Game reviews incoming!
black_mammoth
Alright, so it's been a really fucking long time since I last did any game reviews, and lots of games have come out since then... I've written down all the games I've bought and played, and I'm gonna do a big bunch of game reviews.

Games like Halo Reach, Little Big Planet 2, NBA Jam, You Don't Know Jack, Torchlight, Portal 2, and many others await review. I'm gonna make sure to get this all done in the next couple days, get all caught up with things.

Also, Gonna work the next couple days to get all my faves on Youtube transferred over, and then I'm gonna start my new channel for Let's Play videos, starting with Portal 1.

See you soon.

Edit: Just got up a Youtube channel for gameplay footage and let's play videos. Might do game reviews on there, but probably not... The link is: http://www.youtube.com/user/BlackMammoth25

Got my first few videos up of my blind playthrough of Portal 1. Hope you all enjoy!
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Giving Halo series a chance
black_mammoth
For the longest time, I hated the Halo series and was infuriated by all the awards and praise that all those games got, was so confused as to why people would gladly suck Master Chief's dick after playing one of those games. I viewed it as an unbalanced game with a poor story, somewhat shiny graphics, and lots of weapons that couldn't kill anything in proper time. Seeing how badly they fucked up their 'Forge' system with it's claim to allow players to design levels only pissed me off even more.

I admit, I had gotten Halo 3 on it's midnight release...  I was lured in by everyone saying how it'd be the best of the series, how there were so many new guns, the ability to customize your character, and this 'Forge' system which allowed people to make levels to play in. The ability to customize character wasn't bad, but the new guns weren't all that good, several of the small ones being duplicates/alternates of other guns. They came up with the original 'Forge' system which was touted to be something you could make new levels with, but was really something to edit existing levels... It sucked, basically.

I had heard some things about Halo: Reach and I just felt kinda disgusted that people were getting so hyped up about another Halo game... For one thing, changing things on existing weapons like appearances and sounds for a PREQUEL should NOT be done, as the weaponry is NOT being upgraded but DOWNGRADED as they're early in the time-line. They DO fix this a bit by having the battle rifle switched with a semi-auto 'DMR' in it's place, as one weapon that's used before Halo and beyond.

One thing that changed my mind about Halo: Reach was seeing the video of 'Forge World' which looks even more complex than TimeSplitters series 'Map Maker' system. It's something that actually allows you to make whole levels based off base terrains, instead of trying to manipulate levels made by the programmers, and unlike the 'Map Maker' system you're focused not on hallways and rooms but instead on massive or tiny outdoor areas. You get to place parts, items, and vehicles wherever you want, however you want, even being able to shift gravity as you see fit.

When I saw the map creation system, I started getting interested in Halo: Reach, though I knew that I had had bad experience with the series very early on, and hadn't really given it a chance... Another problem was that I didn't know anything about the story, finding the third game quite confusing. My clan leader Red asked if I wanted to play through the series before I get Halo: Reach, and I realized that I had never really given the series any chance after my difficulties with the first game, especially with friends beating me down in multiplayer. I still believe TimeSplitters to be a better series, but I figured that I may as well try out the whole series from first to last so I get used to the controls/physics and weaponry, as well as learn the story from the very beginning.

So, started with Halo, going through it on Normal difficulty, and watching Red drive the Warthog many places it was not designed to go, and giving each other therapeutic back massages, aka assassinations when one or the other was badly hurt without enemies around... Admittedly, the story was decent, but I had seen better in other FPSes, though it still had a clearer plot than CoD: MW2!

After playing through that, I went through Halo 2 in a day, Red helping again, and this one on Heroic difficulty. It was definitely a pain in the ass at parts, especially with the Flood being immune to just about everything you throw at them, though the story was certainly decent, and a bit better than the previous game. The variety of guns was alright, probably about as good as you could get without having weapons overlapping. The graphics were pretty good, definitely holding up to the test of time for now...

And finally, I played Halo 3, this one on Legendary,  with Red and the help of some others, though everyone we'd recruit would leave after a couple levels. I thought that the game was designed specifically for two or more players, especially with the annoying GROUPS of Brutes that eat rounds even AFTER their shields are depleted. Beyond Brute grouping, they finally got everything quite balanced out, I think, with enough weapons and vehicles to fit a wide variety of different scenarios. The story worked to bring everything to a close, and Master Chief once again showed that he is a character without character. I admit, I don't think that they should have added so many extra weapons, though, with many of the brute weapons besides the gravity hammer being useless or one-handed doubles of some other already-existing weapons. I DO enjoy the concept of customizing armor colors AND parts as was first introduced in Halo 3, and I'm glad they're continuing with Halo: Reach a more complex system of customization.

One thing regarding Halo 3 that I wasn't a fan of, wasn't actually because of the game itself; I had bought a strategy guide made by Piggyback as the official guide for the game, and found quite a few bits of information missing from the guide because the company making the guide were pussies that took Bungie's suggestions/orders to keep information away from the players, like how to unlock most of the armor parts, where to find the game-changing Skulls hidden in the levels, and other bits of info.

After speaking of that, looking through the Legendary edition of the Halo: Reach guide that I just got shipped, I can tell that they are not leaving out ANY kind of information, letting people know about how to unlock parts, what they're worth, the different vehicles and weapons, level strategies, locations of 'data pads', and more. Obviously Brady Games isn't run by pussies who bend to Bungie's will of making gamers clueless about parts of their game, and they give ALL the information they can.

After all that, I decided to try my hand at playing online with Halo 3, and I found the experience... surprising. The weapons and combat system are actually very balanced, and it's far easier to get into the game and play online than I thought it would be. I found that I was actually quite good at playing online, able to hold my own against other people. The game is FAR less annoying than I remember Halo being in the first place, probably because I'm not playing with Blue and having him being a dick...

The only problems I have with the Halo series at this point, is that Master Chief has little character, the in-game story could be a bit better (though the extra stuff made for the series like books, comics, Halo: Legends and the like give the whole Halo Universe a LOT of good, interesting back-story), and that the shotgun has never been anything more than a longer-range melee weapon... Honestly, if you're going to make a shotgun that inaccurate, you should at least make it fully-automatic; ALL ranged weapons, even close range, should have an effective range FARTHER than that of butt-fucking distance.

Well, Halo: Reach is coming next week, and I can't wait. The combat system works, they're removing several crappy brute weapons for useful covenant-type weapons and a few human guns, and they're putting in a proper level-creation system and a beautifully-complex character customization system. All in all, I can't wait to get my hands on Halo: Reach and fight alongside my friends to stop the destruction of Reach.

Donations Welcome
black_mammoth
Hey everyone. I'm sorry to have to ask this of you guys, but while things have been going good for a while, it's looking like there's gonna be some issues here coming up.

I've got bills to pay, and gaming is an expensive hobby to keep up, especially in such a poor economy. If you have some spare cash, I would greatly appreciate a donation from you.

I know most people are trying to focus on staying afloat and keeping a roof above their heads, and I understand that. This economy sucks, and so does the job market. It seems like the economy is eating itself and slowly killing our country, and damn if I know even IF it'll ever improve.

Still, if you've got some spare cash, please donate through the paypal icon in my bio. It'd help me pay my bills, and by donating you can tell me what game you want me to review next as well; it doesn't have to be new, but it DOES have to be part of this gaming generation.

Thanks to everyone who's been keeping up, and many thanks to anyone who can throw me a bone.
 

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Game Reviews: Lost Planet 2, Rocket Knight, ModNation Racers, and lack of same-console multiplayer
black_mammoth
I'm back once again with a couple more game reviews, as well as thoughts on the gaping VOID in the gaming world called same-console multiplayer!

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First game on the list is Lost Planet 2 for the Xbox 360.

Lost Planet 2 is, of course, the sequel to the previous Capcom game Lost Planet. The game is based on this colony world called E.D.N. III (though they never DO explain what the acronym even means...), what was ONCE a frozen wasteland covered in creatures called Akrid, now a lively and colorful planet of many climates covered in Akrid.

The game is a sci-fi 3rd-person shooter where you play story mode as one of several groups of Snow Pirates, each fighting their own battles for one reason or another that is explained at the beginning of each chapter. The basics of the story are that the colonization corporation, Nevec, and the colonists the Snow Pirates, have been battling each other for the past decade or so, for domination of the planet. This of course involves lots of guns, lots of mechs, lots of mech guns, and also the occasional battle against the native Akrid by both sides.

This game is made for cooperative play, and has 4-player online co-op in story mode. The gameplay works well, with the customizable characters all moving and attacking quickly and smoothly. Missions are objective-based, and require several different things, from defending your base/vehicle, to destroying a target, to defeating a boss. There's not really a wide variety of objectives to do, as they all revolve around killing lots of people with lots of guns. You have the option to hop inside one of the various types of mecha called Vital Suits, or you can also just pull off the Vital Suit weapons and run around with them to kill people. Where the game really shines is the boss battles, against massive Akrid that make even things like cities look small in comparison! Nothing beats taking down a huge fucking Akrid with three of your buddies, and each battle is unique! One has you using a train's massive cannon while your buddies load and charge the thing, and another one might have just the weapons you carry against another Akrid.

Lost Planet 2
features 5 different base character types, and each one of them has their own gear you can switch, with head, upper torso, lower torso, and t-energy pack all being interchanged with other styles and colors. You get more parts by fighting online and in story levels with your character type and leveling it up with experience. Every 10 levels unlocks some new gear, usually clothing options, but also guns. You are allowed to choose the different types of guns your character uses for each base type, and whatever of that type you find on the ground will be of your own chosen weapon. There's also a slot-machine type deal that you get parts/guns from with points gotten during big boss battles.

Lost Planet 2 is a good game with a decent story, fun mech combat, and awesome boss battles, all with the ability to play together with friends online. I'd recommend it as a good group-play game or for someone who was a fan of the first game. I give Lost Planet 2 an 8.5 out of 10.

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Next game on the list is Rocket Knight on the Xbox 360, on XBLA.

I remember Rocket Knight Adventures from the Sega Genesis, and that was a damn fun game. I remember trying to save the kingdom from those pig bastards in this steampunk type armor in a village or castle, then going into the sky to blow their ships away. It was good fun back then, and now they've made an awesome sequel with modern graphics for the Live Arcade. 

The gameplay of this sequel is very similar to the original, where you jump and dash and fire energy from your sword slashes, all from a side-scrolling viewpoint. And when you're between most levels, you're powering up your jet pack to take the fight to the skies in a normal shooter type game. This one features far more abilities in the air than the original game did, allowing you to fire powerful beam attacks and to do quick dodges as well.

The basic premise of the game is that the knight's country is attacked by an army of Wolves not too long after the pig army has been defeated, and the character dons his Rocket Armor once again. As you fight against the Wolf army, you find that the rival character from the last game shows up to cause trouble once more, and you must go find what link he has to this conflict, even as the Pigs join the fight against the Wolves.

Rocket Knight is a good side-scrolling action platformer, and a GREAT sequel to a cherished childhood game. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys platformers or is familiar with the original game. I give Rocket Knight a 9 out of 10.

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Next game on the list is ModNation Racers for the PS3.

ModNation Racers is a kart racing game, the style of which is reminiscent of Mario Kart or Diddy Kong Racing. Being part of the Play Create Share group of games with LittleBigPlanet, it has a HUGE focus on customization, allowing you to make your own racers, your own karts, and even your own race tracks! The possibilities are near infinite with so many different items and colors for each category, lots of different skins/colors/clothes/accessories for racers, lots of different bodies/paint jobs/colors/parts/etc. for karts, and several base areas with all sorts of different buildings, road types, terrain alteration, and many other things to make the race tracks of your dreams!

The game actually has a decent story as you play, starting out with you being some kid working for your mom in a kart paint shop. When your character asks her about the races, she tells him of knowing a pit chief, and he gets your character into the races. From there, you go on racing against some other up-and-comers, and as you gain attention from the race fans, you also gain attention from the owner of Conservative Motors, a company that focuses on selling bland, boring tan or light blue (only two color options) karts, and deal with him trying sign you to a contract for the company.

The gameplay for ModNation Racers is AWESOME, very fast-paced and action-packed! The game allows you to change your racing stats a bit, starting you out balanced but allowing you to focus on tighter turns over drifting, or max speed over acceleration, or vice-versa... Controls are solid, the driving physics are easy to get into, and drifting is easy enough to use that anyone can pick this game up and just start playing. The weapons are all quite balanced, and have three different levels, one for each power-up you grab. You can fire attacks forward, or actually lay them behind you as a mine. You also have the ability to side-swipe your opponents when they get next to you, and put up shields around yourself to guard from attacks coming at you, which the game warns you of with a rapid beeping and flashing icons. When flying through the air, you can do spins to build up a boost meter used for boosting, shields, or side-swipes.

One thing I have to bring up about this game, is that playing the story/season mode is like Demon's Souls for kart racing after the first tour! Enemy AI can get really cheap about hitting you with different attacks at important spots, side-swiping you when you're in the middle of an awesome drift, double-teaming you with attacks, and other annoying things. The AI can be a real pain in the ass, especially when you're trying to beat the race challenges to unlock more customizable items for your karts/racers/tracks! That being said, anyone wanting a challenge sure won't be lacking for it! Online, the difficulty is toned down with human racers, though that leaves all the fun of a normal racing game with such a superior driving system.

I played ModNation Racers for hours and hours and hours, beating each and every challenge, getting every token to use in the item slots, and finally getting every single item in the game. I would gladly do it all over again! Everyone who owns a PS3 should pick this game up IMMEDIATELY! I give ModNation Racers a 10 out of 10.

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Last game on the list for today is Castlevania: Harmony of Despair for Xbox 360, on XBLA.

I'll be honest, I never played a single Castlevania game before this. I had only heard about it at one point or another, and even then I didn't know much at all about it, besides it being a side-scrolling action/platforming game, with some exploration. Apparently the series focuses on one family's struggle against the constantly reincarnated vampire, Dracula. Who keeps bringing him back to life every 100 years, I dunno, but obviously the family that kept fighting Dracula never thought to stop his revival in the first place...

Anyway, I'm sure lots of people reading this are just a bit irritated at my lack of knowledge of the Castlevania series, so I'm just gonna stop my analysis of the series from my limited info, and just talk about this Xbox Summer of Arcade release. This latest, and from the sounds of it LAST, chapter of the original Castlevania series is both a tribute to the series as a whole, and a multiplayer-focused foray into the series.

The story of this game is that there's a book called The Grimoire, in which the entire history of Castlevania is written, and within is also an incarnation of the cursed castle. While the castle's history is written within the book, so too are the heroes who have time and again beaten it down. Playing as one of five different characters from previous Castlevania games, which all play exactly like they did in the games they originated from, you go through six different past incarnations, re-imagined, and beat down powerful beings within each area, finally ending with Dracula himself in the last level, the current incarnation of Castlevania.

Apparently unlike most recent Castlevania games, your stats are increased ONLY by the gear you equip, and not by building up your levels (except in cases of magic/secondary attacks that build power by absorption/use). You go through the levels battling monsters from past games in the series, opening treasure chests for equipment. You gain different abilities or secondary attacks based on how the character you chose did in their game, Soma by killing enemies and taking their souls, Charlotte by absorbing magical attacks, etc...

I've mostly been playing this with others in the clan, and I must say that they did quite well translating this to a multiplayer experience. When you choose one of the five characters to play as, you get to choose from one of 6 or 7 different color styles for that character, allowing you to differentiate from other people. The game is quite fun, allowing up to 6 different people to get together and battle through these levels and destroy the powerful bosses. The combat is pretty straightforward, at least depending on which character you use, and it doesn't really get boring slaughtering the various monsters in each level.

Rumors are that there is a sixth character that is unlocked with the capture of a secret item in each level, though who it is is still a mystery. Downloadable Content will be available at some point for more characters and probably more levels.

Castlevania: Harmony of Despair is a fun game, especially with friends, and I think is a fine first step into the Castlevania series for anyone. I give this game a 9 out of 10.

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Finishing up this particular mass review, which I must apologize for being so long after the previous one, I wanted to end this with a small rant about the severe lack of same-console multiplayer in games these days.

Back when I was a kid, many games on the SNES and Sega Genesis had up to 2-player same-console, mostly co-op with some VS, but you could get a buddy together with you and just start kicking some ass. Later on companies added up to four controller slots on their game systems, and thus up to four people could hang out fighting against computer enemies or each other if they so chose, and could make some simple gaming into a small party. Those were good days, when my buddies and I could fight each other on Goldeneye 007 or Star Fox 64 for the Nintendo 64, or fight together in Everquest: Champions of Norrath and WWE Smackdown: Here comes the Pain! for PS2.

Sadly, times have changed, either because of laziness of the game developers, or more likely that they're just fucking GREEDY, and it is VERY rare to find any game around that has up to four-player same-console multiplayer. Sure, my buddies and I have Xbox 360's, and Gold accounts, but that doesn't mean we don't like getting together and hanging out in the same house to play games together and just dick around. When we get together, it's always the same few games we always go to for multiplayer, and the fact that only a couple of them are things that most people will agree on is even worse...

The console makers have NOT changed their designs; current game systems ARE capable of having four controllers working at once! With the lack of four-player same-console games out there, you'd think these dumb-fucks had forgotten that fact! Some of the most popular games out there today, Halo 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and Rock Band 2, ALL have four-player same-console multiplayer available to the players! I think that their massive sales SHOULD be some kind of indication to all the other game companies out there that YES, people DO in fact like to hang out when playing games; we're not a bunch of plague-ridden folk that need to be kept in quarantine away from everyone else!

Gamers everywhere regularly get together to play games like the above with one another, and other games with same-console multiplayer. It's not like we decided overnight that we don't want to even look at other gamers anymore, it's not like we all suddenly stopped having friends; it's the simple fact that these game companies simply want to force us gamers to buy more copies of their fucking games so that we can play together. It's pure fucking GREED is what it is, and I don't appreciate it!

In this economy, people are hard-pressed to keep their homes and jobs, and gaming is NOT a cheap hobby! When people everywhere are trying to save themselves money, trying to save up for food and clothes and paying the bills because they don't know if they'll still have their jobs next month, they aren't looking to get themselves all the latest games that all their friends have! They may not even have the money to buy a current game system or the online services needed to play with their friends! They're gonna borrow a friend's copy if they've got the system, or just go to a buddy's house and play the game while their friend sits there and watches.

And if you're planning on having a few friends over like just about EVERY gamer out there does fairly often, they're all gonna have to come to an agreement on which of the VERY FEW same-console multiplayer-capable games they're gonna play... Sure, lots of games also offer system-link multiplayer, for those of you saying "oh, well TECHNICALLY you can play in the same house", but who the fuck has the space to have a bunch of TVs and game systems, along with the players themselves, all around a house to play a game together? And who has money to have a TV specifically for system link in THIS economy?

To all those game developers out there, if you're GONNA make a game with multiplayer, put in same-console multiplayer on TOP of the online/system link multiplayer you're adding to the game! You'll make a LOT of people happy to be able to play games with their friends, and you'll probably sell more games in the long run because people can decide when they have money to go and buy their own copy of your game, to play online or with their friends!

That's all for now, until next time.

Game Reviews: LittleBigPlanet (PSP), Mass Effect 2, etc. and the Ubisoft DRM
black_mammoth

Back once again for more game reviews. One or two of the games were released a couple months back, but still well within a time to call them new. I hope my reviews will be both informative and entertaining. I also hope to start doing some videos for Youtube, but first I have to get off my ass and actually work at making them...

My first batch of reviews will be for PSP games. I have a DS lite as well, but I like the PSP for it's ability to play PS2 games ported to it, with nearly the same level of graphics and gameplay.

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First game up: LittleBigPlanet (PSP).

LittleBigPlanet (PSP), like it's PS3 counterpart, focuses on you, the player, exploring this glued-and-stapled-together world of imagination as a Sackboy, enjoying the VAST amount of music and levels as you try and get another group of Creator Curators together for a Creator Carnival, helping each of them so that they may join the celebration.

This version of the game features the same kind of Sackboy customization, although you can only put random decorations on your character during a level creation... You have lots of new things for your character, and a few old things as well, and a variety of new materials to use for your Sackboy. Gone is the ability to move your arms about, as there's only two shoulder buttons and one needs to grab, but you get to do some emotion actions based on which emotion you have your Sackboy set to. As stated, you can still change the expression on your Sackboy, HOWEVER, it doesn't go into a wacky-tongue happy or sobbing, crying sad, you just go from light emotion to major; unfortunately, this means that something like a level 3 smile turns into a creepy "I'm gonna fuck out your eyeballs!" look of joy on your character...

The levels of the game are quite varied in both their styles AND their puzzles, and the puzzles are well thought out and entertaining, yet simple enough for nearly anyone to figure out. The new Creator Curators are an odd bunch of personalities, as always, and the story works about as well as a world of imagination can put out. There's no longer the option to play through levels with other people, even if they've got their own copies of LBP for PSP, which takes out a bit of the fun of the original game, but on the plus side you don't have to worry about having friends playing a level with you just to solve a 2x, 3x or 4x player puzzle for a few goodies.

The game still features the ability to make custom levels, with new materials as well as old ones, and new background styles and songs. The system is a little different, of course, being ported to a smaller and weaker system, and there's only two depth levels instead of three like with the PS3 version. You can't just go and make random shapes and cut away at parts of them, you have to choose if it's going to be static or mobile, then make a shape as big as you want, THEN use the corner editor to start doing some editing. I've not gotten into the system myself, as it seems rather limited, but seeing as the story mode is made from it, there has to be some tricks to it...

With it's interesting and entertaining levels, Sackboy customization, entertaining puzzles, and the continued ability to make your own levels, LittleBigPlanet (PSP) is one game any fan of the PS3 version, or anyone with a PSP, should buy for their collection immediately.

I give LittleBigPlanet (PSP) a 9 out of 10.

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Next game is: Final Fantasy Dissida for PSP.

When I first heard about Square-Enix making a fighting game for the PSP, the SAME company that always uses that turn-based bullshit for each and every game, I was expecting the worst. I expected something like their usual combat system, as they've no experience doing anything outside of turn-based combat. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they thought up a unique and fun combat system that feels more like watching Advent Children than playing a Final Fantasy game.

The combat system it uses is quite unique, and is focused on three-dimensional movement including soaring through the air, running up walls, sliding down rails, etc. You have your health which as you level up, can go all the way to 9999 HP if you have the proper equipment set up, and you have a number that shows your "HP Attack." Basically, you have two types of attacks: those which build up the HP Attack counter, and those which do HP damage. As you build levels you gain more attacks, up/down/none with circle for standard strikes, and up/down/none with square for HP attacks. You can have a maximum of six different attacks, and some standard strikes can be made to BRANCH into HP attacks.

The game features the ten villains and ten heroes from FFI-X, and one character each from FFXI and FFXII. A total of 22 different characters, and at least a dozen different levels to play, each with normal and insane modes (insane having the level do odd things during a battle, changing itself up or having gears spin quickly to cause damage, etc.). There's a few story modes in the game, one for the heroes to get their crystals (like solidified icons of their inner light), then you can go through the final battle against the god Chaos using one of the characters you beat the crystal hunt with. After that, there's also the origin story mode for both heroes AND villains. When in story modes, the game goes into a kind of checkered board, and you have to get to the area's boss and defeat them before you go over the allotted turns so you can get the prize for keeping under the goal.

There's also a standard battle mode against bots, immediate-area wi-fi against buddies, and a kind of survival mode with three levels of difficulty chosen by the level-range, where you can choose (long as you don't get defeated) one card among three, to either fight against that character or to select up to three different abilities to help you continue your survival. You get coins to buy items for characters, items to make better items for your characters, and to buy special things like extra outfits for your characters. It can be quite fun just going for a while against tough bots, trying to beat each and every one of them to set a new survival record.

Another interesting tidbit about the game is the ability to really customize how your character plays; they have basic styles, of course, but then you have three pieces of gear for head, chest, and hands to select from (not visible on your character, of course), and then you have up to ten different rings you can equip to your character to build up multiplier to increase the HP attack counter. You can have boosts like 1.5x damage while in air, 1.2x damage in long-range attacks, etc. You can make a character wholly your own, and have two of the same character play completely different with the different mods the players have given them.

All in all, a damn good fighting game that plays as active and mobile as a Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children action sequence. The story is pretty good for a fighting game, and the gameplay is great, though the crystal-gathering story quests can get a bit repetitive. This is one of the rare times, but I'd say that Final Fantasy Dissidia earns a 10 out of 10.

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The next game on my list is Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron.

What can I say about it? The game features the same kind of battles you could get from the console originals, with more new levels and missing a few of the old levels. The controls and graphics could be better, honestly, but to be fair in regards to the controls, it IS a PS2 series ported to a PSP. Just no way of really getting good FPS controls on a PSP. That being said, the controls work for the system that it's on.

That all being said, this is the kind of game that any fan of the console games SHOULD own for their PSP. This game implements all sorts of new features, mostly good. The game now features less ships, which is a bit disappointing, and there's only an attack ship and a dropship. With this game, you now have the ability to transition from ground to space, and back to ground again, meaning that there's no more simple space-only or ground-only battles, that you have to dominate both ground AND space to win!

The character selection during battles is gone now, featuring the ability to customize one character for EACH SIDE, choosing a main and secondary color, one of three body types per army and three different heads to choose from for each body type. After that, you get to decide what you want your equipment to be; you get to choose from a variety of main and secondary weapons, special equipment that's worn on your back (like recon droids or health/ammo packs), and bonuses to your base stats of health, stamina, and capture speed. You can make a character for each army look exactly how you want, then choose on the battlefield one of several base weapon sets, or make three unique weapon sets yourself.

The controls for the game work for the system, using the joystick to move forward/back/turn left/turn right, X to fire/melee, Square to use grenade/special item, Circle to roll, Triangle tap to zoom/hold to block melee, right shoulder button to lock-on, left shoulder button to jump, D-pad has up to use/enter vehicle, down to cycle targets, left to cycle secondary weapon, and right to cycle primary weapon. The game plays well with these controls, though I'd prefer to use proper FPS controls instead of this...

The graphics aren't bad for a PSP game, though they COULD be better, and I notice one or two character models being designed a little glitchy with the upper torso being a little separated from the lower torso. The maps are well designed and each quite unique, though the standard conquest battles can get a bit repetitive with holding and using the ion cannon to take out the enemy's shields, then going to space to destroy the enemy spaceship.

The story itself is decent, though others might call it rather weak. I thought it put an interesting couple characters into the Star Wars legacy, started out in a time (the clone wars) where new characters could be placed just as easily as later periods in the Star Wars time-line. I would have liked to have heard more about the character, had more character development, but as it's mostly just something to link battles and have an excuse to only use ONE character during it all (instead of SWB2's system of just switching to a new guy when your current one died)... well, what can I say?

This game is pretty good for being a portable version of the Battlefront series, and a nice game to keep your skills up if you're still waiting for the next official sequel. I enjoy the way that you actually customize your own character and their weapon layout, and I hope it goes into the next real sequel. I give Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron an 8 out of 10.

-----

Now onto the Xbox 360 games. First of the two is Mass Effect 2.

I didn't play the first game until the second one came out, surprisingly enough. Honestly, the way the advertisements were made for the first game, it sounded like you constantly had to make sacrificial decisions, choosing which planets fell to invasion and which survived. Fortunately, that's not the case, though the game DOES have you choose how to complete missions and they have a visible effect on the world around you.

Anything in the first game you did, especially major choices during the main story, are all reflected upon in the second game. Even a pair of people you talked to for all of just one mission are back in the second game. It's already apparent that anyone who actually WANTS to save the galaxy is gonna be going Paragon... whereas players who just want to cause trouble for people and kill mercilessly are looking to be on a path that actually ends in destruction, surprising as that is. I don't mean that last part as sarcasm, well, not COMPLETELY; it seems being Paragon is actually uniting the galaxy and strengthening the people, getting them ready to fight the Reapers, while going Renegade seems to divide the universe, weaken the unity of the races, and ultimately aid in the destruction of the galaxy.

The game has been changed to open it further to average gamers; the inventory system is gone, the only things you actually hold with your character being bio-gel, coolant clips, and heavy weapon ammo. You find a few new weapons on your path to saving the galaxy, but it's not like you find all sorts of different guns with slightly better stats than the last, like the inventory system before; it's more like a normal shooter like Gears of War or Halo, where you have a few types of guns, a couple of which are different versions/have different focuses than previous guns, but they all do good damage against enemies. Along the way, you can buy/find weapon/health/shield upgrades, and increase your own strength with them.

The combat system is spot-on, playing a lot like Gears, staying behind cover and unleashing attacks both gun-based and skill-based against enemies. There are still several classes, all the original classes there were in the first game, and the same skill-use system as before, but now there's only 30 levels, and the skill-growth system has been greatly simplified so that you have four levels of each skill/ability, the level denoting the skill points needed to build that skill. Instead of being mindful of your heat bar, there are now coolant clips that are switched out when the clip runs out of shots it can cool the gun for. The grenades have been switched out with several different heavy weapons, with their own type of general heavy ammunition. There is also the ability to gain one crew-member's special ability after doing their loyalty mission.

The story is great, and the characters are all so unique and interesting. There's a lot of cinemas and dialogue scenes where you have characters you brought with you put in their own two cents, and that makes for some GREAT one-liners. You start out getting killed by these bug-like cyborgs called the Collectors, and with two years and several billion credits of work, the secretive organization seen in ME1 called 'Cerberus' has brought you back to life, albeit with a few facial scars.

Suddenly you wake up and all hell has broken loose; Defense robots are shooting up the place, and everyone in it, and you've gotta get up and get the hell out, saving a couple folks along the way. After that chaos, you go and contact the guy who paid all that money, used all those resources to revive you: The Illusive man. You talk with this asshole to find out that a bunch of human colonies have been emptied out, and he revived you to find out why and stop them. You meet people, old and new, and build up a small army of specialists to fight the threat to humanity.

A couple other changes in the game are longer load times in exchange for none of the long texture-loading during gameplay. No more is there waiting on slow elevators, there's now just loading and then area; in exchange for not getting news on elevators, you now have stations throughout each area you visit regularly to get the current news. Another change is the armor; You don't get different sets to upgrade your defense, instead you can customize the colors and patterns on the armor, and you can buy different armor parts to customize your armor with, each part having some boost to your character like -10% shield regen time, or +10% heavy weapon ammo, etc. You can get an armor set that works well for you, and have it look good too.

With a solid combat system, customizable armor, great graphics, and a damn good story that I can't wait to finish in the next game, the only suggestion I could give to this game would be to have changed the coolant-cartridge system they replaced the overheat meter, with a way to do a rapid cool-down like with the Ghostbusters game. Beyond that one little suggestion, I have decided that Mass Effect 2 deserves a 10 out of 10.

-----


Final game for the day, is Aliens VS Predator (Xbox 360).

Where to start? Apparently this game has been vaporware for a while, folks not sure if/when it would come out, and when it put out the multi-player deathmatch demo online, it was met with many "mehs." One of the two co-leaders of my clan bought several copies for the group, and I got one, so here I am making a review on it.

The story mode is played from the perspective of each race, playing from the start of everything to the (commonly, when Xenomorphs are involved) explosive ending. Depending on race, the story goes from epic (human story) to quite pathetic (aliens), and that goes for ease of gameplay as well... I found the Human the easiest to play with, just having to worry about tossing flares and keeping distance from the enemies. The Predator controls were alright, though I don't like the idea of melee combat in an FPS... when I got my hands on some long-range attacks, it was going okay with the Predator, and long as you were a bit careful you could kill things at close or long range. Now then, the Aliens were annoying to play as... Having to stay stealthy, having NO long-range attacks, and crawling around on all surfaces can get very disorienting very quickly...

Online mode isn't exactly a delight... while the humans are the easiest to control, they're also far outclassed by the other two races. The humans are the only ones who can't pull insta-kill attacks, the only ones who can't sneak around, and they have almost no way to counter the other two races' melee attacks. They have a few weapons to choose from, depending on the level, and aren't able to use the flares that you're able to in story mode, which might actually level the playing field... The Predators are okay, and can see humans and aliens on two different vision settings. They have the ability to do insta-kill attacks, and can get long-range weapons around all levels, but their main attacks are melee, and their invisibility only works on humans, whereas aliens can see them even with invisibility and Predators can use heat-vision... Aliens are obviously over-powered, able to see everything and everyone no matter what, the ability to regenerate health instead of needing health kits, able to crawl anywhere to sneak behind someone and use an insta-kill attack, and they can kill anyone in just two or three hits.

I hear there's a four-player co-op survival mode online, four humans against an endless horde of Xenomorphs, so that might be fun... Until they do some kind of balancing update though, I think that online mode is unplayable to anyone who doesn't wanna play aliens. I give Alien VS Predator a 7.5 out of 10.

---------------

Now that the reviews are all done with, I wanted to end this entry by talking about the anti-piracy program that Ubisoft is adding to their newest PC games, the now-infamous Ubisoft DRM. From what I understand, piracy of PC games is a MAJOR issue that is losing these game companies millions, and they have every right to try and prevent the loss to their profits. The thing that makes it worse is I hear just about every single one of these self-worshiping assholes tries to make it out to be like they have the right to pirate these games, that they're not doing anything wrong by STEALING these games.

The deal with the Ubisoft DRM, for those of you who haven't heard or don't do PC gaming (like myself), the whole idea of it is that when you go to play one of their games now, like Assassin's Creed II that's gonna have this program, you have to have a constant internet connection to verify that your copy of the game is valid, while allowing for an infinite amount of installations from one copy of the game. People are complaining that if your internet connection fails, you get booted out because the game can't verify it's authenticity with connection to the Ubisoft server, though you can save from your last checkpoint if that happens. And if you don't HAVE an internet connection at all, then you can't play the games.

The way I see it, it costs quite a bit to have a PC able to play current games, what with the quality of graphics and gameplay, you could spend up to a thousand or more just to get a computer to play the latest stuff. Looking at it like that, people who have the money to build such a powerful PC HAVE the money to pay for a good internet connection, and furthermore it's usually standard for PC gamers to be online with a lot of their games, seeing as it's a big part of lots of PC games.

Video games, including PC games, aren't like the music pirating that took place a decade before when MP3s first became popular; Back then, consumers were asked to pay $15 for a CD that had all of two or three good songs, at most. It was understandable back then for people to download the one good song on a CD, but it was still wrong to go and steal an entire CD; if you want all those songs, then thank the people who made them by paying for the disk. The same can be said for movies and video games, except that when you get either one it's because you want the whole thing; you're not paying all that money for one good scene, or one good level, you're paying for the whole thing, for the experience, and you're thanking the people that made it by giving them the money they deserve and hoping that they go use it to make even more good movies or video games.

Sure, there can be some PC gamers out there who may not have stable internet connections, but I don't expect that to be the case with more than 10-15% of all those gamers out there. Only about 15% of the PC gamers out there have a valid reason to complain, while the other 85% are just loud-mouthed douche-fucks that are just complaining because they planned on pirating the games anyway, and now their ability to do so is fucked.

My final word on this matter is that you PC game pirates that are complaining about this are lucky to have any games on PC at all. If I were in charge of Ubisoft or any other game company, I'd tell you bastards to eat shit while I would go on making games only for the consoles. As for those of you who just don't have stable internet connections, I say please bear with it because you're the good folks who are paying these people for the hard work they put into making these good games, and I thank you for it.



Any thoughts on my reviews, agree or disagree with any points? Anyone have anything to add about the Ubisoft DRM that I haven't talked about, or maybe that you disagree with? Please, leave comments telling me and everyone else what you think. I'm interested in seeing other people's ideas. Also, feel free to recommend games you think I should rent and review for your entertainment.



This is Black Mammoth, signing out.

Game Reviews: Borderlands, Guitar Hero 5, Modern Warfare 2, etc.
black_mammoth
Well, I've been doing a lot of gaming lately, on a lot of the current popular games, and I must say, lots of awesomeness on the shelves right now. I decided that since I haven't posted anything for a while, it was time for me to go give my thoughts and reviews on some of the current games I've bought recently. Please note that all titles in this review are for Xbox 360.

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First up, Guitar Hero 5: From what I've seen, Rock Band 2 definitely has more songs, with those certainly more good/well known on top of it, but I enjoy Guitar Hero 5 for it's better graphics, character facial customization, and it's new system for group play. While I wish Guitar Hero had more good songs to download like Rock Band 2 does (which I also purchased recently, as it was on sale for $20), it does what Rock Band doesn't; allow four people to play ANY combination of instruments, from a normal band, to two guitars and two drums, to four vocalists, etc. This is great for people who want to play but don't have the skills for singing, or drumming, or if they simply don't have the gear.

Another mode it has in it, PERFECT for any kind of get-together is "Party Play" mode, where people can jump in and out of randomly-selected songs, with any instrument, at any difficulty, and just go on without worrying about failing or stopping someone's groove. I can't wait to get another party going, and just have guys grabbing instruments and doing their thing while other people keep doing their stuff.

Yet another mode it has, that I haven't tried yet, is the song maker studio... Admittedly, a rather complex program to creating your own songs, and it doesn't allow for vocals, BUT you can basically make any kind of song you want with the know-how to work the system. I've heard some AWESOME songs on there from the previous game, and the ability to download other people's created songs gives the game some serious replay value, and somewhat makes up for the lack of downloadable songs...

I give this game an 8 out of 10.

-----

Next up, Borderlands: Borderlands has four different character classes, each with their own unique abilities, the ability to customize clothing colors, and a level cap of 50. The game features an unprecedented 17.7 MILLION possible guns, generated randomly by some program within the game, for several different weapon classes.

The game has quite a few varied side-missions you can do besides the main story missions, and it's recommended to do them or you'll quickly find that anything more than two levels higher than you will slaughter you. Because of it being an RPS (role-playing shooter), it is action-based, and it never gets boring as you gun down all manner of bandits and creatures.

One of the main draws of the game is going around and finding the next powerful weapon to replace your current powerful weapon. With the weapons having a few different base stats, as well as being capable of having elemental abilities AND special abilities built in, there's almost no way that you'll ever find a gun that's the same as your friend's... Another thing about the guns is that the game has several companies, and each company has their own individual specialties, letting you know immediately before looking at the stats, of what a gun is capable of doing.

I can tell this game is easily capable of becoming a clan game, like Monster Hunter, and I'll have to help a lot of the guys level up their characters with my Soldier. I would definitely recommend picking this up, at least for the cooperative play and insane amount of guns.

I give this game a 9 out of 10.

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Next title, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2: Well, for one thing, unlike the Halo series, this game is almost worth the hype. The game is designed well, the graphics are PHENOMENAL, and the gameplay is quite balanced. Players are able to move about a level quickly, if they jump off a small cliff they WILL get hurt, and they all go down within a few hits depending on gun and distance. Some people might think that there should be more hits to get killed, but as quickly as the game moves I think it works.

The story mode is good, action packed with some major action scenes akin to multi-million dollar movies. Admittedly, the plot is a bit confusing at times, and there's one plot point near the end that isn't really explained; the game gives you an assumption for the reason of the action, but it never actually EXPLAINS why that happened. I'm sure that the next modern warfare game will answer any lingering questions. Regarding that "No Russian" level, there's really no reason for it to be in the game, because the whole "moral" of the mission, being "Some people must be sacrificed for the greater good" bullshit, is thrown RIGHT out the fucking window when your CORPSE is used to start WW3.

The co-op challenge mode is called Spec-Ops, and I must say the fact that such a mode is in the game is a wonder by itself. The challenges provide a good challenge while still being possible for average gamers to beat. I'd definitely recommend having a friend or someone online help you, because not only do several of these challenges REQUIRE someone be there with you, they get VERY challenging at Veteran level, and doing Veteran is the only way to get to the more difficult challenge groups.

The online mode is quite balanced, as I spoke of the gameplay before. It's actually good enough that I enjoy playing online for the most part. The graphics are just as good as their offline modes. Players can make 5 different character classes, each with a combination of customized weapons and gear depending on what situation that class is supposed to cover. There's a wide variety of weapon types, and weapons can have one camo selected and one add-on equipped (or two if you have the Bling skill). You have different skills to select, three at a time for each class, and those skills can be improved with use. Along with those skills, you also have three different "Killstreak Rewards" to select, special attacks that you gain by killing more and more people. When you die often, you also can select one death-streak reward per class.

My only problem with the online portion is that people happen to do a lot of camping on game types like Team Deathmatch. You can see how you were killed, thus seeing the position of the enemy from his own view as he kills you, so you've got a way to counter a camper... but unfortunately people tend to group together when camping, meaning that they've got each-other covered, and you've no way to do anything except get destroyed as you try and work your way through the group of douche-fucks. The killstreak rewards make it even worse as the game REWARDS these people for being douche-fucks. Hopefully someday they'll make a patch that fixes this issue and stops people from doing so much camping, because at it's core, the game design is that of a run-and-gun, and if it was MEANT for camping it would have had a cover-brace system for firing over/around cover.

Besides that issue, it's a very fun game, and I'm only waiting to play through it again because my prestige edition guide hasn't been delivered yet. I give the game a 9.5 out of 10.

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Next up, Stoked: Big Air Edition: The graphics and gameplay are quite good in this game, and it has a wide variety of different activities to do to get sponsors to hire you. The game features some snowboarder customization that grows with the sponsors you get, several different mountains, and weather that actually changes the terrain between rides. Admittedly, I am not too far into the game, but I can tell you that the customization at the early point I'm at seems to be decent, though not quite as good as Shaun White Snowboarding.

The game is supposed to have a far smaller learning curve than the original, and I gotta say it wasn't too difficult to get into the game. The controls work well enough, but unlike in the Shaun White game, you can't actually buy snowboards to improve your character's stats. It has quite a few different grabs, and the ability to pre-wind for spins and such.

Being an action-sport game, it has no real story besides "Get a sponsor and do this for a living!" so the main focus is doing different challenges to impress the sponsors. Any real story comes from going to a new mountain, the chopper pilot actually tells you facts about the mountain and the surrounding areas, and I thought that was a very interesting and unique thing to add to the game. The sponsor challenges can be quite difficult, but not for what you're thinking: two issues with the game I've seen is that one, they ask you to do tricks without ramps to jump off of... and two, when they provide you a ramp, it's a fucking LOG or BRANCH coming off the ground that you have to carefully aim for. It can be real bullshit when they want you to do a complex trick, yet you have to focus most of your energy toward going up the goddamned RAMP to pull it off!

I'll give a full review after I've played more of that one.

Edit: You know what, I just played some more of this damn game, and I've just decided that the fake difficulty of tiny or NO ramps for these damn challenges is just fucking annoying, and then the character can decide IF he/she wants to pull off the trick you're ordering them. I'd rather play Shaun White Snowboarding because at least that one allows for all the customization you want, long as you've got the money, and you have the ability to get a better board that improves the skills of your character. I give this game a 3 out of 10.

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Last up, Army of Two: The 40th Day: Like the first one, this is a third-person shooter that revolves around two mercenaries doing different jobs together. The plot in this one isn't nearly as good as the previous game, unfortunately, but the situation is one where there's not much of a plot besides what started everything, so you have to forgive them that. Along the way, you can make moral decisions and immediately see the results of those actions. and what you do can change the game a bit. Honestly, there's only two points in which doing the "bad" thing is alright, but for the most part doing the good thing is what helps you.

You can customize your mask on the Army of Two website, and actually wear it in the game, if you have an EA screen-name linked to your gamertag. You can do basically whatever you want with the masks, and you can download other people's designs to your game. A big point of the game is the ability to customize your character's weapons, choosing a main part and then selecting a stock, barrel, scope, fore-part, clip, muzzle suppressor, and paint job. There are LOTS of parts, and the guns can get quite odd-looking depending on the base style, but I can guarantee that you'll be able to get a weapon you like, with a stat focus that you want.

I haven't tried the online mode myself, and I don't plan to, because most times online play is just annoying... I DO hear that in a week or two they'll unlock the co-op survival mode, and that'll be a blast to play. Only reason we can't play it yet is because EA decided that not enough people pre-ordered the game, so they're punishing everyone else by locking the mode until a month after it's release. Going up to 4 players online to fight off wave after wave of enemy mercs should be fun.

All in all, I give this game an 8 out of 10.

---------------

That's enough for today, I think I've made up for the several months of silence. I plan on doing more reviews as I play more new games, and I'm hoping to start a "Let's Play" profile on Youtube, hopefully soon. I'll start out with a couple less-known games, see where that gets me, and get a feel for the thing. After that, I'll go to more mainstream games.

See ya later.

Last day of Monster Hunter Freedom 2
black_mammoth
Today is the last day for Monster Hunter Freedom 2, the last day to do anything with the game before Monster Hunter Freedom Unite comes out tomorrow. I've gotten all the elder quests finished today, and tried to find one Lao Ruby to upgrade my dragon hammer to it's final level, but failed to find one...

When I transfer my data though, I will know that I have everything I need to keep on kicking ass, with or without a maxed-out anti-dragon hammer!


For those of you who don't know what Monster Hunter is, let me explain; Monster Hunter is a game that focuses on you, the player, being a hunter of great beasts and dragons alike, from big bugs, to Wyvern, all the way to mountain-sized dragons! The game plays like you're a psuedo-mercenary, hired by the hunter's guild to go on different quests, many to fight monsters, some to gather items. The game doesn't have a real story to it, but the whole idea is to go on these quests, slay the monsters, carve their hides for materials, then go and mine for ore, fish for all types of fish, and hunt for bugs, gathering all sorts of different materials to make yourself armor and weapons from the creatures you slay and the ores you mine.

You start off by making your own unique character, choosing a face, skin color, hair style and color, and voice with pitch-change. As you play, you fight stronger monsters, and you make more powerful armor and weapons, upgrading weapons you made earlier on with rarer materials to bring the weapons to the next level of strength. You have several melee types (Sword 'n shield, dual swords, great swords, katanas, giant hammers, lances, gunlances, and hunting horns), and three range types (light bowgun, heavy bowgun, and bow 'n arrow) that you can choose to use, with different elements.

As you do these quests, you can fight with up to three other allies at your side, each person with their own weapon type and their own armor set, some needing items from the monster you're fighting and some just going for the cash. When you're done with the first set of guild quests, lo and behold you can try newer ones fighting harder versions of the monsters from the previous set, and you go making even MORE powerful armor and weapons.

It is addicting as all HELL to go around slaying these powerful Wyverns and Dragons and giant beasts of all types, especially with the ability to choose your own weapons and armor sets for your customized hunter, fighting alongside your friends. Just such a great game, so much to do and so many things to see... And some of the weapons are just rediculous, wielding weapons as big as you are and fighting things two, three times bigger than you! Another thing to make it more rediculous is the fact that their gun technology isn't put into their bowguns, which are really just powerful crossbows; no, the game's developers each chugged a glass of testosterone and adrenaline, and said, "Fuck man, let's put revolver gun tech in fucking MELEE WEAPONS!" and thus it was so...

This whole series was sprayed with testosterone and then dunked in awesome sauce. I still remember when I first introduced the series to my best buddy, Dave, how he'd come hang out at my house frequently, and I'd just sit there watching him play it online on the PS2.. "Dude, can we do something together now?" "Hang on, I'm on a quest!" lol, and now everyone in the clan is into it. It's a beautiful thing, and I'm so glad Capcom gave gamers like me and the guys such a fun game to play for hours upon hours upon hours.

Tomorrow, I will transfer my data from Monster Hunter Freedom 2, to Monster Hunter Freedom Unite. I will hang out with my friends, grab a giant hammer, and ask them "What the fuck do we slay first?!"

Abso-fucking-lutely beautiful.

Achievement: Graduated College (500 lifepoints)
black_mammoth
Well, last night I went to the graduation ceremony, had my walk across the stage, and shook a few hands. I'm damn proud of myself that after 4 years of college, three of which went for my major, I finally have a college diploma. So, there you go, school, I've finished, I've fucking finished and I don't have to see your bitch ass anymore!

No more College.
black_mammoth
Today, May 18, 2009, at 7:06 PM, I finally finished college, forever. I took my final exam, I turned it in, and I grinned as I walked out that door.

I have been going to school for as long as I can remember, always knowing that there was more school ahead, but now I'm truly free. No more little two month vacations, or week-long breaks. I am finally finished, and I never have to do any homework, any studying. This Friday, I will attend the graduation ceremony where I will receive both degrees, then I will be done forever.

Only one full year of my lifetime of education (First and Second semester of HVAC major) have I actually enjoyed, and beyond that it's been nothing but shit. I'm glad to be done with school, because on the whole it's been completely useless.

Fuck you school, you've taken part of my soul, and a big chunk of my sanity, but you haven't taken my life!!!

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