Thursday, February 28, 2008

Emperor Palpatine



Emperor Palpatine is first mentioned in the second Star Wars film The Empire Strikes Back. There, he is mentioned as the ruthless, evil Emperor of the tyrannical Galactic Empire. In the movie, he is mentioned often by the Sith lord Darth Vader. The Emperor then makes an appear-ance in a hologram where he is getting the status of the Sith lord’s progress in crushing the Rebel Alliance. He appears as an old, twisted figure dressed in black robes. He then makes another appearance in the sixth film Return of the Jedi. There, Darth Vader announces the arrival of the Emperor to the new Death Star which is still under construction. When his ship lands in the docking bay, he appears as an old man dressed entirely in black robes that walks with a cane. We then get to see his face clearly. His face is disfigured and worn and he appears to be older than expected. And as the movie progresses, we see more of the evil villain, most especially as he tries to lure the young Jedi, Luke Skywalker to the dark side of the force. We come to see that he is a manipulative, evil figure that only requires more and more power, thus making him seem all the more evil. Palpatine makes his first appearance in the more recent trilogy of epi-sodes I, II, and III. He is first seen in Episode I as a kindly senator for his home planet of Naboo. There he first meets young Anakin Skywalker and tells him that he will take much interest in him as he grows older. Also in Episode I, he makes his first move to take over the democratic Galactic Republic by insisting that the Queen Amidala elect Senator Palpatine as the new chan-cellor. Eventually, the old chancellor is removed from office and Palpatine takes his place. In Episode II, we begin to see the first major moves of Palpatine as he tries to take over the Senate and the Republic itself. That is also when we first hear from the mysterious Darth Sidious, a powerful, but austere Sith Lord. In the movie, Chancellor Palpatine begins to gain more and more power over the Galactic Senate. As the saga progresses, Chancellor Palpatine begins to take complete control over the Galactic Senate and even over the Jedi order. In Episode III, Pal-patine reveals his true nature as Darth Sidious, and thus being overthrows the Jedi order. Thus being, Chancellor Palpatine then becomes Emperor Palpatine, emperor over the newly formed Galactic Empire. He then succeeds in turning the young Jedi Anakin Skywalker over to the dark side, then becoming Darth Vader, the lord of the Sith.

Bradley Williams 11th

Sacred Heart School

"Madden"


Sports gaming at its best

When it comes to sports games there are none better than “Madden NFL 2008.” This hard hitting, turf pounding portrait of NFL football is beloved and played in households all over the world. Published by EA Sports, the Madden NFL series have been storming the gaming world for years. Named after Football Hall of Fame coaching legend John Madden, the game takes you and locks you in to where you feel as if you’re playing football. I’m a big sports fan I play just about all games dealing with sports from Madden, to NBA Live, to MLB Baseball, Fight Night, NHL, and even FIFA World Cup, but out of these I have to say none has continued to improve like Madden. Starting in the late 80’s, the game has dramati-cally improved since then. A big advantage for the game is that in 2004 it gained rights by the NFL, making it the only game to use NFL names, teams, stadiums, and others. The game’s so detailed now from the sharp turns, jukes, and spins, to the QB vision, hit stick, lead blocking control and 08รข€™s new weapons factor. I’m very competitive whether it’s actual sports or video games and every time I play the video game I compete as if it were actual football. I compete in Madden whether I’m playing friends, uncles, my dad, or whether I’m online playing. The online experience on this game is phenomenal; there is no other game in sports with as many online players as “Madden NFL.” In Madden NFL 2006, the Play-Station version of the game beat every video game by selling 2.8 million copies. In 2007 it was the second best-selling video game in the U.S. with 7.4 million copies. I’ve been playing the game since 99 for Nintendo 64 and I never stopped playing. Madden NFL 2002 was when I really became a Madden fan, before that I was a huge Blitz fan because of the crazy hits and things you could. In 2002 Madden was released on PlayStation 2 and every thing about the game was better. The graphics looked well, the sound was better, the hits were better, and overall everything about the game changed for the better. From then on I’ve never stopped playing Madden and I probably never will as long as they keep making them. I see no signs of Madden slowing down or stopping, they’ve had a good run so far and since their the only NFL endorsed video game why would they, so for Madden fans keep yell-ing at your T.V and talking trash to your opponent because this game is here to stay.
Here's a trailer for 08



Jerrell Woods
Sacred Heart of Jesus 10th

Job-shadowers


This week I had our three job-shadowers (i.e. "slave labor.") write up some things for the blog. For the most part, they did a pretty good job. Here are the fruits of their labor.


Burnout 3, TakeDown
EA Games

I am not in favor of racing games myself. If you’ve played one you’ve played them all. However, Burnout is unlike any other racing game I’ve played before. Not only does it have good graphics and sound, the events are what makes it great. Of course they’re your run of the mill racing events but there is much more to the game than that. The events called “crash” and “road rage” are what make this a fun game.
In “crash,” you try to wreck your car and do as much damage as possible. If you do enough monetary damage you win that event. What also makes this event fun, when you make enough cars crash you can blow up your car and do that much more damage. The more you win the more cars you unlock. The cars for this event are used just for doing damage. They include fire trucks, buses, garbage trucks, and 18-wheelers.
Road rage is what first attracted me to this game. You’re put up against four other racers and go around a lap. What’s different about this event is there no finish line. The object of the game is to push your opponents into oncoming traffic, walls or do anything to make them crash which is called a takedown. Once your car is to banged up to drive then the event is over. If you get enough takedowns then you won.
This game has won over 30 awards including Most Addictive Game, Game of the Year, Best Racing Game and The Editos Choice Award.. There are around six Burnouts including “Burnout Paradise” which came out last month. This is obviously a great game that most anyone can enjoy.


Here's an example of "Road Rage"




-Kevin Brown, Sr.
Sacred Heart of Jesus

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"The Orange Box"

Interesting. That's my initial impression of "Half Life 2," one of the games in "The Orange Box" for the PS3.

Just got a chance to crack it open, actually. It's been a busy week for me in my "real" job as The Star's education reporter, so no column this week. (I know you were all waiting for it with jittery anticipation.)

But fear not- I will delve into this and the horror that is "Bomberman Land" (I think it's horror anyway) soon.

Monday, February 25, 2008

"Call of Duty" music and upcoming games

Found my perfect "Call of Duty 4" head-banging music- its on XM channel 42. In other notes, I've got a copy of "Bomberman Land" for the Wii headed my way and a copy of "The Orange Box."

Looking forward to both of these- but not as much as my copy of "Smash Brohters Brawl."

Saturday, February 23, 2008

This week's column

4 buttons out of 5 for 'Unreal Tournament 3'

Instant action. That, in a nutshell, is what "Unreal Tournament 3" for Sony's PlayStation 3 has going for it.

Even the campaign mode is a multi-player battle against computer robots. It takes me back to the days of "Tribes" and "Tribes 2" for the PC.

UT3's story is a meaningless gesture. You're a mercenary, and you blast your way through missions. I wish the makers of these games would drop the pretense that they even need a story. It's all about as believable as professional wrestling.

Just give us the guns. UT3 is an exceptional student in that category, delivering high-tech, futuristic, and unbelievably powerful weapons. As I blasted through enemies, I would say to myself, "That shot would've never worked in 'Call of Duty.'"

UT3 does lack precision but makes up for it with its fun, over-the-top game play. I keep reminding myself not all games have to be frustrating to be enjoyable.

I've read online you can play this game with a keyboard and mouse hooked up to your PS3. Some people are more comfortable with this setup. You can filter online matches to exclude keyboards, however.

Why anyone would prefer a mouse to the Sixaxis controller is a mystery to me.

The graphics look like a PS3 game's graphics should; crisp and fluid. I thought the cut-scenes, while wholly unnecessary for understanding the game, looked great. The hammy acting is par for the course with most games of the genre.

I give UT3 four buttons out of five.

"Soul Caliber Legends."

"Soul Caliber" is a series that's revered for its player-vs.-player fighting, like "Streetfighter" or "Mortal Kombat." So naturally, the first "Soul Caliber" game Namco Bandi Games publishes for the Wii is a third-person action adventure.

Every second I spent playing "Soul Caliber Legends" prompted the same question: Is this a joke?

Unfortunately, it wasn't. As far as action adventure games, "Legends" isn't the worst I've seen. The design is fairly straightforward and the combat system, while unique to the Wii's controls, works well.

Like many action-adventure games, it can be repetitive at times. The cut scenes were nice but infrequent; the developers often used the paper-doll method of story-telling, letting text tap across the screen between stationary characters.

Some fans of the series said "Legends" filled in big holes in the "Soul Caliber" story.

Again with this story business — I wish I could get a show of hands of how many people who play "Soul Caliber" can recite one plot point of this supposed epic adventure.

This is a game where players hack each other with medieval weapons. In the upcoming PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of the "Soul Caliber IV," Darth Vader and Yoda are unlockable characters.

We're not dealing with Chaucer here.

Look, Namco, the next time you want to release a "Soul Caliber" game for the Wii, please don't do this. "Legends" demeans us both.

I give it two-buttons out of five.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sony PS3 just got better

Toshiba abandoned HD DVD.

From AP:

TOKYO — Toshiba said Tuesday it will no longer develop, make or market HD DVD players and recorders, handing a victory to rival Blu-ray disc technology in the format battle for next-generation video.

"We concluded that a swift decision would be best," Toshiba President Atsutoshi Nishida told reporters at his company's Tokyo offices.

The move would make Blu-ray — backed by Sony Corp., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., which makes Panasonic brand products, and five major Hollywood movie studios — the winner in the battle over high-definition DVD formatting that began several years ago.


For all of the PS3 owners, that means you won't have to worry about your Blu-rays becoming obsolete. And your PS3 probably just went up a bit in value.

This could be the turning point for this console.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Red ring redux

The column this week featured the story of my horrible luck with the Xbox 360. Many people have suffered through the dreaded "Red Ring of Death," even though Microsoft has claimed that the malfunction rate is under 5%. A new report from warranty company SquareTrade provides some interesting new figures on the rate of the consoles failure.

The findings were a 16.4% failure rate of Xbox 360 systems, versus a roughly 3% rate for the Sony PlayStation 3 or the Nintendo Wii with sample sizes in the high hundreds. The well-known "Red Ring of Death" error accounted for about 60% of those hardware failures, and thus most system-breaking problems are covered by Microsoft's extended warranty plan.

The full article can be read here. 16.4% still seems a bit low to me, but does show a significant increase over Microsoft's figure. It's obvious at this point that the machine needs to be better equipped to handle the intense heat that the console generates. Hopefully the company dips into the "We want to buy Yahoo" fund to take care of their faithful gamers.

I promise to post some game impressions as soon as my working (*crosses fingers*) 360 returns from Microsoft's repair center. We might even see a surprise or two from the Game Developers Conference this week.

This week's column

This week's column written by Star Online staff member Chris Pittman.


When the Xbox breaks.

The Xbox 360 is filled to the brim with features. An unparalleled software lineup plus a robust online service with more than 7 million users worldwide assures that you will never have a shortage of games to play or gamers to play with.

Until the Xbox breaks, that is.

The Xbox 360 will go down in history as one of the most disappointing video game hardware creations of all time. An overheating problem — dubbed the "Red Ring of Death" because of the three red rings that appear when it malfunctions — has killed many 360 units since the console's release in November 2005.

Several video-game retailers, such as Gamestop, have reported a failure rate of one out of three consoles. A 33 percent failure rate on a gaming machine in this day and age is embarrassing. Neither the Wii nor the PlayStation 3 have reported this high a rate of failure.

My personal experience with the 360? Pathetic.

It all began in December 2006 when I purchased my console. Everything worked flawlessly until June, when I was greeted with the three red flashes of failure.

At this point I was angry but not surprised. The outcries on Internet message boards, combined with problems my friends were facing, all but guaranteed that it would happen to me. I boxed up my defective Xbox and returned it to Gamestop.

The second unit I received was refurbished (which basically means "already broken once before" in retail language.) This unit held up for seven months before biting the dust.

After the second hardware failure, I was forced to contact Microsoft since I did not opt for the warranty at Gamestop. Ironically, the company told me that it stopped offering replacement plans on 360s due to the sheer amount of money they were losing on each exchange.

Microsoft sent me a cardboard box several weeks later, and I packaged the console up and sent it off. A month passed and I received another refurbished unit that was different from the one I sent. I thought nothing of it, and threw in a game to test it out.

I was met with a horrible grinding noise so loud it could wake the neighbors. I put in another game and the console couldn't read it. The disc was "unplayable," it said. This continues on with almost every other game I try.

Sigh.

I am currently waiting for another box so I can ship my Xbox to Microsoft.

Again.

This will be my fourth unit, but I've heard of people who are on their sixth or seventh. That boggles my mind. Personally, I am one more defective machine away from ending my hurtful relationship with the Xbox 360. I was excited about the future of this system. But not now.

The next time I'm in the market for a next generation system, I'll look at buying a PS3 or a Wii. They may not have the strongest lineups of games yet, but one day they will.

One thing is for sure. The Xbox 360 is proving it's not worth the wait.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

"Unreal Tournament III"


So far so good with "Unreal Tournament III" for Sony's PlayStation 3. It's a hyper sci-fi shooter, wherein every campaign mission is like a giant version of Capture the Flag or Death Match. The weapons take some getting used to, but I can pull off shots that would never work in "Call of Duty 4."

The plot is ridiculous, as most FPS plots are. I'll have a full review of this and "Soul Caliber Legends" in an upcoming column.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Did "Call of Duty 4" cause a Marine to dissapear?

From Fox News and hte AP.

After playing "Call of Duty," Eric Hall "just got up and said he had to go," Courtney Birge, a family friend, told the newspaper.

The 24-year-old Hall left the home of a relative in Deep Creek, Fla., where he was staying, on Feb. 3, according to the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office. He rode away on a motorcycle that was later found on a roadside, still running.

Hall had been hallucinating and having flashbacks, the sheriff's office said.


Sad....

Saturday, February 9, 2008

This week's column


The great communicators


There's something to be said for communication, and I don't mean the idle watercooler chat, the meaningless weather observations. Those tell us nothing except what we already know.

I'm talking about such useful tidbits as: "There's a sniper in that window to your left."

On Thursday, I was playing "Call of Duty 4" online with my friend Kevin and doing some capture-the-flag missions. Not wanting to run all over the map, I waited patiently by the "B" flag. One-by-one, I picked off seven enemies with my Mini-Uzi with the red-dot sight. After I got seven kills, I got to call in my chopper.

After many refrains of "How do you like my chopper?!" I finally got into the fray. About 17 kills later, the match was over and the guys on the other teams (which we couldn't hear until then) came on cursing like Al Pacino in Scarface.

Apparently, no one on the other team had, or knew how to use, a headset.

When you're playing a high- tech shooter such as "COD 4" or "Halo 3," your success depends on communication. Frankly, I don't know how people who don't have headsets cope.

Best $20 dollars I ever spent.

Nintendo says 'No'


If what I'm hearing is true, Nintendo has no plans to release a Massively Multiplayer online game anytime soon.

Nintendo President Satoru Iwata said in a recent interview with GameSpot.com that he wasn't interested in going the direction of games such as "World of Warcraft." I can respect that. Bucking conventional wisdom, pouring the Kool-Aid down the drain if you will, has always worked for Nintendo.

But Nintendo can't escape the pull of MMOs forever. The money is just too good. Consider "WoW." Nine million people pay this worldwide, paying Activision Blizzard more than $15 bucks a month. Even if you subtract what it takes them to run the thing, making $100 million a month from anything is insane. As long as MMOs can ring the cash register like that, games such as "Everquest" and "Everquest 2" can go on indefinitely.

The Wii has had a problem embracing the Internet. But if Nintendo can ever find some common ground with it, we should see some truly amazing games.

'Soldier of Fortune Payback'


If you ever wanted to sit back and play a poor man's "Call of Duty," here's your chance. "Soldier of Fortune Payback" for Sony's PlayStation 3 has all of the explosions and gore you'd expect from a shooter, but none of the fun.

Blowing someone's head off with a shotgun (particularly a zombie's) is neat and all. But is that it?

The plot, as best I can piece together, is you're a mercenary and people are trying to kill you for some reason. I imagine it goes with the job. But I've seen better storylines in a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie.

This one gets 21/2 buttons.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

It's been awhile

sorry for the lapse in posting gang. I've been getting adjusted to my new duties as education reporter and getting through the Super Tuesday maddnes. But I haven't forgotten about you and I'm excited to say Chris Pittman, who works in online, will now be another one of our regular contributors. Expect a column from him in a week or so.

I'm in between games and steadily finding things to nit-pick about "Call of Duty 4." But you know what rules? My mini-Uzi with the red dot sight. If you get enough kills with the Uzi, which is great in close quarters, you too can get the red dot sight and bask in its carnage. There's also a silencer you can pick up. Can you imagine having that much firepower at your disposal and being cloaked from radar at the same time?

I'm drooling at the possibility. But I really wish Activision would hurry up and put out some more maps. I feel like I know most of the nooks and crannies on the dozen or so that are out. And that's fine, but I think more maps would level the playing field.

Still don't know if I'll have a column this week. I played around with "Soldier of Fortune Payback" which is like a poor man's call of duty with about one-fourth of the plot; and the graphics were just godawful.

Don't know if I can string a review out of that assessment- but who knows- we'll see.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Column for Feb. 2, 2007

This week's column written by Star Sports Copy Editor John Dietrich.

The makers of Capcom's "Zack & Wiki" don't respect you.

At least not yet.

If you want their respect, you'd better prove that your gaming skills extend beyond button mashing, hand-eye coordination and combat strategy. You'd better stretch your brain out because "Zack & Wiki" will totally twist it.

'Z&W' is a point-and-click puzzler with a bunch of party-game Wii-motions — such as sawing logs, turning cranks, etc. — thrown in. The story starts with you (playing the role of Zack) wanting to be the world's greatest pirate. You and your enchanted monkey friend, Wiki, get shot down on an island and stumble upon the enchanted remains of Barbaros, a legendary pirate who's now a ghost. He makes a deal with you: Recover his remains and he'll give you his legendary ship.

The best thing about 'Z&W' is that it's so different from almost everything out there. Most of the puzzles involve about eight or nine steps, but the game's guiding hand is very light. It rarely points you in any direction and takes about two "A-Ha!" moments per puzzle.

All the usual stuff that good video games do well — graphics, sounds, music, etc. — is all done well. However, everything is very, very … childlike. This is a game small children would love looking at or watching you play because it's very colorful, loud and happy.

You will feel like a child, and that does impede the game's fu factor. This game is all about pushing yourself and working your brain in ways that most video games avoid.

Some of the early puzzles are designed to see if you'll cut it. In one, the key moment is realizing you can drop something somewhere (even though that didn't work the first time I tried it), so your sense of pride in figuring it out isn't that high. Once you get past the first few puzzles, though, the programmers figure you can handle it and let you really think outside the box. Then you get your ego rush.

Speaking of those programmers, their voice is easily represented by Wiki, who's also among my favorite video game characters ever. He's a magical flying golden monkey ('nuff said) who acts as your primary tool. He'll turn into a bell to transform objects which are essential to solving the puzzles.

The best thing about him, though, is that he's a smart aleck (to put it politely). He'll comment on your predicaments ("Gee, Zack, you sure are rushing to the ground pretty quickly") then giggle about it. Being that he's magical and all, he knows he's in no danger ("You better figure out something, Zack, or you'll be pizza. It's a shame you can't fly like me").

He might annoy many gamers, but his tongue-in-cheek comments and useless advice cracked me up. I could totally envision one of the game's programmers perched on my shoulder, making the comments as I tried to avoid the tribe of pirate-eating natives.

In short, this game is very good, not great. Four out of five buttons.