September 28, 2007

Update: I am an idiot

The title says it all.  I am an idiot.
After speaking to Microsoft today for the 3rd time in four days, they advise me that they cannot send me a replacement disc if the disc was never in the case to begin with, that it is up to the retailer to give me another copy (why the first two guys couldn't tell me this is beyond me).  So, I call Gamestop back, tell them what Microsoft told me and they advised me to bring it back with my receipt, but that the Limited Edition was released, well, in limited quantities, and if they ran out of copies I would be out of luck.  Since I had something to do today after work and probably not be able to make it to Gamestop until tomorrow, I did not want to risk it and used my lunch hour to go home and grab my game and return it.
When I get home I decide to give it all one more good look over, so that I don't embarrass myself.  As it turns out . . . the back of the Limited Edition case opens up to reveal - wait for it - the Limited Edition Bonus Disc!  Duh!
Ok, in my defense, I mentioned in the previous post how the bottom of the metal case is bent.  Because of this, the rear flap was very, very difficult to open.  In fact, when I first noticed that the bonus disc was missing, I "attempted" to open the rear of the case and since it did not budge I figured that section did not open.  I do not like the look and feel of this metal case either.  Halo 2's Limited Edition casing was much nicer.  So was Perfect Dark's.  This one feels kinda cheap.
Anyway, enough babbling, I am still an idiot.  Impressions of the actual game to follow shortly.

Halo 3 launch . . .

I arrived at my local Gamestop on Monday night, around 10:50pm and there were already about 40 people in line.  Great.  Luckily I brought my PSP.  Gamespot employees began taking everyone in to pay off their copies so that once 12:00am came around, you just had to present your receipt, ID, and you were out of there.
It worked out great because I was in my car driving back home at 12:10am.  Not bad considering my place in line.  If I remember correctly, it took me more than ½ an hour to get Halo 2.
I had it all planned out.  I would get home and play some multiplayer with my friend (who was also getting at midnight) and then concentrate on the single-player the next day.  While I am far more interested in Halo's single-player campaign (I am one of the few people who enjoy it more than multiplayer), it was late, my girlfriend was sleeping and I am going to need my first experience with the campaign to be with the surround-sound volume on 11.
So, I tear open the game (I bought the Limited Edition) and get with the Slaying.  Fun times.  I go to bed at 5am.  Not a big problem since I did not work the following day.
I get about five hours of sleep, wake up at 10am and get ready for a whole day of Halo 3 single-player.  But first, I take a look at all the goodies that came with the Limited Edition Set (in my haste to play last night, I didn't give it a second glance).
I see an instruction booklet, a poster, a few flyers, a nice hard cover art book, a bonus disc . . . wait, where is my bonus disc?!
Turns out, my copy of the Limited Edition HAD NO BONUS DISC!
Just my luck.  I probably got the only copy of the game from Gamestop that had no bonus disc.  Upon close inspection, my Limited Edition is all messed up.  The bottom of the tin casing is bent in, no bonus disc, and of course, like many others who got this edition, when I opened the case last night my game disc was dislodged from the holder and flapping all around the case.  It has a few small scratches but nothing too severe.  It is playing fine.
So, after playing a good amount of the solo campaign (impressions will be added to another post) I call Gamestop to see what the deal is with my missing bonus disc.  They advise me that it is a Microsoft issue and there is nothing they could do.  Great.  I dread calling Microsoft support.
I bite the bullet and call Microsoft.  After going through a ton of options, I manage to speak to a live operator.  He is very friendly, yet has to put me on hold every 30 seconds (for about 5 minutes each time) because he has to find out information about what to do.  After about ½ an hour, he advises that they can send me a copy of the bonus disc, but that their computers are going crazy so he has to give me a reference number and tells me that he put all of my notes in the system and that if I call back in 2 days they will be able to finish the transaction.
So, 2 days later I call, speak to someone else, give them my reference number, and get put on hold again for about 10 minutes.  The guy comes back, gives me a new reference number, mumbles something that I barely understand, says something about calling back with this new number, and the conversation ends.  I do not know if I have to call with this new number if I don't receive the bonus disc, or if I have to call again today to do something else, I am in the dark (my fault for not inquiring further, but this guy was definitely not as friendly as the one I spoke to previously).
Anyway, Halo 3 is awesome, I just wish something didn't always have to go wrong!!!  Argh!  I want my bonus disc!

September 19, 2007


Normally, when I see a commercial for a video game, I care about one thing.  I want to see gameplay.  I do not want to see the game's CG cinematics, I want to see what the game really looks like.  That is my criteria.
I think I may have to revise that criteria.
Halo 3's "Believe" ad campaign is freakin' awesome.  I was just commenting to Powerpuff the other day via e-mail that almost a week away from Halo 3's release I have not been paricularly excited about the game.  Not like I was prior to Halo 2.  Or Bioshock.  Or countless other games before.
Then I watched the three Halo 3 "Believe" commercials available on the marketplace.  They certainly are not your typical videogame commercials.  After watching them, I cannot wait to "finish the fight"!!!
If you haven't already done so, download them from the Marketplace and give them a watch.

September 16, 2007

Miami Dolphins

Wow, the Dolphins suck. Our running game is non-existant, our defense seems to give up many big plays and we can't tackle for crap. It is going to be another long season. Joy.

Ninja Gaiden II

Tomonobu Itagaki showed off a live demo of Ninja Gaiden II at Microsoft's TGS press conference.

You can see the footage over at Here is a LINK

Being the big Ninja Gaiden fan that I am, I was ecstatic when I heard there was a live demo. After watching the footage . . . umm, I not so sure how excited I am for this game anymore.

The game looks . . well, similar to say the least. Yes, it is prettier than the original Xbox game. I am sure it is prettier than Sigma on the PS3 as well. But still, it all looks very, very familiar. Gameplay looks the same, graphics and animation (while faster and prettier) also looks the same. I guess I was expecting a bigger jump for next gen Ninja Gaiden. Oh well, I don't doubt the game will play exceptionally well . . . but after playing through about 3 versions of the last Ninja Gaiden with minimal improvements for each iteration, I was hoping for a pretty drastic change for the true sequel.

September 12, 2007

Marketplace Round-up

A few more items from the Marketplace that I have checked out recently:

Sega Rally Technology interviews - These videos were pretty entertaining. The track deformation technology developed for the game does look intriguing. Unfortunately it looks like it might go to waste on a title that tends to gear towards an arcade racing experience, but maybe the engine will be used for other, sim-rally titles.

Soul Calibur IV Trailer - I've lost track of the Soul Calibur games after II. Soul Blade for the PS1 was fantastic (still one of my favorite intros to any game ever) and the Dreamcast port of Soul Calibur II is practically legendary. This trailer did little to impress me. The video quality looked washed out and I am pretty much over fighting games at this point.

Team Fortress 2 Soldier Video - Awesome. Simply awesome. The animation and overall look of this game is amazing. The production quality in this trailer is damn impressive. I think I can watch a full length movie done all in-game. Thanks to the CoD4 Beta, I am actually looking forward to trying this on-line fragfest. Should be a riot.

NBA Live 08 Demo - I played about 2 quarters. I can't really give an opinion. I just don't like basketball. I know so little of the sport in fact, that I can't even tell if the game is good or not. I heard last year's game was crap, but I have no way of knowing if this one fixed those problems.

NHL 08 Demo - I probably watch hockey even less than basketball, yet I enjoy the sport much more. This demo was actually a lot of fun. Sure, I was pretty lost most of the time (I'm no hockey expert by any stretch of the imagination), but the graphics were great, the animations smooth, the controls very tight and it was pretty exciting overall. I don't see myself buying a hockey game ever, but I did enjoy the demo.

Tiger Woods 2008 - I haven't gotten into a golf game for many, many years, and the ones I used to play have been of the more cartoony variety. I have never played (aside from demos) any version of the Tiger Woods games. It was Hot Shots or nothing for me. Actually, my favorite golf game ever was Swing Away Golf for the PS2. That game was fantastic!! At least it was to this semi-not-really-hardcore golf fan. I still own it and I think I am going to try it again on my PS3 . . .

. . . oh, as to the Tiger Woods demo, umm, it did nothing for me. Swing Away Golf here I come!

Call of Juarez Demo - This demo seems to be many months too late, since this game came and went many moons ago. That being said, I really enjoyed this demo. I've noticed lately that I am not very impressed with most demos and it takes a lot for me to sit through one, but this one had me entertained the whole time. I think it was the western theme. I hope more games come out with a old west theme to them.

The game itself definitely does appear flawed. It plays well enough, but there is never that extra level of polish to really "wow" you. Graphically, the lighting effects are very good and the blurring, out-of-focus effect when aiming is very well done, but the character models don't look as good and you can just tell that this is not a AAA title. It is not ugly, but it is not showcasing the 360's power either (doesn't help that I've been only playing Call of Duty 4 and Bioshock for the last few weeks).

I would actually consider picking this title up if I see it for a discount price. I still have this demo in my HDD and will probably play through one more time before I delete it (that says something right there).

September 07, 2007

Beta Impressions

I participated in the Shadowrun Beta, and really, I only played a few matches before I got tired of it.  Nothing against the game, I am just not a very big fan of online versus play (deathmatch, team death-match, etc.).  I really wanted to participate in the Halo 3 Beta, because the Halo games are the only ones I have enjoyed playing against other players.  Unfortunately, I was not chosen (and I was not going to buy Crackdown to get it).  So, when I signed up for the CoD4 Beta, it was mostly out of habit, not because I was looking forward to online death-matching.
I played the Beta extensively this past weekend and I am really enjoying myself, much to my surprise.  I am kinda addicted actually.  The game is fast, the controls are very tight and the action intense.  I played a few matches of CoD2 back in the day (when I could find one with no lag) and I was on the verge of enjoying it.  CoD4 seems similar to that experience, only tenfold.
Even with the limited stage selection, weapons, and level capping, the game is a lot of fun.  Creating a class and choosing which "perks" to utilize adds some needed depth to the typical death-match scenario.  I am really liking the addition of perks.  Leveling up and the way you acquire points is also handed very well.  The game also has several "challenges" with each weapon, allowing you to unlock additional attachments for them the more you use them.
Graphically, the Beta looks very good.  The levels themselves look great, with nice lighting effects and texture work.  There is even HDR lighting present, if you go from a very bright area to a dark one or vice versa.  Character animation is also very well done.  All the animations look smooth and realistic.  Physics also come into play, as many items can be scattered with explosions and that goes a long way to making everything seem believable.
A few observations:
- Players only start with only one frag grenade and one special grenade.  You also cannot pick up additional grenades.  There is one perk that gives you 3 extra special grenades (flash or stun).  At first, the limited number of grenades seemed odd.  After all, many games like Halo and even Rainbow 6 have ample grenades, resulting in grenade-fests, so my initial instinct was to always toss a grenade towards and enemy.  Now that I have played the beta extensively, I love the fact that players only get 1 frag grenade.  It forces players to earn their kills with their rifle, not by getting lucky and tossing a grenade into a room of enemies and getting 3 kills.  As is, I still see plenty of grenades getting thrown about, so having players start with more (or letting them pick some up in the battlefield) would greatly change the play style, and I like it the way it is..
- By clicking the right thumbstick you do a melee knife attack.  It is a one hit kill and you do the move very fast.  You even do a lunge similar to Halo 2's Energy Sword.  At this point, I am not liking the one hit kill.  I think if you get stuck in the back, a one hit kill is fine.  But if the attack is head-on, then it needs to be at least two hits to take someone down.  As it is, you could be in the middle of shooting someone in the chest and they can lunge and instantly kill you with the knife.  Not good.  I think you should be able to interrupt the stabbing animation as well if you are shooting the person, like in Gears of War when someone is coming at you with the chainsaw.
- Hiding in the tall grass as a sniper on Overgrown is awesome.  I personally suck at sniping, but you really do blend in with the environment when you do this.  Pretty cool.
- Speaking of sniping, the automatic sniper rifle that you unlock might be a little too effective.  You can basically shoot it as fast as you can pull the trigger and you get no recoil, so it is basically a machine gun with sniper-like range.  I don't even mind the fire-rate, but they need to add more recoil to make it harder to use.
- You start the match with only a few clips of ammunition.  I kind of like this because it forces you to keep moving and acquire weapons from fallen enemies and limits camping.
- I am finding the spawn system to be very well done.  I have not gotten killed by an enemy upon spawning and I always spawn right around my troops, no matter where they are in the map.  I have read on the beta forums that some people are in fact getting spawn camped, but I have not had it happen to me as of yet (knock on wood).
- I am having one big issue with the demo at this point.  There seems to be some lag or latency issue.  It is not really noticeable while playing (for the most part, games are completely lag free from a player's perspective), but you notice the discrepancy on the Kill Cam.  Many times I will see an enemy, shoot them with about four bursts of my M16 right in the chest and they shoot me twice and I die.  When I see the Kill Cam footage, it shows the enemy emptying half a clip in me and I barely get a shot off.  It has been happening lately with enough frequency to really annoy me.  I do not mind getting killed (actually I do, but still) if what I see on my end is what is actually happen.  I got shot first, fine, I died.  But if when I am playing I see myself shooting first, connect with all my shots, yet I die first from one or two shots, and in the Kill cam footage it shows that in fact I was shot many, many times, then something is wrong, and there was nothing I could do to prevent dying.  That is a big issue.  Infinity Ward better be looking into it because as much fun as I have been having with the Beta, if that continues or carries over to the final game, I cannot see myself playing CoD4 over a long period of time.  It would just get too frustrating.
After playing the Beta (if some of its issues are ironed out) I am convinced that CoD4 will be a big hit.  The single-player campaign looks simply amazing (some of the best visuals yet) and it looks like I might be enjoying the online portion as well.