Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Rock Band: First Night

I never thought I'd pay $170 for a video game. Well...this game seemed to justify it.

After opening the tightly packed box, the appearance of the items is definitely cheap. Barring the fact that I dislike Fender guitars to begin with, the plastic looks like it came from the dollar store. The drums are more solid than expected, but not as solid as they looked in mag and blog preview pictures. The included drumsticks are the WORST drumsticks I've held in my life; they aren't even laminated. As for the's the goofiest one I've ever held as well.

This game takes a lot of room to play with 3 people let alone 4. We gathered around the 57" TV and went at it. For some reason...there was definitely a lot more "rockin'" going on between players compared to Guitar Hero. Playing with 2-3 other people makes the experience full and exciting. I caught myself jamming along to songs I don't even like.

My room mate who is more tone-deaf than I am got assigned singing, and he did fairly decent. I had to explain to him that he didn't have to match the octave of the singer on the recording; he incessantly complained of the tunes being out of his range. The game seemed quite forgiving on Easy...he didn't delve too much into Medium (although the game starts to insist).

The best part though, was when my drummer attempted to jump in and play a Foo Fighters song on Expert his first try. He didn't make it very far; the drumming isn't realistic and actually threw me off quite a bit as the guitarist. The sad part is that song is absolute cake to him on the real drums...he's capable of drumming multitudes more difficult. After more failed attempts on Hard and Medium, he vowed never to play the game again because it didn't make any sense. Take that as you will.

DemoltionNinja played the drums and did quite well. We played the game so long that his constant banging kept up our room mate downstairs. After playing an online game with one of our friends...we had to call it quits after 5 hours of playing.

My biggest gripe is that we've had to play the same group of songs too many times; it gets old quick. Apparently you have to gain so much popularity and perform so well before you get a new set of songs. It's rather obnoxious.

Expect a review soon; it definitely won't be getting %100 MSRP appraisal, but it will be high.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Achievement "Edge"

DemolitionNinja and I were discussing why we weren't playing Metroid Prime 3 yesterday, and it merits some discussion. I hadn't even finished the first level yet, and I've had the game since launch. He played through the first couple of levels and lost interest.

Halo 3 eclipsed MP3 hard, especially since the controls were more familiar and the multiplayer is addictive. While I like the Wii remote for text entry, I don't really like it for FPS; the controls don't always sync up with the games as expected. While MP3 did the best job thus far for the Wii, it's still not as good as it should be. This is part of the problem.

On a separate tangent, we concluded that the lack of achievements is starting to hinder our non-360 games. It has nothing to do with gamerscore; my friends passed my low score long ago and I'm not bothered whatsoever. The achievements themselves are the key; they serve a few covert purposes that were not apparent before.

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I realized that achievements can be used as progress indicators in several games, since there's usually an achievement for beating such and such a level. They can also provide motivation to experience more of the story, since alternate endings usual involve achievements as well. Somewhat related is seeing more of the game when going after non-necessary-item-collection achievements.

All-in-all, this key provides motivation to extract replay value from a game. The idea is still brilliant, and I think naysayers concentrate too much on the negative aspect of achievements. Sure, there are individuals who won't truly "earn" some of their achievements, and there will be some who are obsessed with their near-meaningless gamerscore. But those who "get it" will try to hit that difficult goal just to prove to themselves they can.

One example was with Guitar Hero two. One of my online friends had beaten GH2 on Expert. I saw that and realized that I play guitar and I haven't even done that. I had to prove to myself that I could do it, too. Once I had got there, I felt plenty of vindication; so much so that I 5-starred all of Hard and most of Expert. The satisfaction that resulted in seeing that little mark on my record somehow feels worth it.

When playing re-released games on XBL, the achievements are even more essential. I thought I was good and games like Pacman, Contra, and Streets of Rage 2. But the challenges presented by the achievements really tested my skills, and showed there was still plenty left in these old titles. I'm still working on SoR2! That's something that the Virtual Console fails to do on the're getting the same challenges you've mastered in the past with no new goals or changes.

Re-rant this article is, but it's amazing how Microsoft took some great ideas and sunk them like sharks teeth into our gaming world. It's hard to go backwards and go without all the additions that XBL and gamercards have brought to the table. Within seconds, we can challenge ourselves more, or compete with the world. The Xbox 360 is our digital crack...and we consume willingly.

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Taking XBL for granted, PS3/Wii upgrades

I FINALLY received a working 120GB Xbox 360 hard drive yesterday, which only had 103GB available after included media, Xbox BC, and overhead. Talk about relief.

Quick recap: I bought a 360 Elite back in August, and ordered a transfer kit. It took 3 weeks to receive it from Microsoft. At that point, I found out that my 120GB Elite HDD was defective. 2 calls to Microsoft later, I returned the drive and they had it replaced in about a week. I'm not too happy about it, but at least I don't have to worry about storage space, and my room mate has my old hard drive.

Microsoft didn't charge me, but I'm barely putting them above Sony in the Customer service department. Nintendo still wins hands down in that aspect.

After my pool league, I came back and started the HDD transfer. It would take an hour and 30 minutes which seemed excessive. I decided this was a good time to blow the dust off the PS3 and Wii...and probably update them. They hadn't seen action (read: been turned on) in months.

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Both probably took about 15-20 minutes a piece. I don't remember an XBL upgrade EVER taking that long...and I certainly didn't have to weed through menus to get them done. I did notice that I didn't have to re-connect my PS3 controller via USB cable *applauds Sony for doing something right*. Still, the PS3 upgrade process is the slowest and most obnoxious of the three consoles. And no, I don't use wireless for ANYTHING.

I jumped on PSN to see if any new demos were worth playing. Almost all of the games I was interested in I had already played on the 360. I downloaded the TimeShift demo, and can honestly say that I didn't really notice much difference. Except for the 360 upscales it to 1080p and the PS3 does not. Besides that, the analog sticks on the SIXAXIS just don't work for me. Even with the sensitivity on low, it was difficult to control the protagonist. Aside from that, I started downloading Folklore but I lost interest and moved to the Wii.

I trudged through Nintendo's Wii Shopping channel and tried to find good VC games. Super Metroid was the only game I wanted. I thought $8 was a complete rip-off, especially with no additions to the game (like achievement challenges). I have the cart for this game, but no that is even more aggravating. The game emulates like crap on most PC's, so I figured this was the best way to play it. It is, but the price is ridiculous.

I played my new VC prize for a few minutes and checked my 360. It was done so I immediately shut down the Wii and PS3, quickly cleaned up my new HDD, and played Kane and Lynch with DemolitionNinja.

Just before, we had an interesting conversation about why we haven't really played Metroid Prime 3. I'll save that for another post.

Reflecting back, it's easy to take XBL for granted. These experiences reminded me why I don't mind spending $5 a month. While the Wii Channels are great for...dare I say, "noobs,", it just can't keep up with seasoned media-surfers. The PSN's interface is very attractive, but would only be functional with true mouse support. Even if it had that, it still takes much longer to look through a list of available demos than it does on XBL.

XBL may not be as gaudy as PSN or "cute" as Wii Channels, but it's fast and efficient. Plenty more media is surfable in a short time on XBL compared to the much slower, and clucky-interfaced PSN and Wii Channels. And as far as online content goes, XBL wins by a landslide.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Xbox 360: Kane and Lynch: Deadmen Review

I wasn't planning on playing Kane and Lynch anytime soon. The trailers were rather amusing, but nothing in particular caught my attention about it. My room mate decided to buy and blast through the game this week, and I decided to participate.

It took a grand total of 10 minutes before this game had me wanting to play Gears of War. I think GoW's 3rd person style sank its teeth into my mind, so playing another 3rd person shooter that plays even remotely similar left my mind elsewhere.

Is Kane and Lynch similar to Gears? Not really. It goes for a much more "realistic" environment and story, and that comes with prison-mate appropriate dialog (that is hilarious for the wrong reasons). While KnL is a little over-the-top, it's believable enough. However, it comes at the cost of being just another shooter that lacks that "epic" feel.

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The controls for KnL may throw some seasoned players off. Duck is delegated to the left bumper, and focusing is done with the trigger. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that the duck was a toggle-type, so I had myself holding my hands awkwardly the first couple of levels. After that it was fine, especially after figuring out that the stick-buttons weren't necessary to switch weapons (you can use the d-pad)

The presentation was delivered in spades. The graphics aren't anything memorable, and the environments leave a lot to be desired. The AI isn't very bright either; you'll find comrades running directly into bullets. On the other hand, the destructible environments are always a welcome addition. The dialog has its moments, and complements the story well.

After playing through the game, I can say I enjoyed it, but it didn't make me want to go buy the game. The plot is standard mafia-type business with a few twists, and the gameplay doesn't bring anything spectacular to the table. However, sometimes that's not always a bad thing; sometimes familiarity can be pleasing. That's how KnL left me feeling.

If you want a solid co-op game to play with a buddy, or just want to play an entertaining game to grab some achievements, KnL is for you.

Following Orders:
-Destructible environments aid the feel
-Co-op mode reveals the other perspective
-The game plays well after learning the control scheme

Take your pills and focus:
-Unnecessarily awkward control scheme
-Aside from Achievements, not much replay value
-Lacks an epic feel; some moments should have been more tense

Resembles/Feels like:
A little Grand Theft Auto, mixed with a Gears of War play-feel, and topped with a bit of Hitman.

Rent or Buy: Rent or Bargain Bin
Personal Appraisal: $29.99
MSRP: $59.99

Notes: The lack of online co-op, unimpressive graphics, and limited replay value even with multiplayer hurts the value of the game. Halo 3, Orange Box, and Bioshock provide more for the gaming dollar.

Other opinions:
6/10 @
7/10 @
7.5/10 @

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Post 800:'s Gameboy Comic

Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic
Cyanide & Happiness @

Sometimes, this doesn't seem like a bad idea. Note that the link is not safe for work; has some advertising that would likely get you in trouble.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Scene-It! vs Buzz!???

In yet another spam mail, I see that Sony is bringing a popular European series in to compete with Scene-It! Suddenly, we can see where the 360 controllers were derived from. Everyone loves borrowing ideas from each other.

Maybe it's just me, but the black versions of this controller concept don't look as appealing. I'd like to try Buzz! regardless. Quiz games are always fun even though I'm not good at near-worthless knowledge (like movie details). However, it would seem that Buzz! will offer a better variety in questions.

Scene-It! is one of those games that begged to be on a console in order to concentrate on the clips and the screen rather than your DVD remote and a shoddy gameboard. How do they stack up?

IGN says:
8/10 Buzz! The Mega Quiz
7/10 Scene It?

*Ironically, a Buzz! ad was embedded in the page for the Scene-It? review.
7.5/10 Scene It?8.1/10 Buzz! The Mega Quiz

It seems that Buzz! seems to be a little bit better received. I'm going to say that both are great group games judging from the reviews. Either way, get ready to flex your "mind".

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Xbox 360: Clive Barker's Jericho Review

Some games don't care about your opinion. They contain content that does and says what its creators felt was appropriate. And it's done unapologetically.

Jericho is one of those games.

Unfortunately for the expectant consumer, this doesn't always work as intended. Jericho delivers some things well, and some things not at all. This is probably why we'll see mixed reviews for this game with no general consensus. But maybe that just means it really is art. So who "gets it"?

Denying that Jericho's presentation is top-tier would be deserving of masticated entrails. The atmosphere is quite perfect giving the game's circumstances, and the horror-movie nuances are all present. Topping that off with mostly solid graphics, frames, and animations almost sealed the deal.

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While the overall graphics may not directly compare with the likes of Gears of War, this game holds it own. Between mood-setting lighting in already dank environments, and detailed enemies, we have a playable art-form here.

The FPS-nature of this game blasts players in the face and may be surprising even after playing the demo. Enemies are relentless, and most of the offense seems to be via bullet, while the magic portions end up being mostly defense and tactical. The developers did a respectable job in requiring the use of all the squad members, although most gamers will likely stick with their favorite(s).

Unfortunately, Jericho's bad points are quite notable. The lack of co-op and multiplayer does disappoint. Even with all the visual flair, the game may not have the scare-tactics that gamers might be expecting. The jumbled story, and lack-of-an-ending show that the ball wasn't so much dropped as it was severely mishandled. Even with achievements, there isn't much for replay value here, which is sad granted the game's stellar presentation.

Jericho is definitely worth a playthrough. Those who enjoy the experience will have to settle for going after achievements to get the most from the game. There's some hilarious lines delivered that I'm sure a few dark souls will be quoting amongst friends. It does a good job of providing familiar FPS action with a few added twists. Whether renting or buying, make sure to give this game a chance.


I am surprised that the advertising campaign for this game was so limited. Personally, I hope to see a problems-fixed sequel.

Bleeding the "right" way:
-Commendable graphical presentation
-Interesting FPS concepts/mechanics
-Intense firefights and overall action

Missed the spiritual boat:
-No multiplayer or Co-op
-Convoluted Story without an ending
-Limited replay value

Rent or Buy: Rent or Bargain Bin Buy
Personal Appraisal: $39.99*
MSRP: $59.99

*I wanted to appraise this game higher, but the presence of recent highly-lauded games such a Bioshock, Halo 3, and Orange Box in the same price range, it can't compete in value.

Other opinions:
6.5/10 @
7.8/10 @
4.5/5 @

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Clive Barker's Jericho: Initial Impression

Insane. Imagine a toddler who's father was Condemned (the game), and was spoon-fed crack until he became an adult. That's what I'm thinking as I'm watching my room mate jump hesitantly into Jericho.

Condemned had a character that rarely used firearms and a fair amount of vicious enemies who left you feeling trapped and defenseless. Jericho does the same thing and provides the same visual feel, except there are plenty of guns and allies...and you still feel defenseless. The enemies come quick and eat bullets like candy. It's quite overwhelming.

This may sound bad, but it's actually quite an experience. The environmental feel plus enemy onslaught plus quality graphics were pulled together quite well.

If you haven't played the demo yet, get on that. It's a quality sample of the game. I'll be reviewing this soon, and I'm hopeful it will be worthy of a high appraisal.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

360 sales did WHAT to PS3 sales last week????

This is short-term news and Xbox fanboys should keep their pants on.

Although the source is biased, it appears that Koreans are digging on the 360 multitudes more than the PS3. Unfortunately, we don't have any numbers to go with, but only the staunched PS3 fanboy would dismiss this so quickly since PS3 sales are poor all around.

In Japan last week, Xbox 360 sales increased %580 percent, edging that weeks numbers over PS3 sales by a couple hundred. While their slim win isn't that impressive, the increase in sales is. Apparently, Ace Combat is nothing to be scoffed at.

Just imagine if MS gets the right Japanese-targeted games out...Sony might as well drop PS3 development and start working on their PS4 comeback. But that's an unhealthy amount of speculation. Remember, it is still too soon to count anyone out yet; Sony has high-profile exclusives coming next year, MS still sells strong even with hardware problems, and the Wii, even with its lack of quality games, is spearheading this generation. This war never ceases to be interesting, that's for sure.

Pangya/Super Swing Golf 2 Trailer...holy out-of-control

I'll be honest...I liked Super Swing leaps and bounds more than Tiger Woods on the Wii. Sure, the cut scenes and excessive anime personality was sickening at times, but the game played well.

This trailer shows Tecmo isn't about to change their twisted perception of golf. But for some reason...I like what I see. Shoot me now. LOL

Fox to return to gaming? (*screams "AVP3!"*)

While poking fun, Joystiq brings attention to the possibilty of a Fox Interactive return to the games industry. While it's agreeable that the games they point out...well...suck, AvP was the Halo of the turn of the century.

All Fox would have to do is hook back up with the masters at Monolith (aka LITH), and build upon their previously excellent forumla.

Hey, let me dream.

Sony spam sucks

Junk mail. My favorite. The above pics are taken from the ad.

No such thing as a bad decision, eh? What exactly are we talking about? I hope it's not about that $600 console that has seen a handful of uses since its purchase at the beginning of the year. A good decision would be to still have $600 in my pocket (Well $500...I traded in an equally worthless PS2).

Why a 40GB PS3 with 2 USB ports and no backwards-compatibility is "Oh so nice" escapes me. I get Spiderman 3. One sarcastic, "Yay," in your direction Sony.

Enough with the sad attempt at hardware porn, Sony. Show us some games, then pimp the hardware out to us. You've got nothing.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Another PS3 update...why do we care again?

Thankfully the above "theme" isn't a default (at least I hope not). Talk about rainbows and...well...gross.

I guess we are at yet another another firmware for the backburner of a console. Everytime there's a new firmware, I'm more interested in what firmware I actually have on my PS3. How many updates have I skipped? Honestly...I have no clue at this point. I'm pretty much waiting for Home, which has been delayed until next year. Oh, and Final Fantasy XIII, that has no ETA.

Sony can update all the firmware in the world, but they just don't have any exclusive games that justify owning the console right now. I thought I might pay more attention to the PS3 once my Elite 360 HDD didn't work out of the box. But there just isn't anything worth wasting my time with on the PS3.

Sort of related, but not really: For some CRAZY reason, I want to sell off my 1.5 firmware'd PSP and buy the redesign. I don't have time to mess with the useless hacks available with the firmware, and I want to just hook the damn PSP up to a TV (the screen camera option sucks, so I need a new PSP). And I'm tired of going through hassles just to keep the old firmware and be able to play new games. If any of you homebrew addicts are lookin' for a 1.5fw PSP, let me know. I'm definitely selling...or I'll trade straight across for the new model.

Sony...why I still give them money is beyond me.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Xbox 360: Guitar Hero III Review

As expected, I've been sucked into the black hole that is playing Guitar Hero. Even though I knew it wouldn't take me long to beat, it really doesn't matter. Yet again, I foresee tackling the seemingly unbeatable achievements for 5-starring songs that are ready to send my hands into a cramped zombie state.

There are changes this time around. As previously mentioned, it is obvious that some of the originals' rockin' feeling has been lost with the new developer. After completing the game though, I've found that those Harmonix nuances are easily forgotten. I've come to respect the higher detail on the characters and the more familiar track list.

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The new 360 wireless controller is awesome. Personally, I wouldn't care if it was wireless or not, but it is a huge improvement over the old Explorer guitars. My guitarist thanks them for making it more southpaw friendly. I even took the pocketbook hit and traded both my explorers in at a quarter of the cost just to buy another Les Paul style guitar. Unfortunately, Red Octane does not yet sell this guitar by itself; you actually have to buy ANOTHER combo pack to get a 2nd. I traded in Guitar Hero 3 in order to buy it again. Weird.

One thing that is notable is that the window of time that you can press a note is actually longer than the game's predecessors. But that's okay. There is a lot of "sweeps" so the purists can just shut up and take the forgiveness. You tell me that that increased window isn't a godsend for the DragonForce song on Expert. :)

The online play is an excellent addition as well. I don't see why Guitar Hero II couldn't include this. It did take several tries to finally get matched up with someone. Luck escaped me though; my first successful online match was against someone who choice DragonForce on Expert. Surprisingly, I won (70% to 47% or so), and even obtained the "Meet your maker" achievement. Did I play a programmer or something? There didn't seem to be any lag problems, and it went rather smoothly. High-fives to Neversoft on that one.

Lay any doubts to rest; this is still Guitar Hero, and it's still ready to absorb any gaming free time you might obtain. Put your foot up on the couch, tilt your rockin' Les Paul, and call up your hand massaging therapist.

Head Bangin' Pros:
*New Battle Mode
*Online Play
*Improved graphics

Booed off the stage:
*Iffy animations
*Spotty matchmaking
*Some menus aren't immediately clear

Resembles/Feels like:
DDR with a Fisher-Price My-First-Guitar, just like its predecessors (in the best way possible).

Rent or Buy: Definite Buy
Personal Appraisal: $99.99
MSRP: $99.99 (360 version with wireless guitar)

Other opinions:
8/10 @
8/10 @ gamespot
90/100 @

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Going through the Guitar Hero 3 motions

Remember my GH3 demo comments? Unfortunately, my feelings have not been swayed by owning the full-featured title.

I went to Wal-mart last night expecting that they'd only have the GH3-game-only version. Surprisingly, they had all the packages except the one with the new Gibson Wireless guitar controller. I didn't necessarily need wireless, but I wanted the Les Paul shape, so after pacing back and forth down the isle, I decided not to buy.

As we were leaving, I noticed that Hastings was still opened. Much to my anti-chagrin, they were stalked with every combination you could want. I mobbed up on the Les Paul package and took it home.

Something about Guitar's a black hole of types. It sucks you in if you forget to pay attention. I'm still disgruntled about the lackluster animations and overall feel of the game. But the boss battle with Tom Morello was a lot cooler than I expected it to be. The problem is...I thought I was losing, but I guess I won. Weird. I'm thinking this iteration is a bit noobified.

I'll do a review once I get through the song list.

I think we need a "Metal" version of Guitar Hero. I guarantee it would fair better than that crappy Rocks the 80's version.