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    Jan 24th, 2008 at 18:22:09     -    Super Mario 64 (N64)

    GAMEPLAY:

    After playing through a good bit of the early stages of the game, I can strongly say that this is my favorite Mario game. Each level is brilliantly designed and very unique. Some of the levels I have played include a classic lava level, sand level, ice level, and an under water level. Each of these levels feel very different in part because of the friction system in the game. All surfaces have their own friction rating that determines their "slipperiness". In the ice levels you will find Mario slides about 10 feet upon stopping, while on the sand level you will find it hard to even move on the quicksand. Slippery surfaces add a really interesting element to the gameplay that keeps you paying attention to what exactly Mario is standing on.
    After playing a bit more I have found even more of Mario's new moves. It is amazing how much you can do with 3 buttons (A, B, Z). Mario now has a butt/stomach slide, butt-stomp, a dive ability, WALL JUMPS, along with some cool breakdance style attacks. I found the dive ability to be incredibly useful for taking out enemies. The slide ability is not so much useful, but more of a required part of the game in order to get to certain areas. Sliding is actually quite difficult to master and adds some difficulty to the levels. Now on to my personal favorite ability, which is wall jumping. This a another ability new to SM64, and it will make you wonder how you ever played a Mario game without it. Not only does the wall jump look awesome, but it can get you to areas unreachable any other way. Wall jumps can also be strung together into long combos that can get you to very cool places.
    On a side note, i really like what the designers have done with the level select system. When you start the game, Mario is alone at Princess Peach's castle. When you enter the castle you will find many rooms with giant pictures inside of them. In order to enter a level you simply jump in its picture. As you complete more levels and collect more stars, new levels, and new areas of the castle, open up to you.


    DESIGN:

    The overall design of SM64 is amazing. I really like the idea of a main neutral world with no enemies that you select the levels in. The castle has a really cool feel to it, and ends up being much larger than you would expect. I also think the star idea was a great addition to the Mario series. In previous games there were worlds (usually 8) and levels in each of these worlds. IN SM64 there is one world with lots of levels in it. The levels have star requirements in order to enter them, so a hard level might require 70 stars in order to enter it while and easy level might only require 3 stars. The stars are also cool because it adds to the replay-ability of the levels, considering there are 7 stars in each level, but you don't need all 7 to advance to the next level. So many times you will find yourself going back to the beginning levels to get that star you couldn't get before.
    There is also the addition of the hats in game. There is an invisibility cap that allows you to walk through some obstacles, a metal cap that makes you invincible and lets walk underwater rather than swim, and a flying cap that is pretty self explanatory. The way the game was designed, you unlock the ability to use the hat blocks in the worlds at certain points in the game. The cool thing is that the hat blocks appear on every level including the first one, so you wouldn't be able to get all 7 stars on the first level until you unlock that certain hat that you need. This makes you repeat the earlier levels if you want to collect all 120 stars.
    I also like the fact that you technically complete the game at 70/120 stars. At 70 stars you can fight the 3rd and final Bowser battle and save peach, but you aren't nearly done with the fun of the game. Even after the main story of the game is complete you can collect all the stars from the 15 different levels.

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    Jan 24th, 2008 at 17:50:12     -    Super Mario 64 (N64)

    SUMMARY:

    In Super Mario 64 for the Nintendo 64 you play as the beloved Mario in a fictional world called the Mushroom Kingdom. Like the other games, the evil Bowser has stolen the princess from her castle and it is up to you to save her... again. There are numerous different world each with 7 stars hidden throughout that you must collect in order to save Princess Peach. Super Mario 64 is a 3rd person platform jumper, and was really the first of its kind.

    GAMEPLAY:

    One of the first things the player notices when they first start playing SM64 is that this game has everything you know and love about Mario games in it and it's 3D! The move from 2D to 3D with the Mario series was a great choice and really adds a lot of new gameplay mechanics never before seen in Mario games. When playing this game i quickly became very attached to the Mario character and he soon starts to feel like an extension of your own body. I found the controls and camera a bit confusing at first, but after 30 minutes or so i felt like i could jump Mario of a large structure and land him on a dime.
    One of the new editions to SM64 from the previous games was some new jumps and acrobatic moves. There is now a double and triple jump, along with a backflip and long jump. These add a lot of variety to the game and in turn make some of the level designs very unique and challenging. Another interesting gameplay mechanic is the effect momentum and velocity have in the game. Mario is now effected by momentum, and you will find that sometimes he will slide when quickly changing directions (i.e. left to right, forward to backward). Momentum and velocity are also used to calculate how far you can run up a steep slope.
    Like I said before, when you stop running or change directions Mario will slide a little bit. Now this in itself is not new to the Mario series but they have added a new element to the classic "Mario slide". Now if you can correctly time a jump during a slide mario will quickly do a flipping jump in the direction opposite the slide. I found these new slide jumps very useful for saving mario from hitting enemies or falling off the levels into the white abyss.

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    Jan 14th, 2008 at 00:32:50     -    Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (PC)

    GAMEPLAY

    This time around I decided to play the single player campaign of Call of Duty 4. In the single player campaign you play as either the British S.A.S. forces or the American U.S.M.C. in many missions that take place in the Middle East and Russia. The campaign is incredibly action packed and i would describe each level as the best action movie you have ever seen. The levels are very well scripted but at the same time do not feel scripted. There is always plenty of action going on on-screen so you never really feel bored or like you are waiting for something in interesting to happen.
    The single player campaign consists of an Epilogue, three acts each consisting of multiple missions, and a bonus mission that is very short but VERY fun. While playing through the campaign I noticed how much each mission varied from the others. One of the problems I have found with single player in first person shooters is the lack of variety. In many FPS games each level seems very linear and similar to the previous level. While environments may change, the core gameplay does not. This is not true in Call of Duty 4, where each mission is very different from the next and you are never really sure what is coming next. They constantly mix up the gameplay and this makes for a very action packed and enjoyable campaign.

    DESIGN

    I would consider Call of Duty 4 the biggest innovation to first person shooters since GoldenEye 64 for the Nintendo 64. There are so many innovative features in this game including shooting through walls, the perk system, the concept or hiding in plain sight, along with many others. These features combine to create one of the best games I have ever played.
    In many games of the past if you could not see the enemy you could not shoot them. For instance if you were shooting at an enemy hiding behind a waist high wall and then he decided to crouch and hide you were out of luck. In Call of Duty 4 you could shoot at the wall where the enemy is hiding and actually kill them. Of course this depends on the strength of your weapon and the thickness of the wall, but many of the surfaces in the game are penetrable by most weapons. This adds a really interesting element to the game because you are no longer safe if you are out of sight.
    Another great feature of this game that adds to its replay-ability is the perk system. When playing online, each character has three customizable perk slots to which they can choose abilities that accommodate their personal play style. These perks include 3 frag grenades as opposed to 1, silent footsteps for the stealthy kills, more health, less kickback on weapons, holding your breath longer which is useful for snipers to get that headshot, along with many more. This adds a new element to the FPS genre and gives players much more freedom and creativity when making their character. Now not only must you decide on your favorite weapon but also which three perks you feel make you the best all around player.
    One moment that made me sit back in my chair with my mouth hanging wide open in a confused stupor was when a bush killed me. Now it wasn't really a bush, but a enemy player in a guille suit crouched down in some shrubs. A guille suit for those of you that do not know is a suit consisting of shrubs and other plant material that real life snipers use to hide from the enemy. At a glance this character blended in so well with the environment I was shocked. Since then i have also learned to use the environment to my advantage as well. Grass is no longer just for looks but can be used to hide from enemies when the bullets start flying.

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    Jan 13th, 2008 at 23:47:09     -    Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (PC)

    SUMMARY

    Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is a first person shooter that takes place in modern day as the title suggests. The game is incredibly realistic both in gameplay and visuals. It features a single player campaign along with a stellar online multiplayer mode with game types including free-for-all, team deathmatch, along with many other variants.

    GAMEPLAY

    The first thing the player will notice when they sit down to play Call of Duty 4 is how realistic the game looks. The characters, environments, special effects (dust, fire, smoke, etc.), lighting, and movements are all incredibly detailed and will make you sit back in your chair and say "Whoa!". Sometimes I consider this game more of a "movie that I control" rather than a video game simply because it looks so good. I know that I sometimes will sit in one place in-game gazing in awe at the graphics and will get killed because my character is standing out in the open.
    This brings up another interesting aspect of the game, which is the concept of cover. Cover can include hiding behind walls, fences, in buildings, etc. This is not your typical FPS where players are running and jumping around a level shooting rockets and driving hover-cars into each other. In COD4 cover is your best friend, and any good player will learn to use it early on. The reason cover is so important is because as stated earlier, this game is very realistic, so 1-3 shots with most weapons is enough to kill you. Many times when you are killed the only part of the enemy you can see is the top of their helmet and their weapon poking out of a second story window 100 yards away. In fact, the game is so realistic and that sometimes I run right buy enemy snipers wearing guille-suits laying prone in the tall grass. Many people's first reaction to the game is "I didn't even see the guy that just killed me!?!?" but after some practice you will have other players screaming the same thing.
    Another aspect of this game that separates it from numerous other FPS games is the online ranking system. There are a total of 55 ranks in the game and at each rank you unlock new weapons and character perks, which are used to hand tailor your character to unique gameplay style. This adds a new element to the game and makes playing feel more rewarding. The cool thing about the ranking system is that a rank 1 can kill a rank 55 just fine, after all a gun is a gun whether or not it has a fancy scope or silencer. Basically rank doesn't make your character better, but rather makes your character better for your particular play style.

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    1Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (PC)Playing
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