Archives for October 2006

Gamemaster: Will Wright

An excellent (and long) article about Will Wright at the New Yorker.

I’ve played a lot of games. A lot. But I think Sim City and Sim City 2000 consumed more of my gaming time than any other game I’ve played. I’ve avoided picking up any of the other Sim City games out of fear for my sanity. Spore looks like it could be another soul-destroyer. I’m finding it hard to resist.

I have nothing!

I’ve been sent this one a few times today, so for the few of you who haven’t read today’s Dilbert, it hits home for us cube rats:

Dilbert Xbox.gif

(Although, in my case, you should replace “Xbox” with “Nintendo DS”)

In my hands…

OuendanI know I just mentioned I picked up Contact, but my copy of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan showed up over the weekend and I’ve been able to get a chance to play a couple games and I’m already hooked. In fact, if I wasn’t watching Prison Break and Heroes right now, I’d be playing it right now. It’s consuming my thoughts. I hear rhythms in my brain and see targets converging. I can’t wait to get back to it.

Thing is, Contact is starting to get fun, too. So now I have to strike a balance with my DS time. Luckily it seems like Ouendan is definitely a pick-up-and-play kind of game, without much of a time commitment. I like that.

Detailed impressions of both games to come.

In my hands…

B000035XQ6-01-_AA280_SCLZZZZZZZ_V59349705_.jpgAfter reading some mostly positive reviews I was intrigued by Contact. Then I started hearing some serious buzz on a couple video game forums and decided I’d give it a try.

As always, impressions to follow…

Halo 3 News

This isn’t coming from Bungie, so no way of knowing how accurate it will end up being, but I know a lot of you are Halo 3 fans but might not have seen this.

A lot of new features it looks like, but nothing super suprising. I’m sad to see there’s no bots, but honestly who needs them? Everyone who owns a 360 will have this game, so finding other people to play with shouldn’t be a problem. Of course, playing with bots is probably more enjoyable than playing with 99% of the people on Live, so there’s that.

My only request – bring back Hang ‘Em High!

360 Demo Thursdays – Lost Planet

Lost PlanetI’m posting this late, but with good reason — this demo is FUN. I decided to download something I’ve heard a lot of good things about and ended up with the Lost Planet demo. I should have quit an hour ago but I was having too much fun to stop.

Lost Planet, by Capcom, looks very promising. Capcom is on FIRE right now! Dead Rising was fantastic and now Lost Planet is looking even better.

I actually should have said Capcom is cool. I mean real cool. Freezing, even. Lost Planet, set in the 22nd century, is one cold place. Everything is buried in snow and from what I gather, you have to maintain a certain amount of thermal energy to keep yourself alive. It seems you have a life meter and an energy meter. Defeated foes drop glowing orange energy that you collect. This energy can be converted into life as well as maintain heat. This is what I gathered from the demo — I haven’t read any previews or the like. Just going strictly off what I experienced.

The demo consists of two missions — destroy the hive of the Akrids (the bad bug-like creatures that have infested the planet) in one and take out the Pirate’s stronghold (there’s good and bad Pirates. You can guess which kind you’ll be) in the other. Both end with boss fights that are challenging but not cheap.

The game controls well, with little details I really like. While fighting a larger monster, the closer I was to it as his claw came crashing into the ground, the more it made me stumble. I couldn’t shoot or even manuever myself while I was stumbling. It’s attention to detail like this that always gets me. The animation of your character (the game is played 3rd-person) is excellent. The guys that did the animations for Just Cause could learn a thing or two here. Trudging through the snow feels just like that — plodding and tiring. The weapons in the demo are standard shooter fare – a machine gun, a shotgun, rocket launcher, the works. You can also mount armored mechs. While I’m not a huge Mech fan, this was fun and again, easily controlled.

Maybe I was a little too harsh earlier dismissing the 360’s future line-up. Lost Planet looks like it will be a great game, one that I’ll definitely be adding to my wish list!

Carnival of Gamers, right around the corner.

Man, it seems like I just finished reading last month’s Carnival when the next one is almost upon us! I blink a couple times and boom, Jason’s ready to take over as November’s Carnival Host. The carnie emails are on their way, Jason, I promise!

Head over the HQ for submission questions.

Don’t let me down, 360

If you were to ask me if I thought you should get an Xbox 360, I don’t think I could say “yes” and feel good about it. Right now, outside of a couple games, there’s nothing compelling on the console. In fact, if I hadn’t got mine at such a deep discount, I’d be having some serious buyer’s remorse right now.

I’m with Tom over at G-Pinions:

There are only two X360 games I am interested in for the rest of the year – Viva Pinata and Gears of War. That is disgraceful. There are twice as many NDS games (Elite Beat Agents, Castlevania, Kirby and Yoshi’s Island). There are twice as many PS3 games (Resistance, flOW, Criminal Crackdown and Blast Factor). Hell, there are even more Wii games coming out this year (Red Steel, Zelda, Excite Truck, and Trauma Center) that I actually want. MS has a year head start and some great games coming out in the future, but this first year has been a complete disgrace.

I’m not even sure I want Viva Pinata. So as it stands now, Gears of War will probably be the only game I purchase for the Xbox 360 in the forseeable future. I plan on getting Forza 2 and Halo 3, but nothing else has grabbed me. The Xbox Live Arcade and Marketplace have been a great success, but again, I’m just not pulled in that direction. I’m really hoping games like Lost Planet and Assassin’s Creed turn out to be great games and at some point I’d like to get around to playing the new Splinter Cell but right now, the 360 isn’t my console of choice.

Now that the Just Cause rental has been returned, I’m back to almost exclusively playing games on my DS. I’m still working through the campaigns on Age of Empires, finally getting some actual game time with Trauma Center and my order for Ouendan has been placed and will hopefully show up before the end of the week. That’s on top of quick gaming sessions of Meteos, Metroid Prime Pinball and occasionally checking in on my Animal Crossing Town. That’s a lot of gaming goodness from that little machine.

With the Wii right around the corner, I fear my 360 won’t see much love. I’ll eventually get a chance with Oblivion and some other games, but I’m currently in the throes of some serious Nintendo love. I hope it’ll last.

Yikes

The concept of the “Everquest Widow” is nothing new. Sure, World of Warcraft has been more successful than Everquest, and yes, there are “WoW widows” but it’s nothing new. A couple days ago, a post on Soul Kerfuffle was making the rounds last week, about a guy and his year in World of Warcraft. He talks of addictions, obsessions, and broken families. After I read that post, I found another post telling the story of yet another gaming widow dealing with someone “addicted” to gaming. For whatever reason, this particular blog post was rather poignant to me. Even though the game isn’t EQ or WoW, it’s still the same thing.

Maybe I’m just not dedicated enough, but I can’t wrap my brain around this. I cannot think of a gaming situation where gaming is more attractive, important or tantalizing than sex, EVER.

EVER EVER EVER.

I think the question of whether you’re addicted or not boils down to this: If offered the chance to be with your wife/girlfriend/significant other and you pass on it to play your game, level up one more level, finish your raid, whatever, I have bad news for you:

You, sir (or madam), are addicted.

Just Cause [360] – First impressions

just cause.jpgI think “Just Cause” is possibly the worse name for a video game. It tells you nothing. The game involves you, a super secret government agent, fomenting revolution and mayhem on a South American Island. It’s a Mercenaries-style game, a Cuban sandbox, if you will. What I can’t figure out is what the name refers to. Am I a loyal government agent, helping the revolucionarios and their “Just Cause” or am I a free-wheling mercenary who enjoys running over helpless old seņoras on the sidewalk, “Just ‘Cause” I can. Because honestly, I can’t really find the motivation to do the former when the latter is so much funnier. There may be a revolution going on, but I’ve got civilians to harass.

So what about the game? Right now, after a couple days of playing, I’m not impressed. I’m normally not a graphics-whore, but if the gameplay isn’t fantastic, it’s the first flaw I notice. Just Cause has some serious last-generation-itis. I can’t tell if the intention was to have cartoony characters or if they’re just horrible looking models. The animations leave something to be desired as well. The main character runs through the scenery as if he played for the other team, if you know what I mean. Maybe I’m missing out because of my standard-def TV, but I’m not liking what I see so far.

A large part of the game driving around the island. There are plenty of vintage convertibles, motorcycles, and trucks of all kinds to drive around town in. Problem is, the vehicle mechanics are an absolute joke. I’ve driving dirt bikes up inclines that are physically impossible with a g of 9.8 m/s2. I’ve taken on jumps that would have absolutely destroyed the underside of a generic SUV, but I hit the ground and keep on trucking. Sure, maybe I lose a bumper or something, but it’s ridiculously inaccurate.

The targeting system can be a pain but controls over all are good. Another big part of the game are the stunts you can pull off, like attaching your grappling hook to the back of a car and paragliding through the Cuban sky. The stunts work pretty well and jumping from car to car, Jackie Chan-style, is a fun diversion. Unfortunately doesn’t make up for other flaws.

Another major sticking point I see is the NPC intereactions. For a game where I’m supposed to be able to “interact” with the environment, the villagers and other non-essential, non-player characters are completely robotic. The only meaningful interaction I’ve found is for me to punch them. Not exactly the best way to build a relationship of trust when I’m punching the nuns in town. I was in a market with a guy trying to sell me his fruit. I jumped up on his fruit stand, knocked over his crates and nothing happened. Weak.

Not everything is bad, though. Underneath all my hang-ups could be a great game. Just Cause sports a HUGE map. There seems to be a lot of side missions and other content. I imagine there is a lot of content to uncover. Hopefully urging the locals to overthrow the bad guy will actually work. I’ll give Just Cause the rental treatment, hoping for the best, but I just don’t see it impressing me that much. It’s already failed with first impressions.