The first DiRT is still one of my favorite driving games, ever. As a confessed graphics whore, it was (and still is) jaw-dropping; it's the game I was playing both before and after I bought my 40" HDTV, and for a long time was the game I put in when I wanted to show off the TV. But that aside, the game was a complete package, oozing with polish; the career mode was well designed, the driving model was fun and accessible, the course design was varied and plentiful... even the menus were interactive and fun to play around with. And the replays... wow.
DiRT 2 has some mighty big shoes to fill, then, as far as I'm concerned. And so even though I've played quite a bit of it over the last few days and I've enjoyed my time with it a great deal, I'm not entirely sure that it fills them. It's not a bad game, by any means; it's still incredibly polished, the graphics are even better, the driving model is still fun.... but the package itself feels a bit... small. I haven't done a count, but it certainly feels like there's a significantly fewer amount of tracks to race on than in the first game, which is a bit of a bummer. With a graphics engine that gorgeous, I want to see more than the same tracks over and over again. The addition of an in-game rewind - in order to correct mistakes that would otherwise cost you the race - is really the biggest change to the game, and it does come in handy although most of the time I still end up just restarting the whole race if something catastrophic happens. The game has an achievement tracker and also keeps track of other statistics that can reward you with extra XP, and that's certainly much appreciated. I'm just... I don't know. Perhaps my expectations were a bit too unreasonable.
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2
Speaking of sequels with high expectations, I played M:UA2 last night for about 20 minutes and got thoroughly depressed with how shitty it was. I suppose I could've soldiered on, but my gaming time is at a premium these days and I'd rather have a good time instead of slogging through something that ought to be much better. The camera is frequently pulled out way too far, making it hard to see what I'm doing (or even what character I'm playing), and there are certain glitches in the special powers that drove me crazy - there's an Iron Man/Wolverine combo move that I tried using, and each time Wolverine automatically faced the wrong way, resulting in a waste of accumulated power. Right now this is in the running - along with Puzzle Quest: Galactrix - as my biggest disappointment of 2009. Sometimes you only need a few minutes with something before you realize that you're wasting your time.
Was on a forum the other day and the topic du jour was guessing the next band to receive the full deluxe Rock Band treatment. It seemed pretty obvious to everybody that the answer to that question is Led Zeppelin. Having seen now how both Rock Band and Guitar Hero treat their special packages, one would hope that the surviving members of Zep would steer towards Rock Band, but I'm sure it'll ultimately come down to the franchise that pays them more up front. But it got me thinking about what other packages I'd pay money for:
U2 is the reason why I decided to teach myself how to play guitar in the first place. But leaving my personal preference aside, U2 is still one of the biggest bands in the world, they have a recognizable mythos, they have a vivid and memorable visual style, and they have an incredibly solid catalog of work; I'd easily be able to find 45 U2 songs worth playing.
- Pink Floyd.
Another mythic band with beloved albums and distinct visual flair. That said, there's a few things standing in the way - for one thing, I'm not sure that David Gilmour and Roger Waters will ever agree on anything ever again, and for another, a lot of their music is on the mellow side; it might be hard to stand up and play Pink Floyd songs for a few hours, even if you're on the right drugs.
- The Smiths / The Cure.
Johnny Marr is one of the most criminally overlooked guitarists of the 20th century, and I would kill to be able to pretend to play his guitar parts, mostly because they're so difficult to play on a real guitar. Morrissey sings out of tune all the time, though, so I'm guessing it might be difficult to score. But whatever - they're the Smiths, they fucking rule. And as long as the 30+ crowd is looking to get nostalgic and depressed via plastic instruments, they might as well go all the way and throw in a bunch of Cure songs as well, to keep both sides of the Atlantic satisfied. I suppose I could be satisfied with a gigantic 20-song DLC package with all the great late 80's / early 90's "college" music, though, so let's just leave it at that.