November 29, 2006

Pet Peeves Vol. I

The other day I was thinking about all of my pet peeves. Those little things that just aggravate me. I have lots of them. I figured I'd share them here, even though they might not be game related. I'll talk about them in instalments, I guess usually after an incident arises that brings one of these to my attention.

So, here is my first Pet Peeve. It is not necessarily the one I feel strongest about, but it is the one I have in mind at the moment.

Bathroom Attendants.

Have you seen these guys (or gals)? Some random stranger inside of the restroom standing by the sink. They turn on the faucet for you, squirt soup on your hands and fetch you some paper towels while you rinse. Then they stand waiting for you to give them a tip for all that "quality" service they just did.

What the hell? Why are these people in here? I can do all this by myself. I like doing all this by myself. I don't like having some person waiting on me hand and foot, especially in the restroom. I don't want to feel pressure to bust out with a dollar bill everytime I have to use the bathroom either.

And lets not forget the "goods and services" they have for your convinience. Cologne, perfume, gum, deodorant, cigarettes, and other assorted items. Why are these things in the bathroom? I do not even know if they are for sale if you can just help yourself, because really, I have never felt the need to even ask, I find it so bizarre.

No disrespect to anyone trying to make a living as a bathroom attendant, as making a living is hard enough, but I wish the position was done away with all-together and you were transferred to bus boy, or hallway attendant, or cashier. Seriously, I like to be left alone when I go to the bathroom. If the reason for them being there is really just to keep an eye on things then I would prefer some bouncer looking fella' to stand by the door - making sure no one is using drugs or defecating on the floor - as long as he minds his own business and leaves me alone.

Oh well . . .

Wow, Superman Returns: The Videogame has been getting absolutely destroyed in the reviews. After the demo, I was actually pretty siked about this game.

I guess I can see this as a positive, as it is one less game I need to play/buy, but the game did have great potential (from the standpoint of the way Superman controlled and the giant Metropolis City that was created). From reading the reviews, EA really dropped that ball and rushed this game out (even with the initial delay). The ground work seems to be there: solid controls, huge city, decent graphics, and you actually feel like Superman, but the gameplay/story department is severely lacking. How can you have a Superman Returns game, which shows the events of the movie in cinematics, but you not once interact with Louis Lane or Lex Luthor? That is just bad, bad design.

I actually hope they release a sequel to this game and spend all their development time building on the solid foundation that was created, and improve the flow of the game, have an actual story, and let Superman do more than fight random robots and dragons.

Oh wait, I am now boycotting EA, so scratch that. I now hope Army of Two is crappy, so I don't feel inclined to buy it :p

November 27, 2006

Long Weekend

Man I love Thanksgiving. It gives us "The four F's". Family, Football, Food and Four-days-off!!

I spent Thanksgiving at my grandmother's house, cooking with my sister, watching football, playing catch and drinking. That is a good day right there.

On Friday I relaxed at home during the day. Powerpuff and I managed some Gears of Wars co-op action and then I went out with some friends for more drinking. That is a good night right there.

On Saturday, I stayed home all day on my couch feeling miserable after two days of drinking. Seriously, the drinking the night before was a bit on the extreme side. After about four glasses of 151 & Coke (before even heading to the club) and then a few shots of Liquid Cocaine and some Dewar's on the rocks, I was out of it. 70% of the night's events are a complete mystery to me, but from what I hear, it was quite the night.

In my extreme misery, I managed to get in a good amount of time with Rainbow Six: Vegas (in between naps and tylenol breaks). The game is great!

Me being the bad-ass that I think I am, I started playing on the "Realistic" difficulty. That is my new thing apparently, I like to start games on the hardest difficulty. Mostly to extend the life of the game, and by experience the harder setting usually provides more enjoyment. But it sure can prove to be frustrating at times.

Since I am not much of a R6 veteran (I played some of part III, but never really finished it) I had a hard time getting into it. Mostly because I was dying constantly and getting used to the game's controls (I still had Gears of War in the head).

Once I started to feel really comfortable with the controls and style of play, I was greatly enjoying myself. Some sections are still incredible tough on Realistic, and it seems like you need to die a few times just to learn how to pass some parts by trial-and-error, but the game is great.

Visually, it is far more impressive than the demo. Granted, the demo level mostly took place in the dark in a constrution zone, so it did not have many opportunities to flex its visual muscles, but the final product looks gorgeous. Vegas is vibrant and alive. The game uses the Unreal III engine and it is refreshing to see just how different the game looks from Gears of War. Usually if a game is using a certain graphics engine, it will share similar visuals (ala Doom III and Prey), but Gears and R6 look absolutely NOTHING alike. This is good news for all future games using Unreal III (and there are plenty of them)

So, Rainbow Six: Vegas is a buy in my book.

In PS2 news, I am now about ½ way through Guitar Hero II on Expert. Man, some songs are a serious work-out for your fingers!!! I need to practice some more because after about four songs I need to take a break.

No CoD3 in a while now. Still not feeling it. Will probably wait until I am done with R6 and tired of GoW.

November 21, 2006

CoD 3

This weekend I managed to get some CoD3 in. Finally. Gears of War still took up a good portion of my time, but now that I have played through it about 3 times, I find I can try other games without thinking about it. Like I said, despite its flaws, it is a lot of fun.

At this point I am having mixed reactions with CoD3. It looks better than CoD2. It basically plays the same (meaning, very good). It still has fantastic atmosphere and sound. Yet I am having a much harder time getting into the game than the previous title. Can it be that less than a year after part 2, it is just too early for another CoD3 title?

Or maybe the whole WWII FPS genre is getting long in the tooth. The Nazi bullets might still be whizzing by my ear and explosions are going off a few feet away . . . but the excitement is gone. It could be a result of playing this game right after Gears. Not sure. I might put it in the back-burner for now, because I really do want to enjoy it.

But that is fine, I actually have too many games at the moment and I hate being overloaded with games. Gears of War, Guitar Hero II, Call of Duty 3, Rainbow 6: Vegas (Out this week). Too many games, not enough time.

I have yet to dive into GoW multiplayer, aside from co-op which is blast. The couple of vs. matches I did play resulted in me and my team getting absolutely destroyed. It was fun, but different from the single-player. It is going to take a good amount of time to learn the maps and tactics necessary to be successful in multiplayer.

Guitar Hero II has been an absolute blast. Playing co-op is the way this game was meant to be played. I'm not sure if I like the song selection as much as the original, but since it has Sweet Child O' Mine I think it wins by default. Hanger 18 is also fantastic. I've beaten the career-mode on Hard and just recently started on Expert. It is harder than part one. In a good way. And the new practice mode looks like it is going to come in handy as I advance through Expert. Some of those solos are just insane.

I'm looking forward to Rainbow Six: Vegas. Reviews have been great and the demo was fun. I have not tried the multiplayer demo though. Well, I did try it once and after I created my character (took a while as I was going through all the options) when I finally got into a game it was incredibly laggy, so I quit and haven't tried again.

I've also played through the Superman Returns demo quite a few times and I like it more and more with each play through. The game is a lot of fun and I cannot get enough of flying around as Supes. It feels great. Once you learn all the controls and learn some of the combat moves, the game is really a lot of fun. Now I think I want to pick this game up too!!! Nooo!! Not only is it another game to add to the list, but I don't want to give EA anymore of my money!!!

What to do, what to do . . .

November 17, 2006

Gears of War

I've played through the game twice, once on Hardcore by myself, and once on Insane with a buddy over Live. Does the game live up to the hype?

I would say so.


Gameplay-wise, Gears does not throw many curve balls at you. You move from firefight to firefight and advance through a level. Its biggest weakness might be that it is fairly linear. Enemies never seem to be just wandering around a level, they mostly come rushing out, or ambush you, or a Locust hole will open up whenever you enter their area. This takes away from the game a bit, since it feels very scripted. Most areas also "close up" after you advance, so you cannot backtrack much. Not that there is any real need to backtrack, but it feels like the world is just closing in around you and you are being ushered through a set path. So while the game is just a series of battles over and over in a set location until you open up the next area, the battles are a ton of fun, thanks to great enemy A.I., fun weapons, and the game's cover system.

While alternate paths are offered periodically, you need to specify which route to take, again, taking away from the organic feel of the game. It would have been better if the paths were just presented to you and you go in the direction you want, instead of actually choosing a side through an on-screen menu.

The game heavily relies on cover and the controls work very well. It takes getting used to at first, especially since the "A" button does just about everything, but once you get the hang of it, it works great. I have had very few issues with the controls once I got over the initial learning curve. Even having the reload button on the right-bumper becomes second nature, though it feels very awkward at first.

Overall, the game might be restrictive and does very little to move the action/shooter genre forward (aside from the cover system), but since it manages to stay fun throughout, I'll give it a pass.


The game's effects are loud and get the job done. Voice work is pretty good, even though the script itself could use some work. The "Brain Dead Tough Guy" hook is layered a little too thick sometimes. The Locusts sound appropriately creepy and scary, and those damn Wretches make a nasty screech that will make the hair on the back of you neck stand at attention. I hate those damn Wretches (they remind me of the Flood only slightly less annoying).

The music is actually what surprised me the most. It is very, very good. I loved the orchestral score and thought is enhanced the mood of the game perfectly. The rap song that plays during the end credits didn't do it for me though. Seemed out of place and annoying. They should have played "Mad World", like they did for the fantastic trailer released before launch.


This is the area that let me down the most. Not the story itself, because I have been reading and following the Gears story for over a year now and I think it is great . . . but the actual story telling is abysmal. Seriously, I do not think Epic could have done a worse job conveying the story to the player. Do you know why? Because they don't convey the story to the player. No story information is given during the game. Sure, some of the characters hint at a back story during gameplay, and if you read the instruction booklet you a whopping paragraph letting you know the events leading up to the start of the game, but other than that, the player is kept completely in the dark.

That is very unfortunate, because the history Epic has created for this world is pretty intriguing. You can get a pretty good prologue from Wikipedia HERE.

If Epic could have done a better job of informing the player what was going on, then it would have helped immerse the player into this detailed world and provided a much better experience. I am very disappointed in Epic for giving such little regard to the game's story.


Alright, this is what everyone is talking about. Everyone knows the age old motto: Graphics are not important, it is all about gameplay. That may be true, but in GoW's case, the graphics are the sole reason for this game's appeal and success. If this game had average to mediocre graphics, nobody would even know about it. Like I said, the gameplay is not revolutionary enough to stand on its own. This game is all about impressive visuals.

And impressive they are. Best looking game of all time? At the moment, it just might be. Best looking console game at least. The overall graphical package is fantastic. The models, environments, lighting, effects, they come together beautifully. There are some scenes that are so drop-dead gorgeous you need to just sit back and stare in awe at your screen. A HDTV really helps too, although I cannot really comment on how the game looks on a SDTV, I'm sure it is still impressive.

There is one scene in Act III which takes place in a HUGE underground cavern surrounded by a lake of Imulsion (the game's clear, luminescent energy source) which is the most impressive thing I have ever seen as a gamer. Absolutely gorgeous.

Another scene takes place in a greenhouse, overrun with plants and weeds, with light streaming in from the glass roof above, again, simply gorgeous. The level that takes place at night, during a huge downpour and everything glistens, again, very impressive. Like I said, best looking console game ever made.

Now that I got all the praise out of the way, time to really dissect the visuals. Like I said, as a total graphical package, no game out there comes close to topping Gears. However, that does not mean it is a perfect visual experience. The biggest weakness I see by far, are the textures. A lot of the textures simply do not hold up on close inspection. Some even at not-so close inspection. If the entire scene is taken in as a whole, it looks phenomenal. But focus on that ruble in the corner, or that wall you're hiding behind and you see some blurry, lower-res texture rear their ugly heads.

There is this one room in the first act which has a refrigerator up against a wall. The textures of the fridge are . . . well, they are just terrible. Absolutely terrible. And not just from up close, from across the room it looks awful. It literally looks like it was taken out of some Xbox 1 game and put in Gears. It looks very out of place, especially with your fantastic looking character model next to it. There are many instances of rubble and debris also looking less than desirable. Now, many games have this problem and it is only because Gears of War's visuals are so damn amazing that it makes this aspect stand out. Other games would probably be happy to have Gear's textures.

Another issue is that when your character changes elevation, like walking onto a sidewalk from the street, he just pops up and it looks extremely jarring. Sort like he did a quick little teleport to elevate himself a few inches off the ground. Now, many of you are probably saying, "Stop whining about these little details, no game is perfect, you suck Tanis!!!", and I hear what you are saying, but anyone that knows me knows that from this generation, this "next" generation, it is the little things that I am looking for. All those little details are what come together and give games that special next gen feel. Watching my teammate standing on a staircase and seeing him basically floating because his posture is that of someone standing on flat ground as opposed to actually standing on steps is something that bothers be. These staples that have part of gaming for so long, is what I feel developers need to focus on getting rid of once and for all. Stuff like floating weapons or items, which Gears also has. The first time I saw the Hammer of Dawn and it was just floating on the ground waiting for me to pick up, I was pretty disappointed.

The game's physics also need some work. From watching the Unreal Engine III's tech demo, I know this engine is capable of some impressive physics. I love the fact that after a foe is dead you can kick his body around. There is ragdoll in effect and that is always fun. But dead bodies have absolutely ZERO weight to them, so you toss them about as if they were inflatable balloons. Sorry, but after I take down a husky Boomer, being able to kick his body around like a beach ball sorta kills the effect that he's some 9 foot tall, 900lb creature wearing armor. Seriously.

Ok, am I done bashing this game? Yes. Regardless of the last few anal retentive paragraphs I just wrote, Gears delivers in being the most gorgeous game on the 360. It is an absolutely blast to play. Online Co-op is fantastic. I've beaten it twice already and even though I have CoD3 waiting for me, I decided to start yet another campaign, because I want to kill more Locusts. I have yet to get into multiplayer matches, so there is plenty of lengevity left.

So, Gears may not re-invent the shooter genre wheel, or change gaming as we know it, but it is a hell of a lot of fun and will be spinning in my 360's drive for a pretty long while.

Bring on the sequel!!

November 14, 2006

Busy November

The crazy (quality) game influx we've had in November has been much more bearable thanks to one factor which I had forgotten about. My birthday.

A couple weeks ago I was tormented by the fact that titles such as Gears of War, Guitar Hero II, CoD3, and Rainbow 6: Vegas were all coming out withing a few weeks of each other. Who can afford that?

Well, my friends and relatives can apparently.

My birthday was last Saturday and everyone knows my favorite gift is Best Buy gift cards. So guess what I got? A whole mess of Best Buy gift cards. Gears of War was already in my posession (I've had it since 11/8/06, will write about it later), so Guitar Hero II, CoD3 and Rainbow 6 are now a go. Maybe even Viva Pinata so my girlfriend can play (Ok, I want to try it out too).

Anyway, I already picked up Guitar Hero II and CoD3 on Sunday thanks to said giftcards, and I have another one waiting for Rainbow 6:Vegas. =)

Thank you family and friends!!

November 08, 2006

Wireless Headset

I picked up the wireless headset for the 360 on Saturday, but unfortunately have not been able to try it out much, aside from a Private Chat with a friend.

The design is sweet. It looks like a high-tech gadget, is very light weight, and is pretty comfortable. My private chat went fine. My friend's voice came through clear (he was using a wireless headset as well) and he had no trouble hearing me.

When I first was trying to set up the chat though, my headset was not working for some reason. I would hear my buddy through my tv speakers and no matter how many times I turned off the headset or tried to sync it with the 360, it would not work. After restarting my 360 completely, it worked fine. I hope that is not a recurring problem (I have not been able to use the headset since then, so I am not sure if it will happen again).

I will definitely be giving the headset a thorough workout with gears of War coming out tomorrow. I'll be doing lots of co-op over Live with that baby. Can't wait.

November 07, 2006


Well, the reviews are out. And they are good.

Teamxbox: 9.6
Gamespot: 9.6
IGN: 9.4
1UP: 10

I have to admit, as much as I have been looking forward to this game and as much as I was hoping it would be great, in the back of my mind I never thought it would be receiving those type of scores. Throughout the game's development, I always had the impression that ultimately what we would be getting is a beautiful game . . . with not much substance. Little more than a tech demo of what the Unreal III engine could do, attached to a repetitive game that would get tiresome about ½ through the campaign.

I am so glad I was wrong. From the looks of it at least, because it does not look like my local Gamestop will be getting the game until tomorrow. Damn.

Today is going to a very, very long day.

November 05, 2006


There is a lot of talk lately about how the Marketplace can potentially ruin gaming. And I have to agree with a lot of it. As a gamer (and consumer) it is not pleasant to see what is going on. Not only did we see the M.S.R.P. of games go from $49.99 to $59.99, but now some Publishers are giving the impression that $60 does not even net us a full, complete game anymore.

I will like to preface all this by saying that I am not against downloadable content that you need to purchase. Not in any way. But it definitely depends on the content. Bethesda seems to be doing a good job with DL content for Oblivion. Sure, they might have stumbled out of the gate with the Horse Armor debacle, but they have since put out quality content that adds game play and extends the life of thier already long game. Using them as an example: cosmetic download that adds no gameplay = rip-off; Added dungeons or quests to extend your enjoyment of the game = purchase.

EA has been in the center of backlash from the gaming community. They just seem to be out to take all our money, instead of pleasing us with quality products. Charging for a PPV "sneak peak" of Madden 2007, charging for classic stadiums, charging for unlockable items in their games (weapon packs & in-game money in The Godfather), charging for strategy videos (after Saints Row released several free tip videos themselves), it all leaves a bad taste in gamers' mouths. Why are we being charged for items we used to get for free? Classic stadiums and alternate uniforms should be included with the original $60 purchase. They have been in the past. It makes us feel like we are getting less for more.

I know all these purchases are optional. If you don't want them, don't buy them right? Every developer says the same thing, "We're currently evaluating micro transactions to determine what gamers want, and what they don't want". But there is a flaw with that reasoning. I'm not refraining from purchasing Classic Stadiums in Madden because I do not want them, I am refraining because I feel they should have been included with the original release in the first place. But if Classic Stadium sales are down, EA will probably just think, "Looks like gamers aren't interested in classic stadiums after all, no need to worry about them in next year's game".

Then there is the whole Lumines Live problem. Many gamers purchased the 1200 point Arcade title thinking they were purchasing the entire game, only to realize that there were certain modes and features that were still locked because they actually needed to purchase a separate pack to unlock them. Now that is just wrong. Seriously, seriously wrong. Microsoft should not allow that to happen.

It seems like Microsoft has no control over what publishers offer up on the marketplace. Their stance has been to let publishers work out the details anyway they want. That needs to stop. If Microsoft does not set up some regulations, things are going to get real ugly, real soon.

Micro transactions initially started as a cool concept, but it seems to be spiraling out of control. Many of these DLs are no longer "micro", since I do not consider $15 a micro transaction. I know it is all about creating additional revenue streams, but these streams seem to be getting very greedy, way too soon. My general rule in deciding on a marketplace purchase is this: If the content should have been included with the original release, then I am not buying it. If it feels like it was left out on purpose to then generate additional revenue, forget it. If it does not extend the life of the game or add any type of signifigant gameplay, I'm not purchasing it. Simple as that.

Hopefully Microsoft is reviewing microtransactions and have a plan on how to keep the marketplace under control. If not, then gaming - an already expensive hobby - is going to require even deeper pockets to enjoy.

November 03, 2006

My Most Wanted

- Gears of War
- Guitar Hero II
- Bioshock
- Mass Effect
- Rainbow Six: Vegas
- Lost Planet
- Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway
- Half-Life 2
- Call of Duty 3

What am I missing?

November 02, 2006


I just got done playing the new Eragon demo that is available on the Marketplace.

Wow. Just Wow.

Hold on, I need one more . . .


I know there are different levels of developers out there. Some are elite. Some are decent. Some have more resources available (bigger budget, etc.), some aren't so lucky. After playing this demo, I am finding it difficult to accept that this game is running on the same system that is running Gears of War.

I feel bad bashing this game, as I am sure that many programmers spent alot of time working on it. And by "many" I mean two and by "alot of time" I mean three days.

Seriously, this game looks and plays absolutely terrible. Every single launch title looks at least twice as good as this game. I'd wager 85% of Xbox One games look better than this. PS2 games look better than this. Xbox Live Arcade titles look better than this. I find it hard to comprehend why they decided to release a demo, since the four people out there who might have been interested are surely going to pass once they get their hands on this demo.

Ok, I am done with the bashing. I just had to get that off my chest, since I was sitting there on my couch, controller in hand, thinking this was some kind of April Fools joke. If I were Microsoft I would find it insulting that they would be trying to release this game on the 360. I wouldn't allow it. The original Xbox can easily, easily run this game in its current state. My guess is that it is using about 5% of the 360's power. It is going to be well worth those $60 huh?