December 31, 2007

Technical difficulties

Last week, as I was making my way towards the final tier of songs in my drum career on hard, I began noticing that I was having a tough time nailing sections that required me to hit the red pad very fast in succession.  I would usually chalk it up to the fact that I am not a drummer and probably not hitting them in time.  But it began to get annoying.  There were times when I was pretty sure I hit the section correctly, yet I would still lose my note streak.  So I decided to test it.
During the free-style fill sections before activating star power and during the Big Rock Endings, I began to only hit the red pad really fast.  Sure enough, even if I would hit it at a fast constant beat, the game was only registering a few of those notes, not all of them.  I never noticed on easy or medium since I never really had to play fast fills on the red pad in those difficulties.  Looks like I have a defective set.
I went on the EA site, answered a few online questions and I am now waiting a new drumset.  Pretty painless.
Last night I am playing the game with Jeanette.  I'm still using the drums (they work for the most part) and we're cruising along in World Tour Mode.  I notice a "click" coming from the foot pedal.  I pause the game and examine it and it appears that a small plastic piece might have broken off from the bottom, one the holds the pedal in place when pushing it down, because now it sort of moves around too much when being pushed down and it makes that clicking noise (I am guessing from the spring).  Great I think.  We're in the middle of a 3 song set though and I can't quit without losing fans, so we keep going.  After a few more minutes of playing (since I am playing on hard I have to use the foot pedal a lot), the pedal says "no more" and just snaps off the bass.
So, now I have a questionable red pad and no bass pedal.  Bye-bye 24,000 fans.
I am really hoping that EA is sending me a full drumset and not just the pads, because my bass pedal is beyond repair.  I was really having a great time with the game too and was in the "zone" in my solo career.  I hope this cool down period doesn't throw me off.

December 29, 2007

Christmas green and red

Usually the Christmas lights of green and red bring the joy of knowing it is the Christmas season. But, not this year. On December 21st I turn on my xbox360 not only do I see the the green power button light up, but 3 red lights flashing indicating my 360 has crashed along with my holiday plans of playing!!! This is the second time for me losing a 360, but the timing could have not been worse, both of my teen sons are on Christmas break... So basically our home is in mourning and my wife is thankful for answered prayers. Its been a great year for gamers, Halo 3, Bio Shock, COD4, Half Life Orange Box etc.. I look forward to what next year brings, in the mean time have a great new year!!

December 27, 2007

Disney master!

What can I say, I am bored . . .

Looking for x-ray technician schools?

Zombie Apocalypse

Man, being a HUGE zombie movie buff and avid horror fan, I would have thought my chances of survival would be better. lol.


Find Ultrasound schools near you

December 17, 2007

I Am Legend

I saw this on Sunday night. It wasn't bad. I didn't enjoy the 2nd half as much as the 1st, but I was never bored. Will Smith's performance was actually solid and he holds your attention, especially considering that the 1st half of the movie involves very little action or dialogue.

I did not particularly like the fact that they removed the vampires from the novel and replaced them with infected humans. Maybe it is a more plausible take on the novel, but dammit, I like vampires and I was looking forward to vampires!! Seems like this "rage virus" is the new trend to eliminate the supernatural element in horror movies. First zombies, now vampires. If the new Wolfman movie tries to explain lycanthropy through science, I am not watching it!!! Just leave it supernatural and unexplainable!

My other problem with the movie was its heavy reliance on CG. If you're making a movie about an abandoned NY City, granted, you're going to have to use computer trickery to get that across. But I felt like the director leaned on it too much. The scene involving the lion and the deer seemed unnecessary. I hate CG animals. They never look convincing. Peter managed to nail it with King Kong and the lion in Narnia looked damn good, but these CG lions were only slightly better than the atrocious CG wolves in The Day After Tomorrow. Why couldn't they just use a real lion for the close ups? C'mon, stop relying on CG for everything!

Same goes for the vampir . . . uh, I mean infected humans. Or Dark Seekers as I believe they were referred to. Why were they all CG as well? For wide shots of them running around at superhuman speeds I can understand, but for facial close-ups why not go the make-up route? I'm a firm believer that anything that can be done with practical effects should be done so. The creatures in The Decent looked great and they were far scarier than these CG creations. I just can't get scared by CG. Not yet. It still has a way to go.

These issues aside, the movie was still entertaining. It might not have lived up to what I was expecting, but I'm not screaming for my $9 back. I'd watch it again on Bluray one day.


The Dolphins are 1-13!
I never thought I would ever be saying that statement with excitement, but I am!  We will NOT be the first team to go 0-16.
I know, it is pretty pathetic to celebrate your first victory 15 weeks into the season, but I don't care.  We haven't won in over a year.  And it feels good.  Having the win come in overtime makes it all the more exciting.
Now, if we can somehow beat the Patriots next week and stop them from going undefeated, then this season will not be a total loss.

December 12, 2007

Blood Diamond

I watched Blood Diamond last night on Bluray.
The movie was just phenomenal.  Excellent performances by the entire cast.  The movie is absolutely brutal, depressing, and enlightening.
As soon as it ended I wanted to watch it again with the director's commentary on.  Lately that has been my barometer to tell if I really enjoyed a movie, I get the urge to watch it again with commentary.
The Bluray disc has a nice set of bonus features too.  I want to watch all of them before I send it back to Netflix.  Hell, I enjoyed the movie so much I might just send it back and buy myself my own copy.
I highly recommend this flick.

December 11, 2007

Mass Effect Impressions

I finally started playing Mass Effect.  So far the game is great.  A few random impressions and thoughts, both good and bad:
- I immediately liked the whole "feel" of the game as soon as I went to the main menu.  Cool music and slick presentation.  Creating and customizing your character was a lot of fun.  I edited my character's background but kept his appearance as default.  I am so used to seeing that character model in all the previews that he is Commander Shepard in my eyes.
- I have no idea why you have one button to pull out your weapon (X) and a totally different button to re-holster is (B).  Seems like a really weird design choice.
- It takes a while to get used to the combat system.  When engaged with an enemy your tendency is to just play the game like a 3rd Person Action game like GRAW, but that will not work for long.  You need to remember to bring up the command window (RB) and use your squads special abilities.  Took me a while to get used to this.  In fact, I'm still working on it.
- The equipment menus are a bit odd.  Managing all your items seems tougher than it should be.  From what I have noticed a lot of the weapons, armor and items have little "personality".  They are not like they were in KotoR where you could find really unique items that granted you special abilities and had a history to them and a unique name.  All the items in M.E. are pretty generic and only come from different manufacturers and are separated into grades (I, II, II, IV, etc.) to distinguish the more powerful ones.
- The graphics are overall excellent, although there is a fair amount of stuttering.  The framerate can drop when things get rough and the game pauses to load a few times if you are running through an area quickly.  The biggest graphical drawback seems to be that the game takes too long to load textures.  Upon loading a game up everything is usually a flat-shaded mess and can take a few seconds to fill in.  In many conversations every time the camera switches to a new angle there is texture loading going on in the background.
- The music is fantastic.  The voice acting is also top notch.
- The galaxy map is super cool.
- Driving the Mako is not as intuitive or fun as I would have hoped.  These sections would have been so much better if it handled more like a warthog.  The controls are similar, but the execution falls well short.  The physics can be iffy, but then again, you are traversing planets with various gravities, so I'll let that go as being intentional.  What is not excusable is the terrible camera angles you can get sometimes when driving up or down terrain, where the Mako is completely obstructing your view making combat impossible.
- While I thoroughly enjoyed KotoR, Jade Empire and can already tell I am going to have a great time with Mass Effect, I was hoping Bioware's RPG "formula" would have evolved more.  M.E. looks gorgeous, the battles are real-time, but the game still feels very much like Bioware's previous two games.  While the new conversation system is very cool and more interesting than their previous games, it basically is just a new way to choose your response, everything else about it practically the same.
- I am getting kinda tired of the way these RPGs are set up.  It is cool that there is so much background information created for the game, to the point that you can ask non-essential characters questions about their background and some other pretty odd questions, but in the context of what is going on around you, it is pretty silly for your character to even inquire about half these things.  I won't even mention some of the side quests, which would be fine for some out of work humanitarian to take on, but not the first human Specter on a mission to save the galaxy.  Granted, all this additional content is "optional" in the sense that they are not essential to complete the game, but if you do not partake in them you miss out on a ton of experience points and your level will be capped off pretty low if you just do the essential tasks.  Not to mention you will miss about ½ the game!  This is not so much a knock on Mass Effect, but on all RPGs.  Take Oblivion for example.  Same thing.  The main quest in that game lets you know how "urgent" and "pressing" everything is, yet more than 80% of that game is doing side quests that have nothing to do with the main one.  At least in Oblivion you can continue playing when you are done with the main quest.  I guess I don't like being put in the position where if I want to play the game realistically, as if I was the main character (which is what a ROLE playing game should be), that I would actually miss more than half the game and miss leveling up to the point to see all the abilities, etc.
For the record, I do enjoy doing the side quests, I just hate the fact that they constantly remind that I am playing a game by making me think, "I can't believe I am taking time off from my mission to do this crap!".  But I want to experience everything in the game too, so it is a Catch-22.
The bottom line though is that I am having fun with the game and find it very hard to stop playing.  I always want to do one more task or just get to the next objective before I stop, then when I get there, I say the same thing.  Very addicting.
I am only about 11 hours in.  Will write more about it as I advance.

December 05, 2007

Rock Band Impressions

Now that I have 2 weeks of Rock Band playing under my belt, some impressions:
- The drums are insanely fun!
- The drums are insanely fun!
- The drums are insanely fun!
That is all.
. . .
Ok, fine, I'll elaborate.
Upon opening the huge case and spending a good 40 minutes trying to open each individually wrapped instrument, I was ready to rock.  That first night it was my girlfriend, my sister, two of my buddies and myself, all highly anticipating the game.  We had one extra person, so we all took turns swapping instruments and just having a blast.
Impressions of the instruments:
Guitar - I've heard of people having technical problems with the guitar and not liking its design and feel.  I myself have had no technical problems and after adjusting to it, I really like how it feels.  It is larger and just looks so much cooler than the GH "toy" guitar.  The strum bar does not click at all, something many people are enjoying (the GH one was pretty loud).  I have found though that without the clicking I am having a slightly harder time keeping the beat when I am repeating many notes in quick succession.  I actually used to rely on the audible click of the GH guitar to keep the beat.  I will have to work on that.  All in all I like it but I have actually spent very little time with it so far.
Mic - The microphone has a nice heavy, sturdy feel to it.  Singing can be entertaining if you are familiar with the song.  I live singing Creep myself.  But, this is the least interesting instrument to talk about.  Which leads me to . . .
Drums - I think I have made it pretty clear by now that the drums are the true highlight of Rock Band.  The guitar has lost a lot of its initial magic after 3 Guitar Hero games, but the drums are so new, fresh and fun that they have justified the $170 price tag by themselves.  They can be intimidating at first.  Even on easy I think they are tougher to pick up than guitar for the uninitiated.  But after playing through easy and medium and just starting hard, I can say that they soon begin to "click".  And man do you have fun when that happens.  The toughest part is getting used to using your foot for the bass pedal.  But that is also the most rewarding part of the drums and what really makes you feel like a drummer.  I won't rest until I am able to 5 star songs on Expert!!!!  Which btw, looks insanely tough!
Miscellaneous game impressions:
- The game does not have the extra "clean" look of Guitar Hero.  It uses a graphics filter to add grain and other effects to the image.  Took me a while to like it, but I now think it looks great.  While the player will barely notice (have to look at those note charts) if you are just viewing the game it has a much more authentic, realistic look than the Guitar Hero series.  The shots really do make it feel like you are at a concert and the close ups of the guitar playing are fantastic.  The character's hand positions are so dead on, it makes me think that they have individual guitar animations per song.
- Even when playing with 3 others, the screen never looks cluttered to me.
- I do not know if I like these rectangular notes as opposed to GH's more circular variety.  I especially do not like that hammer-ons and pull-offs now are indicated by "smaller" notes, since they are harder to spot.  The "fret boards" that the notes scroll down on are also plain.  I kinda like GH's decorated ones.
- I really like being able to see how many stars you have at any one time and how much more you have to go for the next one.  Yes, it can be distracting if you are obsessed like I am at knowing how you are doing (which leads to me messing up more often than not), but I still like it.
- You do not get a detailed breakdown after a song on how you did per section, etc.  I wish Harmonix would have kept that.
- Band World Tour mode is an absolute blast and soooo much better than the regular solo tour.  Unfortunately you can only play it with at least one other player and since you cannot play that mode over Live, it really kills it for me.  I don't know why they do not let you play that mode by yourself.  Sure, it will not be as much fun as it is with your buddies, but it is better than not playing it at all because your friends can't come over every other day!!!!  I really, really don't understand why Harmonix made it multiplayer only, especially when they knew it wasn't going to be available over Live.  Bad move.
Needless to say, I am having a blast with the game so far.  Once I am done with drums I will quickly move on to guitar.  And who knows, I might try a singing career as well.  Lots of replay value in this one.

December 04, 2007

Dashboard Update

The Fall Dashboard Update is now Live.  The "big" new item added is being able to see your Friends' Friends List.  A feature I never even thought of or had on my wishlist.  I guess they are trying to make Live more Myspace-like.
For those that like their privacy you are able to limit access to your friends list.  So if you don't want others snooping through it you might want to set that up.
In other Live news, there is some new Bioshock content up.  Haven't checked it out myself but it is supposed to fix some aspect-ratio problems for widescreen users (I want to check this out, since the forums were just FULL of gamers complaining about this when the game came out, I never noticed a problem), some new plasmids and a new achievement worth a whopping 100 points!  Best of all, it is all free!!!  Take that EA!  And Microsoft, with your 800 point, 3-map pack for Halo 3.
There is also a Black Sabbath pack available for Rock Band with 3 songs.  Don't think they are masters though.  I might cave and get this.  I see myself buying plenty of Rock Band content.  I should have some impressions up soon.

December 03, 2007

Mass Effect: Revelations

I am about to finish the Mass Effect novel.  I decided to read through it before starting the game, even though I've had the game in my possession since 11/20.  Surprisingly it has been pretty easy not to pop it into my 360 (that's what happens when you cannot stop playing drums and are also an assassin during the Crusades and a treasure hunter trying not to get killed by pirates as you search for El Dorado).
But, now that Uncharted is finished and I'm down to only a handful of assassinations, as soon as I am done with the novel (which should be tonight) I am going to immediately start the game.
The novel is actually a pretty good read.  Better than I thought.  It has really gotten me excited for the game.  After reading about all these alien races and locations I really can't wait to see and experience them firsthand.  I think because I read the novel the game is going to be an even more enjoyable experience than I was probably already going to have with it.  I recommend it to anyone interested in the game or just wants a good sci-fi read.

Uncharted impressions

When I take breaks from Assassin's Creed and Rock Band I've had
Uncharted to keep me busy. I beat it this weekend. Some impressions.

- Production values in this game are extremely high. Everything
screams quality and attention to detail.

- The cinematics and voice acting are fantastic. Again, going back to
the high production values, the game feels like a fun summer
blockbuster. The script, while not incredibly original, has cool
characters and keeps you entertained throughout.

- The controls feel great. Given the realistic animation it is great
to see that did not come at the expense of responsiveness in the

- Drake's clothes actually get wet when you jump into water. It looks
fantastic. That attention to detail is what more games should be aiming

- The game is a good length for a rental (I purchased it). It took me
a bit longer to complete than some since I started playing it on Hard.
I found the challenge to be right on. Gun fights definitely required
quick cover and enemy AI tried to flank and rush me when I was
outnumbered. Lots of grenade tossing on their part too, which was cool.
Only a few frustrating sections which I think won't be present if
playing on the normal difficulty. I can see myself definitely playing
through this one again (although not right now).

No real glaring negatives. The game was very polished, I didn't come
across any bugs, it was gorgeous, fun, and entertaining throughout. I
hope Naughty Dog continues to tweak and utilize this game engine because
it is very, very impressive.

Meaningless number score: 8/10.