October 27, 2006

Jack Thompson

Ah, good old Jack Thompson. The self proclaimed savior of children from violent video games. If you're a gamer, you know who he is. And chances are, you hate his guts. That is understandable. Jack sure does seem to do his best to get on our bad side. If it was up to him, all games would be in line with Barbie Horse Adventures.

His recent campaign against Bully seems to be blowing up in his face though, since according to reviews, the game is not even close to being the "Columbine Simulator" Jack claims that it is. You are not even a bully in the game, but instead, you protect kids from them. A far cry from what Jack "assumed" the game to be. But, that hasn't stopped him from trying.

It seems Mr. Thompson is having a feud with a local judge here in Miami about this very topic. He's been sending said Judge several angry letters, the latest one being especially entertaining. You can read it HERE courtesy of Kotaku.

He has gone completly off his rocker huh? That is some funny shit.

You know, I'm not completely against Jack and what he is trying to do. Ok, fellow gamers, before you have me lynched and kicked out of the club, hear me out. I agree that young kids should not be playing Grand Theft Auto and the countless other "M" rated titles out there. But Jack is going about it all wrong. Why attack individual game developers? The problem is not that these games are being made (because there are millions of adult gamers that want to play them), the problem is that kids are getting their hands on them.

Jack Thompson and the mainstream media needs to understand that gaming is no longer a kids' medium. All those kids that were there for the birth of videogames have now grown up. And guess what? We're still gaming. It is old news that the majority of gamers fall into the 18-35 age group. Why stop the release of a videogames aimed at a group of individuals more than old enough to handle its contents? Why not try and ban all R rated movies next Jack, I'm sure little kids want to see those too.

No, what Jack is trying to do is censorship, and that my friend, is a big no-no in my book. Every videogame is reviewed by the ESRB and given a rating, just like movies are. If Jack wants to keep GTA away from 6 year old Timmy, then go after stores that do not I.D. before purchase. Go after parents that buy these games for their children, or better yet, use all that energy to create a program to educate parents about these ratings so that maybe they will be a little more aware of what their kids are playing.

Ultimately, I feel it is the parent's job to decide what their kids can and cannot watch/play, not the government. But I have no problem will laws being passed preventing the sales of M rated titles to underage buyers, in the same way a 12 year old it not allowed into a NC-17 rated movie.

But Jack, seriously, get off your high-horse and stop trying to ban, censor, or in your eyes, clean up gaming. We're a mature industry. Your talk of murder-simulators is beyond ridiculous, as the act of sitting at home pressing some buttons differs greatly from yielding a real gun and pulling a trigger. Those disturbed individuals that have committed heinous acts have not done so because they played Doom, or GTA. They've committed those crimes because they were not mentally stable. You can blame biology or society for that before you point your finger at the videogame industry. From my understanding, youth shootings and violent crimes have been happening way before Pong made its debut.


I beat Double Agent a few days ago. Overall, it was fun. But it didn't really feel like a "next gen" experience. It felt like I completed a prettier version of Chaos Theory. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I could have used a little more. The 2nd half of the game was pretty damn good though.

Overall, I give the game an 8. How does that compare with my other 360 experiences? Lets find out!

I love giving games ratings! Lots of meaningless ratings based on nothing more than my gut feeling!! I'm going to rate all my 360 games and give them an overall score. Why? Because it is loads of fun. Hopefully I can remember all the games I own, since I'm not at home right now to look at my collection.

CoD 2 - 8.5 (This game is just solid. Runs fast, controls perfect)

PDZ - 6.5 (At times, this game screams next gen. Other times, it screams "blah". The controls suck)

Madden 2006 - 4.5 (I've spoken enough about this game)

Fight Night - 7.5 (this could have gotten a much higher score if the career-mode was not complete shit)

GRAW - 8 (Stupid teammate A.I. and its abysmal lobby system keeps this one from getting a 9)

Oblivion - 9 (Maybe the best game on the 360 so far. Definitely the most value for your dollar)

Table Tennis - 7 (Solid game, but severely lacking in modes and options. Gameplay is terrific though)

Kameo - 7.5 (Kameo was fun and gorgeous, even it not terribly memorable)

Condemned - 7.5 (Atmospheric and scary, although the mechanics did get tiresome after awhile)

PGR3 - 8.5 (Beautiful, fast, and fun. If I wouldn't prefer sim racers, this one would have gotten a 9)

NBA 2K7 - ? (Aside from the game's 24/7, I have not played it much. Maybe when the NBA season starts)

Madden 2007 - 7.5 (Big improvement over 2006, but still not where this series needs to be)

And now, for some Arcade titles:

Doom - 8 (It is Doom. It is fun. Imps must die!)

Texas Hold 'Em - 8 (I hear many complaining about this game. Maybe it is because I'm new to poker, but I enjoyed it. Plus, it was free!)

Geometry Wars - 8 (Simple and addicting. Pretty snazzy effects too. Will I ever reach One million points?)

SFII - 7 (The Arcade mode is just way too hard!!! Plus, the 360 pad sucks for this game. Shame.)

Wik - 7 (Strange little game. Fun in shorts burst.)

Smash TV - 6 (Fun with a friend, hard as hell, and ugly like a mo' fo'!)

I just pulled all those scores out of my ass. Give me this same list in a week and I'll probably think up totally different scores on the fly. But not by much. So, Oblivion is my favorite 360 game? Interesting. I didn't even know that. Looks like this excercise served a purpose afterall. I definitely have logged more hours into Oblivion than any other 360 game. Hell, I think I've logged more hours into Oblivion than any other game period. Yet I haven't played it in months and I still have a long way to go to complete it. I really do hope to beat it one day.

Now to decide what to do about November. Guitar Hero II, Gears of War, Rainbow 6: Vegas, CoD3, and F.E.A.R. I can probably pass on F.E.A.R. Depending on the reviews, I can hold off on CoD3. But I do not see anyway of me not getting the other three.

Emergence day cannot get here soon enough.

October 25, 2006


Emergence Day is less than two weeks away and I am getting pretty siked.

The new trailer on the Marketplace is not making the wait any easier. Seriously, this trailer is pretty damn cool and completely against what I figured Microsoft would be doing to promote the game. Excellent work Epic, excellent work.

I really suggest everyone download it and watch it in glorious 720p on their tvs. But, for those that can't, or are too impatient, here it is from Xboxyde: LINK!

October 22, 2006

One more note

Man, Double Agent has some long load times. The game needs to load to the main menu, where you choose between single-player or multiplayer. Once you choose (single player lets say), you go through about a minute of loading, which takes you to the menu for single-player. Then after you choose "new game" or "load", you sit through over a minute more of loading. And then, here is the kicker. After that, you see "Press A to continue", so you assume you'll be starting the level now, so you press A, only now you get some screen that says "loading content" and the game continues to load for another 30 seconds. So what the hell was the previous 1 minute+ load for? Just to load the "Loading content" screen? Annoying.

SC updated impressions

I've played a few more single player levels. Some notes:

- The game has frozen on me several times. It has happened a couple of times after pressing the back button to bring up my wrist computer. It also froze once while viewing the in-game map.

- Because of my freezing problems I have been saving alot more. It has greatly helped to reduce some of the frustration.

- The levels certainly appear to pick up after the first few. There is a level that takes place on a cruise ship in broad daylight and it was fantastic. One of my favorite levels of any SC game. It is a great new dynamic sneaking around in broad daylight. You don't hide in the shadows, but rather have to find actual physical cover. It was alot of fun. And the level was beautiful. Again, it is refreshing to be able to really play through a level and not have it blanketted in complete darkness. Graphically, it was very impressive.

- I'm enjoying the game alot more now. There are still several instances where it is really difficult to figure out where to go to complete your objective though. The level design definitely seem to get better as you advance through the game. So far at least.

- My previous comments about Sam's animations when picking up objects or interacting with the environment, while still valid, might have been too harsh. I have noticed that those transition in Double Agent are far better than they were in previous SC games. They still do not look completely smooth or realistic, but better than they have been in the past.

October 20, 2006

Double Agent

So, I caved in and bought Splinter Cell: Double Agent. I said I wasn't, or at least, that I only would if the reviews were great. Well, the reviews have been good, but we see a significant decline compared to how the last Splinter Cell game, Chaos Theory, was received, a game that earned almost perfect scores all around.

Throughout this game's development I have had my doubts. While I have enjoyed every previous SC game, watching all the gameplay videos of Double Agent did not convince me it was making the significant jump I was hoping for from the SC series. It looked very, very similar to the previous SC titles, recycling almost all of Sam's animations. It did not demand the attention a game like Gears of War does, one that stops you in your tracks and forces you to admire the next gen visuals. The jump also seemed minuscule compared to other Tom Clancy games like Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter and Rainbow 6: Vegas.

Here are my impressions of Double Agent, through the first four levels of the single player game. I haven't touched multiplayer yet.

This game feels instantly familiar to SC vets. The controls are basically the same and the levels progress very similar to previous titles. The first few at least. You stick to shadows and try not to tip off the enemy of your whereabouts. The game gets interesting on your third mission, which plays out like no other Splinter Cell game before it. I'm not going to go into detail about the game's story, since that has been covered in countless previews and in all the reviews of the game, but I will say that the free roaming levels that take place in the JBA headquarters are a lot of fun and a breath of fresh air. I have only played one of them (I read there are about three of them) and my only negative about it is that you have a time limit in which to accomplish your tasks. This does add tension to the level, but, I have a serious problems with time limits in games. I hate them. Unless I am playing a racing game, I do not like being rushed through a level. To be fair, they do seem to give you plenty of time to complete all your objectives, but the fact that there is a limit bothers me.

Aside from that, so far, it has been standard Splinter Cell fare. The game is fun . . . and frustrating, as every SC has been before it. Sometimes it can pretty difficult to figure out exactly what you are supposed to do or go in a particular mission. Throw in a time limit (which I already mentioned I HATE!) and this can lead to some frustrating sections.

In the very first level you need to infiltrate a missile silo and disarm a missile that is set to launch. Once inside the silo you have a limited amount of time to figure out how to get to the missile, which you can see clearly, but need to navigate what feels like a maze of rafters and stairs to get to it. Then, to top it off, once you figure out how to get there, you then have about 60 seconds to escape before the entire place blows up! Tense? Yes, very. But mostly because you have no idea where you are going. The result? You need to play many sections over and over until you figure out what to do. Except that by that time, you've already played that section four times and it is no longer as tense or exciting as it should have been.

This has been the case with every Splinter Cell game. It is not even isolated to SC, it is an issue with the entire stealth genre. It can be very unforgiving and is only compounded by the fact that since you need to be sneaking around all the time, it takes extra long to get somewhere, so if you finally do die and have to do a large section over again, you just lost twenty minutes of gameplay. So you do it over, except now you know where all the enemy locations are so it is nowhere near as tense or fun as it was the first time. One solution is to save often. But that only helps in preventing you from playing long sections over, it still effectively kills a lot of the tension, since you always know if you mess up you can just load your game and try something else. It makes you not really have to think about your actions, since they don't really have consequence. Should you try to sneak past that guard and hack the commuter right behind him? Why not, if you mess up you can just load and try a different route. Like I said, this is not a problem with the Splinter Cell series as much as it is just with the genre. It is unfortunate.

So, what do I like about the game? Like I mentioned, it still plays like SC and that is not necessarily such a bad thing. The game has been fun so far and the story is actually decent and easy to follow this time. The game's trust system is pretty interesting as well, since depending on your actions you can gain or lose trust from both the NSA or the JBA (the terrorist group you are infiltrating). You also have to make some pretty harrowing decisions. Do you shoot the helpless News helicopter pilot in cold blood because the JBA asked you to? Doing so will help you gain their trust and secure your cover . . . but he is a civilian and it goes against your training.

Graphically the game is nice, but like I mentioned, I expected more from the Splinter Cell series. The original SC game on the Xbox was one of the most graphically impressive games for its time. The lighting effects were like no other game before it. Chaos Theory still stands in my opinion as the best looking game of the last generation (well, maybe tied with Resident Evil 4 for the Gamecube). So, needless to say, my expectations for a next gen SC were pretty high.

The graphics basically look like Chaos Theory to the second power. The textures are great. The lighting is great. The environments are great. But they are very familiar at the same time. And the biggest reason why is because of the recycled animation.

It definitely appears that Double Agent is using a heavily modified version of the Chaos Theory engine. Shame. I hate when a developer carries over a last gen engine for a next gen offering. Maybe I am jaded, or expecting too much from this generation, but there are many staples in games that I want to not see anymore. And this does not apply just to Double Agent, but to every next gen game out there. Developers need to re-think certain things and finally address some issues that have been around for far too long, which might seem small and insignificant, but I feel is what separates last generation games from the future of gaming. I do not just want higher poly models, high res textures, and improved lighting. Because all that does not equate to a next gen experience.

What am I talking about? Ok, an example from Double Agent. In this game, as has been the case in all SC games before, when Sam is going to interact with something, be it a door, a switch, a item on the ground, or a body, he "warps" into position to make sure the animation lines up properly. That was fine in the previous games, but I do not want to see it anymore. Developers need to develop a new animation system that will allow your character to seamlessly transition from one position to another without all the sliding on the ground and warping, because it looks ridiculous. No matter how photo-realistic you make the character or environments look, if the animation is not evolving with the rest of it, the game will fail to impress me.

Another gaming staple that I want to see done away with: the way characters walk up and down stairs. I want their damn feet and walking animation to change and I want every step from the character to actually land on a step, and not just have them slowly ascend diagonally as they use their regular walking animation. The little details people, the little details!

I guess I am saying that I think animation has been seriously overlooked so far in this next generation. I think I have had this rant before, and it was not my intention to go into now, but animation in my eyes is way more important than textures or special effects if you want to impress me. Give me a game that looks exactly like Chaos Theory did, only implement a system that blends all animations seamlessly, with no awkward transitions and everything flows with absolute realism and I'll take it over Double Agent's visuals any day.

Ok, I just bashed SC: Double Agent huh? That was not my intention. What I meant to say when I started writing these impressions, is that SC is . . . well, it is a SC game. It looks better than any before it, and plays better than any before it. I just expected more of an evolution in its jump to the 360, instead of the baby steps it seems to have taken.

I want a new engine for the next game ok Ubisoft? It is exclusive to the 360, so build it to take full advantage of the hardware.

Ok, all that after only four levels. I've heard the game really picks up at the end. Now watch I end up completely loving the game and saying it is the best 360 game I have played. :P

I'll post further impressions as I advance through it.


I own three cats. Two boys, who are just over 1 year old, and a little girl who is about 6 months. The boys have outgrown their annoying playful stage. The stage where you cannot move any part of your body or it will get pounced on and attacked. Especially when you are under the covers. The little girl, has not. It is always interesting not knowing when a small cat is going to appear out of nowhere and attack you. It is fun, cute and annoying all at the same time. Anyone who owns cats know how amusing they can be. Each one their own individual, unique character.

Take my cat Coltrane for instance. He's the middle one. He is absolutely hilarious, even though he has no idea he is. He has many quirks, like meowing loudly at you when you enter a room for no reason whatsoever. Or being terrified at any sudden (or not so sudden) movement you might make. But his most amusing trait is the fact that he has no idea how his claws function. You'd figure, as a cat, he'd be fully aware of what to do with his claws. Not Coltrane. He has yet to master the art of retracting his claws once he sinks them into something. It is quite amusing watching him stretch and sink his claws onto the side of our bed . . . then stay stuck there for a minute or two as he tries to walk away, or jump on the bed, but he cannot because his paws are stuck in the mattress. I can watch him all day.

I walked into the room one day and saw him by the window, one of his front paws stuck on the window frame above his head - in a pretty strange angle - and him just sitting there, his arm extended over his head because he couldn't get it out. I don't know how long the poor little guy had been in that position, but it appeared like he just gave up trying to get free and decided to just sit down and wait for assistance. I couldn't stop laughing.

Good old Coltrane. I think I might have some pictures of him "stuck" on our bed. If I find them I'll post them.


This past Saturday I went to Busch Gardens' Howl-O-Scream. Basically their version of Halloween Horror Nights, only not as popular. It was great. For those of you who have gone to Horror Nights countless times, I recommend you mix it up this year or next and go to Howl-O-Scream.

The negative out of my trip (and it is not really a negative) is that I want to go back to the park during the day to see the actual park, since at night you can't get a real feel for it nor experience its normal attractions. The roller-coasters were open, but I paid to experience the haunted houses, not the coasters.

I did ride Shriekra and Kumba and they were fantastic. Now I definitely want to go back and ride the rest of them, since the last time I went to Busch Gardens about 23 years ago, I was a) too young to ride them and b) I don't think they even had ½ of the coasters they have now.

October 18, 2006

Calm before the storm . . .

I had some free time last night (for the first time in about a week) and I was able to sit on my couch with my controller in hand and turn on my 360, knowing that I could play for a good couple of hours (instead of the 20 minute sessions I have been having lately).

So, what to play?

I am still waiting to play my Superbowl match-up against the Redskins in Madden. But I'm in a real Anti-EA mood lately and I don't even want to put the game in my 360.

I put in GRAW and gave it a go. I have a weird thing going on with GRAW right now. I'm obsessed with playing the co-op missions . . . by myself. Without dying. I have only passed one level like this. It is hard. And once I die, after playing stealthily for 20 minutes, I get frustrated and turn it off. Which is what happened last night.

I then played a little PGR3. I already beat it, getting all silver medals, and am now going back to all the previous races and attempting to get gold or platinum medals. This game is a lot of fun, but I have a problem with it. I do not like how you have to choose what medal you are going for before the race. Each medal has a certain goal you have to meet, so why not just have the event play itself out and then depending on your results, you might get a medal, like in Gran Turismo. By having to choose only one medal you are aiming for, if you over achieve in that particular race, it is for nothing, because you don't get rewarded for achieving the next medal's criteria. If you need to finish a lap within 1:10 for a silver and you finish the lap instead in :52 seconds, which lets say is good enough for a platinum, you are screwed. You are getting your silver medal and if you want the platinum you need to "say" you are going for the platinum and do the event again. This is a very cheap way of trying to add replay value to the game. I could have a bunch of gold and even platinum medals right now from my initial play through the game, but I don't because I decided to aim for silver for a lot of the races since I was new to the game. Annoying. It is especially annoying since you don't want to say you are aiming for platinum every time, since those are incredibly tough and with the game's constant load times, trying to finish one perfect lap can be extremely frustrating. I hope PGR4 changes this system.

After PGR3, I looked at my games and I didn't really feel like playing any of them. I've beaten them all, except for Oblivion. Man, I really have to get back into Oblivion. But . . . not feeling it right now.

I played some Doom, but I can only play it in short bursts, so, after 15 minutes I am done. I played a hand of Texas Hold 'Em. Done.

Man, I'm ready for a new game. I still have Loco Roco for the PSP, but I don't really play the PSP at home. Still have Syphon Filter for it as well.

Nope, I need a new game. And believe me, they are coming in November. What is the tally up to? Gears of War, Rainbow Six: Vegas, Guitar Hero II. Those are just my definite "must-haves". Then there are many intriguing alternates. Knowing me, I might just cave in between now and November 7th (GHII) and pick up Splinter Cell: Double Agent. Pretty good review from IGN. Haven't seen any others yet.

October 11, 2006


Last Friday I decided to go to the movies. I hadn't been to the theater since Superman Returns, so my girlfriend and I decided to catch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. We had enjoyed the previous one (to my surprise).

The movie was bad. Well, I should clarify. It is not so much that it was bad, as that it was the exact same movie as the previous one. Seriously. The same movie. This was supposed to be the origin story of Leatherface (or so I thought) . . . but it is not. It is practically a remake of the remake. A couple of teens are cruising through the wrong part of Texas at the wrong time, crazy Sherif gets involved, they get taken to the house, some chick with tight jeans is the only one that is not captured, a couple gruesome chainsaws kills, jeans-chick ends up at the slaughter house as good old Leatherface chases her down. Movie ends. Same movie. So unoriginal. So predictable.

I'll give it props for its "look" and for its pretty impressive gore. Can't wait to see the unrated director's cut. But on the whole, huge disappointment. We should have gone to see The Departed, I hear it is great.

But while I was in the movie theater, I realized something. I hate going to the movies. That is an odd thing for me to say, because I love film. And I used to love going to the movies. But nowadays, I'll take my couch, my HDTV, surround sound, and Netflix any day.

And I have nothing against the theaters themselves, just the stupid people that go to them. The movies have become a social gathering for friends to go to and hang out instead of watching the movie they just paid $10 to see. The constant talking, idiots screaming out remarks in a pathetic attempt to be funny and feel good about their miserable lives, the sticky floors, the kids crying (in an R rated movie no less), it all adds up to a truly frustrating experience on my end.

When I go to the movies, I go to, well, watch a movie. I get there a minimum of an hour early to get tickets and seats (earlier if it is a major release) and I like to sit down in my chair with plenty of time to spare and just relax. Which brings me to one of my many pet peeves. I purposely get there early because I am very particular about where I sit in the auditorium. I like optimum seating for maxim enjoyment. Do you think I like sitting down 45 minutes early, listening to that dreadful music and reading those boring, repetitive slides? No, I get there early so that I can choose the one seat in the place that I want to sit in for the next couple of hours and take in the movie. So, this past Friday, I am sitting in my seat (and had been for a good ½ hour), the movie is about to start and the auditorium is filling up quickly. Then I get the dreaded tap on the shoulder. "Hehehe, excuse me, but do you think you could move down two seats . . . it's that we have four in our group and since we like to get to the theater 2 minutes before the show is supposed to start, there are only two seats together here, but if you move down two seats we can all sit together."

Son of a . . . .

If there is one thing I hate, it is moving from my seat (which I came early for) because some dumbasses in a large group show up late and want to sit together. Oh, you want to sit together? Then get to the fucking theater ½ an hour earlier! If not, get used to sitting apart!

Sorry, I had to get that off my chest. Just one of the many, many . . . many reason, why I just can't stand going to the theater. And none of them have to do with the outrageous prices. I'll deal with the high costs (hey, these movies nowadays cost a pretty penny to make). No, all my reasons have to do with humanity's stupidities and my inability to deal with them. Man I hate people.

Ok, rant over. Don't go see The Texans Chains Massacre: The Beginning.

October 03, 2006


- Another week, another crappy, pathetic performance by the Dolphins. After barely defeating the Titans (and really, we didn't beat that Titans, the Titans beat themselves) the Texans looked great against us. 17-15.

Man, we're really, really bad.

Our offensive line is abysmal. I'm not blaming Culpepper for the offense's lack of productivity, he is doing all he can to prevent getting absolutely killed back there. 21 sacks in four games. That is one bad offensive line. Really bad.

It seems like none of our players are stepping up and making key plays. Plays that will lift this team out of mediocrity. Wes Welker is our only shining light right now. Give that boy a raise.

- I'm really enjoying Doom. Once I got used to the mechanics again, the game has been a blast. Pure nostalgia. Don't know how much someone who never played the original will feel about the game though.

- A week ago my profile from Madden deleted itself. It just decided to reset to 0 and all my settings and sliders were erased. I was extremely pissed off, as I was pretty happy with the way the game was playing with my sliders (aside from the interception problem I was having, but it was getting better with constant tweaks).

So I've had to basically start from scratch, trying to find my slider settings again. It has been a real drag because I am about to play the Super Bowl in my franchise (Dolphins/Redskins) and I do not want to play it until I am certain I find the sliders I had before. Because of this, Madden has been put on hold.

- After reading the glowing review of NBA 2K7 on Operation Sports, seeing all of the positive forum posts, the extremely impressive gameplay vids at Gametrailers, as well as it getting a high recommendation from my buddy Sroz39, I caved in and purchased.

Now, anyone that knows me knows that basketball is not one of my preferred sports. I know very little about basketball and I only watch it when the Heat make the playoffs. And even then it is only on occasion. Yes, I'm one of those bandwagon fans. The last thing I expected myself to do was go out and actually purchase an NBA game.

Sure enough, I am enjoying the game. I do not know what I am doing half the time, but slowly but surely it is starting to sink in. I played a match online with one of my friends and the game played flawlessly. More evidence that EA just doesn't know what the hell they are doing when it comes to online play.

I have yet to start an "Association" yet, 2K's version of a franchise. I have spent most of my time practicing in the practice mode and playing the game's 24/7 mode, in which you create a player and take him up the ranks of street courts to earn enough rep to play with big NBA stars. It is a cool mode in concept, but it is extremely flawed, shallow and poorly executed.

You have to sit through countless cinmatics of your two chump friends giving you advise, encouragement, or ridicule after every match you play. These terrible scenes cannot be skipped (why, I have no idea) and they repeat themselves way too often. Once you create you character (which was pretty fun, with lots of customizable options for appearance), you do not have a way to go back and edit his appearance or accessories. I do not want to change my facial features, but letting me edit the equipment I am wearing, getting a new tattoo or even changing my hair style would have been great. You also cannot see any of your player's attributes, you don't really "improve" or advance other than learning a few new moves from some top players every now and then, and you cannot even see any of your career stats. Again, like I said, the mode comes off as very shallow and half-assed. There is lots of potential here for a different type of Career/Create-a-player mode, but it felt like this mode got very little attention. The cinematics for example look right of the Xbox version, and look terrible. This mode has a very EA feel to it. Meaning, great ideal, terrible execution.

But, the biggest problem I have with this mode is that for some inexcusable reason you cannot change the camera angle when you are playing the game. I do not like the default camera, but you are stuck using it in this mode. Again, why they left that option out is beyond me. With this mode's many faults, I am surprised that it is where I have spent the bulk of my time, and I have played maybe only 4 or 5 actual games in Quick Game mode. I think it is because it at least is a decent mode to get used to the controls with some opposition, since practice mode only features your offense on the court.

Graphically the game is extremely polished. The presentation while playing a game is top-notch, with great replays and decent commentary. The game's animation is fantastic, with extremely fluid and realistic movements. Practically all NBA players have their signature shooting animations, which is a fantastic feature, but probably wasted on me since I wouldn't know what ½ of these players shoot like in real life. If they can do this for100+ players, I see no reason why Madden shouldn't be implementing actual QB animations for every single starting QB in 2008. Yeah right, I should hold my breath.

Anyway, the game is fun and at least has given me some interest in b-ball, to the point where I might actually watch a few regular season Heat games this year. And I'm sure I'll begin to appreciate the game even more as I pick up more of the sports' nuances.

- I also am still playing PGR3. This game is a blast. My new obsession is buying cars to fill up my garages. The game's "garage" system is absolutely fantastic. So much so that I wish every single racing game would copy it. You get a virtual garage that you can walk through and see your cars. I should say, you get virtual garages, since as you fill them up, you open up bigger ones. Few games can show off the 360's power better than a walk through one of your virtual garages. They look absolutely fantastic. The lighting, motion blur, water effects (yes, there is water), are stunning. And the car models are absolutely pristine!!! I could spend 20 minutes just walking around each of my garages, admiring my beautiful, expensive cars, and snapping pictures of them.

Oh, and the racing portion of the game is very, very good as well. :P

- I've had my ups and downs with Gears of War. Sometimes I can't wait for it to come out, the next minute I am convinced it will be nothing more than a tech demo for the Unreal III engine and the game will be extremely shallow. Right now I am at my "can't wait for it to come out" mood after watching several high-quality gameplay videos from X06. The game is looking very impressive indeed and I just cannot wait to see what it looks like on my HDTV running at 720p.

I have my fingers crossed for this one (I already have it pre-ordered, so it better be good)