November 27, 2007

Assassin's Creed Impressions

I'm about 12 - 15 hours into Assassin's Creed.  Some impressions:
- Holy crap, this game is gorgeous.  Fantastic art style, huge draw distance (the cities are enormous and you can see until the very end of them from tall structures), the lighting and texture work is top notch, and best of all, your character is modeled and animated to perfection.  This game probably has the most impressive animation I have seen for the player character.  The way Altair adjusts to his environment when free running or climbing is a sight to see.  Extremely impressive.
- The control scheme is completely different from what other games have done in the past and I think it is a homerun.  After you get over the initial learning curve, the controls work great and pulling off complex moves is a snap (and great to look at).
- Voice acting is above average.  Not as good as Drake's Fortune, but it ain't no Resident Evil either.  Some of the voice actors are actually excellent.
- You can ride a horse.  Any game that lets you ride a horse gets extra points in my book.  The horse animation is also amazing.  Better than Shadow of the Colossus.  I can spend hours just riding my steed across the countryside (of which there are miles).
- As many reviews have pointed out, the game can get a bit repetitive.  Setting up an Assassination feels very inorganic.  The "investigation" does not feel like much of an investigation since your hand is held the entire time and you need to basically do a few of the following tasks: eavesdrop, pick pocket, beat-up someone for info, assassinate a few targets for a fellow member of your guild, or collect random flags in a timed race (my least favorite of the bunch).  Every Assassination mission is preceded by any combination of those tasks.  They might sound pretty cool, but the execution is very "game-like".  More variety and some actual investigation (with more freedom) on your part would have been very welcomed.
- My biggest complaint with the game right now is not the repetitive nature of the tasks (the game looks and plays so well I am not bored of doing these things over and over again . . . as long as I take a break from the game and play some Rock Band or Uncharted in-between assassinations), but in how its videogame elements stand out as a result of how detailed and realistic everything else is.  There are MANY little things that come together that just give the game a very game-like feel, instead of an organic, real-world feeling (although, without spoiling anything, this might be intentional).  Certain things like after saving a citizen, the camera locks on to them as they thank you and you cannot really leave the area until they are done talking.  In the meantime the world around you continues and you are standing around the corpses of many dead soldiers and other guards are usually already at the scene investigating the carnage.  So there you are, the only person standing around with a weapon, dead soldiers, and the investigating guards don't immediately suspect you.  They eventually will, if you hang around like a fool, but all you need to do is hold down the "blend" button and you bow your head, fold your arms and you are practically invisible to all guards, even if you are standing right in front of them.  Pretty silly.  Also, why does every bench in the game have two people sitting on them, one on each corner, so that you always get to sit right in the middle?  I am thinking this is to make benches stand out more, yet it gives the game world a bit of that artificial feel that I am talking about.  When you pickpocket someone the game again does that lock on camera thing where it focoses on the person you pick  pocketed and you can't really move around much.  The person always seems to notice that they were pickpockets about 2 seconds after you do it and they look around and practically look right at you, but never suspect you even if you are the only person around for a block.  It is all these little details that stand out because of how realistic everything looks from afar, but always remind you that this is just a game (again, there is an element to this entire game that might nulify a lot of these complaints a bit, but they are still annoying).
- Combat is quite different from other games and just like the rest of the controls, after you get used to it, it can be a lot of fun.  I love countering attacks, tossing people from rooftops, and looking like a total bad ass thanks to the great animation and pretty gory kills.
- The story started out a bit slow (especially the "twist") but it has been picking up and I am pretty interested in how things will turn out.
Overall, even with my complaints, Assassin's Creed threads new ground and is a marvel to watch and play.  It is not perfect, but very unique and I really, really hope there is a sequel that can build on the great foundation that was created and expand on it.

Wow, we are really bad

The Miami Dolphins are 0-11.  I never thought we'd be this bad.  Last night's game against the Steelers was the very definition of boring and uneventful.  The field conditions were atrocious.  The game was scoreless until about the .25 second mark.  Ricky Williams returns . . . and is immediately sideline when a Pittsburgh player steps on his right shoulder blade (pretty painful replay).  All our running backs are hurt (where the hell is Lorenzo Booker!!!!  He was our 3rd round pick!), we're 0-11, and we play the Jets next week.  Yes, the Jets suck too (the Jets ALWAYS suck!!!  Hahah . . .) but they always give us a hard time.
While at this point the only thing we have to look forward to is the 1st Overall Pick, I also want to get at least one win.  Although it might be pretty cool to be the only team to go undefeated (if the Patriots don't do it this year) and 0-16 as well.  Of fine, that would not be cool, that would suck.

November 26, 2007


I haven't posted in a while since I was on vacation and upon my return, very busy playing lots of games.  I should be putting up impressions of Assassin's Creed, Rock Band and Uncharted: Drake's Fortune soon.  I also have Mass Effect still shrink wrapped waiting for me to play it.  But I will not open it until I am done with the others.  I want to give it my full attention.  I still am holding on to the illusion that I will read the prequel novel before starting the game as well, since I hear it greatly enriches the experience.
I might actually have time, since I should be pretty busy with the aforementioned games for a while (plus Final Fantasy Tactics AND CoD 4 multiplayer!).
Hopefully I'll have impressions up later today.

November 14, 2007

CoD4 further impressions . . .

I beat CoD4.  The campaign is a bit shorter than I would have liked, but Infinity Ward packed it with so many amazing moments that all is forgiven.  This has been the best FPS experience I have had in a while.  I enjoyed it more than Halo 3, Rainbow 6, and even Half-Life 2.  Sure, it is hard to compare a game like CoD4 with Half-Life 2, since they play vastly different and aim for completely different experiences, but I am coming from a pure enjoyment standpoint.  CoD4 kicked my @$$!  It is a roller coaster ride from start to finish.
It does basically everything right.  It is a technical marvel, actually has an interesting story that had me interested in what was going on (unlike previous CoD games), teammates you actually begin to care for, fantastic audio, great voice acting, perfect controls . . . the total package.
I'm trying to beat it on Veteran difficulty now, which is going to be brutal and I can now begin to sink my teeth into its fantastic multiplayer.  Looks like I won't be playing as much Halo 3 as I thought I would be, since I can see myself entertained with CoD4 for quite some time . . .

November 07, 2007


Quick impressions.
I played four single-player levels and I jumped into about four multiplayer matches yesterday.
The thing that jumps out the most is just how gorgeous this game is.  It really is quite a sight.  The opening level on the tanker is a showcase of particle effects (torrential rain, waves crashing over the side of the ship), impressive lighting, and terrific textures.  Not only that, but the game runs lightning fast.  A solid 60 fps with no dips (none that I noticed anyway).  And the controls are extremely polished and feel great.
Another thing that jumped out at me is the animation.  Watching your teammates scramble from cover to cover, using hand signals, opening doors - this might be the best character animation I have seen in a FPS yet.  Very lifelike, very smooth.
The singleplayer so far has done a good job of mixing fast paced levels (and I mean, really fast paced, chaotic action that gets your adrenaline pumping) with other more covert operations that have you sneaking form spot to spot and engaging in smaller skirmishes.  I actually like the steathy levels more.  Great stuff.
In just the few levels I have tried I have had many "wow" moments, including the ending of the first level that had me on the edge of my seat.  I was laughing at the end because of what a great rush it gave me.
As I mentioned in my Beta Impressions, the multiplayer is fantastic.  The game ships with 16 multiplayer maps, which is a huge number.  I can see myself playing a lot more CoD4 multiplayer than Halo 3 multiplayer.  CoD is just more my style.

November 02, 2007

Rock Band demo kits

Looks like many Best Buys have Rock Band demo kits up for people to try.  Looks like I will have to swing by mine and hope they have one too.
November 20th is going to be insane.  Now I just have to figure what I am going to do when I get home from Gamestop that morning.  Play Rock Band . . . or Mass Effect.  I know once I start one I am not going to want to stop for a while.  And that is if I am not still totally addicted to CoD4 or Assassin's Creed.  =(

Guitar Hero III

I picked up GH III this past Sunday.  Some impressions:
- This being Neversoft's first stab at the franchise and them having to build the engine from scratch, they've done a great job and I do not notice any difference in the timing of the notes.  Actually, there is a difference in that the window of error is actually larger, so it makes the game a bit easier in that regard.  To compensate, the game overall seems to be harder, as some songs on Hard could probably pass for Expert songs in Guitar Hero II.  If you are someone who does not really use pull-offs or hammer-ons, you probably can't get by like you could in the previous games.  You MUST learn to use them (they work great though).
- The song selection is great.  A lot of master tracks this time around.  Unfortunately, three of my favorite songs to play are all covers.  Black Magic Woman, La Grange and Pride and Joy.  They are still fun, but they would have been insane as master tracks.
- The Boss Battles, which have been covered a lot, don't add much to the game in my opinion.  I beat the game on Hard the other night and there were a total of 3 Boss Battles.  I actually beat them all on my first try so maybe that is why I am so indifferent to them.  If they would have given me a hard time I'd probably be complaining right now.
- I really like the note counter that lets you know what your current note streak is.  You also get a pop-up on screen after you hit certain streak numbers.  Some find this distracting, but it does not bother me and I like it actually.
- Playing over Xbox Live is a lot of fun.  Since I only own one 360 GH controller I haven't been able to play competitively before (I did not buy the GHIII pack that came with the guitar since I will be getting Rock Band in a few weeks and don't want to have 5 plastic guitars laying around; I have two already for the PS2).  My online experience has been great so far.  I do not like the online "Battles" very much though, since they can be over very fast and you usually spend more time looking for a match than playing the actual battle.  Pro Face-Off is great!
- I've been enjoying the game but this being the 4th Guitar Hero game I play in 3 years (if you count me playing through part 2 twice on PS2/360) the series has lost some of its initial magic.  The game is still fun, but it is no longer as new and fresh as it used to be.  The Career mode is really starting to show its age, especially after reading about Band World Tour mode in Rock Band (which sounds a million times deeper).
So, bottom line, if you are a fan of the series, there is no reason why you wouldn't enjoy this one.  Many great tracks on here.  But if Guitar Hero 4 doesn't do something to change the formula drastically (like Rock Band is doing), I do not know how much longer this series will last.