Archives for December 2010

2010 Year-end Reviews

I started this blog to talk about the games I play and maybe write a review or two when there’s time, but when that time is so short, writing a review often gets put on the back burner and I move on to a new game.

But this year I played a lot of games and I finished a lot of games. I really want to review them, so over the next few days while I’m on break, I’m going to try to write a little about each game. The games I finished this year were:

BioShock 2
Splinter Cell Conviction
Mass Effect 2 (and almost all the DLC)
Metro 2033
Dead Rising 2 (and the Case Zero DLC)

I also played Halo Reach, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Dragon Quest IX, Recettear, Vindictus, Perpetuum, Fallen Earth and a ton of iPhone games. I’ll eventually get around to all of them, too.

Dear Vindictus

Dear Nexon/Vindictus,

Your game looks really good. It looks really fun. I actually played it for a few minutes before it dropped me. Never mind that it took me a couple hours to get that far. It took me about twenty times to start it before it connected to your servers. I played/watched the opening which was very nicely done. I even made it to the tutorial and was a few minutes in when it crashed. I haven’t been able to get the game to start, let alone connect to your servers, since.

I’d really like to play Vindictus. Please fix your game so I can.

Unconventional Mario Themes

So the other day I see this YouTube video of a student-built “musical instrument” made out of PVC pipes. It’s very clever to begin with, but when he starts playing the instrument things get downright cool. And as he’s going through his repertoire of songs, he inevitably gets to the Super Mario Brothers Theme:

Hit the jump for a handful of other Unconventional Mario Theme performances I’ve found
[Read more…]

Red Dead Redemption Initial Impressions

I don’t want to be given to hyperbole (or a parabola for that matter) so keep that in mind while I gush about my first few hours in Red Dead Redemption.

Metroid Prime scannerI have been “immersed” in games before. My go-to experience is always Metroid Prime. In Metroid Prime playing as Samus, you are all alone in a hostile environment getting involved in a mess you had nothing to do with. As you traverse through the different locations, you begin scanning the computers of the Space Pirates. As you go along, the messages become more and more about you and your exploits. They are hot on your tail and it really feels like they are just one step behind. The whole they had me believing that I was about to meet certain doom. I felt truly immersed.

In Red Dead, I’m not immersed. This place is real. I’ve never had an experience like the first couple of hours of this game. More than once I just got on my horse and rode around taking in the surroundings. It was quite amazing. This game might not be perfect, but I feel like it’s a real, breathing world. Like it was a place that I could do anything I wanted to.

So then I punched a horse.

The Liberation of Roma Has Begun: Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood

How do you take a powerful character in a video game and make him weak again? The usual trope is to remove weapons (and possibly skills). Ubisoft did that with Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, but they take it one step farther. They changed the combat.

I’m going to start with what I don’t like about the third game in this excellent franchise. I have never played a game a felt so conflicted. Love it? Hate it? I wish I knew how to quit it.

Combat. The changes to the combat in the game have been getting a lot of praises in the mainstream press. They love it. Certainly, it moves quicker and the “execution” animations are very cool, but I didn’t think the changes were all that necessary. Apparently, I was one of the few who liked the combat in the first two games and was able to master it. It took me a long time to unlearn all those skills and button combinations. Instead of a counter-attack type of affair, it’s become either counter, dodge, or kick with the order of the three listed from least to greatest. You’re going to kick—a lot. “Knee to the gut. Knee to the gut. Knee to the gut. Is he weak enough yet? Nope. More knees to the gut. He’s down? Oh, now I can use my weapon.”

This is a mixed bag because Ezio’s journey is not all that epic, but Desmond’s is pretty important. If anything, it’s a heavily glorified epilogue to Ezio’s story. He was powerful at the end of AC2, but not as much as you thought. Leonardo is back and he’s pretty much regulated to strictly weapons manufacture and destruction. He’s basically a store. All that cool stuff you worked hard for in the second game? Easy pickings here. Got the moolah? Ca-ching, it’s in your inventory. As for Desmond, I cannot say much because you do play a lot more as him and I enjoyed every minute of it.

100 % synchronization. HATE. Of all the things that Ubisoft added this is the one I dislike the most. Many of the missions have an added bonus requirement that range from incredibly easy to absurd. You can still complete the mission, but you won’t get 100% synchronization (completion) of the memory. Many times I would get within seconds of completing an objective, and I would be spotted by a guard (when normally not) or run out of time. After about 1/3 of the way through the game I basically said “forget it” and just went for mission finishes. (There went hopes of 100% total completion of the game.) Totally demoralizing.

Game progression.
Here’s a synopsis of my evolved thoughts as I played through the game: Neat -> Yes? -> Yes! -> Amazing! -> Game of the Year! -> Huh? -> WTH? -> Not again! -> No! -> Just finish the dang thing. There are a few missions towards the end of the game that take the established game rules and throw them completely out the window. Hyper-alert guards and bosses, Timed runs, and those incredibly stupid synchronization requirements. There’s an endgame weapon that should be the most amazing thing ever and ends up becoming and trial and error device. You have your other weapons on you but you are not ALLOWED TO USE them one bit. A few missteps towards the end diminished my enjoyment a little. The previous titles did rely on trial and error. Why do so now?

Even with all that, I still consider Brotherhood to be one of the better games of the year. Here’s what Iiked:

Mission variation. Even though it is set in one city, this game is HUGE and there are a large number of mission types. It’s never a dull moment traveling from place to place.

Recruiting assassins. Nothing is more pleasurable in this game than whistling while near an enemy and seeing your fellow assassins come from anywhere and stealthily take out a few adversaries. You recruit them, train them, and guide them to being a full assassin. They can die, however. Once an assassin reaches level ten there is a ceremony in your hideout. I had a problem with mine. My first one to do so, reached it during the endgame. A message constantly kept popping up saying I should go there and reward him. However, those endgame missions are closed. You play to the end. In the meantime I used him for one of those absurd missions for help and he died. No problem, I’ll just die and start over from the checkpoint. No freaking dice! I start from the beginning and he’s gone. All that work. Gone. Apparently when an assassin dies it remembers it even before a checkpoint. In the end it’s not a real biggie. Just train more. It’s fun.

Borgia towers.
Climbing towers is a a great mechanic for surveying the terrain. Ubisoft added this neat twist by having some of them be heavily guarded and with soldiers and led by a captain. You must assassinate the captain and then torch the tower to claim it. The ending animation for each one was an awesome stroke of badness as Ezio tosses a torch into the tower and jumps off the top. One caveat. The game has a tendency to show you the towers but then block you off from getting to them. You dies constantly due to going out of bounds of the play area. It’s confusing, especially when there are missions near those towers and you have to go around on an undefined map to get there.

Multiplayer. I think Ubisoft really hurt this title by focusing primarily on the online play in their marketing and interviews. It’s actually a small component of the game. The singleplayer dwarfs it by a longshot. However, In some cases Ubisoft was justified in mentioning it. It is a blast. Basically, it’s stab and be stabbed. It’s slow and methodical and a fine counter to all the twitch multiplayer titles.

Story. Even though I disliked it, I also liked it. (Figure that one out). This game does set the stage for Assassin’s Creed 3 and it’s going to be epic. Do I want to visit Ezio again. No. He’s awesome and my second favorite video game character of all time, but it’s time to move on before he becomes a caricature of himself. Desmond is going to rule.

Final thoughts.

I had more fun playing AC2 than I did this title. I was still thrilled but somewhat disappointed. However, it’s still one of the best titles that I’ve played this year. I had the chance to play it on my Acer XB and on my friend’s BenQ XR, these are the best gaming monitors.  I believe it to be a must buy, but be warned—especially if you were in love with the previous titles. It is different in some ways. There is nothing like the mythos of this series in video games. It should be experienced.

I played the PS3 version to completion at just around 26 hours. This has got to be the most disjointed review I’ve ever written. My thoughts are still mixed. Awesome but flawed. Flawed but awesome.

2010 Spike TV Video Game Awards Live Blog

8:03 – Got a little late start tonight, but here we are. Feel free to chime your thoughts throughout.

8:07 – As I watch the first nominee for Game of the Year, Call of Duty: Black Ops, I wonder how hindered my enjoyment of these awards will be by the fact that I haven’t played some of these game.

8:09 – Arkham City trailer. Wow. That looked pretty amazing.

8:12 – First award: Studio of the Year goes to Bioware. Great call, I thought Mass Effect 2 was one of the best games this year and The Old Republic looks awesome, too.

8:15 – I used to love Dane Cook, who is know announcing the first Character of the Year, but for some reason his humor just doesn’t do it for me anymore. He was great in Mystery Men, though.

8:21 – Bethesda announcing it’s new game: Skyrim. Very cool trailer with the stone carved dragon coming alive.

8:24 – Kratos and Mortal Kombat. BARF (<- that's PS3 envy, nothing more) 8:26 - Thor: God of Thunder trailer. Nothing earth shattering, but I’m guessing James is going to excited for this one.

8:28 – Next award: Action Game of the Year goes to Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. Another game I haven’t had a chance to play but I’ve heard nothing but great things about. Crowd reaction isn’t very positive, which probably speaks more to its excellence. The crowd shots look to be full of C and D list celebrities.

8:35 – Holy crap Denise Richards, that was some seriously horrible teleprompter reading there. Awful, just simply awful. Could you not practice once or twice before you came out? Ugh. And now it looks like My Chemical Romance needs the teleprompters, too. Our first moment of FAIL.

8:41 – Now talking about Mass Effect 2, another GotY nominee, which I wholeheartedly endorse. And now the Mass Effect 3 trailer world premier. Looks like Shepard has to save Earth. As if the universe wasn’t enough. The Mass Effect 3 trailer has a distinct Halo 3/Finish the Fight feel to it.

8:50 – Award: Best Shooter goes to Call of Duty: Black Ops. Yawn.

8:51 – Olivia Munn and NPH arguing who should be hosting the show. Very forced. But that leads to the premier of the Resistance 3. Which looks EXTREMELY lifelike.

8:54 – Oops, not anymore!

9:01 – I’m a big fan of Nick Swardson, but I feel like I should be ashamed for admitting that. His delivery kills me. These God of War stage effects are really distracting.

9:06 – Now were getting to the ridiculous awards: Best Performance by a Human Male goes to Neil Patrick Harris for Spider Man: Shattered Dimensions.

9:11 – Prototype 2 trailer on now. I played a good portion of the first one and liked it. This looks pretty much MOTS, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. That game is juicy.

9:17 – And now we are going to hurl chickens and pigs painted green. This obviously can only end in one way — AWESOMENESS.

9:18 – Of course, PETA had to come and ruin everything.

9:20 – Guillermo del Toro announcing his game — Insane. This guy seems pretty genuine. I like him. Three years out! If the creatures in the game are as fantastic as his creations are in his movie, this game is going to be awesome. He also announces the Best Independent Game, going to Limbo (again, another game I haven’t played yet. I am ashamed)

9:22 – Time for some Portal 2 goodness. Why do robotic eyes need to blink? That’s distracting, too.

9:26 – Now NPH is singing while they do a “Memoriam” of characters we’ve lost. This was actually very funny, especially the random civilian getting run over by a car (in GTA IV, I assume). Well done.

9:27 – And now they’re listing a bunch of awards that were obviously not important enough for their own announcement, including Mass Effect 2 as RPG of the Year.

9:32 – Red Dead Redemption, the next GotY nominee. Finally, a game I’ve actually played. Oh wait, no, it’s Jose Gonzalez playing music while Red Dead plays in the background.

9:38 – Dominic Monaghan absolutely bombing his bit before the Forza 4 announcement. Not that that is any surprise but it does come out of left field.

9:43 – This TMZ bit is good, too. Just like the show, they go through the stories and joke about it. Kratos eating a Greek Salad, Master Chief at the TSA, Pacman and Ms. Pacman getting divorced. That’s the second zinger they’ve had tonight.

9:44 – And from one good bit to another bomb — Nathan Fillion clearly flustered while the music swells over his own voice over for Halo: Reach.

9:48 – Here is the next world premier — SSX: Deadly Descents. These are starting to get old. Seems like they should have led with this one. Very weak.

9:54 – Award: Character of the Year goes to Sgt. Woods from CODBLOPS. I have no comment on this. Good call, I guess?

9:56 – World Premier — Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. You say Uncharted 3, I say The Mummy.

9:58 – And finally Game of the Year — Red Dead Redemption. Even though I’ve only clocked in around 5 hours so far, I also heartily endorse this award.

And we’re done.

I have to admit that this is the first time I didn’t feel insulted or pandered to during this incarnation of Spike’s VGA. I know what Spike deals in, and it’s mostly stuff I’m not buying, but on this stage that treated video games with respect and had actual gamers involved. There were some missteps (Denise Richards being the most egregious) but overall it was positive.

I can’t believe I’m actually typing this, but I enjoyed the 2010 Video Game Awards.

VGA Live blogging will occur

One of the first posts that garnered any real “attention” to was my Live Blog of the first Spike TV Video Game Awards. Four years later, I tried to do it again and couldn’t make it all the way through.

I will be subjecting myself once again to the pain. This Saturday, 8 PM I will be live-blogging the Spike TV Video Game Awards. Even I can’t explain why. But feel free to join in the craziness.

Misery loves company.

December Releases

We’re wrapping up the year of releases with a relatively light release list. Seriously. There is almost nothing outside of a couple games this month worth talking about. Now is the time to get to work on that backlog!

Xbox 360 banner

Week of December 7th
TRON: Evolution – This may be as good as it gets this month, folks.

Wii banner

Week of December 7th
Yogi Bear: The Movie
Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s Duel Transer
TRON: Evolution – Battle Grids

Week of December 14th
Super Mario All-Stars: Limited Edition – Okay this will be as good as it gets.

Nintendo DS banner

Week of December 7th
Touchmaster: Connect
TRON: Evolution
Mystery Tales Time Travel
Learn Science
Tin Can

Week of December 14th
Nanda’s Island
Treasures of Montezuma – Is this what you get after you eat some bad Taco Bell?

Week of December 21st
TrackMania Turbo

Week of December 28th
Shutter Island
Happily Ever After: Volume 1
Happily Ever After: Volume 2

PC banner

Week of December 7th
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm– OH yeah. Forgot about this one. Now I know why there’s nothing good coming out. Any WoW’ers here?
Physicus – Every Action Has A Reaction
TRON: Evolution
Bejeweled 3 – Wanna buy some crack?

Week of December 14th
John Daly’s ProStroke Golf
Farm Frenzy 3 – Bonus Edition

Week of December 28th
Shaun White Skateboarding (PC Game) – I don’t think I can think of a game I would want to play less on a PC than a skating game.

PS3 banner

Week of December 7th
TRON: Evolution

PSP banner

Week of December 7th
TRON: Evolution

What are you picking up?

(Note: As always, all links have our affiliate code embedded in them. If you purchase something through our link, we get a little commission. It’s appreciated.)

Education Gaming: Mission U.S.

Education Gaming: Mission U.S. This looks cool:

Entirely free and web-based, Mission US puts you in the shoes of a teenage boy in Boston just before the American Revolution. You have to complete a variety of tasks around the city while meeting people and making choices that affect the outcome of the game.

It’s the 21st century version of The Oregon Trail. Only this time kids might actually learn something.

In My Weekend Gaming Hands

This should be a BUSY gaming weekend for me. I picked up Just Cause 2 at Gamestop after Christmas shopping for the kids (Daddy took advantage of the Buy 2 Get 1 deal). Then, a friend also loaned me his copy of Red Dead Redemption. Two sandbox games should keep me busy for a while. Oh, and I picked up 4 GB of RAM for my Macbook and I have a ton of new games to play from the Thanksgiving Steam sale (both PC and Mac) so I have quite a lot on my plate. Oh, and I picked up where I left off in my Dragon Quest IX play-through a few months ago. So yeah, I have some gaming to do.

Can you tell college football season is over for me?

What are you playing this weekend?