February 22, 2007


I've played CoD3 on and off since I purchased the game when it was released last year. At first Gears of War and Rainbow 6: Vegas were taking up all my time. Then it was Guitar Hero II.

In the last few weeks I've been playing more and more of CoD3 and I have extremely mixed feelings about the game.

My first impression is that the WWII FPS genre needs to take a break. It needs to go back to the drawing board and only come back when it has something new and fresh to bring to the table (note: I'm still looking forward to Brother's in Arms: Hell's Highway, since that game looks great and I'm a fan of that series).

CoD2 was a great experience on the 360 because . . . well, it was the first good game for the console and was a whole lot of fun. But do we need a follow-up only a year later? Probably not.

My first annoyance with the game is that it runs very dark. Whenever I play this game I have to change the picture settings on my TV, otherwise some of the darker sections are unplayable. A bit annoying since I do not have to do this with any other game I own (mostly because other games offer an option to adjust brightness from the game menu, but CoD3 doesn't. I think every next-gen game needs this option, since brightness settings vary from the different tv technologies (LCD, Plasma, CRT, DLP, etc.).

Another huge annoyance is that every time you fire the game up, you have to sit through that particular level's opening cinematic. Sometimes they are a bit long. After watching a certain cinematic four or more times, it just becomes aggravating. To clarify, you do not have to watch it every time you die, just every time you turn the game off and then on again. I'm assuming the game is loading during this time and if so, this game requires some long load times and it is very annoying.

Another issue I have (and this one might be my fault) is that the game can be pretty frustrating. I am playing on the hardest difficulty and the game is still playable except that a lot of the checkpoints are very far apart. And there is this VERY annoying occurrence in the game (on this difficulty at least) that if you get caught in machine gun fire, your character just freezes while he is getting pummeled and you die because your character is not responding to your controller input to take cover. It might be realistic, but this game is not about realism. It is very frustrating to be far along with an objective, hoping to reach that damn checkpoint, and some Nazi jumps out from around a corner with a machine gun and unloads on you and you cannot do anything but feel your controller vibrate since you cannot move your character.

My last nitpick is that your character tends to get stuck on a lot of objects. This can lead to frustration when trying to move backwards to cover, but you can't move further because there is something as simple as a small bucket behind you. You usually die as a result.

The game does have some fun moments. The game moves blisteringly fast like its predecessor. The controls are great. The graphics - while not amazing - are good enough. The cut scenes that I previously mentioned as an annoyance are actually very well directed, with fantastic motion capture and some of the best voice acting I've heard in a long time. Shame you grow to hate them because you're forced to watch the same ones over and over. The driving sections (especially the jeep portions) are very suspensful and entertaining.

Overall, the game is hit or miss. It might be improved in a lot of areas, but the experience and total execution just isn't the same (after CoD2). I really hope we don't see CoD4 for at least a couple of years.

And just because I love giving ratings to games, here we go:

Graphics: 7.5
Sound: 9.5
Gameplay: 7
Story: 3 (Story? In a WWI FPS?)
Overall: 6.5

February 20, 2007

Terrorist Hunt

Yesterday Powerpuff and I played some Rainbow Six: Vegas Terrorist Hunt matches. We must have played for 4+ hours.

This game-mode is just insanely fun. Extremely difficult, but very rewarding when you suceed. The level layouts are just fantastic too. They are huge with multiple ways to traverse them. But the best part is that enemy placement is not necesarily pre-determined, so you have to be on your toes EVERY time you play. Just because there was an enemy in a certain location the last two times does not mean they will be there the third. And the enemies seem to patrol the whole level constantly, so areas you initially cleared are not completely safe either, since a new enemy patrol might have wandered in there.

The A.I. is usually pretty solid in this mode too (just like in the single-player game). They take cover, toss various granades, and flank you any chance they get.

There are a few frustrations though. While the enemy A.I. is mainly solid, you do sometimes come across instances of you being able to just wait around a corner or by a doorway and mow down enemies as they walk into your gun-fire. You'd figure after they see two of their guys getting taken out as they attempted to walk through that particular area they would be a little more cautious.

Anyother area of frustration is the damn shotguns. A terrorist with a shotgun is just plain annoying. It sometimes seems like the shotgun does the same amount of damage no matter how far away the person shooting you is, as I've gotten taken out with a single shotgun blast by an enemy who was more than 20 feet away. That is totally bogus!

There was a lot of bitching and complaining coming from us in those 4 hours of play, but it was always fun. And that is what counts. I can't wait for the new levels and game-modes to be made available. March cannot come soon enough.

February 18, 2007

GoW 2 / GH II

There were reports going around that God of War 2 would run in 720p on a PS3. IGN even mentioned it in their review. Needless to say, I was siked.

IGN has since updated their review and now Sony has claimed that those reports are false.
Damn shame, because GoW 2 in 720p would have been fantastic.

For a while I was contemplating not getting GoW 2. Sure, I absolutely LOVED the first game, but since I was so into my "hi-def" 360 gaming, GoW 2 just didn't interest me much. After IGN's extremely positive review (it got a 9.7), and the fact that since I can play the game on my PS3 now and at least run it in progressive scan (my PS2 is only connected with an s-video cable), I've had a change of heart. Plus, all the videos I have seen of the game look phenomenal.

So, looks like it is Gow 2 and GRAW 2 for me in March. I'm going to try my best to resist getting Guitar Hero II in March (although I'm sure I will get it eventually). I am dying to play the game in 720p, with 5.1 surround sound, on-line leader boards (YES!), achievements (YES!), downloadable songs (HELL YES!!), but I can't see myself plunking down $90 for essentially the same game I am playing now on the PS2 and still enjoying very, very much. Plus, I'll lose the ability to play multiplayer since I am not buying a 2nd 360 Guitar controller anytime soon (already have 2 for the PS2). Once there is some DL content I might take the plunge, but I'll try my best to resist a March purchase.

Although, we all know how strong my will power is when it comes to gaming . . .

February 07, 2007

New addition to the family . . .

I wrote an entry a few weeks ago about the PS3, in which I mentioned its lack of games at the moment, but its appeal to me as a bluray player and multimedia device. Being the weak willpowered individual that I am when it comes to electronics, I am now the owner of a PS3.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Sorry about the crappy pic quality, I don't know what happened. I own a pretty high-end camera, but the PS3's shiny black case I think acts as a blackhole and sucks all light into it, resulting in the blurry picures (that's my story and I am sticking to it).

I just received it yesterday. The box includes the system, one wireless remote, one mini USB cable, an ethernet cable, power plug, and standard RCA jacks. I still think it is extremely stupid on Sony's part to tout the PS3 as the ultimate HD experience and then ship it with cables that are not capable of carrying a HD signal. But that is fine, I planned ahead and I had a shiny new HDMI and Optical cable ready to go.

Before I could connect it I had the daunting task of disconnecting EVERYTHING from my tv, dust and clean all applications, untangle the huge mess of wires, then start connecting everything from scratch. It took me 2 ½ hours, but I think it was worth it. It looks a lot neater back there now and I got rid of a lot of dust, which is not good for the tv and components.

So, around 11pm I FINALLY hit the power button. A quick note, turning on the PS3 is the coolest thing ever. The power "button" located on the front is not even a button, just some heat sensitive section on the glossy front. You place your finger on it (no pressure is even necessary) and the system comes to life. Same with the eject button. VERY damn cool. A second note, I had heard how quite this system is, but damn, you can't hear a peep from it. After getting used to the 360's constant humming, this was a jarring contrast.

Upon firing up the system I am greeting with the menu system, which is basically identical to the PSP menu system. It has a nice, plain, clean look to it. Not as flashy or colorful as the 360's Dashboard and Blades. It is a nice change, but overall, I like Microsoft's interface a lot more.
One of the first things I needed to do is download the latest firmware update. Looks like updating the PS3 is slightly less user friendly than the 360, since you need to sit through the downloading screen, then after that, it needs to install the actual update, which has you sitting though another loading screen. The same goes for downloaded game demos. Very annoying, especially once you have gotten used to being able to access your content immediately after downloading them on the 360.

Another hindrance is that the PS3 has yet to implement background downloading (one of the best additions done to the 360 dashboard), so once you start downloading a demo you are stuck staring at the DL screen until it is complete. I know Sony is going to implement this in a future firmware update, but you would think it would have been done for the system's launch, considering people moaned and complained about this very issue a year prior with the 360.

Since I will not have a Bluray disc to test out until tomorrow (getting Over the Hedge through Netflix) I was not able to test out the main reason I purchased the system. I popped in two dvds (Batman Begins and Finding Nemo) and both looked fine, no big difference either way compared to my progressive-scan player (which has now been demoted from the entertainment center).

I downloaded the Motorstorm and Gran Turismo demos and both looked very nice. Motorstorm especially is a lot of fun.

I popped out my digital cameras CF card and put it right into the handy CF reader in the PS3 and I was able to download all the pics in a matter of seconds. Very fast. The PS3 seems to be the better choice for watching slide shows on your tv. You get a few different options and styles to choose from and the pics load up very fast (the slide show takes a bit longer to go from pic to pic on the 360 when streaming them from the PC).

I also tested out the internet browser. Takes a little while to get used to (using a controller to navigate), but once you learn all the short cuts it actually is pretty easy. I tested out a few pages (IGN, Teamxbox, Nonewbiesallowed, even Myspace) and they all loaded fine. The text on the screen was a bit too small for my liking, even when set to the largest setting. Erick told me that if I set the system to output in 720p instead of 1080i (what I have it set to) that the browser looks larger and everything is easy to read. I'll have to look into that.

Until I test out the Bluray player (and some decent games . . . which none are in the horizon yet) the final verdict is still out. Tech wise, it is a pretty damn nice system. I'm still a HUGE fan of what Microsoft did with the entire Dashboard, Xbox Live community and how user friendly everything is, Sony is not going to be able to come close to them in that regard. As a gaming machine, the 360 can't be beat. But even if I use the PS3 just as a Bluray player, Photo viewer and internet browser, it will be more than worth the $600.

February 04, 2007

Games of the Year 2006

Last year I did a Game of the Year awards for 2005 (found HERE). I guess I might as well do one for this past year of gaming as well. I hope I remember everything I played, because it was a lot. As before I'll throw out the disclaimer saying I'm only choosing from games that I actually played, I'm sure there are a lot of gems that I missed (especially on PC). Also, I did about 90% of my gaming this past year on my 360, so don't expect a diverse list.

Ok, here we go:

Xbox 360

Game of the Year: Oblivion

When I decided to rate all of the games I own not too long ago (LINK) I discovered that Oblivion was the one I rated highest. It was a surprise to me then, but in hindsight it really shouldn't have been. As far a sheer value for your buck, no game tops Oblivion. You can see my previous write-up on the game HERE. Needless to say the game is huge, ambitious, and a hell of a lot of fun. The level of freedom afforded to you is unmatched by any other game out there (console-wise at least). Throw in truck-loads of downloadable content which add even more hours of game play and you have a game you can play for 200+ hours. That is insane.

On a side-note, I recently started playing this game again (I will finish the main quest at least, even if I don't finish the hundreds of additional side-quests) and I'm now about 140 hours in. 140 freakin' hours!!! And I have so much left to do. This game might actually offer TOO much content. :)


Gears of War - With all the hype this game received, I'm suprised it managed to live up to it. For the most part at least. Overall the game was great. You can find my earlier impressions HERE. It did not revolutionize the action genre, but it was a blast to play through. The single-player game (especially co-op with a buddy on Hardcore or Insane) is as good as it gets. The game's narrative and story were completely non-existant though (give us some backstory and info next time Epic!!!), but the controls were great, the action was fast, and lets face it, the graphics did wonders to keep you interested in this game. Even though I went all anal-rententive on the visuals previously, they are still the best this generation has to offer so far.

Rainbow 6: Vegas - Score another one for the Unreal III engine. Rainbox 6 turned out just a well as I was hoping. Great tactical action and a solid single-player experience. On the multiplayer side the game shines even brighter. Playing co-op Terrorist hunt with some friends is about as much fun as you can have. I'm not a big fan of versus deathmath type games, but R6 offers plenty of options for those who are. Great visuals, tactical gameplay, and plenty of modes and options to keep you playing for a long time. Make those single-player checkpoints a little closer next time Ubisoft!!! Playing through on Realistic produced some pretty frustrating sections because of lack of checkpoints.

GRAW - The first 360 game to really show us what next-gen visuals could look like (or wait, did Fight Night come out before this?), GRAW still holds a special place in my heart (regardless of my issues with the multiplayer lobbies HERE and HERE . . . oh, and HERE). The single-player experience was only hindered by questionable teammate AI, which at times seemed hellbent on sabotaging your mission by blowing your cover, dying often, or doing idiotic things like just standing around while being shot. Other than that, single-player was a blast. On the multiplayer side of things (aside from my issues with the lobby system) the game was fantastic. Once again, co-op with some friends was (still is actually) one hell of a good time. This is probably the one 360 game I have played more online than any other. Every now and then I still fire it up and play some co-op.


Game of the Year: Metal Gear Solid III Snake Eater: Subsistence

It took me a while to finally play this thrid installment of the MGS series, but it was well worth the wait. Read my thoughts HERE. Despite some issues with the controls and the series' trademark extra long (but extremely stylish and well-directed) cut-scenes and over-bearing story, the game was just fatastic. Plenty of memoriable set pieces, boss battles, and great character development.


Guitar Hero II - Guitar Hero II should probably be winning this category. I think in overall, sheer fun and entertainment, it tops Snake Eater. It also improves over the original in every single way (except maybe song selection). But it has lost just a hint of the charm and originality that the original had. That is not the game's fault and it in no way makes it any less of a great game. I still want them to make at least 20 more sequels to this franchise. I just felt like giving the slightest edge to Metal Gear in this case. Ask me which of these two games I want on a desert island though and it is GH II hands down.

MLB: The Show - One of the finest sports games I have played in recent memory, see my previous thoughts HERE. The Show has the best Career Mode for a sports game yet (alot better than Madden's Super Star), some of the best animation out there and without a doubt, the best commentary in any sports title that I have heard.


Game of the Year: Daxter

Daxter is just a gorgeous and extremely enjoyable game. It is easy to pick up and play in short bursts or in a long play session. Perfect controls and fun platforming, mixed with almost PS2-calibur graphics makes this one my pick.


Loco Roco - This charming and completely original title is the very definition of what a portable game should be. It was desgned with the PSP in mind, delivers an experience which is not offered on a console and can be played in short sessions. Some clever level design, very unique visuals and a totally whacky but phenominal soundtrack made this one a total blast. The only negative is that after a while you feel like you've done it all. Sure, each stage is different, but it is mostly just more of the same.


Biggest Disapointment:

Madden 2007 - Although greatly improved over Madden 06 (see impressions HERE), and although I did manage to have a good time with it, the Madden series is still not even close to where videogame football should be by now. 2K's recent announcement however is the best thing that could have happened to football fans.


Superman Returns: The Videogame - I thoroughly enjoyed the demo and actually had hope that this was going to be an above-average game. Boy was I wrong.

GoW's story - There is a great background story and history to Gears of War (read it on Wikipedia) . . . umm, but where is it in the game? Epic went hrough all this trouble to create this backstory, and hint at it rhough great trailers pre-release . . . but the actual game gives you zero info. Zero!!! What a waste. The game could have been so much more imersive.

Street Fight II (Live Arcade) - The controls stink and game is way too hard. See my previous complaints HERE.

Most Underated Game of the Year:

MLB: The Show - What was probably the best sports game of the year and might be the best baseball game ever released on a console received average scores and little to no recognition (outside of the hardcore sim comunity). This game just did so many little things right and captured all the nuances of baseball perfectly. The tv style presentation was phenominal and really, I cannot stop complementing the commentary. Fantastic job guys. I hope the PS3 version is more of the same with next-gen visuals.


Viva Pinata
Viva Pinata has a huge marketting push by Microsoft, yet the game came and went with little notice. The game was suprisingly deep and addictive. Read my impressions HERE.

Biggest Surprise:

- All the lauch 360 games I picked up for a bargain price and thoroughly enjoyed (PGR3, Condemend, Kameo). I picked up Kameo, Condemned and PGR3 all for bargain bin prices and I enjoyed every one. Sorry I ignored them all at launch (although I always did have my eye on Condemend). Read impressions HERE and HERE.


- I'm sure Dead Rising could be listed here, but I have yet to play it.

And that's it folks, those are my picks. If I'm not feeling too lazy I'll do some technical awards later this week (Best Graphics, Sound, etc.) although knowing myself, propbably not.

February 01, 2007


In an unexpected surprise, there is now a GRAW 2 demo available in the marketplace. I love surprise demos. Especially when they are from a game of this calibur.