June 30, 2006

Prey Demo

Apparently the Prey demo is finally available for download from the Marketplace.

I've been hearing nothing but bitching and complaining on the forums for the past week about this damn demo being delayed.

I think Microsoft should stop announcing future demos/Arcade titles. I think they should just post them when they are ready and forget about annoucing they will be out "soon" or in a "few weeks". All that does is create mass hysteria and it is just plain annoying. Plus I like surprise demos.

So Microsoft, stop with the announcements. You'll save heartache on both sides that way.

Transformers Teaser Trailer

The teaser trailer for Transformers is out. It lives up to the title of "teaser", but still, as a kid that grew up in the 80's I am all over this movie.

Damn, I can't believe I am excited for a Michael Bay flick. Oh well. Click below to check it out.

Transformers Teaser!!!!

June 29, 2006

GRAW on-line update

I must be a masochist . . . or an idiot, but either way last night I decided to try to play GRAW on-line one more time. This time I said to myself, "I'm sticking to the first lobby I get into and not leaving". So, I get into a lobby, the game already in progress (of course), and there are about three other players waiting. The match apparently just started, it is a pretty full game of team deathmatch (or whatever it is called in GRAW, I'm still on Halo time). The score to win is 50 and the leading team has about 12 kills. Great. But I'm going to wait this one out dammit!!! I go to my custom soundtracks, crank on some Sublime, mute my headset, and just start singing and jamming while I wait.

After 15 - 20 minutes the match ended. Finally. I get ready and wait . . . and wait . . . dude, whoever the host is he sure takes his sweet ass time changing settings and getting a match started.

Then, 25 minutes after I pressed the power button on my 360, I finally get into a match of GRAW. A full 16 players, 8 vs 8 match. I play about four games, a good hour or so of gaming and turn it off to watch the Sopranos (watching the whole series from Netflix).

So, 1 hour and forty-five minutes roughly of sitting on the couch with my controller in my hand, maybe an hour of actual play time, the rest either waiting in the lobby for the game to end, or waiting between games for the host to start the next match.

Does nobody else see anything wrong with this? Again I'll say it, unless you have a bunch of friends on your friends list that have GRAW and you set up a play date, playing GRAW on-line is a huge pain in the ass.

I enjoyed the hour or so I played, but don’t know it if was worth the other 45 minutes I didn't.

June 28, 2006

Living in Miami

I step out my front door this morning at 8:30am. I am smacked in the face by 95 degree weather.

Ok, it was really more like 85, but felt like 95, and with the humidity at 98% it was actually 107 degrees from my calculations.

I was sweating profusely by the time I got in my car. Gotta love Miami.

June 27, 2006

GRAW On-line woes

Can somebody please, PLEASE tell me how the hell you can enjoy a quick match of GRAW on-line? Anybody?

I find GRAW's lobby system completely and utterly useless. Really. I sat down last night and tried for half an hour to play a game. Half a fucking hour. And I never got to play. Maybe if I had more patience I would only have had to wait five to ten minutes, but guess what? If I want to play a game on-line I do NOT want to sit in a lobby for 5-10 minutes waiting for other players to finish thier game so that I can play too.

Why does this game not have a lobby system like Halo's? Is it that hard to bunch players together that are looking for a game?

I got into about seven lobbies. Sometimes I would get kicked out, sometimes I would wait and wait and the game would not end, so I search again. And when searching, you have to wait a minute or two to find some games, then if the game you chose is not what you want, you cannot go back to your search results. No, you have to search all over again and wait another minute or two. The whole thing is completely tedious.

Unless you have a bunch of friends that you are setting up a game with, I find the GRAW on-line lobby system to be the worse in history. It is so bad, I actually think I am doing something wrong. Please, someone tell me that I am an idiot and there is a quick and easy way to just get into a game, play for a bit, and leave, like you seem to be able to do in every other on-line game ever made.


June 26, 2006

Bluray vs HD-DVD

Here's a good read on the upcoming next generation DVD format war, which I think is being rushed and most people (read: regular consumers) have no idea is upon us.


Best girlfriend ever . . .

So I travel for work a lot. Meaning, I am stuck in airports for hours, going through security, reading magazines to pass the time, bored, waiting for flights, waiting for delayed flights, etc.

Last Wednesday I had to travel to Jacksonville, so I had to get up at 4am, work all day, then catch an evening flight home that same day. My return flight was at 6:50pm, but of course, it was delayed. I get home close to 10pm. So, from my calculation, that's an 18 hour day. Now, I'm not looking for sympathy, but I mention all this for a reason.

As I walk through the door Wednesday night, tired and beat, I notice something on the kitchen counter. What is this? A Sony PSP box? What the?!

My girlfriend emerges from the room with a smile on her face, looking at my reaction as I stare dumbfounded at the PSP.

"What the hell is this?!", I ask, not meaning for it to sound so coarse, but I really had no idea what was going on.

"That's for you baby, since you're always bored in airports, so you have something to do."

I don't have to tell you I was completely shocked. Hell, I still am shocked and I've had it now close to a week. Best girlfriend ever? Yeah, I think so.

360 Update

Ok, my previous post about Snake Eater should have really been published about two weeks ago, because that is when I was actually playing the game and still waiting for my 360 to come back from Microsoft. But I'm lazy, I begin to write the entry, then save it, write some more, then save it, next thing you know I beat the game weeks ago and have yet to post the entry about how I am passing the time without a 360, in the meantime my 360 has already arrived and I still have to post the old post.

Anyway, I got my 360 back on Monday, 6/19/06. Yeehaw!! I connected it, downloaded the Dashboard Update (it is great) and played a bit of Table Tennis, Oblivion and Halo 2. Ah, how I had missed my 360.

The next morning I turn it on so that I can try out Doom III. I was curious how it looked running at 720p (it was in the latest BC list). Upon turning the system on I am greeted with the red light of death, yet again, and an error message.


Upon restarting the system a few times, same deal. I remove the HDD and turn the system on and it boots to the Dashboard. After some more testing and tweaking, it seems to be working again, but I don't want my new 360 (they sent me a new one, not a refurbished one) to be freezing. Reading up on the Xbox message boards I came to the conclusion that it is a problem with the power supply. I'm now switching over the 360 to another outlet where I will be connecting it directly into the wall outlet, instead of in a powerstrip being shared by my tv, receiver, dvd player, PS2, and Directv box. We'll see how that goes.

If there is an issue with some 360s freezing and locking up because of faulty power bricks (these things weigh 45lbs, you’d think they would work) or the 360s just not getting enough power, they should say something. It is not fun when you always have in the back of your mind that your 360 might freeze on you any minute.

No 360 . . . what to do?

In my 360's absence I've had to find alternate ways to pass the time. Playing Guitar Hero, MLB: The Show, Halo 2. I've even popped in Gran Turismo 4, Killzone, and Ninja Gaiden Black. What I should do is go back and finish Jak III, yet I haven't gotten the urge to play it again. I'm a big fan of the first two games though, so I don't know what is wrong with me. Weird.

Anyway, one game I have decided to play (which I never got to try the first time around) is Metal Gear Solid III: Snake Eater. Well, in this case it is the "director's cut" of that game, Subsistence. Now, I don't remember playing the original Metal Gear (NES version) but I know I did. Metal Gear Solid for the PS1 was a damn fine game, although I felt it was a little over rated. It had a decent story (although a tad confusing), great attention to detail, fantastic graphics, great use of the controller's vibration function (I remember this being a big deal at the time since the dual-shock was new) and the best damn (real-time) cinematics ever!! When Konami showed the first footage of Metal Gear Solid 2 for the PS2, it was the most impressive thing I had ever seen. When the actual game was released, it got rave reviews, and I echoed those reviews . . . for the most part. The game's visuals were unreal for their time, the cinematics raised the bar yet again and proved to be the most stylized, entertaining cinematics in the business. I thoroughly enjoyed the game, but it was far from perfect. I actually didn't mind the "switch" of playing through the main game as Raiden instead of Snake (I'm sure that is not a spoiler by now). Yes, he was a whiny girly-man, but it didn't really bother me. What did end up bothering me was the completely ridiculous, convoluted storyline and the endless Codec conversations. I didn't mind watching the cut-scenes - as I mentioned, those are fantastic and I look forward to them - but the Codec conversations were at times dreadfully drawn out, redundant, preachy and boring!!! I would actually groan out loud when I felt one of them coming up. So, overall, MGS 2 was a solid game that did many things right, but was flawed in a few areas.

When MGS III: Snake Eater was announced I thought the setting and premise sounded interesting, but I was getting a bit tired of the MGS "formula". I was tired of all the backstabbing, hidden motives, mysterious agenda's, being apparently the last person in the game to find out what is going one, being a puppet, all far fetched plots, blah-blah-blah. I played a demo of Snake Eater and again, I was blown away by the cinematics, but the gameplay to my surprise seemed to have aged terribly. The game's controls and camera system seemed archaic now that I had been playing the Splinter Cell games, and I couldn't really get into the demo. Not to mention that the game's radar system was completely gone, making the over-head camera seem even more cumbersome. So, Snake Eater was released and I never paid it no mind. The rave reviews ("Best Metal Gear yet!") peaked my interest, but I never felt inclined to buy the game.

Now, with no 360 to entertain me, I started Snake Eater (the main reason being that Subsistence boasts a new camera system more akin to other 3rd person games). Let me first say, that if not for the new camera system, I do not know if I could play this game. It gives you the option to switch between the new camera and the traditional MG camera on the fly, and wow, the game seems practically unplayable with the tradition overhead camera. Good choice Konami by finally giving in and admitting that the old system was dated.

I just recently beat the game I thought the game was great. Overall. Best Metal Gear ever? You know, it just might be. But wow, the MGS play mechanics really, really need to be addressed for the PS3 sequel. The new camera helps a ton, but the rest of the controls and gameplay definitely need a big-time face-lift. It is a testament to the game's level design, story, cinematics and overall atmosphere that the game is still extremely entertaining and engaging, because a lot of the time I felt frustrated by how un-intuitive the game controls. I mean, in order to fire a weapon you sometimes need to press three buttons, not to mention aim!

Example. Firing your weapon is completely pointless from the 3rd person view, so you need to press and hold R1 to go into 1st person view. Then you need to press and hold the square button to bring up your weapon. Depending on the weapon and the type of firing mode you are in (automatic, semi-auto, or single shot) pressing square too hard will shoot the weapon (the PS2 pad has pressure sensitive buttons remember) or if not on automatic, you need to release the square button to fire. But wait, unless you are using the pistol, aiming with just the 1st person view and the square button is not enough, you need to also press L1 to bring the weapon up close to aim down the barrel. So you are holding down R1 to be in 1st person view, holding down L1 to aim down the gun and making sure you are pressing square the correct way to even have your weapon out and fire. Wow, talk about making something as difficult as possible. Try doing all that when you've sounded an alert and you have four enemies and a dog bearing down on you. I know the game is about stealth and not action, but c'mon!!!

Another problem I have is that Snake can only move around either standing up or crawling on his stomach. Again, I have been spoiled by Splinter Cell in which 90% of my movement is done walking while crouching. That sort of hunched-back movement we've seen in the SC games which I have grown fond of. When looked at in realistic terms, maybe many spies don't move around like that, as it is fairly difficult to do and not very comfortable, but Sam makes it look so natural. I can't tell you how many times I wish Snake would just try it. C'mon Snake, just once!!! It makes you less visible!!!

There are a few new additions to the MG series this time around. Gone is the ever-so handy radar (which showed you your immediate surroundings complete with enemy locations and their "vision cones"). New to the mix is camouflage, the need to feed to keep your stamina up, and curing Snake when injured.

The camouflage system is pretty cool, as you can mix and match face and body patterns to blend in with your immediate surroundings. A "camo index" in the top right of the screen gives you a percentage of how well you are hidden. Many things get taken into account, such as the type of camo used, your body positioning (standing, crouched, prone) and your rate of movement. At first it seems like a pain to always have to constantly be going into a menu to change camouflage, but you soon just accept it.

Also new is a Cure and Food system. Snake now not only has to heal his wounds manually (bullet wounds, burns, cuts, broken bones) but he also has to eat to keep his stamina up. Rations no longer give you a health boost, instead, they give a stamina boost, which in turn helps you regenerate your health quicker (health regenerates over time). The higher your stamina the faster you gain health, the better you will aim, the longer you can hold your breath under water and the longer you can hang from ledges (grip meter). It is a pretty good system. Rations are not the only things Snake can consume either. In fact, they are quite rare. Instead, you will have to hunt for your food. Since about 85% of the game takes place in the jungle, you are free to capture (either alive or dead) all the flora and fauna of the area. And there are quite a few critters to catch. Snakes, frogs, birds, mushrooms, fruit, insects, rats, the list goes on and on. Some taste great, some don't, some are poisonous, some can even spoil if you keep them in your inventory for too long. Pretty detailed stuff.

The rest of the game is very similar to Sons of Liberty, just refined. Snake now has CQC moves (Close Quarter Combat) allowing him to pull off a variety of moves from close range. You still advance through the game one section at a time (think big screens), you still face off against a number of bosses, each sporting a silly name and super-natural powers, you still have your cardboard boxes to hide under, your Codec conversations and your long periods of just watching instead of playing. But Snake Eater's story is far more entertaining than anything in the previous two Solid games and the gameplay - while definitely aging - has been ironed about as much as it can be, without changing the MGS formula outright (which they need to probably do for part 4), to make it an enjoyable experience throughout.

One thing that stood out for me was how incredibly realistic and detailed some aspects of the game and how completely unrealistic and game-like other aspects are. Snake Eater - much like its predecessors - has a lot of game "staples" in it, that really detract from its realism. This is intentional from Konami, but it is something I hope they address for part 4, since as the series' graphics have become more and more realistic, these elements just stand out more and more and kills the level of immersion for me. Things like the big exclamation point or question mark that appears over enemies' heads when they notice snake, the fact that all items/food appear as floating containers that spin and hover in the air, Snake changing his camouflage in an instant, or just being able to enter the Codec no matter what is going on and have your enemies just wait for you to finish your conversation. Also, I would like to know how all these bosses got these super powers . . . and why they explode after you defeat them, But maybe that is just me.

And as long as we're nitpicking, I have an issue with the way Snake animates. During the cut-scenes Snake moves around realistically, especially when sneaking and taking cover, but when you are playing the game he has the same pathetic looking walk and looks very robotic. I would like some more variation with his animations and maybe some contextual stuff like in Chaos Theory where Sam's sneaking animation would actually change the closer he got to an enemy. That was very cool. Oh, and what the hell is up with Snakes' walking up and down the stairs animation? Is that not the most ridiculous thing you have ever seen?!?!?!?

Ok, enough Snake Eater bashing, because I really did enjoy the game. Even with all my nitpicks, it is probably the best Metal Gear game to date and has rekindles my interest in the series enough to look forward to part 4 on the PS3 and maybe even Snake Eater's PSP sequel.

June 05, 2006

Table Tennis . . . Red Lights of Death!!!

I got the impulse to pick up Table Tennis for the 360. This wasn't a game I planned on getting, yet for some reason while driving home I decided to stop by Best Buy and pick it up. Maybe it was because I am taking a break from Oblivion, finally beat CoD2 on Veteran and already finished GRAW on Hard and just needed a fresh new game for the 360. Sure, I haven't beated PDZ yet . . . but I was not in the mood to get frustrated with that game's controls. I've always been a big fan of table tennis, even though I've probably only played it about five times in my life. And I suck at it. But it sure is fun. The video game version, from Rockstar, is also surprisingly fun. Maybe not deep in features, but extremely enjoyable. They did a fantastic job in capturing the feel of the sport. The graphics and animation are superb. On-line play is also very good. The big missing feature is a career-mode. This could have been icing on the cake. As it is, there are only single exhibition matches and a few tournaments of diffrent difficulties and on-line play. The lack of an in-depth career mode is seriously going to hurt the longevity of this title. Of course, I won't be able to determine how long the game will continue to be fun without it because . . .

MY 360 DIED ON ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yes, after speanding months reading on message boards of users complaining about defective units, freezing, skipping, scratched discs, over-heating systems and me thinking that I was lucky enough to get a perfectly working unit, my 360 started acting up a week or so ago. It all stared while playing an on-line match of Table Tennis. The game just froze on me. I restarted and started playing a regular single-player match, and after 15 minutes or so, it froze again. I restarted, decided to play some music off my hard-drive (maybe the game was just glitchy) and after five minutes, it froze again. D'oh!!

I turned the system off, unplugged all the cables and left it alone for 15 minutes, then connected everything again and booted it up. It was working fine again. I played for another hour or two with no problems. Problem solved I thought.

The next morning I decide to play some Halo 2 on-line (for some reason, I just now started getting hooked on Halo 2 multiplayer after I've had the game for two years) and everything was fine. I played about four matches when all of sudden, my 360 froze again. This time for good. Upon restart it just froze at the Xbox 360 logo. Then, the red lights of death showed up in the ring of light. NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!

I tried unplugging everything again but to no avail. It was dead. It would boot to the dashboard, but would freeze after a minute or two. I called Microsoft support, spoke to some lady with a really heavy accent for about ½ an hour and now they are shipping a box out to me so that I can send it in for repair. =(

I guess I should be happy I'm still under warranty. But I treat my systems like gold. I've never had any problems with any system ever (I still have my launch day PS2 working just fine) so I was very distraught that my 360 became one of the many of faulty units out there. I'm going to look into getting an extended warranty from Microsoft once my system gets repaired. I've read of gamers having to pay $129 to get their systems repaired after they've bitten the dust past the 6 month warranty. Looks like I just made it too, because I bought my system at the beginning of January. I should be receiving the UPS box any day now. :(

I've actually reconnected my old X-Box (which I had stored in the closet) and have been playing Halo 2 on-line. I have a love/hate relationship with the game. I love it when I am doing well and in a "zone" and want to throw it out the window when I'm getting my ass handed to me. Yes, I am very competitive.

I'm also still playing MLB: The Show. I’m playing my Career with a starting pitcher I created. I'm in my second year, in the Marlin's minor league system and playing AAA ball. This game is fantastic. I urge any true baseball fan to not pick this title up and be totally amazed at all the little things it does right. And that commentary continues to amaze. Why can't all sports developers *cough* EA *cough*, “get it” like these guys certainly do.


Wow, I’ve been slacking with the updates lately (but not as bad as Powerpuff has . . . I kid, I kid). Well, E3 came and went and much to my surprise, I didn’t come away very impressed. This was the E3 Powerpuff and I had initially planned on attending. This was the E3 - that after last year’s - we though would be the E3 to end all E3s. By “we” I mean Powerpuff and I. And yet, after it was over, I don’t know, it seemed a little blah.

Speaking of Sony, talk about a total 180 for them. After they ran away with the show last year (granted, showing nothing but tech demos and CG footage) they sure stunk the place up this year. The $500/$600 price tag was just icing on the cake. I knew the system was going to cost a hefty amount, we’ve all known that for a while, but I guess actually hearing Sony say it aloud was still jarring. And if you thought the Core 360 was a rip-off when compared to the Premium, Sony just 1-upped it. With the 360, the extra $100 gave you a 20gig hard-drive, a wireless controller and a dvd remote. Basically. With the PS3, the extra $100 gives an extra 40 gigs worth of hard-drive space, HDMI support, Wifi support and memory card reader. At least with the Core 360 you can buy the wireless controller, hard-drive and remote, I really don't think you can add HDMI, WiFi or card reader support after the fact for the PS3. Sony surprised everyone with its new controller too. Gone is the batarang, replaced with the same damn model Sony’s been using going on three console generations now. Don’t get me wrong, the dual-shock design was fantastic . . . back in the day. But after trying out the 360's absolutely fantastic controller, the dual-shock just feels extremely dated. Oh, and lets not forget its new motion-control aspect. Taking a page out of the Wii handbook, the PS3 controller is offering up similar capabilities. Unfortunately, to me this just comes off as a desperate attempt to compete with both Microsoft and Nintendo. I may just be talking out of my ass here, but I felt that the motion-control capabilities of the PS3 to be very gimmicky and will be short lived. Of course, I didn’t hold the controller in my hand, didn’t play the Warhawk demo and don’t know how much development Sony has actually put into this aspect of their system, but at least the Wii is making its new control scheme the very basis of its platform, so one is more likely to accept it as more than a gimmick and maybe as the gaming “Revolution” it used to me named after.

While we’re on the subject, I think Nintendo had a fantastic showing at E3 this year. In my eyes they went from “those crazy-ass Nintendo bastards have lost their damned minds”, to “Holy crap they might be on to something here”. All the feedback I’ve heard of how the Wii plays and the feel of the controller has been extremely positive. I can’t wait to try it out for myself. I still see the Wii as not directly competing for dominance in the next generation. Not to say that it won’t do well (hell, it might come out on top with a sub $250 and innovative games), just that they are basically saying “we are offering an alternative way to play games”, and that market might just be bigger than the 360 and PS3 market combined. Nintendo is in a very good position right now. I can easily see many people with a 360 and a Wii, or a PS3 and a Wii, yet not many that can afford a 360 and a PS3. Bottom line, Wii is a very attractive - and affordable - option.

Microsoft had a solid E3, yet I was left wanting more. Gears of War impressed, Mass Effect looks downright fantastic, Rainbow Six Vegas looks like GRAW in Vegas (which is very good thing), Gran Theft Auto 4 will be out on day 1 and they showed a Halo 3 teaser. Not bad. But why was I not totally impressed?

I’ll tell you one reason. All the good stuff was behind closed doors!!!! Going into E3 there were only two things I cared about. I wanted to see actual gameplay of Brothers in Arms: Hells Highway and I wanted to know the full track list for Guitar Hero 2. I got none of those. And for some reason, the most impressive games were only shown behind closed doors. What is up with that? Brothers in Arms developer presentation? Behind closed doors only. Bastards!! I managed to see this footage from a bootleg video and it looks damn impressive, but the quality of the video is terrible. Why didn’t Gearbox just present this to the public? Bioshock was another one. Many are calling it the game of the show . . . dammit, I want to see the impressive footage too!!! Assassin’s Creed. One of the most impressive PS3 games shown. Again, only behind closed doors! What gives people!?!?!?

Sorry, I’m just ranting like the spoiled gamer I am who could not get into E3. :)

And what the hell happened to the Guitar Hero II track list!! I could have sworn I read in an interview they were supposed to reveal it at E3 (and I was waiting for it anxiously), yet nothing. =(

I won't bother mentioning that in all of the E3 coverage I've only seen about 10 seconds of footage for Madden 2007 for the 360. This is the one that is supposed to show off the next-generation of football right? The first one was rushed because of late development kits and trying to make launch wasn't if? Yeah, I'm not holding my breath. Those 10 seconds of footage did now show me anything special aside from some nice field textures. Until EA fixes the completely horrendous tackling system, Madden will never be "next gen" in my eyes.

And that's it. That's my crappy E3 overview. Still waiting for my Guitar Hero II track list and quality footage of BiA: Hell's Highway. Lets see how long the torture lasts.