Monday Madness?

This is going to be a big madness. Due to recent excitement, we’ve got to catch up three weeks worth.

GAME: Gamers With Jobs featured a game a while back called Ether Cannon. It’s Asteroids with pretty visuals, concussion visuals.

PICS: Ever heard of the website PostSecret? Gamers With Jobs (again) started the same thing with games. The Teamfortress 2 pyro is my favorite. Post 1. Post 2.

GAME: Luminara, a much better take on Asteroidsómuch better. Now with trippy visuals, excellent controls, and a catchy soundtrack.

GAME: Do you like the Civilization games? Then you’ll love this FREE, dumbed-down, web-based version. Call it Ikariam. I’ll be sharing the server I’m on eventually.

PICS: Somebody took some screencaps of Metroid Prime 3 and made them 3D. I’ve got some glasses and I’ll admit: awesome. Thanks, Kotaku.

GAME: Audiosurf has recently added some new features. Why do I keep coming back to this game? Oh, yeah, because of allowing me to use my own songs. I don’t have to pay for each and every new song. Zing?

VIDEO: I usually cannot stand watching sportcasters, but somebody at TNT is teh phunny.

GAME: Zombies. That’s all I’m going to say. The Last Stand gets a sequel.

GAME: 1up has the first footage of Gears of War 2. Can you say $60 expansion pack? Sure you can.

GAME: Make your own Ouendan (Elite Beat Agents) clone for the PC. They’ve got video. N-E-A-T.

PICS: Warning! LEGO! I have two excellent posts. These guys have skills we should all have: the Germinated Ruby and the works of Izzo.

Well, the post was not as large as I thought after I weeded out some links I’d like to dedicate time for their own posts.

What I’m playing

I’m at a point in Ouendan right now that I simply can’t finish, so I think it’s a good time to step away for a little while and get back to some other games. This is what I had been playing, before Ouendan took over my gaming time:

Marvel Ultimate AllianceMarvel Ultimate Alliance – This was a rental for this past weekend. I played the first couple hours exclusively with my brother-in-law. He’s much more versed in the Marvel Universe, so he was much more familiar with the different characters available. I just know that Colossus has always been my favorite X-Men, so I played with him for the majority of the game while the bro-in-law was switching between a lot of the characters. The game is definitely a fun little beat-em-up romp. Not especially deep, but it does have some nice RPG elements. This is one I’d like to get some online co-op time with.

Image1.jpgGears of War – Speaking of online co-op, I’m still trying to get some online co-op in Gears of War. I was all set to do some co-op GoW’ing with Zonk but his 360 met an untimely malfunction and that prevented us from giving it a go. He’s all back up and running, so we’ve tentatively set up a future gaming time so I can finally give the game its final paces. I may also jump into some ranked games to grab some more achievements. Too bad the players found in ranked games are mostly from the dregs of society. You know how it is.

Burnout Revenge – I also picked up Burnout Revenge. I know I’m late to this game, but it’s still a blast. I’m slowly making it through, trying to get “Perfects” on every race. Once I unlock a couple of the faster cars, I’ll be jumping online to see if anyone is actually still playing this game.

And finally, now that I’ve evicted Ouendan from the DS, I’ll be going back to Contact. I was enjoying it before, so hopefully it won’t be a problem jumping back into the action. And as always, I’m still working off my debts to Tom Nook in Animal Crossing. I’ll be jumping on the WiFi to see if I can’t game the turnips market, so if you’re still playing AC:WW, let me know and you can come over and visit my town.

I’ve promised myself I won’t pick up any new titles until I see what Santa brings me, so this is pretty much what I’ll be playing until then. I’ll have to post my wish list soon. What are you guys playing?

Gears of War, a week later

Image1.jpgSo last Thursday, I finished the Gears of War single-player campaign. Here are some observations from the single player game.

I’ve noticed this a lot with games lately, but it seems like there is so much detail paid to setting the scene, creating the mood and starting the story that the rest of the game never lives up to the first few hours. I’m sure it’s not intentional and more of a consequence of schedule pressure and deadlines, but it’s unfortunate. Gears of War suffers a bit from this problem, but a bigger issue is a disjointed story. If you hadn’t been paying attention to the trailers and teasers before this game launched or if you hadn’t read the manual, you’d have no idea what was going on with the story. Then things happen so fast that there isn’t time to fill in the story. Things just happen, without a whole lot of explanation.

That being said, the pacing of the game is excellent. There’s no backtracking, no pointless objectives, just non-stop action. Checkpoints were seamless and the action moved quickly. This is the way action games should be paced. I just couldn’t believe how short the game was! I didn’t time myself, but I bet I didn’t spend more than eight hours here. That’s disappointing. Sure, I’ll spend some time trying the game at the higher difficulties and play a bunch of multiplayer, but the single player is just too short.

The actual game play is a mostly good with a few flaws. There have been many different descriptions of the in-game action. Some call it “stop-and-pop.” Hiding under cover and knowing when to pop out and shoot and when to blindfire, keeping yourself safe, is the name of the game. Me, I’d describe the game as a next-generation whack-a-mole. There were countless times where I’d be hiding under cover, being shot at by three different bad guys. I’d pop out to shoot and have to guess which of the three was going to pop up first. The first time it happened, I thought to myself, “I’m playing whack-a-mole.” What a buzz-kill that was. Where was the innovation? Where was the new game play? I sure didn’t find it.

After finishing the single player, I jumped on to Live to try out some multiplayer games. Most games are four-on-four, with different objectives like “killing the leader.” Most of the guys I ran around with were pretty cool and the games were fun but nothing special. The games are quick and demand teamwork, but with the pick-up ground aspect of matchmaking doesn’t really lend itself to developing that “teamwork.” Another problem with the matchmaking is the fact the game kicks you out to the main menu after the match is over. There’s no lobby or any other way to socialize. The games themselves are enjoyable but the overall experience was uninspired.

I was gonna try to jump into some co-op, but I haven’t been successful with that yet so far. Hopefully I’ll be able to give that a fair shake soon, to complete the experinece but overall, I’m satisfied. Not overwhelmed and definitely not blown away. This is not a 10/10 game. I would recommend this game with qualifiers. It’s short, yes, and it’s multiplayer experience is less-than-stellar, but it’s still a fun game.

Gears of War, Day 2

Gears of WarLast night I had a chance to put a little more time into Gears of War. Like I mentioned earlier, I definitely should have started with the “Casual” difficulty, as I’m enjoying the game a heck of a lot more now. Things are easier (duh) and move along a lot faster than before. I should note, though, that starting at a harder difficulty may actually be beneficial as I now have the skills to take the bad guys out with ease. At the “Hardcore” difficulty there was a lot of “blindfire” shoot-outs (blindfire meaning shooting at the badguys while staying completely covered. You don’t have much accuracy, but you stay safe from their gunfire). The enemies on the Casual level are easier to take down and don’t really coordinate themselves as well as they did on the harder level. I hardly ever have to resort to blindfire. I can’t begin to imagine how tough the Insane difficulty level will be. I imagine there will be a lot of blind shooting.

So the game has become a lot more fun. I can actually progress without having to do the same part over and over again. That definitely helps out in the “enjoyment” department. But I’m also seeing some flaws that I don’t like. If I catch a bad guy heading for cover and I start blasting him, he’ll zoom to safety at an unnatural speed. It looks like he’s warping through air to get to cover. I see it happening all the time and I don’t like it. If I catch him exposed, I should be able to put him down before he gets to cover. It’s cheap to see him safe behind a barricade when I could have easily dropped him before he got there.

The way the game handles your teammates survival is another thing I’m struggling with. I see why they did it (at least I think I do) but it’s still bothering me. If one your squad members is hurt, you can go over and “revive” him. It’s a good system. But if your mate goes down and you don’t get to him before you finish a set checkpoint, he’s immediately healed and waiting by your side. I assume they did that so you don’t have to backtrack and revive your comrade and then head back to the checkpoint. I get that. It’s just breaks the immersion a little bit.

Even still, GoW has a great single player game here, as I’ve not even touched the co-op or multiplayer parts yet. These flaws I point out are pretty minor, but still little thorns in the side of the game. I’m hoping to make some more progress this weekend and hopefully give the online portions of the game a go.

Gears of War First Impressions

Image1.jpgI had a bit of a scare right off the bat — I started up my 360 to the red ring of death. I panicked because I ran the Dashboard update last week and hadn’t booted up the 360 since. Just last night I chatted with a buddy of mine whose 360 died on him shortly after updating, so I was certain mine was down for the count, too. But I turned it off, took a deep breath, restarted it and it booted right up. Phew. I thought I’d be GoW-less for a minute there.

So, what to say about my first impressions? I’ll be honest — for the first half hour, I was not digging GoW at all. I didn’t like the controls, they felt too sluggish for me and things didn’t feel right. The action was intense, almost too much so. At times, so many things were going on around me that I was completely disoriented and going crazy trying to figure out what the frack was going on. I couldn’t tell my teammates apart from the bad guys. As soon as I’d find something to shoot at, someone was blasting me in the face. I had no idea how he got around me, but there he was, punching my face in.

Then I realized that all the mayhem was exactly how the game was supposed to feel. The bad guys were actually using a little bit of strategy. One guy kept me occupied with the other one flanked me. I finally got comfortable with the duck-and-cover gameplay and how to watch my back and things started to click. I was using the environment to my advantage and I was curb stomping grubs in no time.

I think my first mistake was not starting off with the easy/normal difficulty. I jumped right in with the higher difficulty and I think that hindered my progress. When I go back to the game tomorrow, I’m starting over with the normal difficulty. Call me a sissy, but I’d rather get a better hang of the game before I tried to tackle the harder difficulties.

Aside from the control issues I have primarily, I can say that Gears of War is, so far, an excellent game. The visuals are stunning. The details, like heat coming off the barrel of the gun to the sweat and grime on the soldiers arms, are amazing. I still can’t get over how good things look, especially on my standard-def TV. It looks FANTASTIC. The sound is great and the voice acting is a treat as well. Gears of War is one polished game.

I will say that the learning curve is probably going to be steep for a lot of people. I think it may turn some people off, especially those who will be hoping for a run and gun shooter. GoW certainly isn’t that at all. But if you’re willing to get past the learning curve, GoW is extremely fun. I can’t wait to get back to it.