Mass effect 2 : an unbiased full review

February 11, 2010

When i look for game reviews, i look for a straight forward conclusion first, i go ahead and read details only if i choose to later, most reviewers always keep talking nonsense for the first two pages and go into irrelevant,almost-guide-like details maybe to get more google ads exposure etc…

This review will be straight to the point, and will be from a point of view of a veteran gamer made for veteran gamers, if you are new to video games or play casually, this will probably make no sense to you and you will probably think it is harsh, but you should know later on that this is not. Also in this review, i will try not to repeat what has already been said millions of times on hundreds of reviews…

First of all, lets define things and call them what they are :

1- Cinematic and cut scenes have ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with an RPG game, especially with the RP part of it.

2-even if cinematics and cut scenes are greate, they still have ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with the value of an RPG.

that being said, Mass effect 2 has indeed outstanding cut scenes, an excellent story but an almost non existent RPG value, why is it still called ab RPG? i have no idea, and i am surprises that most if not all professional reviewers missed such a huge point.

PROS:

+ Excellent production values, outstanding cut scenes, voice acting etc… Hollywood box office worthy.

+ stable, the game have very few to no hick ups at all, impressive for such a large title.

+ superb storyline and unique characters

CONS:

NO, Zero, Nada, Zilch RPG value, characters are non customizable, relevant items can be counted on fingers. Mass effect 2 has almost no customization, both your armor and weapon choices are as limited as in any FPS, actually, many FPS and Action games have a better customization than ME2.

Exploration is pathetic, you have a ship and a crew but cant fight nobody unless there is a story? why not put random mobs on random planets?

Linear closed world, you can only go in one and only direction?! what happened to the open world idea?

no more driving and vehicle combat? is this an upgrade or a nurf?

PC Version Specifics:

Once again, the PC versions gets dumbed down thanks to the console’s hardware limits and Bioware is giving PC owners a strong message of  “we really don’t care much about you guys” in form of a mod-less title with very average textures and with very limited body meshes. The PC version could have easily been a mega hit if it was :

– moddable

-with an open world

-with vehicle combat

-with larger squad

-with better textures / graphics

but unfortunately it is not the case, im wondering why is this a different game? to me it felt like an expansion or a DLC that added some features and subtracted other features like vehicles etc…

the PC version is important because it gives an extra life span to the title, even if you play the console version, it is always a crisp sweet idea that you can revisit your game on the moddable PC version where you can experiment with a lot of new content. an accurate example would be comparing ME1 to Dragon Age Origins, while the first one is long dead and buried, DAO has an alive and growing online community of players, modders and enthusiasts who are still getting creative by adding new stuff day after day.

i see a lot of people screaming “how a great is ME2” and i agree, ME2 is indeed a great action title that shouldn’t be missed, but lets not forget that ME2 could have been 10x better as it is right now if Bioware gave its RPG part what it deserves, they could have just made it as good as any average RPG out there and it could have added a lot to the game, also, they could have given the PC version a little more love and less indifference by making it moddable, open worlded and better looking.

to be continued…

Dragon Age: Origins – Review

December 23, 2009
Dragon Age: Origins review table

Dragon Age: Origins review table

Briefly, Dragon age is a good game, artistically great looking but not as good as we expected it to be technically.

this is a simple and straight to the point Dragon Age Origins review, nothing fancy but critical nonetheless…

Pros:

+the music is impressive and nicely present.

+the voice cast and cut scenes are very well done.

+the plot (as far as i went) and quests are well designed.

+tactical combat and commanding/ micro managing all team characters is an impressive  and fancy feature.

Cons:

-invisible walls are all over, that kills the immersion (unacceptable for a 2009 RPG)

-graphics are average at best (especially on PCs), although artistically, the game looks great

-the learning curve could be very horizontal – lack of in game tutorials

-characters body’s all look the same / very average character creator

Call of duty: Modern warfare 2 – Review

December 22, 2009

About The PC vs Console dilemma

December 22, 2009

In recent years, the gap and rupture between PC and consoles as gaming platforms have grown even bigger and more complicated than ever.

as i mentioned earlier about modern warfare 2 (MW2), this game is a perfect example in this context, MW2 was (is still) no doubt an outstanding game on consoles (PS3 and XBox360) however, on the PC platform, the game is technically not only outdated but also a rollback for the genre altogether !

more than 3 years ago, PC gamers enjoyed (and still enjoying) Battle Field 2 (as an example) , an online military shooter where players can have their own dedicated servers and where they can compete on teams of 32 vs 32 . yes that was more than 3 years ago.

MW2 does not allow dedicated servers and limits the online experience to only 9 vs 9 – which is, and from a PC player perspective nothing short of pathetic.

yes, the game sold a plethora of copies even on the PC platform and thats of course because besides those technical limitations, the game is a great deal of action coupled with a lot of controversy…  which makes almost everyone wanna try it no matter what and even if he knows that he will only play it for a few days…

video games specialized websites like IGN.com have done a very poor job in this area, they gave MW2 an almost perfect score on consoles (9.5) which is allegedly well deserved, but surprisingly gave it the same score on PC which was a shock to almost all PC players without exceptions.

for consoles, MW2 was a leap forward in every aspect, but for PCs it was as i said before, a leap backward technically and the graphics were very average (many many PC title look much better),  for a PC gamer, the only part worth playing in MW2 was the single player controversial  campaign, the multi player part could impress a young PC gamer, but for veterans who actually played hardcore online shooter like BF2, MW2 was not to consider.

About video games reviews

December 22, 2009

Briefly and without going into useless details, among many others, i feel that video games reviewing sites are getting biased more and more, you can read any major title review on any major website to see that most of the review text is some kind of a set of forced fabricated sentences only worthy to be on a tv add instead of a review, take for example call of duty modern warfare 2, the game is no doubt good, but for PC gamers it was mostly a downgrade from what they had 3 years ago ! yet, it got the same score of 9+ out of ten almost all over the specialized web sites (IGN.com etc…) save a few like gamespot.com who actually gave it a 8.5

In order to not be one of those who just surface to complain before returning to the abyss of silence again, i decided to at least try and make some difference by writing my own reviews, obviously im not gonna be able to write a review for each game out there myself, but i will no doubt write at least one for every major game as i consider myself a very mainstream gamer.

About car reliability.

December 15, 2009

One of the most or probably the most used word used by the media when the subject is  the car sale industry is “reliability”.

as i was trying to buy a new car myself lately, i found out that the word means nothing. It is over used and over abused by both car manufacturers and dealers.

obviously, everyone wants it’s next car to be “reliable”… but what’s a reliable car? a car who doesn’t break? doesn’t break often? has cheap parts and labor? gas economic? comfortable? enduring? still performs well at high mileage? has a good resale price?…

no one will ever give you one simple answer and everybody has its own mental image of what is “reliable” and what is not.

after doing some research myself, i came to the conclusion that reliable is actually relative to the person and to the situation, in other words: what may be reliable for me, can be very unsatisfying for you and vice versa.

people usually look at various criteria when considering a new car purchase but all those criteria boil down to two main categories : Price  and Quality.

some people wanna move from A to B for a minimum cost and some people wanna enjoy going from A to B and are willing to pay a fee for that, there is no right or wrong here, it is a matter of a personal choice and situation, social classes have nothing to do with this as we can find two people who make the same amount of money having very divergent car choices.

the first group of people will go for a low gas consumption vehicle with minimum luxury, those people will not really care about state of the art expensive mechanical components nor care for any cutting edge electronic system, but they will still wanna get the best out of their money.

the second group of people will gladly pay extra cash for more performance, more luxury and comfort and even for a better looking car.

The Scams:

1-car dealers use some very interesting figures when they try to convince potential buyers, for example, a dealer will tell you that his car’s “the car he is trying to sell you” annual maintenance fee average in the first 5 years is 2 times less than it’s more luxurious, more expensive counterpart ! – this argument alone could be enough to convince an average person- and that is actually true, however, thats only half the story, the other relevant half is that the average annual maintenance cost is something like $90 all together ! so even if it’s double ($180) for the other luxurious car, it is still irrelevant to the decision you are trying to make. (a figure with $2000 vs $4000 would have been relevant for example).

2-dealers will usually compare apples to tomatoes and throw a few facts followed with a plethora of lies to willingly confuse you. a dealer will tell you that you are getting the same from him for half  the price of a high performance / luxury car by saying something in the order of : “this car got leather seats, sun roof, low gas mileage… same as that other car which is twice as expensive” and again in this scenario, the dealer did not lie, he only stated unfinished unquantifiable half facts, yes, both cars have leather seats, however, if you actually look closely at both (people should ALWAYS physically look at both cars before making a decision) you will see that one leather can be very different than the other, that the moon roof can be a simple square roof or can be a panoramic fully automated with sliding auto shader…

im not advocating for luxury cars nor suggesting that you should get one, what im trying to say is that, you will get what you pay for. and you will no doubt pay more for less if you are not carefull, dealers will try to somehow convince you that their brand X’s manufacturer has somehow slashed production costs by half and is providing you with what other car makers are selling for twice the price tag. this theory is absolute garbage, moreover, the dealer is actually trying to justify a high price tag on an economy product by convincing you that it is a s good as a luxurious product.

3- using the reliability card

dealers of economy mainstream cars will always actively and wrongly use the reliability card (at least in the USA), they will claim and defend that their brand is more reliable than any more expensive luxury brand, this is actually both true and false and mainly depends on what you as a customer perceive as reliable, to clearly understand this, you should first know what makes a car. All cars are by design and intentionally not made equal, yes they all have engines, 4 wheels and drive forward, but all don’t have the same level of craftsmanship and details, a little xenon head light here, a superior quality leather on the seats and more sensors there… can make the price of a car go up by tens of thousands of dollars ! and the trick is, those extra components will not only cost more initially, but will cost more to maintain and to exchange. for example: a car can either have a simple wind shield wiper or a high-end rain sensing automatic wiper which requires at least one more sensor, more cabling and at leat one more electronic controller system. knowing all that, what do you think is more reliable? a care with simple basic components which even if broken down will cost a small fee to repair? or a car with high-tech components which simplify your life and give you an optimal ride quality but if broken down will cost much more? as you can see, it’s not a yes or no situation, and claiming that car X is more reliable than car Y is usually a bad statement, unless both cars are in the same exact category.

lets take as an example two cars of the same category (medium sedan) x and y, x is an economy mainstream car that costs around $20k, y is a luxury car costing $30k – a close look at both you will see that y has less components and if both have the same components than x has a cheaper, less polished version of that part. the result is that y is more likely to break down since it has more features and more components than x, while x is less likely to break down since it has less features/components and  even if it breaks down, the components are very affordable to exchange. so claiming that x is more reliable than y is somehow true but also misleading.

even some renown consumer research website are wrong when they publish or interpret the results of their surveys. if more people are reporting trips to the garage concerning car y, it does not necessarily mean that car x is more reliable even if it has half the garage trip reports than car y, and thats because of many reasons but mainly because what we have discussed above (component count etc…) and also because owners of luxury cars are in my opinion much more likely to hit the garage every time they even sense that something could be wrong and for the smallest of problems thinking about mitigating the costs of a later much serious problem, versus economy car owners who again in my personal opinion are less likely to take their car to the garage for several reasons varying from the fact that they don’t care much if some extra unnecessary feature is half working  or not working at all to the fact that they are not willing to pay for the visit or the deductible.

more to come…

About iPhone vs DROID

November 9, 2009

Now that the Motorola DROID featuring Google’s newest mobile operating system: “Android 2.0” is launched by Verizon, and unless you live in a cave,  you will no doubt  come across a DROID review and/or an “iPhone vs DROID” article, same happened to me, I’ve read a multitude of news feeds, blog posts and journal articles about the subject, unfortunately, the vast majority of em are biased or at least equivocal to an extent where they become confusing and unsatisfying.

Having used both as of now and knowing that both have practically the same computing power (they both use the same micro chip) and proportions, i can honestly state the following facts :

iPhone

Pros over DROID:

+ The best thing ever to happen in this last decade, at least thats what i think of it, whether you own one or not and whether you like it or not, Apple has changed the way the web is browsed and the way cell phones are meant to be used, with an explosive amount of Apps and with a revolutionary device which appeals both to high tech junkies and to girlies who like cool fluffy things, Apple entered history as an innovative corporate which doesn’t only make eye candy useless things but which makes high tech useful gadgets loved by all.

+ Slim and cool design appeals to almost everyone out there.

+ Outstanding number of apps (100000+).

+ Unrivaled multi touch functionality.

+ Ease of use and familiarity for the millions who already used an iPod or an iPode touch.

Cons vs DROID:

Apple dictatorship and heavy unexplained censorship both on the App store and on the way users can manage their own files on their own device (iPhone).

iTunes  ** some like it (maybe because they don’t know of / not provided with any alternative !) but the majority hate it and they are free to do so and deserve something better or other alternatives.

AT&T weak and slow 3G network, many people i personally know reported that the 3G network at AT&T is inconsistent, i have also read that AT&T will switch you to their regualr network if their 3G is busy.

DROID:

Pros over iPhone:

+ The most striking feature is the DROID’s high resolution screen (almost twice the rso;ution of the iPhone), web browsing get much clearer and much easier.

+ Uncensored app store: as Google does not dictate who’s app is worthy and who’s app is not. developers will make whatever they think is a good idea, they will singn their work electronically and either offer their software(app) for free or for a price, they will also be responsible for copyright infrangement and other legal issues, only the offer and demand would dictate who stays and who goes as in any free market.

+ 5MP camera, although the original camera software is slow and having a hard time focusing the camera on close objects, the piece of hardware itself is one of the best you can get on a cell phone, with a led flash, its a winning feature, lets just hope for a better shooting app soon. oh, and the video recording is very descent.

+ A real physical keyboard, we can argue for a long time about software/touch keyboard a la iPhone vs physical keyboard a la HTC but at the end, having both of them is a win win situation, im no fan of the physical keyboard myself and i wish the DROID opted for sliminess instead of a physical keyboard, but pleasing both sides is a nothing short of a smart idea. Now if you are wondering which touch keyboard is better, the iPhone’s or the DROID’s, my wife who owned an iPhone since the first 3G generation said that they felt the same to her, also i think it is worth mentioning that soon they could be a multitude of different virtual keyboard available as apps for all tastes and colors…

+ Google goodies: with a top notch turn by turn navigation system powered by no other than the supreme Google maps, this is a feature that no other phone can even dream of, as a matter of fact, the navigation in the DROID is ages better than all the commercial apps/GPSs from Garmin and Tomtom. When it comes to GPS navigation, and as of today, the DROID is the ultimate device ! and its FREE !, leaving everything else in the dust… Google is also equipping the DROID with many other free apps like “Listen” (podcast search) and the controversial Google voice that Apple banished from its iPhone a few months ago.

Cons vs iPhone:

Sticky screen : yes, nobody ever mentioned this, my finger always felt some resistance when touching the DROID’s screen for scrolling and paging a la iPhone, its like the screen was made for taps but not slides and finger scrolls, after putting a protective slice of plastic that i bought for $12.99, i was still experiencing the same problem, actually this is a big and annoying  issue especially for those who are used to iPhones, i personally tried my wifes iPhone both with and without a protective layer, and the touch felt much smoother and resistance free than on the DROID.

Edgy shape: i personally love the DROID’s rectangular and edgy shape, however, i know for a fact that im not the majority nor do i represent it, many critics claimed that the DROID is a “manly” device, and i agree, i know of many woman who actually preferred the HTC Droid Eris over the Motorola DROID because the Eris is more softer on the edges, lighter and slimmer…  so why loose audience in a highly competitive market? Motorola could have made two versions available or something like that, after all, its just a shape change isn’t it?

Way less Apps in the Market/App store. Yes, we all know that the ANDROID platform is newer than the iPhone and therefore needs more time to mature and have as many Apps as its nemesis, but for comparing apples to apples and for the sake of staying objective, if you get the DROID today, you will no doubt get a lot of apps, almost for everything, but still wont come even close to what the app store on the iPhone has to offer.

Camera having hard time focusing especially on close up objects, (waiting on a better app and hoping its not a hardware fault !)

FINAL VERDICT

DROID wins but not by much (at least not as much as i expected), with everything taken in consideration, the DROID wins because of its high resolution screen, the blazing consistently fast 3G network of Verizon wireless and because of its platform openness.

if the iPhone was on Verizon too, then it would have been a tie.

if Apple would have opted for an open platform, and have given its users another way of managing their files other than iTunes,  then the iPhone would have been the winner no doubt. because besides the large screen and the GPS Nav, the DROID would have had nothing more to compete with and wold have had 3 years of app development to catch up on…

who should buy what ?

both devices are top notch, and honestly, one must look very hard in order to find any faults to complain about in any of em…

you are a winner either way,

Get an iPhone if:

* you already own one (stick with it unless your contract is over and you really wanna change)

*love the way an iPod works, and love iTunes and/ dont know any better way to transfer your files to/from your device

*you love Apple’s way of dealing with things and you love their products.

* need a GSM device

*looking for ease of use and user friendliness

*looking for the best looking device out there

Get the DROID if:

*you really hate iTunes and prefer copy paste using simple USB instead (like me).

*need a consistent fast 3G network.

*love the high resolution screens.

*need a physical qwerty keyboard.

*want Google Voice and FREE high quality GPS Navigation

*you are on Verizon network and have been waiting for an iPhone caliber phone to arrive.

Is the DROID an iPhone killer?

Absolutely not, the iPhone ravaged all the other phones (Blackberries, Palms, Windows based etc…) for the last 3 years because it was twice as fast, useful and better than any one of them.

an iPhone killer should be at least twice as good as the iPhone, the DROID is great but not twice as better as the iPhone.

i think they will both coalesque for a while and keep shaping up the web-mobile relationship,  it is always good to remember that it was the iPhone who pushed Motorola and HTC to make competitive phones such as the Hero, HD and now the DROID and the Eris,  this latest one is simply pushing back Apple, and who knows maybe in a few months we will get an iPhone 2 which will dwarf all the previous phones and claim air wave dominance again for Apple for another 3 years?

after all, competition is whats really good for us, users…


About Battlestar Gallactica

October 30, 2009
The ending sucks, totally sucks, i enjoyed every single minute BUT the last episode. as i see it, all of a sudden an admiral went into suicide mode, throwing a whole fleet into the sun, destroying tens of thousands of years of civilization and technology while having active foes roaming freely in space. that was the most stupid thing ever made in anything i watched. furthermore, that was a tactical mistake that even a navy new recruit wouldn’t make.

I dont know what happened exactly but it looks like somebody got tired and wanted to end that series quickly, why didn’t they take their time and finished it correctly? after all it was one of the most watched series worldwide ! and i dont believe budget was one of their concerns. or was it?
i just can’t seem to find a reasonable explanation for what happened with this series…

About PC vs Mac

October 30, 2009

Those commercials were kind of funny at first, i personally love that guy, however, they have gotten a bit lame later on… and by force of repetition… i wish they stoped while they were still fresh.
so basically the guy is saying that a PC is not the way to go by stressing on : “i’m a PC, buy me cause im better now and take my word for it. ” while showing how PCs are known to have many issues like freezing, viruses etc…
but what is kind of funnier is that the commercial is doing the same thing in favore of Apple : “dont by a PC for the reasons mensionned above, buy a mac instead and take our word for it !”
the matter of the fact is, both PCs and Macs have their problems, both have viruses and both can do basic stuff like email and imaging etc…

The main difference is that the whole PC system (since the eaarliest IBM compatibles) was found on an open structrure, where you can pick and choose all your computer components one by one and where many companies are competing for your hard earned money. Both Windows and Linux are made with that in mind.
The widespread use of PCs also makes them more vulnerable to malware, viruses, trojans, worms, spywares, spams etc… there are thousands and thousands of dedicated hackers all around the world who are trying to / hacking PCs for reasons that vary from making cash for a living to braging rights…

Apple on the other hand has a diffrent approach, they limit your problems by limiting your options. every software or hardware must have the Apple corporation benediction in order to be used on a Mac (a la iPhone), and for that reason Macs tend to have less hardware problems (freezes) etc… even though macs have their fair share of viruses  (contrary to the popular thought that they don’t since macOS is unix based), but still, they are indeed much secure than PCs, thats a fact, and another related fact is that it is mainly because of the low usage of Macs in corporate servers and offices which makes hackers uninterested. With that being said, any comparision attempt would be illogical and every drawn conclusion would be false or at least incomplete.

So at the end, it all burns down to a personal choice, i myself for example will never use a Mac unless it is as open as a PC which will make it basically a PC, i enjoy building my own machine and choosing every single part from the motherboard to the screen and i love having dozens of possibilities to chose from for each part. i love using 3rd party software, and i love upgrading my machine part by part and as I see it, not as Apple corp sees it, i love to buy and use independant (indy) games and software and im tired of corps telling me what i should use and what i shouldn’t. In other words, my PC grants me a freedom that a Mac wont, yes, that freedom comes at a risk, a risk of viruses and hardware drivers compatibility problems, but thats a risk im aware of and that i am willing to gladlly take. If i didn’t care much about all of that, and my only consern was basic computer usage, then i will most likely give a Mac a try.
Going back one last time to the commercial(s), i think it really represents how Apple sees its Macs,  i watch it and i see an average guy/ Mr everybody saying “im a PC” and a cool looking well dressed guy saying “i’m a Mac” the first guy trys to do something and freezes and the cool guy does the “i dont do that attitude” the way i see it, is that at least the PC was trying to do something while it froze, while the Mac was not doing anything and did not freeze. and i think that could be projected perfectly on reality, PCs do a lot of stuff while Macs are just sitting there and looking cool…
i dont know if they intended that, but as a practical person, that commercial does not encougrage me to get a Mac.