Monday, November 24, 2008

Gears of War 2

I'm digging that this year's sequels (Fallout 3, Call of Duty: World at War, etc.) are so top-notch.
I'm really enjoying Gears 2, but taking freaking forever to get through it, since I decided to play through the thing only on a co-op only with one friend who is not as irresponsible as me (look, the gutters are already plugged, they're not going to get more plugged... Sh##, they're more plugged).

Anyway, I like the upped visual fidelity, the great design, and the fact that this time, they didn't throw away the professional writer's story (and this one's an occasional impressive kick in the gut).

A lot of the technical stuff I like in the game isn't from Epic, per se, (though it wouldn't happen without the game engine vehicle and the top-notch art talent). It's actually NVIDIA PhysX -- their licensed physical simulation tech that gives gamers everything from tear able soft bodies to destructibility to particles and fluids, probably implemented through an APEX-like integration. Go, NVIDIA ...

Microsoft so wants this game to be #1 for the year. And impressive initial sales aside, this'll be a version of "throw-more-money-and-get-elected", as launch weekend promotions for the title (gift cards, collectibles, incentives, etc.) were insane -- and far away and above anything I've seen this year for other contending titles. I still think Fallout 3 will take GoTY, which is a bit problematic, since there are so many good games of different genres out there.

Gears 2 isn't perfect yet (but what is?). Co-op sessions have really ticked us off as me or my partner get stuck in a bounding box, can't move and have to reset to a checkpoint. And we ran into a weird disconnected camera situation while driving a tank, made worse by the tank clipping through the hard surface terrain in a noticeable (and ugly) way.

But those aren't enough to detract from how much I'm enjoying the game. I am curious to see how long it lives in my Xbox, though -- there's a lot of good stuff out there now.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Fallout 3 (Xbox 360)

I'm a big fan of the adventure genre, and while I too often bemoan its decline, Bethesda's adventuring RPGer Fallout 3 is scratching that itch with a now-gen fury.

Granted, I'm early into it, and my current gameplay allotment will probably keep it on my plate for the next several months, but this is easily one of the best games of the year for me.

The art direction is amazing, the attention to detail well-appreciated, and the humor is chortle-inducing (seriously; I chortle).

My only gripe so far is it was only midway through the Vault I tried tweaking the display settings, which gave me an actually enjoyable visual experience (what, it's not supposed to be too dark to move?). I tend to take for granted the out-of-the-box gamma settings will work; but to be fair, I am gaming on a projector.

Anyway, great stuff, and I can't wait until this week's political shenanigens and toy job VIP visits are behind me, so I can spend some quality time in the post-apocalyptic playground.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Halo 2

Monday nights are weekly Halo 2 fests online with known friends (Wednesdays alternate between Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4). Camaraderie as we're all now scattered to the wind, my tie to my Austin buddies, and avoids the inanity of the online anonymous dumberatti.

Last night was a riot, with the best games being swordball on Lockout (24 medals, baby!), and CTF on Relic, which had us so evenly matched, the game lasted freaking forever (yeah, we had 4 to their 3, but our 4th was gone most of the game, and was basically cannon fodder; for them and us).

Good times ...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

I've been playing the Xbox 360 demo of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.

I know this is just the demo, but _this_ what being a Jedi should feel like -- lightning powers, grabbing and throwing tie bombers, hurling stormtroopers off of gangways, blowing through doors, and taking on AT-STs and taking then apart with Force Push / Grip / lightning

About the only thing I don't like about the demo is the button-mashing mini sequence to beat the mini boss. I tried desperately to avoid that each playthrough. (Nobody likes those, LucasArts.)

That said, if this demo's gameplay is partnered with top-notch story and basic execution, this may become my favorite Star Wars game since Dark Forces.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Braid (XBLA)

I need to write more later, but is there a better combo of gamer geek homage, accessible gameplay, clever puzzling, and thematic depth?

Probably ... In an alternate universe!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

SoulCalibur IV (360)

Ok, here's the deal: I suck at fighting games. Like tushie handed to me wrapped in puff-pastries kind of suck. That makes them not fun to play for me, when my opponent is some Know the Uber Throw Back-breaker Spleen Removal from Across the Room Without Touching Me button combo (you'd think I'm exaggerating, but no).

That said, I sooo dig the SoulCalibur franchise. From the beloved DreamCast console series intro (RI.P., Little Rockin' Console that was Better than Those that Bettered It), to the platform-differentiated sequel with adventuring / questing mode, and Spawn on the Xbox version and Link on the GameCube (both versions are playable on their console successors), to the arguably skippable third, platform limited incarnation -- I jones for the next version.

So I snagged SoulCalibur IV the day it came out, playing 'til like four in the morning. Yes, that's good.

Near-controller throwing moments aside, this so scratches whatever itch the franchise exposes.

(Oh, it's not the cheesecake itch; if that's your thing, the DOA franchise may be more your thing)

The game is polished, fun, and contains the right amount of borderline engrish cheesiness to make it a fun and challenging romp.

Contrary to online complaints about the button-mashing nature of SC, I actually found myself figuring out (and getting fairly facile with) the controls pretty quickly.

Part of the SoulCalibur trope is its variety, and part and parcel to that are its balance challenges.

(And by "variety", I don't mean Freudian Therapist Wet Dream Voldo; WTF?).

(But back to balance.)

I fired up the Story mode with Kilik (probably the industry's derided nube choice) on normal, and sailed through the five stages (you can play through slight variants of the story with all characters).

I then shifted to Yoda (the 360 exclusive character) on the hard setting -- and sailed through again. But keep in mind Yoda's the lightsaber-equipped equivalent of an Ankle Biter. (And do yourself a favor and don't skip the intro text explaining Yoda's "reason" for being involved in the quest for the swords; hilarious, and I can't believe it passed LucasArts' gates for faithful treatment of the license).

Then I continued on hard with Mitsurugi and sailed through - the first half. Then a freaking hour (or more) on the latter part. Freaking cheap shots.

And I'm back for more. I need to tool through story mode with everyone, run through Arcade mode a few times, buy a bunch of museum loot (concept art, renders, etc.), and check out the online scene.

I expect to get my tushie handed to me wrapped in puff-pastries.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dragonball Z: Burst Limit

I'm about an hour and a half and three chapters in to Dragonball Z: Burst Limit.

This is a solid licensed fighter, but limiting it to that would be a disservice.

For fans of the creative intellectual property, DBZ: Burst Limit finally gets it right (at least in relation to the recent spate of games).

But for fanboys -- you may wet yourself (I'm dry, but just barely).

DBZ:BL (like that?) is a decently deep fighter, contains IP (and genre) signature tropes that I totally dig (for example, sub or dub purists? You can play with English voice dubbing, or in Japanese, with English subtitles.

On the feeling empowered / pushing myself "as the character" front, I really felt like Kaioken x3 was the shizzle (relax, x4 was a cutscene, so it didn't do the same for me); I can't wait to hit super, let alone take on Freiza (and Cell? Please? Majin Buu?).

And while I genuinely suck at button mashers, I genuinely feel like the controls for DBZ:BL are more intuitive, and I find myself doing things "right" more often than with, say, Soul Calibur (much as I love that franchise, I get pwned more often than not).

Don't get me wrong, this DBZ game isn't perfect -- the camera at times seems a little floaty, I can't figure out why they made some of the stage and cut-scene transitions, the rating system is overly complex, and I have a love/hate relationship with the unlock notifications.

But those are trivial detractors from a great overall package.

C'mon Atari -- you're not the love from my youth, but I'm still rooting for you. Knock out some more like this one.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ninja Gaiden II (360 demo)

I so dig Ninja Gaiden, so I was stoked when the demo for Ninja Gaiden II finally came stateside (last? WTF?).

The demo gives that sense of amazing ninja bad-assery, which is great, but ...

This may be the worst third-person camera ever. I'm hoping it's just an artifact of the demo, though.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Call of Duty 4

I spend a lot of time on Call of Duty 4 on the Xbox 360. I'd say for FPSes, CoD4 is my current favorite single and multiplayer game (yea, verily even unseating Halo 3).

There are some good missions with unexpected consequences; I'm impressed with the developer's gutsiness.

More later. Possibly.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Acme Arsenal

I tooled through the Acme Arsenal demo today on the Xbox 360, because (1) I was watching a bunch of classic Looney Toons cartoons I downloaded through Xbox Live Marketplace, and (2) It was made with my company's tech.

It's a decent little platformer, though I wish it let you invert the X and Y axis. Note to game devs doing demos: If I'm going to evaluate your game, don't give me a reason to not play your demo.

If I can't invert controls, I normally don't bother with a demo -- Reason (2) was the only thing that kept me playing.