Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Tuesday, Jul 22, 2008

Hopefully, fans of the Guitar Hero franchise who are also inclined to visit this here site have already seen Ryan Smith’s review of Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, which as far as my experience with the game goes is right on the money.  Still, as an admitted Guitar Hero junkie myself (which sounds extreme, but there’s really no other way to put it), I’m compelled to offer two more observations about the game.


Did I mention that the battle with Joe Perry is easierthan any battle in Guitar Hero III?

The battle with Joe Perry is easier than any battle
in Guitar Hero III!


The first of these observations is exclusive to the Xbox 360 version of the game: the achievements.  Just in case anyone was concerned that Neversoft wasn’t keeping up with the forum buzz, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith directly addresses one of the chief complaints of critics of Guitar Hero III: namely, that the game as a whole (and the set of goals laid out by the achievements in particular) is just too damn hard.  I’m pretty good at Guitar Hero games, but I’m not so good that I expect to blow through the expert career in the second night that I own the game.  As if to say “sorry for expecting you to score 750,000 on anything, and oh, also sorry for thinking you could snag a perfect score on 20 different expert-level tracks”, the achievements are quite obviously designed for the novice.  The most difficult of the achievements are only so for their unpredictability (like the one that forces you to win in sudden death in a battle mode match), and the skill-based achievements don’t even require a score of 500,000 (325,000 on “Train Kept a Rollin’” never really feels out of reach).  Experienced players with a little bit of time on their hands will have a cool 1,000/1,000 points in under a week.  This could be a boon for some players, but in a $60 game, exhausting the achievement list that quick feels a bit like a gyp.


All I’m saying is that it seems a bit strange that Guitar Hero II still seems to have the best idea of a balance of easy, tough-but-doable, and nigh-impossible achievements when two iterations of the franchise have been released since.


Seriously -- this is as hard as \

Seriously—this is as hard as “Dream On” gets.


The other thing that strikes one as odd about Guitar Hero: Aerosmith is the difficulty spread of the songs.  Of particular note is “Dream On”, which actually occupies a spot in the second-to-last tier of songs, which should suggest that it’s a difficult but far from impossible song.  Still, it’s a placement that caused some concern in the community given that “Dream On” was released as downloadable content for Guitar Hero III to promote the upcoming Aerosmith version, and quickly gained a reputation as one of the easiest songs Guitar Hero has ever offered.  It hasn’t changed a bit from that downloadable version in Guitar Hero III, and it feels even easier as part of the penultimate grouping of songs.  Again, some players might be pleased that they get a bit of a break in the form of one of Aerosmith’s most famous and celebrated songs, but those looking for any semblance of a challenge are, again, bound to be disappointed.


Totaled up, the challenge of Guitar Hero: Aerosmith simply isn’t enough in a number of ways, particularly for the person most likely to pick this up; that is, the Guitar Hero veteran who’s looking for 40 or so new songs to play.  For someone who’s never played Guitar Hero, however, someone who happens to be drawn to the franchise for the first time by the featured band, it will be perfect.


Unfortunately, that preferred target of the Guitar Hero: Aerosmith buying constituency will very likely be a rather pronounced minority.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Tuesday, Apr 15, 2008
The PopMatters review of Major League Baseball 2K8 is up today, a game that redefines (for better or for worse) the way that video game baseball can be played. But what if you want something a little bit less...revolutionary?

This is actually the third season for the current generation of video baseball games, given the Xbox 360’s head start with Major League Baseball 2K6 way back in ‘06.  It’s the second season for Sony’s PlayStation 3 versions of their own baseball game.  As such, it would be plenty understandable for Sony to choose to put all of their effort into the PlayStation 3 version of the game, leaving the PlayStation 2 version behind.  They could have gone the EA route, putting out almost exactly the same game as last year with updated rosters, put it out at a budget price, and been done with it.


Of course, given the number of late adopters who still haven’t hopped onto the PS3 bandwagon, it’s also plenty understandable that they didn’t quite go that route.


Major League Baseball 2K8, as you might have read via today’s review from Jason Cook, has chosen to take the path of innovation, completely overhauling pretty much every aspect of baseball gameplay that we have come to know.  The hitting, pitching, and even the fielding in 2K8 features a heavy reliance of the capabilities that modern controllers wield, capabilities that the classic baseball sims never truly even tried to take advantage of.  MLB 08: The Show for the PlayStation 3 features highly developed online modes, hard drive-utilizing features, and all kinds of the extra features one would expect from a PlayStation 3 baseball sim.  The PlayStation 2 version of the same game, however, might just be perfect for the players weaned on Bases Loaded and R.B.I. Baseball, a classic experience with updated graphics and just enough game modes to keep you happy if you’re in the mood for something new.


The reason MLB 08 works for the classic players is that its primary game mechanics will be extremely familiar to just about anyone.  Sure, it’s a little bit more advanced than “press ‘A’ to pitch”, but not all that much.  You’re still swinging the bat with one button.  Fielding feels as natural as it ever has, because you’re doing it in ways that you recognize.  There’s no new paradigm, no new control ideal that must be learned; even without a look at the instruction book or an ounce of experience, you’ll be able to step right in to MLB 08 for the PlayStation 2 and be able to play.  You’ll probably lose, yes, but you’ll be able to play.


Where Sony chose to improve the game is in ways that help the digitized men in the game to perform better.  A pitcher can study a hitter’s tendencies, and a hitter can study a pitcher’s.  A fielder can use the wall to his advantage to jump up and rob a home run.  These are things that improve the experience without necessarily taking away from the pick up ‘n play scheme.  It eases you in to the new features, as once you’re used to the basics, you can slowl y introduce the more advanced play styles to your arsenal of moves.  The fantastic “Road to the Show” play style has been updated as well, as the success/fail dynamic of the tasks your manager gives you aren’t quite so cut and dried as they were before, which makes the play experience less discouraging.


As such, it’s obvious that Sony didn’t put the full-on effort into the PlayStation 2 version of MLB 08: The Show, not like they did the PS3 version, anyway.  What they came up with is entirely the polar opposite of the Major League Baseball 2K8 approach to baseball, subtle tweaks that improve the game rather than overhauling.


In short: it’s the perfect baseball experience for the ex-core PlayStation 2 owner who just isn’t quite ready to move to “next-gen”.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Monday, Mar 17, 2008
Green Mushroom is a feature of Moving Pixels that allows our Multimedia writers to comment on reviews in the Multimedia section, hence giving our coverage of those games...(wait for it)...extra life.

L.B. Jeffries posted a review of Steam’s excellent, groundbreaking downloadable game Audiosurf today, a game that we just can’t get enough of at PopMatters Multimedia HQ.  It’s nice to have a music-based game that doesn’t rely on any sort of latent musical talent, and the ease with which it can incorporate any piece of one’s MP3 collection is astounding.


Having played around with it for a while, we’ve found that Underworld’s “Dirty Epic” is a fantastic candidate for a fast-paced but relaxing ride (and a ten-minute one, at that), Wilco’s “Heavy Metal Drummer” is fun if you’re the type who likes rolling hills, and pretty much any spoken word piece (think audiobooks) is fun if you’re the type who thinks hopping curbs in your 4x4 is a good time.  Oh, and people seem to be enjoying “Through the Fire and Flames” a bit, too, as they’ve finally found a way to play that song that lets them hear the end.  No experience, however, has so far matched the good time to be had by playing the game with Akron/Family’s “Ed is a Portal”, which crests and falls so smoothly, building huge amounts of momentum for six minutes or so, after which you get about a minute of coasting up a hill for a cool down.  The combination of fantastic song and fantastic track is a sort of synergy that has, until now, been nearly untapped in gaming.  Download the demo, and try to tell us that the ten bucks for the full-on experience isn’t worth it.  Once you’ve dropped your Hamilton, come back and tip us off to some new musical experiences that we might not have tried yet.  We’ll be eternally grateful.


Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.