Tuesday, August 26, 2008

R&C; Duke; Tiger

1. My wife was out of town this weekend, which gave me full reign over the living room and all the creature comforts therein, and so I had my first real gaming marathon in quite some time. It was as good an opportunity as any to milk the Fable II Pub Games exploit for all it's worth before it got fixed (and, honestly, after several hours with it, that's pretty much all it's good for), and I finally got to finish Braid. (I did end up using a walkthrough for 2 or 3 puzzle pieces, mostly to confirm that I was on the right track - only one puzzle really, truly stumped me.)

But the bulk of my time was actually spent reminding my PS3 that it can play games, and thus taking care of some unfinished business with respect to Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction; and by "unfinished business", I mean I'd barely started it before I put it down in lieu of... oh, I don't know, it was so long ago -probably MGS4.

Having never played an R&C title before (aside from a few minutes with the PSP iteration), I was pretty well satisfied with the whole experience; it's actually genuinely amusing in places (although it does try awfully hard), and the gameplay is pretty solid. I do recall, when I'd put it down the first time, being a bit overwhelmed with all the weapons and gadgets - I think most of my initial combat time was simply spent hitting enemies with my wrench, which shows you how little I know. But soon I was getting the hang of it, and the game was easy enough that I eventually just concentrated on upgrading and levelling up 3 or 4 main weapons, and throwing out a disco ball every so often. Graphically, it's pretty fantastic, although it's still obviously a first-generation PS3 game; I am very curious to try out the new downloadable episode to see if there's a discernable difference. And I may even continue through a second playthrough in the Challenge Mode, just to see if I can get to some of the places I was unable to get to earlier.

2. In an earlier post, I talked a bit about the Oddworld series and how it got me back into console gaming. I would be remiss, however, if I didn't mention my extreme love of Duke Nukem 3D, which I was obsessed with whenever I was home from college and I could get my younger brother's computer to work. My brother had gotten the shareware version of DN3D from our brother-in-law-to-be, so I'm not even sure I've seen the whole single-player game, but what I have seen, I've seen A LOT. Anyway, it looks like it's arriving on XBLA a lot sooner than I'd anticipated, and I'm very, very, very excited.

3. Tiger Woods 09 comes out today, and after playing the demo, I'm fully on board this time around. The franchise peaked for me with either '03 or '04, and every game since then has been more and more depressingly mediocre. Tiger 08 was incredibly annoying, with glitchy controls and the same goddamned courses I've already played a zillion times, and I swore I'd stay away from the franchise forever, but the improvements that are featured in the demo specifically address all the things that drove me crazy in the past. You no longer enhance your attributes by arbitrary clothing choices; you get better by getting better, which is an innovation that maybe should've been picked up on a little sooner than this. For experienced Tiger players (like me), you are only as good as you actually are, so you can start the game without having gimped stats as in years past. The challenge, then, is not to max up your stats, but to keep them maxed by playing at a consistently excellent level, which is (1) a well-intentioned shift in philosophy, and (2) a great incentive to keep playing. Even better is the club tuner feature, which (hopefully) will correct the problems in last year's game with respect to the controls; you can auto-correct problems in your swing with reasonable trade-offs in performance (i.e., you can increase the size of the sweet spot at the expense of distance). I was waiting for reviews to come in before picking this up, but I already have over $100 in credit at Gamestop and so I might as well take the plunge.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Best Achievement / Release Calendar

Up until last night, the Achievement I was most proud of was finding the last of 500 Agility Orbs in Crackdown; last night, however, I got the Wax Off Achievement in Geometry Wars 2, and even though it's a substantially less Point increase, it was a HUGE monkey off my back. I like GeoWars2 a lot, even though I'm near the bottom of almost every leaderboard in the game, and Pacifism is my favorite of the game modes. The problem was, I was so obsessed with getting the Wax Off achievement that I wasn't actually playing the mode - I was simply trying to get the achievement, and that led to lots and lots of frustration, and I often wondered how I would ever get back to the sheer joy of the actual mode without getting the Achievement. After another 10-15 tries, somehow everything lined up and I was able to unlock it, and now (1) I don't have to worry about it anymore, and (2) I can go back to playing the mode the way it was meant to be played. That said, Wax Off - and a lot of the other Achievements in GeoWars2, for that matter - does a great job of teaching you how to avoid the enemies and how to strategically steer through gates.

The Olympics are killing my CivRev buzz; my wife keeps wanting to watch the Olympics on our HDTV. Good thing, then, that the upcoming release calendar is somewhat bland and uninspired; I'll probably still have a lot of open hours with it before the Next Big Thing hits.

I was going to do a Release Calendar, but there's really no need; there's no week-to-week insanity like there was last year. Some big titles are coming out, to be sure, though...

  • Mercenaries 2
  • Star Wars: Force Unleashed
  • Little Big Planet
  • Fable 2
  • Fallout 3
  • Saints Row 2
  • Gears of War 2
  • Resistance 2
not a lot of original IP in there.

  • Too Human
  • Tales of Vesperia
  • Infinite Undiscovery
  • Viva Pinata
  • Harvest Moon (DS)
  • Harvest Moon (Wii)
  • Rise of the Argonauts
  • Silent Hill: Homecoming
  • Far Cry 2
  • Midnight Club: LA
  • Dead Space
  • Motorstorm: Pacific Rift
  • Mirror's Edge
  • Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts
  • Left 4 Dead
  • Prince of Persia
  • Tomb Raider Underworld
  • Last Remnant
  • Brutal Legend

Monday, August 11, 2008

And we're back

Back in a big way, actually. The summer gaming doldrums have hit us here at SFTC HQ quite hard, and not even Braid, Eden or GeoWars2 - all of which are excellent in their own unique ways - could do anything to relieve them.

But then I decided to rent Civilization Revolution for the 360, and now I'm afraid I've gone and unleashed some feral nightmare into my brain. After deciding to purchase my GameFly copy Friday night, I was (kinda) exiled from my living room on Saturday, so I ended up downloading Civ 4 - and its 2 expansions - over Steam; and then, to top it all off, I traded in some old 360 games on the way back from Pineapple Express (meh) on Sunday towards preorders of Fable 2 and LittleBigPlanet, and also CivRev for the DS.

And here's the funny part - I suck at Civ. I suck at strategy games in general, and I normally don't even bother, but I was playing Pirates! the other day and I realized how much I'd missed it, and being that Sid Meier has such an impressive pedigree I figured it couldn't hurt to give CivRev a shot, especially considering how little else there is to do these days. And the truth is, it really is fun. As with Pirates, SM has a great interface and the gameplay is simplified enough for the console so that everything makes sense, once you understand how the concepts work. I can't say the concepts have fully taken hold for me just yet - it took about 4 hours on the PC, 2 hours on the 360 and a multiplayer session with a friend and about 15 minutes on the DS for me to figure out that I've been playing Civ as if it were SimCity, which it most definitely is NOT.

I wonder if this is going to get me into strategy games; I suspect that it will not, if only because I tooled around with C&C and the LOTR strategy games on the 360 and couldn't make heads or tails of them at all, and gave up after about 30 minutes or so. But then, those games kinda missed the point a little bit - so much fuss was made about how those games were dramatically retooled in order to be workable on a controller, when instead the retooling should have been about how to make those games approachable to a strategy neophyte; after all is said and done, they're still hard-core strategy games and having a simplified control scheme didn't change the fact that I had no fucking idea what I was doing or why. CivRev on the 360, on the other hand, is incredibly simple to control - it's as intuitive as it can be - and so instead the focus is very much about showing you what you're supposed to do, and why you're supposed to do it. (Granted, a lot of it is still lost on me, but that's only because I haven't had enough time to even finish 1 game on the 360.)

The PC version, on the other hand, is vastly more complex, but it's still very approachable, and you can automate a lot of menial tasks so that you can better concentrate on the bigger picture. It's a little surprising to me that of all 3 versions I now own, I've only finished a game on the PC.

I wonder if I should start getting excited for Starcraft 2.