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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

PSP Slim dead pixel

1 dead pixel doesn't seem like such a big deal. And if all you do with your PSP is play mostly darkly-lit action games, it isn't even noticible.

But I do more with my PSP(s) than just games... I watch lots of video, and look at photos... and that's when the 1 dead pixel can really annoy. It's a bit more than just the same as having a piece of dust on the screen, because even though it's "dead", it IS backlit. So it shows up more than dust does.

And as shown in the pic, WHERE that 1 dead pixel is can be really distracting.

Sigh... this is the exchange PSP Slim I got back from MTC, after they couldn't fix the original PSP Slim I sent them. I have 90 days warranty on it from them. I could send it back... but I've read horror stories of them in situations like this, so I dunno...

I don't know if I should just sell it or what....


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Slacker Uprising

So, I'm a fan of Micheal Moore.... and hearing that he was posting his latest film, Slacker Uprising, on the net for free, I had to check that out.

If you go to www.slackeruprising.com they ask for your email, then they send you a link to view the film. The only thing I don't like is that you must be a resident of U.S./Canada... sure I'm in Canada, but I *hate* it when net content is restricted based on the country you're in (or not in, as is the case) I've been on the other side of that situation a bit too often.

This is the link he sends in the email: http://slackeruprising.com/download

Where you can watch the movie streaming in your browser, or download it through a few options, one being iTunes. I wanted a PSP-formatted copy (to watch on my PSP, natch) but don't use iTunes. So I chose to download it in AVI format via this link: http://slackeruprising.com/download/hypernia.php

The resolution is 640 x 360, so it's a medium size film that probably looks good (enough) on a 19" monitor. To me, the AVI is only the first step. The AVI file is big, 1.02 GB.

I often have to transcode video from a different format (such as AVI, or if it's on the web like YouTube, then FLV) to PSP compatible .MP4. I use 2 programs, PSP Video 9 (version 1.74) and Super©. I find that one or the other usually gets it done, though PSP Video 9 is my go-to app for conversion. That's what I used to transcode the Slacker Uprising AVI.

I'm using an older version, so the resolution sizes are basically 320 x 240 or 368 x 208 for 16:9 widescreen. Only after 2 years did Sony allow memory stick video to be played back at the PSP's full resolution of 480 x 272, until then we had to settle for these resolutions.... I've got a few 480 x 272 vids, they do look great. But the old resolutions are fine enough for me. Slacker Uprising is a pretty short "movie", only a bit longer than an hour. PSP Video 9 takes a long time to transcode video, because it does 2 passes so as to maximize quality yet compress the file size as much as possible. It's fairly efficient. Transcoding took about 1.5 hours, and my final file size is 244 MB. Not bad, from 1 GB. [EDIT: For some reason, I didn't get the entire movie... only about 2/3 of it. So I re-downloaded it as an .MP4 file (not compatible with PSP though)]

There are 2 .MP4 formats that the PSP uses, .MP4 simple profile (SP) and .MP4 h.264 AVC. It's confusing, because they both have the same file extension (.MP4) but they have to be put in different folders on the PSP, and given different file names. .MP4 SP files have to be named M4V*****.MP4. (*=5 digit number) and AVC .MP4 files need to be named MAQ*****.MP4. Sony has introduced a VIDEO folder for the PSP in later firmware updates, that allow for regular named videos to be put in there... it doesn't always work, so I stick with the old style.

Ripping DVDs to PSP format, using PSP Video 9, it's a slow process because the DVD file is usually about 5-6 GB. And the final PSP format movie ends up being about 400-500 MB.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow

So I just finshed off Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow. It's a sequel to one of the *BEST GAMES AVAILABLE* on the PSP, Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror. SF:DM is so good on PSP, that Sony should've made a package bundled with the system.

+Still same great core gameplay and production vaules as Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror.

+Added underwater missions which work really well.

-Unfortunately, most of the rest they added really sucks, like "God of War style" buttons presses.

-Buggy contextual sequences, sometimes it's near impossible to line up properly to activate things you need to activate (which is strange because SF:DM did this very well)

- The production values are a bit TOO good for their own good: cutscenes sometimes go by so quickly they are a blur, and there's so many subtitles to read that we can't see what's going on because the cuts are so fast.

Logan's Shadow is a new stand-alone adventure, so you don't need to have played SF:DM before it... there are only a few mentions about some details in that game. If you're an absolute stickler for story content, then you should play SF:DM first.... otherwise, don't worry about it too much. It can be a bit harder to find Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror on PSP than it is to find Logan's Shadow.

Both games have the same core gameplay, you play as Gabe Logan, a Clint-Eastwood-sounding badass that could give Jack Bauer of 24 a run for his money. This is a 3rd person "tactical" shooter; you have to plan your attack & size up a room, because simply rushing in will most likely just get you killed. It is very similar to the Metal Gear Solid or Splinter Cell series of games in that you can use stealth to sneak up on enemies & kill them. But unlike Splinter Cell, in Logan's Shadow, if you fail stealth manuevers, you don't usually fail the mission-- it's just the enemy is alerted & they send out more baddies after you. I like that it's more forgiving that way.

The big defining gameplay aspect of these Syphon Filter PSP games is being able to hide behind cover, and aim/shoot at enemies while behind cover. You go up to walls & boxes, you can kneel down if need be, and you "snap to" them. Very cool for a PSP game. For a portable game, there are a lot of features and the production values of both games is EXTREMELY good, this is about as close to a home console experience you'll find on portable game system.

But I'm sorry to say that Logan's Shadow disappointed me. It is still a great game, and if this was the first Syphon Filter game I'd played, I might not have been disappointed. They added a couple great new features: Being able to blind fire from behind cover, and also being able to grab enemies & use them as shields.

Unfortunately, they also saw fit to add the now-cliché "God of War style" button presses, and man do they SUCK. 2 times during the game, they are a near-impossible series of button presses, most of the time they involve rapid presses of the X button during random cutscenes. Really annoying.

Then there are times where the contextual commands are so sensitive that you have to line up EXACTLY PERFECT to make the option pop up... say there's a switch you need to pull, normally you walk up in front of the switch, and press ↑ to activate pops up.... but sometimes it's so finicky that it shows up for half a second & you're moving around just trying to get the command to stay on the freakin' screen long enough that you can PRESS it. Add being shot at to the mix, and it equals wanting to hunt down the programmers & punch them out.

I'm not sure if they rushed this game out or what... because like I've said, the production values are great. That's what frustrates me, to have little things that really show a lack of polish in gameplay while the rest is so good.

The music is strange, at first I was like, "what's with the Enya?" the music by Azam Ali is good, but not always appropriate for the game. Too mournful, when there needs to be a more driving beat. The Logan's Shadow theme is an amazing song, I have it on my PSP & listen to it all the time.

The story is a convoluted mess... let's face it, storylines in games are usually not great, but still.... to get an air of authenticity, they used a lot of foreign languages like Russian & Mandarin. So you need to read the subtitles to follow. But they scenes change so fast that you miss a lot of onscreen action just trying to keep up with them. The story was co-written by comics writer Greg Rucka, who's known for his "meat & potatoes" no-frill spy stories like his Queen & Country series of comics. But that doesn't necessarily make him a good video game writer. I think the story didn' t set up the game as well as the scenarios for Dark Mirror did. Logan's Shadow has 2 endings, one before & one after the credits. They both suck! Man. Disappointing is all I can say....

Syphon Filter:Dark Mirror is such a fine experience on the PSP, that even though Logan's Shadow is still really good at times, it can't live up to the previous game.

Logan's Shadow Gamespot trailer:


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

PSP dead pixel

So, the PSP I got back after sending my broken one in has a dead pixel. It's very weird, because pixels are either dead (just go black) or stuck (stay a certain colour). But in this case, it would get stuck, but sometimes go back to blending in with the rest of the screen; work as normal, basically. I've never seen or heard of that before.

But I figure it was only a matter of time before it died and stayed permanently black.... and it looks like that's happened. Dead pixels are annoying, even if it's only one. You still notice it when watching video.

I've owned 5 PSPs, and 4 of them have had pixel or screen problems. 4 out of 5 PSPs. And the ONE PSP that didn't have screen problems is the one that had the UMD drive problem. Have I mentioned what a shitty company Sony is? Not today, I guess.

#1•PSP fat bought in May 2006, had 3 dead pixels, 2 were clumped together. I took it back a couple days later & exchanged it for another PSP.

#2•Replacement PSP has 1 blue stuck pixel. I decided to cut my losses & stick with it, who knows what the next exchanged PSP would've been like.

#3•PSP Slim bought Oct 9, 2007 (launch day for the Star Wars white PSP) no dead pixels, I was *so* shocked & happy.... then 3 months later, UMD drive started acting up.

#4•PSP Slim bought in July, 2008 (same white SW model) got it from Blockbuster video, which doesn't take returns AT ALL.... but I got it fairly cheap ($150.00) There's a speck of red paint or something underneath the screen. I know it's not a stuck pixel because I can see it when the PSP is turned off. It effectively looks/acts the same as a dead pixel though. I've barely used this PSP, so a pixel problem could show up down the road (part of why I'm afraid to use it much) so I'm not sure if I should sell it on eBay or what. I definitely don't need 2 PSP Slims.

#5•Replacement from the first PSP Slim I bought with the UMD troubles... my "main" PSP... now has a stuck pixel.

The PSP is notorious for having a really high dead pixel rate. I know that dead/stuck pixels can happen with ALL LCD screens, there are small rates of such in all LCD screens. But with the PSP, it's much higher than the average. Obviously it's still a problem even though they've come out with newer PSPs, the PSP-2000 (PSP Slim) and I'm sure the dead pixel problem will continue with the PSP-3000. Sony likes to cut corners.

The only upside to my latest dead pixel is that it came on gradually, easing me into the inevitablity of its demise. It still really bums me out though. I can only hope it doesn't get worse.


Windows XP Service Pack 3

I just updated to Service Pack 3... this time instead of making the same mistake I made with updating to Firefox 3 without looking into it, I tried to read up on SP 3.... actually, I read some articles about it recently, that there have been issues with it. I don't use an AMD processor, or a black hole router (not sure what that is), or Norton security products... all those have had issues with SP 3.

Right now things seem good. Hope it stays that way.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Saturday, September 20, 2008

PSP repair: MTC Coquitlam

Update on my PSP repair. So, I mailed in my PSP Slim to MTC, which is a 3rd party repair depot that services Sony products in Canada. They have 2 depots, one in Ontario I believe, for the eastern part of Canada, and one in Coquitlam for the west, which is where I sent mine.

This is a video of my PSP with the problem:

(yeah that's my hand)

They have a web site where you can keep track of your repair status, so I kept checking in on how it was doing.

Coquitlam isn't that far from me, so I knew it would only take 1 day to mail it.

For 2 weeks, it said "Waiting for test"..... then in the 3rd week it changed to "Waiting for Exchange unit", (I think they were waiting for Sony to send them a replacement) then "Exchange unit picked"... and about 3 weeks after mailing it in, I got a PSP back!

I'm pretty sure it's not the same one I mailed, the serial number's different. I assume it's a refurbished PSP, but it feels like new. No scratches, the USB port is stiff like it's never been used... but it could still be refurbished I guess. They sent it back in the same box I mailed to them. There was no communication with them at all, but since they did what they were supposed to, guess there didn't need to be.

So for the last couple weeks, I've been "testing" my new PSP, being forced to make sure it's in good working conditions by playing games on it as much as I can... oh yeah, it's tough but I'm a trooper, hehe. Been playing Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron on it lots, because that game was malfunctioning on my PSP quite a bit before I sent it in (and it's my fave game) but I've also been playing games that use the UMD drive a lot, like Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror. So far, everything's good. [EDIT: Just found 1 dead pixel... popped up this morning, near the center of the screen. Crap... I knew I shouldn't've spoken too soon....]

When you buy a product from Sony, they have a 1 year warranty. I basically waited almost that year to send it in, and now my replacement model has a 90 day warranty. I kind of feel like I have 90 days to see if I can break it.... it works great now, but I'm always wary of refurbished product.

The PSP Slim, A.K.A. PSP-2000, is a bit of an advancement over the original PSP A.K.A. PSP-1000. But I'm sure that a big part of it was also for Sony to cut manufacturing costs. They replaced whatever they could that was metal with plastic, and the biggest change is the UMD disc door. On the PSP-1000, the door is spring loaded to eject, and there's a metal tray that holds the UMD firmly in place. Back in 2005, Sony was (rightfully) concerned with making their portable device play discs without skipping and can stand up to travel.

On the PSP-2000, the door is now manually opened, and there's no metal tray. The UMD just flops against the door until it's shut!

I'm not sure how common this UMD drive problem is with the PSP Slim... but I wouldn't be surprised if there was a higher than normal failure rate. When you think about it, it's only been out for a bit more than a year. I suspect a lot of people put up with it. Unlike my original PSP door, which is tight when closed, the PSP Slim doors move quite a bit, they jiggle. That can't be good. Definitely feels cheap.

I think the PSP Slim isn't quite as sturdy as the old PSP. It's just another reason why I've grown to *HATE* Sony, particularly their PlayStation division. I *LOVE* the PSP, but I hate Sony, they're really degrading their quality, and driving what was once a good PlayStation brand, into the ground.

My original PSP was bought in May 2006, and it still works fine 2 years later. My PSP Slim started malfunctioning 3 months after I bought it in Oct 2007... so I wonder how long this replacement will last. And with the PSP-3000 coming out in a couple months, I wouldn't be surprised if Sony found another way to cut their costs and skimp on some more quality.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed - Wii - 2nd Impressions

See also: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed - Wii - First Impressions

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed on Wii:

+Incredibly cool motion controls.

+You start off pretty powerful, the gameplay is empowering and fun.

+Story, while hokey at times, is surprisingly compelling, especially if you're a fan of the original trilogy (Eps 4-6).

+Duel Mode (multiplayer only) is a nice addition not found in the other console versions.

-Controls are laggy & not always responsive. Game is too finicky with individual controllers as well, sometimes giving false positives or not registering properly until switched with another controller.

-The final level is brutally frustrating, like it's a different game-- difficulty curve goes straight up.

-Graphics are poor compared some of the best available on the Wii, like Metroid Prime 3.

-Duel Mode being multiplayer Only feels intentionally crippled so as not to compete with upcoming Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels game.

Star Wars games, like the movies themselves, are basically critic-proof. You either love them or you don't. When it comes to Star Wars games, for big fans (like me) the trappings & fan-service within them can gloss over & take the sting out of some of the weaknesses of the overall gameplay.

I finished Star Wars: The Force Unleashed last night.... 3 evenings of playing, so pretty short-- that's the quickest I've ever gone through a game-- but it was really fun, and I was surprised that the story isn't quite as "throwaway" as I thought it'd be. I think it makes a nice addition to the overall Star Wars canon, though some of the tie-ins do feel a bit shoe-horned in or tacked on.

I've broken down this rambling post to 2 sections: GAMEPLAY and FAN STUFF. There are no big spoilers.


No game is perfect, and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed does have its share of flaws. Small ones, like just overall lack of polish, and how the duel mode can't be played single player (like the Star Wars Episode III game (Xbox/PS2) duel mode can)... but now that I think about it, I wonder if developer Krome studioes took out that option so as to provide incentive to buy their upcoming Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels game coming out in November, which looks like it can be played single player.... if so, that's kind of cheap.

I also found an issue with the brightness level on the screen. It's adjustable, but even set at the highest level, it's still a bit too dark... until one planet where it's insanely bright needs to be set back down again until you leave it.

The biggest problem with this game is the camera. It is just plain bad. The devs should have just made it fixed to always be behind Starkiller, using the D-pad to turn the camera all the time during battle is really annoying.

Controls can be glitchy: during the final boss fights, when it came to the quick-time events where you have to twist one controller a certain way, when it was the nunchuk, it became VERY unresponsive, and basically stopped working, for that one task. I thought it might've been the level design, but I re-played through the first mission again & had the same problem-- which I'm pretty sure I didn't have the first time around-- so I think it might be that my Wii remote batteries were getting low. I checked my battery power on the HOME menu but it wasn't at the 1 red bar... so I think this game is overly sensitive to controller conditions.

Another example of this over-sensitivity: when I first started playing, my Vader kept Force Pushing, wouldn't stop. (Force Push is done by jabbing the nunchuk forward like a little punching motion) It kept doing it when I know I wasn't making any motion. After getting these "false positives" I switched my nunchuk & everything was fine. I've also heard problems from other gamers with the Wii remote that sound somewhat similar.

The final mission is BRUTALLY HARD. Yes, the overall game is fairly easy... even though you can level up, you start off the game pretty powerful. The motto for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is "kicking ass with The Force"... I even saw video where the game producer made the dev team chant that out while they were coming up with the basis for the game.

And through most of the game, it stays fairly easy, because you're doing the same thing throughout the game, and you're leveling up. But the final level is SO HARD, the enemies can basically kill you in about 3 seconds, while it takes many, MANY lightsaber stabs to kill them, and there are tons of them, *AND* there are next to NO health pick ups available. This insane difficulty reminds me of the final boss fight in the Xbox game Mech Assault 2: Lone Wolf (another game with a short story mode) What does making the final level so much harder really accomplish? If you thought the game was way too easy overall, just the final level being challenging isn't going to make up for that... and if you're a casual gamer, the final level would basically make you stuck, unable to finish the game.... well, the generous respawning here does help. But I died in EVERY room I went into... and had to re-do quite a bit, fighting the camera as much as fighting the enemies, making the gameplay so tedious, I wanted to put the game away. Grinding away isn't fun. The frustration in the last mission leaves a bad final impression that I'm sure played a big part in some reviews giving Force Unleashed a mediocre score.

The campaign is short, it can be done in about 6-8 hours... but there's a lot of hunting around flipping over debris looking for pickups & holocrons... and that is a bit tedious as well. Also there are 2 endings, so a 2nd playthrough is necessary for both picking up items you missed the first time, and getting the different endings. Though I saved the game on a seperate slot before the final mission, so I think I could replay that one mission again & get the 2nd ending.


I read one complaint about the 360/PS3 version that the main character Starkiller doesn't turn off his lightsaber, it's always on? In the Wii version, his lightsaber turns off when their are no enemies around, and on when there are. It will also turn on when you swing. This is a cool early-warning system, especially with the camera problems, so you know there's something coming up. And it makes sense to turn off your saber when you're not using it!

Starkiller's trademark is his reverse grip on his lightsaber. In the Wii version of Force Unleashed, he's holding his saber traditionally, which caused a lot of outcry from gamers. While I do like that reverse grip; it's cool-looking & distinctive, I can see why they made it forwards for the Wii so as not to confuse casual gamers... you don't want them thinking that they have to hold their Wii remote upside-down! Plus it gives it more of the feeling of "the Wii remote is your lightsaber" when both controller & onscreen lightsaber are used in the same direction. However, the PSP version also has the "forward saber" (and presumably the PS2 version as well), the Wii excuse doesn't apply there, and I'm sure that's just the devs being lazy & using the same assets for all 3 versions.

But there were a couple times in the Wii game where he held his lightsaber backwards! Once, on Bespin, I had target-locked an enemy, and Force Pushed him off a ledge, since he was target-locked, the camera kept panning down, I was trying to look over the ledge but couldn't. Even
though the enemy fell to his death off screen, the camera stayed locked on him so it pointed down on me, that's when Starkillers grip changed to backwards. As soon as I released the camera lock, it went back to normal.

Then another time in the final level, his blade was on, there might've been enemies somewhere, and I stopped moving (I was drinking tea or reading the manual or something) and again he changed his lightsaber grip to backwards! I don't know if these are just glitches or intentional winks to the fanbase. They are cool though.

I love all the cameos, they are really fun for Star Wars fans. I really liked seeing (& fighting) a lot of those Cantina background aliens from Star Wars. The voice acting overall was fairly good, especially Vader. But The Emperor had this one line, it was like, "blah blah blah blah.... andthenyouwilldie"-- he just blurts out that last part like it's all one word, it was so lame & cheesy, I laughed.


Oh man. They maybe should've done a take 2 on that line? Ah-yup.

The music is the same John Williams score that we all know & love, and (wisely) is a staple of all Star Wars games past & present. But they add some additional music... it's not bad but it sometimes sounds like a Godzilla movie or something... I'm walkig around & this Godzilla-movie-esque music is in the background... I'm wondering, am I the monster? Kinda... and I'm really liking it!

I love that this game is about playing a Sith or a baddie, and you've got to keep your identity a secret, meaning you have to kill EVERYBODY around you. It's very cool. Surprisingly dark for a Star Wars story. But not entirely without hope.

Yesterday I went out & got the Force Unleashed graphic novel, part of the reason I barreled through the game was I wanted to finish the story.... I'm not sure if the Force Unleashed GN is an adaptation of the game story, a prequel, or what so I didn't want to read it before finishing the game. Once I do read it, I'll post some thoughts on it in Comicbook.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed - Wii - First Impressions

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. I've been waiting weeks, if not months, for this game.

I haven't anticipated a game this much since Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron on PSP (and Star Wars Battlefront II on Xbox before that)... so Star Wars: The Force Unleashed being a first-day purchase for me was a given.

But I was wary of the Wii version. It was developed by Krome Studios, not the LucasArts dev team that did the Xbox 360 & PS3 versions. And the Wii controls are so different than any other console.

Over the months, there's been some info, first looks, etc, that have given a good idea of what to expect with the game. The Wii version looked like it wouldn't be the greatest game ever made, but the controls did look not bad. For the most part, it's pretty good.

(dev walkthrough video of gameplay can be found here.)

In a nutshell, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed on Wii is a beat-'em-up with tactile "waggle" controls that while repetitive, really add to the sense that you're waving around a lightsaber. There are some minor problems, the controls are still a little sloppy-- it's a good game that could've used some more polish to make it great-- but the good things about the game outweigh the problems.

I've been playing it the last 2 days, I'm on Felucia right now... I think I'm about halfway through the game. The controls do work fairly well mostly, but they are not as precise as I'd like. You wave the Wii remote up/down/left/right and the lightsaber does move in those directions-- but it is *NOT* 1:1 precise movement. There's a bit of a lag, and you don't necessarily get those directions for each wave. It doesn't really matter, because it all works the same way... it takes a bit of getting used to, after about 30 mins of play, I got the feel for it, and really started to enjoy it.

Not only does the Wii remote control the lightsaber, the nunchuk controls a lot of The Force abilities. Push forward (like a punching motion) and you do a Force Push which plows enemies in front of you off their feet. Slam downward with both the nunchuk & Wii remote while pressing the Z + B buttons will do a Force Repulse that clears out everyone around you. It is *SO* satisfying to do these gestures, 'cause they kick ass! It just feels REALLY GOOD to do these motions & scatter stuff like they are made of cardboard or something... The Force ROCKS.

IGN review: 7.8

Gamespot review: 6.0

Gamespot got some details WRONG about the game, which needs to be cleared up. Let's set the record straight here.

Gamespot SWFU (Wii) review: When you throw in a variety of force powers and some poorly implemented quick-time events that all utilize motion controls, you'll find that Force Unleashed is possibly the most waggle-heavy action game available on the system, a distinction that seems fun for the first hour or so, only to quickly lose its appeal.

The Wii remote controls the lightsaber, which is your main weapon, if you're gonna pick up the Wii version, EXPECT to be waving the Wii remote a lot when fighting. THAT'S WHAT YOU DO. I think that anyone who wants the Wii version knows this-- like me, it's probably WHY they want the Wii version in the first place. Yes, it could be more precise, but it's not terrible. The reviewer also says that this must be the most waggle-heavy game for the Wii... which I'm sure it isn't. I bet there are some crappy-rated games like Soul Calibur: Legends that require the Wii remote to be shaken the entire time.... which is why they're crappy...

I do have to say that there's probably a lot of button-mashing in the other console versions of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, and here it is "waggle-mashing" if that makes any sense. You do flail the Wii remote around a lot. Here's a tip: don't let anybody watch you playing this game. You'll die of embarrassment.

Gamespot SWFU (Wii) review: Some variety comes by way of Force Unleashed's God of War-style quick-time events, which result in some terrific, violent-looking moves, whether you're smashing on an opposing Jedi or defeating a rancor in a series of thrilling acrobatics. As cool as they look, these sequences don't work that well. You usually need to tilt the remote or the Nunchuk to match the onscreen diagram and then thrust it forward. It requires surprising precision, and not only does it take your eyes and your mind off of the action, but it is more annoying than fun.

It DOESN'T require "surprising precision"... you have to match it, yes, but it's not that hard. [EDIT: I think I might know why the reviewer had trouble with it-- it seems that if the Wii remote batteries are low, it makes it NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE to use the nunchuk properly for the twisting quick-time event; for some reason it won't twist properly. ] The other actions are when one of the controllers comes up on screen, you sinply have to shake that controller once to register the action.

In this game, these quick-time events with the Wii controls work BETTER than timed button presses of the other consoles because you don't have to be looking directly at what it wants you to do, it's much easier to see a diagram of a Wii nunchuk out of the corner of your eye than a small button where you have to make out exactly which button it is. So the Wii version allows you to watch the cool onscreen action a lot more than normal "press X button here" diagrams where you have to look directly at it to make sure it says press X not Y or whatever....

Another mistake the Gamespot review made about the Wii version of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is that when you die, the enemies stay at whatever health they lost. That's WRONG. In boss fights, the bosses gain back a portion of their health if you die. You come back full, they gain like 25%-33%. If they were at 75% when you die, they get full health. if you die, you don't have to re-kill everybody you've killed already... which is actually nice, it cuts down on the tedium. How many boss fights have we had to re-do from the start and it really kills the momentum of the game? A lot.

One of the biggest problems with the game is the camera. It doesn't really stay behind you when you move, you have to do a lot of adjusting using the D-pad on the Wii remote. It can be pretty bothersome while fighting, and makes it hard to see/target enemies, particularly tough bosses.

There is a Duel mode, but it can only be played with multiplayer, there's no AI-controlled Duel mode. Compared to the Episode III game developed by The Collective, which also has a Duel mode that can be multiplayer *OR* AI vs single player, it's a disappointment that the Wii Duel mode wasn't fleshed out enough. Also, there is autosaving, but you can't go back & select which levels or missions to replay, you can only continue. Little things like this are rough spots in the game that I wish could've been hammered out.

The graphics obviously aren't as good as the 360/PS3 versions. They are the same as the PS2 version. I actually think they're alright.

There's a lot of hunting around in the game, unlike the 360/PS3 version where you get health from every guy you kill, in the Wii version you need to find health pickups scattered throughout a level. There are also Holocrons which unlock artwork, and saber & other bonus pickups. There's a lot of moving rocks, boxes, statues, etc. around with The Force to find this stuff. It kind of reminds me of Elebits, oddly enough!

I suspect the general story is similar to the 360/PS3 versions, but I think the level design & missions are different in the Wii version. So far I've had to go to the Jedi Training temple on Coruscant 2 times to train secretly. Since I'm a secret apprentice, I have to kill the guards there. Doing it once is fine, but it's a little weird doing it twice-- what did the Empire think when they found all the guards dead at the temple the first time? If they keep finding their guards dead at the Jedi Temple, um... don't you think that's gonna raise a few flags? yeah, so that part of the story maybe doesn't make too much sense, but overall it's a nifty idea to have this apprentice. I just wish he was more interesting looking than that guy from Prison Break. Think about the past Siths, like Darth Maul-- he looked awesome. Or Assaj Ventriss. I would've preferred a cool-looking alien over a drab human, but oh well.

I haven't finished the game yet, but so far it's been pretty fun.

See also: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed - Wii - 2nd Impressions


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Invisible Shield

A couple days ago, I got "my" PSP Slim back from being repaired. I'll post more about that later, but now I just finished off applying an Invisible Shield brand screen protector to it.

Ugh... aside from the included solution spray bottle being empty, I think it went well... but installing Invisible Shield screen protectors is always a nerve-wracking experience. This is my 3rd time.

The key to a good install is to use lots of water-- I know that doesn't SOUND like a good combination with your electronic device. But you have to be willing to let the device sit, turned off, for at least 24 hours in case any water might have gotten inside.

Here's a post from my first time Invisible Shield install, on my first PSP back in 2006:

Invisible Shield PSP
I just installed the Invisible Shield on my Sony PSP.

It's a pretty thick looking piece of clear rubber. I wondered how this could go on "invisible", but I've seen numerous pictures of them on devices, and they do look good. And once it slides on the PSP it really does become nearly invisible. But there's a rubbery texture to it that you can feel. Gives it a bit of grip, but definately different than the ultra-smooth feel of the naked PSP.

At first I followed all the instructions to the letter; using the spray to wet my fingers, got all the equipment ready, prepped my enviroment like a surgeon-- did everything I could to make sure it was as dust & lint free as possible.

But as I put the Invisible Shield down on the PSP, there were a lot of bubbles left underneath, that I couldn't squeegee out. And then I ran out of spray! They don't give you very much.

Luckily I had a backup plan; after doing a LOT of reading about the IS & peoples installations (mostly of iPods) I thought I should have a container of soapy water on hand in case the spray didn't do it.

What I did was I took the IS off the PSP, and dunked it in a tupperware container full of water with just a drop of dish soap in it. I used a tupperware lid that gave me a depth of about 2 cm.

Then I lightly scraped off the Invisible Shield (both sides) on the edge of the tupperware container, so there still quite a bit of water on it, but it wasn't dripping.

Reapplying it to the PSP was much easier, it was easier to move it around on top of the PSP (almost too easy, it slipped once or twice, gotta be careful if you have things lined up correctly) and it was much easier to squeegee out the bubbles underneath.

It looked good, but now that I've given it about 15 minutes, I think there's a spot, I don't know if it's a bubble or lint or what, that's still on my screen. Crap. I've tried squeegeeing it out, even though I think it reduced it, it's still there, don't think it's a bubble. Does look smaller though.

You're supposed to wait 24 hours before turning on your device, but I had to see what it looked like on the screen, and how the Invisible Shield looked in general. It does seem that the Invisible Shield changes the look of the screen somewhat. Maybe it's just me, and it hasn't fully dried yet so maybe it will become less noticible once it does.

Now to just wait it out for at least 3 days, hopefully things will look great by then.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Star Wars: Force Unleashed on Wii

Following the PSP dev walkthrough, Gamespot's posted a video focusing on the Wii version!

The video starts off slow-- no offence, but do we really need to be looking at the producer? We want to see the game, and the controllers! But once we get to the good stuff, it's worth watching. The Wii version is going to be my pick, because of the tactile controls... they do look good in this walkthrough, but it also looks like it could easily misinterpret gestures, depending on how sensitive it is.

Interesting to see the same AT-ST boss fight as in the PSP version, and how different it's handled because of the controls. On PSP, it's a series of button presses à la God of War: Chains of Olympus, and on Wii, it's controller movement(?) That could either be very good or very bad.....

It could be the time of the year, seeing as how so few new games have come out over the last few months, but Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is one of the rare games I'll be buying on launch day. I almost always wait for at least some reviews on a game before making the purchase, and I might leave the wrapper on for a bit until some positive buzz comes out for the Wii version.

But I can't wait for the game! I keep thinking, "Only a bit over a week away.... Only a bit over a week away.... Only a bit over a week away.... "

Coming out (in North America) Sept. 16, 2008.


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