Vita-love meltdown – Resistance demo impressions – Gravity Rush demo impressions

I’m sitting here right now in a state of, well, I’m not sure what it is.  I wouldn’t call it “rage” as I don’t think videogames are capable of eliciting that out of me.  But I’m certainly not happy.  I made this site a few months back because of the general excitement I felt about the Playstation Vita.  There were a lot of naysayers and ITS DOOMED-sayers but they were easy to brush off with a rather full launch with a wide breadth of games and a piece of hardware that was second to none.

But I’m starting to feel fatigued.  Obviously work on this site has slowed down lately, part of that is Vita-fatigue, part of it is that there just isn’t anything to write about.  Mortal Kombat came out at the very start of the month and now Resistance is coming out at the very end and there hasn’t been a goddamn thing in between.  I still play my Vita daily, as the 29 games I own still offer 100s of hours of shit to do – but I like new stuff. I want new stuff.  Badly.

So today was a day I was looking forward to.  There aren’t many Resistance ‘super fans’ on the planet but I am pretty darn close to one.  Hell, I even picked resistance 2 as my game of the year in 2009, and people who like Resistance don’t even like that game.  But late last night the reviews started pouring in for Resistance: Burning Skies and they were quite scary.  Jim Sterling decided to troll everyone by giving it a 2.  IGN made a pretty decent case for it being extremely average in a review that ended with a 5.5.  There were higher scores, but they were all from smaller sites that are typically just excited to get review copies for anything.

The metacritic score has slowly crept its way up to 60.  But I got so scared off by the reviews that I decided to rent it instead of buying it (so expect our review even later than usual).  I am installing the demo as I type this though and will give my impressions in real-time.  I almost had a coronary earlier when the price was listed as $39.99 on the store, but they fixed it, and it now has the proper 10% discount (which still isn’t enough Sony, you are extorting money from those of us who want to buy games from you and not from a store – why would you do that?).  I also have Gravity Rush sitting in the pipeline.

These games have a bit of significance.  The Vita needs something – anything.  And I already feel like it’s too late for Resistance.  Even if it ends up being my favorite Resistance game ever, there’s no way it’s going to fight through the tide of bad press.  So that leaves Gravity Rush, which is already scoring well.  And then there’s E3, which I don’t think is going to knock our socks off as much as we would like it.  At least the rumors I’ve been hearing haven’t done much to my socks.

Ok starting up the stupidly sized (over 3GBs!) Resistance demo now…

I’m starting to come off the ledge, guys.  Phew.  The game is pretty good.  Well, I guess it depends on what you’re looking for.  If you are part of the segment of people comparing Vita games to console games (or even worse – high end PC games) you will find this to be very, very average.  If, like me, you find the idea of a first person shooter on a handheld to be quite novel, the game comes across as pretty awesome.

The demo itself is very long – thank jumpin’ jesus – since it’s actually the full game download at 3.1gb.  I felt like I played for at least a half hour.  You get to try 3 different guns, you get to check out the upgrade system and you get several cutscenes and the demo concludes with a boss fight.  Like I said, it’s pretty hefty for a demo.

The controls feel great.  Much like Unit 13 it’s a piece of cake to move/aim/etc.  I’m not sure how I would stack up online against someone with a dual shock, but the controls are more than adequate for what it is.  The guns feel great, in typical Resistance fashion, but they are lacking some oomph.  Actually what’s lacking is the biggest issue I had with the demo – the sound design is TERRRRRRRRRIBLE.  It’s really, really bad.  Like I-don’t-know-how-they-shipped-a-game-with-sound-like-this bad.  The guns sound like they are coming out of an AM radio.  And this was with headphones on – it’s even worse through the Vita’s speakers.  Now, I know that we aren’t looking top of the line sound on a handheld – but the sound in this is so bad it actually detracts from the game.  The direction sound is horrid.  There were times I thought someone was shooting to my right, turns out they were behind me.  Other times it sounded like people were in front of me but they weren’t.  Guns are never louder or quieter – there is just one volume.  So a gun being shot at you from 100 yards away sounds the same as right next to your ear.  Yeah, the sound is bad.

The cutscenes were pretty bad as well, but I expected that.  It is a B-team working on it, afterall.  But, really, that ends my complaints.  I had a lot of fun playing through the demo and if I didn’t already have it in the mail from Gamefly I would probably buy it right now.  I still might, if I can convince my wife.

I think the metacritic score of 60 is pretty much on the mark.  The game isn’t amazing, it has issues, but if you are excited to play it – you will find a lot of fun there.  If you are looking to hate it, or looking to hate the vita in general, the game could also help you do that.  It’s very middle of the road.  But right now I’ll take middle of the road – i was starting to fear it was gonna be far worse.

Ok, now it’s time to toss in the Gravity Rush demo….

Wow!  Now that’s how you do a demo.  I knew going in that it was short, as people all over twitter had been complaining, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  The game teaches you how to play – how the gravity mechanic works – how combat works – and then you play for about two minutes, kill a big dude and then title screen.  It leaves you wanting more which is exactly what a demo is supposed to do.  I NEED THIS GAME RIGHT NOW!

When i first was learning the gravity shifting it felt weird.  I don’t think that was the game itself as much as it’s just a new mechanic for a game to employ so it took a bit to wrap my head around it.  It also allows you to aim where you want to fly to with either the right stick or the gyroscope.  After I got comfortable with it I found it very fun to traverse the environment. Once the tutorial scooted me along to the combat I was completely in love.  It feels great.  The game looks amazing, has wonderful sound including a soaring orchestral soundtrack, the controls are spot on.  Everything is as good as I had hoped.

Whew.  Almost lost my Vita hype earlier today.  But I’m still on board.  This summer will be a trying time for Vita owners after Gravity Rush is finished as there doesn’t seem to be any more big releases until September.  But, it’s the launch year, lulls are to be expected.  Lets just hope that Sony shows us something at E3 and some smaller titles come out on the PSN to fill the void.

FyFYI Episode 144: The Kiwi Strikes Back

 

 

James likes Max Payne much more than Pete did.  Pete loves Dragon’s Dogma despite some problems.  Pete is also having a crisis of faith in regards to how to make his hobby not be a job but help him get a job.

 

Stream here people.

You can also grab it off of iTunes.

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FyFYI Episode 143 – The Peteisode (A terrible amalgamation of Arthur Gies and IGN)

 

This week pete talks about Day Z (an Arma II mod), Starhawk, Syndicate, Max Payne 3 and Diablo III.  James also says a couple things.

 

Stream here people.

You can also grab it off of iTunes.

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Reach us at:  FYIFeedback@gmail.com

For Your Vita Hype

Check Platform Nation

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Pete’s Twitter

James’ Twitter

So what’s next? A pre-E3 look at what Vita games are in the pipeline.

As we look forward to E3 where I think even those of us who are the most ardent supporters of the Vita recognize that Sony needs to hit it out of the park during that presentation.  Talk of upcoming Vita games has been spotty at best thus far, so we figured it would be best to compile them in one place to hold us over until E3.  I, personally, am not a believer in the ‘Vita has no games’ meme, as it currently has 19 games with a metacritic of 70 or higher.  I’m not sure how many systems would have been able to boast such a stat two months after release, but I digress.

So what do we have to look forward to?  Let’s start with May-August.

Resistance: Burning Skies

When is it coming?  May 29th

What is it?  R:BS will be the first twin stick FPS on a handheld, which takes place in the Resistance universe but is neither part of the main story nor is it developed by Insomniac (Nihilistic has taken the reigns on this one).  Videos look promising, and multiplayer will at the very least be novel.  Questions marks surround the framerate which looks low in videos – but take that with a grain of salt as that could be the fault of the video, not the game.

FYVH Hype Meter:  8/10  I love the Resistance series so my expectations are high.  I hope Nihilistic can deliver.

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Gravity Rush

When is it coming?  June 12

What is it?  Gravity Rush, called Gravity Daze in Japan, is an open world action game with the ability to manipulate gravity to help you traverse the city.  The developers are on record saying they were influenced by Crackdown, one of my personal favorite 360 exclusives.  Expectations for this game are very, very high.  The Vita desperately needs a top rate game that isn’t a port and Gravity Rush seems to be it.

FYVH Hype Meter:  10/10  This can’t come soon enough.

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Sound Shapes

When is it coming?  Signs point to June

What is it? Sound Shapes is the newest game by Jonathon Mak, creator of the absolutely sublime Everyday Shooter.  Sound Shapes seems to be part music creation, part platformer, with level/music sharing.  The debut trailer for it got me crazy hyped.

FYVH Hype Meter: 10/10  I foresee myself spending many, many, many, many hours with this.

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Retro City Ransom

When is it coming?  “May” (which is obviously looking less and less likely)

What is it? Retro City Ransom is a top down, old school (think NES) style action game with a modern twist.  Part 8-bit GTA, part videogame satire, it looks like a lot of fun.  Is also coming out on other platforms, including Steam.

FYVH Hype Meter:  8/10 I’m not sure if this will be fun for 5 minutes or 50 hours, but I’m curious to find out.

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Pure Chess

When is it coming?  Soon™  (It’s been out in Europe and other territories for several weeks now)

What is it?  It’s a chess game made by the developers of Hustle Kings.  It has an asynchronous multiplayer mode which will keep us playing this for a long time to come.

FYVH Hype Meter: 7/10  asynchronous chess is hard to get excited about, but I absolutely love Hero Academy on iOS and this is like that, but real.

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Zen Pinball 2

When is it coming?  “Spring” (Which is now looking like June)

What is it? The follow-up to the PSN title Zen Pinball, Zen Pinball 2 is a free game with one table and the rest of the tables will be micro transactions.  Zen Studios has announced that it’s a “buy one get both” release, like Hustle Kings and Pinball Arcade.  The difference between this and Pinball Arcade, however, is that Zen tends to make a slightly more “gameplay first” type of pinball game where Pinball Arcade goes for realism.  Both have their merits, of course, so it’s up to each of us to decide.  Or you can be like me and play the crap out of both.

FYVH Hype Meter: 7/10  I used to be a Zen guy, but right now I’m honestly more excited for more Pinball Arcade tables.

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Table Top Tanks

When is it coming?  May 22

What is it?  Table Top Tanks is another augmented reality game, though this one is going to cost a couple bucks.  The videos of it, however, make it look quite intriguing.  I’ve yet to get sucked into an AR game on the Vita or 3DS, but of all the ones I’ve seen this one looks to have the best chance.

FYVH Hype Meter: 6/10  You can actually make this 10/10 just because we haven’t had a May release since May 1 with Mortal Kombat.

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Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD

When is it coming?  Summer

What is it? It’s the Oddworld game that no one played, evidently.  It’s a first person shooter, and a unique one at that.  You can get it now on the PSN and I’m not really sure what being on the Vita will add to it… but if you haven’t played it – please do, it’s really great.

FYVH Hype Meter:  5/10  It’s a double dip for me, so it’s hard to get too hyped, but it really is awesome… and weird.

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MGS Collection HD

When is it coming?  June 12

What is it?  It’s the Metal Gear Solid Collection, in HD, minus one game.  Why is it minus one game?  I have no effin’ clue.

FYVH Hype Meter:  3/10  I haven’t played through a Metal Gear game since MGS1.  I do expect to at least give these a whirl.

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Madden

When is it coming?  August 28 (possibly – this is when console madden is coming out at least)

What is it?  A Vita version of the popular Madden football series.  Unfortunately, instead of being a handheld version of this year’s game with cross-play, it’s much like FIFA and will be using last year’s engine. With FIFA this wasn’t a huge deal because last year’s engine was arguably better than the new one, but with Madden last year’s offering was pretty poor.  Here’s to hoping that they tweak it for the better.  And even though I shouldn’t be, I’m quite excited to get my hands on this game.

FYVH Hype Meter:  8/10  Madden has been a disappointment to me for the last several years, but there’s nothing better than a good game of american football.  Lets hope they can work some magic.

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Ragnarok Odyssey

When is it coming?  Aug 21

What is it? A J-ARPG in the style of Monster Hunter.  It’s been out in Japan for a while and has gotten decent reviews.  It shipped without online play, which is absurd for a game of this style, but they patched it in later.  Getting to run around and kill things and loot them is usually enough to satiate my meager standards.

FYVH Hype Meter:  8/10 When I first saw this I had my doubts we would ever see it stateside so I am quite excited that it was announced recently.

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Dr. Who: The Eternity Clock

When is it coming?   Summer

What is it?  A PSN downloadable only game based in the Dr. Who universe.  I’ve yet to be able to dig up much of any info on this one.  Mostly because I don’t care about the property.  Sorry, fans!

FYVH Hype Meter:  3/10  If you’re a Dr. Who Fan feel free to add 7 points to this score.

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Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes

When is it coming?  June 19

What is it? Another Lego game.

FYVH Hype Meter: 1/10  I, uh, yeah.

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And this pretty much wraps up summer.  I’m sure there will be a number of PSN games released, and this summer should also mark the release of the PSone emulator (finally).  Overall it’s not a terrible lineup for one of the slowest release seasons for games on any consoles, but it’s also not jaw dropping by any stretch of the imagination.

Lets take a look at what we know about fall and beyond…

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LittleBigPlanet Vita

When is it coming?  Fall  (some sites still list this as June… but it’s been pushed to fall)

What is it? The fourth Little Big Planet game which should benefit greatly from the myriad of functions the vita provides.

FYVH Hype Meter: 10/10  Some people hate the floaty physics.  I’m not those people.  LBP is one of my favorite franchises this gen and i think level creation with touch controls will be a revelation.

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Persona 4

When is it coming?  October 23

What is it? The newest Persona game, faithfully translated to the Vita.  If you want to know if you’ll like the series or not I recommend taking a look at Persona 3 Portable for the PSP (and is compatible with the Vita) which is on the PSN for $20.  I don’t even know how to describe this game… dating sim/demonic RPG?  Something like that.

FYVH Hype Meter: 8/10  The more unique RPGs from Japan the better as far as I’m concerned.

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Silent Hill: Book of Memories

When is it coming?  Fall

What is it?  Originally slated to be a launch window title let’s hope the extra time allows them to polish this survival horror game to a shine

FYVH Hype Meter: 5/10  I was never a big Silent Hill fan or survival horror in general so take this hype meter with a grain of salt.

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Soul Sacrifice

When is it coming?  Who knows (i’m gonna guess late winter/early spring)

What is it?  An action RPG by Kenji Inafune’s new studio.  Looks extremely gross and awesome with the ability to sacrifice parts of your body to make your character more powerful.

FYVH Hype Meter:  10/10  All over my face, please.

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Street Fighter X Tekken

When is it coming?  Fall

What is it?  The Vita release of Street Fighter X Tekken is supposedly the definitive version with all of the DLC included and cross platform play.  Poor sales of the console version do point to a bit of fatigue in the genre though.

FYVH Hype Meter: 6/10  I would much prefer SSFIV AE, but beggars can’t be choosers.

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Warrior’s Lair (formerly named Ruin, what a terrible name change)

When is it coming?  Who effin knows

What is it? An American Action RPG (think Diablo) with cross-platform play and a bit of base building/defense as people can infiltrate your base even when you aren’t playing.  This game has gone through many changes, starting development with the studio who brought us the absolutely wretched Pain on the PSN, but has since been passed to San Diego Studios who have a track record of much better games (including the 5/5 rated MLB: The Show).

FYVH Hype Meter: 10/10  –  I should know better but the first time I laid eyes on this game I wanted it and as time goes by that feeling only increases.

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Call of Duty

When is it coming?  September

What is it?  I don’t know what it is, yet, but I do know what it isn’t: Blops2.  Let’s hope it’s good.  I mean not for me, but for people who like such things.

FYVH Hype Meter: 5/10  I have a morbid curiosity to see what exactly this is and how it turns out…  but I certainly can’t claim to be a huge CoD fan.

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Smart As

When is it coming? Fall

What is it? Similar to many of the brain training games out there, with leaderboards.  Sold!

FYVH Hype Meter:  9/10  I know this isn’t the flashiest game on the planet but it’s this type of game that can suck up large amounts of time without you even noticing.

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Assassin’s Creed

When is it coming?  September

What is it?  Like CoD, I don’t know what it is, but I know it’s not Assassin’s Creed 3.  The PSP Assassin’s Creed spinoff was solid so hopes are high for this one.

FYVH Hype Meter: 7/10  I’m not a huge Assassin’s Creed fan but I did enjoy the PSP one.

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So that’s part of what we know so far.  Below is a list of games, both big and small, confirmed and rumored, that will come out any time between this Tuesday and never and may be in certain regions only.  And some of these do have dates, but didn’t push my hype meter enough to get listed above.

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  • A-men
  • Bioshock project from Ken Levine (it’s not Bioshock Infinity)
  • Broken
  • Chronovolt
  • Cobalt Runner HD
  • DJ Max Technika TUNE
  • Dokuro
  • Dragon’s Crown
  • Dragon’s Racing
  • Dungeon Defenders
  • Dust 547 Companion App
  • Emergency Escape Adventure: Trust or Betrayal
  • Final Fantasy X HD
  • Frobisher Says
  • Great Little War Game
  • Gundam Seed Battle Destiny
  • Kojima is working on something…
  • Legend of Heroes: Zero no Kiseki
  • Level 5 is working on an RPG
  • Mad Blocker HD
  • Marvelous’s Romance Of The Three Kingdoms
  • Marvelous is working on a Fantasy RPG
  • Monsters Rising
  • Mr. Ink Jet
  • New King’s Story
  • Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee HD
  • Orgarhythm
  • Orc Attack
  • Phantasy Star Online 2
  • Project N.O.E.L.S.
  • Pub Games
  • Puddle
  • Putty Squad
  • Shin Megami Tensei Series
  • Shoot Many Robots
  • Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
  • Square Enix’s Action/RPG
  • Sudoku
  • Sun Flowers
  • Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz
  • Super Robot Taisen
  • Top Darts
  • Urban Trials
  • Ys: Celceta, Sea Of Trees
  • Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward
  • Zone Of The Enders Collection HD

So that’s what I know of as of 5/17/2012.  It’s not nearly as dire as people make it out to be – but it’s not nearly as impressive as I think we would like it to be.  Hopefully E3 fleshes out this list with some big, high quality games, they drop price on this bugger, and away we go.

I also would like to say that beyond usual sources like PR folks, news sites, Amazon and other sites… this article owes a debt of gratitude to THIS THREAD at neogaf which had several games on it that I hadn’t heard of otherwise.

The ports that no one asked for: Lego Harry Potter and Supremacy MMA reviewed

The launch of any new system brings with it some weird game releases that make you wonder what the heck they were thinking.  This has been compounded with the Vita, which at this point in its life-cycle really can only be described as a niche device. Most of the world doesn’t want to spend $300+ (after memory cards) on a handheld device – as evidenced by the Vita’s, um, meager numbers.  But those of us that did want the Vita, and dropped the coin, did so because we wanted something out of a handheld experience that neither an iPhone nor a 3DS can deliver.  With this in mind, Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7 and Supremacy MMA: Unrestricted are perfect examples of the unnecessary launch title. Both left me wondering: “What kind of Vita owner is looking for this game?”

Lego Harry Potter, at the very least, fills a niche (a niche within a niche device–intense!!!) with younger gamers.  But how many younger gamers even own a Vita?  I have no data on the subject – I’m not even sure such data exists… but I’m going to guesstimate “not very many.”  Kids have iPod touches.  Kids still love Nintendo and their 3DS.  Kids generally aren’t looking to play Uncharted on the go.

Lego Harry Potter is a kids game through and through. If you’re looking for something for your son or daughter to play on your Vita, it’s a solid choice – but there are better (and cheaper) ports of this game on nearly every other platform.

But, as a kids game, Lego Harry Potter isn’t terrible.  It plays well enough, though it has framerate issues.  It’s nice that it has buttons, but the same game is available on the iPhone for $5.  LHP has the dubious distinction of being the only Vita game I’ve seen retail at $50 besides Uncharted (though, to be fair, most retailers still sold it at $40).  And I’m going to go out on a limb and guess it bombed, because it’s now the cheapest new Vita game on Amazon ($22 at last check).

Supremacy MMA, on the other hand, has issues beyond just audience.  In fact, I think there probably is an audience for MMA on the Vita – to a certain extent.  But Supremacy MMA is just a bad game.  Really bad.  The graphics are mediocre at best, and once again there is slowdown.  So while some Vita owners may want a MMA game, they have no use for a bad one – especially on a handheld that in its short lifespan is already one of the best handhelds ever in terms of quality fighters, with Mortal Kombat, BlazBlue, and Marvel vs Capcom 3 at the top of the heap.  If you have access to those three brilliant fighters, why would you ever even think about buying Supremacy?  Conjecture again… but I’m guessing not many people did.

Where I come from we call this “the push down.”

The bummer out of all of this is 505 Games and Warner Brothers are probably blaming the platform and not themselves for not understanding their intended audience.  But that’s not really of our concern, I guess.  All I will say is that if you absolutely love Lego Harry Potter games and want one on the go, do it – especially at $20.  It’s an ok port, you will likely enjoy it.  But even the hardest of hardcore MMA fans will find very little to cheer about with Supremacy MMA.

Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7——————————————————————-Supremacy MMA: Unrestricted

                                         

FyFYI Episode 142 – David Lynch Purple Monkey Dishwasher lololol

 

Pete loves Syndicate but isn’t so hot on Alpha Protocol, though both have meshed in his brain.  The Battlefield 3 server situation is hysterical.  Datura was interesting and so was the game.  Naming a podcast is hard.  James discovers some of the best PSN games (from 2009).  Pete still can’t decide where to play games.  Pete thinks Warhammer: Space Marine is Gears of War but fun.  Tablet talk 2012 part 2!

Stream here people.

You can also grab it off of iTunes.

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Review – F1 2011 (Reviewed by ex-EGM editor Greg Sewart)

Editor’s note:  This review is written by the one and only Greg Sewart, former editor of Electronic Gaming Monthly and currently found on the Player One Podcast.  It was a personal honor that he agreed to do this for and we are forever appreciative.  Not only does Greg bring a strong game writing pedigree with him, but he is an absolute car racing nut. So without further ado…
 

Upon firing up F1 2011 for the first time you’re greeted with an exciting video of what’s to come – beautiful machines built for nothing but speed dicing it up on some of the most picturesque and storied racetracks in the world; drivers experiencing the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat; the frenzied activity in the paddock as engineers ready the cars and the media swarms the heroes who pilot them.

Then you actually jump into your virtual car and realize it looks nothing like that incredible video. What you just witnessed was in-game footage of the 360/PS3 version of F1 2011. What you’re playing is a stripped down version of what you saw, featuring low-poly models, low-res liveries, and none of the pageantry surrounding each event that exists in the console game.

None of this is to say that F1 2011 on the Vita is a bad game. It just strikes me as odd that those making the game would choose to highlight the game’s visual shortcomings right at the outset. Even if you enjoy the game for what it is, there will always be that reminder of what it was.

Is it an upgrade of the 3DS version or a downgrade of the console version? We aren’t sure but the visuals overall are average at best. It does maintain a solid framerate and portrays a good sense of speed however.

With all that out of the way, though, it has to be said that F1 2011 on the Vita is a pretty solid game. Car control is spot on, if a bit on the arcadey side. Sliding the rear through the odd tight turn is not a bad thing in this game, and honestly feels like it’s pretty much required to get a good time on some of the tracks you visit.

Likewise, you’ll be dealing with a lot of contact with other cars, due mostly to the fact that the AI here is really not all that good. Competitors tend to brake extremely early for the most gradual of bends even if you have the difficulty set to maximum. They also seem to have a particular problem navigating the tighter courses in the game, like Monaco. Especially when they’re bunched together.

The net result is that those looking for a full sim experience here are going to be disappointed. Ramming into the back of the car ahead will become the norm for even the most seasoned of racers, meaning you’ll want to leave the damage options turned off. The best way to victory is through aggressive, off-line passing maneuvers, which means contact is pretty much inevitable.

F1 2011 veers more to the arcade style of racing which may disappoint purists but makes for a rather fun portable racer.

If you’re looking for a more casual racer with a ton of options, though, F1’s got you covered. Every car, driver and track from the 2011 season is present. And you can choose to run single races, full grand prix weekends (including all practice rounds and F1’s unique, knock-out style qualifying process), a full season, or even a career mode where you work your way through the various teams on the grid as you attempt to become the next Sebastian Vettel. Plus there are a decent amount of setup options to fiddle around with if you’re so inclined.

Formula 1 racing has been approaching the realm of video games for a while now, what with the DRS passing zones and KERS boost system bringing some excitement and strategy back to the sport, and F1 2011 on the Vita captures that excitement admirably. It’s just a shame that the technical side and human element aren’t captured in this game like they are on the PS3 and 360.

These days Greg Sewart can be found on the Player One Podcast, doing a web video series on the Sega Mega Drive, and on twitter.

Review – Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat on the Vita creates an interesting problem for the platform. It is, of course, a port of the wildly successful (and fun) PS3 version that came out last year, complete with all of the DLC and a whole new challenge tower that takes advantage of interesting features of Vita hardware. The fact that it’s a port doesn’t bother me (though I do long for some new IPs on the platform); the issue is that the Vita is not as powerful as a PS3.  We knew this, of course, long before the Vita ever came out… yet every time we get a new game that we’ve seen on another platform the first thing anyone mentions is that it doesn’t look as good.

Duh.

But let’s just get the graphics out of the way.

This, for all intents and purposes, is how the character models should look. This shot is taken from a cinema during the Story Mode which I believe is just captured footage of the PS3 version (which was rendered in real time). So this is pretty much what Baraka looked like on the PS3 and 360.

Now this is what Baraka looks like rendered in the Vita version. There’s no amount of spin that can convince someone that this looks great. It doesn’t. The textures are just weird, the model lacks detail, his teeth look like they are rendered by a PSone… but this is really the only time that the graphics stick out as bad – in the 5 second openings to each fight.  And while I accept that the Vita won’t look as good as the PS3, it should look better than this.

And here is what Baraka looks like during the action. Being a still shot you can dissect what you’re looking at – his face still looks like crap, for instance. But in motion, at a stunning 60fps, the game moves so fast and so fluidly that you never really get a chance to zero in on imperfections like that. Taken as a whole the game looks good. The backgrounds help add to that feeling as they, generally, are well rendered.

So as you can see the graphics are a mixed bag. The player models take a pretty giant step back from the console versions, but once the game is in motion it’s a stunning achievement for a handheld. It’s a weird thing, that. How does a game go from gross to stunning in a matter of seconds? And why am I so hung up on how it looks in the first place? I know this thing isn’t a PS3 – to expect that level of fidelity is silly.  But I can’t help but groan during each and every intro when they show close-ups like picture #2… and then the action starts and I freak out about how amazingly fluid the whole experience is.

The gameplay in Mortal Kombat is about as good as fighting games get on a number of levels.  It’s not as technical as Street Fighter, but it’s far more stimulating. The violence isn’t merely for the shock and awe of it; you feel catharsis when you connect with an uppercut that makes a THUD and sends your opponent flying with a splatter of blood. I’m not trying to argue that the violence in MK is an art form, but it does help connect you to the action.  When I play a videogame I like to see and feel an outcome to whatever I performed.  Like a shooter where I shoot a missile at a wall and nothing happens… compared to a shooter where I can blow a fucking hole through that wall.  It’s an amazing feeling, and sometimes it’s fleeting, like a hit of meth that will never give you that same level of satisfaction again, but you keep trying.  And Mortal Kombat keeps giving you the tools to get back there.  Each and every special move is satisfying, each fatality – while sometimes silly – does allow you to add punctuation to a fight.  This is what Mortal Kombat felt like to me when I was a teenager – and it’s something I never thought the series would ever do again.

There is a ton of content to steer this ballet of violence through and it all remains intact and  is as wonderful as it was on the PS3.  There is a long, dumb and awesome story mode (yes… dumb AND awesome).  There’s a ladder mode which is basically just Arcade Mode from any other fighting game.  There are two challenge towers with hundreds of challenges that range from tutorial (perform this fatality) to completely bizarre (Raiden’s head is going to keep filling up with air, tap it or it will explode – also, do this while fighting).  Of the challenge towers, one is brand new and designed specifically for the Vita.  This is a wonderful addition to the game.  The original challenge tower is still fun – but the fun of it on the PS3 was how they were able to mess with the core gameplay to create these weird little battles.  With everything the Vita offers in terms of touch, cameras and accelerometers they are able to take this concept to its logical next step.  The Vita challenge tower is tough and it is weird, but it is wonderful.  My only complaint/request is that the Fruit Ninja clone where you slice heads needs an online leaderboard.  It’s that fun.

In the end Mortal Kombat on the Vita is nearly a perfect game.  For $40 (and no cheaper, even on the PSN, WB hates 10% discounts apparently) you get an absolutely enormous game that has dozens and dozens of hours of intensely violent and satisfying gameplay. The only knock against the game is the graphics, and even then it’s just for a short period of time (and really, why didn’t they just cut those intros?).  Mortal Kombat asks you to put your money where you mouth is.  Have you ever uttered “gameplay over graphics?”  Here’s your test.

FyFYI Episode 141 – We forgot to talk about The Walking Dead

Pete bought a lot of games but hasn’t played them yet, James digs into the Witcher 2, tweets are answered in alphabetical order, James is digging Unit 13 and the Back to the Future game, Pete loves Mortal Kombat  Vita much to james’ chagrin, Pete loves to stream things on the internet and things are wrapped up by us forgetting to end the episode with The Walking Dead talk like we said we were going to.

 

Stream here people.

You can also grab it off of iTunes.

Apple iTunes

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Review – FIFA Soccer

FIFA on the Vita presents something of a conundrum. It’s a game I feel I can recommend without reservation to the casual fan of footba…uh…soccer (blecch). However, if you are the obsessive type, who loves soccer, buys every instalment of FIFA and plays it all year round, I feel the need to be a tiny bit more guarded. This makes it an odd fit for our review criteria here at FYVH. My reasoning is that for anyone who just likes to get out on the pitch and kick lumps out of the loathsome Cristiano Ronaldo, FIFA Vita is as good a version as you will find. For the hard-core though, the devil is in the details – some of the shortcuts EA have taken may niggle slightly. Fortunately, what is novel here is probably just good enough to win you types over.

Cry more, Michael Carrick.

At first blush this version is essentially FIFA 12 on the consoles. The music, the UI, the arena – almost nothing has changed. This impression carries over onto the pitch – it really does a very passable imitation of a shrunk-down version of what I play on my PS3. There are a few minor differences; the crowd is static, the pitch looks a bit fuzzy, and the framerate occasionally drops during goalmouth scrambles, but it is a great looking game. In some ways the Vita version even excels – when I went back and played on the console, the colours looked drab and washed out by comparison.

Once the ball is in play, the similarities become less obvious. Much has been made of the fact that the match engine is effectively FIFA 11, and yes, due diligence: gone are the main innovations from FIFA 12. FIFA Vita has neither the Player Impact Engine nor the tactical defending introduced this year. For my part this is no great loss – I find the tactical defending a bit of a chore – but for those who like the added layer of simulation it brings, the handheld version may feel a little simplistic.

Adebayor completes his hat trick over the Arse. If only real life occasionally imitated videogames.

In other respects FIFA Vita is very much its own thing, thanks entirely to the touch functionality of the Vita. While the touch controls are not all improvements, there is enough about them that works that I now find it very difficult to go back to the console version. Perhaps the least effective implementation of touch controls is in the free kicks. This is disappointing inasmuch as I have always found free kicks to be one of the weakest elements of these games, and I was hopeful that touch might improve the degree of control. As it is, the behaviour of the ball seems to bear almost no resemblance to my swipes (although I will admit that this may be user error). Touchscreen passing is hit and miss – it’s nice being able to put through balls exactly where you want them, but this also necessitates reaching away from the controls a little. By the time I do this I have invariably been tackled, or the player I was hoping to pick out has moved on. All this said, what is an absolute bloody revelation is the back-touch shooting. The ability to shoot (and head) the ball exactly where you want is so satisfying that this innovation alone is almost worth the price of admission. If I have one gripe about the shooting mechanic it’s that it’s almost too good (©1up.com) – in my first online match I found myself up against an opponent who seemed to have mastered the shooting to the extent that it almost felt like he was gaming it. (1-7 if you must know. Did I mention that I’m kind of shite at this game?)

Miserable as that particular match was, it is not reflective of the overall experience I’ve had taking the game online. I’ve found the multiplayer to be a lot of fun, and possibly even more stable than the PS3 version. This said, while I haven’t had any dropped connections, the framerate is somewhat problematic online. Even against local opposition things can get pretty framey, although not to the extent that it detracts significantly from my enjoyment. I have a couple of other warnings for those who hope to take the game online, neither of which are the fault of the game per se. The first is that the online community is small. I haven’t had trouble finding matches, but unless you live in Europe you’ll find yourself playing across long distances a lot of the time. The other issue is that unavoidable aspect of online gaming: other people. As ever, it is very difficult to find a match against any team outside of the world’s half-dozen or so top sides. Also, and this will come as a surprise to no-one who plays FIFA regularly, go more than a goal up in an online match and you’ll often to find yourself dumped back into the menu screen pretty smartish. Hell is other people, and all that.

Oi! EA! You don’t get to moan about used game sales if you give me no incentive to buy the digital version.

So what of the shortcuts that I mentioned earlier? At this point you’ll need to indulge me as I lazily list a couple of disparate points that will only interest FIFA trainspotters – insignificant to most, but like a fresh paper cut to the football nerd. First, the Ultimate Team mode is nowhere to be found. What nerd wouldn’t resent the cutting of a card-collecting mode? My understanding is that EA makes a lot of money out of this mode on the consoles, which makes its omission all the more puzzling. I also have to comment on some of the character models. FIFA has always had some issues in this respect – in FIFA 11 they somehow managed to make virtual Peter Crouch look even more freakish than the real thing – but in FIFA Vita they seem to have become almost commonplace. For Tom Huddlestone, for example, they appear to have used a slightly larger version of the Jermaine Pennant model from the past. Given that the only thing these two men seem to have in common is the colour of their skin, this could be borderline offensive to some.

I’m going to suggest something of a test here. If you enjoy videogame football, and the previous paragraph elicits nothing more than a shrug from you, then you should give FIFA Vita a try (and congratulations: you’re probably sane). This game is an indicator, along with the likes of Hotshots Golf and MLB the Show, of the potential of this device for sports games. On the other hand, if the previous paragraph sticks in your craw, then…I feel you…but you really ought to try at least the demo because…back-touch shooting. In conclusion: back-touch shooting.