty smart and the escort missions are spread out enough to offer variety when needed, so they don't overstay their welcome.

The PSP version used it's four face buttons to control the camera at all times and had a lock-on button (L1) since it was hard to pinpoint shots at times but thanks to the second analog on the PS2 version players can easily make a precise shot at any time by simply moving the right analog without even needing a lock-on button. The aiming icon is always displayed on the screen while moving, so just aim with the right analog and shoot while moving or standing still. The L1 button on the PS2 version provides an over-shoulder view while aiming instead of a lock-on like in the PSP version. Overall, the control setup on the PS2 version feels much more comfortable, allowing one to maintain a greater focus on avoiding and taking cover instead of constant precise targeting.

Gun variety is extremely detailed in Dark Mirror, even more so than past Syphon Filters. There is a whole onslaught of guns to choose from throughout the main game and there are quite a few of unlockable firearms as well. Many guns can be changed to a different setting (such as fully automatic or single fire) or can be loaded with a different type of ammo (such as normal shots, explosive, gas). There is a bunch of variety in the weapons though Gabe can only hold a few at a time. His main inventory is composed of a pistol, automatic weapon, grenade, rifle, heavy weapon, bare hands (fists, knife, taser) - he can carry one of each of those types of weapons.

Gabe now has grapple moves that can help with stealth situations such as a neck break or throat slash much like in Omega Strain. He can also performs melee attacks on enemies from up close, so while advancing toward an enemy - say, when Gabe is out of bullets and needs to reload - he can hit the enemy with the back of his gun, reload, then shoot the grounded enemy before that enemy recovers.

Along with all the extra weapons and combat techniques, Gabe has thermal goggles, EDSU goggles, and the familiar night vision goggles. EDSU goggles allow you to see objects that can be interacted with in the environments. These really help out quite a bunch when you're stuck in a level. All of the headgear is used quite a bit throughout the game. I use the thermal goggles for almost all shootouts since the enemies are usually far away and this helps to make them much more visible.

As already mentioned, the PS2 version offers minor enhancements for the overall environments and character models. All character models and overall environments are sharper and cleaner than the PSP version. The textures for the characters aren't quite up to par with more recent PS2 games, most notably in the faces - this is just about the only area that helps to reveal the fact that this was a PSP game. The controlled character still has that strange lean when he/she runs that is shown in all Syphon Filter games, but it seems much more realistic than the leaning in Omega Strain or previous games in the series.

The environments are rendered very well for a PS2 game and remain solid without any glitching or breaking of polygons. The lighting effects look realistic in the environments, but the flashlight that Gabe can use could have much better lighting effects overall. Instead of lighting up a wall it only seems to project a massive white circle and provides little lighting for the object it is pointed at. The flashlight looked normal in the PSP version and offered actual lighting effects that would light up a dark room, but in the PS2 version the flashlight is rather useless.

The PSP version had a "Mature Audience" rating and the PS2 version has a "Teen" rating. The blood and taser fire (fire resulting from prolonged taser shock) have been removed from the PS2 version in favor of a lower rating. The blood is barely even noticed to be missing from a neck slice or from gunfire since there wasn't that much in the PSP version to begin with, but the taser fire is a bit of a let down. At times, enemies would actually run toward Gabe while on fire after a tasering overload in the PSP version, but they only spasm and fall at all times in the PS2 version. For all other burnings, the bodies simply turn black and smoke a bit.

The sound has many techno tracks and epic scores that help to boost excitement during shootouts or boss fights. Voices seem to fit all the characters rather well. Gabe remains fairly emotionless throughout most of the cutscenes - basically the way his character is almost always portrayed in other Syphon Filters and the way you would expect him to sound.

Dark Mirror is just about everything that you would expect from a solid PS2 game. Whether it is bought on PSP or PS2 this game deserves to be played by an action fan or, for sure, by any fan of the Syphon Filter series. In all honesty, I am not that big of a Syphon Filter fan but this game had me hooked from beginning to end and I even wanted to replay it to unlock hidden content once I was done.

Owners with a PSP and a PS2 that plan to pick up Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror need to decide whether they want a portable version with a multiplayer mode or if they want the full single player experience complete with enhanced graphics and controls. The camera controls for PSP version are not near as bad as one might expect for a PSP game since it uses the face buttons to move the camera, but the right analog still has a more natural feel to it in the case of the PS2 version and it doesn't need an auto-aim whatsoever to compensate for any lack of aiming. Even though the PS2 version drops the multiplayer, the enhanced graphics and (mainly) enhanced controls make the single player experience much better than its PSP counterpart. Whichever version is chosen, Dark Mirror will deliver one of the best action/shooter/stealth experiences out there for either console.

The Good

+ enhanced graphics that match the PS2 rather well (especially environments)
+ enhanced controls that make aiming much more precise than it was in the PSP version
+ engaging story
+ fitting sound that sounds really good with surround speakers

The Bad

- character models aren't quite up to par with current PS2 releases
- no multiplayer mode
- some weapon effects were dropped from the PS2 version in favor of a "Teen" rating (blood from knife and weapon fire, taser burning animation)
- flashlight lighting effects that were fine in the PSP version look downgraded in the PS2 version

Dark Mirror has its ups and downs with the transition over to the PS2, but that still can't change what a solid action game it truly is.

Graphics: 8.5
Controls: 9.0
Sound: 9.0
Gameplay: 9.0

And therefore Berserker dubs thee: 8.9/10

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Finish Final Fantasy XII FAQ campaign

When I first started my Final Fantasy XII guide, I had the intention to go all the way with it, but since then I have trailed off to many other guides, especially after starting with those FFXII item lists. XD

Anyway, since I still receive a pretty good amount of views for it on GameFAQs and people seem to like it more than my other guides, I'll continue finishing it until I feel it is done. I guess you could look at this post as more of a "Note to Self:".

Expect the following additions:

[X] Full Armor list (almost have this complete already) FINISHED - 9/21
[ ] Full Drop/Steal/Poach list for Loot
[ ] Search Codes in the enemy section with Search Codes listed in the main walkthrough. That way you can look up details about the monsters without the details interfering with the walkthrough. This is the main reason why the mosters can be found in the main walkthrough.
[ ] Cleanup that bottom section - shop list. I still haven't decided how to display all that info, or if I'm going to keep it. It's still just raw data at the moment.
[ ] Redo some of those recommended levels (yeah, I know they're too high in some areas)
[ ] Add some info about the weather in the Giza Plains... somewhere.
[ ] Proofread the whole guide. This comes last (or very slowly throughout the updates), and I know there are plenty of typos throughout it. I really dread this part, as I do with all my guides.

If anybody has anything else to add then I might just add it, so respond to this post or email me if you have any suggestions.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

New Umbrella Chronicles preview

Yesterday, IGN posted up a new preview of Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles.

The fact that they refer to it as "Resident Evil: Fan Service" thrills me with anticipation since I'm mainly looking forward to story side of the game above all else. UC really sounds like a playable Wesker's Report. The gameplay doesn't look too bad either, especially with the weapon upgrade system.

The new Umbrella character shown in new screens throughout the net has finally been named and given a backstory as well.

"The character you see here is Sergei Vladimir. He was a colonel back when he was in the army, and people still call him colonel now. When his homeland (RUSSIA) collapsed, he joined up with Umbrella and became one of their executives. Since he's the one who founded Umbrella's private army section, U.B.C.S., he works closely together with them."

With his ties to the U.B.C.S., I'm hoping to see Carlos and/or Nicholai in the final chapter of Umbrella Chronicles.

thanks to THIA for the latter info.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Rampage: Total Destruction - Review

About a year back, Rampage: Total Destruction was released for Gamecube and Playstation 2 for the budget price of $19.99. Now it is available for Wii with an RRP of $29.99. Are the Wii extras special enough to justify that $10 price difference? Well, if you're a Rampage fan then, maybe, but if you aren't then probably not.

There are a total of 40 monsters on the Wii version - that is 10 monsters more than what the Gamecube or Playstation 2 version had to offer. All monsters have their own specific animations that are full of life. From the slimy slither of some to the snarling howls of others, they are all unique in their overall appearance and attitude.

Each monster has their own unique stats ranging from three attributes - crush (damage), jump (how far they jump), and run (how fast they are). Sadly, all 40 monsters share the same special moves that can be unlocked throughout the game by accomplishing various challenges. I can't help but feel that there could have been a little variety thrown in instead of the same exact moves per monster.

Each stage sets up a certain challenge ranging from collection challenges, eating challenges, boss challenges, and many other types of tasks to fulfill. These must be accomplished in order to gain the special moves for each monster and you will want to learn as many as possible since extra monsters can be unlocked from building up the current monsters.

Extra monsters are also hidden in each stage. Punch a certain block of a building with a certain monster to find a cryotube that will unlock another monster. As I said, a certain monster must be used to unlock others, so this will lead to constant repeats of stages if the incorrect monster is used. This can get frustrating if there is a certain monster that a player is trying to unlock.

The overall gameplay is the exact same as any other Rampage games. Destroy a town then move onto another. As already mentioned, there are challenges per stage that help to break up the monotony. There are even boss fights at the end of each area, but these feel like nothing more than just another extra challenge. Bosses are nothing more than a slightly more damaging tank or helicopter. The repetitive gameplay that haunts previous Rampages is still here in Total Destruction it's just got a new sugar coating on top with the new graphics and slight gameplay enhancements.

Speaking of gameplay enhancements, this time the stages are 3-D and your monster is allowed to move into the background and foreground while below the buildings. The buildings are 3-D for the most part - the monsters can move around the sides and across the front but not the back of the buildings.

The stages have some ups and downs with the new 3-D appearances. On the whole, it allows for more objects to appear in the area and allows the monsters to interact with just about all of those objects, but the new 3-D setup seems to make it hard to control aiming at times. For instance, flying objects are sometimes harder to knock down since the monster has to be lined up properly with them when attempting to attack. Say for instance you're trying to swat down a helicopter, you have to make sure that your monster is perfectly lined up below it when your monster jumps to attack. This can also mess you up when trying to grab a human - there are many times where I accidentally grabbed a garbage truck or some other vehicle while attempting to restore health by grabbing a human.

There are a total of 8 stages (cities) to conquer - the Wii version contains an extra Dallas stage. Each stage provides a new setup of buildings and threats that the monsters must overcome. As the game progresses it becomes noticeably harder as many more tanks, helicopters, SWAT teams, and army men start to gang up and the small buildings from previous stages are now replaced with large skyscrapers. The difficulty can get a bit cheap at times since the enemies can literally spam the monsters with bullets and wipe their energy bar down to nothing very quickly as the monsters try to perform their usual slow animations when fighting back. This is the way all Rampage games eventually get it seems and Total Destruction is no different.

Thankfully, to compensate that difficulty, each stage within an area can be continued from with an infinite number of continues once a monster loses all lives. Only the current stage must be redone instead of the entire collection of stages within an area.

The sound effects in Total Destruction can get a little annoying at times. Constant burps, farts, and cheap laugh sound effects litter the game. Not even the main menu is free from these constant noises! Eventually you can get used to it, but it is annoying at first. Many of the monsters have fitting sounds that match them however. The stage music repeats the same tunes quite a bit and they are catchy, though your monster will probably be so busy trashing cities that the audio will be like a distant memory.

The Wii controls for Total Destructions don't really utilize the controller that much. In short, with the Wii remote and nunchuck setup, swipe the remote to make a monster grab or charge a winding punch and perform an up down motion for a ground pound or building kick. Sometimes the motion controls are not immediately responsive, which can lead to minor frustration with the controls. The analog on the nunchuk is used to move the monster and A and B are used for the punching and jumping respectively. The controls feel natural once some time has been spent with the game, but there is nothing revolutionary here.

The game can actually be played with the Wii remote alone. Point up to move into the background, point down to move into the foreground, rotate to the right to move right, rotate to the left to move left. Yes, it is as chaotic as it sounds! It is interesting to try however. I would love to see someone master this way of playing so I could sit back and enjoy the novelty.

Total Destruction still has not changed enough to bring in any new Rampage fans. If you're a fan of Rampage however, then this is the best one yet and the Wii version is the most complete version out there. There's tons of variety in the monster selection this time around, but the gameplay still has not evolved that much - it is only disguised with new graphics and 3-D stages. If you can handle the repetitive gameplay of the previous Rampages then this is worth a try, if not then this game is not going to change your mind.

The Good

+ New 3-D stages
+ 42 unique monster varieties, 10 of which are only on Wii
+ New Wii exclusives - 10 new monster, 1 new stage, and Wii controls

The Bad

- Still has the usual repetitive gameplay that all Rampages share
- All monsters have the same unlockable special moves
- Cheap humorous sound effects can get annoying

The quarter crunching classic that has basically remained the same throughout the years finally changes just a Wii bit, but still not enough to draw in any new fans.

Graphics: 7.0
Controls: 7.0
Sound: 6.0
Gameplay: 7.0

And therefore Berserker dubs thee: 6.8/10

Sunday, September 9, 2007

An interesting interview...

So a few weeks ago, I was interviewed about my Final Fantasy XII walkthrough by a blog by the name of AlphaZero. The interviewer sent me the questions by email and I answered them for him and that was that.

I kept checking his site and have finally found that he posted the interview which you can read here.

Little did I know that they would rephrase the questions in the style shown...

I considered emailing the interviewer about that after I saw it posted. I never have been good at taking jokes so I didn't see too much humor in it right away. I just wish that he would have informed me about the way it would be posted.

Anyway, it's no big deal. I was mainly just shocked at how it turned it out. It's just humor, right? I've had one reader comment (to me) that he got a good laugh from it.

Here's the actual interview through email:

Can you tell me a little about yourself beyond what's in your "About Me" on the walkthrough? School/Job? When you wrote your first walkthrough? What made you get into it?

My name is Kevin Hall. I'm 27 years old, live in Mississippi. I'm currently unemployed though I'm in the process of getting a job at the moment.

My main hobby is video gaming, which I suppose is very evident. It's been my main hobby for quite a while now.

The first walkthrough that I wrote was in the summer of 2001. I had a bunch of extra free time during college semesters, so I decided to try to write one for GameFAQs. I actually wrote it to try to win one of their bounty prizes. And yeah, I did win that prize if you're wondering.

It was much more enjoyable than I thought it would be, so I started working on guides during the summers when I didn't have anything else to do then I slowly started to write more often on a regular basis.

Is writing a walkthrough as altruistic as it seems? I mean, you produce this mammoth guide for people to use at no cost. Do companies like IGN and Gamespot pay you for rights to post your walkthrough? If so, how do you get paid? On a per-click basis? Even if you get paid, somehow I'm guessing the amount of work you put into the walkthrough makes your hourly rate pretty low. So why do you do it?

I write them because I enjoy it. It's the ultimate cure for boredom, and also I do it because it adds a lot more replay value to the game for me. With some of the games that I write for, I would usually toss the game aside after completing it fully, but while writing a guide, it gives me a new reason to go back through the game. I usually play through the game at least once before writing for it.

And no, there is no payment for the most part. I have done some Featured Guides that are exclusive to one site and received payment for those guides and I have received gift certificates or free games/services every now and then from other sites.

When you read a walkthrough, especially one for a big ole game like FFXII, you wonder how these people find this stuff out. A specific example is the Zodiac Spear, which you can only get by not opening certain treasure chests. I figure for stuff like that, you must rely on some inside information. Are you working with people who helped develop FFXII? Or is that something that you hear about from someone and then verify yourself? Or are you actually systematically opening and not opening every treasure chest in every permutation? (I hope not!)

Yes! The Zodiac Spear in particular was one secret that I had to find online - the GameFAQs message boards. There are a few treasure chests that were looked up online as well. I try to verify every single thing before I add it to a guide of mine, even if that means going through a long section of the game again.

And no, there is no help from the developers, either I learn about through the info online or it is from my own experiences. Some of the boss stats were taken directly from the FFXII Bradygames guide since it's impossible to find that info otherwise. Most of the writing in the walkthrough is based on my own experiences or reader submitted.

Was FFXII your hardest walkthrough to write? About how many hours did you put into it? What's the feeling you get when your walkthrough is finally ready to be released?

Yeah, it has been the hardest so far. But the experience wasn't near as bad as I thought it would be since I enjoyed FFXII so much during my first playthrough and didn't mind playing through it again or writing about it whatsoever.

I used to sit back and wonder how in the world a guide writer could write a walkthrough for an RPG. There's so much info! I suppose it all depends on how much you like the game.

I would spend about 5 hours a day (maybe more) on FFXII. I started in November and I guess you could say the guide was complete by January. I still don't view it as complete, but I've stopped working on it for the most part. There's still a few areas that I'd like to add... and I might do that before the year is out.

Out of the walkthroughs that you have completed, which one do you feel is your best work? What is your favorite gaming genre to write for?

That's a tough one, but it is between Shadow of Rome and Dead Rising. I was completely immersed in those two games and I feel that the guides that I wrote for each of them showcases that level of immersion.

I tend to stick with action games when writing a guide since they usually please me the most. I look for a game with a lot of replay value usually - something that I can get better at through extended play. Usually the harder the game is, the better since I'm always up for a challenge.

What is the community like? Is there competition among people to write the first/longest/best walkthrough? Or does everyone get along? For instance, I noticed that a guy named Alex also wrote a walkthrough for FFXII. Did you talk with him at all? Did you guys collaborate? Or are people very territorial?

I don't keep in touch with other authors myself, though I do visit the GameFAQs contributer board every now and then to read about some of the stuff that is going on with them and the site. The GameFAQs contributor board is a very solid community with a bunch of fine writers on it.

There's a little competition among us. There has to be some there for all of us to write well. I think every writer is a little conceited in their own way.

And no, I haven't spoken with Alex, or any of the other guide writers for FFXII, though I have emailed Split Infinity and sephirosuy a bit to discuss a few minor details on FFXII.

I'm the kind of person that prefers to work alone. That's just my style, though I would be open to some collaboration with the other writers at some point if they didn't mind.

How, if it all, has the walkthrough-writing experience affected your personal life? Have you made friends? Have you lost some? Does your family support you?
You mention that you want to write walkthroughs professionally -- how does that happen? Do you know anyone who makes a living out of writing walkthroughs?

I definitely have more online acquaintances. Not so many friends though since I tend to keep to keep a low profile most of the time.

My family is slightly supportive. They know all about this hobby of mine - throughout the family. Though it's not really something that I can sit down and discuss with them that often.

I'm really not sure how one gets into the business of writing a strategy guide professionally. For Bradygames and Prima Games, I have read that you basically just send off your resume after you post a guide up on GameFAQs (with a link to that guide) and hope for the best.

I still haven't tried that. If you look on you'll find a resume of mine up with the other resumes though. I've just recently posted that up.

Do you get a lot of weird feedback? What is the oddest thing that has happened to you in your walkthrough-writing career?

Yeah, some of the feedback can get quite amusing at times, especially since I've wrote for FFXII. I've received an 80K email from a reader that just wanted to talk about his experiences with FFXII and give me some pointers. I had to spend about a good thirty minutes one night reading that one, especially since I'm a slow reader.

I have received a flame email where, when responded to, the reader actually commented on how much he enjoyed the walkthrough when he replied to my smart remark to his flame.

Also, I have received emails from the developers of some games that I have wrote for. One developer for Final Fight: Streetwise actually emailed me about my guide for that game and sent a whole bunch of Capcom freebies that he had lying around. I was quite shocked at his generosity in doing that, which is why that is often my most memorable email.

Thanks again for your time.

No problem. Glad to speak with you.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption - Review

Many gamers' minds were set at ease when Metroid Prime delivered a first person action experience worthy of the name Metroid. Later Metroid Prime 2: Echoes carried the first person action experience even further. The series now ends with the last installment, entitled Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Like all great game trilogies, this one goes out with a bang.

Metroid Prime 3 is far more story driven than the previous Prime's, much to my liking. The gameplay has a few more cutscenes to offer but the cutscenes never get in the way of the action or exploring. To set everything up for you storywise, three bounty hunters besides Samus are sent to planets around the solar to stop the Phazon corruption of those worlds. Eventually something goes wrong with all contacts and Samus is immediately sent in to complete each of their tasks. This description is, of course, skipping the action packed intro however. The intro actually took me about 2 hours to complete!

The story has just the right amount of involvement to keep a player enthused while accomplishing objectives. Samus will usually be contacted each time an objective on a planet is complete and the voice at the other end will offer her advice on what to do next or inform her of any situation at hand and point out the next destination on her map.

Oh yes, I said "voice" there, as in voice acting. Corruption features a full voice over cast for every character with the exception of Samus - well she still grunts and yells a bit. The voices fit perfectly for each character and really help to make the gameplay and story more satisfying this time. The overall sound is basically like a standard Metroid Prime - it fits well and sounds very good with a surround sound setup.

Samus journeys to several different worlds in her spaceship and must stop the Phazon corruption of each world. Of course plenty of problems get in the way while attempting to put an end to the corruption leading to a full objective list for each new area. Samus starts out with many of her basic weapons - the morph ball, bombs, charge blast, space (double) jump. There is no need to track down every single item like before. Like all Metroids, she still has to backtrack to other locations (planets) in order to pick up an item that was previously inaccessible the first time through.

If you despised that portion in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes where Samus had to journey back to several areas to find previously invisible creatures like I did, then you'll feel relieved that there is nothing like that this time around. There are some items that she must recover later in the game to continue to the game's final portion but most of them are collected throughout the main journey. I only had to go out of my way to track down two of those nine items. No "Wind Waker triforce shard gathering"-type fetch quest this time - well, for the most part.

The action is still just as intense as the other Prime's, actually even more so than its predecessors. Boss fights are stellar as always. One boss in particular is one of the best I have seen in a Prime game - such variety in that battle! Normal enemies are more plentiful during this adventure as well. More enemy encounters are definitely welcome in a game with such enjoyable controls however.

Yes, as you might have expected, the controls keep the action running smoothly and allow for some instant precise aiming. Prime 3 still uses Z targeting to allow Samus to move around her foe, but this time she does not keep her arm cannon locked on to the target. While locked on to an enemy through Z targeting, the cursor can be moved freely, so you actually have to aim at your target this time instead of just worry about dodging. It helps to make the game a bit harder since you can't fully concentrate on dodging like the past Primes, but with pinpoint accuracy thanks to the Wii-mote it all works out in the end.

The controls in this game fully utilize the Wii-mote and nunchuk attachment. The entire menu of the game (main and pause) all require the use of the Wii-mote, which makes navigating them a cinch. There are many switches and levers that require the player to pull, twist, or pump using the Wii-mote. None of these are overdone at all - they are all placed at just the right spots throughout the game and offer variety when needed.

Samus also has a grapple beam that is used quite often in the game. Lock onto an enemy with a shield then throw the nunchuk forward (a throwing gesture, mind you ;p) to grapple his shield. Tug on the nunchuk and Samus will rip the enemy's shield away from him. The Wii controls are very responsive. For instance, while grappling an enemy, you can gently pull back on the nunchuk and Samus will pull her grapple back just a bit but the second you perform a tugging motion, Samus will jerk whatever item is grappled. By the end of the game, you'll be feeling like Omega Red, literally.

Her spaceship can be controlled to some degree when she enters the cockpit. There are a variety of options to choose from while looking around at the controls. Her spaceship plays a much bigger roll in this game than any other Prime. She can actually call it to a landing dock found further in a stage in order to travel to another planet or save and also use it to help out in a few other ways (puzzles and enemies).

Love it or hate it, scanning is back once again! A mirror image of Samus' face can be seen in the visor while scanning this time - this image of Samus ties into the game's story progression in a unique way if a player takes the time to notice Samus while scanning throughout the game. Scanning seems to have much more of a purpose than simply filling out a logbook this time however. There are credits that can be obtained from scanning certain mechanisms or creatures.

All of the credits add up to allow access to the game's bonus material from the main menu. There are red credits (scan creatures), blue credits (lore [research] scanning), yellow credits (defeat bosses or other powerful enemies), and green credits (received from friend cards). Friend cards are obtained from performing certain hidden tasks in the game and can be sent via an online connection to obtain green credits. I can't offer many details on the friend system since I'm locked out from that aspect with my current connection speed - I think each friend card yields one green credit when sent though.

Samus now has a super mode entitled "hyper mode" that she can activate at any time if she has at least one energy tank (hold down +). At that time, her suit is empowered with Phazon energy and she can shoot highly destructible blasts from her arm cannon. This mode can be both a blessing and a curse depending on how it is used. A meter is displayed on the top portion of the screen and this represents the amount of Phazon that can be shot and it represents the energy tank that is currently being used. So Samus is actually sacrificing her life energy for a more destructive blast.

An interesting aspect of hyper mode is that the Phazon can actually corrupt Samus' body depending on how long hyper mode is sustained - every activation adds to her corruption. Once full corruption is reached (meter turns red), all Phazon must be shot out of the body immediately. Failure to remove all Phazon from Samus' suit will result in death.

Corruption can also enter Samus' body from taking too many Phazon shots from enemies. In other words, you might be fighting with an enemy then all of sudden Samus is hit with a Phazon shot causing her corruption level to reach max. At that time, Samus will be thrown into hyper mode and be forced to fire out all Phazon from her body while the enemies are still attacking her.

This is a very unique mode that can make for some unexpected gameplay elements at any time with its blessing or curse aspects. Normal enemies can also enter hyper mode as well and must be taken down with Phazon blasts at that time so there is always a use for this mode and it is not just "there" like wasted gameplay abilities in some other games.

With the past Metroid Primes, I found that I was in a hurry to get through the main mode - didn't even consider trying to find all the powerups and items - but with Metroid Prime 3, I felt it necessary to hunt down every single item on my own before venturing to the last portion of the game. For the first time ever, I have achieved a 100% collection ratio in a Prime on my first playthrough. I'm also considering another playthrough, which is another first for a Metroid Prime game since I usually just toss them aside and look for another game once completed - might try a higher difficulty this time.

The only minor nitpicks that I have with this game are the doors. Just like in other Metroid Primes, the doors will simply not open every time for me and I have to sit and wait on them while venturing through a level - is there a trick to this? Am I racing through rooms too quickly? Also, the final battle wasn't as epic as I was expecting. The battle just before the final was fantastic, but the very final battle was plowed through too quickly. I suppose the rest of the game and the final area built me up too much. All of this is barely noticeable in a game with such a good blend of action variety however.

My final game time was a little over 24 hours for those interested and that is with 100% completion (not all scans though). I think all gamers will find something to enjoy here whether you like the previous Metroid Primes or not. The new control scheme and gameplay mechanics really add a bunch of variety that will keep any gamer type interested while attempting to remove all Phazon from the solar system.

The Good

+ Fun controls.
+ Excellent sound (complete with voice acting!)
+ Tons of action.

The Bad

- Final battle wraps up too quickly.
- The game ends. Games this good should not end. :(

From the action-packed intro to its ultimate conclusion, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is bursting at the seam with "win" material.

And therefore Berserker dubs thee: 10/10