August 26, 2008


I had a pretty good weekend. The Dolphins beat the Chiefs 24-0 (the real Dolphins, not my Madden team). Granted, it was a preseason game and it means nothing, but dammit, we looked really good and it felt great to look good! I forgot what that was like! You know you're coming off several mediocre years when you end up yelling and celebrating more in a preseason game than you have at any point in the last 4 seasons. :)

I also beat Braid. I think. I found all the puzzle pieces and I got the achievement for completing the game. But it doesn't really "end" per say as far as I can tell. Anyway, the game was quite the experience. I highly recommend it.

I also played some CoD4 multiplayer this weekend. Wow, whenever I stop playing for a while I get absolutely massacred when I get back in. I must have stunk it up for about 10 games before I even started performing decent again. This is still my favorite competitive multiplayer game that I have played.

I checked out the Head Coach demo that is in the PS Store and played around with that for a bit. I like the interface and it seems to be insanely deep (as far as I can tell from the demo). Unfortunately, when I was going to play the week 1 game, the game got stuck in a perpetual load screen. It was loading the game and it did not appear to actually be "stuck" because it kept changing all the facts that were on the screen, but I must have waiting for about 5 minutes for the game to load and nothing. I just turned it off and went to bed. So, all I did basically was get a feel for the menus.

I also tried the Star Wars: Force Unleashed demo (PS3). Everything I have seem on this game to date has been very impressive and the demo continued that trend. Ever since I first played Psi-Ops in the Xbox I dreamed of a Star Wars game being made in that same style. Well, this game is it. I'm a big fan of games that give the player a feeling of empowerment and lets them wreck havoc and this game lets you do just that. The visuals are slick and the control scheme seems solid. I was still in the learning stages so I never felt totally comfortable toggling between all my abilities, but this game has a lot of potential. I'm going to download the 360 version and see which I prefer.

Lastly, after playing through the demo twice, I decided to buy Bionic Commando Rearmed (360). Grin really did a bang-up job with this title. Every little detail about it screams quality. They did not do a half-assed port, you can tell this project was a labor of love for the developer. I have fond memories of the original NES game, but nothing detailed. I remember really enjoying the game, but everything is a haze. So far I am really enjoying Rearmed. It has that great old school vibe and the controls feel great to me. Many are complaining that the controls on the 360 version suck because of the terrible d-pad, and I agree that the d-pad sucks, but I am playing the game with the analog stick and having no problems. The game even supports analog controls (tilt the stick slightly and your character shuffles forward slowly).

The play mechanics remain mainly unchanged, just tweaked here and there. It takes some getting used to though. Your character can't jump after all, and in a side-scrolling platformer not being able to jump just feels wrong on so many levels. That is actually why it took me two play-throughs to buy the game. My first time through was a mixed bag of "Oh yeah, I remember this. Cool" and "Holy $#*@, why can't I &#$% jump! I hate you!". Once you accept the fact that you won't be jumping around and feel comfortable with all the grappling techniques (the advanced tutorial is essential), the game really opens up. And the game is a lot deeper than you initially think. You get many new weapons and items later on so that there is always something fresh to mix things up.

For $10, this game is a crazy bargain. Another recommendation from me. This has been a great month for Live Arcade games. And we still have Castle Crashers to look forward to. Sweet.

I also played Madden (of course) and will put some thoughts up shortly.

August 19, 2008

Gaming update

- I am 3 puzzle pieces away from completing Braid.  If you haven't taken the plunge yet, dig into your pockets and cough up the 1200 MS Points for this game.  Please.  The game is a true gem.  I've spent $60 on games that aren't a third as brilliant as this one.  Support these type of games folks, or we'll be over-run with unoriginal, by-the-numbers crap! 
- Still plugging away at Hot Shots: Out of Bounds.  I'm really enjoying the game.  I tried the new Tiger Woods demo and I don't know, I find Hot Shots to feel more authentic.  Bizarre, I know.  But, aside from the cutesy characters and over-the-top courses, the Hot Shots golf engine and physics are pretty deep.  I also feel that you have to plan your shots out more in Hot Shots than in Tiger Woods.  Especially while putting.  I sometimes take over a minute evaluating the green in HS before a big put.  You have great control of the camera and various angles and you have to actually calculate your shot.  In Tiger, you have extremely limited control in evaluating the green and you mostly rely on a "Putt Preview" that shows you exactly where the put will go and then adjust from there.  I just don't get the same satisfaction sinking a long put in Tiger as I do when I nail one in Hot Shots.  Maybe that is just me.
I do like the analog swing mechanic of Tiger and playing in real-world courses has me intrigued.  I might end up picking Tiger up eventually, especially since I believe Gabe is getting it as well.  Of course, I am still waiting for my Hot Shots rematch!
- I still pop in MLB: The Show every now and then to continue my starting pitcher career.  I am now by my 3rd year and with the Houston Astros organization.  I felt bad leaving my Marlins when my contract expired after my second year, but I wanted a Championship and the Marlins weren't heading that way anytime soon.  Looks like my decision has paid off.  The Astros have made it to the World Series and we're about to enter game 6 leading 3-2.  And of course, I am starting game 6.  I hope I go the distance (and win), otherwise I think I might miss out on the "celebrating" if we win the game after they pull me.  Something I hope they work on for next year's version.
- Then of course there is Madden.  I've had my up and downs with Madden so far.  Now that I have a few more games under my belt, I am getting used to its animations and gameplay, so I am comparing it less and less to APF in my head and trying to judge it on its own.  I've been playing exhibition games for now and spending a lot of time on the practice field.  I don't want to start a franchise until updated rosters are out, as the current one still does not have Pennington on the Dolphins.  I might have to wait until the first week of the actual season to be able to jump into franchise.
Might be a good thing because I am still doing lots of slider tweaks (damn you EA for not including CPU sliders!!!  Worst design choice ever!) and trying to see what quarter length produces the most realistic stats.
At the moment, I am enjoying the game again for the most part.  Will add some updated gameplay impressions later.

August 15, 2008

More Madden . . .

A few more impressions.  I have not been able to play a full game since Tuesday.  Something always comes up and I have to stop playing.  I don't understand why we do not have in-game saves by now.  Is it that difficult to implement?  Most of the impressions below involve graphical observations, etc.  Note, I had my nitpick hat on last night.
- I've probably played about 3½ quarters total since Tuesday (not counting time spent on the practice field of trying some Madden Moments) and I have not score a TD.  So far, in 7½ quarters as the Dolphins, I have scored 1 offensive touchdown.  Come to think of it, that is very realistic!  =)
The thing is, I actually move the ball down the field pretty well.  I mix a combination of runs, short passes, the occasional 15 - 20 yard pass, etc., and I move the chains with good consistency.  But once I get in the Red Zone I can't close the deal.  I haven't missed a FG yet though.
- The more I play it, the less I like the animation and player movement in this game.  Some isolated animations look great (catches, tackles, RB getting away from defender) but overall the game does not look realistic in motion at all.  Running animations are terrible.  It does not look like the runners are even running at full speed (regarding the effort the animation shows), and your players can zig-zag around the field in a very unrealistic fashion.  Sure, that is great for player control (you want your guy to go left, he's going left) but it doesn't really take momentum or physics into account, so it totally kills the realism.
- Kickers' legs move way too slow when kicking the ball.  At the speed their legs moves you expect the ball to travel no more than 15 yards down field, yet the kick-off goes into the endzone.  This is similar to how the throwing animations don't match how far the QB's are throwing the ball.  What looks like the animation for a 10 yards pass sails through the air for 40 yards.
- To satisfy my curiosity, I popped in Madden 2006.  Yes, I still own it.  I prefer to keep it than to get the $1.00 Gamestop will give me for it.  The player models in that game, while grotesquely 'roided out, seemed to display more detail in the jerseys and overall textures and poly count.  The current models look far more human and accurate, but they don't sport the texture detail of 2006.  In 2006 you can see the sweat in their arms and neck and the skin textures were very detailed.  Just an observation, I agree with pulling system resources away from generating these minute details that you can only spot in Instant Replay and using them in other areas, but I wish we could have the detail of 2006 with 2009's models.
- Maybe I was just in a weird mood yesterday, but visually, the game just wasn't looking that impressive to me.  I don't know why because I thought it looked pretty good when I picked it up on Tuesday.  The grass textures and lighting are really the highlights of this game.  I find all other aspects pretty lack-luster at this point.  Maybe it will grow on me.  I think this all stems from the animation.  That is my pet peeve.  If the animation was actually life-like, it would make everything else look better.
- The commentary is a mixed bag.  The play by play by Tom Hammond is completely robotic.  Sounds like the radio announcer without that weird "radio filter" applied to the sound.  Chris Collinsworth however sounds absolutely fantastic!  Completely natural and fluid.  He provides the best commentary in a football game I have ever heard.  Now, that being said, poor Tom's job is much harder to do in videogame form.  He needs to read his lines with a very stable timbre and tone because all his words need to be spliced together to form the play by play.  So a regular sentence you hear from him might be made up of separate sound bytes.  Collinsworth however is free to just talk away because all his sound is played back exactly how he says it.  Eitherway, if not for Tom's robotic delivery, the commentary in Madden would have been a huge win this year.
- Presentation is a step forward as well, although it is still not where I would ultimately like it to be.  But, since I just popped in Madden 2006 last night, it is night and day from that game.  I can't believe how absolutely dreadful 2006 was in this regard!  The new graphical overlays look great and the game does a great job of throwing stats on-screen as the game goes on.  I love that.  The view of the Stadium from the outside before the game is a welcome addition as well.  But the overall presentation still feels bland.  All the cutscenes are really weak.  Last night one of the players tore his knee, the graphic said he was "Out for the season" and the cutscene just shows the player on the floor for a bit, in pain, trying to get up and having a hard time, yet nobody comes to help him.  No training staff, his other players are just 5 yards away watching him.  He finally stands up and begins to hop off the field.  I think back to the really great injury cutscenes of NFK 2K5 and these pale in comparison.  I also think they should not tell you the extent of the injury immediately.  They should keep you in suspense while the doctors check your player out, etc.
- There is very little emotion in the game.  The crowd noise is pretty static and I just don't see the emotion on the field or on the sidelines to make this feel like a real NFL game.  The sidelines in particular are completely void of life, with low polygon player models which are totally uninteractive.  They just stand there looking straight ahead no matter what is happening.  I got spoiled by APF's great, active sidelines.
Overall, I think I am going through 2K withdrawal.  I haven't played a Madden game in 2 years and I have APF fresh in my memory, so I am comparing Madden to that game.  I am hoping I'll begin to adapt to it soon, although I will say this, I do prefer Visual Concepts' vision for what a football videogame should be.  I like the feel of their games more overall.  I like the details they get right.  I like the direction they were taking the genre way more than the direction Madden seems to be going, which is to cater more to the casual and tournament crowd.
We'll see.  I'm going to wait for the opening day roster to start a franchise and I'll see how the game grows on me.  I really do want to like it.  Really.

August 13, 2008

Madden first impressions

The first thing I did was take those stupid IQ tests.  I'm going to give the Madden IQ thing a try for a few weeks and see how the game plays using that before I go with Pre-set difficulty settings and slider tweaks.
I then went in to see all the various modes and options, viewed some rosters, set my music play list (they always have all the cool NFL Fims music tracks unselected in the "jukebox"), I maxed out penalty settings since those are never called, I changed game time to 12 minute quarters and I viewed the default audibles.  Then, after about an hour of messing around, I fired up my first game.  I decided to re-create the recent preseason game of the Dolphins vs. Bucs at Dolphin Stadium.
I ended up winning 29-7.  It sounds like I dominated, but I really didn't.  I only scored one offensive TD, a run by Brown.  The rest came from 5 FGs and an interception I returned for a TD.
The Bucs turned the ball over 3 times (2 interceptions and one fumble).  I had no turnovers although I did fumble twice, but I recovered both times.  First fumble was by Brown as I was fighting for additional yards.  The second came after my QB got blind sided.  Both times a Dolphin lineman fell on the ball.  I scored 17 points as a result of the Bucs' turnovers, so it was not like my offense was dominating.
McCown (Pennington is not on the roster yet) finished the game with 0 tds, 0 ints, about 58% completion percentage and about 178 yards.  I was sacked twice.  Pretty realistic stats.
Ronnie Brown rushed for a little over 100 yards with a 4.0 ypc average.  But they were all hard fought yards.  He only had one nice run of about 17 yards.
I've been reading a lot about the CPU QBs being too accurate, but I held Jeff Garcia to a 60% completion percentage and he only had about 190 yards with one TD.
The biggest problem I saw was that the CPU running game was pretty weak.  They barely cracked 60 yards for the game (if that).
Now, some gameplay impressions.
First, I want to get this out of my system.  I HATE THE QB ANIMATIONS!!!  Whew, I feel better.  This is one area where 2K is 100X better than Madden.  The way the QB drops back, shuffles around in the pocket, and throws, looks totally unrealistic.  QB's also don't seem to have to wind up to throw long passes.  They get the ball out way too fast and a lot of the times they only use their arms as if they were throwing a 10 yard pass, yet they are zipping the ball 30 yards down the field.  Looks terrible.  This needs to be fixed next year.  Also, the football looks way too big in their hands.
Other than the terrible animations, the passing game felt pretty good.  I think the passes fly through the air too fast, but that is fine.  I was able to put some touch on a few passes and lay the ball in just over the linebackers and just before the safeties.  That felt good, since in past Madden games you know those linebackers could swat anything down that was near them.
The running game felt like a big improvement over past Madden games.  The biggest reason being gang tackles and the ability to break out of animations.  The gang tackles are not as dynamic or impressive as the 2K games, but it is better than the single-man tackle-fest Madden was a few years ago.  You can fight for some extra yardage now after going into a tackle animation so the animations don't feel as canned as they used to.  The lanes and holes opened up by your o-line won't stay open for very long so you really have to follow the play to a T, hit the hole hard and fast, and be happy grinding away for 4 yards at a time (if you are lucky).
One thing I have always enjoyed more in Madden than the 2K series is playing defense.  I enjoy playing as a MLB, but never felt comfortable controlling one in any of the 2K games.  I would always over-run plays and take the linebacker out of the play.  In Madden I feel like I can get him to go where I want and I have a much more enjoyable experience.  I was also able to put good pressure on the quarterback by mixing up my blitzing and changing from Man to Zone coverages often to keep him off balance.  The great thing was that it wasn't automatic.  Sometimes the blitz would make him rush a throw, or dump it off to a RB, but the CPU would also read it on occasion and hit the whole in my D for a decent gain.  It was a good back and forth.
I'm going to need to turn down FG accuracy because I was 5/5 on FGs from all sorts of distances (3 were 40+ yards) and I had perfect aim and power each time.  Didn't come close to missing one.
Overall, my first game was a fun experience.  There are some things I don't like and I still think that 2K has Madden beat as far as realistic animations and the tackling system is concerned, but it sure was fun playing as the Dolphins again.
Plenty more testing left to try.

A new low . . .

Boy I am pathetic.
So I have some time to kill yesterday and I decide to go to Best Buy.  Seemed like a good idea at the time.  A few blocks from the store I realize that it was "Madden Holiday" and I'd probably be tempted to buy the game if I see copies laying around.
No, I can be strong I think to myself.
I walk up to the store, the sliding double doors open and I am greeting with a beautiful 50" flatscreen TV showing, what else, Madden 2009.  And I have to admit, the game looked gorgeous.  The grass textures were phenomenal and the colors just popped.  Very vibrant.  Very pretty.  I force myself to turn from the screen and next to me is a table with about 30 copies of the game.
I hesitate for a moment . . . then grab a copy and head for the register.
I really need to do something about this football problem I have.  Expect impressions soon.
I suck.  lol.

August 08, 2008


So, up until last week I was set on picking up Madden this year.  There is no APF 2K9 to give me an alternate choice (thanks again for that NFL), so Madden it was going to be.  And after not playing an NFL game last year, I was kind of looking forward to it.
But, thanks to last week's demo, that is all out the window.  Nothing about that demo impressed me.  I think the Madden IQ and adaptive difficulty thing is just asking for trouble.  And from what I've been reading, EA decided to remove CPU Sliders this year as well.  Wow.  Are you kidding me?  First, NCAA's CPU Sliders were completely bogus and did not work and now Madden doesn't even have CPU Sliders!!!  I have ZERO faith that Tiburon's programmers are talented enough (or even have the time), based on what we've been getting from them the last few years, to implement an adaptive intelligence system that will work perfectly for everyone and we'll have no need to adjust the way the CPU plays.
Plus, I don't want the game to change to accommodate my weaknesses, I want to adapt to the game myself, by getting better.  Does the game take into account what team you are playing when deciding to change the game to your play-style?  What if you cannot rush because you are using a team that just has a really weak running game?  I do not want the game making the running game easier!  I can't run because my team is not supposed to run!!  Like I said, this system sounds very shady and it is just asking for trouble.  The fact that you have no CPU Sliders just magnifies it by 10X!  They should have spent all that time just improving the AI and tweaking the preset difficulty settings.
My impressions from the actual gameplay were pretty bad as well.  The QB dropback is still so unbelievable ugly and unrealistic I cannot believe it has not been addressed yet!  The animations are still 5 years behind 2K as far as realistic movement is convcerned.  Graphically, the game is looking nice.  The stadiums and field look fantastic, but the animation just kills the the visuals for me.  And what was EA thinking by giving you a demo that only has 1:30 minutes of gameplay and you cannot play defense?  Great job!
I don't like to judge games from a demo (negatively judge it at least) so I will wait until the game is released and see what the folks over at Operation Sports have to say.  I hear EA is already working on patches to address some of the problems found by those with an early copy of the game.  Who knows, maybe I'll be picking the game up in October or something, if the gameplay drastically improves from what I expereinced, but it won't be next week.