March 31, 2009

Weekend notes . . .

- I've been playing MLB: The Show 09.  Once again I am playing Road to the Show mode as a pitcher.  What I can I say, looks like deep down inside I always wanted to be a pitcher in the majors.  In The Show 06, I was a closer.  In 07, a starter.  Now in 09, another starter.  I should create a first baseman or something to mix it up.
Actually, what I would like to do this year is play a normal franchise.  I've yet to play franchise-mode in this series ever since RTTS was implemented.  Think I'll try that . . . if I can stop myself from playing RTTS mode.  I wonder if there is a way to import your RTTS character to a franchise?  Would be cool.
- Gabe and I finally got together on-line to play a few games Saturday morning.  We had our much delayed "rematch" in Hotshots Golf: Out of Bounds.  Since we hadn't played the game in months, we had a few updates to download.  And by "few" I mean we both spent about 30 minutes downloading and installing updates.  My God, why are updates so annoying on the PS3?
On the 360, when I get the message that an update is available, I am glad and begin to wonder what was updated and generally feel that the game is improved somehow because of the update.  On the PS3, when I see the update message, I just groan and my mind just wonders how damn long it is going to take.
Anyway, I digress.  After all the updates were installed (there were three of them) we got to play a few matches and it was a lot of fun.  This game is fantastic and I urge any golf fan to give it a try.  The game is actually very deep and the engine is very solid.  I look forward to many more matches with Gabe online (just get your bluetooth headset synced Gabe!)
- Saw the "leaked" footage on Youtube of Uncharted 2 and the game is looking great.  It looks similar to the first title as far as camera perspective, animations, and gameplay (granted, this is from a low-quality one minute video), but you can immediately see the increase in environmental detail and level geometry.  The detail in the run-down city was phenomenal.  Can't wait for this game.
- I saw the remake of Halloween on Sunday.  I was against this remake from the start and while it wasn't terrible, I still feel it was completely unnecessary.  The original is still a classic and stands on its own just fine.

March 27, 2009


Man, today is just dragging and I can't wait for the weekend to get here already.

Posted with LifeCast

March 26, 2009

The Orange Box

I was at Best Buy yesterday and I saw that they had The Orange Box for $19.99.
That is a ridiculous price.
Here is what is in The Orange Box:
- Half-Life 2
- Half-Life 2 Episode 1
- Half-Life 2 Episode 2
- Team Fortress 2
- Portal
This package was a fantastic deal when it was released for $59.99.  At $20, every 360 (or PS3 owner) should buy it.  So, go out and get it!!!

March 24, 2009

New toy

So, as you can tell from my previous post, I now own an iPhone.  I never thought I would.  I've always found it to be an amazing phone technology-wise, but I'm not much of a phone guy.  I've never owned a fancy phone for personal use (I have a Blackberry for work, but it is used strictly for work. 98% of its use is just for e-mail).  So I am surprised I took the plunge.
It also didn't help that my sister has owned one for a few months now and she doesn't hesitate to rub it in my face how damn cool it is.
So, with my T-mobile Contract ending at the end of February, I went for it.  I got the 8GB model.
So far, no complaints from me.  Well, I mean, I have all the regular complaints: No MMS Messaging, no video recording, no copy & paste, but it looks like most of that is being fixed with the new iPhone OS 3.0 which is out this summer.  But considering everything else the phone does, all the great apps available for it, and how responsive and cool the touch screen is, all is forgiven.

March 16, 2009

Test (iPhone Post Test)

Hello? Is this thing on?

Posted with LifeCast

March 09, 2009

2008 Game of the Year Awards

Ok, last year's Games of the Year Awards post was kinda long, so I am hoping to streamline it this year and be less wordy.  At least I will try.
Like before, my overall Game of the Year is not eligible for the individual system GotY award, to share the wealth a bit.  Also, keep in mind that I can obviously only choose from games that I played last year, so don't hate me if your favorite game didn't make it, I probably just didn't play it.  I also only did gaming on the 360 and PS3 this year, so no PS2 or PSP titles, unlike last year.  Ok, I'm already getting wordy.  On to the big award first!
2008 Game of the Year
Dead Space
There was no other game that I played in 2008 that wowed me as much as Dead Space.  Plain and simple.  Visually, it is the most impressive title I have seen to date.  Atmospherically, I was drawn in from opening sequence to closing credits.  Everytime I picked up the controller to play this game, I had a great time and an ear to ear smile (when I wasn't terrified that is).
Gears of War 2, Metal Gear Solid 4, Fallout 3
360 Game of the Year
Gears of War 2
As I mentioned in my impressions post (HERE), I really did not enjoy GoW 2 the first time I played it.  The second time however, was some of the most fun I've had this year.  It was a long session too (played for about 6 hours straight) and I was enthralled the entire time.  I'm surprised that this ended up being my 360 GotY, but I couldn't think of another title I enjoyed more (aside from Dead Space of course).
GTA IV, Fallout 3, Rock Band 2
PS3 Game of the Year
Metal Gear Solid 4
This game was an experience.  Visually, its the pinacle on the PS3 at the moment (at least until Killzone is released).  Gameplay-wise, the Metal Gear series has never been better.  Its refined controls and new default camera angle finally take the series to next level in the playability department.  It answers all the questions you might have had in the series too.  At least, I think it does.  This series' story-line is so intertwined and incoherent at this point, it is hard to tell.  As expected, the game delivers the best directed cinimatics in the business.  Kojima always excelled in this department and each MG game has taken it to another level.  That being said, as I mentioned in my impressions of the game, it is overdone.  This is both a game and a movie.  You spend at least ½ your time just sitting back and watching.  Really, you can go over ½ an hour without having to tough your controller.  That is a bit much and the game's only major negative.  With a gameplay to cinematics ratio of 70/30, this might have been a contender for 2009 GotY.  But since it seems to be more in the 50/50 range, the overall experience really suffers.
Little Big Planet, MLB 08: The Show
Xbox Live Arcade GotY:
Braid was just unique.  And fun.  And satisfying.  And special.  Its puzzles fiendishly clever.  Its art direction beautifully surreal.  It might not be for everybody, but it was definitely up my alley.
Runner's up:
Bionic Commando, Castle Crashers
Sports Game of the Year:
MLB: The Show 2008
For the second year in a row, The Show gets my vote.  A huge visual leap from last year, The Show just looks and plays like baseball.  No other sports game does a better job of translating a sport's nuances, sounds, look and feel like The Show series.
Hot Shots: Out of Bounds
Multiplayer Game of the Year:
Left 4 Dead
Considering this game should only be played co-op, it better be a great experience.  And it is! 
Runner's up:
Rock Band 2, Castle Crashers
Best Graphics:
Dead Space
In my opinion, no other game looked better.  Sure, others might have had larger scale, and done certain things better, but no other game impressed me visually as much as Dead Space.  Gears of War came close, and Metal Gear was technically fantastic, but Dead Space had me at "hello" this year.
GoW 2, MGS4, Far Cry 2
Best Sound:
Battlefield: Bad Company
Dead Space basically had this category locked up, but I made a really late purchase of Bad Company and I was blown away by the sound design.  No other FPS has done a better job with gunfire and explosions.  Everything sounds different depending on distance and even environment (everything sounds different indoors).  For a game that relies so much on destruction, BC's sound design made that destruction sound absolutely delightful.
Dead Space, GoW 2
Best Gaming Moment of 2008:
(Possible spoiler ahead!)
Returning to Shadow Moses Island (MGS4)
Wow!  Talk about fan service.  Kojima and his team pulled this bit of nostalgia off to perfection.  The whole scenario was set up beautifully too.  Heavy snow storm clouds your vision and just as that familiar helipad and base come into view, the theme from the ending credits of MGS1 kicks in.  I was floored.  Definitely one of my favorite gaming moments, not just from 2008, but of all time.
Zero Gravity (Dead Space)
The airtight doors open and I feel all the air getting sucked out of the compression chamber.  Ahead of me I see that the hull of the ship has been completely breached, the beauty of open space lies beyond.  All sound is muted and distant, although I clearly hear my breaths as I consume my now limited air supply.  Everything has a hazy look to it.  Up ahead I see a pipe has ruptured and see the beads of water floating away.  It is a surreal, peaceful experience, almost making me forget about the horrors I have already seen, and the ones that await me.
Leaving Vault 101 (Fallout 3)
Similar to exiting the sewers in Oblivion, finally escaping the confines of Vault 101 and stepping out to the Wasteland was exhilarating.  The vast, post-apocalyptic landscape is hautingly beautiful and the sense of freedom I felt to to go anywhere and do as I wanted was even more apparent than in Oblivion.
Biggest Disapointment of 2008:
(Tie) Ninja Gaiden 2 / Brother's in Arms: Hell's Highway
Anyone who has read this blog for a while (which is nobody) knows that Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox is one of my favorite action titles ever.  Played through it (in its many incarnations) MANY times.  But Ninja Gaiden 2 just never did it for me.  It didn't seem to evolve enough.  Its gameplay felt stagnant.  Complacent.  Sections felt extremely cheap.  I still need to beat it, yet, I find the urge to go back to it gone.  Shame.
As far as BiA, going into this new generation of gaming, this game was actually in my top 3 of anticipated titles.  Ever since the 360 was released, I was looking forward to this one.  What a disapointment.  A lot of what the developers showed, as far as walkthroughs and demos, turned out to be bogus and the final game was not what I was expecting.  Technically, it suffered, despite what seemed like ages of develoment time.  And the gameplay felt right out of last generation.  A big disappointment.
Additional Portal levels only part of full game re-release, Madden 2009 (like always)
Biggest Surprise of 2008:
Dead Space
Who would have thought that a game I was not interested in until a week before its release would end up being my favorite game of 2008?
- - - - -
Alright, that's it.  I am tired of typing.  Another year, another batch of great titltes.  here's hoping 2009 is another great one.

March 05, 2009


I got to watch an advanced screening of The Watchmen on Tuesday.  It was an interesting experience.   I have attended several advanced screenings in the past.  They have all been pretty standard.  You get there early with your pass, get in line, and aside from seeing a movie before it is released, it is a normal theater experience.
This wasn't.
They begin letting us in and instead of being greeted by your regular movie theater usher taking tickets, we're greeted by a bunch of guys in black suits.  They have metal detectors in their hands.  As I go through screening they ask me if I have a phone.  I show it to them.  They tell me they have to see me turn it off before I can go into the theater.  I advise them that I am still waiting for my sister to get there and that I have her ticket (I show them the extra ticket) and need my phone on for her to call me.  They again tell me that if I want to go inside I need to turn off my phone now.  So, I need to stand off to the side while I wait for my sister to arrive.  Eventually we get in and we're advised that we cannot leave the theater, even to go to the bathroom, until the entire auditorium is full and they have a feel for how many people are here.  I spot more guys with suits towards the front of the auditorim scanning the crown with small scopes (like a single-lensed binocular).  WTF?  Is this movie really so special to warrant Secret Service type security?  It was bizarre.
As for the movie itself, I liked it.  It was shot very stylistically, as Zach Snyder tends to do.  Lots of cool shots, plenty of slow-motion, and the man does not shy away from the gore and violence.  Which was one thing I enjoyed, even though this can be considered a "super-hero" movie, it is not for kids.  It is dark and violent.  I was surprised the studio didn't force them to cut it down to a PG-13 to maximize its box-office.  Bravo.  Sin City and 300 also had R ratings, but even at a glance a viewer can tell those movies are not really for kids; by the trailer alone I can see people thinking Watchmen is just another comic book movie ala Spider-Man and X-Men and be very surprised by what they find.
The movie had its share of flaws.  I applaud them for trying to be as true to the graphic novel as possible and release this as a 2hr 40 minute flick, but aside from pleasing fans of the novel, it could have probably been trimmed down to make it flow better as a movie.  It can also be a bit overwhelming for those that know absolutely nothing about the source material.  They will be left wondering who all these costumed heroes are and what their background is.  Some of their origins are told throughout the movie, but until that point you are left wondering just who all these characters are.
The movie definitely has a lot of polish and flair.  Special effects are a mixed bag, but I suspect most of it is intentional.  Some special effects don't look particularly "real", but I believe it is because they are going for more of that graphic novel/comic book look, rather than trying to emulate the real world.  If you can make that adjustment, then things are fine.  If you cannot, then everytime you see Dr. Manhattan on screen (the glowing naked blue guy who can bend space and time to his will), you will just think he looks silly.
Overall, I really enjoyed it.  The Watchmen is a very tough graphic novel to translate to live-action and in the hands of most directors this could have been a laughable experience.  But, Zach pulled it off.  So far he is 3 for 3 in my book.

March 03, 2009

Killzone 2 thoughts (Review?)

Well, I ended up picking up the game at the midnight release. There were only five people there to pick it up. Big difference from Halo's long lines. After a late night session with it, and periodic sessions throughout Friday (had the day off), Saturday and Sunday, I beat the game Sunday evening. I also spent some time with the multiplayer portion. Some impressions and thoughts:

- To beat a dead horse, the game is absolutely gorgeous. Best looking console FPS? Yes. Best looking console game ever? Probably. It is sometimes hard to appreciate how beautiful the game is during a normal play through, the action is so intense you never have time to just stop and admire the scenery, but believe me, it is very, very pretty.

- Even online, the game does not downgrade the visuals; and this is with 32 player battles. Very impressive engine indeed. Good job GG.

- I don't think the single-player story is as terrible and non-existent as others have made it out to be. If you have followed this series close enough, there is a lot at stake here. I was invested enough in what was happening to care.

- The controls take some getting used to. Not their layout (even though after plenty of CoD4, there is an adjustment period to that too) but in the reaction and feel of the right analog stick. It is not as quick and responsive and you might be used to. This is intentional, to give the game a more "realistic" feel. It does give the weapons a greater feeling of weight, but it also makes aiming kinda tough at times. I have emptied entire clips trying to take out one Helghast out in the open but who was a moving target. I guess that is realistic right? The developer has already mentioned they might consider addressing this in a patch. I can deal with realistic, slower controls in the single-player game. But in the competitive multiplayer arena, you can toss realism out the window and give the player as much control as possible. So far it has not been too big of a problem, but if they do give you the option to adjust settings such as look acceleration speed and some "dead zone" issues, I'll be the first to tweak them.

- The sound effects in the game got the job done, but it wasn't as impressive an audio experience as say, Dead Space or Battlefield: Bad Company, two games in which you can't help but notice the stellar audio work since it adds so much to the experience. Not saying Killzone's audio was bad by any stretch of the imagination, I just never stopped to admire it during my time with the single-player game. Voice-acting was good, even if the dialog itself was maybe a bit too "macho" for my liking. Like the reviews mention, plenty of F-bombs will be dropped for seemingly no reason other than to drop them. The musical score was actually excellent. A bit busy though, as the music can be playing a very fast section meant to enhance the tension, but you are not engaged in any combat at the time.

- The single-player game is very straight forward gameplay-wise. The game is linear, no branching paths, no secondary objectives. It is also all out chaos. Don't expect to be able to catch your breath at any time. You enter one battle almost immediately after finishing a previous one. Some sections seem to have CoD's "infinite enemy" syndrome, where enemies will just continue to respawn until you push forward. I hate this but I let it slide. Enemy A.I. is fantastic however (I played on hard, not sure on normal). They immediately seek cover, run away from grenades and flank you. When in cover, they don't keep popping out of the same spot too, they move around, so you can't just wait for that headshot with your cross-hair's aimed at one spot, chances are, the Helghast soldier will reappear from the other side of cover and get a few shots in himself.

- You can only carry one large weapon along with your pistol. This worked for me. Don't fall in love with anyone weapon though, since you will constantly be swapping them out. One of my favorite weapons was the regular Helghast assault rifle. It packs a much bigger punch than the ISA Rifle, although it is far less accurate. But, I took the stopping power over accuracy. Maybe this was because I was playing on hard. Those Helghast take a beating!! But I found myself constantly swapping weapons for whatever was available or what I felt the situation called for and I enjoyed using all of them. That Lightning gun was so over-powered it did feel kinda cheap, but it sure was fun to wield. I didn't use my knife the entire game. It is way too cumbersome to use.  You have to select it with the d-pad, then use it like a regular weapon. I actually have no idea why this was even included in the game, since you have to go out of your way to use it. There are ZERO stealth sections where maybe you think "Ok, I'll sneak up on him and take him out with my knife". It was either added for some unlockable trophy, or just because CoD4's knife was so popular.

- There are a few sections that break up the standard gameplay. There are optional turrets to man throughout the game, but there is one mandatory turret section that was pretty cool towards the end. Also towards the end (spoiler warning . . . maybe?) you get to man a mech and that level was fantastic! The way the mech controlled and felt was just superb and it really did feel like you were in a mech. It felt so good I'm surprised that you only use it in one small section of the game, because it felt very polished. I wouldn't mind an entire game in one of these things!!

- The cover system works for the most part. I am glad they tried something different and kept you in the first-person perspective when in cover, but sometimes it just didn't work right. I would sort of spasm in and out of cover sometimes when trying to peak out to shoot. Also, sometimes I would get shot while in cover, even though I should have been fully covered. This lead to a few frustrating deaths.

- I actually wish they would have added a few quite sections where there was no action and you could just take in the sights (and catch your breath). I really liked the opening of the game when you are in your ship and and can just walk around and listen to people's conversations, etc. I would have really liked a few more of those.

- I haven't delved into multiplayer too much, but I've enjoyed what I have played. The leveling system is pretty deep and very rewarding. The class based system really rewards you for playing to your class's strengths, lets just hope people online realize this and take advantage of it. The default game type (which cycles between the different game types every 5 minutes on the fly) is pretty fun, but I'm a team death-match kinda guy so I'll probably be spending the bulk of my time there.

That's it for now, I'll write further online impressions as I get more

playtime in.