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.