Personal gaming journal #5

It’s been a really long time since I did any updates on the games I enjoy playing, so I’ll just give a quick synopsis of where I’m getting my feet wet again.  That is to say, I’m going a little retro lately, digging out some of my older 360 games, and even a much older PC game.  Why?  Well, I just can’t justify all the new $60 games these days and I know if I wait around long enough, they’ll eventually drop in price to something a bit more attractive to the pocket.  There are just so many big titles I’d like to get my hands on, but I am definitely discovering that ‘Platinum Hits’ is where it’s at.

  • Was able to pick up Guitar Hero: Aerosmith for $29.99 a few weeks back.  I can’t say I’m a big fan of them, actually, there are a few songs of theirs I don’t like at all, but there are plenty of tolerable ones plus the addition of other artists like Joan Jett and RUN DMC make it palatable and fun.  I’m about 1/2 way done on ‘medium’ difficulty and so far have racked up quite a few gamer points.
  • 1 vs 100 (Xbox Live) – I like trivia, and this beta has been going on way too long lately, but the gameplay is addictive and when it finally goes Live (gold) to win real MS points, I’ll be all over it.  I suck at sports question though, and up until those are being asked, I surprised how well I’m doing against other players.
  • WOW – Taking a break…need to recharge my batteries, but I think the frozen north is calling my name again.
  • CoH/CoV – Also taking a break. 
  • Fallout 3 ‘The Pitt expansion’ – Pretty good expansion with a few neat weapons.  There were some tense moments with the Trogs as they have the ability to seemingly jump out of nowhere and you need to be much more aware of your ammo supply than before.  A nice diversion, but really looking forward to getting ‘Point Lookout’ DLC.
  • Saints Row 2 – Not playing as much as I’d like because of the ‘mature’ content and my daughter hanging around way too much.  Fun little sandbox version of GTA4 I picked up also for $29.99.  Looking forward to playing this again soon.
  • GTA4 – Same as above with the daughter.  Was getting back into it and finally making some progress on the game just to put it back on the shelf until I get some alone time.
  • Brothers In Arms Hell Highway – Played the demo and I really like it.  I may pick this up soon as it’s currently going for $24.99. 
  • Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2010 – Lovin’ it.  I may give this it’s own post soon enough, it warrants it and I’ve barely scratched the surface of the content.  I jumped right into tour/career mode and working my way up.  Wind can be very frustrating to me if it’s over 15 MPH, and some holes just seem very random, but overall it takes me a good hour to play 1 round and I have some nail biting moments and get very excited when I do a fabulous shot, and very hard on myself when I shoot a crappy one.
  • Railroad Tycoon 3 – Totally retro Win 98 game I’m really getting into as well.  Graphics are a little dated at this point, but who doesn’t love playing with trains?  Deserves it’s own post as well.
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PAX 2008 gaming coverage – part 1

PAX 2008

PAX 2008

The Penny Arcade Expo was held this last week up in Washington State and helps showcase many small time and independant video game developers.  However the last few years, it has grown in scope to include major developers as well including Nintendo, Microsoft, EA, etc.  In addition to new video games be showcased, attendees can alos be seen playing both fantasy inspired table top games like Heroclix, Warhammer, and collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering.

This year attendance broke a new record with over 58,500 tickets sold and plans are underway to expand it once again, and even to hold an east coast version to be held in Botson, most likely in March of 2010.

So in no particular order, here is some information that was either revealed at PAX itself, or coincided in timing with the expo.

Gear of War 2: Confirmed this would be an XBox 360 title only, meaning no port to PC.

Fallout 3: Nearly completed.  Going through final bug clean up and beta testing.

StarCraft II: Blizzard announced a delay from late 2008 to early 2009.

XBox: It has been confirmed there will be an upcoming price reduction in Japan, making it the cheapest next gen console available in that country.  This most likely strengthens the rumors that yet another price cut is coming to North America sometime in early September, possibly as early as the 7th.

Mirror’s Edge: DLC content may only be PS3 exclusive once released.

Demigod: Developer, Gas Powered Games shown game play of their upcoming RPG/RTS currently scheduled for a Feb. 2009 release.  In the demo I saw being played, it looks very pretty and very unique with a lot of depth in its skill tree models (RPG element).  Has some steampunk elements to it as well. 

Rock Band: There are 3 PAX inspired tracks as DLC that were made available on September 2nd.  You can buy the tracks at a reduced price individually or as the PAX 2008 Collection.

Guitar Hero World Tour: Smashing Pumpkins front man Billy Corgan will be a playable character within the game as well as debut their new upcoming single ‘G.L.O.W.’ as part of an upcoming Smashing Pumpkins Track Pack as DLC for the game.

Personal gaming journal #1

Wow, I’ve had such a busy week this week with work, friends, and chores it almost seems impossible to get some free time to play any of my favorite games.

When I was able to sneak a little time here and there, I look back and am surprised that I broke out some of my older games that I never finished.  Sometimes it’s true that “everything old is new again”, and it was refreshing not to be tempted so bad to purchase yet another game when I have plenty of solid hitters that had been collecting dust.

First up, Metal Gear Acid 2, for my PSP.  It really was shocking that when I booted it up, I noticed my last save game file was just over a year old.  Wow.  A whole year since I played it last, but after a few practice rounds, I jumped right back in and on my way to moving the story along.  Complete turn based, strategy card game I forgot how much I enjoyed.

Over at XBox Live Arcade I downloaded two demo’s: Too Human (see earlier post this week on my thoughts) and Go Go Break Steady (music rythym game set in a break dance world).  It’s animations were cute and its beats kinda cool, but after playing the demo for a while I won’t be unlocking the full game.  I also noticed there has been an expansion released for Puzzle Quest.  I’ll end up getting that later as I still have a way to go on the original, not to mention my wife is already addicted to the core game without getting the expansion.

Back over at my Nintendo Wii, I’ve been unlucky in getting my hands on a Wii Fit.  I have a good line on where to get one….a store of the beaten path that a coworker told me about where he walked in earlier this week and got their last one without even trying.  Anyway they told me to call back Monday, so perhaps if I am extremely lucky I’ll have one soon and hopefully trim my figure a bit. (Note to self: I should play both boxing and tennis this weekend as my cardio exercise).

I also broke out Battalion Wars 2 and I really like that game.  I finished about 30% of the game so far, and even on the easy levels, I can’t seem to get past a ‘C’ grade right on the missions right now.  My technique is always great, usually 100% or just under….it’s the speed that hampers me.  I can clear a level in five minutes, but apprantley, they would like to see me do it under four which can be a little tough for me.  It reminds me of a real time and vamped up version of Advance Wars.  It’s been quite a while since I played this last as well, clearly more than six months, and again I’m really looking forward to playing it this weekend.

Same for WoW.  My alliance Pally is now lvl 66, and I’d like to play a good dungeon this weekend and maybe level up to 67 in preparation for Lich King expansion.  I also played about an hour last Sunday my lvl 46 undead Warlock in Hinterlands.  I like that zone.  One zone I am bored to tears with though is Astranaar.  I have my lvl 30 Shaman and lvl 29 Priest stuck there now, grinding away for money to buy some better item so I can move beyond this infernal place.

Lastly my best news of the week is bittersweet.  I finally completed my first pass through of Mass Effect yesterday which is pretty monumental for me….to complete a single play through…and I loved every minute of the game.  The last boss battle was much easier than I thought it was going to be, but the ending left me a little jaded.  What?  I can’t go back and tie up the few loose ends?  Ahh man….  Plus I was so close to lvl 50 and the associated achievement unlock.  I was literally under 200 XP away from lvl 50 and I also never got the ‘Paramour’ achievement either in which I feel a little cheated on.  Overall a great game, though I’m a little dissapointed with the lack of DLC support that was promised for it.  One ‘episode’ is a far cry on what was promised.  Now, I may have to replay again on the next diffiuclty level and work on my sniper and shotgun achievements as well since I got assault rifle and pistol completed.

Battlestar Galactica & Hulk come to Xbox

This past week, XBox Live announced that episodes of the late 1970 series “The Incredible Hulk” starring both Bill Bixby (Dr. Bruce Banner) and Lou Ferrigno as his alter ego (The Hulk) have been made available for download.

In similar fashion XBox Live has also stated that the original episodes of Battlestar Galactica (1978) have been available as well as well as the more recent Sci-Fi channel re-imagining of the series currently filming its final season.  The newer series is said to be available in both SD and HD flavors.  It is unclear if the dreaded Galactica 1980 is or weill be made available.  One can only assume the final season will be made available as well at a future date and the one-shot movie: Razor which featured the crew and adventures of the Battlestar Pegasus.

E3 2008: Sony press conference – Day 2

PS3

PS3

I’m a little late on this because I am a pretty detailed person with a lot to say and with writing the Nintendo report, I needed a small break to collect my thoughts and also give time to the other things I do as well. 

Even though I don’t own a Playstation, (I do however own a PSP) I was still looking forward to what Sony had to offer and possibly counter with Microsoft’s day 1 press conference.  I also needed something to be excited about after Nintendo’s weak offerings.  And dare I say, there were moments I was excited enough that even I wanted to go out and buy a PS3 just so I could play a few exclusive titles.

So Sony’s events was held at the Shrine auditorium, and clearly since they had this by themselves (Nintendo and MS were at the Kodak theater) they were able to build quite an electronically impressive stage and light show.  They had at least 6 very large screens (possibly more) surrounded by numerous (30+) monitors.  It looked very promising to say the least.

Unlike MS and Nintendo, Sony’s host didn’t seem as scripted (even though he was) and more human and thus more believable….and funny.  Funny in the way his jokes and comments felt genuine, unlike the force fed lame lines that Nintendo’s Cammy and Alex for driveling off.

Throughout the event, they had there requisite slides and graphs and charts that are always questionable to me since every company claims the exact same industry leadership, growth, sales numbers, blah, blah, blah.  But Sony did something innovative here….they used the creative aspects of Little Big Planet to build a presentation and it looked so awesome.  A great way to show off the game and keep people interested in sales number and projections.  Kudos to the person who cam up with that idea.

Okay, onto the meat of Sony’s offerings:

  • Movie Rental and Download service: Actually went live the day of the announcement itself, I suppose is Sony’s answer to MS/Netflix partnership.  Sony will offer both SD and HD versions of many movies and shows with direct partnering with the major studios.  SD rates will be $2.99-$3.99 where HD will be $5.99.  You can also opt to purchase a movie outright for even higher, but I don’t understand this feature for any console (360 included).  What happens if you someday upgrade to PS4?  If you download to the internal harddrive, do you always have to keep the console forever to watch them?  There isn’t an option to burn to a DVD that I’m aware of (is there?).  You don’t get all the cool extras that you would get with a DVD purchase (out-takes, gag reels, making of, etc.)  What if I want to take it over to a friends house some day?  Does that mean I need to lug my PS3 over there?  Seems lame.  One neat aspect I do like though, is that if you own a PSP (firmware 4.05+) you can transfer content via a USB cable and watch on the go.  Same if you have a PC.  That’s cool.
  • Hardware:Sony will not be dropping the price on either PSP or PS3, but instead on the PSP will offer some upcoming specialized bundles for $199, and the PS3 will have an upgraded 80GB hard drive (up from 40) on all new consoles for the same $499.  No other peripherals were shown.
  • Sony Home: Ah, the often talked about and just as often delayed Home was shown yet again.  Did mention it was being tested in Beta, but no street date given (surprise, surprise).  What they did show looked graphically impressive and a cool concept, and not to be critical, but I don’t get it.  I buy a console to play a game or watch DLC, not to walk around a virtual house I can decorate and talk with friends in one large virtual IM chat room.  I wouldn’t say I wouldn’t never use it, but just seems like an unnecessary distraction from hard core gamers, which clearly PS3 is targeted at.
  • PSP:No new models or design changes anytime soon.  I was a bit surprised they didn’t have more apps mentioned like Nintendo did for the DS, especially the rumored Skype or phone capabilities.  Two new bundles by the holidays including a Madden ’09 and Ratchet & Clank versions.
  • Resistance 2: Lengthy hands on demo that was visually stunning and impressive.  It felt as the yang to MS’s ying with GoW2.  One of the games I wish I actually owned a PS3 for.  There will be a Resistance version for the PSP which I’ll probably end up getting.  I recommend seeing the trailer or demo…I can’t really describe how impressive it actually looked and jealous I am.
  • Patapon 2 & Loco Roco 2: 2 PSP offerings where shown in a video montage that should have these niche fans happy.  Though Patapon 2 looked a lot like the original, I’ll probably still get it as I enjoy the first one still and a lot.
  • PS2: They’re still making this platform and if they’re accurate with their numbers, Sony is pretty impressive that this thing is still going strong at $199.  So strong in fact they said there are at least 130 games in the pipeline for PS2….they didn’t mention how many were only to be release in Japan though.
  • Little Big Planet: This exclusive for PS3 just looks incredible.  Here is the second game in which I am jealous that it will not be on the 360 and is tempting me to buy one.  There cannot be enough said on how visually stunning and creative the world of Sack Boy will be.  There will be so much player created content, it will be crazy.
  • DC Universe Online: Wildstorm and comic book artist legend, Jim Lee, was on-hand to show us a sneak peak of DC on-line.  This will be an MMO that crosses over to a PC as well that will allow players to be either established super heroes or villains, or create there own and live out there fanboy fantasies.  I kept thinking it looked like a prettier version of City of Heroes, and some of the moves and powers looked exactly the dame, just re-skinned.  Not to many details on how the game works though and how hero/villain creation will be worked out and if (and how) you level up.  I hope to see more details in the future.
  • Greatest Hits: Similar to Microsofts greatest hits, Sony will be taking many of the older titles and repackaging at a $29.99 price point.  Expect a lot of classics here.
  • Motorstorm 2: Announced and a brief trailer.  Looked cool, but nothing innovative I saw.
  • God of War 3: Probably the big announcement was the trailer for the return of Kratos.  Out next year.  No gameplay footage, just a teaser trailer.
  • Gran Turismo 5 Prologue race channel: There will be a unique PPV channel embedded with GT 5 that players can watch both live and taped events and shows related to various car racing gigs within a separate function of the game.  I’m not sure what to call it, but it’s exclusive here.  I’m not a huge race fan, but it seems strange to me to pay additional money to watch a real taped race or car show within a game itself.
  • Buzz series: Various incarnations of the Buzz game show will be made available on PS3 and PSP with future DLC available.
  • Various montages throughout the event showed regulars like Madden ’09, NBA Live, Tiger Woods ’09, Soul Caliber IV, Force Unleashed, GH World Tour, Rock Band, Sing It series, etc.

To sum it all up, Sony had a pretty strong showing that made up for the Nintendo sleep fest.  They showed or at least announced some pretty good heavy hitters coming up, but clearly focusing on more hardcore gaming as opposed to Nintendos casual style and Microsofts hybrid of both hardcore and casual.  ‘Home’ is still in beta and may debut by the holidays, and Sony has a counter albeit not as expansive video service at the MS/Netflix partnership.  I expect to see more PSP titles in the upcoming year too.  Microsoft and Sony clearly taking this seriously, although Nintendo has the Wii jugernaut behind them (despite crapware right now).

Video Games: Guitar Hero Aerosmith

Admittedly I’ve never been a huge fan of most rock.  Bands like AC/DC, Ratt, Motley Crue, GNR, and so on do little for me, and the bands that are more thrash, hardcore, heavy metal do nothing for me at all.  There are a few memorable songs here and there that I don’t mind so much, let alone tolerate or hum on occasion, but I’ve never been known to be a ‘rocker’.

When I was in college I actually had some free time on my hands as a senior and had the luxury of taking a few fun or ‘fluff’ classes.  I wanted to learn how to play an instrument and seeing that I liked jazz music a lot, I was actually thinking about picking up the trumpet.  I even asked my roommates at the time, which they would prefer me to learn – the guitar, or trumpet?  They unanimously voted for the guitar, so I ended up taking a semester of beginning guitar.  And I was pretty good.  Far from being a prodigy by any means, but I did end up with an ‘A’ in the class.

That was 1993.

It wasn’t until earlier this year I went over to a neighbors house one evening and they had broken out Guitar Hero II for the Sony Playstation 2 that I had my first laid my hands on anything Guitar Hero.

It was the first few songs and holding that hunk of black plastic in my hand, desperately trying to match the scrolling notes on the track coming at me that I became enamored with the game and the whole concept.  It wouldn’t be long thereafter before I purchased GH III for my Xbox 360 and tried my hand at becoming a solo appreciated rock star within my own living room.

Another funny thing happened as I slowly worked my way from a GH III newbie who could barely hit a note early on in his ‘easy’ career to someone who just recently finished the games on medium and looking to now attempt ‘hard’ mode….I learned to appreciate and even like some of the songs.  So much so in fact, I began dropping my CC number on valued MS Points and began a library of DLC content.

In March, I obtained Rock Band.  Now I could beat the drums (albeit horrendously), sing off-key, jam a bass groove with my neighbors, and love every minute of it while throwing back a beer or two.  We began to play so much we even started our own living room band where we all get together every other week and take turns singing and playing instruments as we unlock new venues, arenas, and prizes…we recently just got the plane.  I’ve downloaded quite a few tracks over the months for both games, and eagerly await each Tuesday to see what DLC is being offered.

So imagine by heart fluttering just a tad when they announced GH III: Aerosmith.  I’ve been eagerly awaiting this new expnasion since it was first announced, and today, June 30, 2008 it has been released.  I was even thinking about scheduling my lunch in such a way as to be able to swing by Best Buy to pick up a copy and ruch home to drop it in and begin playing by this evening.  I couldn’t wait to be on stage with Run DMC and play songs like ‘Kings of Rock’ and ‘Walk this way’.

So why didn’t I rush out an hour ago and get it as I had been planning on it for months, counting down the days up until now?

Well I suppose it came as a combination of a few things, namely the early reviews I read.  I wasn’t expecting Neversoft/Activision to reinvent the wheel here, but early reviews more or less said it’s much of the same, and unless you’re a diehard Aerosmith fan, there’s nothing really here that justifies the $59.99 for a disc.

And I guess when I read that and let it sink in a bit, it started to make sense.  Why exactly should this be $59.99 and not considered a true expansion and maybe come in at $39.99?  I could easily justify $39.99, but $59.99 for a band that really doesn’t generate any actual buzz for me.  I mean I don’t dislike Aerosmith, but I’d never go out and buy a CD or MP3 of their songs either. 

As I write this entry, Eurogamer gave it 6 out 0f 10, and IGN gave it 7.5 out of 10 and even stated that many of the riffs are very repetitive, slightly easier to play, and no other innovations.  So why not spend the money of songs I do like for Rock Band or other GH III tracks?  Though I do want to play Run DMC….

It doesn’t help the cause either when I read that Guitar Hero World Tour will be out in mid October of this year, and now Harmonix has announced Rock Band 2 for September.  Both will bring out new features and many more songs than this outing does.  As a matter of fact rumors are floating that Rock Band 2 may ship with close to 200 songs, or at least have that many available as DLC by the end of the year!

I guess I may just wait now and hope that in a few months GH: Aerosmith will drop in price or become an Amazon.com Deal of the Day.

So let me hear what you think.  Did any of you buy GH: Aerosmith and are you happy with it?

Gaming: “I am Murloc” for GH III

Smells a little fishy?I love it when designers, programmers, and producers from varying but overlapping segments within the gaming industry get together and can issue something for the fans….just because they love the the aspect of gaming. 

And what makes it even sweeter than an unexpected l33t drop from fishing at Booty Bay? 

They do it for free!!

So it seems the fine people over at Blizzard have a passion for Guitar Hero, and there own internal house band, Level 70 Elite Tauren Chieftan, has forked over their song “I am murloc” to the wizards over at Activision for a 14mb DLC track single for GH III.  And again….it’s free!! 

I find it so cool that sometimes these companies can give away something to the fans without ‘$$’ in their eyes, especially for such a beloved game like GH III that seems to be suffering from occasional dry spells of DLC tracks.

Bungie/Microsoft collaborated a year ago and allowed for the release of the Halo 3 theme for GH III as well.  Though that one may be a little strange to play as it can be a little long, slow in parts, heavy in others, and a unique translation to guitar.

I downloaded it this morning as soon as I heard about, and now I look forward to getting home to play it….that is as a warm up to GH: Aerosmith to be released the next few days.