109 Year Sentence Upheld in PlayStation Slaying

27 05 2011

A local Superior Court judge, Gary Orozco, recently upheld his previous life sentence ruling regarding a slaying over a PlayStation 2. Jonquel Brooks, then 19, was initially sentenced to 109 years to life in prison for shooting and killing Brant Daniels while wounding two others in a dispute over a stolen PlayStation 2 in May of 2007.

The incident initially brought national attention since it occurred just weeks after the Virginia Tech massacre where a student gunned down 32 fellow students and 1 professor before taking his own life.

The confrontation started when Brant Daniels, a supposed friend of Jonquel Brooks, along with three other friends Roderick Buycks Jr, Drew Pfeiff and Kodi Shiflett confronted Brooks at his University Village apartments accusing him of stealing Buycks PlayStation 2.

At this time an angry Brooks, who claims self defense, retrieved a gun from his bedroom demanding the Fresno State students to leave before firing shots at the victims hitting Buycks in the neck, Pfeiff in the shoulder and Daniels who later died in the back.

Brooks appealed the initial ruling stating the students ‘premeditated the conflict’ by going to Brooks’ apartment and accusing him of theft. The Appellate justices of the 5th District Court of Appeals ordered the presiding judge to take a closer look at the verdict and gave Judge Orozco three options: a new trial, modify the verdict with a lesser sentence, or let the verdict stand.

Gary Orozco decided to uphold his previous verdict and subsequent sentence of: 25 years to life for 1st degree murder, 25 years for using a gun, 59 years and 4 months for 3 counts of attempted murder totaling 109 years to life. Orozco explained his decision by stating that Brooks elevated the confrontation by coming out of the bedroom with a gun. Also stating that Brooks had ample time to consider his actions since while in the bedroom he called a friend to back him up in case of an altercation.

Before leaving in shackles the now 23 year old Brooks told Judge Orozco he again plans to file an appeal.

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MLB 11 The Show Review

22 03 2011

Introduction

For the past few years the MLB The Show franchise has been regarded by most sports fans as the diamond performer of the baseball simulation games. Despite battling repetition, like all sports games, the developer over at Sony San Diego have consistently put out a stellar product each and every year. They hope to duplicate that success this year with numerous upgrades and revisions. the most notable being the addition of analog stick controls to the series.

With that said can MLB 11 The Show continue its current dynasty run at baseball supremacy or will this years installment simply strike out? Continue reading to find.

Single Player

Although I haven’t played a baseball game since Bases Loaded on the NES I am a huge fan of sports in general. The fact that my T.V. is almost exclusively tuned to ESPN and that my SMS tone is the SportsCenter theme should be proof of that. I mention those facts to reiterate that despite being a sports fan I have found that most sports games have become unplayable to the casual fan due to the level of detail and control the player must posses.

While MLB 11 The Show has that minute level of detail and management sports fans enjoy it does not over complicate how it is carried out. For example the new analog pitching gives you much more precision which is vital for success but is also more fluid and immersive than the traditional face button controls. These new analog controls are challenging and realistic but can be mastered with some experience. The pitching controls aren’t the only thing being converted, all of the controls now have an emphasis on analog controls.

While it did personally have a steeper learning curve than pitching I have similar praise for the analog hitting as well. Simply pressing back on the analog stick to transfer your weight back then pressing the stick forward to time your swing with the pitch again just feels more natural than simply pressing a face button. These motions let you feel the pace of the game more intimately resulting in a greater engagement of the game. I did not however enjoy the analog controls for fielding as I found it much easier to keep jumping and diving mapped to the right stick and use the face buttons to control which base to throw to.

That said because each player will have different preferences and strengths you can easily mix and match your analog and button control scheme to fit your play style which is a huge plus. Better yet this customized control scheme will carry over to all game modes including online.

Speaking of game modes The Show is packed full of options and all of the traditional sports game modes are present including exhibition, franchise and season modes. These modes are fairly self explanatory for instance in exhibition you choose your team and play against another player or the CPU whereas in franchise mode you pick an organization and control everything from ticket prices to concession prices. Then obviously in season mode you again choose a team and play through the grueling 162 game season with hopes of playing into October.

The mode this series is best know for however is The Road to the Show which is basically a create a player mode. As you start up you create a player to man any position on the diamond. Once you manually adjust some sliders regarding the type of player you want its off to double A. Here is where you will develop your player through training modes and in-game performance in hopes of making the transition through the minor leagues to one day playing in the big show under the bright lights. The way The Show has chosen to develop a pro seems more sensible and accurate than previous games. As an example instead of just rewarding specific milestones in-game like RBI’s or homeruns you instead get training points based on each at bat. Let’s say you strike out but it took 10 pitches to do so instead of not getting any points like you would before you know will be granted a small amount under the new system since you made the pitcher work. The training modes also seem more purposeful in developing a useful talent. All of this adds up to a much more realistic and enjoyable way to have your player progress than I have previously seen.

A problem I’ve had with other sports titles was establishing a sense of place and time. The stadium or sports complex never felt lively or changed with the flow of the game. The Show was able to fulfill this illusion in multiple ways. First off graphically the game looks amazing but the small details like all 30 stadiums having their real life jumbotrons realistically placed and represented and the stadium specific chants adds an authenticity while also allowing each individual stadium to have a personality all their own. This attention to detail really adds to the level of engagement and realism and is what further sets this game apart from its competition.

Multiplayer

Due to the amount of skill and dedication to play sports games I was never a huge fan of playing competitively online. Unfortunately MLB 11 The Show provides no incentive to change that. While it technically works besides a few occasions were I ran into lag issues I would have just rather played against a computer or buddy sitting on the couch next to me.

The one bright spot in my eyes for multiplayer was the addition of the unique Challenge of the Week. It’s an interesting incentive to not only perfecting your skills but to compete with friends in a controlled arcade style fashion via online leaderboards. In this mode you are given one free try a week to score as many points as possible in a scenario based event such as Joe Mauer hitting against CC Sabathia. Each week winners are awarded real-life prizes like authentic signed jerseys. If your not happy with your first score you can play an unlimited amount of times at a cost of $0.25 per attempt. Hopefully this mode can breathe some life in an otherwise stale online mode.

Overall

The baseball game genre has taken some big strides since Bases Loaded and MLB 11 The Show appears to be the pinnacle so far in that aspect. The new analog controls provide precision and depth but are not impossible to use for the newcomer. The Show also provides an abundance of different modes that can please each type of fan with a compelling, engrossing and custom fit baseball fantasy that is unmatched in any sports game to date.

The MLB season doesn’t officially start until March 31st but don’t tell Sony San Diego that as MLB 11 The Show is the closest replication to Americas favorite past time as you can buy. If your a fan of baseball or sports games altogether then I believe The Show is a game you should definitely pick up even if you have been away from the genre for awhile like myself. Play Ball!

MLB 11 The Show for the PlayStation 3 was provided to me for reviewing purposes by Sony Computer Entertainment. I played through an entire 162 game season as the Texas Rangers and ended up making the playoffs. I also subsequently played a handful of games online and competed in the Challenge of the Week while obtaining 8 of the available 36 trophies. MLB 11 The Show was developed by SCE San Diego and published by Sony Computer Entertainment and was released on March 8th 2011 exclusively for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable and PlayStation 2 systems.

To read about our stance on the review process click here for more answers. Find all of other reviews here; better yet bookmark that section so you won’t miss any of our future reviews as well. If you would like other information to be included in the reviews give us some feedback and let us know, or if you would like us to review a specific title drop us a line we welcome and encourage your feedback. Enjoy!





inFamous 2: Details & Release Date Revealed

18 03 2011

Sucker Punch and their 2 year secret

The Game Developers Conference (GDC) is just that, a conference for game developers, however each year we continue to see more and more game announcements and this year was no different. One of the more exciting announcements for me personally was in regards to one of my highly anticipated games of this year, inFamous 2.

Those that have followed me for very long know that I enjoy a good open world role playing game in the likes of Fallout 3 and that I absolutely adored the 2009 blockbuster hit inFamous. Therefore I was already looking forward to this title and not much more needed to be done or said in order for me to pre-order the game.

Sucker Punch however was holding on to one final knockout punch that they unleashed at GDC which is that inFamous 2 will feature user generated content. This user generated content will grant inFamous 2 players the ability to use the open world city, New Marais, Sucker Punch created as a foundation to create an endless amount of new missions then share them with the PlayStation community.

Creators will have access to the same set of characters, props and creatures via an accessible and robust editor – think Little Big Planet or ModNation Racers – that the developers had access to. Players can also easily test their missions within this seamless editor and eventually upload their level with a tagging feature again similar to Little Big Planet.

Once uploaded these user generated levels will show up in the world just like regular story missions. These missions can be sorted in game by highest rating, most played or even to show only those highlighted by Sucker Punch themselves. If you are not interested in a world filled with user generated story markers you can even filter all of the user generated levels to not show at all.

inFamous 2 Release Date

So if you are like me and are now eagerly awaiting the release date then you are in luck since Sucker Punch recently announced a release date, June 7th 2011, as well. A Hero Edition was also announced and will be available for $99.99. The Hero Edition includes the following:

  • Detailed 8.5″ Cole Statue
  • Replica Cole Sling Pack
  • inFamous DC Mini Comic
  • Collector’s Edition Soundtrack
  • inFamous 2 Super Voucher: Includes all pre-order bonuses and in-game content

Honestly June 7th can not come soon enough and I have already pre-ordered the Hero Edition despite not being much of a collector’s edition fan. I suggest you do the same as I have no doubt this will be a quality title that I for one will ultimately enjoy.

What are your thoughts on these announcements and inFamous 2 in general? Let me know in the comments below.





System Exclusives: Revisited

23 02 2011

I wrote not too long ago on how I saw the future of system exclusives slowly fading away. Since that article we have seen a few trends like the announcement of Insomniac Games going multiplatform and the more recent announcement that Valve is now developing for the PlayStation 3 that heavily supports my thoughts that system exclusives are becoming a thing of the past.

Instead what we are seeing take the place of system exclusives is exclusive content on par with what Sony and Electronic Arts so adamantly announced during E3 along with what Activision and Microsoft made sure to tie up with timed exclusive Call of Duty DLC.

We have already seen this model in action this year when Mass Effect 2, previously an Xbox 360 exclusive, released on the PlayStation 3 earlier this year. As well as when Dead Space Extraction was packaged with the PlayStation 3 version of Dead Space 2 or even on a smaller scale when Kratos was announced for Mortal Kombat exclusively on the PlayStation 3 version of the game.

This obviously excludes first party developers, in fact in this new model I see first party developers becoming more meaningful and much more important than they were in the past. Why? Because as these third party exclusives dry up the game console companies will need an alternate way to differentiate their console from the competition. Thus putting a larger emphasis on first party developers and forcing the game console companies to evaluate good talent and shore up what would be third party developers they believe will set their console apart.

I see this model continuing to flourish and eventually becoming the new wave that replaces system exclusives as companies realize that they need to be represented in both if not all of the current game console systems in order to be relevant and profitable in today’s crowded market while still giving a specific platform leverage.

How do you see the future of system exclusives?





Game of The Year: 2010

10 01 2011

The New Year brings a fresh start to our calendars and hopeful New Years resolutions and with this fresh start its only natural to look back and reflect on the year that was 2010. I absolutely love these types of thoughtful musings since we often times are so focused on whats upcoming that we forget to look and see whats in the past. This can be true of any facet of our lives however this particular post will focus on gaming as I will attempt to proclaim the best games of this past year.

Before we get started I must first put a disclaimer, this is my list and therefore you may not and in fact I hope you do not agree 100% with my findings. Secondly just because a game did not make my list or was a runner up does not mean I dislike the game its a simple fact of numbers and the sheer amount of quality games that release every year. In fact it may mean that I just haven’t played it yet. Lastly many factors come into play when I determine which game is eventually crowned however it ultimately comes down to my overall likeness of that game.

Anyways without further a do here is my Game of The Year 2010.

Morphing into the #5 spot is … Transformers: War for Cybertron

Just like last year my 5th spot was a surprise to even me. Transformers War for Cybertron was released in the early summer months and is a movie based game therefore not many including myself had high expectations. However Transformers came out of left field and was a total surprise hit for me. Transformers War for Cybertron shined were most movie based games and bland third person shooters fail, in the story and shooting mechanics. Even with all of this Transformers kept that old nostalgia Transformers feel that is so revered by fans easily making this one of the best games I played all year.

Galloping up into the #4 spot is … Red Dead Redemption

Surprised? While a consensus game of the year for most other blogs it just didn’t provide enough for me personally to reach that top spot but is easily one of the best games this past year. Red Dead Redemption is a black hole of content worthy of spending hours upon hours in. Rockstar San Diego gave us such a stunning visual world that at times I would just gallop around the barren western desert admiring the environment they have made. Luckily Rockstar also filled this open world with a multitude of activities to do as well as an intense and attention grabbing story which compliments the surroundings.

Dribbling past the competition and into the #3 spot is … NBA 2K11

Although this is my list I feel I should pretense my third pick considering I enjoy the game of basketball with Michael Jordan being my favorite player of all time. But even though I do enjoy the NBA I haven’t purchased nor played a basketball game since 2002 that should say something about the genre. All things changed with NBA 2k11. Michael Jordan was a great fit for the cover of this game as like Jordan’s game I found no inconsistencies or glaring holes but rather a pure, elegant, graceful and creative slam dunk. NBA 2K11 is one of my favorite sports games of all time easily making it into the top of my list for 2010.

Covertly shooting its way all the way to #2 is … Call of Duty: Black Ops

Call of Duty titles have always been a favorite of mine mostly due to the lasting competitive multiplayer in which I play hours upon hours with online with friends. Call of Duty Black Ops is no different as Treyarch has expanded the options while refining and focusing other areas of the multiplayer. However this year I was a huge fan of the surprising single player campaign as well. Treyarch decided to take the single player in a slightly different direction that I feel paid huge dividends. Mix this fresh single player with the always consistent, hugely popular and complete time sink of a multiplayer and Black Ops was a highlight of the 2010 year.

And lastly my 2010 Game of The Year is … Starcraft 2

I could have seen this coming from 1998 when the original Starcraft was released or later that year when the expansion Brood War was released. One of the only titles I have anticipated more than Starcraft 2 is another yet to be released Blizzard game, Diablo 3. I played both Starcraft and the expansion extensively for several years making me eager for the sequel. So much so that to date Starcraft 2 is the ONLY title I have actually purchased new hardware in order to play – a true system seller. The single player while resembling its past was well varied and included some truly incredible moments. Speaking of competitive multiplayer, Black Ops, Starcraft 2 is on a level completely on its own. This anticipation along with reverence for the series and developer not to mention the exceptional quality of the both the single player and competitive multiplayer without question make Starcraft 2 my personal ‘Game of The Year’.

I applaud all of the aforementioned games as well as the rest of the games that released in 2010.  Whats your Game of The Year? Drop a comment below and let me know.





Call of Duty: Black Ops Review

30 11 2010

Introduction

Black Ops is Treyarch’s third installment (seventh overall) in the Call of Duty franchise and is a sequel to their previous title World at War. Although Black Ops is still a first person shooter running at a crisp sixty frames per second Treyarch has changed the traditional Call of Duty campaign, although you still control multiple characters in several different exotic locations such as Russia, Cuba, Laos and Vietnam the story is focused around one main character and one main plot progression unlike previous Call of Duty games. Staying true to its name the missions revolve around many black operations carried out behind enemy lines while attempting to gain more information about an experimental Soviet chemical weapon codenamed Nova-6. Call of Duty Black Ops was released worldwide on November 9th 2010 for the PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii and DS systems.

Can Black Ops help Treyarch close the perceived gap between them and Infinity Ward and end up being a critically well received game, or is this proof that Infinity Ward is the better Call of Duty developer? Continue Reading to find out.

Single Player

The constant comparison between Treyarch and Infinity Ward is inevitable whether either team deserves it. After each iteration both teams attempt to take the positive points from the previous game and add in their own wrinkles in an attempt to make a successful game which neither team has had a hard time doing thus far. However in the past single player was not the traditional avenue to distinguish themselves as both studios followed the same path. Yet in this installment Treyarch has decided to branch off of that thinking and take the single player campaign into a different direction. While the staples of a Call of Duty single player campaign like on screen objectives, stellar graphics, multiple locations around the globe and exceptional audio stay the same Treyarch has made some tweaks that pay huge dividends.

One of the major and most notable differences was that the story was centered and revolved around one main character and one topic. But since much of the story is told in flash backs through the characters eyes it still allows the game to cover a wide range of time while also allowing the game to flow at an excellent pace. Even during the times when you do play as a different character the story is still focused around the main character. This cohesion allowed me to have an attachment to my character that I have never had in previous Call of Duty titles. This cohesive story also made the story much easier to follow and much more rewarding to follow as well.

Treyarch also grounded the story in some truth this time around instead of the completely ridiculous story of Modern Warfare 2. Even with this unity and truth based story Black Ops still showcased stellar larger than life scripted events with nonstop action but was more believable due to the way the story fit together. For those that played Treyarch’s previous title World at War you will see some familiar faces that come back to play an important role in Black Ops however knowledge of the previous story is not needed to understand or appreciate the current story.

All of this praise does not mean Black Ops doesn’t suffer from some of the same faults that Modern Warfare and other Call of Duty titles suffered from as well. Specifically the enemy and friendly AI or more importantly the lack of enemy or friendly AI. On more than one occasion the enemy AI was completely clueless leaving me to fend for myself in an onslaught of never ending enemies due to the return of endless enemy respawns. The enemy AI wasn’t much better as they would walk right up to a friendly AI player or myself showing just how scripted there movements are. Overall the game is very well directed except in one particular part of the game where most of these errors reared their ugly heads resulting in me having to break the game in order to pass it.

Overall I found the 6.5 hour single player campaign to be much better than that of Modern Warfare 2. The story was ambitious and provided a variety of gameplay keeping the game fresh and fun to play. Add that to the effortless controls that are now a genre standard as well as crisp smooth graphics and stellar sound that we expect from every Call of Duty title. This makes Black Ops definitely worth picking up and experiencing just on the single player campaign alone without even mentioning the multiplayer.

Multiplayer

Speaking of Multiplayer Treyarch followed the same successful plan as it did with single player; employ some modifications that again pay huge dividends allowing the game to feel fresh. Again much of the successful framework is still intact like gaining experience based on kills and in game objectives to gain levels and eventually prestige.

Some of the guns from the previous titles make a return like the M-16, Skorpion and AK-47 to name a few but Treyarch also added a few new ones as well like the Galil, Commando  and Spectre. Perks were also slightly altered the biggest exclusion being Stopping Power and Death Streaks instead adding others like Ghost and Hacker.

However the biggest change is most likely the addition of COD points which takes the place of the tier unlocking system of the past. COD Points are earned in-game like experience points and are used to purchase all aspects of your load out including gun, attachments, perks, equipment, killstreaks and character customization. Some of the guns are still locked until a certain level however once you reach that level you can immediately unlock and attach any reticule you choose instead of having to get a certain amount of kills to unlock.

I personally like this change as it allows me to choose the perks, equipment and gun combination I want from the very beginning instead of wasting time with those I don’t. To help players maximize their earnings Black Ops also adds contracts which are specific objectives or challenges beyond that of winning the overall game you can purchase and if you successfully complete these objectives can earn additional COD points and/or bonus experience points.

As if that was not enough Treyarch chose to add stat tracking that is so in-depth it easily rivals any multi-platform game to date. From your combat record you can replay your last 20 matches from any person’s view in the game or from a free flowing camera as well. You can then choose to record a snippet of any game and easily upload it to share with the community. If you find yourself dying on a certain map too much you can see exactly where you and every person has died in a match or get comprehensive statistics on all of the guns and equipment you have used as well.

This freedom is also expanded to your character where you can customize your character’s face paint, gun reticule, clan tag or his overall appearance by selecting different perks. The options available are extensive so much so that I am sure I have even missed a few here. But Treyarch didn’t stop there as they also followed up with the extremely popular Zombie mode as well. I find the co-op zombie mode to one of the most fun and addicting activities to engage in with friends. This mode has been further fleshed out and honed with minor adjustments that make this mode even more enjoyable.

Overall

The allure of all the Call of Duty single player campaigns is the feeling of being in a huge summer blockbuster action flick. Not only did Black Ops retain this feeling I believe Black Ops did better in that aspect than any previous Call of Duty title. Treyarch captured this feeling while still having the game be ambitious, diverse and unlike previous titles which says a lot.

I definitely think Treyarch took a leap forward with Black Ops especially considering the array of options they have included. However at times they seemed so focused on adding options they lost some of the polish we have been accustomed to in the past. Those slight imperfections in my eyes are a small price to pay for the countless additions and revisions that positively affect the replayability and ultimate make this title refreshing and fun to play.

It is difficult to say who the better Call of Duty developer is since by now they share so many fundamental ideas and core beliefs. But what I can say is Black Ops is definitely not an inferior product to Modern Warfare 2 and unquestionably should be experienced for the thrill ride that is the single player along with the highly addictive and in-depth multiplayer whether or not you are a fan of either Infinity Ward or Treyarch. In simpler words, go get it.

Call of Duty: Black Ops for the PlayStation 3 was purchased for full price on the release day. The games single player campaign was completed on the default setting in 6.5 hours. I subsequently spent a multitude of hours playing the multiplayer while obtaining 24 of the available 51 trophies. Call of Duty: Black Ops was developed by Treyarch and published by Activision and is available for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii and PC systems.

To read about our stance on the review process click here for more answers. Find all of other reviews here; better yet bookmark that section so you won’t miss any of our future reviews as well. If you would like other information to be included in the reviews give us some feedback and let us know, or if you would like us to review a specific title drop us a line we welcome and encourage your feedback. Enjoy!





Why The Move Will Succeed and Kinect Will Not

5 10 2010

The PlayStation Move has officially been released and with that the next step in motion controlled gaming has been unleashed. It’s a new war between two giant hardware manufactures that may have already been won by a third manufacturer many years ago.

Whether or not a victory has already been won with the release of the PlayStation Move and the upcoming release of Kinect Microsoft and Sony are directly competing with each other for a slice of that Nintendo success. Here is why I believe the PlayStation Move will succeed and Kinect will not.

In order to declare a winner we must first define what success is. Is it units sold? Is it attachment percent? Or maybe its related software sales? In the context of this article my definition of success is none of the above but instead will be which device I think will provide a superior gaming experience.

Personally as a gamer when I play I need that tactile feedback an actual controller provides. This will not be possible with Kinect and because of that I believe the interactive function which is a cornerstone in all games will suffer. PlayStation Move on the other hand can provide that feedback while tracking your movements on a more precise level granting an even more interactive experience.

Speaking of games PlayStation appears to be more serious about supporting games with this motion technology take Killzone 3 and Heavy Rain for instance where as Microsoft is taking compatibility out of major franchises like Fable 3. Also despite being announced after Kinect PlayStation Move has announced many more titles including first party titles. While on the other hand Kinect has fewer titles and the one exciting title is a third party developed game.

Not to mention the games that are scheduled to release for the PlayStation Move appear to be more of the games I want to play. One great example of this is Dead Space: Extraction, granted it was previously released on the Wii but it will now be introduced to a whole new audience and will provide value to PlayStation 3 owners who plan on purchasing the game. Kinect on the other hand is having a difficult time being implemented into games or the way it is being implemented is just not something I see myself playing. The PlayStation Move also provides a good variety of games, from the Wii like clones of Sports Championship to a more in-depth title like the aforementioned Dead Space: Extraction. At this point I just don’t see that diversity with Kinect.

In my eyes PlayStation Move seems to be more of a game platform obviously due to its similarities with the Wii where Kinect while it has incredible tech and possibility appears in its current form to just be a concept. This is why I believe the PlayStation Move will be successful and Kinect will not.

Which motion controlled device do you think will succeed?  Do you plan on purchasing either of them?