December 27, 2005

Game of the Year

I have decided to go ahead and have my very own Game of the Year awards. Why? Because it makes me feel special, that’s why! I’ll be choosing my overall favorite game for each of the major consoles and then choose an overall game to take home the honors for 2005.

As a side note, I unfortunately do not have the luxury of playing every game released for all systems, so the games chosen will have to be taken from the limited number of games I have been able to get my hands on this year. Until game companies decide to start sending me free copies of their games, this is how it will have to be. (Note: to any game companies reading this who wish to shower me with free games. E-mail me. We’ll talk)

On to the awards . . .

Playstation 2

Winner: God of War

Sweet graphics, super-responsive controls, gore galore, bad-ass main character and hot chicks baring their breasts. If that isn’t the recipe for Game of the Year, I don’t know what is. In all seriousness, God of War is a fantastic action game that serves up a nice challenge, great bosses (if only there were more!!) and a solid story. This game was so much fun and pretty to look at, even my girlfriend used to like watching me play it.

Runner-up: Shadow of the Colossus

I wrote my thoughts on this game earlier. Check here or here. I don’t want to sound redundant.


Winner: Resident Evil 4

This game is just flat out fantastic. It has of the best graphics of any current gen game (prior to 360), amazing atmosphere, revamped gameplay, is pretty damn long, and keeps you on the edge of your seat at all times, even during cinematics (gotta be ready to input commands or you’re a goner). I had an absolute BLAST with this one.

Runner-up: Were there any other Gamecube games released this year? Because really, RE4 is the only action my Cube saw all year and that game came out in January!!! Sad. Just sad.


Winner: Ninja Gaiden: Black

I wrote about this game non-stop on this blog. I can quote my previous comments of God of War actually. “Sweet graphics, super-responsive controls, gore galore, bad-ass main character and hot chicks baring their breasts”. Well, they don’t actually “bare” their breasts in this one, but I’ll be damned if that Rachel doesn’t have some ridiculously large . . . .

Runner-up: Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

Chaos Theory was great. Close to next-gen visuals and probably the best stealth gameplay out there. If not for the fact that we have seen a Splinter Cell game every year since the series’ debut, this one might have won out. It just felt too familiar after all the yearly updates this series has been receiving.

X-Box 360

Winner: I wouldn’t fucking know since I have yet to get my hands on one!!! Argh!!!

Game of the Year - All systems

Winner: Guitar Hero

This was a tough choice for me. I have been playing Guitar Hero for about a month now and I am still enjoying it as much as when I first started. At the same time I look at it and its design and premise is so simple compared to games like RE4 or God of War. Plus, I’ve never been a fan of rhythm games and I hate to say it, but barely consider those games “games”. But in hindsight, seeing just how addictive, easy to pick-up, impossible to put down and down right genius this game is, I just had to give it the award. Besides, it boiled down to fun. And I have not had more fun with any other game this year.

Runner-up: Resident Evil 4

It was a close contest. VERY close. But Guitar Hero beat RE4 by the slimmest of margins. I couldn’t go wrong with either game though, since both equally deserve it. But I wasn’t going to cop out and hand out a dual-award.

December 23, 2005

King Kong

I watched King Kong last night. Unfortunately the theater I went to is located in a shopping mall. A large one. With another large mall across the street. For some odd reason I completely forgot about the hordes of last minute Christmas shoppers that pollute these places this time of year. Don’t know how ‘cause I used to be one of them. Luckily, my lovely girlfriend handles the bulk of our Christmas shopping now, so I don’t have to go through the torment and downright madness that is the last minute Christmas rush. But I got to experience it first hand last night anyway.

Note to self. NEVER go to a movie theater that is located in a mall the week before Christmas. Actually, scratch that. NEVER go within TWO MILES of any type of shopping mall/center/plaza the week before Christmas, even if the Victoria Secret models are giving away bags of cash and are entertaining bystanders by oil-wrestling in their trademark lingerie.

Anyway, enough about the commute there and the absolute nightmare it was to leave afterward, how was the movie?


King Kong is a roller-coaster ride. The movie has it all. Action, Adventure, drama, comedy, horror - you name it, it has it. You can tell how much fun Peter Jackson had making this film. If you want to nitpick you can say that maybe 10 - 20 minutes could have been shaved off. You can also point out that there are PLENTY of bullshit moments of characters surviving some pretty impossible scenarios and close calls. You can even point out some special effect shots that don’t look quite right.

But on that note, I will just like to say that aside from those instances where the effects aren’t as convincing as you would like (mostly always involving real people in the same shot as CG) the effects are simply mind blowing. Kong Kong himself is as close to perfection as it gets. Lets face it people, this movie will rise or fall depending on how believable its title character is. And believe me, does this movie rise. I am convinced Peter and his crew found some lost continent and trained a 25 foot silver-back to act. Kong is probably the single greatest special effect ever. His mannerisms were hauntingly real, he came across as majestic, innocent, intelligent and completely menacing all at once. It was him that always brought me back into the picture every time some of the aforementioned bullshit moments threatened to pull me out. When you forget you are looking at CG and see the character as something real and alive, then the special effects guys did their job right.

The entire Skull Island sequence had me with an ear-to-ear smile the whole time. I felt like a kid again, staring wide-eyed at the screen, taking in the amazing sights and sounds. I loved every ounce of imagination and adventure that Peter was throwing my way. B.S. moments came and went and yet, I couldn't stop smiling. I was having fun and I know Peter was too. Kong fighting three T-Rexes at once? Bring it on!!! Giant insects? Man, one of my favorite scenes and one that made the skin on the back of my neck crawl. Brontosaur stampede AND Velociraptors at the same time?! Sign me up Peter and may I have seconds?!?!?! Skull Islands gives you an overdose of non-stop craziness and visual splendor that you’ll not soon forget!

I hope that the box office sales for Kong pick up, because really, there are few movies that offer such a fantastically fun time for the price of one admission. Go out and see it, believe me, you’ll be glad you did on the big screen.

On a gaming related note, I know Peter Jackson has said that he is taking a little break from directing, since he has spent the last 10 years of his life working on LotRs and KK. But seeing that that he will be producing the Halo movie, it would be in every gamer’s best interest if he decided to direct one more movie before he takes his break. C’mon Peter, direct Halo! With you behind the wheel, we gamers might get something that has never been done before. A good video game movie. Without you . . . it’s anybody’s guess.

December 22, 2005

Blind luck

So yesterday morning I get to work and go to I notice that every site lists the 360 as “Sold Out” except for the ones selling $2000 “You’re an idiot if you buy this” bundles or eBay with their own overpriced rip-offs. For some unknown reason I leave the screen up and start working. I refresh the site every couple of minutes or so. Then the impossible happens. Circuit City is listing the Premium as “In Stock”. My heart skips a beat and I click on the link. Holy crap! They did have them in stock. I place my order for the Premium Bundle (Premium package, PGR, extra controller and a memory card). Circuit City, being the cool cats that they are, actually let you remove the items from the order that you don’t want, so I immediately get rid of the memory card and PGR. I’m furiously typing in my information, fearful that they might sell out any second. The site refuses my credit card three times before it finally goes through. My palms are sweating by now. I print out my order and wait for the confirmation e-mail that I should be receiving shortly.

Shortly my ass. I have heard horror stories of others that have placed orders on-line only to receive an e-mail stating that their order had to cancelled, or that it was on back-order. I was getting very, very worried.

I call up Powerpuff and tell him to get his ass to because I had just placed an order for a 360. Unfortunately, he was stuck in traffic on his commute to work and he wasn’t going to be able to check for a while.

Finally, around three hours later, I receive my confirmation. My order went through and the 360 is being sent to FedEx for delivery. I decided not to opt for next day delivery considering it was an extra $50, so it should be arriving within the next week or so.

I feel a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. That sense of desperation - of thinking “maybe if I go to Best Buy right now, or Target, I might find one” - is gone. That’s all behind me. If all goes as planned, I can stay home, relax, play Guitar Hero and let the 360 come to me.

Powerpuff wasn’t so lucky. They sold out well before the time he got to work. His search continues, but it won’t be as diligent as it once was. You see, spending a month tracking down a videogame system tends to wear a person down. Add to that bad customer service and rude employees, and after a while you just tell yourself, “To hell with this, I’ll wait until they are readily available everywhere”. It also doesn’t help when you walk into Toys R’ Us - after just coming away empty handed from BB and CompUSA - and seeing 40 Xbox 360 boxes stacked up, not a soul in sight. After you try to contain the girlish scream from escaping your lips and trying your best not to look like a five year old in a toy store running at the 360's at full speed, and once you get up to that ever-elusive box, that you pick it up and notice that they are all empty. All 40 of them. Nice Toys R’ Us, you fucking teasing bastards. Yes, all that happened to my buddy Powerpuff, so one can’t help but understand the frustration he feels. Hell, I felt it myself, and continue to feel it for him.

Fact is, this 360 launch has been an ugly one. Successful for Microsoft? Sure. They have the hottest gift of the holiday season. The system shortage has actually made people want a 360 more now than they probably did before. But what about the gamers out there that have yet to get one? All we wanted was to get a little gaming in, especially with all these great long weekends at the end of the year. Us, the fans who supported the original Xbox and made it what it is today, many of us are still left without systems, and yet hundreds of thousands of systems are collecting dust on Japanese store shelves. Bill, do you think maybe there was a reason why no other company has tried to do a world wide launch of a new system? That’s right, because it is not possible to do correctly. Now your biggest supporters and fans, the ones here in the good old US of A, are left with nothing, while your resources are going to waste elsewhere. That’s a damn shame.

Anyway, hopefully my unit will arrive soon. Hopefully, I’ll be able to give hands on impressions of this so-called “next generation”. And hopefully sometime in the near future, Powerpuff and I can finally do our all night Perfect Dark Co-op marathon.

December 16, 2005


I saw the Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe this past weekend. The movie was alright. Entertaining for the most part, although a little slow at times. Anyway, none of that is important. What is important is that as a fantasy fan (I grew up playing D&D and anybody that recognizes where my “Tanis” name is from knows what I mean) this movie serves up heaping doses of fantasy creatures left and right, all of which look better than anywhere they have previously appeared. The centuars looks amazing, the minotaurs ferocious, the satyrs fantastic and the griffons are the coolest fucking griffons I have ever laid my eyes on. The movie’s final battle is a fantasy buff’s wet dream. Man, I want a griffon of my own!!!

Surprisingly, the most impressive part of the special effects are not these amazing looking fantasy creatures, but the utterly believable real-world creatures that are rendered in the film - completely in CG. It is one thing to make a griffon look great, since ther are no real griffons to compare it to. But if you can convince the audience that you are watching a lion, wolf, or beaver talking on screen, you know you did a good job.

Here’s a little project for everyone. Go rent The Day After Tomorrow and look at the CG wolves in that movie. This is what bad CG animals look like. Now watch the wolves in Narnia. Wow. Impressive is not the world. And I really can’t say much about Aslan (the lion) except that he is one of the most impressive CG characters yet (right up there with Golem and King Kong).

Speaking of which, I can’t wait to see KK . . .

December 07, 2005

Rock n' Roll baby!!!

If you like rock or metal, or ever played air guitar while listening to a song, you owe it to yourself to pick up Guitar Hero for PS2.

Let me get the obvious pun out of the way early. This game ROCKS!!!!

No seriously, it rocks hard.

Even if you're not a big fan of rock, if you just want an insanely addicting, extremely satisfying game, pick up Guitar Hero.

If you play guitar in real life and want to trip out with a game that emulates the experience almost to perfection on a video game consle, pick up Guitar Hero.

People, please, just pick the game up so that it sells a ton of copies and sequels will be made!!! Please. You'll be doing the gaming industry a favor.

Now excuse me, but I must get back to rocking!

November 29, 2005

4 Day Weekend, cable problems and Morrowind

In light of the whole 360 shortage fiasco, my Thanksgiving weekend was spent playing regular old X-Box, instead of the nice new copies of Perfect Dark Zero and Call of Duty 2 which are in my possession.

Then, to add salt to the wound, when Comcast shows up on Saturday to finally hook up my cable and internet, the guy tells me that the construction workers that remodeled the apartment apparently cut the cable connection, plastered over it and put new molding there, so he did not have access to the cables he needed. So, no cable, no internet and no 360 for my much anticipated 4-day weekend. Joy!

I’ve taken a slight break from Ninja Gaiden Black. Since I’m playing through the game on hard now, if I didn’t take this break I foresaw broken controllers in my future. I tried playing Jade Empire, but for some reason, I wasn’t feeling it. Since I hadn’t played the game in almost a week I was finding it really hard to get back into it. Surprisingly, this same thing happened to me with Bioware’s previous game, KotoR. I stopped playing it for a while and really didn’t get the urge to pick it up again for months. This is strange because with Jade Empire (much like KotoR), when I’m into it you can’t pry the controller from my hands.

So, that pretty much left me with no games to play. I glanced through my game collection for something I hadn’t played in a while and one game caught my eye. Elder Scrolls: Morrowind Game of the Year Edition (long ass title!!). I bought this game over a year ago when it went down in price to $19.99 (I think it’s $9.99 now) and never really played it for more than a day. I had read all about it and I was always intrigued, so I had decided to buy it. I was never able to get into it since the game starts off pretty slow and it can be very overwhelming to a newcomer.

Since I had no 360 and one of the 360 titles I am most looking forward to is Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, I decided to give this game another shot.

Man, this game is fantastic. Sure, it takes about 20 freakin’ minutes to load up, but its level of freedom and depth is unmatched by any other game I have ever played.

The main thing you need when starting out is patience. Lots of patience. When it begins you are one weak, pathetic bastard. I was getting my ass kicked by rats, crabs, and pretty much any enemy I would come across. And since combat appears to be in real-time but the outcome is completely based on your stats and your enemy’s stats, it can get frustrating when your swing you sword at an opponent, or level arrows right at their chest, but you don’t hit them because your combat skills are too low. But one of the best aspects of the game is building your character from a pathetic fool to a total bad-ass. Although, keep in mind, that will take a VERY long time.

But what makes this game so great? The graphics are dated, the frame-rate takes a hit most of the time, the game tends to freeze every now and then for a few seconds and if you need to load a previous save, get ready for that 20 minute load screen again (for the record, it’s not really 20 minutes, it is more like three, but that’s still a long ass time!). But, this game is so ambitious and open ended, it overcomes all that.

Do you know how Fable was touted as being this amazingly open-ended RPG where you could do pretty much anything and go anywhere you wanted? Well, turns out it wasn’t. The funny thing is Morrowind was already all that and more.

When you’re starting a new game, you can customize your character to a surprising degree. You choose a race, birth sign, and character class. If you’re not sure which class to choose you can answer a few questions and have the game choose the best one for you based on your answers. Or you can create your own class, choosing the properties you want from all the different ones. Once the game starts you can then basically, well, do anything you want. The game will give you a letter and package to deliver to someone in a far off town and that is the only thing pushing the main narrative forward. You may decide to quickly deliver the package or just explore and find your own quests. Like I said, it can be overwhelming for newcomers because the game does not hold your hand and force down a certain path. All you have to go by is your journal, which you use to keep track of important events, conversations and quests as they come up, but it is up to you decide what you want to do and when.

One of the most impressive aspects of the game is that practically every item you see in the game world can be interacted with. The pen or paper on the desk, the cup, spoon or plate on the table, the bottles or jugs on the shelves, everything can be picked up, taken, stolen, and everything has a weight and value. Of course if you get caught stealing you will need to pay a fine or go to jail. But that’s only if you’re caught. A moral player can play the game never stealing a thing. Or, like me, you can join the Thieves Guild and steal until you can’t carry anything else. Speaking of Guilds, there are many to join and they are a great way to advance your character and get quests.

The game world of Morrowind consists of one giant continent that you can traverse however you want. You have to physically walk everywhere and it could take you an hour to walk from one side to the other. Luckily, the game offers some quick transportation from the main cities and towns in the form of Stilt Riders - big, ugly, insect looking creatures that transport you from location to location - or if you’re a member of the mage’s guild you can use their teleportation portals.

You can buy or find countless weapons and armor, some magical, some valuable and expensive, yet all of which show the wear of time after a while. So that nice sharp long sword won’t be so nice and sharp after slaying 100 foes and that new armor will have a few chinks in it after absorbing all that melee combat damage (the wear and tear isn’t visual though, but a meter next to each item lets you know its condition). These items can be repaired at a blacksmith for a price, or, if your character is proficient in it, you can repair them yourself if you have the proper tools to save some cash. The game gives you countless options. Savvy magic users can create their own spells, aspiring chemist can create their own potions using the game’s huge array of various plant life, animal remains, ingredients, etc. Experimenting with alchemy can yield surprising results.

Scattered throughout the world you’ll also come across hundreds of books, which you can actually read page by page. Granted, most are only a few pages long, but this just goes to show you just how insanely deep this game is. Some books even raise your character’s skills depending on the subject of the book.

Your character has a health bar, magic bar and a fatigue bar. The fatigue bar goes down whenever your character exerts himself, such as during combat or when sprinting, jumping or swimming. How much weight your character is carrying also comes into to play, since carrying close to your limit not only drains your fatigue bar faster, it also makes you move slower.

The game world changes from day to night and there is random weather, such as rain, thunder and fog. Depending on your race and affiliation, NPC characters will treat you different. NPC’s that like you will give you more information and offer you better rates when purchasing items or training. There are also Vampires and Werewolves in the game and if you get infected by those you become one two. You can try to have the curse lifted, but if you don’t within a certain amount of time, you are doomed to stay a vampire or werewolf forever, forced to feed on the blood of others. I haven’t had this happen to me yet since I’ve only been playing for a few days. And there are still many, many other things in the game I have not mentioned or even seen yet.

Of course, it is not perfect. Aside from the long load times and game freezes, there are a few questionable design choices. For a game that is so realistic and detailed, I find it funny that you can walk into anyone’s home and just wander around freely, going upstairs unsupervised and the owner of the house will not care or follow you. I also find it annoying that if you are caught stealing, when the guards confiscate your stolen goods they take ALL your stolen goods. Even stuff you might have stolen weeks ago in some town miles away. They should have no way of knowing what items are stolen, except for the ones you were caught taking at the moment.

Anyway, I’ve probably only put in 15 hours in a game that has well over 100+ of gameplay. Seeing just how amazing this game is, I really can’t wait for Oblivion. Like, I REALLY can’t wait. Since it looks like I won’t be playing a 360 anytime soon, I’m glad I discovered this game to keep me entertained. I only wish I would have realized just how cool this game is sooner.

November 24, 2005


360 Search Begins

As Tanis stated, I too was looking forward to finally playing Perfect Dark Zero in coop mode this weekend. I waited at two stores early in the morning prior to openning not releazing that the store managers had already passed out vouchers for the all the 360's they had in stock. I was majorly disappointed. But now the hunt begins, I will, I must have a 360 before x-mas... I will not waste two long weekends in a row Christmas and New Years not playing. I will keep you updated on my search here on the West coast and Tanis on his east coast search.

November 23, 2005

Empty Handed

So, anyone who read my previous post knows that I was supposed to get a 360 this past Sunday. Key word being “was”. Of course as it turns out (because nothing can ever go as planned), my so-called “hook-up” wasn’t, well, much of a hook-up.

I will not bore anyone with the details, but lets just say that I went from having a 360 Premium Package available on Sunday, to having to settle for a Core Package on Tuesday. And I refuse to waste my money on a Core package (I still think this was a stupid move by Microsoft).

So, much like Powerpuff, I am left with no 360. Disappointed does not even come close to describing how I felt. Enraged was more like it.

Here’s my problem. A month or so back, I was completely content with the idea of getting a 360 in December/January, whenever I could find one. I wasn’t really in a rush. Then this “hook-up” comes along and starts putting fantasies in my head of me getting one at launch. That’s when the excitement started to build. To a fever pitch I might add. So, now that I was so sure that I was going to get one, I am no longer fine with getting one on Dec/Jan. I want one now dammit!!!

I also have a shiny copy of Perfect Dark Zero in my possession. As well as Call of Duty 2. Staring at those game boxes and not being able to play them is not the easiest thing in the world.

It’s funny, Powerpuff and I were already talking about how we were going to be playing some co-op Perfect Dark this weekend. There’s some saying about not counting your chickens before they hatch, or some shit, that I am sure is applicable here. Fucking chickens.

November 21, 2005


Ok I finally gave in, while passing a Target I stepped in walking briskly to the electronics trying hard not to look like a geek with a stamp on my forehead "I NEED 360 RIGHT NOW". I search for a 360 kiosk only to be disappointed, then I see they do have around 10 360 game titles. Then I spot her she is on the cover beckoning to me, Joanna Dark, do I resist and what until I have an actual machine or do I justify getting it now, hey what happens if they run out !!!!! You know what I did, I walked out of Target with a copy of Perfect Dark Zero. But, I will not be talking photos of it to post on this blog or any web site, uhummm (losers!!!!!)
I will let you know what happens tomorrow if I even make an attempt of obtaining one of few 360 jewels.
Powerpuff signing out, I love you Joanna, I mean honey you know I love you, Joanna is just a game, a play thing.

November 17, 2005


Well here we are a few days before Microsoft launches its next gen console. Beating Sony and Nintendo to the punch. Let me take you back to E3 2001, I was working with Tanis, that's right we both worked together at one time. We were excited about E3 and the revealing of Halo and the Xbox. He sat in my office as we downloaded the video of Halo. We were instantly blown away at the level of detail and atmosphere of that opening sequence landing on the beach of the ring world of Halo, watching Master Chief kick alien butt. Tanis being a big Nintendo fan was also impressed with Microsoft first attempt into the gaming world. I could not wait until November to get a hold of an xbox. Fast forward to E3 2005. This time around Microsoft chooses to release a sneak peak of the 360 at an X Gen MTV event. Which ended up being a huge bust for Microsoft. Perfect Dark supposedly the Halo for the xbox360 launch, was a total failure. I won't go back over the history, we all know what happened. E3 05 for Microsoft left gamers with more questions than answers. Compared to the 2001 launch, Microsoft instead of improving upon there 2001 launch fell very short of their goal. People were all raving about Playstation 3 and the famous Killzone video. Since that time Sony has yet to capitalize or create further momentum for the Play Station 3. With no in game video for any of its games and rumors of an 2007 launch, this has given Microsoft the advantage it was hoping for. The bottom line is, has all this competition and posturing from Sony and Microsoft been helpful in creating games that we gamers have been longing for. So far I have to say the answer is no, not yet. Tanis has mentioned this before and I agree, Microsoft launching a year before Sony and Nintendo should not even be attempted if they are not ready. Clearly Microsoft is not ready, the current reviews of launch games should make Ballard wince. The 360 games revealed at E3 proves this point most of those that wowed us Gears of War etc. will not be released until 2006. Mean while Microsoft will still sell millions of consoles before Sony and Nintendo because they have both been no shows. With a launch dates of some where in late 2006 or even 2007 gamers are no longer willing to wait. With quality games 360 games in the middle of development, and being released prior to Nintendo and Sony console launches, it appears Microsoft has accomplished exactly what it set out to do. But, then why do I feel like we gamers have been royally given the shaft? If we want these companies to take notice and realize we the consumers are in control, they we need to stand up and put our money where our mouths are and not purchase mediocre launch games, we deserve better we have made xbox what it is today because of high quality games like Halo. I certainly hope Sony and Nintendo have taken notice of the mistakes made by Microsoft and get back to the business of making great games.

360 Thoughts

Well, the 360 launch is rapidly approaching and the first batch of 360 game reviews have surfaced on the net.

It appears as if every game is in the 7 to 8 range. Not bad, but no one is getting blown away by this supposed “next generation” of gaming. The tone of all the reviews are the same. The games are nice, they obviously look better, but not by as much as one would like. In the case of games that are out for current gen systems (Gun, Need for Speed, Tony Hawk, Madden and NBA 2k6), they play the same - maybe a hair better - and just sport a new coat of paint to catch the gamer’s eye. I can’t say I am not disappointed by the lack of enthusiasm I’m reading in these reviews. After all, the next gen jump isn’t going to be cheap.

The few games that have been designed specifically for the next generation (Call of Duty 2, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Gears of War) look nicer, but most of those have been pushed back. Kameo and Perfect Dark don’t fall into that list because they both started out as current gen games and I’m sure are not fully taking advantage of the 360 hardware (although Kameo has been getting decent reviews).

It appears as if sports gamers are getting the biggest shaft. So far, all the sports titles appear to be direct ports of the current games with beefed up graphics. This Q&A session with Visual Concepts over at Operation Sports confirms that developers had very little time to get these launch games ready. It is no surprise that the results so far have been underwhelming.

Of all these titles, I am most disappointed about Madden. Obviously right? I only wrote the largest blog post in history about this subject a few months back. The IGN review only made it worse. That review has got to be the most pathetic, non-informative, preview-regurgitated garbage ever written. There is zero content in that review. It doesn't answer any questions about the game or how it plays, except to reassure my fears that is plays exactly like the current Madden, complete with all its shortcomings. New engine built from the ground up? That's right. Built from the ground up to emulate the current engine exactly, except with "pretty graphics". It is almost as if the reviewer was avoiding talking about the gameplay because if he did, the final score couldn't be justified. Is this what we have to look forward to in next gen football for the next five years? Based on EA's track record with game engines and the lack of competition, I'd bet the farm on it. Or is Madden 360 just another victim, as are all the launch games, of a developer doing what they can with what was given to them. Microsoft after all deliver final development kits extremely late, forcing developers to patch togther these launch titles in a mere couple of months. I have really been on Madden’s case, especially after seeing all those screenshots and movies of NBA 2k6. Turns out, 2k6 isn’t the revolution I was expecting. The player models are amazing, but the rest of the game is virtually unchanged. It even has the same menus as the current gen version. Worse of all, only the player and court graphics received a face lift, the coach and fan models remained the same. At least we know Madden’s menus look pretty slick and it is using totally new player, fan and coach models. So, it seems unfair for me to pick on Madden when it appears all the launch games are suffering from the same issues. One thing that the other games didn’t do though, is remove features already in the game. No challenges, no create-a-player, no mini camps, no owner mode, no superstar mode. I don’t mind the lack of owner or superstar, but the others seem like pretty big loses. I will reserve final judgment on the game until I play it. I gotta admit, right after I read the IGN review I was fuming and was ready to come on here and thrash Madden to death. Powerpuff beat me to it, but I echoed his pain. I guess in hindsight, seeing that this appears to be the norm for launch games so far, dare I say it, it looks like Madden might have faired better than some of the other sports franchises. Am I still disappointed? Oh, absolutely. Am I going to get the game? I’m not sure. But I will let this one slide.

I blame Microsoft and what appears to be a hasty launch. It is obvious developers were not given enough time with the hardware to put together the games they wanted. But I will say this. If Madden 2007 (and this goes for all sports franchises) does not come out swinging and totally blowing us away with vastly improved visuals, gameplay and innovations, I won’t hold back, because there will be ZERO excuses for them to fall back on.

Anyway, I have a hook-up and I will be picking up my 360 this Sunday. I know I’ll be coming home with a copy of Call o Duty 2. Depending on the reviews for Perfect Dark or Condemned, that might be the only game I come home with. Madden 360? Tough call. I’m curious to see how others will score the game (Gamespot, TeamXbox). Maybe it is better that I don’t get it. With the expectations I have for next gen football games, playing the same old Madden - regardless if the graphics are amazing (which I really haven’t seen anything myself to suggest that) - I will probably just be disappointed and depressed.

I’ll be sure to post my impressions on the 360 ASAP. Probably won’t be on Sunday unfortunately, since I still don’t have internet at home (I’m getting it on the 26th. Honest!!). But I’ll be giving Powerpuff a call with my thoughts. Maybe he can post my quick impressions.

Anyway, here’s hoping for the best. I’ll continue to chime in as more 360 reviews show up.

November 15, 2005

Jade Empire

On Friday I passed by Best Buy and picked up a copy of Jade Empire. It was only $19.99, and since this was a game I always meant to play, I figured what the hell.

I’m about 10 hours into the game and I am thoroughly enjoying it, but I’m amazed at some of the review scores this game received when it came out. 9.9 from IGN. 9.7 from TeamXbox. The game is good, but those are some pretty high scores. This game is basically Knights of the Old Republic set in a fictional Asian-style universe and with real-time combat. But, KotoR was absolutely fantastic, so that’s not really a knock against this game. It is just that after KotoR, Jade Empire might be a little too similar. We have the same long and constant load times, same conversation system (which is very good, but flawed), and the same good/evil game mechanic, which again ultimately feels extremely shallow and cosmetic since the game basically plays the same regardless of which path you chose: the open palm or closed fist. Disappointing.

The graphics are far better than KotoR, but this is also tied with one of the game's biggest flaws. As with KotoR, the environments are completely un-interactive. You have a set pathway you may walk through but there are invisible walls everywhere. The environments feel like Resident Evil’s prerendered ones. They look nice, but you’re basically walking through invisible hallways. Areas you think you can go to are not accessible and so the whole world begins to feel extremely artificial after a while.

The gameplay can be pretty predictable and repetitive as well. You go to a new area, you talk to everyone to get info and quests, then you leave the town and enter the combat segments, followed by more conversations, rinse, repeat. Standard RPG fare, but it is getting dated.

And yet, even with its overly simplistic design, I cannot stop playing. Something compels me to keep going . It’s the same addictive quality all RPG’s share. I enjoy powering up my character. I want to see that next section and there is never a moment when I actually want to stop playing. After all is said and done the game is just fun to play. I don’t think I can play another game using this mechanic though. I never played KotoR 2, but after playing the original and now Jade Empire, the engine is getting a bit tiresome, so I don’t think I would be able to play another full game using it unless major changes are done.

So, Jade Empire is a very solid RPG, which would be fantastic if it didn’t play so similar to KotoR. I haven’t finished it yet, so I don’t want to give it a final score, but so far it is looking like a solid 8.

EA sells out its Fans

Ok they took away all the features that made Madden a better game !!!! Nevermind the graphics we willl put that to the side... This is sad, what we feared apparently has happened. I hope next year that put all those features back and make serious upgrades to the graphics. But like you said this is it we are stuck with this games engine for the next 5 years.... This sucks !!!!! EA's take is screw the fans that mad Madden what it is today, lets dumb down the game in order to attract new people to Madden. Which is stupid no one is forced to play Owner or Franchise modes, no one is forced to play the mini-camp games. This is something that could have been kept. But no EA will add these features in the coming years to suggest hey look we improving the game, BULL !!! We see right through you EA. Nothing will change unless people don't purchase the game and send a ton of emails to EA complaining. EA understands only one thing, $$$$$$$$. Reviews such as IGN's are just not helping the cause. Thanks for nothing, IGN... Hmmmm what is that smell, I think it smells like selling out to EA.

November 10, 2005


Everyone join me in wishing Tanis A HAPPY BIRTHDAY !!!!

Halo 2 in 720p!

What I consider to be some pretty fantastic news was announced yesterday as Bungie - in celebration of Halo 2's 1st year anniversay - revealed that both Halo: CE and Halo 2 will be backwards compatible with X-Box 360 right out of the box and will run both games in wide screen, in 720p, and feature full scene anti-aliasing!!!!

I hope this is the standard for all backward compatible X-Box games. I can't wait to see Halo 2 running in glorious 720p!!! For those that want to see if the jump from 480p to 720p is really much of a difference, go look at MVP 2005. The jump in resolution is immediately noticable.

And for those out there who have yet to take the plunge into the HD realm, I understand. While HD sets have gone down in price, it is still a hefty wad of cash you have to pony up. But for anyone playing a 360 on a 4:3 non-HD display, trust me, you are only seeing half of what the games are capable of looking like.

OXM and stuff . . .

I finally received the latest copy of OXM. I have been eagerly anticipating this issue for the video demo it has on Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion for 360.

Quick impressions of the video. First of all, I don’t think the video was showing the 360 version of the game. It looked to be the PC version, ‘cause it definitely appeared as if the on-screen cursor was being manipulated by a mouse instead of an analog stick. The video is broken up into sections. The Introduction shows the beginning of the game, which has your character locked in his jail cell as the king and his guards barge in to use a secret pathway that happens to be right in your cell. The graphics look pretty spectacular. The textures and lighting really have a next-gen look. The physics are also impressive, as the character manipulates some hanging chains and bones that are scattered on the cell floor, they all react with convincing real world physics. Another video shows off the game’s forest environments. These virtual forests look fantastic and are by far the most impressive graphical aspect of the game. Individual leaves and blades of grass sway in the wind and are affected by the realtime weather of the game. There is a video devoted to stealth and another about the game’s advance A.I. The NPC characters all follow their own individual 24/7 schedules. They sleep when they are tired, eat when they are hungry, and do different things when they are bored. The A.I. video showed a lady taking target practice with a bow and arrow. When she realized she sucked at it, she walked toward the desk and drank a potion that improves accuracy and then she couldn’t miss. She ate and slept and even reprimand her dog who was being noisy. All these actions were dictated by her A.I. and were not preinstructed actions according to the developers. Pretty impressive stuff if you ask me.

However, there was one problem I had with the game. Graphically, as I stated, the textures, lighting, character models and physics come together to create a pretty impressive visual feast, but the animation has some problems. The NPC characters tend to walk a bit stiff and robotic and combat does not look fluid or realistic at all. It is understandable, considering the way the game is played, but it was the one glaring flaw I saw from the video. I’m sure it is completely unnoticeable to the player who is caught up in the heat of battle though. The effect is also enhanced because the visuals look so amazing that the awkwardness of some of the animation stand out even more.

But overall, I gotta say I came away impressed. This is one of my most anticipated 360 games. I’m worried though that with its complicated A.I. system and the fact that it is such an open ended game, that it will be extremely buggy when shipped. It’ll almost surely require a few patches. Man, I never thought I’d be saying that about console games.

As far as playable demos, the disc has a few of them. Most notable I guess could be Castlevania: Curse of Darness. Now, I don’t know if it is because I have been playing Ninja Gaiden Black for a month now, but the Castlevania demo was god awful. And I mean awful!!! The graphics were pathetic (I thought Konami had more talented programmers than these?) And the gameplay was extremely shallow and boring. I was bored after two minutes of play. Really, this game was bad. I hate to judge games based on demos because I’ve seen many demos that don’t do justice to the finished product, but man, go play Ninja Gaiden and tell me if that game doesn’t run cirles around this Castlevania crap. And I love Castlevania!!! Symphony of the Night is one of the greatest games ever!!!

The Spartan: Total Warrior demo was also kinda blah. Kindom Under Fire: Heroes was boring. Heroes of the Pacific - a flight sim - was actually pretty cool. I have yet to play the other demos, I’ll probably get to them tonight. I really want to try the Without Warning demo, because the magazine ripped the game a new a-hole by giving it a 1.5 review score, calling it one of the worst X-Box games ever. Shame, it has a cool premise and concept.

I’m curious, if there is anybody out there that has the retail version of Castlevania:Curse of Darkness, let me know your thoughts. Because based on the demo, all those 7's I see the game getting in magazines and websites seems high to me.

On a different note, tomorrow is my birthday and I’m staying home all day and will be bumming out. I’ll play some more Ninja Gaiden (I’m by that Alma-bitch-of-a-boss again, only on hard this time. Arrgghh!!!), and I’m trying the time attack mode in SotC. That should keep me entertained for a while. I might watch the Episode III dvd too. Not sure.

November 09, 2005

Best Ending Ever?

I beat Shadow of the Colossus the other day. That final Colossus was a pain in my ass!!! I kept getting thrown off and having to climb up again (which was a long process), but ultimately it was a satisfying battle. What followed was one of the most rewarding endings I have seen in a long, long time. Maybe even ever.

About 95% of the games out there have really disappointing, lackluster endings that leave you wanting more after devoting a large amount of time to beating said game. SotC’s ending certainly does not disappoint for feel lackluster in any way. It wholly satisfies. First, it has got to the longest ending I have ever seen. There is nothing worse than reaching the end of the game, watching a 10 second cinematic and then seeing the credits roll. No, this ending must have been a good 15 minutes long, complete with additional playable sections (which unfortunately are mostly cosmetic since you cannot change the outcome, but cool just the same) and continues even after the credits roll. Why don’t more developers devote time to a game’s ending? They almost always seem tacked on, as if they were an afterthought. Halo 2? C’mon now, that game was incomplete. No way the developers intended that game to end so abruptly. They just ran out of time. Ninja Gaiden Black? After how freakin’ hard the game was, I wanted something a little more rewarding. I am sitting here trying to think of other game endings which were good and I’m having a hard time remembering any. Do you know why? Because they all sucked!!! I can clearly remember Ico’s ending, a game I beat 5 years ago. Why? Because it was awesome!!! Yet, I just finished beating Far Cry Instincts not too long ago and can’t really remember its ending. Something about jumping into a helicopter. Big f’ing deal.

So, come on developers. Don’t get lazy, plan ahead, and take a look at Ico and SotC as examples. A game’s ending matters!!! Reward the player for seeing a game to the end. Unfortunately, I think things will get worse before they improve. With the popularity of on-line play, developers are devoting huge amounts of time to that aspect of a game. Single player games - while in no danger of going the way of the dodo yet - will begin to decline, both in quantity and quality. I don’t think gaming will ever become completely multiplayer (man, that would suck), but I do think that as more and more people get into on-line gaming and developers continue to focus on that aspect, we’re going to get more poorly implemented or tacked on single-player campaigns, and unfortunately, more poorly conceived, short, boring game endings.

November 04, 2005

Who the Hell is Powerpuff !!!

Yeah I am still around... Xbox broke like 2 months ago. Tanis thinks it was a cleaver conspiracy on my part, to get the lovely wife to purchase me a new 360. Hmmm we will never know, but apparently it worked, the wife has agreed to purchase one for our combined Christmas and birthday gift, my sons birthday is also in December. It has been rough not being able to pick up that xbox controller. Though I do on occasion sleep with the controller.... Just please don't let any one know about this is a secret between me and you ;). My love for gaming continues though my lack of time for it seems to decrease for it on a daily basis. My son who is a freshman in high school has asked me regarding colleges that have a video game design school. Fortunately for me our States University does have a program. A boy after my own heart !!!
Any way I am still around, look for me online in the near future on xbox live for the 360. Look me up you know the name.

Powerpuff; I am otta here

October 31, 2005

Powerpuff, where art thee?

In case any of you are wondering whatever happened to powerpuff - the originator of this very blog - I just wanted to let you all know that he is alive and well. Of course, I’m just humoring myself. There isn’t anybody out there wondering about powerpuff. There isn’t anybody out there period. It is a lonely world out here in Blogville. I keep on writing because I enjoy it, but really, who reads this stuff besides my friends? And I force them to read it.

But anyway, back to powerpuff. He lives a busy life. He has a family, kids, a job, you know, responsibility, and he still manages to sneak in some gaming when he has the chance. He’s a real hardcore gamer, because he has to work at finding time for it, not like the younger blokes that can devote all their time to it and have their parents pony up the cash for their expensive hobby. Yeah, when you don’t have to pay a mortgage, electricity, water, phone, cable, car, insurance and credit card debt, gaming is what you do to pass the time, not what you try to make time to enjoy, like us gamers with jobs (great site by the way, check it out). I guess I fall somewhere in the middle. I have my full-time job, my lovely girlfriend and we have our mortgage and bills to pay as well. No kids yet, so that leaves lots of extra leeway when trying to squeeze in the gaming. Not to mention that my girl is super cool about letting me play.

But I’m veering off topic again. Good old powerpuff. Powerpuff and I were going to take the ultimate gaming pilgrimage next summer. We had our sights set on the mother of all gaming shows, E3. Our imaginations ran wild with all the possibilities. But, our “great journey” (a lil’ something for the Halo fans) will be put on hold. Powerpuff is going back to school next year to get his masters, meaning, he’ll have even less time to devote to gaming. Poor bastard. I see him living vicariously through me for the next couple of years, as I’m filling him in on my gaming experiences, X-Box 360, PS3, etc. But, I just want to say, good for him. He’s going to be pursuing what we all want: working in a field you have a genuine interests in. In his case, Medicine. I wish him the very best. I’m sure he’ll chime in now and again to discuss some gaming, because it’s in his blood. This is not something you can get rid of or “out grow”. Gaming is a part of us and we’re stuck with it for the long haul.

And our E3 trip hasn’t been cancelled. Just postponed. We’ll get there. Whether it’s the following year, or for the unveiling of PS4, we’ll be there. You can bet on it!

Let there be light!

On Saturday I finally got power. I went a total of 5 ½ days living like the Amish (how they do it I’ll never know). Again, not bad considering that some people still don’t have power (or worse, a home) but by my calculations it still felt like three months.

So, the joys of electricity meant we had the ability to stay up past sundown, find out what was happening it the outside world and close our windows and live the way God meant us to live - with air conditioning (I live in Miami here folks!).

Now that I had power I could also get back to that little game I’ve been obsessing over for the past 2 weeks, so Sunday morning I get up early and attempt to beat Ninja Gaiden. I succeeded after trying many, many times to beat the final boss. The ending wasn’t anything special, but the real reward is knowing that I just beat a damn hard game. I immediately started a new game - on hard this time - thinking I’ve got the skills necessary to tackle this new difficulty level. I immediately get my ass handed to me. Damn. I somehow make it to the first boss, stumbling in with a black eye, bruised ribs, messed up knee and very few health potions, and he proceeds to give me the beating of my life. Not only that, but he wasn’t alone this time. As if he wasn’t hard enough, they now have a few extra enemies in there with him to up the ante. Now, these enemies were the same ones that gave me the black eye, bruised ribs and gimpy knee while trying to make it to the boss, so the fact that there are more of them here AND I have this big-ass nunchaku swinging mo’ fo’ just makes it all the harder. After trying several times to beat the level, I decided to turn it off and play some Shadow of the Colossus. Man, I thought I would have been able to at least pass the 1st level on hard my first time through. This game is brutal!!!

I highly recommend anybody who is playing Ninja Gaiden Black to also play Shadow of the Colossus at the same time. After the constant dying and swearing you’ll go through in Black, SotC’s empty, beautiful, relaxing and serene environments is just what the doctor ordered to calm you down.

I have now taken down 10 of the giant beasts and each encounter has been memorable. The game is one of a kind. Like I mentioned in my first post about this game, it is definitely not for everyone. Aside from taking down the Colossi there is very little to do. There are no other enemies or objectives. The most you can do is just explore the vast terrain, taking in the vistas and tracking down the various fruit trees and white-tailed lizards to increase your like bar and grip meter. Maybe that is why it is such a great game to play in conjunction with NGB. The games could not be more polar opposites of each other. On one hand you have NGB, the very definition of action, a game that constantly has you fighting four or five enemies at once and moves at a blistering speed. On the other you have SotC, a game that features only 16 enemy encounters in the entire game and those could be far, far apart. Two games that are completely different and both completely engaging and satisfying at different levels.

I’ll continue to take down these Colossi and I’ll attempt to get through NGB on hard. I also have Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood, but I am having serious technical difficulties with that game. The game freezes constantly, the sound comes and goes and is delayed on occasion. It is very annoying and completely ruining the experience for me. I’ve heard others are having this problem and it stems from X-Boxes that use the Thompson drive, which I unfortunately have. This is the only game I own that gives me these problems (the first BiA worked fine) and I’m pretty pissed off. I was looking forward to EiB, but every time I play it I can’t go more than an hour or so before turning it off in frustration because of these problems. I hope Gearbox releases a patch to address this. It kills the game for those unfortunate souls that have the dreaded Thompson drive. Please Gearbox, help us!!!

October 26, 2005

Hurricane Wilma

Well, Wilma has come and gone and left us in the stone age down here in Miami. Thankfully we’re not even close to the levels of devastation left behind by Katrina in states like Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi (those poor people). We still have a functioning society, but, without power you really tend to notice how much we take for granted in this age of technology. Everyday things like flipping the light switch when you’re going to the bathroom at 2 a.m. or taking a nice hot shower, really seem like bigger deals when you can no longer do them. Luckily, I have a gas stove so I can still cook hot meals, but I know many others aren’t so fortunate.

Estimates for when the power will be restored are anywhere from a day to four weeks. Not every unlucky soul will have to wait the full four weeks to receive power, but you never know. It’s now been 2½ days and it feels like an eternity. It really sucks when come 7pm and everything gets dark, there really is little to do. Especially when you have Ninja Gaiden Black and Shadow of the Colossus just begging to be played.

Now, I don’t want to sound shallow or heartless considering there are far more pressing issues after a hurricane than whether or not you can play a bloody video game, but you know, this blog is about gaming, so dammit, I’m going to write about gaming!

The night before the storm hit I made it to the end of Ninja Gaiden Black (at least I think it was the end). I didn’t actually beat it, but I know I am close. I fought the boss a few times and died and decided to give the game a rest since I had already been playing for about four hours (like I said before, the game is like crack!) I popped in Shadow of the Colossus which I had just purchased and immersed myself in its goodness. I took down the first four colossi before I had to stop playing (I had to get to my dad’s house to start putting up hurricane shutters). The game is dreamy. Each colossal encounter has been a memorable one. The graphics are beautiful. Yes, it has some technical hiccups. The frame-rate and camera can act up a bit and the resolution isn’t the sharpest around (of course, after playing nothing but Ninja Gaiden Black for a week, any game’s resolution will look under par). But the total package of the visuals and art style delivers a truly magical experience.

I’ll write more on this game as I sink my teeth into it further. I’ll also write my thoughts on NGB’s finale. Hopefully, this will happen sooner rather than . . . in four weeks. =(

October 19, 2005

Ninja Gaiden Black

On Saturday I finally purchased Ninja Gaiden Black. After logging in what must have been 12 hours of playtime in just two days, I can't believe that it took me so long to get this game. It is one of the finest games to come out this generation, right along side Resident Evil 4, God of War, Halo, Metroid Prime, Ico, etc. It might be the best action/adventure game ever made. It is incredibly deep, yet instantly accessible. It is absolutely gorgeous. Oh man, is it gorgeous. Its gameplay is like crack. Whenever I'm not playing it, I'm thinking about playing it. The game is also hard. Über hard. Like one of the hardest games I have ever played kinda hard. And I'm playing on normal. There are still three harder difficulties waiting for me.

This game is seriously for hardcore gamers. Sure, anyone can pick up the controller, start smashing buttons and make Ryu pull off some very impressive combos. But those same players will never pass the first chapter. You heard me. This game requires complete skill to play. Every attack needs to be planned. And as impressive as your character's arsenal of offensive moves is (and believe me, it is pretty spectacular) in order to master this game your character has to be a defensive monster. It is all about blocking, rolling, jumping and counter attacking. This is a game in which your regular standard enemy - the ones you face by the dozens - can kill you in seconds if you're not careful. The boss battles are tests of patience. Not just the patience that is required while fighting them to wait for the opportune moment to attack, but your own inner patience as a person, since you might get killed 30 times trying to beat a single boss before you succeed. On Sunday, I spent three hours trying to beat one boss. THREE HOURS. Now, in the middle of those three hours I took a break to watch the Dolphin's game (big mistake considering how they played), but the total time I spent dying, continuing, dying, trying a new strategy, dying, repeating, was just over three hours. In any other game, I would have already broken my controller in half, thrown my X-Box out the window and taken a baseball bat to my tv in sheer frustration. But for some reason, I didn't. I just keep trying over. This game beckons me to play, more so than any other game I have played in recent memory. What kept me going was that I wanted to pass this boss just so that I could continue with the game. I wanted to keep playing. And believe me, once you do manage to beat a tough boss/section of the game, you feel like you really accomplished something. I actually stood up and cheered after I beat that f'ing boss.

The controls are nearly flawless, with really the only issue being the camera. Even though NGB now features a controllable camera (the original release didn't) it still tends to have trouble keeping up with the action (the game is that fast).

Graphically, this game might not have an equal this generation. This is the sharpest, smoothest, most colorful game I think I have ever played. The graphics really are so crisp and hi-res that even though the game only runs in 480p, if you told me it was actually running in 720p I'd believe you. It looks that incredibly sharp. It runs along at a blistering 60 fps. Character and enemy models are impeccably detailed and animated and I know I sound redundant, but the game is just super sharp, smooth and crisp, with some fantastic textures, gorgeous water effects and some impressive particle/spell effects.

I believe I am about halfway through the game. I actually don't want it to end, but I am already getting ready to play through it again on a harder difficulty. Sure, it might be one hell of a challenge, but I'm up for it. The beauty of a tough game like this is that it forces you to become a better player. You can't get by being lazy and just mashing buttons, or relying on super powerful weapons. As your weapons improve, so do the enemies, so you're never at the point where you just begin to overpower everyone. But after you clear a room full of bad guys, blocking, decapitating, throwing and finishing off the last one in a visceral ballet of blood and acrobatics, you feel proud at what you accomplished and you felt in control the entire time. And man, does it look cool too!

Is it a flawless masterpiece? Of course not. Some save points are very far apart, forcing you replay long sections over again if you die (which you will die, often). In fact, I hear that towards the end you are forced to fight multiple bosses in a row without the ability to save after each one. I REALLY know that is going to bother me. Especially considering how damn hard these bosses are. But in the end, I cannot stop playing and that is what counts. I have not been this addicted to a game since the 16 bit days. Maybe it is fitting that feeling has been rekindled by one of my favorite old school franchises. I cannot wait to see what Team Ninja has in store for us in the next gen systems. Should be fantastic.

October 10, 2005


When Brother’s in Arms: The Road to Hill 30 was released, I snatched it up, played through it, and enjoyed the game. Its strategy and squad aspects were fantastic and really helped separate the game from the countless other WWII shooters out there. Yet, after playing through the campaign in both Normal and Hard mode, I came away with a solid WWII fps, but yet, one I still felt came up a bit short. It was fun and all, but it still felt like something was missing.

In the recent OXM demo disc, I tried the demo for the game’s sequel, Earned in Blood. Playing through the demo rekindled my interest in BiA, and since I now have my new HDTV and I finally hooked up the surround sound, I decided to play Brothers in Arms one more time. Only this time, in Authentic difficulty.

Man, this is what I’m talking about!!!

Authentic difficulty is just what this game needed! Now, my pulse was really racing and I felt like I could be killed at any minute. It was challenging. There are no icons to let you know where enemies are or when they are suppressed, and the real kicker, there are no checkpoints. If you die, you have to play the entire level again. Yes, that can lead to mucho frustration down the line. But for some reason, it wasn’t as big a deal as I thought it would be. It just really made me take my time and plan my attacks.

And just like that, Brothers in Arms became hands down the best WWII shooter I’ve ever played. Now all of a sudden, Earned in Blood can’t come soon enough.

Actually, EiB is out already and has been for a week. I’ve been too busy playing Far Cry Instincts to pick it up though. I’ll write my impressions of Instincts soon.

September 30, 2005

Gamer’s Dilemma

Man, it’s hard to be a gamer sometimes. So many choices. So many games. So many systems. So little money.

We’re getting close to the release of the first Next-Gen system, the X-Box 360. That sucker will set me back $400 (‘cause really, what real gamer is going to get that piece-of-shit Core Package). Toss in a game or two (now at the great low price of $59.99) and I’m down $560, counting taxes. Ouch.

But wait, there are still plenty of games for the current systems that I want too! Let’s take a look, shall we?


Far Cry: Instincts -The demo was great. Reviews have been extremely positive. Plus, I love me my FPS’s

Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood -Loved the first one, I’ll explain more in a future post

Ninja Gaiden: Black - I’ve been meaning to buy this one since the original was released a year ago!

Half-Life 2 - With all the money I spend on console gaming and dvds, I don’t have the flow to purchase a PC that can play this baby properly, looks like I’ll get my fix on the X-Box.

GTA: San Andreas - Never bought the PS2 version because I was waiting for the X-Box version. Now it’s been out for months and I still haven’t gotten it.

Ghost Recon II: Summit Strike - I have no idea why, but I really want this game.

Blitz: The League - Well, I don’t know if I really want this one yet - I gotta see what the reviews look like - but I like the concept and the graphics look sweet. Not too fond of the 8-on-8 action, but what can you do?

Black - Practically zero info on this one, but those Criterion boys do know their programming.

Jade Empire - Yeah, I’m really behind on some games. This is one of them.

Conker - The original N64 version was one of my favorite games on that system. I want to play it now with the pretty graphics!


Shadow of the Colossus - Read the previous post for my thoughts on this gem.

Metal Gear Solid III: Subsistence - After MGS2's convoluted story, I was turned off my the MG series. But, MGSIII’s great reviews have rekindled my interest. Since this upgraded version of the game is coming out, I’m waiting for it.


Zelda: Twilight Princess - I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Ocarina of Time is my favorite game of all time, so this is a no-brainier. Plus, it might just be the last normal, playable Zelda released - have you seen that dvd remote control Nintendo is trying to pass off as a game controller? They are a zany bunch I tellz ya!

So, there you go. I think the grand total of the above it like 10 million dollars. Or maybe it just feels that way. Either way, with a full-time job and girlfriend, when am I going to find the time to play all of the above? Yup, it’s hard to be a game sometimes.

Shadow of the Colossus

A few years back I was obsessed with a little gem for the PS2 called Ico. That game is so beautiful, ethereal, surreal and just plain fantastic that it is the closest gaming has gotten to being an art form. It is close to the top of my list of five best gaming experiences ever. I've waiting for a sequel to Ico since the moment the credits ended. Well, I'm not getting a sequel to Ico, but I am getting Shadow of the Colossus, the next game by the creator of Ico, which could be described as Ico's spiritual successor.

I recently purchased the October issue of The Official Playstation Magazine because it had a playable demo of SotC. This game had fallen off my radar in the past few months, since almost of my gaming has been on the X-Box these days. But, that was before I played the demo.




First, much like Ico, this game is definitely NOT for everyone. One of my biggest pains as a gamer was that a gem like Ico was met with very little fanfare. It just didn't sell very well. Why does that bother me you ask? Not because I want more people to play the game, not at all. I could care less if Joe Schmoe - who plays games because some commercial made it look "cool", or because it's about gangsters killing rival gangsters - plays Ico or not, because quite frankly, Joe Schmoe is not going to appreciate the true masterpiece the Ico is. No, instead it upsets me because the creators of Ico deserve to be rewarded with mounds of cash for trying something truly unique, truly non-mainstream and for not giving in to the normal conventions of gaming. Ico was perfect the way it was and it wasn't bastardized by the interference of marketing surveys, stockholders, or catering to the lowest common denominator. The game's director had a vision and that vision was seen through. No compromises. And for that, he and his team should be rewarded.

But I digress. This post is not about Ico, it is about Shadow of the Colossus. And this game takes all that I previously mentioned and runs with it. Yes, he's done it again. A game that looks at gaming slightly different. A truly beautiful game, so amazingly huge in scale that few others can compare. A game that stimulates the player through the sheer experience of the world it creates. A vast world that is free to be explored as you want. A world with mountains, streams, lakes, forests, swamps, canyons and open fields as far as the eye can see. A game the features this vast world, modeled in insane detail down to the tiniest, most insignificant rock, and yet, all these creations are just there for the players enjoyment, for really, they are not necessary in the grand scheme of things. There might be a valley you can visit, with a beautiful waterfall, that is there - but if the player does not go exploring to find it, he'll be able to play the entire game and beat it and never see it. Yet it was created with as much detail as the main road you'll cross countless times.

SotC is, to quote the reviewer that reviewed the game in the magazine (it got a 4.5 out of 5), a "virtual vacation". It is not a game for the action-minded gamer. It is not a game for the gamer that needs his hand held and prompted what to do at all times. It is a game to be experienced rather than played. And all this, I got from one lousy demo. Man, I can't wait for the final product!

Ok, pretentious rant, over!

August 17, 2005

Football, football, and more football

Ah, football season is just around the corner. I can feel the itch. The need to fully engulf myself in NFL goodness. The marathon game watching on Sundays. NFL Primetime. Monday Night Football. Good times, good times.

A side effect of my football fever is my constant need to play a video game version of the sport. This urge starts just around July and doesn’t go away until February the earliest. So, when I’m not watching real football, I’m simulating it on a console.

For about the last 12 years, the football game to fill my needs has been Madden. It was Tecmo bowl before that. And 10 Yard Fight before that. But for the most part, Madden was my fix. I switched over to Gameday when it made its debut, not only because it looked better than I could have hoped, but because there was no Madden released that year. Gameday looked so good, it scared EA off and they didn’t release a Madden football title for the first time, well, ever.

But EA came back the next year and I was there. Then, with the debut of the PS2, EA had probably the most impressive launch title available. The jump in graphics was simply fantastic. Sure, all the players’ eyes looked extremely disturbing and creepy, but man, did that game look sweet. I stuck with Madden and it provided my yearly football itch relief. Then, like the Madden franchise has a tendency of doing, the series began to feel a bit flat. Stagnant if you will. Sure, it would improve every year. Small details here and there would make it a better game than the last, but the improvements were so subtle that one couldn’t help but feel like they were playing the same game for years.

Then last year, something interesting happened. ESPN NFL 2k5 caught my attention. Sure, the 2K series had been around for a few years, but for some reason, I never gave it much thought. But 2K5 really intrigued me. Man, did the game look sick! The graphics on X-Box looked so completely new and amazing compared to Madden, that I immediately took notice. The game had a ton of innovations that I was not used to as a Madden player. The tackling system - in which every hit seems to affect the tackle - was simply amazing. The detail of the players and animation, it was the breath of fresh air that I had been looking for. Throw in a half-time show with actual highlights of your game, Sports Center with weekly highlights during your franchise, a weekly prep feature to get ready for your next opponent, the VIP system that keeps track of how you play, your crib, customizable soundtracks that would play over the stadium speakers for the events you specify, on-line leagues, the list just went on and on. I was sold. Oh, did I forget to mention that all this was going to cost you just $19.99. Sign me up!!!

In hindsight, ESPN 2k5 was not the perfect football experience I was hoping for, but it was a fantastic game and with some tweaking to the engine and additional development time, could prove to be the best football sim on the market. I quickly began to anticipate what Visual Concepts could cook up for 2006.

I also purchased Madden 2005 (I mean, with 2k5 being only $20, I could afford it). Madden was also fun. Defense had received a boost which lead to some realistic scores and close games. Although, defense was SO good it did lead to many UNrealistic defensive plays by cornerbacks and linebackers. Now, the deep throw was no longer automatic. In fact, it was impossible.

There are many aspects of the Madden series that I enjoy. I enjoy the feeling of control I have over the players. I always feel like they are doing exactly what I want them to. In ESPN I always felt like I had less precision control over my guys. I enjoy playing defense on Madden much more than ESPN. Mostly because the secondary in ESPN would do some of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen. I did, however, feel that controlling a defensive lineman in ESPN was worlds better than in Madden. Playing as a DE in Madden felt odd, as if none of my button commands would register. In ESPN, line play was almost perfect. I say almost because it was probably too effective and I could easily rack up sacks of the opposing QBs. The running game was a mixed bag in both games. ESPN had a fantastic running game when it came to running though the holes and the tackling system. Running into the back of a blocking O-lineman in ESPN produced a fantastic animation of your RB putting his hand on the O-Lineman’s back and shimmying around him. In Madden, if you run into your lineman, you just stay there, running in place, not doing much of anything. Blocking for both games was shaddy, but perhaps slightly better in Madden. Then you have the tackling system, which as I mentioned was absolutely fantastic in ESPN. It seems as if every hit affected the tackle animation. So you could be wrapped up from behind, begin to fall forward, then have someone come from the front and lay one into you, and it would break up your forward momentum, change the animation seamlessly and you’d get pushed back. In Madden, once it goes into its canned tackle animation, there’s no stopping it.

The passing game I felt was flawed in both games, but both had positives in them as well. I enjoyed the joint animations in ESPN of a corner putting his hand out to touch a receiver on deep balls and the fact that pass interference and holding was called on the defense (something that NEVER happened in Madden, no mater what you did). The passing mechanic in ESPN - while it might have been a tad floaty - produced some very pretty passes. However, there were WAY too many drops in the game. I believe this was done on purpose to counter-act the completely awful play by the corners and safeties, who would often run away from a play, or go into some interception animation that would take them completely out of the play. Another annoying aspect with the passing game, was that short routes over the middle of the field resulted in your receiver getting man-handled by the defenders. I like the fact that they added players jamming the receivers, but it is done to a degree that makes short crossing routes practically useless. Speaking of useless, the screen pass was about as effective as taking a knee with your QB, you loss some yards and the down. Post patterns were a little too effective and perhaps the game’s biggest flaw was that there was usually no YAC. It seemed that defensive players were not affected by momentum like the offense was, so while the ball is in the air, every single defender on the field is able to quickly converge on your receiver and as soon as he catches the ball, he’s surround by four defenders. But, Madden’s flaws weren’t any better. Mostly, the defense was super human and defenders would jump great distances and reach balls they had no business even knowing were in the air. It practically killed the passing game because there were certain routes that you would not even bother throwing to because you knew they were an automatic incompletion - or worse - an interception. The deep ball was one of those casualties. And what is a football game if you can’t go deep every now and then and at least have some HOPE that the ball will be caught.

Anyway, I realize I’ve been rambling on about last year’s football games, which was not my intention. So, to fast forward a bit, after playing both ESPN and Madden last year, I came away excited at the possibilities for this year’s offerings. ESPN took a big chuck out of EA’s market and I was salivating at what EA would do to counter. When pressed up against the wall EA has always done their best work. I was also very excited at the possibilities of ESPN 2k6. The game already looked phenomenal and had many innovations that I loved, but some more polish would make it look and play even better.

Then comes the bomb. EA gets an exclusive deal with the NFL and the NFL Players Association for the next 5 years. 5 years!!! That means no ESPN NFL 2K6, no Gameday 2006, no NFL Fever 2006, nothing but Madden. How could this happen!? I was furious. I screamed "Monopoly!! There’s gotta be a law to reverse this!". "EA is an evil corporation". "Boycott those EA bastards!!". And many more phrases far more explicit. In hindsight, I don’t blame EA for their move. I blame the NFL.

But either way, that was bad news for gamers. No competition = stagnation. For whomever holds the license. No NFL license means I’ll never get to see what Visual Concepts would have done in ‘06. Or the next gen systems. An exclusive NFL license means we won’t see any other NFL game on the next gen systems. After all, it’s a 5 year deal, and last I checked, that’s the typical lifespan of a console. So if EA isn’t up to the challenge, we’re out of luck.

But again, this is all very old news. Where have I been for the last eight months right? Actually, the point of this long rant is my current dilemma. What do I do as a gamer now? I vowed that I would not buy Madden 2006 out of protest back in December. Of course, back then I wanted to burn down EA’s Corporate Headquarters as well. Since then I’ve come to my senses. I don’t blame EA anymore, but I still hate the fact that they have total control over my NFL gaming, especially since I’ve seen the quality of their games decline steadily for years now.

EA has taken gaming and ripped the fun out of it. EA churns out games at an alarming rate. Do you think they give their developers time to really improve their games? And you can forget about innovation and trying new things. That would be too risky. The Madden franchise is so big, that you cannot alter it’s formula (however broken it might be) because you might alienate millions and millions of consumers (I’m surprised they tinkered with the passing game this year, although you are able to default to the old way). So what if it doesn’t play like real football, it plays like Madden football and that’s what counts. Last year, I could have agreed with that statement. If I didn’t like the way Madden played, I could have always gotten my fix somewhere else (and I did, with 2K5). Not so anymore, so now I’m getting worried.

I have three choices this year for football gaming. I could go ahead and get Madden 2006, which I know will entertain me - yet at the same time aggravate me when everything is the same and there is so much room for improvement. I can wait and see what Madden 360 is all about. Or I could get Blitz: The League.

I’ve never been a fan of the Blitz series. I like my football with a hefty dose of simulation, not over the top arcade style gameplay. Sure, I’ve payed them and had fun for a couple of hours, but if you recall, I play football from July until February, no way a Blitz game can hold my attention for that long. But this year’s Blitz has caught my attention. This isn’t the same over the top score-fest we’ve seen in the past. This seems like a more realistic take on the sport, with a dash of extreme in all the right places. This game promises a great storyline (storyline in a football game? Who’d a thunk it!). It’s written by the same guy who penned the phenomenal Playmakers on ESPN. It’s supposed to show you what happens off the field as well as on. Ok, I’m intrigued. But, how will it play? I’ve already learned that it won’t be 11-on-11 football, which is a HUGE deal for me. I don’t know if I can take an 8-on-8 football game seriously. Well, I might, as long as the gameplay is there. But I have very mixed feelings about The League. The game’s trailers and videos on look amazing! The graphics are well above Madden standards and actually look very similar to 2K5's, Which is a good thing. The "cinematic" videos of the gameplay look great. Some great broken tackle animations, smooth and varied passing animations, great cut scenes, it looks like a slam dunk. But, I’ve also just recently watched some actual gameplay videos over at Gamespot and hold the phones! The game does not look very good at all from a gameplay standpoint. Granted, these are just a few short gameplay videos, but something about the game just looks off. The players don’t seem to have any inertia, or momentum, or physics to govern them. They are just there running around at insane speeds, changing directions without batting and eye. Looks way off and definitely not what I expected. I really hope this is early footage, because if the game plays like that, you can count me out.

My last choice is Madden for the 360. That would require me to buy a 360. But then again, I’ll probably be doing that anyway. Especially after playing MVP 2006 in 720p and seeing how drop dead gorgeous HD gaming is going to be. Not to mention that I’ve purchased systems just for football games in the past. Madden ‘93 was the first game I owned for the SNES. I bought a Playstation for Gameday and I bought a PS2 for Madden. So, it wouldn’t be a first. But what have we seen of Madden 360? A fake CG commercial which I felt looked awful. Where’s the footage, screenshots, or impressions on this game? Will it really be next gen football, or the same game that’s out now with just a fresh coat of paint? And if so, will all that eye candy be enough to make me feel like I’m truly experiencing the next generation if it still plays the same as before?

I don’t want EA to take this new, powerful hardware, and just use it to make the game photorealistic from a visual standpoint. Sure, I want a huge graphical upgrade - because quite frankly, I think Madden looks like shit. There, I said it. I HATE Madden’s visuals and have now for quite a few years. I think since 2003. And especially after seeing 2K5 last year. Madden’s player models just don’t look human. They look like caricatures of what football players should look like. They look cartoonish. I can’t believe the people who say they prefer Madden’s player models (or hell, just the entire graphical package) over ESPN’s. Everytime I watch 2K5's graphics I’m still awed by them. Are they perfect? Of course not. The facemasks look a little off. And the running animations are not quite right. And the transition from one animation to another is not always seamless. And yet whenever I play a game of 2K5 it takes me ½ an hour longer than when I play a Madden game. Not because of the lack of an accelerated clock, or difference in quarter lengths, but because practically every play has me looking at the replay, watching it from different angles, amazed at the small details and gorgeous animation. I would watch just regular tackles over and over because they were so dynamic they borderlined as real-time. Of course they weren’t, but that’s the beauty of the tackling system 2K5 had in place, it gave off the impression that every tackle was unique.

Anyway, I keep getting off track. What I expect from a next generation football (aside from the graphical overhaul) is a game that does so much more behind the lines (sort to speak) that we, the player, may not know is going on, but we can see the results on screen. I want individual player tendencies/habits. I want WAY more detailed attributes that make a difference in how good a player is. In Madden, speed seems to be the dominant rating, even though Awareness seems to get a lot of credit. Awareness should be even MORE important. I want every single player on the field to have a vision-cone similar to Madden’s passing game this year. Of course, I don’t want to see that on screen as it can get a little hectic if you have 22 players with vision cones, but I want every player to have actual vision, so if they’re not looking in a certain direction, they don’t know what’s going on. Veterans will not only have bigger fields of vision (obviously) but they’ll know where to look at the right times. The vision can come into play with player sizes as well, as smaller RBs and QBs will not be able to see the field over the linemen as well as taller players. I want a real physics system in place, complete with real inertia, weight, speed, momentum, so that 180lb WRs don’t pancake 249lbs LBs. I want some real weather effects please. I want to see mud build up on the field, players losing their footing, puddles of water collecting on the field, dirty - and I mean DIRTY - uniforms. I want to see actual pile-ups when there’s a fumble. No more miraculous one person recoveries. I want a pile-up of five players, all fighting or the ball, and the referees having a hard-time determining who has it. Hell, have a mini-game where you have to pound on a button to wrestle the ball from someone at the bottom of the pile. I want to see receivers that actually know where they are on the field and attempt to keep their feet in bounds when making a sideline catch. I want to see QBs actually throw inaccurate passes. In current video football games, you might complete 60% of your passes. Which is about right. Except that the 40% you didn’t complete is usually because of tips, dropped passes or dropped INTs. The reality is, in real football, the majority of incompletes is because the QB threw the ball where neither the receiver nor defender could catch it. There are lots of overthrows when going deep, and not every pass in on the money. If you have realistic QB accuracy (meaning, they miss their mark sometimes) you wouldn’t need to have Defensive Backs making these ridiculous defensive plays in Madden, because the incompletes will still come, not because of cheap defense, but because a QB is NEVER 100% on the money. I want a game design that allows for anything to happen at any time. That’s the NFL baby. Anything can happen on any given Sunday. EVERY play in the play book has to work at some point. It might not work every time (obviously) but every play should be effective if used correctly. Call a punt block formation, you might get a block. And not by cheating and moving around defenders, but by just letting the play develop they way it is supposed to be. I have never blocked a punt in Madden. Ever. Ever, ever. Ever never ever. Ok, enough of that.

Most importantly, and I cannot stress this enough, the commentary for sports games needs to be completely redone from the ground up. The entire thought process behind it needs to be addressed. The commentary needs to be aware of everything that is going on in the game to really draw the player in. This is one of the most overlooked aspects of a sports game. The commentary needs to not only do play by play, it needs to be fully aware of the situation, the score, the importance of a certain play, the importance of a certain score, etc. And above all else, the commentary needs to be aware of what if going on in a player’s franchise. One of the biggest complaints that I have with current franchise modes, is that I never really feel like I’m part of the league. I play my games, see some scores of other games and mostly keep tabs on my division and that’s it. I see the league leaders in certain stat categories, but I want the game itself to draw me in by mentioning things that are going on around the league. When playing a franchise game I want the announcers to mention if a player had a fantastic game the game before. I want to see an overlay with the stats of that game. And not only for my players, for the other team’s players as well. Hell, with the hard drive available, I want to see highlights of that player’s previous outing shown during this current game. If my team is over achieving, I want the commentators to mention the fact that they are having a surprisingly good year. The same for a great team that is losing. I want them to mention if my rookie RB scores his first ever NFL TD. I want them to make a big deal of a big star player playing his first game with a new team. NFL 2K5 took a step in the right direction last year by incorporating Sports Center into the franchise mode. Now, instead of just seeing scores for the rest of the league’s games, you get to see highlights and stats as well. I want to see that taken to the next level. I want to be able to watch highlights for every game if I want to. I want them to maybe talk about certain things that are going on around the league. Surprise teams. A player who’s having a monster season. That new rookie who is lighting it up. And most importantly, I want the atmosphere of the playoffs and especially the Superbowl to be night and day better than what it is now. About 40% of the commentary during the playoffs and Superbowl needs to be specifically recorded just for the playoffs/Superbowl. You should hear things you would only hear during these big, important games, where it’s win or go home. After winning the big one, I don’t want to see some generic cut-scene of the players marching on the field celebrating and then a quick scene of them with the Vince Lambardi throphy. I really want to feel like I’ve accomplished something here.

All this won’t be easy to incorporate, I know. But there’s no reason why this shouldn’t be what we strive for in our football sims. Now, the big question is, now that EA has this genre practically in their pocket, with no real worries of competition in sight, do they have the incentive to go out there, completely rewrite, rethink, and redo the way that a football video game is created.? Start completely from scratch, forget about what has been done before and really strive for perfection now that we have the computing power to do it? I’d wager no. Looking at EA’s track record, Madden Next Gen will have some nice graphics and similar gameplay. Sure, they’ll probably be all new commentary, but it’ll just be more of the same. Probably a lot more, so it won’t be as repetitious, but still, it won’t be the dynamic almost living commentary I dream of. The presentation will improve (hopefully by ALOT now that EA has the ESPN license as well), but will it be used to really draw a player into a franchise/season and make them feel like what they did in game 3 still matters as opposed to it concentrating on a single game by game basis? Probably not.

Sure, EA always incorporates something new in Madden every year. But, seeing the strict schedule they keep for churning out game after game every year, I see these as just small steps when looking at what the game of football is as a whole and where Madden is right now. It’ll take forever for it to reach the point where I think it should already be. And now, with nobody there trying to outdo EA, without Visual Concepts (or anybody) there saying, "Look, we can make a better game, buy us instead", we might never get there. We’ll always have EA dictating what they feel a true NFL football game is supposed to be. Because realistically, after EA’s deal with the NFL expires, who’s going to be there to outbid them for it again? Sega? Take-Two? After five years of raking in the cash that their exclusive NFL football game brought them (which is a whole lot) and after already having all the pieces in place for creating next-gen football games (player models, faces, stadiums), is some other developer going to fork out a gazillion dollars for the license, to then invest millions more in the technology needed to recreate the NFL experience like it should be? Not likely.

No, the way I see it, when EA signed that 5 year exclusivity deal, it might as well have been a 30 year deal. If the NFL decides to put it up for bidding again, nobody will be able to outbid EA and they’ll just renew for x amount of years and the process starts all over again. Hell, the quality of Madden games might decline at a faster rate then ever, not only because of the lack of competition, but EA will need to cut costs to make up for the millions of dollars the exclusive licenses are setting them back. Damn shame.

The best scenario - aside from not having an exclusive license in the first place - is to have a deal like the NBA did. One publisher has the rights one year, the other has the rights another. In some ways, this is better than no exclusivity deal, because each game in a series is only released every other year, meaning more development time. I could actually live with that, even if I was a fan of one series as opposed to the other. But, that won’t happen in the NFL, so it’s just hopeless dreaming on my part.

Ok, I’ll wrap this up. We’ll see what the future holds. Maybe Blitz: The League is fantastic. Maybe EA has been working on the next gen Madden for 5 years and the game is so freakin’ amazing it’ll catch everyone by surprise (not bloody likely). Or maybe I’ll dust off 2K5, try to find the best set of sliders out there, adjust the rosters as best I can to reflect this season, and hope for the best.

Thanks a lot NFL. Thanks alot.

July 29, 2005

I'm still here

Ok, sorry for the long absence. I was on vacation, then I was sick, and then I was just lazy.

Well, a quick follow-up to some topics I’ve mentioned earlier:

- I watched Batman Begins and it was fantastic! Everyone, go watch it right now!!!
- My Advent Rising fears came true. Disappointing. Lots of potential, but an extremely unpolished and buggy game. You can check my review here

I’m currently playing Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and MVP 2005 for X-Box. Splinter Cell is great, with some amazing visuals. MVP 2005 is probably the best baseball game on the market right now and it looks absolutely sick in 720p!!!! Can’t wait to see what X-Box 360 titles look like in HD!

I also just recently subscribed to Netflix and it’s like crack!!! Any movie you want, delivered right to your door. I have a list of over 100 on my Queue and I just joined a few days ago! Bring them on!!!

June 21, 2005

Miscellaneous Update!!!

Wow, I haven’t updated this in a while, so let me just cover some topics:

- Batman Begins is finally out and I’ve heard nothing but good things. Unfortunately, I have not been able to pay a visit to my local multiplex because I’ve been in the process of moving into a new apartment, but you can bet your ass I’m gonna watch it as soon as I can. Now, after the abysmal Batman & Robin (and by abysmal I mean "one of the absolute biggest pieces of craptacular shit ever put on celluloid") it seemed all hope was lost for the Batman franchise and the series was in the gutter. But throw in Christopher Nolan (of Memento fame) and a truly amazing cast, and there just might be hope for a rejuvenated take on the Dark Night.

- Finally saw Episode III. I went in with my expectations 200ft below sea level and I came away pleasantly surprised. Yes, the dialogue is awful at times and the acting is a bit weak (probably just due to the abysmal dialogue. Poor actors can’t work miracles). But the movie delivered where it needed. The special effects were so mind-bogglingly amazing that they actually helped me enjoy the movie this time, instead of distracting me and making me realize just how superficial and shallow the Star Wars movies have become (like they did in the two previous prequels).

Ok, possible spoilers ahead.

I gotta say though, I felt that the scene with Darth Vader breaking out of his restraints and screaming "Noooooo!!!!" was way overdone and came off as comical instead of dramatic. Maybe it was the fact that he looked like Frankenstein.

But the last couple of scenes were a joy to watch, especially for long time Star Wars fans. The two universes (prequels and originals) finally meld together and we see some familiar ships, costumes and musical themes . . . that was pretty damn cool.

- Also, as I mentioned above, I just finished moving into a new apartment and I’m exhausted. Of course, as luck would have it, the elevator of the building is broken, so everything - and I mean EVERYTHING - had to be carried up three flights of stairs. Believe me when I tell you that was not fun.

On a lighter note, I’ve also received my new TV (which also had to be carried up three flights of stairs). Luckily, there were six of us to help out, because that puppy weighs 200lbs. But it’s a beaut!!