Pulse Cannon – Nov 17

Pulse Cannon
Michael O’Reilly

Hi and welcome to the Pulse Cannon. Or Gaming Armageddon, as I’ve been calling this month for half a year now. This week I’m responding to more reader email…yes, I know, I’m stunned too, and I will be getting into my experiences with San Andreas and Lord of the Rings The Third Age.

To start things off, I’ll go with the reader email comment, which is actually a return engagement for James from last Pulse Cannon. James writes:

I made the Wing Commander I&II comment specifically because I know you’re a Star Wars freak. You love Star Wars. You’re automatically into the story of a Star Wars game. All Star Wars geeks who played PC games at the time loved X-wing. I remember all too well.

Wing Commander wasn’t an established franchise. Origin made up the story themselves and it sucked me right in. That was a good thing. Sure they stole story elements from every other sci-fi work of fiction. So does Star Wars. The point is, Wing Commander allowed me to get into a DIFFERENT, “new” sci-fi universe. There was a sense of discovery – the Kilrathi enemy, the different ships and weapons that truly had personality, your shipmates. Tons of fun details like your space funeral that was customized to how you played the game. All the stuff was new and cool, not the same old Star Wars rehash that I never really liked. Mainly, I don’t want magic (or f’n religion) in my sci-fi – The Force is a fantasy genre cop-out in my view. I want a good clean space war.

Don’t get me wrong, I think I can see why y’all freaks are into it. I’m not dissin your franchise, I liked KOTOR, I’m just saying I KNOW you never really gave WC a chance simply because it wasn’t Star Wars.

Oh, and WC came out at least a year before X-Wing. Just sayin.

BTW keep up the columns. I only read games and wrestling on IP, and these days I prefer the gaming columns, even though you guys are all inexplicably lost in an old school and Pokemon induced group hallucination. I guess it makes sense if you simply must RPG. Our tastes in games couldn’t be more different, yet I still like your columns. Go figure. Cynicism unites us.

Well James, you are right in some regards but off on a few others. I did get right into X-Wing due to it’s built in storyline, in that you’re correct. But saying I didn’t give Wing Commander a chance because it wasn’t Star Wars based is quite incorrect. I preferred X-Wing because it controlled the way I felt a star fighter should (At the time at least. Later games, as well as shows like Babylon 5, showed me that star fighters should be able to do more than just fly around like a ww2 fighter plane). Were I to play Wing Commander today I might feel totally different about it, but at the time X-Wing just felt right.

I have gotten into non-Star Wars space sims in the past. I consider Freespace 2 to be the peak of the genre, a position that the original Freespace held until the second arrived and blew me away.

I also don’t think that the Force was used much, if at all, in the X-Wing games. In fact I can pretty well say that they were some of the only games that didn’t involve the force in some way, aside from hearing the usual quotes down the trench from Darth Vader.

Now then, about my supposed hallucinations regarding RPGs and Pokemon. Truth be told I’m pretty much a Black Sheep around Inside Pulse, I can’t stand most RPGs and while I don’t hate Pokemon, I don’t go out of my way to play it either. I leave that for the Pokenuts. As for the Old School, I can’t say I really play very many games that are anything over a year old. I have fond memories of the games I did play, and I don’t mind comparing todays games to those of yesteryear, but I don’t consider myself someone who would rather play a 15 year old 2D game instead of a game that just hit the market. I can’t say I blame you for bunching me together with everyone else though, as I haven’t exactly stated what my gaming preferences are, unlike Lucard or Williams.

Oh, and just so you know, I actually liked the Wing Commander Movie. I thought everything about it was really badly done, but I enjoyed it in a oh my God this is so bad its good kinda way. Thanks for reading, not to mention writing James.

Now then, onto my gaming experiences these past two weeks. First up I’ll delve into Lord Of the Rings: The Third Age. I suppose I should praise EA for finding a way to make a game about the Lord Of the Rings while still giving us a story we hadn’t seen before, so I guess that is what I’ll do. You start off with 2 party members, a Gondorian and an Elf, both of whom have ties to secondary characters in the movies, and then as you move through the game you begin to see just how there could have been two separate fellowships moving through the mines of Moria, and in other parts of the Trilogy. Sometimes the producers stretch the believability just to have various characters appear, like when you fight the Balrog alongside Gandalf (I don’t quite recall seeing a dwarf, an elf and a human standing behind Gandalf as he fought on the bridge, but maybe my eyes are going).

I find that being a person who usually avoids RPGs, this game is only interesting me because I wanted to see the story end. It’s another part of a really rich story, but it’s not really keeping me glued to the seat. The combat, for me at least, is tedious, and there is virtually no reason for half of the spells and attacks that your characters can learn, so far as I can see. There are also certain points in the game, like in the battle for Helms Deep, where you fight for a very long time, and while your characters will level up during the fights you can’t assign them the points they’ve earned until after the entire battle, thereby putting you at a disadvantage. There are also some story elements that come to light out of nowhere later on in the game. There are tiny hints at the very beginning, but nothing is explained until well into the third movie, to use that time reference. Had I purchased this game I would struggle onwards to finish it off, but since I only rented it I won’t be going back and seeing if I can beat it, its just not my kind of game.

What is my kind of game though, is Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. I talked about it briefly last time, but I have since picked it up and given it a really thorough playing. And I’m still not done. I had all but finished Vice City by this time, but I’m not even out of San Fiero yet. I still don’t like the way Los Santos looks, graphically, but San Fiero is much nicer on they eyes. Maybe it was the smog after all. Remind me never to move to LA if thats the case. I’m really wishing I had unadulterated access to the airports right now, because the road system around San Andreas is a friggin joke. Once I get myself a plane, or even a helicopter this game will improve 10 fold. The frustration of getting lost will disappear, leaving just the satisfying glow of yet another awesome GTA. The city’s in San Andreas feel like real citys, as though they grew in real life instead of inside some game designers head. Vice City felt very much like that. I could almost hear the designers in my head “Ok we need an airport here, and then we can put the military base right there….”

So far my only complaint about the story in SA is how much feels unresolved right now. That of course, should be obvious since I haven’t finished the game yet, but for some reason this time feels different from Liberty and Vice City, as though I’m missing something.

Anyway, thats all for now. Tune in again in two weeks when I’ll maybe weigh in on Metroid Prime 2 and give you some more opinions of Halo 2 (since my review should be up before then.) Till then, take care and get ready for that Thanksgiving rush, its getting close.