Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 Review

Platform: Playstation Network, X-BOX Live Arcade, WiiWare, iPod/iPhone
Developer(s): Sonic Team, Dimps
Genre(s): Platformer
Rating: E for Everyone

So it seems that this year has been dropping two things: highly anticipated sequels/prequels and reinventions of our all-time favorite titles. This time, SEGA has decided to grace us with the sequel – I’m sorry, the true sequel – to its classic series that had everyone in front of their Genesis. Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 is out, but is it the blue hedgehog’s rise to fame or nothing more than a pitfall to a spiky doom?


Sonic the Hedgehog 4 is set shortly after its predecessor Sonic & Knuckles; in the game, Sonic destroys Doctor Eggman's space station, the Death Egg. With the Death Egg destroyed and Angel Island returned to the sky, Sonic decides that it is time to take a break. After parting with Tails and Knuckles, he sets off to explore new territories alone; however, unbeknownst to him, his nemesis Dr. Eggman has survived their last encounter, and has revisited and rehashed some of his "very best" robotic creations in another attempt to defeat Sonic. Sonic must travel through a variety of zones to defeat Doctor Eggman once again.


So, from the start, I’ll just say that I’m a fan of the older Sonic series (Sonic the Hedgehog – Sonic & Knuckles and both Sonic Adventure games). And the first – and possibly major – pro that I’ll list on here is that Sonic 4: Episode 1 is a true sequel of the Genesis series games. The developers did what they said they would do: they kept everything exactly like the original games that we all grew up on. And that in itself is a major pro.

A major pro for this game was the controls. The controls were basic Sonic controls: D-Pad/Analog to move, and face buttons to jump. The Spin Dash is back and they even gifted the blue blur with the Homing Attack. And honestly, that’s all you really need to play a Sonic game…no guns or psychic powers, just jumps, spin dashes, and homing attacks.

The stages are another pro for this game. All the zones in the game are reminiscent of the old school games graphically, but are a bit more challenging in this installment. It’s guaranteed that you’ll get a bit stuck in some zones on this one. Also, the music is a solid pro for this game. All of the Sonic games had memorable music and this one is no different.


Although this game is great, it has its downsides. For starters, as sharp as the graphics are, it seems that our blue blur of a hero goes a bit slower in this game. Compared to earlier installments – especially Sonic 2 – Sonic seems to run with a leg cramp in this game. Not that it’s alarmingly slow; it’s just that he’s not as speedy as he was before. Also, the amount of stages is another con. When you break it down, you have 4 zones with 3 acts and a boss battle. Add in the 7 special stages and the final boss battle and you have 24 stages that honestly go a bit quick for hardcore players. Granted, it’s the first episode and you expect that but…eh.

Also, another con is the lack of competitiveness in this one. They’ve added in a time attack and score attack mode and you’re able to post up your times on the XBL/PSN/WiiWare leader boards, but there’s no multiplayer. And as I said before, it’s the first episode so we don’t know exactly what will happen, but there could have been a multiplayer race mode, either local or online.


If you’re the Sonic fan that’s heavily disappointed with all the Sonic games released after Sonic Adventure 2 and wanted a revival of the old series, this game is for you. If not, then I suggest that you still get this game. Even though it’s a bit short, it’s still worth the $15/1200 MS Points that it costs for the download. And remember: this is Episode 1. Imagine what Episode 2 will bring.

Final Rating: 4 out of 5

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Halo: Reach Review

Genre: First-person Shooter
Developer(s): Bungie
Publisher(s): Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date: 9/14/2010
Rating: M
System: XBOX 360
Price: $59.99 (Standard Edition)
$79.99 (Limited Edition)
$149.99 (Legendary Edition
$399.99 (Xbox 360 Limited Edition Halo: Reach Bundle)

Ok, it’s here! Halo: Reach; one of the biggest game releases of the year. If you already know the history, then skip ahead. For those who don't know, Halo is an epic about the conflict between humanity and an alien group called "The Covenant". Now that the intro is over with, let’s get down to business. Halo: Reach is a First Person Shooter (FPS for short). This is the sixth game is the franchise. It takes place between Halo Wars and the first Halo game. The game has up to 4 player co-op and up to 16 people online via Xbox LIVE. There are 5 main play modes for this installment.

The Story
The game tells the story about the "Fall of Reach". You play as Noble 6, the newest replacement member of Noble Team since their previous member died in combat. If you saw the commercials, then you already know about that. Your team is sent to find out what happened to a communication relay on the planet. Expecting to find Rebels, you discover that The Covenant is the cause behind it. This leads to the discovery of an invasion on Reach. Now you must warn the UNSC and amass a heroic assault to stop this incoming armada. This whole campaign will take about 10-12 hours by yourself; however it will take less time if you have three other players with you.

The Multiplayer!!!
The online is where you get the rest of your money’s worth. The Matchmaking mode is where you battle online players in games like: Slayer (a free-for-all death match), Team Slayer (a team death match), Elite Slayer, (Slayer but you control Elite Covenants), Infection (3 players spawn as zombies and kill or "infect" the other players) and Juggernaut (one person starts with over-shields, super speed and a gravity hammer while the other players try to kill him. The player that defeats the old Juggernaut becomes the new Juggernaut.)
Objective hosts games like Capture the Flag, King-of-the-Hill and Race. Headhunter is where you collect the skulls of your kills a-la predator. Oddball is whoever has the skull the longest wins. Assault is where you plant the bomb in the enemy's base. In Stock Pile your team collects as many flags as possible. The Territories match is like King-Of-The-Hill but there are 3 "hills". Then there is Invasion, which is as combination of Territories, Assault and Capture the Flag.
The Third is Firefight were you must survive an onslaught of Covenant. This game type ranges from Survival, Generator Defense, Rocket Fight, Sniper Fight and Gruntpocalype. This is where all the enemies are Grunts.

The Creativity!!!
If, for some reason, you decide that the on-going carnage is a bit too much for you, then you have the fourth mode titled Forge. Forge is for those who like editing and creating new maps and game types. You can make anything from old Halo maps to maps from other Halo games. Whatever you can think of you probably can do it in this mode. And finally, there is Theater. Theater is where you can save your game play, take photos and make videos. The pics and flicks you have can be uploaded for the world to see and rate. It’s like some Halo players say, "If you didn't save it, then it never happened."

The extra stuff...
For those of you who are undecided as to what edition to buy, this will help. The Limited Edition comes with the game, ONI-themed case & artifact bag, Dr. Halsey's personal journal and other classified documents, Waypoint avatar gear, and Exclusive Elite armor for multiplayer. The Legendary Edition comes with the same stuff as the Limited Edition plus exclusive SPARTAN armor effect, exclusive digital video content, and the Noble Team statue. The statue was expertly crafted by McFarlane Toys and individually numbered. All of this comes inside a large UNSC-themed case. The Xbox 360 Limited Edition Halo: Reach Bundle comes with the game, the 360 with built in WI-FI, 250GB built in hard drive, two wireless controllers, a black headset and is Kinect Ready.

The Pros:
There are many pros in Halo: Reach that needs to be highlighted. The enemy AI is a major pro for this game. The enemies are more skilled than in previous games, making it a more challenging aspect without the Skulls activated. Also, the armor abilities they’ve added in the game are another one. The abilities, although not mandatory to use, are useful in game play. Used wisely, it can help improve your game play in more ways than one. Another pro in the game are the “Assassinations”, a move where you melee the opponent from behind in a stealthy manner. There are several different animations of assassinations that depend on what weapon you have, what you do, and your position.

The in-game Commendations are also a pro in the game. Commendations are like in-game achievements that help track your game play progress. It’s also a useful tool for improving your game playing skills. And finally, Forge mode is another pro because they’ve improved it since its initial appearance in Halo 3. This time, it’s more user-friendly, allowing you to be a lot more creative with the mode than last time.

The Cons:
Sadly, with the good points come the bad points. First off, the friendly AI in this game is still as retarded as it was in the last installments. You’ll still have AI teammates who still can’t shoot for the life of them, still can’t drive and die too quickly. Actually, I think the only thing they improved on was the teammates not dying to quickly. Secondly, the online matchmaking has its own set of cons. The matchups you are set up in are more based on your performance in the previous match, rather than your level. So if you’re a beginner who had a good match, you’ll probably be set up in an extremely tough match next where everyone takes headshots. Also, there’s not much circulation of newer match types in Matchmaking. If you’re not just looking to play Slayer/Team Slayer and the more common matches, you may not get the chance seeing as SWAT, Infection, and Snipers are the more common types even with the new update.

The abilities have a con side to them. While they are extremely useful, there’s no real in-game tutorial on how to use them, which leaves people picking the more common ones like Sprint and Jet Pack. Also, on the weapons front, the DMR is a definite con. What is the DMR, you ask? It’s a new rifle that has the long-range precision of a sniper rifle and the short-range firing of the pistol. It’s also the most common (if not over-used) weapon of the game. The leveling up system has a small con in it, seeing as it is unbalanced when you move up to higher classes (specifically the move from Warrant Officer Grade 3 to Captain). And finally, Bungie has put on a daily credit cap for online game play, meaning that you’re unable to sit there all day and level up the entire time. Whether it’s a good point or a bad point is up in the air, however it’s still worth noting.

When the dust clears...
The 5 types Campaign, Matchmaking, Firefight, Forge and Theater will have you gone for days. Sometimes in the Campaign, the game amps up the difficulty and hands it to you but it’s not enough to have you walking away. Matchmaking and Firefight is where you earn you stripes and bragging rights. With games like Slayer, Objective and Gruntpocalype you will have a lot to talk about. . If you have the money and you like collectables get the Legendary Edition. Or, if you need a new system, get the Xbox 360 Limited Edition Halo: Reach Bundle. If not... I still say get this game.

Final Rating: 5 out of 5

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Jason Kanter interview... :)

We here at The Reset Button got ahold of our good friend Jason Kanter. When last we saw him (in person) I believe he had just finished up work that he did on BioShock 2. So for people who want to know more about what Jason did, or you want to know more about the industry read on...

As an audio engineer, what got you into the gaming industry?

I was working in the music/record industry as a producer and tracking/mixing engineer for a long time and in the late 90’s/early 2000’s I was seeing a significant decline in record budgets. Labels were seeing decreases in sales. They started dropping bands from their roster in droves and slashing recording budgets. This was combined with the fact that bands were becoming savvier as to what studios were capable of achieving technologically. Bands would come in knowing they had a drummer that couldn’t keep time or a singer with piss poor pitch and would expect the engineer to make them sound like god. And we would but the job became more about fixing shitty performances and less about capturing great music. It was simply not why I got into making records. Overall the horizon for record making looked pretty bleak.

Then in 2003 my brother in-law, Scott Carroll, started working for Maxis/EA as an animator on “The Sims 2”. They were in need of freelance audio editors and I’ve been an avid gamer since age 13 so I jumped at the opportunity. Although editing Simlish for 12 hours a day can be somewhat maddening, I was making good money and was able to combine my passion for audio with my love for games. After finishing “The Sims 2” I decided to make the switch to games full time and haven’t looked back since.

Besides gaming what other projects have you been involved with? Will you or have you been involved in film?

I still work on music projects from time to time and I’ve also provided sound for the occasional website or new-media project but when not working on games the majority of my time is spent working on film and television. I’ve done sound for a few projects on Comedy Central like “The Awkward Comedy Show” and this crazy animated series about a crack addicted robot called “Crackatron”. Currently I’m working on co-producing a TV show with a good friend of mine, Victor Varnado, and I have a number of film projects going on. But generally I love providing sound for anything visual.

Working on games as a sound designer I’ve learned how satisfying it can be to add sound to an otherwise silent scene. Sound designers have significant influence on the weight that even a single animation can have. Every animation is like a blank canvas and you have so much freedom in the sounds you use to paint that canvas.

A few years back I got to try my hand doing sound design and re-record mixing for film on a short film called Roboto Supremo and found it immensely satisfying. Although it’s the same basic concept as providing sound for games, the gratification I get from working on film is much more immediate since it’s a linear process and everything’s right there in front of you. Plus you generally don’t have to wait several years before the project is completed. When I get the film the visual is basically complete and when I add sound to a scene it’s done. Levels might change in the mixing process but otherwise I don’t have to worry about a sound file not firing due to bad coding or the sound being dropped because the audio engine has reached its limit.

We know that you were involved with the dialogue editing of BioShock 2. What was the hardest thing you had to deal with?

The hardest part about working on “BioShock 2” was the pace. I was the lead dialogue editor and had two editors working for me. The turnarounds were pretty fast and we were getting multiple sessions every day so it was easy to have the work suddenly pile up. Plus, in addition to editing I was responsible for QC’ing every single line before I submitted it back to 2K. It was a pretty massive undertaking. I had to pull a few all nighters and by the end of it I think we were all a little burnt out but I live to tell about it. Hehe.

I’m currently lead dialogue editing “XCOM” for 2K and I’m handling it a lot better. I’ve basically tripled the number of editors working for me so I’m able to focus on the QC and file management more and do less of the actual editing myself. Getting a new editor on board is always an investment of time since I’m a meticulous bastard in terms of the way each file is edited, but it’s well worth it once I get a new editor up to speed.

Now I know you did audio work for Sims 2, Rat Race and even Barbie Diaries: High School Mystery Game . Now what exactly did you for each one of them?

On “The Sims 2” I was working as a freelance editor whereas the other two I was the in house audio director so my involvement was completely different.

“The Sims 2” was a fairly simple job. I would be sent DVD’s filled with Pro Tools sessions and every single session was a different animation voiced by one actor. The actor would do six or seven takes for each animation and I had to select the best take (or edit the best combination), clean it and bounce off the edit with the appropriate filename. Now mind you this is Simlish we’re talking about, so the actor is for all intents and purposes speaking gibberish; it’s not as if I’m listening for script accuracy or pronunciation. But listening to Simlish for 8-12 hours a day, you do start to pick up a sense of what is and is not Simlish. As crazy as it sounds there were actors that were definitely better at doing it then others.

Basically I had to watch the animation and try to get what the character is saying emotionally. Then I’d listen to each of the takes and pick the one that best matched the emotion conveyed and how the character is gesticulating.

After completing “Sims 2” I took a job as Audio Director for a small developer in NYC, Super-Ego Games. They were developing an original IP called “Rat Race”. It was supposed to be a playable sitcom set in an office so needless to say it was very character driven and there was A LOT of dialogue. While “Barbie” was a different game in that it was a licensed IP aimed at kids, it was also comedically based and character driven so it too had a lot of VO. As audio director I was in charge of all aspects of audio for both titles but the majority of my time was spent casting, recording and directing the voice actors. I also handled the majority of the sound design and edited the music as well as mixed all the cutscenes. Like audio directors for most small companies I had to wear many hats so I did whatever I had the time and skills to handle and hired staff and freelancers for everything else.

At any these gigs, did you ever get to meet a celebrity (as in a movie star)?

We had big plans on “Rat Race” to hire celebrity talent to voice guest characters in certain episodes, which would have been very exciting, but sadly that never came to fruition.

Not sure if they’re the A-list “celebrities” you were looking for but I’ve worked with some known musicians like Anthrax and Bruce Hornsby during my record making career and in the last film I worked on, “Tell Your Friends”, I got to meet Jim Gaffigan, Janeane Garofalo and Colin Quinn. I was also snubbed by Henry Rollins once… that was pretty exciting.

Any future titles that you will be adding audio skills to?

Aside from the aforementioned game “XCOM” I’m currently audio directing on an undisclosed title set in space by a small company in NYC. I’m also about to start post on the film, “Tell Your Friends”; I’m scheduled to do post for a spooky horror indie feature later this month; and I’m co-producing a TV pilot with my friend Victor Varnado. I think that’s all I have scheduled right now.

Any words of wisdom for those who want to get into the audio world?

Get an internship at a busy studio ASAP; on the job is the best way to learn the trade. While getting formal training in audio never hurts and it’s good to learn some of the nuts and bolts science behind what you do, true knowledge comes through experience and when you’re done with school you’ll still need to get that experience somewhere. If you get your foot in the door at a busy post house you may start out making coffee but you’re more likely to be thrown in on a project earlier on and there is no better teacher than experience. Then you can take all the money you saved on audio school and spend it on some nice gear.

To learn more of about Jason Kanter go to www.jasonkanter.com