January 22, 2009

Project Origin

Btw, I played the FEAR 2: Project Origin demo (got it early since I am a Qore subscriber) and the game seems pretty damn impressive.  Technically, it is a gem.  Great visuals and effects.  The game also freaks you the hell out!  Scary stuff.
I never played the original FEAR (only the demo) but I might be picking Project Origin up.

January 21, 2009

The wonderful world of Apple

On Monday I bought an iMac. The 20", 2.66GHZ model. I've needed a new computer for a while and early on I decided that I wanted to get a Mac. I researched for about a week all my options; I went for the standard 13" MacBook, to the 15" MacBook Pro, to the various iMac models. In the end, I reviewed all my options and since I do 98% of my computer use sitting at my computer desk, I ruled out all the notebook variants. I'd just be paying more for a machine with weaker specs and I won't be taking advantage of its biggest selling point: portability. I then
ruled out the 24" iMac because the screen was just too big. My computer desk is a smaller corner desk and that beautiful 24" screen would have been overkill for such a small space.

So, the more advanced 20" version it was.

Buying it was a snap too. Since I already knew exactly what I wanted and since Best Buy now sells Mac products, I take the 1 minute drive to the Best Buy on the corner of my street, walk to the Apple section, point to the one I want and say "ring it up". I was out of the store in 5 minutes.

I'll say one thing about Apple, they make some sexy looking stuff. Once I had the iMac all set it, it looked gorgeous. Very sleek, very clean, minimal wires and chords; a work of art. Set up was a breeze, it immediately picked up my wireless network and it was up and running in a few minutes. I now need to learn the ins and outs of the Apple operating system. Being a PC user all my life, it might take a while. But I'll get there. And there seems to be a lot of helpful info and videos on the Apple site for people doing this very transition.

I'll add impressions on how the system is working out in the coming months as I begin to really take advantage of it. So far, it is great!

January 20, 2009

Bad Company

So, since my 360 died and it might be a month before the whole "send/repair/return" process finishes, I found myself gameless. All the games I was currently playing were on the 360 (Fallout 3, World at War, CoD4, Far Cry 2, etc.). The last PS3 game I purchased was Mirror's Edge and I finished it.

So off I went to Best Buy to look for a PS3 game. I ended up getting Battlefield: Bad Company, since I always wanted to play it and it was only $29.99.

Some impressions:

- I really enjoy the game's sense of humor. I think the writing is pretty solid (if not a bit over the top at times), but it is the performances that make it work. The voice acting is very good. I have laughed out loud at the banter between my squad mates.

- The controls feel great. The aiming was way loose by default, so I had to turn that down quite a bit, but once I did and got used to the set-up, I was cruising along.

- Visually, the game is solid. It is not the best looking game around, but there is something about its graphical presentation that draws me in. The game seems to be using some kind of visual filter, giving the game a sort of grainy look to it, which I actually like. The destructive environments add a ton to the overall experience. The weapons looks great and are extremely detailed, with fantastic reload animations. Also, small detail, but I love the way the gun sways when you are moving. Not sure what it is, but Dice really nailed this (at least in my opinion).

- So far, what has impressed me the most has been the audio. The audio in this game is just fantastic. I already mentioned the voice acting, but the total audio package is really top notch. The music fits well, and hearing the funny tunes paying from the varius vehicle radio's is a nice sharp contrast to the destruction going on around you. But it is the sound of that destruction that really kicks the audio presentation to the top of the pack. Everything sounds awesome. From the sound of your footsteps and gear when you are walking or sprinting, to the sound of your breathing when exerting yourself, to the countless explosions and gun fire. Everything also sounds different depending on distance and whether you are indoors or out. While indoors everything echoes and the sound bounces off the walls. The effect might actually be a little overdone, but I actually like it. Explosions sound great, especially when going off near you. You can hear debris fly by and you hear dust and sand raining down on you. If something goes off a bit too close to you, the sound gets muted out and you have a ringing in your ears. I've been playing the game with my headphones and the sound has GREATLY contributed to my enjoyment of the game.

- One of the biggest negatives that I have so far are that enemies are just way too aware of your presence. If you want to mix it up and play a stealthy game, forget about it. Once you engage the enemy, even if it from behind with a silenced weapon or from 100 meters away with a sniper rifle while hiding on the bushes, the enemy immediately knows exactly where you are. If that wasn't bad enough, all enemies seem to be sharpshooters. They have uncanny accuracy and can hit you from insane distances. It is almost impossible to engage in a firefight without taking damage.

- Now is a good time to mention the health system. It is a bit odd. It requires you to manually heal (by injecting yourself with some magic syringe), but you have unlimited use of that syringe. It is almost like Dice decided to avoid the "magical healing over time" like in many other FPS's, so they went with syringes, but then they realized that the enemies are way too accurate and the player is constantly getting hurt, so they'd be constantly running out, so they decided to just let you have an unlimited number. It does have a short recharge time before you can use it again, but it is very short. I'm a bit mixed on the system. Sure, scrambling for the syringe in the middle of a firefight while near death is pretty intense, but since you have to use it SO much it becomes a bit tedious and I start to wonder if just magically healing ala CoD4 wouldn't have been a better choice.

So far I have been enjoying the game more than I thought I would. Looks like it was a good choice to fill in the gap. Will add further impressions if anything changes.

January 19, 2009

RRoD 2

So I get up on Sunday morning with plans on playing some CoD4.  I have been getting back into the swing of things and had some pretty good matches over the last few days.

Hit the power button on my 360, hear an ugly, high pitched sound, like the optical drive doing something it shouldn't, and BAM, Three Rings of Death.

Oh boy.

I try the usual trouble shooting techniques, unplug everything, remove the HDD, but nothing works.

Perfect.  So, I'm sending it back to Microsoft.  Second time this happens to me.  I know others have had it much worse, but dammit, this is so annoying.  20+ years of gaming and I have NEVER had a console break on me.  My Atari 2600 still works.

Oh well . . .

January 15, 2009

Weekend notes . . .

[Posting weekend notes on Thursday?  Man I have been procrastinating.  In my defense, I wrote these on Monday, but never finished them]
Wow, the Cardinals are HOSTING the NFC Championship game?  That is just crazy!  Good for them.  After the first round of the playoffs I told myself I would like to see a Ravens/Cardinals Superbowl.  I'm sure the networks don't want to see that, a Steelers/Eagles Superbowl will probably do a lot better in the ratings, but I always like the underdogs.  I'd also like to see that Cardinals offense up against the Ravens defense.  Fitzgerald vs. Reed?  Sweet!
Plus, those poor Cardinals have not had anything to cheer for in a long time.
On the gaming front, I have been playing less Fallout 3.  I am still enjoying it, but I am not drawn in like I initially was.  I think it is because I am now spending more time in the DC/Capital area and I don't like it nearly as much as the Wasteland.  The Wasteland is vast and open and you have total freedom to explore it.  It also looks very impressive technically.  The DC/Capital section on the other hand is not really an open area.  The buildings have been "strategically" destroyed to create barriers that you cannot cross, so you need to rely on the underground tunnels to get between sections, so the Downtown area is basically broken into small areas.  Visually, I find it a bit drab too.  Hopefully I'll begin to do more missions on the wasteland.
I haven't played Prince of Persia in about 2 weeks.  Part of that is because I started Fallout, the other is that last time I played it I was stuck in some annoying puzzle that required pulling some levers to fill pools with the black ooze in a certain order.  It was pretty annoying since I just wanted to get back to exploring.
I also played some Halo 3 multiplayer on Friday (of all things).  And to my surprise, I was actually doing pretty good.  I was playing online with my buddy who came over, and we were both doing pretty good, especially considering that I haven't played Halo 3 online in over a year.
Didn't fare as well in CoD4.  I am desperately trying to get back in old form in this title but I can't seem to.  I am hit and miss.  I might do decent in one match and totally suck in another.  Even my best matches don't come close to what I used to be capable of.  It depresses me.  lol.

January 07, 2009

Fallout 3 impressions . . .

I decided to go ahead and start Fallout 3, even though I told myself that I wouldn't start until I was done with Prince of Persia. I just couldn't resist.

I can tell this is an RPG because I spent about 9 hours playing it on Sunday. 6 of those hours being non-stop. This always happens to me with RPGs. I get sucked into leveling my character, exploring, scavenging for items, and the next thing you know, hours have gone by. Seriously, last night I sat down to play at 8pm and just like that, it was 9:30pm. I felt like I had only played for 20 minutes.

The game itself is a lot of fun. The Wasteland looks great. The atmosphere is there, especially when stepping out of Vault 101 for the first time. The gameplay is very similar to Oblivion. There are obvious differences and improvements to the core gameplay, but there is no mistaking that this is a Bethesda game and it is running on the Oblivion engine. That might be my biggest problem with the game so far. It just feels too similar to Oblivion and it is not as new or fresh as I would like. If you never played Oblivion, this won't be a negative to you, but since I put in over 100 hours in that game (still need to beat it too!), this feels like a very similar experience.

I am also not the biggest fan of the Oblivion engine from a visual standpoint. Sure, it is managing a giant open world, keeping track of millions of objects and doing lots of computations, it has day and night cycles, complex A.I., realtime physics, great draw distance, and some vistas are gorgeous, but the final package just doesn't come together to "wow" me most of the time. Character animation is robotic, textures look iffy up close, and aside from the open Wasteland, indoor environments look pretty dull and boring. It is not an ugly game. Some might actually find it gorgeous. But for my taste, this engine doesn't really do it for me.

But graphics aren't everything, especially in an RPG. The story so far has been more intriguing to me than Oblivion. Maybe it is just more accessible than gateways to Hell opening up. You are simply searching for your father. The voice acting is much improved over Oblivion. Where it seemed that Oblivion had 5 voice actors in the entire game, Fallout 3 seems to have hundreds. You won't find every other character to sound the same.

Bottom line though, regardless if I complain that I don't like the engine, that there are no "wow" moments, that it feels too familiar, once I start playing I cannot stop and that is the greatest compliment a game can have.

January 05, 2009

Weekend notes . . .

Well, the Dolphins' magical season has come to an end.  It was a great ride, but the Ravens made sure that the best team advanced.  Not to take anything away from my Phins, they had a phenomenal year and far exceeded everyone's expectations.  I am swelling with pride today and looking forward to next season with hope for a change.
But there was no doubt that the Ravens were the better team yesterday.  Their defense was absolutely suffocating.  I was intimidated by them and I was sitting on my couch with a beer in my hand.  They were everywhere and had an answer for everything we threw at them.  Ed Reed is not human.  How he sniffed out his second interception is beyond me.  He was nowhere near the spot of the int when the play started.  He read Pennington perfectly.
Speaking of Pennington, shame that he had the game that he had, because really, we wouldn't even have been playing yesterday if not for Pennington's amazing work this season.  So, a week after the Dolphins set an NFL record for fewest turnovers, we turn it over 5 times in one game.  Ouch.
But after the initial pain of yesterday's loss subsided, I was left with nothing but appreciation for this team.  Yesterday's loss does nothing to erase the unlikely ride they took us on.  Thanks guys, we haven't felt that down here in years!
On another note, I actually saw two movies in theaters this weekend.  Since it seems like I have been averaging going to theaters about 4 times a year lately (thank you Netflix!), two in one weekend is a record.
And both titles were great.  I saw "Doubt" and "Slumdog Millionaire."
"Doubt" has some truly amazing performances.  Meryl Streep really is the best actress in Hollywood.  She is always so natural you forget she is acting.  Phillip Seymour Hoffman also turns in a great performance (I love this guy).
I'm sure many of you have never even heard of "Slumdog Millionaire", but it was great movie.  Its premise seems a bit odd, and watching the trailer didn't convince me that it is a movie I'd enjoy, but I am glad I went to see it.  The theater was sold out too!  Go figure.
Last, I began to play Fallout 3 this weekend. Will put up impressions in a separate post.