Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Day 6: Complete; Day 7: In Progress

Before I say anything about anything else I would like to say that the recent Left 4 Dead news has made me happy. I was fairly doubtful that the news could be this good. According to Kotaku, versus mode is coming to the remaining two campaigns and new campaigns are coming also. The best part of the news is that this DLC is coming out on the same day for both the PC and the XBOX. I am rolling all over the floor salivating because of this and I'll say right here that even though everyone is saying that this content should be free... I will pay at least ten bucks for it. My predictions are two more campaigns and versus on all of the campaigns. Fun, Fun, Fun. F is for friends who do stuff tog-

Okay! Enough of that and more about this.

Yesterday passed uneventful though instead of reading (which I mostly prefer to do on the train) I watched far too much of The Office: Season 3. I feel like I have cheated myself a little bit because I do not know if I am going to have adequate time enough to finish the book. I love the book, don't get me wrong, it is just as though the author is still writing it as I continue to read. I hope that the ending is as good as the rest of the book because I would rather it didn't just end. This is the book that does not end yes it goes on and on my frie-

Okay enough with breaking off into song.

Tonight will be the hardest part of all: New Year's Eve. Rock Band, Scene It!, Left 4 Dead, and others are all up for the playing and I will not be part of it until the ball drops. What a shame.

I will survive... and you will enjoy the festivities.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Matt's Top Ten Of 2008

In all honesty, I thought this was pretty hard to do. I went on to Wikipedia and looked at the list of all games released in 2008 and realized how much I had actually played. I really played a lot of games this year. Furthermore, I was really disappointed by a lot of games this year. Army Of Two should have been much more fun than it was, for example, and don't get me started on Alone In The Dark. After I had gone through the giant list of games into the list of games I thought would stand a chance, I was left with a pretty disappointing list. Honestly, and this might sound odd, but I don't think some of the games on my list deserve to be on my list. The reason for this is that I feel that, while I enjoyed these games, that the games that make a Top Ten list should be much more epic in scale than some of the games I picked. However, when it comes down to it, these really are just the most fun I've had in video games through out the year. So without further ado, I bring you my Top Ten of 2008.

10. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots

Let me start by saying: I did not beat this game. I have no way to. I don't own a PS3. But I did play it for a short time, and I have watched it being played. A guy I worked with bought it, and we went to his house down the street from where we worked and played for an hour on our lunch break. Now, while I do not know the end of the game, I do know two things about this game. The first is that it is beyond epic. BEYOND epic. The second thing I know is that the scale of this game is so extraordinarily huge that the fact it is not popping up on more top ten lists makes me sad. So I decided it would be my number 10 as a reminder that yes, this game happened, and it's hour and a half long ending owned you. It's not for everyone, that's for sure, but it is a game that is important to remember as it completely aims to blur the line between gameplay experience and cinematic experience. Some might hate that, but I think it's important.

9. Fable II
8. Penny Arcade Adventures Episodes 1 and 2
7. Too Human
6. Mirror's Edge
5. Castle Crashers
4. Dead Space

All of these games are arguable as to whether or not they deserve list status. Two of these games (technically three) are just XBOX Live Arcade games. But I think they all stand the test. I am not a huge fan of Fable II but it was fun. And all of the other games are repeat play through games for me. Dead Space was amazingly fun, as well as Mirror's Edge and Too Human, and I think a lot of people looked over these games. Too Human had it's share of flaws, sure, but that game was amazingly fun and worth multiple play throughs. Plus, both it and Mirror's Edge are just the first of their trilogies, so the bugs in both those games can be worked out for sequels. I have faith.

3. Braid

This game is phenomenal. If you didn't play it, I feel bad for you. It's a bit of a high concept thing, but my God was it a brain challenger. I like puzzle games for the most part, and this one had me feeling bad about how I couldn't do some of the puzzles. I had my girlfriend, who is good with puzzles, sit down and make an attempt at it, and she just faltered. That made me feel all that much better about having completed it. When you beat Braid, you join a special club of braggers. You get to sit there and watch other people play it and say, "Oh, it's not that hard. Look, the answer is right there." Braid is 100% phenomenal.

2. Left 4 Dead

The game known as Left 4 Dead is the game you will probably catch me playing the most in the new year. Talk about being open for multiple play throughs! That's all this game is! You keep playing it with newer and newer people, and each time the gameplay is different. I don't know what else you could want from a game. Not to mention the fact that if you put the game on it's hardest setting you're going to have the most insanely fun zombie experience ever.

1. Fallout 3

If you didn't see this coming, you're an idiot.

And that's just about it. I'd also like to nominated Imagine: Party Babyz for creepiest game of the year. Seriously. Party babys?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Day 5: Thinking About What I Will Be Playing

The best thing that happened today was when I read, "Your Party Stands Before the Cave of Tits." Please pardon my language on this one though I would like to believe that anyone who is reading this is above any age that matters.

Lately - or for the past few days - I have been thinking about what my first game to play is going to be. The obvious go to game would probably be Fallout 3 but I have been considering Castle Crashers since the title update has gone live. Everyone I know who has this game needs to get on board with this because I want to play with four players throughout the whole game... in one shot. I am sure some Gears of War will occupy my time along with some Left 4 Dead with some friends. So I have a fairly good idea it is just a matter of what lands in the disk tray, so to speak, first.

As an afterthought I have also been thinking of playing World of Goo on my Mac.

And another thing that I have also been thinking about is the possibility of using a Zune as extra storage for my Xbox. It would not only give me extra Xbox storage, it would give me an excuse to finally have a Zune.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Day 4: Not Yet Hard, Still Too Busy

Yesterday passed uneventful but the night before that I was asked if a wanted to play Scene It! Box Office Smash.

Naturally I declined but it did not help that the person asking was Matt, the other writer for the blog (ask him where his entries are). He didn't push the issue but I knew it would come up when he came over. We ended the night in a game a Scrabble (the real board version folks) in which I got my hind quarters handed to me before I gave up. In my defense I was tired but what kind of excuse is that?

I have still been following the news daily but nothing is going on so I have been bored with that. The only interesting thing that has been going on is this, this, this and maybe this. For the last one scroll to the bottom to see the picture I am talking about.

I have still been reading my book and I am progressing quite nicely though I still have a good bit to go. I have to buckle down if I am to finish.

I feel like I have less to write when I am not playing but that should not be true.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Beginning of My Week of No Gaming

Yesterday was my full full day of no gaming. Today was my second.

It has not yet been that hard but I have been busy. This is honestly not how I wanted my streak to start but anything goes.

Yesterday I spent the whole day disinfecting the whole apartment with the wife because the vet told us to. Today I spent the majority of the day at work and we (the wife and I) attempted to catch a Van Gogh exhibit at the MOMA that was sold out. Tomorrow we have to take the other kitten to the vet to get her checked out and then I have to go to work again. I may not have a moment where it truly pains me but I think the point is just to go without it and get some other things accomplished that I tend to neglect.

One of those things was to clean the apartment and though under the circumstances it was not ideal it still got done. I also want have to finish The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. I have watched some TV but again that has been with my wife.

We did turn on the Xbox to watch Netflix (The Office; Season 3) but I honestly would not think that it would count. We went straight to Netflix and nothing else.

Other than that I will continue to update (hopefully daily) on how I am making it through this terribly horribly no good very bad time. Till next time race fans.

Monday, December 22, 2008

WRUP for 12/15 - 12/21 (First One)

This is probably more of a Sunday post but seeing as I did not do this yesterday suck here it is:

Matt: I'm in Vegas... where it apparently snows... so I have not been playing much of anything. Though I do suppose that if I were playing something, it would have to be Rock Band which I have been popping in from time to time.

Nate: I spent at least one day this week getting some really cheap gamerscore which was in all honesty, really really fun. I will probably never play it again but it was fun whilst it lasted (and it did only last about 20 - 30 minutes).

Something that has lasted much longer is Fallout 3 which has taken up the remainder of my time and I am very proud to say that I am the proud owner of Lincoln's Repeater (possible spoiler on that link). I have begun to notice that it may take me more time to finish Fallout 3 than it did for Matt (53 hours).

Lastly I picked up The World Ends With You over the weekend and I am currently learning how to play it properly (though I do feel I am slowly getting better). I do not normally play games like this and it is testing my normally quick learning curve. If anyone has some tips on how to master playing on two screens at once, without using auto, please do send them my way.

That is all I have for you today... check back tomorrow!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I Will Quit Gaming For One Week...

...when my streak ends.

While this may not be that big of a deal to some, for me it will be like taking a part of my life away for a week. It is true that I recently went without my Xbox for roughly a month but I still managed to play something at least once every day. Alas, allow me to explain how I came to this decision.

My inspiration for doing this is Matthew Shafeek, the guy who quit gaming for a year. My rational is that if someone who is a least half as obsessed with gaming (probably more) as I am can quit for an entire year, I can do myself some sort of service by quitting for one week.

The conditions of this period are:

1. Quit playing my 360 for a week
2. No DS or iPhone gaming or gaming of any kind
3. No Television at all unless it is with the wife (this has to be the condition because this is our "together" time and it is what we do in our evenings
4. Finish one book in that week span
5. My streak cannot be lost to error or error (if I played, it counts (this is an honesty system after all)
6. ...though it must be a retail or a paid arcade title

I think that I can do this and not only that, I think it will be easy for some reason, after all, it is only one week. Do you think that I can do it or more importantly, do you think that you could?

This here is something that I did not feel merited its own post but something I wanted to put out there nonetheless. Does anyone feel that Scribblenauts is somehow infringing on Psychonauts territory. The main character even looks like he can be mistaken for Raz.

Alas, that is all I have for you today, check back soon.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

New Genre Open Mindedness

Today was the day that we found out if Stephen Totilo bested Soulja Boy or not. Two days ago we saw some pictures and today we found the results. Soulja Boy brought his skills in 'Gears' and beat Totilo nine out of ten rounds. I feel like Totilo needs to not rush into combat and actually come up with a strategy but more on the later.

The reason I am bringing this up is because how it made Stephen feel about multiplayer gaming. Otherwise it is not relevant other than the fact that it is funny as hell.

Before this challenge was brought about and SB picked Gears of War 2 as his title Totilo did not care for multiplayer gaming. This would be the reason he was 'rushing' Soulja Boy in a game that discourages 'rushing'. In order to beat Soulja Boy, Stephen had to practice his Gears 2 skills in order to have a hope at beating SB. As a surprising effect (at least to him) he found that he was enjoying himself.

He went on to write in his blog, "Multiplayer gaming might be for me, after all."

This had me thinking about people who are closed off to playing certain parts of games or different genres altogether. When it comes to fighting games, I am that person (and I did give it a shot with SSF2THDR but open mindedness has not helped me in the fun department there. I think I could be persuaded to play God of War and Metal Gear games if the opportunity arose (and I did not have a long list of other things that I wanted to play). I have also recently wanted to play the new PoP.

But to get back on topic, there was never any point in my owning 'Gears' without a possibility for multiplayer. I do not know how much effect Totilo's recent discovery had on my open mindedness but for some it could probably persuade them to play something new. I think for me it was that he is a games journalist and had not yet experienced something as simple as multiplayer gaming.

Are you finding that as the years of you being a gamer are going by, your interest in other genres are increasing? Oh and better luck next time Stephen. If your new found interest in muliplayer is any indication of things to come, you will be better in no time.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Brutal Legend Hype

Truly awesome games look to make me ecstatic and Brutal Legend is looking to be one of those truly awesome games. I would say that Tim Schafer has always impressed me with his work but I would be lying seeing as I have only played through Psychonauts (sacrilege, I know).

But to my credit, it was probably in my top three original Xbox titles (the others being; Halo: Combat Evolved and Fable). Since then we have seen sequels to two of these games but nothing still from Double Fine. Alas we will have BRUTAL LEGEND which will quite possibly melt off all of our faces.

So now there is face melting news in the Eddie Riggs camp: EA has secured the publishing rights to Brutal Legend and thus secured for me their (EA) state of forever awesomeness.

I would assume that this means awesome things for Brutal Legend in the way of promotion and advertising. A quick and good example of this is the exclusive trailer that appeared at the Spike VGA's. It was a... ahem... rad trailer that got me more hyped about this game.

Brutal Legend has always had my vote and let's just hope that it does not go the way of Psychonauts (amazing critical reception and a sales flop).

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Xbox LIVE Groups

We already have Xbox LIVE Parties but now in order to complete the social networking circle we need Xbox LIVE Groups.

I am a regular listener/reader of the Joystiq Network. I listen to both the X3F Fancast and the Joystiq Podcast and I read their respective blogs. Recently on the Joystiq Podcast the subject of Xbox LIVE grouping came up once again as it often does (Chris Grant will always tell you what is needed by your service or game).

While this is Chris' only, and biggest complaint, for both services (the other one being PSN), it is one that he makes sure to clearly express.

For myself I had not thought about the grouping possibility until I had heard about it from them but now, like the Joystiq staff, I am finding that I cannot go without it more and more.

I would imagine that the system would be built sometime like a Facebook social networking system (we have friends of friends but now we need groups). You could have a Left 4 Dead group, a vegetarian gamers group (my little joke), etc. If you could name the group it would most probably exist. Events could be scheduled by the gamers and once and for all you could be playing with the gamers that wanted to play the game like you wanted to play it (or how it was meant to be played). It would also be a clever idea to be able to set one's preferences to only matchmake within that group (though I am sure that would not be possible by Microsoft's standards because of all of their wacky rules about TruSkill).

The system would probably have a more in depth version based on where the moderator could admin events (Best.GamePad.Ever group FTW) and members.

It has come to the point where this is how I want to play all of my games. I have not yet thrown myself to the wolves of matchmaking (in L4D) because I think that I am too horrified of what I might find. Perhaps I would find a preteen zombie hunter that might scream as he hops onto my unwilling corpse. Shudders. That alone might be worse than the Zombie Apocalypse.

I really think that the folks at Joystiq are onto something here and I feel that for this idea to not come to fruition would be a missed opportunity. I think that it will happen because though I have not heard about it before, I am sure that it must be an oft-requested feature. What do you think?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Finding Myself Wanting More and More

It would seem that at this point my other contributor is doing more on my own blog than I am. For this, I am sorry. This post was really meant for a couple of days ago but it has been sitting in my notebook without me having the time to type it out.

My lack of time can be attributed to one thing alone: my Xbox has returned home. Seeing as I have done nothing except play, watch, etc, you can see where lack of time has become an issue. It has been such a great feeling and it felt as though I could not play enough to fill that space that has been empty for too long. Even though I have been "playing" every day the quotation marks alone should tell you that what I have been doing has not really constituted playing. But seeing as quotation marks cannot yet speak I can tell you that I have been playing just enough for these past few weeks in order to continue some e-Wang streak.

On that streak I did play some co-op on Insane with my brother-in-law and since my box has returned I have continued to play through more of the GOW2 campaign. It has really been fun but actually somewhat less challenging than I thought it would be. Do not get my wrong here it is still hard at times but those hard times are just magnified of what I found annoying and hard when I played through on Hardcore.

Other than Gears I have continued to be addicted to Geo Wars (both 1 & 2) and I have watched the first season of the Office (along with the first six episodes of season two) on my Netflix instant queue. Sometime in the near future I expect that my wife and I will play Left 4 Dead (go figure) but other than those few things that is all I have been up to on my - once again mine - 360.

But enough about what I have been playing and more about what I am finding myself wanting to play.

As and aside here, the best part about wanting to play something else at this time of year is the fact that I have not yet even finished playing what I already have on my plate. Seeing as this is something I obviously had not planned for it puts me at a disadvantage. Realistically, the last thing I need is yet another game to play.

But still, for the strangest reason, but not really, I have found that I want to play the new Prince of Persia. I suppose that the only odd thing about it is that I have no ties to the series seeing as I have never played any of the games.

And yet the reason that I have found myself wanting to play is that I have just been hearing about it everywhere. It is not that I have not heard about the older games enough it is just that whatever I did hear flew past my ears in indifference. But whatever the reason this new one is feeling different.

Part of that reason though is not the art style, the graphical prowess, or obviously even the name of the game. For me, my reason, is that what I have heard about the game sounds like enough to me to merit at least one play through. What I have found humorous is that I have probably heard equal to or greater negative things about this game and still I want to give it a shot.

I am feeling compelled to play this one probably because I do not feel compelled to play the previous games in the series (though I am sure it would make the experience more rich). In the end I think that this will be a game that I do end up playing if not just for another reliably good gaming experience that one has come to expect from the guys and gals over up at Ubisoft.

After I had finished this entry I went back and looked at my comment about the art style and I found it so compelling that I found the need to clarify:

I actually hated the art style when I had my first look at this game. I thought it was ugly and just plain funny looking. As a generality I thought the Prince looked stupid if not awkward and to state it bluntly I still do. This is not because of the cell-shading because on an often enough occasion I find myself privy to loving this art style (Crackdown, Thirteen (HA, does anyone still remember that game)). But I am keeping an open enough mind and it is possible that I will change my mind when I see this game in action.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Time Magazine's Top Ten Games Of 2008

Recently, Time Magazine released their "Top Ten Of 2008" lists. Naturally, a magazine of Time's stature is sure to release lists of quality films and gadgets and games. Well, I decided to look at their lists of video games, and ... well, let's break it down bit by bit, starting from 10 and going down to 1:

10) Spore
For what I feel is a completely non-understandable reason, people adore Spore. I played this game a little bit when it first came out on a roommate's computer... and so did he. So did everyone. In fact, the main thing I noticed about Spore was that, while it seemed innovative, it got really old really fast. People spent $50 on this game, played it for a week or two, and I haven't heard about it since. No one I know is playing it anymore, and I know a lot of people who spent money on it. This game is by far not worthy of even the last spot on a Top 10 list. To me, a game needs to last or leave a standing impression to be a Top 10er. However, this game is designed for repeat plays and no one is repeatedly playing it.

9) Field Runners
...what? An iPhone game? Really, Time Magazine? Out of all the games released this year, you felt that an iPhone game is worthy of a Top 10 list? What next, a Flash game?

8) Hunted Forever Good going, Time. You put an iPhone game and a Flash game on your list. I almost have no real words for this. The only thing I can really think to say is that I completely agree that both of these games are better than Spore. But if you were going to put a game designed out of Flash, couldn't you have put something good on here like Castle Crashers? CC didn't make the list at all, and it is way more deserving than Hunted Forever. I'd like to put a bunch of REAL gamers in a room together, then ask them to raise their hands if they've heard of/played Field Runners and/or Hunted Forever. You know how many people would raise their hands, Time Magazine? Absolutely none of them.

7) Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
Ok, now while I do not agree that this game is a Top 10er, I can at least maybe see where Time is coming from. This game is a LOT of fun. I rented it, played through it, and had a great time. I would play through it again. It's got good graphics, good gameplay, a good story. Compared to what George Lucas is forcing (no pun intended) us to endure with his beloved Star Wars series, this is a breath of fresh air (I know someone out there actually enjoyed The Clone Wars, but I did not appreciate it one bit). I especially like the two climatic battle options. In fact, all of the boss battles are quite wonderfully cinematic. SW:TFU takes a page from games like God Of War and allows you to beat the crap out of your opponent, then go through a series of button combos in order to really demolish them in a pre-rendered destructothon. It's great. So maybe I would put this game near the end of my list... but probably not. Either way, at least this is a real game.

6) Dead Space
Dead Space is awesome. Does anyone else remember buying Resident Evil 4 when that first came out, then waiting up until Midnight and playing it with all the lights off in their room? No? That was just me? Well I did the same thing for Dead Space because it is essentially Resident Evil 4 in space, and it was awesome. I love Dead Space and I don't think enough people played it. The only thing that wasn't good about Dead Space was the final boss fight. The whole game is atmospheric and creepy and there are plenty of jump moments (if you play it properly at night with the lights out), but after all of that, you get to the end, fight the boss, and you're just wondering, "...wait, that's really it?" Luckily, I think the game is long enough and filled with enough possibilities that the rest of the game is fun enough to make up for a lacking final boss. I would highly recommend this game, and probably put it near the end of my personal Top 10 list.

5) Gears Of War 2
I have never been a fan of the Gears Of War series (can I call it that?). I played through the first game twice, and I had fun with it, but that was mostly because of who I was playing with. Playing it on my own... I just don't get the same out of it. I haven't even bothered to really try out the multiplayer option, only once or twice. That being said, I have not even played Gears Of War 2. I plan to, but I have not yet. I do not think I reserve the right to comment on it having not played it, so I won't. But, based on Nate's comments on the game, I can see why someone would put it on the list, and no matter whether or not I like the series or not, it's still a more legit choice than Field Runners and Hunted Forever.

4) Rock Band 2
This, in my humble opinion, is another goof up on Time Magazine's part. Rock Band 2? Really? What was so great an innovative about this game? It's Rock Band with new songs and screens. They added a few other nice little things in there, such as that option where you can't fail out of a song (in case you're playing with your father who just doesn't get the concept of pushing buttons after having played an actual guitar for several years), but this is no way a Top 10er, and this in no way should be so near the top. I like playing "Float On" just as much as the next guy, and I've seen the video with the Rock Band 2 Fog Machine, but come on. There are so many better games than this. It would appear that Time Magazine just looked at what games came out towards the end of the year, looked at what got good reviews, and made a list based on that. Oy. Stick to talking about "things that matter" and leave stuff like this for people like Nate and I who actually play video games.

3) LittleBigPlanet
I do not have a PS3. I have not played LittleBigPlanet. I do not have the right to make a comment. That being said, I feel this game would get old just like Spore got old. I could be wrong though.

2) Braid
This is an absolutely legitimate claim. While it's not a claim I would necessarily make, at least I can sit here and say, "Hmm... yeah. Yeah, that's a good decision." Braid was smart, fun, difficult, and all in a very simple design/premise. The settings were wonderful to look at. Rewinding time NEVER got old. I put this game on for people and said, "Solve the puzzle," and then laughed as they struggled just like I did. Beating this game made me feel pretty good inside. Braid was definitely a welcome breath of fresh air in the Arcade market. I do not like most of the Arcade games (I only own 4 (well, technically 5, but who cares about Fable II Pub Games?)), but this is one I bought without even trying based on what I had heard. It was by far one of the best games I played this year, and there is no doubt in my mind that Braidshould be on everyone's Top 10 list this year.

So now we have 10 through 2, so what could possibly be number 1? After going through that incredible list of (mostly) failure created by Time Magazine, what could possibly be the number 1 game of the year according to those (clearly) non-gamers? What is better than a game for your iPhone? The answer, my friends, is:

1) Grand Theft Auto IV
COME ON. This is the best game of the year? Hardly. The best game to come out this year was Fallout 3 without a doubt. Nothing was better. Nothing. Furthermore, GTAIV does not deserve to be on anyone's Top 10 list. This game was NOT that good. Sure, it was fun for the first week or so, but it's so damn repetitive. It got old just about as fast as Spore did! If you didn't beat it in the first week or so, good luck getting the energy to. That being said, I never made it through. I couldn't. I just can't handle it. There was no variety at all. One can be said that this argument could be made for a lot of games. For example, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is the same on every game through out every level just with a new background. However, THAT does not get old. It's fun to run around with a lightsaber and hack stuff up. Running around with a gun, stealing cars and shooting hookers on the other hand... this is now the FIFTH time we've been given this game. Aside from giving it an amazing graphical over haul, a new city, and new characters, couldn't they do anything else? No. They couldn't. Because there is nothing more to the Grand Theft Auto series. There never will be. And this, ultimately, will be the downfall of this section of Rockstar. Or maybe not. People are dumb.

So there you have it. Time Magazine's Top Ten Of 2008 that didn't include Fallout 3. I apologize for wasting your time, but I felt commentary was somewhat necessary. I hope that whenever Nate and I release our Top Ten lists, it will blow your mind. Or, at the very least, be better than this list. Actually, I have no doubt it will be better than this list. You know why? Because this list included a Flash game and an iPhone game and did not include Fallout 3.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Travesty Amongst Travesties

I do not often do favors for people unless I really know and/or like them. The odds of me just randomly doing a favor for someone I'm not that close with are slim... but there are the occasions where I will do them. Maybe it's just a good day, or maybe the stars are aligned correctly in the sky above. However, I'm beginning to think this is a horrible horrible idea that I will never ever do again because of the tragedy that has fallen.

You see, dear reader, one of my roommates recently got himself an XBOX360. He created himself a new account and asked me to transfer all of his old files to my memory card so he could have them. Now, while I understand that the files are non-transferable between accounts, but I decided to do it for him anyway. Why not? I pop in my memory card and begin to erase everything on it. It's all going fine until I get to the point where I need to erase my gamer tag from the memory card. No big deal, right? Well, in the words of Lex Luthor in that God awful Superman Returns movie, "WRONG!" A little thing popped up that asked if I wanted to delete just the gamer profile or the save games as well. I said, "Well, I want to make sure the memory card is clean, so let's erase it all." And just like that, in the blink of an eye, all my files were gone.

Now, the thing that upset me was I was erasing off of my MEMORY CARD, not my HARD DRIVE, but in saying that I wanted to delete files off my MEMORY CARD, I ended up erasing all the files on my HARD DRIVE. What?! In what cruel world does this make sense? Did my XBOX suddenly get morphed into a Bizarro XBOX where by erasing one thing, I erase another? Am me talk not good now? And there is no undo button. There is no reset, there is no recover, there is no saving from this. My files are gone and all the work I ever put into any game ever is gone. Vamoosh. Hasta la vista, baby. You've been terminated.

On the one hand, this is not that bad. This gives me a reason to go back and replay some games I haven't played in a while. Motivation and what not. That hand, for the record, is incredibly dumb, and I hate it. On the other hand, the logical hand, this is annoying beyond all belief. Take, for example, my save game in Marvel Ultimate Alliance. I have spent hours playing through that game and getting every little thing. Do you know how hard it is to unlock the Silver Surfer? Getting him is a pain in the ass, but I did it. I had all the best armors, I had all the characters, and everything was at a power level over 9000! Not literally, but if I'm using Dr. Doom, I am unbeatable. And I was 4 achievements away from having every achievement that game allowed. I don't want to do all that work again! I'm going to have to, but I don't want to! What about Mass Effect and Too Human? Those RPGs are designed so that when you beat the game once, you take your awesome character and try the game on a harder level. I had just begun to play through Mass Effect a second time, and I never finished my second play through of Too Human with Nate. And what about all those games that I rented so I could see if I liked them? Time Shift, Mortal Kombat Vs DCU, Mirror's Edge, etc? All of it is gone. I planned to buy these games and pick up doing were I left off. Now I start from scratch.

Boo to you, Microsoft. When I had a chat with my mother later that day about life, the universe, and everything, I casually mentioned that I was annoyed over this. She said that the XBOX is essentially a computer and should have a reset button. But it doesn't. The files are gone, and I wish to God there was some kind of undo button, or some way to back up your files in case of emergency (and I understand that that is what a memory card is for, but for suggesting that you are an ass). Oh, my poor poor files. My poor poor games. I no longer look at these boxes lined up in a row as accomplishments, but rather a series of trials I must once again put myself through. I am strongly considering selling some games now, games that I can not see myself playing through from the beginning again. Assassin's Creed, we had a good run, but do I really want to start over from the beginning right now? Dead Rising, you know I love running through the mall and cutting up zombies with a katana, but can I really take the time to start from nothing and go through all of it again? I could barely get myself through a second play through when I first got my own XBOX, how am I going to do it now?

Oh, woe is me, woe is me. This is something XBOX should look into. Some kind of back up system or save all button that will save poor suckers like me. Either that, or make the system smart enough to know that when I'm erasing my memory card, it doesn't mean to erase the hard drive too.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Force Unleashed Review

Hardly the most recent game to come out but the one that I have had the chance to complete; a review for is Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.

After finishing TFU, a few goodies and costumes aside, I was left feeling satisfied (there it is right there, go buy the game). I've completed both the light and the dark side endings and either way the story is the best Star Wars video game story that I have encountered since Knights of the Old Republic. It was satisfying possibly in a way that only a Star Wars fan might understand.

The most thrilling parts were the story driven cut scenes and the overall length of the campaign. The campaign progressed nicely and I was never bored (frustrated possibly but bored, no). The cut scenes were breath taking and I felt like I was watching what should have been another Star Wars movie. The only thing I could have asked for were missions (levels) that looked exactly like these stunningly rendered cut scenes.

Most of these missions were ultimately satisfying all with boss fights at their ends. The only thing bad about the boss fights were that as soon as you figured out how to beat them, they were no longer a challenge. But until you were to figure out these magic formulas to beat these bosses most of the fights were long and obnoxiously difficult. After the long and arduous battle to ‘beat’ the boss the boss fights would end in a series of quick button presses (quick time events) and though most people might not find these as satisfying as some other method, I ultimately enjoyed them a great deal (though I am sure they do not hold up after more than one play through).

The only other real complaint I had with the game was the camera angles that the game sometimes forced one to use (again most often in boss fights). On an often enough occasion I found myself dead because of an obnoxious camera that forced me to stay in an area while someone was stabbing me in the back.

On quite the opposite side of all of these complaints this game does the best ever job of making you feel like a truly (and pardon my language here but it is the only way to describe it) bad ass Jedi. The only part where I felt like less than myself is when I had to face off against bubble shield wielding flamethrower guys (trust me, in retrospect, it is a funny thought). My only hope in those moments was the possibility of a huge rock that I could force throw at the guy with the hope that he would, at the most, fall over long enough for me to get up to him with my lightsaber. Okay really, enough with what annoyed me.

Another fantastic aspect of this game was that the levels were beautifully designed and I loved Starkiller. I have never seen such a beautifully rendered Star Wars game and as a whole it did the best job at making me feel like a Jedi or a Sith.

After seeing both endings there was no real reason for me to continue aside from some extra achievement grabbing and though I could not suggest a way to make this game more repayable (that is why I am not the designer of this game) that is a sad fact because as big of a Star Wars fan that I am I could not merit purchasing this game (yes, I know I said to go buy it earlier). If I want the extra gamerscore that I did not nab on the first rental, I'll just rent it again. This games lasting value is something akin to Assassin's Creed. So as a final note (and in closing) I thought that this was a fantastic addition to the Star Wars canon and despite the games flaws it still shines through as a memorable gaming experience.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

360 Experience = Better Than Everyone Else?

At the time of this posting I only own one of the three major consoles and though I would have liked to pick up the PS3 or the Wii at some point finances have gotten in the way. At some point I am sure I will have the PS3 - probably to play Heavy Rain - but I honestly wonder if I should even bother (I did manage to hold out through all of the LittleBigPlanet hype). The only good thing that I hear about these systems are the rare good games that come out and only if they are working to begin with (again LittleBigPlanet).

This generality that has me avoiding buying a new console is all of the complaints that I hear about PS3 and Wii's interfaces. For example, I did not know, until today, that the patches for PS3 games take a long enough time that you can go make a sandwich but something I did know is that they release a system update for the console every couple of months or so. These updates to the console are not quick and they are, of course, required to play online. To myself it just sounds like a lot of annoyances that could probably be streamlined. For the games they could put more fixes in a less frequent patching process and for the system updates they could do the same thing.

Perhaps Sony could take a page out of Microsoft's book and hype up their new features but thinking about it now they did that for the in game XMB and well... is anyone still talking about how great of a feature that is to have. Instead everyone is always complaining about the next problem (whatever it may be). This could be a testament to how many issues that the PS3 is not addressing correctly or it could be the Internet complaining about everything all of the time, as they like to do from time to time.

Seeing as the Wii has far more wrong with it than just its interface (though it is hard to update the interface if you do not have enough free space) alone it becomes hard to complain about any one thing. For example, the Wii Speak peripheral could seemingly allow you to chat with friends while playing any game but as far as I am aware one can only use it in the Wii Speak channel or in Animal Crossing. While I am not surprised, you could see how this would make sense to have in games that encourage folks to play together. For myself, at this point, I would like to just borrow someones Wii for a month or so and just play all the few games that I would like to play.

In the end, I like the community that comes along with my Xbox and I know it is not going anywhere so I have nothing to worry about if I ever do pick up one of these other consoles.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Game Review: Fallout 3

I have had a very busy day in which I spent most of my time in a car traveling from place to place. The purpose of all of this was to collect various items from various places in order to complete various quests. On one hand, my father needed me to get a 12 pack of beer, so I had to travel to the liquor store to buy it. On another hand, I had to go to the comic book store because Wednesday is new comic book day. On yet another hand, I had to go to a store to buy a gift for someone. And on yet ANOTHER hand, I had to hunt down some medicine for my mother. Eventually, all of these items will connect in my home to create a vast amount of rewards. This is real life.

And then there is Fallout 3.

I will start out by saying that there is no way that before playing this game, I wasn't biased. For starters, Bethesda is a great gaming company. For seconds, I am in love with almost anything post-apocalypse related. It intrigues me in so many different levels. I will see any movie and read any story if I am told it is based in a post-apocalyptic environment. That's literally all it takes. Add to the equation the fact that I loved Fallout 2 when I was younger (even if I could never beat it) and you have created a sure-fire win in my book.

The plot of Fallout 3 is simple: you live in one of the many vaults created by Vault-Tec as a result of a nuclear war. You're happy enough with your life down there until one day, your father (voiced by Liam Neeson) leaves the vault for an unknown reason. You follow him out into the Capitol Wasteland and are faced with limitless possibility. If you want to play the story, you can follow after your father, but you don't have to. You can merely travel around the world, picking up quests and odd jobs. People will ask for all sorts of things, such as spare parts or help saving their town from Super Mutants. The choice is yours, and what a wonderful set of choices it is.

This, in my humble opinion, is where Fallout 3 shines beyond shining. The world they have created is so beautiful and wondrous (in a morbid way). The second I stepped out of the Vault I was floored about how everything looked. There are mutated animals roaming around, people hunting you or just attacking you for the fun of it, wandering robots that were never turned off, and little floating bots broadcasting the glorious word of the Enclave and President Eden (amazingly voiced by Malcolm Macdowell). I remember the first thing that I did was go into a broken down school and fight off some Raiders with my sub-par equipment. I am still a little confused as to how I got out of there alive, but I was stunned. They took the game experience to a whole new level for me. I know some people call this game Oblivion 2.0, and I suppose that is partially true, but I think that Fallout 3 runs much better than Oblivion did. It's smooth and a little less chaotic, and it still manages to keep the basics of character creation from Fallout 2 which made that game such an individual experience to play.

One might think that an open ended game experience like that might be a little daunting, and that is very true. There are many locations in the game that one can visit, all with their own little stories which may or may not have anything to do with the main story of the game. There are numerous vaults, only three of which you ever actually need to enter. Quests are not a given and, outside of the story, not only do you have to find them by searching the Wasteland, you aren't guaranteed to win them. If you fail, that's it (unless you reload). Not only that, but even if you complete a mission the right way, it can still go wrong! I'll give you an example (possible spoiler ahead, but not really): there is a quest known as the Nuka-Cola Challenge. In this quest, you have to go get 30 bottles of Nuka-Cola for some broad out in the Wasteland with a fetish for the company. Living next door to her is some guy who wants to nail her, and he thinks that if you give him the Nuka-Cola, he'll finally be able to do so. I decided to give all my bottles to him (because I talked his price up with my speech), and once he had 30, he told me to come watch him put the moves on her. At this point, I completed the quest. Hoorah. I go outside of his house only to find that, in between his two second walk to the girl's house, he had encountered a giant scorpion, and I watched it kill him. (end spoiler) It's little things like that that make me happy. Granted, all quests have many ways to be solved, and I took some unorthodox methods in completely some of them, but that is by far and large my favorite outcome of any quest ever, and I think it says exactly what type of game Fallout 3 is.

So now you know what I love about it: everything. I truly adore the way the game runs, and I truly adore the experience I got out of it. I spent 53 and a half hours playing it and doing every little thing before I beat it, and the only reason I could afford to spend that much time on a game is because I do not have a job. After getting the game, I thought to myself how truly thankful I am that I am currently unemployed because it afforded me the time to really dive into this. Fallout 3 truly deserves the love and devotion you might put into a serious relationship, and if you are just getting into a serious relationship then stay away from Fallout 3. And I know exactly what people have as far as problems go in the game. Some people think it's too much of a leap from the style of game play in Fallout 2 that it's just not as fun. To this I wave my hand and say, "Pish posh. If anything, it is more fun!" I went back and replayed Fallout 2 in anticipation for the release of Fallout 3, and I found that while the basic elements of the game stood the test of time, the overall experience did not. I'm not penalizing it for graphics, but you have a 3D world that's 2D, and some things in the game are incredibly unclear. There were definite parts when I just was not sure what to do and had to ask the internet and my roommate (who had the game and had started before and was also consulting the internet for advice) on what to do. I legitimately think that Bethesda took the game and just made it all around better. Some people are also complaining about graphical glitches and freezes, but I only ever experienced one graphical glitch and I chalk that up to the fact that I play this game for 8 hour sits at a time. The XBOX is going to get hot and maybe get a little wonky after that.

So all in all, I think that if you don't play Fallout 3, and you are a fan of legit video gaming, then you are truly missing out. There is so much more I could say about this game, but if I did that then I'd probably be here 53 and a half hours explaining everything. This game comes with the highest stamp of approval I could ever give, and it has taken the spot for "All Time Favorite Game." I am going to be starting my second play through soon, and I'm going to be playing it in an all new way with a character who is truly the polar opposite of my last game, so I'm excited. But seriously - Fallout 3 is the only game you need this holiday season. There are other fun games out there, and I will review some, but all you really need is this.

The next review will probably be Mirror's Edge, so keep an eye out for that.

Will NXE Cause More Red Rings?

I know that I have made the NXE the subject of the past few entries and at this point it seems that it is without end (my box is still in transit to Texas). Trust me the NXE will probably stop being the topic of conversation once I get my hands back on my box (I'll have had proper fiddling time). And since I find it the topic of my thoughts whenever I am thinking about my Xbox, subjects like the one titled above are often what I come up with.

I know that a question such as, "Will the NXE cause more red rings," is a loaded question (seeing as, insert event here, always causes the red ring for an unlucky bunch of people) but allow me to explain. The real question here is will the NXE improve upon the average user play time with the console? With features such as Netflix and Parties, will we be spending more time overall on the user experience that the NXE is here to provide -Microsoft certainly hopes so. Plus, with this amazing library of games to play (looking at you Fallout), you can only count on more time gaming this holiday than not.

But seeing as games are somewhat of a no brainer (that's you Left 4 Dead) let's concentrate on Netflix.

My co-author of this blog is obsessed with the Netflix feature. He has already watched 10 movies (using this feature) and counting as I write this entry. He is arguably equally obsessed with gaming as I am (his gamescore is what it is in a much shorter period of time than it took myself to achieve mine) and this feature alone has him spending hours more time on his box than he already does. This fact alone leads me to believe that user spent time will be increased, at least, by a person remotely interested in movies.

For those out there that are not avid movie fanatics do not pick up Scene It? Box Office Smash. But seriously, for those who are more into the playing together aspect of the Xbox Experience, parties were built for you. Hop into a party and have voice chat with your best [gaming] friends without being in any of the same games. Use it as a conference call tool while you are not even using your Xbox. Drag your party to the game you are playing. Whatever the instance you need group chat for, you can probably accomplish it. I believe that this feature will cause longer conversations, longer multiplayer sessions, and yes more overall time with the 360 console.

So yes the NXE will probably cause more red rings but of course we will never see any numbers to prove this (or at least anything remotely conclusive). The reason I say this is because it is only a matter of time before your next red ring. We as Xbox owners know that the 360 is a blessing (great games in great numbers) and a curse (well that goes without saying). When my Xbox returns from this long long journey it will only be a matter of time before it happens again. What game, what event? Only time will tell.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Game Review: Penny Arcade Episode 2

I have a mild form of ADD, in that I don't actually have ADD but I will occasionally let my mind slip focus anyway. I know that I said the first thing I'd really write was an epic review of Fallout 3, but then I went ahead and beat Penny Arcade Episode 2 and decided that, since it was fresh in mind I should sit down and write my thoughts on that. So fresh are my thoughts on it that it is like plucking a ripe apple from the most fruitful tree, meaning that I just beat it and the credits are currently playing as I type this review.

However, I did read this morning that there will be Fallout 3 DLC, and that is incredibly exciting. 3 new quests, and only one taking place in the same continuity as the game. This is especially cool because, while I love the demolished DC ruins, I was thinking about how exciting it would be to see other cities in the new world Bethesda created for Fallout, and the other two will take place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Anchorage, Alaska respectively. While there is no word on how much it will cost, you can rest assured that I will pay no matter the price and, unlike with the DLC in Mass Effect, I promise that I will actually beat it!

So. On The Rain-Slick Precipice Of Darkness Episode 2. How did thee fare in the harsh reviewing system that is my nefarious and devious mind? I tend to charge games rather harshly, personally. While everyone was praising Gears of War and Far Cry, I was merely sitting on the sidelines and saying, "What's the big deal?" Grand Theft Auto IV remains unfinished because I quickly got tired of the game play style. I haven't even given Call Of Duty 4 a shot. However, a game like PAE2 earns my love and devotion while it seems to go unnoticed by most. I remember when the first installment came out and everyone seemed to love it. Unfortunately for the guys over at PA, they released their game at the worst possible time (against weeks filled with hot anticipated titles) and I fear that now this game has gone unnoticed. But not by I!

I played the original twice, once as a starkly mustachioed gentleman named Finnegan, and a second time to get all the achievements as an overweight and funny haired African American gentleman aptly named SirSwish. PAE2 allows you to import your previous character into the new game and it is with SirSwish that I decided to continue the tale. I feel this is the correct move because, as marvelous as Finnegan was, without a special attack called "Finnegan's Wake" I felt he was a wasted joke. SirSwish also had the max level and max Overkill bonuses allowed for in the previous game, so it was probably smart to start with him. PAE2 picks up almost exactly where the first left off, with SirSwish rebuilding his previously destroyed home. A cut scene shows what Gabe and Tycho have been up to, and they soon come for SirSwish, ruining his new home and recruiting him to once again help them solve a series of mysteries in order to stop a dark evil. Simple premise, complicated results. There is by far much more plot in this game, as well as resolution to most of the things brought up in PAE1. The two hands go in hand very well.

I'd like to start by talking about what I did not like. The first complaint I have is, "Wasn't this game supposed to be longer?" I beat the first game in a single sitting while my friend looked on. This game I took my time with, and I still beat it in less than 24 hours. This is upsetting to me. Granted, I will be playing it a second time (since, by beating it, I have unlocked Insane Mode, and playing through it normally makes it clear that the curious mind is going to have to play Insane Mode), but that doesn't excuse the amount of time it took me to beat it. I will take into the account that at the moment, I do not have a job, so I have all the time in the world to play the game, but that is also not an excuse for the game to be so short. The only excuse I will buy is that it is an XBOX Live Arcade game, but even then I would have liked a longer playing experience.

The next complaint I have is, "Why couldn't they fix the screen for those of us who don't have HDTVs?" This is a complaint I have for a lot of XBOX games (Dead Rising, anyone?), but I would really love to be able to read and see everything easily. There is a mild solution to this issue in the game with "Zoom Screen" option, in which I can pull the game's comic book panel towards me. This is not a proper fix it, though, because now portions of the game are cut off. Us poor and jobless folk would appreciate a more legitimate solution to this, please.

My third complaint is, "Why didn't they change the game play at all from the first game?" The only thing really different from the first game was the final boss (which I would also call fairly lack luster compared to the epic battle against Mimethulu at the end of the first game), but other than it's the same basic formula. You have basic attacks, special attacks, and items. The special attacks are new but not all that much better. The weapons are a little different, but still meh on the customization process. The items are new as well, but giving me a new type of grenade/bomb does not tide me over from wanting something more. With all of Tycho's talk about the dark arts, why can't we have some magic? I love shooting things and punching things, but can we have more than one weapon with the option for an upgrade for a character? One of the best things about RPGs is the ability to customize your player to suit your needs. We have the option of 3 new costumes in this game that give different perks, but that just doesn't cut it. I want Tycho to throw a fire ball at someone, and I want Gabe to have the option of using brass knuckles or perhaps the Right Hand of Doom (maybe even a cardboard tube?).

My final complaint is, "Why are the achievements so boring?" It really is not difficult to get 200 gamerscore on this game. Only one achievement actually takes time to get (which, of course, I did not get). The rest you can get by just playing the story or by looking at the achievement list. I liked how the first game had that horrific achievement "Silent, But Deadly" achievement, where you had to figure out an appropriate plan to beat the boss so you didn't use healing items. That mixed with "Immortal" (where you couldn't die) made for an interesting gaming experience. There is nothing like that in PAE2. I don't feel like I achieved much, even though I unlocked everything in the game possible. This is my smallest gripe with the game, of course, but still... come on, guys.

Now onto the things I like. I love the story: I mentioned this earlier, but it flows so well from the first game. There are also plenty of subplots to keep me intrigued and happy. There are 10 possible quests in the game, and having done them all, I can say that each one provides a great deal of pleasure to complete. This game thrives on it's ability to be story driven and it easily accomplishes that. I love the animation and graphics of the game: It's not too complicated and it's not to simple. It literally is perfect for the game. I love the character designs: I kind of want to shave my beard into mutton chops now because of Gabe, and that's not something I've wanted to do since I watched the X-Men movie and saw how awesome Hugh Jackman looked. I love the writing in the game: There are so many moments in the game where I burst out laughing. The Insane Asylum was definitely the highlight in exploring and reading every little thing (one crazy inmate believed himself to be the Prince of a town called Bel-Air) as well as finding little jokes that referenced lesser known subjects (did you know Eggplant Lincoln reached power level 10,000?). The dialogue between characters is hilarious, and this is where Tycho truly shines. He is a master wordsmith, I will give him that. He should get a writer's achievement or something to that extent.

So would I recommend PAE2? You're most definitely right I would. This is not the best game of the year nor is it a contender for that game, but if you played and liked the first one, then this is a worthy follow up. Even if you didn't play the first one, I'd say it's worth a play through (but why would you do that to yourself?). As I said earlier, I look forward to playing it a second time. Insane Mode looks promising, although it will be for another day. This is definitely not a game to forget about, though. The Penny Arcade series, when put all together, will make for quite a game. While I hope to see some more improvements in the next installment and more customization options, I understand I probably will not get it as that is not really the point of the game. I view my gripes as very minimal, although they appear to take up the bulk of the review. However, I really would stress that these do not deter from the game experience. Lame achievements? Big whoop. It is important to note a game's flaws in order to better appreciate what it excels at however, unless the game is perfect, which few games are.

On that note, it is time for me to kick back and watch another film on Netflix Instant Watch. Thank God for that.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hello, faithful readers

Those who faithfully follow the writings contained in this digital tome will notice that, under contributors, two monikers appear. Up until now, you have the faithful writings of Nathanial. He has recently asked that I start contributing to his creation, and contribute I shall. However, I felt that before writing something of cohesive value, a brief paragraph introducing myself was in order. So greetings and salutations. My name is Matthew, and I will also be writing for you.

The popular topic of the moment is the NXE. I, for one, am not sure how I feel about this change so far. This is perhaps because like others, I do not believe I've taken full advantage of the abilities that it provides. Why, just today, I finally buckled down and purchased a Premium Theme (the Halo Wars theme, as I eagerly anticipate the arrival of this RTS experience). However, I have not deleted all of my 0 Achievement Score games, I have not participated in a party, and I have not installed any of my games to my hard drive. At most, I have created an avatar and allowed him to belch and spin his head around for a bit and, of course, taken full advantage of the Netflix addition. All this goes to show that I am not using this to the full potential even remotely.

However, I think that the NXE is a great thing. I love my avatar and I love looking at my friend's avatars. I currently have two costumes for him, one that looks like me and one that, according to Nate, looks nothing like anything I would ever wear (perhaps it was the monocle). I am really excited to put my avatar into games, and even gave it a shot in Kingdom For Keflings (which I did not care for). It's weird, but for some reason I just like looking at the menus now too. I'll scroll through all the menus looking at nothing in particular. It is possible that in this case I am merely like a cat being fascinated at the shiny prize in front of my eyes, but the NXE is incredibly visually appealing. There will always be lazy people like me who accept the changes put forth and just smile and nod at the little things, but it is important to note that Microsoft has even managed to capture my attention. I could have lived without the update, sure, but now that it's here, I definitely turn my XBOX on more often.

The other big thing for me is Netflix. Since getting Netflix on my XBOX, I have watched 10 movies and the entire fourth season of The Office. I have complaints about the quality of the video, but honestly, I feel that if you can push past the first five minutes of a film, your eyes will begin to adjust appropriately and it will no longer be an issue. The only movie I had difficulty watching was Paris, Je T'aime because the subtitles were a bit hard to read. At times it was because the subtitles were in white and against a bright background, but at other times it was simply because of the quality of the video. I wish this was something that would be corrected because I missed full lines of dialogue, but I doubt this will be fixed, and I am now apprehensive to watch foreign films because of this. However, I do have a normal Netflix account, so I could always just get a DVD if it bothered me that much. If I can offer some recommendations, however, I would say that it would be in everyone's best interest to take a look at the films Confessions Of A Superhero, Gone Baby Gone, The Wind That Shakes The Barley, and Being There. I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to watch these movies and many more, so kudos to Microsoft and Netflix on a great idea for a partnership.

The only major complaint I have as of the moment is that, for whatever reason, I can no longer play Fable II easily. It constantly freezes and crashes. I am not sure if this is due to the NXE or not (as I can not see how the issue could correlate), but it is slightly aggravating as I have not yet beaten the game and would like to see one of the endings.

That just about wraps up my limited thoughts on the NXE. I feel that when I write, I will mostly contribute reviews of games. With that thought in mind, Penny Arcade Episode 2 calls to me to play it. I will, however, return at a later date to write my thoughts on Fallout 3, which I spent a total of 53 and a half hours playing and absolutely adoring. If I could date a video game, that game would be Fallout 3, and I will explain why soon.

I Hope And Pray for the Xbox Brand

Every day I have my silent wishes for the Xbox brand. I hope that all of their decisions are the right ones and I cringe with every piece of bad PR. As I may or may not have said before, my Xbox is part of who I am and the games that I play. Over these past three years (more if you want to count the original Xbox) I have become Xbox's cheerleader, salesperson, and all around Xbox know how guy.

I make it my business to know the ins and outs of my console, for my benefit and for any others with questions.

The question of the NXE (pronounced 'nix-IE') being the right choice is one that comes to mind. I personally feel, along with many others, that the NXE was right choice. As the point has been driven home to its very death, the NXE has something to offer both of its audiences. The guide is built for the mainstay hardcore crowd, touting such features and zero gamerscore deletion and quick launch, and the cover-flow inspired dashboard is built for the up-and-coming casual crowd (avatars, pretty to look at, etc). The reason I feel that this is the right choice is because it really does not leave anyone alienated (unless you find yourself to be one of the irate, nit picky folk that just need to complain to hear yourselves complain). Everyone on my friends list has, shamefully or not, created an avatar (with the exception of one of my friends who was also the victim of a red ringing- without a back-up plan (as I had)- which always sucks). The only question 'left 2 see' is weather or not it will catch onto the casual crowd or not? Do you think that the Wii has already captured it completely with no intention of letting go or do you think that the Xbox can convert a few?

These things are honestly what I think/worry about and though I know I am not alone I do not want to believe that I am the only one rooting for the infinite life of the Xbox 360. So if by some chance you are reading this and are on the fence about buying an Xbox you have my full fledged support and I promise you that you will not regret your purchase.

Friday, November 21, 2008

This Avatar... Ehem NXE Craze

Since the NXE (New Xbox Experience for those who do not already know) has launched, shipped, whatever you want to call it, I am feeling like I did when the 360 first shipped. I am checking everyone's avatars and scrutinizing them as I had been checking folks gamerscore when the 360 first launched. It feels like having a new console and it feels like being a new 360 gamer again.

A lot of things are the same but for the most part everything is new and moved around (which leads to a lot of playing and discovering). I enjoy hunting out all of the new features as I had already long since ferreted out all of the old features of the umm... Old Xbox Experience (OXE if you will). I have already deleted all of my zero gamerscore games and I made sure to fully pimp out that avatar (I have a purple hoodie).

The avatars, to myself and my friends, do not just feel like a kid thing. It has already become a wonder to see how close we can represent ourselves against our real life counterparts selves.

Though I haven't set up my Netflix account seeing as I do not yet have my own Xbox back I have found my favorite feature. In the end this feature will not make or break anyone's decision but that does not really matter seeing as it makes me happy. I love the new premium themes and not just because they are formatted to fit the NXE but because of the way that they theme my friends list (the kiddie one, not the one in the guide).

I really cannot say a bad thing about the NXE and the only features that I think that I want (the I can think of) in the future are:

- When I select a download from the web-based Marketplace, I want it to turn on my Xbox in low power mode and download my items (though I am not sure if this is possible).

- I want the option to drag my party with me into another game so I can skip the step of actually getting into the game and then sending out a party invite

These are really minor but I still would like to see the download thing happening.

And lastly here is the funniest thing that I have seen with Avatars so far and I wanted to thank Major Nelson for pointing it out to me.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Holiday Season

A good friend of mine probably had the better idea this holiday season; he played one or two games that he gave his full attention to while I have or will be trying to play five or six. The only game that I am not accepting less than the best from myself in is Fallout 3. I have to do every thing possible because it will be the title I go to last to play again (not because of the quality but because of the length and my related lack of time).

No other title makes you feel like you have to do so much in such a grand world (except for maybe Oblivion), but then again, in Oblivion, do you really feel like you are shaping the world around you? Naturally, Fallout 3 being the game that makes one feel like they are experiencing the most original concept would make it ultimate game of the year material. Possibly for some, but for myself, it is all about the raw fun, the laughs, and just the good times.

For me the game that brings the most fun is feeling like a tie. Between the dirty, dirty Horde mode (GOW2) and the overall re playable nature of Left 4 Dead I am left with a hard decision. I cannot tell you which one I'll play longer either. Only time is going to be able to tell on this one. But if there is one thing I can say about L4D that I cannot yet say about GOW, is that my wife is going to be playing L4D with myself and my good friends (that might be your decision there).

But it is not yet time for this decision because I haven't played Dead Space or Mirror's Edge yet. Hopefully I'll have squeezed them in there somehow by the end of this year otherwise I'll spend all of next year playing catch up once again (the likeliest of scenarios).

How about you? What are you playing/not playing? What are you playing now and what are you saving for later?

Friday, November 14, 2008

My 360 was Left 4 Dead

Post Retro dated for 11.13.2008

For the past two nights I have been enjoying/worshiping the Left 4 Dead demo. My friends and I started out on the normal difficulty level and quickly proceeded up to expert. Now keep in mind we are by no means experts. We found that on any other difficulty level that we were massacring the zombie apocalypse instead of the game actually feeling like an apocalypse. This is no discredit to the game because it is always fun (we just found solace in trying as hard as we could to not be butchered). I really cannot say enough good things about the great feelings that I came away from this demo with. I even got my wife to play with me and her greatest fear are zombies. The only thing I can recommend is to:

1. Bring friends (marketing does not lie here)
2. Do not play with your "good" friends from Halo who like to run amok and get themselves unmercifully torn to pieces by undead chunks who would like nothing more than to turn you into a bunch of undead chunks

Play. Massacre. Shoot Em' in the....[writer dragged away by zombie]

Today The Matrix invaded Fallout 3.

I had just lied to Dr. Zimmer about the Replicated Man (bleep-bloop) and left Rivet City to kill a few Talon assassins. I was in the middle of a fire fight with two of three Talons (the other one was questionably crouched by the wall) when as I was hit by a few assault rifle bullets. My screen became infected with, honestly what looked like, binary code. I could still relatively see where I was going but I had this putrid green color all over my screen. I thought, "Well my character must be infected with something," and so I went to the doctor (I only trust the one in Megaton). I asked him to cure me of all ailments and he cautiously did so. Finding that this did not work I thought, "Well maybe a good night's rest will do me some good." It did not, I was still sick with green and feeling worse than ever.

I decided to remove myself from the game and go back to the dashboard and when everything looked fine there I proceeded to boot Fallout 3 again. Same problem. All the menus were there and free from the binary green abomination but as soon as anything graphical was taking place I was Neo looking down that green hallway for the first time. I had honestly convinced myself that I had become so advanced that I could only see games in binary (I feel like I play that much). That was until I actually rebooted the Xbox and I was left with eleven different languages telling me that my Xbox had a system error.

Fun times.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Gears of War 2

Having finished the campaign of the ever popular Gears of War 2, I let myself look at a couple of the reviews for the game.

The OXM review of GOW2 enraged me. The reviewer criticizes the story for basically being there, saying that it (and the boss fights) felt "hokey." At no point, well obviously, in my own opinion, did the story feel "hokey." I know that most of the boss fights felt like they were on vehicles and that they felt just downright difficult for no reason but last time I checked my dictionary that was not the definition of hokey. Not to mention the sloppily put spoiler warning in the middle of the review which was basically just that (an emboldening of the two words right before the description of the end boss battle). The review looked and felt last minute among this holidays stockpile of games. It was as if the reviewer said to himself, "Well it doesn't matter what I write in this review, everyone and their mother is going to buy this game anyway." In the end the review was downright lazy and it just did not look at the game on any of its merits (other than his glowing two paragraphs about the multiplayer that could have been written just based on the promises that it made before the game even shipped).

If you want a clear concise review of Gears, here it is:

Gears of War 2 accomplishes everything it set out to do. The whole game is bigger and more badass. Everything feels EPIC in scale and it is so much to the point that at some points you feel useless against this Locust Horde. The only real complaint that I had was that (and I played through first on Hardcore) on certain parts if I did not get just the right amount of bullets into an enemy I would fail that part of the mission (and have to do it over and over). The greatest accomplishment of the game is its story. Again the story is loose but this time it brings in the emotional side of the war. The last thing that I have to say about the game is that it shows that even through all of the "Hoo-rahs" that these soldiers still feel something about the world that they live in. And multiplayer... yeah that's good too (as if no one expected that).

Monday, May 12, 2008

It Merits A Post All of Its Own

And so my frustration ends as I beat the game. As an added bonus, in the credits, I found out that Iggy Pop does the DJ's voice on the the Liberty City Rock station. It was well worth it and though I am disappointed that two people I know personally beat it before me, the ending was just amazing.

Grand Theft Auto IV Ending (no spoilers)

Here is a rant if you ever heard one:
To start this off let's set the mood. I am enraged. I cannot beat the end part of Grand Theft Auto IV. I am having so many problems with it that it is not even funny. I am so close yet so far away. I have never had this problem with any game and though I keep on doing it over and over again and I know exactly what I am supposed to do and how I am supposed to execute it, I am still stuck right there (about an inch away from the end). I just finished trying about eight or nine times and as soon as I am done here I am going to try again. I had a vacation in which I was supposed to beat this game but I haven't yet. I return to work tonight. Who knows, if you are reading this I might have beat it. You might be able to hear me jump for joy depending on where you are in the world. F***. Don't ask where I am because like I said, I don't really need any help because I know, in theory, exactly what I am supposed to do. There are no hints or forums that have helped me which is probably why I am even more upset. Thanks for listening. I am going to go try and beat this part that is becoming the bane of my existence. F***, sometimes it just feels good to let that out. I know I only try to write coherent entries so I apologize for this one.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Mass Effect

I am currently finishing up with my second play through of Mass Effect. I have been enjoying it more than my first. Experiencing the story after the fact always allows a new perspective. I am also on a harder difficulty level as well as completing a far greater number of missions (like all of them). I fight all the "vehicle battles" on foot to gain more experience and my character currently lies at a whopping level 58 as a result. I am beginning to doubt that I will reach level 60 on this play through but with any luck the final two plot missions and the remainder of the side quests that need completing will fill in those two levels.

I have been thinking about how my character will fit into the second iteration and how promised mechanics will work. For example, when you begin a new game in Mass Effect on your second play through, you have to option to use your previous character (his/her, level/equipment, etcetera) with a "clean slate" and your Paragon and Renegade status cleared. I am wondering if in Mass Effect 2 your character will just carry the basic statistics like the current situation or that every decision that you have made in the first entry of the trilogy will really have the promised effect on the second and third game. So far this game has come through on everything that it has promised me so I am willing to believe that I will not be let down.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai

I have been playing an XNA Community demo for The Dishwasher for the past few days. It has a truly inspired design similar to Tim Burton/Roman Dirge/Edward Gorey. The way the game is designed excites and inspires me every time I play it. I am just playing the same levels over and over again yet I do not feel bored. This game makes me want to perfect the way I play. I have played it three days in row so far and I plan to play it the remaining 12 days that it is available to be played. Its fast paced game play and overall tight feel make it feel incredibly rewarding when you pull off a finishing move or just a spectacularly bloody kill.

Just looking through the locked menus one can see that when the game is finalized there will be a plethora of content available to be enjoyed. Having worked in food service, this game makes it feel that much better to be destroying those that anger you.

Lastly this game inspires me to create something of my own. Congrats James Silva, I cannot wait for this game to ship.