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.

E3 2008 – Microsoft press conference – Day 1

E3 2008 - Los Angeles

E3 2008 - Los Angeles

I sorta geeked out with the anticipation of rushing home from work on Monday so I could watch the G4 TV 2.5 hour live press conference (I taped it) that Microsoft was presenting for Xbox 360 owners. 

The show was a break from the regular X-Play episode as both hosts Adam Sessler and Morgan Webb were onhand to give the at home audience a sneak peak at things that will be coming to the XBox 360 owners over the next year.

So without further ado, here were some of the highlights (in no particular order):

  • Live Interface upgrade: The 360 GUI interface will be getting a complete overhaul sometime this fall.  Microsoft explained that while the current interface works well, they wanted to make it even more user friendly and accessible to all and to showcase many new features including ‘avatars’ and live interactive content.  Personally, while some of the features look pretty cool, I’m not sure I’ve been sold on it.  The thing is, it doesn’t look as if Live users will have a choice but to have this automatically installed one day when they turn on their systems this fall.  It’d be nice if they gave us a choice, but I can understand why they don’t want two interfaces to supports and are going to move forward with this.  The most blatant change is the inclusion of personal ‘avatars’, or 3D customizable animated representations of an online gamer.  Think of it as a ‘souped’ up Wii Mii.  I imagine this is a direct response to Sony’s reported upcoming interface, ‘Home’ and Nintendo’s Mii’s.  The big question I have is what do we do with our gamer pics and themes we’ve become accustomed to the last few years.  Will MS credit back Live Users for their previous theme and gamer picture purchases?  For all intents and purposes it looks like gamer pictures and themes will disappear altogether which would suck if you invested a lot of MSP’s into the last few years.  Another interesting aspect in the new emphasis on ‘parties’ and interactive game-shows.  While I personally have no need or real desire to share my pictures and other live content in a ‘party’, I do look forward to being part of a interactive game show like the demoed “1 vs. 100” they showed.  That looks pretty cool.
  • Netflix:I am pretty stoked about this feature as I already have a Netflix subscription.  This feature also debuting later this year will allow Netflix subscribers to instantly download/buffer movies on demand from the ever expanding Netflix library.  This may just push my need to get a Blu-Ray player back even further as I have no need to rush out and buy one to watch movies in HD.  I believe I will indeed be taking advantage of this quite liberally when it is available.
  • Gears of War 2: They demoed a quite lengthy run within the game and it look just awesome.  As a relatively new GoW player myself (I just recently picked it up when the price dropped to $39.99) and only done with chapter 2, the sequel just looks incredible!  Besides the improved graphics, there appears to be many more moves and weapons available and very, very creative levels with adrenaline pounding action, atmosphere, and sound design.  Yay!
  • Fable II: I completed Fable I years ago on my original Xbox and loved it, so this was already an automatic buy for me when it was announced sometime back.  They showed some co-op play and it looked pretty darn good as well.  I’m excited they included a dog as a pet for the player, and the pet AI and mannerisms look pretty neat.  The one quirky thing I’m not sure what I think about yet is ‘player orbs’ for multi-player.  supposedly, you can see your friends online within the game when they are on as they are represented by orbs.  You walk up to an orb, press a button, and ‘whammo’, your friend is now in your game.  What if you don’t have many friends who own the game?  What if you invite a friend and they screw with your unique world?  I’ll still get, but I figure I’ll be playing a lot of solo.
  • Fallout 3: Another ‘must buy’ for me.  Atmosphere and sound that Bethesda put into this game looks phenomenal.  They claim the world is an open world, much like Oblivion was and it did look pretty vast from what they showed.  The combat VAT engine looks very easy and intuitive, and the weapons showcased were awe inspiring.  Bethesda claims that when the game ships it will have 100+ hours of content with even more available as the develop DLC for it.
  • Guitar Hero III & World Tour:  Said a Metalica album will be be available for both later this year, but they really focused on World Tour.  Drum kit is wireless and will ship with around 85 new songs.  They mentioned the ability to create your own songs, but did not show examples.  There will also be some exclusive tracks from Led Zepplin and Guns ‘N Roses.
  • Lips: I don’t know what to think of this either.  This looks like a total social party game geared for young adults or kids.  They had UK pop star Duffy sing her hit Mercy.  I could have done without that.  Anyway, Lips is a karaoke game with light-up microphones (WTF?), and supposedly you can play music from your Zune or iPod, but they didn’t say if these supplied words or not.  I can’t figure out if the ‘word’ versions of songs are DLC or not.  Wish they would have talked more about this.
  • Rock Band 2:The only significant thing they said here was that all RB 1 songs are forward compatible with RB 2 as well as the instruments.  They announced 84 master tracks on CD will ship with the game as well as at least 20 free DLC songs by launch, and by the end of the year RB 2 will support a library of about 500 songs.  That’s impressive.  You can find the track listings elsewhere so I won’t repeat it here, but I am happy to see some more alternative bands like Talking Heads and Blondie to be appearing.  Exclusive tracks will include Bob Dylan and AC/DC as well, but since I don’t care for either of those, I probably won’t get those.
  • Resident Evil 5: Long way to go on this one as I think they said it will be available in March of 2009.  Showed off some co-op which looked pretty cool with head-shots and obstacle puzzle solving, but the zombies looked so slow.  While they showed a decent length demo and it was interesting, I’ll wait and see what develops because in 8 months, a lot can change….and the zombies just looked slow.
  • Square Enixannounced progress on already three announced games and showed a trailer for the next Star Ocean series.  The trailer looked absolutely beautiful and sounded great, but that’s all it was… a trailer showing in-game cut-scenes.  No actual game footage, and no description on what it was or what the story is or the goal.  It was pretty commercial that told me nothing about the game at all so that was a disappointment.  The biggest news out of Square Enix is they announced Final Fantasy XIII for the 360, a big blow to Sony where it was an exclusive franchise for them up to now.
  • Banjo Kazooie & Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise.  More kid friendly games, however, Banjo looks pretty interesting as a casual platform/puzzle solver and is worth a closer look.  VP uses the camera and cards to place rare pinatas and other effects in game like weather and items.
  • Social games & Arcade: They showed a few various games like Geometry Wars 2 and Galaga 2 as upcoming live arcade titles.  Social games eere a mixed bag of cool looking thing like the previously aforementioned 1 vs 100 and Scene It, but a real crap-fest in “You’re in the Movies”…I honestly can’t see this one making it big and even the demo they showed was clearly out of synch and looked low-tiered.  It was funny watching the MS reps really trying to sell this one and of all the game presented up to this point, this looked the most amateurish.
  • Not shown: Halo Wars, Too Human, Force Unleashed, CoD 5.

Now that Microsoft opened with some pretty big guns and some big news with Final Fantasy XIII and a system interface overhaul along with Netflix, it should be very interesting to see what both Nintendo and Sony have to offer.