Archives for July 2010

Weekend Gaming and What I’m Playing

So after finishing Mass Effect 2, I felt liberated and wanted to get to some new games. Funny thing is, I really wanted to get back to Borderlands. So I talked a couple friends into trying out the game themselves and the three of us have been running around Pandora at least once a week. I started a new character (Lilith) and am really liking this play through. I still mess around with Mordecai, but playing with friends is infinitely better.

I also started a couple online dynasties in NCAA 11, again with a different friend. I have a lot to say about NCAA 11, but for now I’ll just say I love all the additions to this iteration and the online dynasty tools are really, really cool.

Gamefly finally sent me Crackdown 2 and I’ve spent a few hours back in Pacific City. It feels distantly familiar but ultimately hollow. It is still fun to collect orbs and cause mayhem but I don’t know how much more I’ll be playing.

At a recent Gamestop Sale I picked up copies of Metro 2033 and Final Fantasy XIII. James is currently playing FFXIII, so along with Borderlands, I also started 2033. I’m only about an hour and half in, so I don’t really have an opinion yet.

I’m ashamed to admit I still haven’t played Blur, even though I picked it up weeks ago.

So I have quite a bit on my plate. That’s not counting how badly I am resisting Starcraft 2. What will you be playing this weekend?

Make money playing video games

No, really. All you need to do is be really good at one of them. Like Halo 3, FIFA 10 or Madden 10. From Virgin Gaming:

Reserving your bracket spot is easy – from now until August 8th, the top 128 players on each game’s PS3 & Xbox 360 Virgin Gaming leaderboard will receive free entry into each game’s respective bracket. All of the brackets have prizes ranging from $6.25 (one win) to $875 (bracket winner). As always, these gaming tournaments are free to enter and open to members of all skill levels.

Sure, they’re open to members of all skill levels, but 99% of those members are leaving empty handed.

This isn’t going to make anyone rich, but if you’ve got the skill and experience, I say go for it.

Games I’ve played

I noticed that I hadn’t done a “what I’m playing” post in a while. So here are some quick observations for some of the games I’ve finished recently. These are not in lieu of proper reviews, something I’d really like to get around to writing, but just a handful of observations I made while playing the game. I’d really like to get back to some game talk.

Bioshock 2

I made the big mistake of stopping my playthrough of the first Bioshock about 30 minutes before the end (in favor of Halo 3). I went back to finish the game prior to Bioshock 2’s release. It didn’t have the emotional impact it could have had, because at that point I had sort of forgotten what I was fighting for. I didn’t let that happen with Bioshock 2.

I thought Bioshock 2 was a great sequel (prequel) in the sense that while some of the changes were drastic (being a Big Daddy being the most drastic) the majority were not. They were simply tweaks to the original. So in that regard, it was comforting to know how to do what. It was very easy to drop back into the mindset of playing the original (even if it had been three years for most). That is a sign of a good sequel.

The act (and weight) of being a Big Daddy gives you a sense of power you didn’t get in the first game while you were fighting them. The heft of the drill arm and the weight of your footfalls make this a completely different experience. That being said, I still never felt all-powerful.

This is something I’d like to expound on further, but I love that we finally got to see Rapture in its Utopian State. Both the original Bioshock and Bioshock 2 are set in the dystopian version of Rapture, after it has fallen. We are told (through the story) that it was once a beautiful, fantastical place. Bioshock 2 finally gives us a glimpse at that utopia. I wanted more.

Bioshock 2 get a Buttonmashing Mash of Approval™

Book Cover

Splinter Cell Conviction

I’m an old-school Splinter Cell fan. I played the first iteration on the Gamecube through completion. I really got into the character of Sam Fisher and I took his methods seriously. I liked hiding bodies. I liked hiding in the shadows. I liked shooting the Ring Airfoil Projectiles that knocked the bad guys unconscious instead of exploding their brain parts. I felt more in the game and in the character. When a bad guy had to be taken down permanently I acted with extreme prejudice. But I liked having my options.

Conviction, on the other hand, was different. Still rather enjoyable, but different. What’s the point of hiding the unconscious guard’s body when everyone in a two mile radius is going to end up dead anyway? I guess it was time for a change in mindset. That’s fine. Conviction was satisfying in other ways. Particularly the mark and execute. Sure, sometimes it amounted to nothing more than the Win Button, but I’m okay with that. I earned my chance to use it and I’m going to use it. It’s put to exceptionally good use in a stretch of the game where you need to evacuate the premise in a timely fashion. It literally became the Win Button for an extended period of time.

The game as a whole wasn’t particularly difficult and, in the end, perhaps a little shallow, but Conviction was a pretty fun game.

Mass Effect 2

I have a lot to say about Mass Effect 2. The short and sweet would be to say that it is a great game that I love. That leaves a thread that is too much to get into here, but I had a couple moments in the game that I wanted to mention.

The first isn’t a specific moment, but a culmination of little details that really made Mass Effect 2 personal. I don’t remember who I read that mentioned this, but one of the great things about Mass Effect 2 was that even though the over-arching story is the same for everyone, the little details, the little experiences were different for everyone. Sure, my choice to kill Wrex in the first Mass Effect changed the story lines and the way I was received by the Krogans in Mass Effect 2, but it didn’t kill my chances to gain the loyalty of Grunt. Little flourishes like this may simply be either-or branches in the story but they went a long way in personalizing the story for me and probably only me.

The second moment was the Geth story line. (This part has minor spoilers) During the mission to acquire the IFF (Identify Friend/Foe) device of the Reapers, you are aided by what appears to be a rogue Geth sniper, which is damaged/injured in the final battle scene. You take the deactivated Geth with you on-board the Normandy and you’re given the choice to activate it or hand it over to Cerberus. (I should mention at this point that the Geth are my favorite “race” in the Mass Effect universe and I feel a certain affinity toward them.) That inevitably led me to keep and activate the damaged Geth. At which point I had the most meaningful story line in the game. As the reactivated Geth relayed to me the nature of the Geth, the schism that occurred between the “logical” Geth and the corrupted Geth that followed and aided Saren, I felt an immediate connection to his/her/its story. When it finally told me to refer to it as “Legion,” I was immediately impacted. This intersection of technological mythology and familiar Biblical reference made him/her/it feel real to me, more real than any of the “living” characters. From that point forward, Legion accompanied me on almost every mission thereafter and has firmly taken the place of “my favorite character in the Mass Effect Universe”™

So that’s what I’ve played recently. Up next is what I’m actually playing.

Everquest 2: Extended?

If you haven’t heard. Everquest 2 will be rolling out a new free-to-play service called: “Everquest 2 Extended” or EQ2X for short. Here is a simple view of what is included with the various memberships. Here is the basic information about how the service will work, there is a FAQ here, and the forums here.

What I do want to know is why they named it, “extended” if its actually less than the original game. I guess it could be because it extending the game for free to the masses? Tony and I have dabbled in EQ2 for while and it was a good time however, with all of the games in the marketplace at this point I wonder if EQ2x will have enough draw on new/old players to bring them back to Norrath.

What do you think?

So, did you pick it up?

I know we had a discussion going earlier about the pricing of Star Craft II. So did you take the plunge?

Video Game Power Rankings #12

This week just snuck up on me. Here’s the week in video games.

1. (-) Limbo #2 on this list could easily be #1 here, but this game is actually out this week. Limbo came out this past week on Xbox Live Arcade and has received nothing but high praise. Justin at the Rumble Pack says, “If you let it, the game can be an intensely personal experience.” The review at Madison.com says, “Limbo harks back to the old black-and white horror movies, where your imagination was so much more effective in evoking the sense of something gone horribly wrong.” Have you played it?

2. (-) Starcraft 2 Yeah, I’m not going to say anything snarky or witty here. You’ve heard it all. But tomorrow a force of nature rips through the gaming community as Star Craft 2 is released to the wild. I read early this morning on Twitter that had over 800k preorders for this game. We’ll be hearing a lot about this game for the foreseeable future. If it’s been awhile (and it probably has for most of us) since you played the original, Kotaku has a great round-up of the story lines of the first game. Then go over to Joystiq to see the most recent trailer. Then compare and contrast ten plus years of cinematic progress. Blizzard is still the best at it.

3. (-) SF v. Tekken – There were a lot of news and announcements that came out of this year’s Comic Con but I think the Capcom v. Namco/Street Fighter v. Tekken announcement. This is huge.

4. (-) DarkSpore – I never played Spore, I was never really caught up in the hype (and subsequent disappointment) so I really don’t “get” DarkSpore of what it means for gamers, but it did generate quite a bit of buzz this past week. This is clearly in the “not for me” ballpark.

5. (-) Kinect – Did you know that the Walmart Kinect page is the first result when you Google “Kinect”? (Sure, it’s a sponsored link, but I would bet 99% of people searching for it will click on that link.) That’s all to say that Kinect was priced at 150$, to the surprise of no one.

6. (-) Inception – We went and saw Inception this past weekend and I LOVED it. I can’t recommend it enough, especially to my fellow Buttonmashers. At more than one point in the movie I thought, “this movie was made for gamers.” Referring to dream constructs as “levels” and watching the action take place with variable gravity were two specific situations that made me go “Hmmm”. It seems like I wasn’t the only one who thought that, as Totilo refers to many of the same things in his review of the movie.

7. (-) DeathSpank – Maybe this should be higher, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention DeathSpank, the highly regarded XBLA/PSN downloadable game from fabled game designer (and Patron Saint of the Carnival of Gamers) Ron Gilbert. Viking Funk says to “Auto-equip your Epic Chestpiece of Awesomeness and get busy!”

8. (-) Console Gamers Stink at GamesThis post generated a certain amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth between PC purists and Console Gamers. I stink at anything involving skill or twitch, so I don’t have a dog in this fight. Maybe you do?

9. (-) Achievements – A fight I do have a dog in is the hunt for Achievements. If you like to get down and nerdy, this post on the Xbox Engineering Blog about the story behind the technology for Achievements is a great read.

10. (-) Plants vs. Zombies PvZ was announced for for Xbox Live Arcade. Even though I played it for hours and hours, I’ll probably pick this up for XBLA, too. Why? See #8 above.

Honorable mention: Mass Effect 2’s newest DLC, the Lair of the Shadow Broker.

StarCraft II? I Wish

I’m a big fan of RTS games. However, I think Blizzard might be a little full of themselves for charging $60 for StarCraft II–especially if you only play single player. It’s essentially two games anyway.

(I’m late to the pricing-pity-party.)

Dead Space Extraction

Dead Space Extraction is an underrated gem–an interactive movie for the Wii. I’ve jumped more than a few times. It’s amazing what some developers can squeeze out of the console. One of the best games I’ve played on the system. I had feelings of watching Aliens for the first time.

Video Game Power Rankings #11

1. (-) Zynga and Google – This news game early in the week, but for those who watch these types of things, this was big. Google is getting ready to launch Google Games. Of course this leads to everyone coming up with the original name of “Googleville” all at the same time. So original!

2. (-) 1v100 – I never partook in the 1 versus 100 games on Xbox Live, but I recognized it as a very cool idea, so I was really surprised to see it being shut down. Hopefully something good comes from it.

3 (-) Megaman Universe – Can gamers get enough Megaman? I would say, “yeah, probably.” Capcom would say NEVER!

4. (-) God of War Movie Trailer – Hot on the heels of the excellently produced Mortal Kombat teaser/trailer is the indie version of the God of War movie.

5. (-) Little Chun Li – Too cute not to post.

6. (-) New Xbox Live Dashboard – It’s no secret that the Xbox Live interface has gotten too big for its britches. Images of the new dashboard were leaked (and instantly squashed). Joystiq still has the image. Doesn’t the take-down notice more or less validate things like this?

7. (8) OnLive – I’m not giving up on this service, the more I see stuff written about it, the bigger of a believer I become (although I’m still not sold on the prices). Joystiq took it for a ride and had good things to say.

8. (5) Dragon Age II – Not a ton of new Dragon Age 2 news but Game Informer has posted the first screenshots of the game.

Did I miss anything?

Weekend Gaming

Having finished Mass Effect 2 and still awaiting the arrival of Crackdown 2, I’m a little in limbo as to what to play next. I picked up NCAA 11 and will probably get a few games in on that, but that is a snack game, something I can pick up whenever. I think I’ll go back to Resident Evil 5 for a little. I’ve got a hankering for some more Mercenaries and some more unlocking. I love being the master of unlocking!

Of course, if Crackdown 2 shows up I’ll drop everything and go orb hunting. I’m fairweather like that.

What are you playing this weekend?