Gift guide for great gamers: South Park & The Stick of Truth

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Now I don’t have to say it but I will just in case someone out there missed it: South Park – The Stick of Truth was an excellent game that kept to the spirit of the show. From beginning to end it was like a fully realized interactive episode of the show that was also a pretty solid classic RPG. It was glorious! So if you know a South Park fan who still have their PS3/Xbox 360 and hasn’t played this game for some reason then by all means be a Mr. Hanky to that person and give them this awesome gift for Christmas (and not poo like the real Mr. Hanky).

 

 

 

Game Review: South Park – The Stick of Truth

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Ladies and Gentlemen: South Park is an animated comedy TV show on Comedy Central. It is a revolutionary series that pushes the boundaries of political-social norms. It also has the unfortunate tendency to push the boundaries of good taste, seriously the things I’ve seen watching that show (and movie) really weren’t necessary to the overall episodes. Despite that fact though the show is funny, brilliantly written, and even have ‘moral’ lessons to them.  Now I said all of that because the writers of the show also written the game, South Park: The Stick of Truth, and they did the impossible – they made the game just like the show. Warts and all, the show is a masterpiece and so is this game.

 

 

So the game take place in the town of South Park, uh, I mean the lands of Zaron, where the Stan & Kyle and Cartman & Kenny, uh, I mean the Elves and the Humans are locked in a bloody civil war for the fabled Stick of Truth, uh, I mean the Stick of Truth.  Deadlocked, Cartman believed the only way to tip the war in his favor is to seek the aid of the new kid who moved into town: You, and thus the game begins. South Park: The Stick of Truth is the evolution of the classic turn based RPG, very similar to the Mario & Luigi RPG titles. Your basic and special attacks must be activated in a certain way otherwise they won’t be effective, or in Kenny’s case will completely backfire. Player’s weapons and armors will range from wooden swords and sweat bands to alien energy guns and mini SWAT uniforms.  And trust me they’ll be put to work as you explore all over South Park (first time since the show’s creation that the town’s been mapped actually) in your quest for the stick, as well as doing side quests for some of the more familiar characters from the show. So after delay after delay after publisher going under after finding a new publisher after delay – does The Stick of Truth ring true?

 

 

Rating

 

TPoP-Pass-sign

 

To take from Daniel Bryan: YES! YES! YES! This game is creative, innovative, and entertaining as any last generation or current generation (so for) game. Customizing your character doesn’t end at the beginning of the game. In addition to the unique looking weapons and armors you find throughout the adventure; players can also collect wigs, facial hair and make-up to configure your character look any way like. You gear can also be configured with different ‘stickers’ to improve their functionality or give an edge in combat. And speaking of which, the combat is glorious and well designed, if anyone thinks that turn based combat can’t be challenging should park this title for quite a surprise. Finally the level of writing and animation to make this game as close to the show as possible is so good it’s almost 1 to 1. Seriously Matt, Trey, and all of the staff that worked this game put in 150%; everybody in the industry should take notes and notice what gaming could become with effort. Sadly this doesn’t earn the long awaited triple platinum rating for only one reason, the same weakness that the show has honestly: it’s raw. South Park has never been a show to play it safe, and the game follows suit: certain things and images, are not for kids (heck I think I’m too young for their content half the time). It doesn’t happen often but every once in a while some explicit scene will appear and you’ll say: “I really wish I didn’t see that…” Stuff like that keep this game from true greatness, but hey art’s in the eye of the holder and all that.  South Park: The Stick of Truth on a storytelling and mechanical standpoint is pure dynamite and is the last great game of the PS3/Xbox 360 era. If you’re over 21 and still have those systems I strongly suggest you pick up this game and play it with vim and vigor; it is truly the game we’ve been waiting for.

 

 

 

 

Games & Gear of 2014 – South Park: The Stick of Truth (3/4/2014)

 

I swear people it’s almost here, and it will be righteous. Just two months to go…

 

 

 

Trailer-Rama: South Park – The Stick of Truth

 

Ah South Park – The Stick of Truth, the game that died and lives again. A game that has the potential to be one of the next great games to be. A game that the creators of the show themselves (Trey Parker and Matt Stone) had a hand in developing. The game that has a lot of trailers… Has another one now, but this one has some game footage, cut scenes, and most importantly a release date. So hopefully December with be the magic month we all become the welders of the Stick of Truth, and I swear if if South Park studios gets closed down or ubisoft disappears off the map, then I quit.

 

 

 

 

 

Games & Gear of 2013 – South Park: The Stick of Truth (???????)

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I think I’ve talked enough about South Park: The Stick of Truth, but here’s a recap: South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are creating a video game equivalent of a South Park episode where players play as a new kid moving into town. Unfortunately every single kid in town is caught up in a larp civil war and if you want to get some brownie points you got to play along. Well if you ever watched any episode of South Park, something as simple as role play can easily turn into end of the world – but now it may be our fingers of the button to destruction. I can’t want until March.

1/28 = Well apparently since the Stick of Truth was bought out by Ubisoft, the release date has been changed to ‘I don’t know’ so stay tune for the adjusted date sometime in the future. I hope…

Games & Gear of 2012 Reloaded – South Park: The Game (12/31/12)

 

South Park is one of those shows that’s always is on the edge of genius and/or insanity; their humor is often extreme and nothing’s off topic. Whatever they choose to talk about however (whether you agree with it or not) it’s so well done you can’t help but respect Trey Parke, Matt Stone, and all the people involved with the show for there storytelling excellence. Sadly the same can’t be said about their video games. Sure they filled a niche and kept cool with the kids, but in no way were they the same quality of style as the show – until now. The famed creators of the show are writing the entire script for the brand’s latest game called ‘South Park: The Game’ and being brought to life by Obsidian Entertainment. Were I to say it’s just a RPG would be gross understatement on how epic this game will be. You play as a customizable silent protagonist who moved into town just in time for some LARPing, south park style. From there your adventure into the world’s most craziest small town will begin; and how it will end, I guarantee, no one will ever see coming. It’s a good thing this is the last game in the new year because something tells me we’ll need all the time we can get with this one.

 

 

 

Game Review – Alpha Protocol

“Do you expect me to talk Goldfinger?” asked James Bond while scanning his surrounding for a way out of his predicament, finding none.

“No mister Bond, I expect you to die!” Goldfinger said with an almost jovial tone.

For me this was my earliest ‘spy’ moment; a moment where the smooth, slick, hero with the license to kill is facing certain doom from the main baddie (i.e. Goldfinger) with little hope of escape. Only to survive using his wit and wordplay; bluffing Goldfinger into thinking he knows more than actually he does.

And at the end of the movie Bond gets the girl, saves Fort Knox, and leaves Goldfinger to “play his golden harp”.

Yep, it’s awesome to be a spy.

So when I heard about Alpha Protocol: the espionage RPG brought to me by the same people who created KOTOR 2 and a half dozen other good titles I was generally excited.

Well I got the game people, played it and replayed many times; AP gets an “A” for effort but for the rest…

His name Thorton, Michael Thorton, and he will be the main character as well as agent for the game. His background and personality is at the discretion of the player. Do you want an aggressive solider type? No problem. What about a stealthy suave field agent? Easy as pie. A by the book explosivo techie, why the heck not? Or don’t be typecasted, be your own man with your own chosen skills.

Whatever you decided to be, will be the reason “they” need you.

One minute a commercial airliner gets shot down by a couple ballistic missiles over the middle east, the next you’re waking up from a drug induced coma in an unknown location full of people who just want to beat you back into a coma. Well after some ‘intense discussions’ Mr. Thorton finds out he was just recruited to a secret U.S. government organization called, you guessed it, Alpha Protocol. They want him to risk life and limb to find out who shot down the plane, why, and take any means necessary to stop it from happening again – heh, no problem.

Michael Thorton is a true international man of mystery because he has many skills players can choose to excel at. Such as using your chosen weapon (Pistol, SMG, Shotgun, and Assault Rifle) with perfection, or if you like to take things up close and personal become a kung-fu dynamo and rain pain on your opponents. If fights slow you down however, focus on stealth and enemies will be clueless to where you are while you will know where they are at all times. You can even forget about ‘stealth’ and ‘subtlety’; jack up your tech skills and turn turrets against they’re allies or make every engagement end with a bang. No matter how players wage war, Thorton has a common secret weapon that can change a situation in a flash: the power of words. Players can take advantage of MT’s sliver tongue in a myriad of ways; to gather intelligence, to distract enemies, to access the inaccessible, to woo the ladies, and even avoid trouble altogether (some not all). The only limitation to this super-agent (other than intel) is the player’s imagination.

Now the people you go up against vary from region, religion (or ideology), training, equipment, weapons, and locations. Once they pursue you, they will do so with the vengeance – and are difficult to avoid even with Thorton’s skills. They often have the high ground, the numbers, security cameras, turrets, and the ability to call reinforcement when engagements don’t go their way.  However the most dangerous of any enemy group are the elites; are better armed, armored, deadlier shots, and often hangs around with other elites (and boss characters – yikes). My advice? Have a plain, be prepared, keep health vials stocked, and try to take out enemies as quickly as possible because every missed opportunity lowers your chance for survival.

Alpha Protocol is an ‘espionage RPG’, which is true I suppose, but it’s a lot like the first Mass Effect game as well. Meaning that it’s one half modified third person shooter that focuses more on stats and skills trees than twitch shooting; while the other half it heavy on story, settings, and character interaction between the player and the world.

Now for those who are the ‘shoot now, shoot later, shoot all the time’ type of player who happens to like spy/espionage fiction maybe a little conflicted with this title. They’ll enjoy the characters and the overall story (more or less), but the game gets a little D&D when combat is concerned. Instead of just shooting an enemy in your crosshairs, Mike has to wait until his crosshairs ‘charge up’ to perform a critical hit. This process also effects accuracy so spray and pray tactics won’t help much accept for the SMG weapons of course, but not everyone likes bullet hoses.

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So in order to shoot straight players need to:

  1. Standstill, exposed or in cover (movement while shooting is penalized in aiming)
  2. Look down the iron sights
  3. Charge up
  4. Then fire

If players don’t follow this then your shots will end up anywhere; they may still if you don’t upgrade the appropriate skill tree (more on this later).

The one other unique thing about Alpha Protocol is that the conversations between the player and other characters are in real time, or rather the player’s time frame to interact with them in cut scenes. In games when it is the player’s turn to respond to a character or an action done; they have all the time in the world to select which option to use from the list provided – time stops while players make up their minds. Not in Alpha Protocol however, players only have a few precious seconds to decide what Mike should do in a cut scene situation. These choices range from ‘Professional’ ‘Suave’ and ‘Aggressive’ with a forth ‘Unique’ choice thrown at times depending on your class type, information, and the like. So like a real espionage agent players must think fast on what to say, because the right words can change a situation completely while the wrong ones can get you dead.

I will say the best thing about this game is the story, the world, and the many different characters in it. Your character’s history, specializations, actions, and sometimes even dress will affect Alpha Protocol’s reality quite visibly as people and moments will reflect to what you do or have done. Unlike other ‘act – react’ games in this genre there is a more permanence to the consequence here. Such as in one of the mission is to help a crime boss with a certain problem in exchange for valuable information. Well during that mission players may discover the reason for the boss’s certain problem. After the problem is resolved the players can choose to blackmail the boss for money or extra intel; but doing that however will cut off further assistance from the boss – forever. Keep the dirt between you two and well… It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to have a powerful crime boss on your side. That’s just one of many choices players can make throughout the game, and it boils down to what you value more, advantages now or later. I also approve of the realistic interactions between characters as well as the time it takes to respond to them; after all taking five minutes to decide an action during a dynamic moment where seconds (in game time) matters ruins it a bit. I can already see many other games using this feature in the future, and if anything Alpha Protocol will be known for that (well that and the ability to fast forward through parts of the cut scenes you don’t talk in by using the shoulder buttons).

Regretfully this is the part of the review where I explain the flaws of the game, and as far as Alpha Protocol is concerned, mechanically it is all flaws. The non-cut scene graphics are ridiculously simple looking, they more akin to a Gamecube than PlayStation 3 (or whatever system you play this on). Seriously playing hard core Red Dead Redemption then jumping on Alpha Protocol is almost sickening visually, fortunately I got over it but the fact still remains. Sounds no better, whatever general midi site they got these track from should have been destroyed in 1992. The FX were better but the non-cut scene voice acting by the NPCs is abysmal – mostly they consist of “Hmmm” or “What’s that?” or “Interesting”. They’re bad, but I also think they’ve seen my character (which they don’t) and forces me to attack in haste – which is either a brilliant tactics from the programmers to laziness. I’m thinking the latter however.

Speaking of combat – it is too RPG heavy. Now I know they wanted to focus on a more RPG centric type of game for Alpha Protocol but not at the cost of shooter combat. When under fire you don’t have time to ‘wait and charge up’ just to shoot straight, you just want your bullet to go where you shoot it. Special attacks a little convoluted (and strangely they remind me of the original Mass Effect skill sets a little); players can only have one ability cued-up at a time so when you use it you have to quickly switch to next one of the power wheel before things get difficult. Again the RPG element is breaking the action of combat for the game, a lot of the abilities can be even combined to lower player confusion and constant ability switching, but no. Even the same weapons types attack the same, meaning one assault rifle will not perform any better or worse than the next. Players can beat actually the game with the same weapons they start off with just by upgrading those weapon skills. Now people, skills are important, but I’m not going to believe that you’ll take down the world with your level 1 ‘pee-shooter’- that’s doesn’t happen outside 8-bit gaming.

So to wrap this up I’d like to some comparing if I could. BioWare and Obsidian Entertainment have one thing in common: Star Wars the Knight the Old Republic series. BioWare developed the first game, while Obsidian Entertainment developed the second. Now to me both game were excellent and complemented each other well; but when they aimed for their own IP’s they took them in somewhat similar directions. Mass Effect was an action oriented space opera with some RPG elements and Alpha Protocol is a semi-action oriented spy thriller with a lot of RPG elements to it. The only big difference between the original Mass Effect and Alpha Protocol is that Mass Effect was more balanced in the terms of combat which made the game fun. Yet and still I didn’t see the flaws the first game had until I played Mass Effect 2; beautifully streamline experience that was an almost perfect fusion of action and role play. As such, despite my many disappoints for Alpha Protocol, I will not rate this any lower than a Sliver ranking because the game was a fun experience over all that told a great story better than the current James bonds films (not the biggest fan of Daniel Craig). Coupled with the fact that I know this game will get a sequel, and provided Alpha Protocol 2 will be as awesome (in its own way) as Mass Effect 2, then I can show some leniency this time.

Ranking: Sliver