Archive for the 'X360' Category

09
Sep
08

Gears of War 2 vs. Resistance 2 on Blend Games

There’s a rather entertaining “debate” going on at Blend Games over whether Gear of War 2 or Resistance 2 will be a better game when they’re eventually released. I put debate in quotes because really it’s just a fanboy flamewar. It is rather entertaining to read, if you enjoy reading unsubstantiated claims by a bunch of idiots. Which I do. There are some rational  people posting in the comments section, but their comments go largely ignored.

I played both original games, offline only. I couldn’t really get into Resistance, so I didn’t finish it. Story was cool, but the controls felt kinda sloppy and the early weapons in the game felt uninspired. Also, I’m sick of gray and brown color palettes. Ugh. I considered buying a PS3 when I first saw Resistance: FoM, but I wasn’t impressed enough with it to drop the $600.

I actually bought a X360 because of Gears. Some of my best gaming moments came from playing its co-op mode with a buddy. The story was spotty on the details, and the characters are mostly one-dimensional testosterone junkies. But it PLAYED really well. Plus, it has A CHAINSAW GUN. Awesome.

I didn’t play either of the games online. I don’t own a PS3 and I’m a PC gamer at heart, so paying $50 a year to play games online seems like a rip-off. And 60-player online modes may make you console-exclusive guys go nuts, but that kind of capability has been around in PC games for a while. I’m glad the console guys are getting that kind of experience now, though.

Anyway, only time will tell. In the meantime, go laugh at the flamewar.

18
Aug
08

PREVIEW: Too Human

So, I just finished playing through the Too Human demo, and I’ve got to say, I’m not entirely sure I want to redeem my pre-order of the game. Early reviews of the full title aren’t looking so good, and my personal experience with the demo mirrors the criticisms on 1UP.

Even in the demo there are long and overwrought cut-scenes, although they are interspersed during game play which makes them slightly less tedious. The combat is somewhat satisfying, but I could see getting bored with it after long stretches. Too Human‘s control scheme is just different enough from about every other third-person action game I’ve played to be slightly frustrating. Using the Right Stick to swing my melee weapon around was horribly unresponsive. I was never quite in control of when and where it goes, and my natural propensity to use the right stick to control the camera was a hard habit to break. Once I got the hang of it, though, I could imagine doing some pretty slick stuff in battle.

The gear/loot system will be attractive for fans of the Diablo series. I was already checking my inventory every time I got a drop to see if it was more powerful than what I had equipped. The skill trees also offer some opportunity for customization, but you can pretty much guess what kinds of skills you’re going to get based on the class you choose.

All-in-all, I’m still on the fence on this one. I think I’ll wait for a few more reviews to roll in before making my final call; however, this could end up being like playing through Mass Effect, sans engrossing character development. I think part of the reason it looks attractive at this point is I’m hard up for fresh games to play, having resorted to finally playing through Unreal Tournament III.

12
Aug
08

Major summer update!

The nice thing about going a while in between posts, there’s a lot to talk about when I do finally get around to it.

First off, there were a couple more disturbed individuals who blamed their criminal behavior directly on video games. A 18/19 year-old (stories differ on his age) man in Thailand stabbed a taxi driver to death either because he could not afford to purchase GTA IV or because he was copying behavior in the game (again, the stories vary), which has led to the banning of the title in that country. Spain and Malaysia are also considering a ban in light of the crime.

It’s already been said elsewhere. Blaming the media a mentally imbalanced person consumes for their actions is alarmist bullshit. Why isn’t anyone asking if this kid’s parents were abusive? Why aren’t they held accountable? The kid played a violent video game that millions of reasonable and well-adjusted men his age have played without incident. But because this killer called out the game by name, he’s suddenly less accountable? Le sigh.

Then two arsonists in Atlanta cited GTA IV as their source for how to make molotov cocktails. And obviously, they wouldn’t have been able to firebomb cars if they hadn’t played GTA IV. Again, where the hell are the parents of these little hooligans?

On to less infurating news.

The 20th anniversary of Madden NFL was released today. I don’t really care about this franchise, since they just rehash the same game every year. Go somewhere else if you want coverage of Madden ’09. Anywhere else, really.

The episodic adventure games based in the Homestarrunner universe debut this week. I honestly lost interest in the eponymous website a while ago, but SBEmails used to be a staple of my Mondays. The humor just isn’t as fresh these days. I’d love to see an episodic adventure game based on Zero Punctuation. Essentially you’d just go around as Yahtzee, and the puzzles would revolve around deconstructing a game for being clichéd, implementing clumsy game-mechanics and calling JRPGs stupid.

I rented and played Soul Calibur IV and Ninja Gaiden II in the past couple of weeks. I wasn’t terribly impressed with either of them. Both games are good, in their own right, but just aren’t my thing. I feel like Soul Calibur IV would require way too much of my time in order to be brilliant with any one of the characters. Ninja Gaiden II is essentially the Devil May Cry series minus all the spikey-haired heros and melodrama, which are replaced with a lot more dismemberment and gore. And tits. See Yahtzee’s review below of Ninja Gaiden II. He says it better, faster and more British than I ever could:

The Olympics are in full swing, and you know what that means! Another horrendously bad multi-platform Olympics video game tie-in that you PRAY your grandmother won’t buy you because she doesn’t know any better. I have caught Olympics fever though. It’s nice to know that no matter what time it is, no matter how many infomercials and crappy soap operas are on daytime television, somewhere, there are world class atheletes competing. And I can watch them do it.

The big video game highlight of the past two weeks has been the release of Braid. This game was completely under my radar, but is now one of the top-ten rated video games on the X360 platform on Metacritic. Which is an especially big accomplishment considering it’s a puzzle platformer released through the Live Arcade. The big controversy surrounding its release has been the $15/1200 MS Points price point. Trust me, the game is worth every penny. I played the demo, and then immediately went to GameStop to buy a MS Points Card with my store credit. It’s beautiful, it’s unique in it’s game mechanics and story line. It’s this year’s Portal. Seriously, if you love video games, even if you don’t typically enjoy this genre, you must play Braid.

That’ll wrap it up for gaming news!

Movie news right quick: Go see Wall-E if you haven’t already. It is adorableness in its most pure form. The Dark Knight is worth seeing despite mostly ho-hum ham-fisted performances, because Heath Ledger’s Joker is one of the most powerful and disturbing performances I have ever seen.

On a personal note, I have taken a job in NJ and will be moving at the end of August. Wish me luck!

13
May
08

Hath Hell frozen over?

I never thought I’d say this… but a Gamestop employee really impressed me this weekend.

I know, I know. I constantly rag on the retail game shop for their unethical practices regarding trade-ins and the resale of used games. And they’ve still got millions of gallons of virtual blood on their hands for those things, as far as I’m concerned. But I actually witnessed a valorous act on the part of a Gamestop employee, and I was so moved by it, I feel compelled to share it with all of you.

I stopped into the Gamestop location on the 3rd floor of the Mall of America on Saturday to pick up Grand Theft Auto IV. My buddy Nick recently purchased the game for PS3, and I’ve been getting burned out on CoD4 lately. Besides, even if the review scores are inflated, I haven’t played a game in the franchise since GTA III, so I was curious to see what if it lived up to the hype at all. More on that later…

Anywho, I was browsing around in the store, still debating in my head whether I really wanted to buy the game, when I overheard a conversation taking place at the register. A father had come into the store with his four kids, ranged maybe 6 to 16, and he was going to purchase GTAIV, presumably for his older boys. Not so uncommon. In fact, it supports the statistics that most parents are with their kids when they buy video games.

What was incredible to me, though, was that the guy manning the register actually told the customer about all of the violent, sexual and drug-related gameplay elements. He even talked about soliciting “ladies of the night” as tactfully as he could, considering all of the small children walking around. He explained that some of the adult content was optional, but that all-in-all, the game was made for adults, hence the rating. The guy essentially spent a good 7-8 minutes explaining all the reasons the dad shouldn’t buy this game for his kids. He was willing to sacrifice the sale so that the parent could make an informed decision.

I was really proud to be a gamer at that moment.

The father ended up buying the game anyway. I really wanted to shake him and tell him that the opening scenes of the game involve a dominatrix whipping the shit out of a Russian guy standing around in his underwear. THE. GAME. IS. FOR. ADULTS. DUMMY. That’s why it’s rated “M – For Mature.” And even if your 16 year-old is mature enough to handle it, chances are it’s not appropriate for his younger siblings, who will inevitably see it.

I didn’t. Maybe I should have, but I didn’t feel it was my place. In the end, they’re his children. As their parent it is his right and responsibility to decide what media they are or are not allowed to consume. That’s how it’s supposed to work. And the parent already made the decision to buy the game in spite of the detailed description the Gamestop guy gave him. Even as he was handing the game over the counter though, the clerk was encouraging the parent to go online, read some reviews and watch some gameplay videos. Then he could decide whether to give it to the kids, or bring it back unopened for a full refund.

After the dad walked out of the store I approached the counter with my copy of GTAIV. He jokingly started to launch into the same speech about the adult content. I made a point to tell him how much I appreciated what he’d just done. He then proceeded to annoy me with a story regarding his nephew and the same game, which I wasn’t able to follow due to his incoherent storytelling and the fact he was spitting all over the place.

You win some, you lose some, I guess.

Overall though, the experience was a win for me and for gamers everywhere. I wish Jack Thompson had been present, just so I could rub it in his face. The dad was given every opportunity not to purchase a game for his children very obviously made for adults. Rockstar and the ESRB put the rating on the box, along with some details of what garnered the game that rating. He could have just read it. Then the clerk reads it for him and gives him a detailed description of what to expect. By the way, it was clear the dad hadn’t read the box at all before he stepped up to the register by his reaction when the clerk first started explaining the content to him. Then, he bought the thing anyway, even though he obviously has reservations about it.

What else do you expect from the industry’s end? Seriously?

On a related note, my first impressions of the game are as follows:

GTAIV kicks all kinds of ass. Yes, it is just another GTA game. But I haven’t played one seriously since GTAIII. It has done an amazing job of drawing me in, i.e., hours pass and I don’t notice. The environments are great, the dialogue makes me smile or laugh out loud on a regular basis, and the combat and driving are pretty well executed. Rockstar aimed to create a living breathing city, and I think they’ve succeeded. Plus, the character development is pretty outstanding. I immediately felt a connection with the main character Niko. This was the first time I’d dropped into a GTA game and not felt immediately compelled to hijack someone, kill them with their own vehicle and immediately troll for a hooker. I think it’s because I don’t think that’s what Niko would really want. I think he really does want a fresh start for himself.

Maybe it’s also a sign that I’m 5 years older than I was the last time I played a GTA game. Though, I doubt it, considering the havoc I would wreak playing Crackdown. Anyway, I’m really excited about playing the game more over the coming months. It especially helps mitigate the symptoms of “no-new-games-worth-playing syndrome” I think we’ve all been feeling since the beginning of the year. More on the game as I experience it.

PS: My favorite quote from the game so far was a yokel saying something to the effect of “How my supposed to feed my kids, buy Pay Per View wrestling, and get a sandwich when weed costs so damn much!?” Again, not for kids.

18
Mar
08

Impressions: Army of Two

I picked up a used copy of Army of Two when I sold my Wii stuff last week. I happened to be in the store attempting to get my business taken care of when a guy walked in wanting a trade. I asked him why he was getting rid of it: he explained that the multiplayer just wasn’t as good as Halo 3 (ugh) or Call of Duty 4 (hoo-ah). I also asked if he’d played the co-op campaign at all, since that’s primarily what I was interested in. Not really, he said.

This wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement, though I can’t imagine why you’d get Ao2 for any reason other than the co-op campaign mode. Maybe he was as bored as the rest of us during the drought. In any case, I picked that used copy right up, intending to fully exploit ReamStop’s 7-day return policy on used games. That way my buddy Nick and I could play through as much of it as we could, or cared to, and return it at no cost. Excellent!

So, we got it home, popped it in, and launched into the co-op campaign mode.

It’s not a bad game. The reviews that are out there on the game are pretty accurate. I didn’t bother playing any mode other than the co-op campaign. There were a number of frustrations that went along with that mode. Two things specifically stood out for me and Nick.

1) The cover system is a poor excuse of one. It’s not even close to the near-perfect execution in Gears of War. It’s lazily implemented, and as such, it’s often difficult to tell if you’re in cover or not, or get the gun to aim from behind cover properly.

2) Once you get the hang of the aggro system, the boss fights are kind of a joke. If you can each manage to get on opposite sides of the boss, you can pretty much shoot at him freely until he falls.

Other than that, the game shapes up nicely as a co-op experience. Ignore the failed attempt at a conspiracy story and the quasi-comraderie between the two main characters and you should have a decent time with a buddy. It’s no GoW, but what is?

I didn’t get to finish the game before Nick left for New York for a few days, so I had to return the game in order to get my money back. However, it’s likely that we’ll attempt to rent the game at some point and finish it up. It was definitely worth another $8 to finish up.

I also have Condemned: Criminal Origins to finish up, so that I can launch into it’s sequal.

In other news, my Windows XP install has decided it wants to blue screen every time I boot, after attempting to perform a WINDOWS UPDATE. I’m not quite ready to wipe the partition yet. I just have to figure out how to get Windows to boot into safe mode when I’m loading it from GRUB.

Stupid Windows… (grumble grumble)

14
Nov
07

Well, this was unexpected…

The reviews for Assassin’s Creed have started rolling in, and I’ve got to say I’m surprised at the widely varying scores for the game. I haven’t yet played it, but you know how it usually goes with these high-profile releases. That there’s anything less than an 80% on Metacritic is actually refreshing.

I can’t help but feel a little alarmed – I put a lot of stock into loving this game. I planned to spend my weekend playing Assassin’s Creed, in celebration of completing the rough draft of a very long academic paper, which I’m currently putting off. The major criticism seems to be that the action gets repetitive and the combat isn’t all that satisfying. The mechanic of scouting out locations then gathering information and perpetrating the crime seems to be the only thing you get to do in the game. That actually sound pretty awesome to me, but I can see how you’d want more. After all, you did pay $60 for the game. Why should you only get to do the same thing over and over again? For those of you who think that may end up being frustrated, I have a novel suggestion:

Take a break and play something else.

I’m not trying to defend Ubisoft for designing a game that ends up being tedious. I’m merely proposing that there’s a way you could enjoy the game even though becomes a bit repetitive.

Game reviewers essentially have to play the game from beginning to end in a short period of time. But we don’t. We have a million other games sitting on our shelves looking for some love. So, if you get bored after the 3rd or 4th assassination, throw something else into your CD tray or switch to a different platform. Better yet, play a board game, read a book, watch some TV or a movie – I can’t believe I’m about to say this – GO OUTSIDE. Then, when you find yourself itching to get back to your part-time assassination career, it won’t seem so repetitive.

Seriously, you don’t have to finish the game in a marathon session.

On a completely unrelated note:

Apparently, there are some strict rules of acceptable behavior for professional bridge players?




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