October 26, 2007


I love my PSP.  It is a great piece of technology.  Funny thing though, the main "thing" it does is what I use it for the least.  Playing games.  I own Daxter, Syphon Filter and Lumines and I have had the handheld for quite a while now.  Daxter was great.  Gorgeous game.  Syphon Filter is fun, yet I've never been sucked into it (still need to beat it).  And Lumines, for some strange reason, I've never actually liked.
But that is not to say my PSP collects dust.  When I travel I use it to surf the net while I am waiting in airports.  I used it to listen to music while I was waiting in line for the Halo 3 launch.  But for the most part, my favorite way to use the PSP is to stream podcasts and listen to them while I am in bed going to sleep.  I put on my headphones and in about 20 minutes I am asleep.  Sure, it takes me four days to hear one podcast, but it is great.
Well, I am hoping to now use my PSP for more than going to sleep.  I picked up Final Fantasy Tactics on Wednesday.  I mentioned earlier how crazy addicted I was to the original PS1 game.  I have yet to play the game, I have been reading through the manual and watching the tutorial.  It has been bringing back a lot of memories.  I can't wait to jump in.  I'll write impressions once I do.

October 24, 2007

Game Overload

Well, we knew this would happen.  There are just too many good games out or coming out in the next few weeks.
I am currently making my way through the Orange Box.  I am still only by HL2.  I have Episode 1 and 2 to go.  I've barely touched Team Fortress 2 and I can't get enough of Portal (playing through it with the commentary on and trying the "advanced" levels).
I'm still enjoying Halo 3 (although I have not played it much since the Orange Box).  I managed to collect all but one of the skulls in the game and I would like to play through it again with some skulls turned on to get the achievements for beating each level with a high metascore.  That should be hard.  And there is still plenty of multiplayer gaming left in that title I think.  :)
I have Forza 2 just waiting for me to play it.  And it is going to have to wait for a really long time. (speaking of which, I picked up King Kong months ago and need to finish it as well)
Guitar Hero III comes out on Sunday.  While I am way more excited for Rock Band, GHIII has too many awesome tracks for me to pass up.  Plus, the demo was a lot of fun.  Not too sure about those Boss Battles though.  We'll see.
All of a sudden I really want to get Final Fantasy Tactics on the PSP.  The reviews have been great and I have been meaning to get a good PSP game for a while to entertain me when I travel for work.  I was absolutely addicted to the original Tactics on the PS1.  Like, seriously addicted.
Then of course there's Call of Duty 4, Mass Effect, Rock Band and Assassin's Creed all in November.  Are you kidding me?  I can't.  Too many.  I hate having so many games to play!!!  Not only is it a strain on my wallet, but I feel it takes away from my enjoyment of each one.

Rachet and Clank

The PS3 demo is gorgeous.  The controls are tight and responsive.
And I can barely play it.
Few things annoy me more than game demos that do not give you the option to invert the camera controls.  I thought this was a standard default option by now.  I simply CANNOT play a game if the Y-axis is not inverted.  I look like a 2 year old trying to shoot or look around with non-inverted copntrols.  I spend more time looking at the floor than playing the game.
Throw in the fact that in 3rd Person action/adventure games I also like to invert the X-axis (not sure why, but I got used to it that way) and I was having a very difficult time enjoying this demo.
From what could tell (anytime all I had to do was walk straight and not touch the camera) the game is fun.  If for some reason the final game does not include the option to change the camera controls (no way Insomniac is that stupid right?), any inclination I might have had to pick this one up is out the window.

October 19, 2007

Orange Box

I've been playing The Orange Box since it was released.  I never was able to play Half-Life 2 when it came out, so I am making my way through that one first.  So far it is great.  Graphics might have aged a bit in the last two years but I hear Episode 2 looks a lot better.  I'm probably about ½ through.
I've only been able to play a few quick matches of Team Fortress 2.  A few of them were plague by pretty bad lag.  I hear Valve already has a patch ready to go to fix the problem, but it is still going through Microsoft's long certification process.  The game seems like a lot of fun.  The visuals are stunning.  The frame rate is fast and smooth.  The various classes play significantly different from one another.  Like I said, I think I might have played only a total of four matches.  The only negative that jumped out at me (aside from the lag) was that the environments are completely static and you cannot interact with it aside from putting bullet holes in the walls.  Maybe that aspect just jumped out at me because I have been playing so much HL2 and using the gravity gun to interact with everything I see.  So, when I shoot an object in TF2 I expected it to go flying off the shelf.  But it doesn't.  Oh well.
And then of course, there is Portal.  Portal is just fantastic.  It is the best game in the entire set (this coming from someone that hasn't even gotten to Episode 1 or 2 yet, so I am judging before trying it all).  The game is fun, challenging and down right funny.  Yes, funny.  I wasn't expecting to laugh out loud constantly while playing it, yet the game has a fantastically dark sense of humor thanks to the female computer voice with guides you through the levels, and it had me in stiches most of the time.  Really, really clever writing.  And perfect execution.
As far as the whole concept and puzzle elements go, the game is top notch.  Throw in the "story line" and the game jumps another notch.  Then, mix in the final level (which is great and different from the previous ones) and the best ending song ever and you have yourself a very satisfying experience.  My only complaint is that I want more!!!!  I beat the game in one sitting (maybe around 2 - 3 hours).  I want PLENTY more Portal Valve!  I hope you have the DL content just lined up, because I am ready to buy!
The Orange Box has got to be one of the best values in gaming.  In an age when we compain about games' $60 pricetags and being nickled and dimed to death with DL content that we feel should be for free, it is refreshing to see a company release a game that I actually feel I underpaid for (don't tell that to Valve).  If you haven't already done so, buy this game now!!!!

October 11, 2007

Marketplace Round-up

Lots of new game demos on the marketplace:
Conan - Played through this one once.  It was ok.  On one hand, the graphics look pretty bland.  The water looks laughably bad.  As in PSone quality.  Seriously, I guess after having just played through Halo 3 and Bioshock, I have been spoiled by some impressive looking water.  The water in Conan looks like they didn't even try.  The one thing the game does very well is the animation.  The animation was fantastic.  The lip-syncing during cutscenes was better than I expected as well.
F.E.A.R. (Files?  F.E.A.R. 2?  Can't remember the name) - A semi-sequel or expansion pack to F.E.A.R..  I played it only for about 5 minutes, died, and did not feel like trying it again.  The game looked and felt extremely dated.  Again, maybe it is because I am coming off Halo 3 and Bioshock, but this game just looked terrible.  I shouldn't be so harsh on a demo, but it did not hold my interest.
Thrillville - I enjoyed playing the one mini-game where you are on a dirt bike and can do stunts.  All the others ones were boring.  Not impressed.
Crash of the Titans - Terrible.  Seemed like a very generic, by the numbers platformer.  Did not have any fun playing it.
The Simpsons Game - I played this one on the PS3 (it came out before the Marketplace one).  I went in not expecting much and came away pleasantly surprised.  The graphics are very faithful to the show and the writing and dialogue are perfect.  I laughed out loud several times.  I am a huge Simpsons fan, so that helped.  The gameplay seems pretty shallow and it will get boring quickly, but I had a good time with the demo.
Jericho - Graphics are pretty impressive (although maybe a bit too dark, adjust the gamma in options).  Gameplay was ok and changing to each character on the fly was unique.  The "Quick Time Event" in the demo, where you need to press controller buttons as they appear on the screen, was way unexpected.  If they are all going to be like that in the game I see players dying the first time, every time.  Gotta be a better way to do it.  Can't say this game is in my purchase radar at the moment, but it looks nice.
PGR4 - Downloaded it, but I have not tried it yet.  I really enjoyed PGR3 so I am hoping for the best.
Some game from Koei - This is a huge demo, almost a 2 gig download.  And I did not find it entertaining at all.  Of course, these types of games aren't my "thing".
There have a been a few more, but I have long since deleted those and cannot remember what they were.  Couldn't have been any good or I would have remembered them.  =)

October 03, 2007

Halo impressions

I beat the single-player campaign on Heroic this weekend.  I immediately started a new one on Legendary.  That is a pretty good sign that I had a great time.  Impressions below, outlining what I liked and didn't.
- Graphics.  I found the visuals to be pretty fantastic.  They do tend to fluctuate though.  Some moments they look ok, but for the most part they are gorgeous.  The environments, lighting, colors, and the huge scale of everything is what ultimately makes you overlook some questionable textures and weak player models (humans mostly, not the Chief, who looks amazing).  This game probably has the best use of HDR lighting to date (the effect used to recreate what happens when you go from a dark area to a bright area and vice-versa).  I always judge a game's graphics with whether or not they made me stop playing and just admire them.  I can safely say that I stopped to admire the visuals MANY times and I said quite a few "wow's" in the process.
There is talk now that the game does not run in true HD, that it is rendered at 640p and upscaled to 720p (mostly as a result of them implementing the aforementioned HDR lighting).  That being the case, if someone wouldn't have sat there are counted pixels, I would never have noticed.  It is a shame that Halo 3 will now get plenty of criticism for this, because I really think it is a great looking game.
- Audio.  Halo's soundtrack has always been great and this third instalment is no different.  Fantastic compositions that kick in at just the right moments.   Weapon fire and dialogue is also as solid as ever.
- Gameplay is typical Halo.  Same great feel.  If you played the previous games, you can jump right in, all you need to do is adjust to the reload/action button being relocated to the right bumper.  The new usable items are cool . . . except I would always forget to use them.  I am trying to remember they are there during my Legendary play through.
- Lots of big, open levels that have you driving Warthogs or other vehicles.  I LOVE these type of levels.  Halo 3 does not disappoint in this regard.
- Co-op play over Live is an absolute blast.  I have yet to try it with more than one friend, but I can see myself having a lot of fun with this.
- Saved Films is an absolutely awesome addition that I will be using extensively.  It was a great choice to add this and I am sure it was not the easiest thing to do.  Having your last 25 matches automatically save is great!  I have already used this feature many, many times.  Shame that many Halo 3 players who rip the game open and just go to matchmaking will never even know it is there.
- On a similar note, the File Share option is also great.  Not only can you save these great films of the game (or screen shots) but you can share them with your friends or post them on Bungie.net.  Simply awesome.
- In the limited time I have spent with it, multiplayer still looks to be what keeps this game at the top of Live's list until the 360 is no more.  The amount of options has increased and the entire interface Bungie has built is unmatched.  The ease of use (once you learn how to navigate the menus) is great.  Forge will keep you entertained and the levels fresh, and being able to share your levels or game types with File Share is just another example on how much work Bungie put into multiplayer.  Once again, Halo will be the standard by which other game's multiplayer is measured.
- As much as I enjoyed the single-player campaign (the best overall of the 3 Halo games) I felt the last two missions let me down a bit.  Mission 8 is just awful.  It cannot take the title of "Worst Halo level ever" because no one can take that away from "The Library" level in the original Halo, but it is a sure fire runner-up.  The level is just so different from the others, it seems out of place.  Most of all, the level is frustrating and not fun at all.
- The Flood.  I know they are a big part of the Halo storyline.  A necessary evil.  And I like their "role" in the story, I just don't fully enjoy fighting them.  In moderation they are ok.  A change of pace from your regular Covenant encounters.  They require a completely different approach . . . mostly because they use no tactics and just rush you as soon as they spot you.  The first few Flood levels in every Halo game has been fine with me.  Their very first appearance in Halo 1 was fantastic.  As is their first level in Halo 3.  After a while though, Bungie always seems to overdo it.  I already mentioned the 8th level.  So annoying.  Some advice for Bungie, in any future Halo games that might contain the Flood (hopefully none, I think we are done with them), please limit them to one or two levels max.  That is about all I can take of them before I begin cursing.
- Like I mentioned, I love the Saved Films feature.  A few things bother me though.  My main gripe is that it fast-forwards WAY too slow.  There is probably a technical reason for this (it is not an actual video you are viewing after all, the 360 is actually generating a replay of your session on the fly), but it is very annoying if what you want to get to is towards the end of the film, especially if it is a campaign video, since those can be over an hour long!!!!
Speaking of campaign films, you cannot record or rewind campaign films (only take screen shots).  I find this disappointing since I would have probably enjoyed saving clips from single-player even more than multiplayer.  The fact that you cannot even rewind is also a huge disappointment, especially if you just spent 10 minutes holding down the right-trigger to fast forward to a specific part to take a screen shot and you missed your perfect shot by a few frames.  No way to go back.  Ugh!
I also wish that when you view the film in slow motion that it would adjust the frame-rate accordingly (like watching a replay in APF or Madden), so that it looks smooth and you can really enjoy the animation.  As it is, viewing something in slow motion is unbelievably choppy and doesn't look good at all.  It is best to view it at regular speed.  Shame.
- I wish there were more "sandbox" levels, like The Silent Cartographer" in the original Halo.  It will make the game feel a bit more organic.  Don't know why Bungie has never been able to create another level like that.
And that is about it as far as cons go.  I think Halo 3 delivered.  Sure, I would have preferred a different direction with the last few levels, but overall, it is a fitting end to this great trilogy.  Now, to complete Legendary and find all the skulls!