Two big shooters fired out this fall: Halo 4 and Call of Duty: Black Ops II. If you are into shooters (I mean, really into shooters), maybe you are looking for an edge. That's exactly what Japanese peripheral maker Hori hopes it can offer with its controller designed especially for FPS games on consoles. But does the controller hit its market? Let's put the pad through the paces and find out.
The FPS Assault Pad comes in two flavors: PS3 and Xbox 360. The review sample I was sent is a Japanese PS3 unit with official Sony branding. In the US, the controller is exactly the same sans the official PlayStation license. The Xbox 360 version, however, has official Microsoft licensing.
Out of the box, the first thing I notice about the FPS Assault Pad is the soft touch plastic. This controller feels nice, and I'm always flabbergasted that Sony and Microsoft skimp on the controllers, favoring hard, cheap plastics. Yes, I know it's a cost issue, but when you have a nice tactile controller like this, the extra cost sure seems worth it.
The controller's shape is similar to the DualShock in that the controller's face is flat (as opposed to the Xbox 360 controller's curved face). The grips, however, are different: they are slightly longer and cone shaped. They are, though, more comfortable than the DualShock's grips.
The big difference for the PlayStation version of the FPS Assault Pad, dubbed the FPS Assault Pad 3, is that the analog sticks are above the face buttons, instead of below. There might be a learning curve for some players, but I found that the analog sticks' location put a logical focus on those sticks as well as the shoulder and triggers. For FPS games, this is where your fingers want to be.
There are actually four shoulder buttons: the FR and FR shoulder buttons are below the R1 and L1 shoulder buttons. And the triggers below those buttons are closer to actual gun triggers than the DualShock's triggers—a welcomed tweak.
And since you can easily remap the buttons to those shoulder buttons, complaints about accessing the face buttons on the PlayStation version quickly become a moot point.
But if change is not your thing and you own Microsoft's gaming console, the Xbox 360 version, which is called the FPS Assault Pad EX, has the analog sticks in the same location as the official Microsoft controller.
The FPS Assault Pad comes with three different nubs for the analog sticks, each of varying lengths. Below you can see the shortest nub compared with the longest. The middle sized nub would be somewhere in the middle.
While using the longest one might seem like driving a double decker bus, I found it easier to control. It has more of a joystick feel, enabling you to control with side of the stick. Since your thumbs end up being in a higher position, accessing the shoulder buttons felt more comfortable—for me, at least. You do need to screw the nubs in fairly tight; I can see them coming loose during intense play if not screwed in correctly. Since the three sticks are just kind of packaged as is and without a case or even a bag, I do wonder if the alternate nubs will easily go M.I.A. I know they would at my house. Still, the customization options are winners.
Another feature I really like about the FPS Assault Pad is how there's a dial behind the Dpad to control the stick sensitivity. The difference isn't night and day, but it was noticeable, and the option to make those adjustments is appreciated. The other thing I like is the "Target" button on the controller's backside. Pressing it causes the onscreen camera movement to slow down. For example, if you press Target as you try whipping quickly the analog stick, the on-screen camera actually moves much slower. It's a good way to get steady precision, without having to make tiny thumb movements.
The controller is wired, which, in this day and age, might put off some players. But the cord is long, and you don't have to worry about the controller devouring batteries—something I imagine this controller could do. The force feedback is, well, forceful. But it wasn't exhausting or problematic; it's noticeable.
The one complaint I have about the FPS Assault Pad would be the LED lights. Goodness, they are too bright and very tacky! I really want third party peripheral makers to focus on classy-looking products and lay off the sci-fi reject pile! The default LED color is blue, but when you shoot, it turns red—a not so subtle reminder that you are shooting people in the face. Blood is red, geddit? Um... What's worse, from some angles, the LED can be seen peeking through the controller housing. That's a shame, because it seems like the FPS Assault Pad isn't well fitted together. A shame, because it is well fitted together. The LED light isn't a deal breaker, because, thankfully, you can switch it off.
If you play a lot of shooters on consoles, and you are not entirely satisfied with standard controllers, the FPS Assault Pad is definitely worth consideration. This is a very good controller, which delivers what it aims to do: offer customization and an edge for FPS gamers. So yes, it hits its mark.
FPS Assault Pad [Official Site]
Taken public and valued at $9 billion in so doing, Zynga's stock price has slid to a quarter of its value at the initial public offering, and taught a harsh lesson to the CEO about what happens when you run a company that gets graded every day in the form of its share price.
The Wall Street Journal reports that "tears nearly welled up" in the eyes of Pincus, Zynga's chief, during a tough-love meeting in September with Bill Campbell, a director on Apple's board, called in by a venture capital firm to advise Pincus on his company's direction.
Zynga's missteps in mobile games development appear to be a sore spot with investors, particularly. The company paid $183 million for Draw Something shortly after that game's release and has seen it steadily lose players ever since, much like its main Facebook games offerings, which have been hurt by changes Facebook has since made in how games are searched and displayed.
"Mark's challenge is how to make great games when his assets-his developers-are literally walking out the door," said one analyst, noting the bottomed-out morale that has Pincus so upset.
Behind Mark Pincus's Bid to Save Zynga [Wall Street Journal (subscription required)]
Where do I even start with this trailer for The Baby, a 1973 cult classic about a gigantic baby that looks like a regular man? The crazy hammy acting? The insane premise (which is really, if I'm not mistaken, the same as a particularly late nightish Will Ferrell skit from SNL)? The constant, shrieking violins? The fact that the trailer basically spoils the entire movie?
Maybe all of those things. Anyway, watch it. I promise your life will be just that much better once you've finished. Or worse. Wait screw it, I make no promises. You should still watch it, though.
Everyone ready for the weekend? What are you going to be playing? Anyone got a Wii U coming? (I'm on the waiting list.) Any other plans? I think I am gonna see Skyfall finally. (I may have said that last weekend, too.)
Feel free to talk about that, or anything else, here or over in the Talk Amongst Yourselves forum. Have a great weekend, one and all.
The White House's bullshit feel-good "We the People" initiative is, like all Internet petitions, worth the paper it is printed on.* Most of the petitions lodged there demand things the executive branch cannot effect on its own. The remainder are protest tantrums, like the secessionist fantasies a bored and distended mainstream media are indulging in the post-election news cycle. Today, I asked President Obama to unilaterally create Idahohiowa. If the proposal gets 25,000
YouTube comments signatures, the executive branch says the president will respond.
So far, Idahohiowa is 24,998 votes short of a presidential acknowledgment. But a movement to put a statue of Master Chief on the White House lawn is 689 times closer to getting on the West Wing's agenda. "Build a statue of Master Chief Petty Officer Spartan John-117 on the lawn of the White House," is this petition's plea, currently standing at 1,378 signatures. Though it too is ridiculous, it still calls for something infinitely more reasonable—and legal—than the Yosemite Sams who want Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, the usual suspects, to be allowed to secede following the president's re-election.
The petition is listed as relevant to the issues of "Firearms, Foreign Policy, Veterans and Military Families." It has until Dec. 14 to get the necessary 25,000 signatures. America has always shown great respect for those who have served. Now it is time for America to show respect to those who will serve, a couple hundred years into the future.
Build a statue of Master Chief Petty Officer Spartan John-117 on the lawn of the White House. [whitehouse.gov, thanks Nicholas R.]
This week we examine games from two series that frequently are accused of impersonating each other: Call of Duty: Black Ops II, and Halo 4.
Released: Nov. 13.
Critic: MasterOfMetroid (Metacritic)
• "I can't believe I waited in line for this."
Critic: ChrisTB (Metacritic)
• "CoD ... CoD never changes."
Critic: rmartinezdl (Metacritic)
• "I dont get why Activision keeps renaming their Single Player Campgain dlc ($10) and take 1 **** year to release a weapons/map patch, and why on earth is this patch $60."
Critic: Badonkadonk (Metacritic)
• "The critics are raving about this, but I guess Activision has been paying this off because this game is absolute garbage."
Critic: jnova80 (Metacritic)
• "Bro Fest 2012! Get your TapOut shirts and dubstep ready! This one is shaping up to be the biggest gathering of pointless nonsense we have ever seen!!!"
Critic: nufrequency (Metacritic)
• "If you or your kid have been diagnosed with ADHD ... or Kalnienk vision disorder this game is designed especially for YOU!"
• "This is not the Black Ops game you were hoping for... This is Super Turbo Edition !"
Released: Nov. 6.
Critic: StoneSoldier (Metacritic)
• "It's more like MW dressed up, right from the stupid climbing sequence right from the start."
Critic: Franky4Fingurs (Metacritic)
• "Think of Disney redoing star wars but the theme music doesn't start while the words are scrolling..."
Critic: BadmanFaust (Metacritic)
• "Best Call of Duty Game Ever!"
This week I agreed to look at a free-to-play game that just set my teeth on edge, and it has put me off freemium games, the flavor of the year in an oversaturated mobile gaming space, indefinitely.
Maybe you've heard of this one: Chip Chain, a numbers-matching puzzle game, whose gameplay is quite good, a perfect timewaster on a bus, a plane, or on the toilet. I fooled around with the game's "short" mode, in which you try for as high a score possible within a limited amount of moves. Then I put the game down and came back to it the next day.
"Short" was no longer available. It was locked. I could play "long" or "timed" if I wanted. Short would probably be available tomorrow, with either Long or Timed locked out. Obviously, if I wanted to play my preferred mode, I could pay for that.
There are more egregious freemium games out there—NFL Pro 2013 is one—but even in it, and in others I have played, there's a standard mode of play that's always available. I've not yet encountered a game that basically puts its playlist up for sale in this fashion. It's sort of like a free-to-play multiplayer shooter—they do exist—dangling team deathmatch on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and requiring you to pay to unlock it on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
I'm done with this shit.
When I review them, I spend most of my time probing freemium games for their ulterior motives, and there are plenty in Chip Chain. You're never evaluating the free experience solely for what it offers, you're always evaluating it in light of what it has held back and whether that is fair. All freemium games have some sort of bullshit secondary economy that gives them a fig-leaf defense that the whole game is in fact free if you play it enough. Chip Chain is no different, and when I pried it apart, I really got mad.
In about half a dozen games, I reached level 2, amassing 428 "gems," the virtual currency you use to unlock all of the features of the real game. Unlocking all game modes for play whenever you want them requires 20,000 gems. The game sells gems in lots of 100,000 (for $1.99) or 500,000 (for $4.99).
I saw that and I came to one conclusion: Chip Chain judges itself to be a $1.99 game, a perfectly reasonable price, but still a dollar more than the 99 cent price expectation established by the onslaught of self-published products—some good, most garbage—on this market. Instead of saying goddammit, we're worth it at that price—and I would have agreed, and said so in a Gaming App of the Day writeup—Chip Chain invented a back door to get you to buy it for $1.99 while still pretending to be a dollar or less.
This kind of abuse is why I'm officially done fucking around with freemium games. I will not play them. You see that big fat "free" next to a game's title in the iTunes or Android store, be suspicious. This is different from premium downloadable content—which does have its share of cynical practices, but at least the main game experience is still there, still whole. This also is not the same as pay-to-upgrade models, as I've played some fantastic mobile games that do offer a great base experience with the option to buy extra features. ARC Squadron is one.
For completely free games, though, I'm done trying to Perry-Mason my way through virtual economies and determine what these games really consider their price to be, whether it's reasonable, and how much of an effort is required to get all of the content for its advertised price, which is, ostensibly, free. I'm not going to praise gameplay when its core purpose is to get someone to spend more money.
I get no fewer than three pleadings each business day for me to review someone's new goddamn mobile game, and by now all of the pitches sound the same. They all use the same language. All the PR poured onto this publishing sector is just breathtaking. I get fewer emails and follow-ups about $60 console titles than I do about mobile games. You want me to play a game? Fine. I'll play a game. I won't play a get-rich-quick scheme. Neither should you.
Hey folks, Something Negative is a rant. Love it or hate it, we all need to blow off steam on Fridays. Let yours out in the comments.
It's called Chasing Aurora, and it'll be out Sunday when the Wii U launches. It's a multiplayer game with a handful of different modes. Seems pretty interesting! Check out their website for more.
On Monday, Pokémon enthusiasts can challenge the top 12 trainers from this year's World Championships in Pokémon Black 2 and White 2.
The trainers and teams will be distributed over the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection sometime on Monday, and will bring three-time world champion Ray Rizzo's stable of Tyranitar, Garchomp, Cresselia, Hydreigon, Rotom, Metagross along with 11 other trainers and their teams. The integration of real-world Pokémon champs and their teams within the game itself is a first for the series.
Here are the trainers and their rosters.
Correction: The Juniors and Seniors trainers have already been released; the Masters trainers will be available for download on Monday. That means you can already start testing your Pokémon mettle against the world's best.
World Champ: Ray—Tyranitar, Garchomp, Cresselia, Hydreigon, Rotom, Metagross
World Runner-Up: Wolfe—Hitmontop, Cresselia, Thundurus, Terrakion, Heatran, Exeggutor
World Finalist: Abel—Thundurus, Hitmontop, Latios, Cresselia, Metagross, Tyranitar
World Finalist: Joe—Excadrill, Tyranitar, Gastrodon, Salamence, Rotom, Cresselia
World Champ: Toler—Garchomp, Ludicolo, Cresselia, Hydreigon, Rotom, Metgross
World Runner-Up: Jaime—Thundurus, Tyranitar, Metagross, Hitmontop, Latios, Swampert
World Finalist: Nitesh—Heatran, Cresselia, Amoonguss, Metagross, Gyarados, Gastrodon
World Finalist: Henry—Tyranitar, Excadrill, Thundurus, Volcarona, Latios, Hitmontop
World Champ: Abram—Cloyster, Thundurus, Volcarona, Landorus, Tyranitar, Hitmontop
World Runner-Up: Brian—Sableye, Tyranitar, Hydreigon, Metagross, Hitmontop, Rotom
World Finalist: Brendan—Metagross, Tyranitar, Hitmontop, Cresselia, Zapdos, Gastrodon
World Finalist: Kippei—Garchomp, Tyranitar, Scizor, Thundurus, Hitmontop, Cresselia
Before Apple had Game Center it had OpenFeint, a gaming network that brought a cohesive online experience to countless iPhone, iPad and eventually Android games. Some of us may have opted to miss out on its fun features, but for many game developers it was a priceless tool. Come December 14, OpenFeint will be no more.
In early 2011, Asian social gaming giant GREE purchased OpenFeint for $104 million, acquiring its massive userbase but not doing much of anything with the platform itself. GREE has its own platform, and I assumed that eventually OpenFeint would be integrated into it. Just not quite so abruptly.
The closure, documented at GREE's OpenFeint developer page, gives developers of apps utilizing the service less than a month to either remove OpenFeint from their apps or migrate to the GREE platform. Once the service shuts down, according to the announcement, "OpenFeint network calls will be nonfunctional which may result in service disruptions to your game and a poor player experience".
Migration to the GREE platform is an option, but it's noted that a low-level integration can be completed in about a week — games that relied more heavily on OpenFeint could take much longer to move over.
So yeah, Happy Holidays, OpenFeint developers. I'll set aside some turkey for you next week as you are desperately scrambling to retool your games.
That's four more than the 16 the game has usually included in its standard version for high definition consoles, with about another 16 offered through downloadable content. Courses take up a lot of space on the disc, and I was told that a format update Microsoft pushed through around this time last year allowed EA Sports to jam 20 courses onto the Xbox 360 HD-DVD for the Collector's Edition of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13.
Upping the course count to 20 in the basic version is probably good PR for a series that got cuffed around when the Augusta National Par 3 course was held out as downloadable content, after being in the main game the year before. The new Course Mastery system, which actually allows gamers to play and even acquire DLC courses for free, was largely misunderstood at launch and portrayed as a kind of perpetual greens-fees scam. The Par 3 course is, again, being held out for the "Historic Edition," which will cost $10 more and whose content will be available as paid DLC. But a 20-course menu is a nice gesture, at least.
The full course list has yet to be revealed; one assumes that with Arnold Palmer appearing on the cover—and in the game for the first time in eight years—his home course of Bay Hill will return to the series, having last appeared in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11. The Arnold Palmer Invitational may even be a named event in the game's career mode.
Other details emerged from today's announcement of the game's "Historic Edition," notably that Jack Nicklaus will be a playable golfer in this game. (A 1986 Jack Nicklaus also is being offered as a pre-order incentive from Best Buy.) The historic edition will add another six courses, including a recreation of Augusta National in 1934, the year of the first Masters Tournament.
With Nicklaus in the game for the first time since Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06, golf fans should expect some kind of centerpiece featuring him, Palmer and Woods. Woods' goal of besting Nicklaus' record of 17 major championships featured prominently in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13's "Tiger Challenge," which was partly a recreation of key moments in Woods' career and partly an idealized future for it.