Dead Space: Downfall

So maybe I was a little overly excited yesterday with my Dead Space post.  Yeah, I realize I’m talking about a game that is two years old, but when you’re married, have a slacker teenage daughter, and a mundane job where you’re more educated than those you report to, it’s the little things in life that get one excited.

My wife happens to bowl on Monday nights as part of a league, so that usually affords me Monday nights to myself for entertainment.  As I was so enthralled with the game over the weekend and began reading ‘Martyr’ yesterday in earnest (currently Chapter 15, pg 79) I came home and fired up Netflix over my Xbox360 account.

I looked up Dead Space: Downfall and added it to the instant queue and began watching this 74 minute anime movie.  The events of Downfall take place over the course of a few days and lead up to the opening credits of the game itself.

In the game, as Isaac Clarke, you are fighting for survival on this large derelict ship, but just days before, the Ishimura was teaming with hundreds of crew members going about their daily lives and jobs until the ‘artifact’ is unearthed and brought aboard the ship.  The unearthing of the artifact itself unleashes a certain paranoia and an unseen force amongst the people, and throw is a good alien flying face hugger (kinda looks like a Star Wars ‘mynock’ to infect people and turn them into necromorphs for good measure).  By the time the captain and crew figure out what’s going on, it’s too late, the ship is doomed.

This anime is not really intended for kids.  It’s a ‘mature’ movie, filled with lots of bloody content made of nightmares and tons of colorful language (i.e. liberal swearing).  While there are some subtle stylized differences from what the game presents, the overall look of the interior of the USG Ishimura is pretty close.  You’ll recognize a few areas and even a few names.  You’ll learn the fate of the Captain, and even get hints of the overall Unitology conspiracy taking place.

While it’s not the best animation on the planet and a far cry from any CG work these days, the style fits just fine; even some of the rougher parts doesn’t detract from the story.  That being said, the story itself, while entertaining, seems to ‘borrow’ a few concepts and ideas from other sci-fi movies and shows.  It’s not to say that Downfall isn’t ‘original’, but if you’re an avid Sci-Fi fan like myself you’ll note some common themes and ideas throughout.

But the movie was intended to be a prequel, to lead the viewer upto the point where they begin to play the game, and it does a fine job, (not stellar), but fine job at doing just that.  Anything longer that 70 minutes may have been a detriment.  There’s plenty of action, recognizable locals, faces, and names that the gamer will identify with and that light bulb will begin to glow over your head.

One of the final scenes of the movie is the Isaac Clarke’s rescue ship approaching the Ishimura just as it did in the opening cinematic of the game which is a great tie in that marries the two together, so you know what your up against and where on the time line you fall.

Not sure if I’d buy the movie and unsure what the Blu-ray version would give you since it is standard animation.  If you are able to rent it, or even better, stream it like I did, then you’ll be happy.  Assuming you are playing the game as well, I’m not there is much replay value in the movie, so I wouldn’t buy it.

Shifting gears a bit, I was then able to play Chapter 3: ‘Course Correction’ last night afterwards.  Again, it seems I’m averaging about 2 hours a chapter, so if there are 12 chapters in this game, I expect I’ll get at least 24 hours of play time out of it.  I’m a cautious gamer as well….I don’t run headlong like Han Solo, guns blazing down cooridors.  I tend to creep, flashing my headlamp all about into all the dark spaces, and I also take the time to look for hidden items, power-ups, and all the logs strewn about.  I really enjoy the text, audio, and video logs.  They add so much backstory to the game, it’s a shame if you are the type that just balzes through the enemies getting to the objective in the fastest times.  If you are, then you’re missing out on some good lore.

I really enjoyed the centrifuge room last night.  The one in zero-g, in which you need to start up the engine manually and then dodge the centrifuge itself while in the vacuum fighting of a few necromorphs.  Ahhh….the silence is just so tense at times, and when you finally make it back to an airlock with seconds of air left to breathe, and your suit re-pressurizes, you really get a sense of gratification and unloading of a burden.

The last standoff in this chapter is pretty intense.  You throw the ignition switch in the bay, turn around, stars at your back, engine wailing super loud, and you spot a team of running necromorphs headed your way.  Gotta love the line gun at this point.  I also bought the ‘ripper’ weapon last night as well, but haven’t gotten the chance to use it yet.  I really need to get me some more power nodes and get some extra capacity on my rig (bio-suit) as my inventory slots are on the low end and now that I have a host of weapons, I need some more slots to carry ammo.

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E3 2009: Microsoft Impressions

Since I own a 360 myself (and still waiting for Sony to drop their price), I was really looking forward to what on tap from Microsoft.  In today’s climate of financial skepticism, shovelware (Wii), and over-hype with little delivery, one has to be very careful in picking and choosing were one is going to drop their $60 for a title.  And as a side note…why again are next gen console games anywhere from $10-15 more than their PC counterparts?  I think that if Microsoft really wants a leg up on Sony, since Sony doesn’t look like their going to reduce the cost of a new Playstation, that Microsoft should drop the price of new games by $5-$10 to a price point model closer to Nintendo.  I myself have a psychological aversion to spending $59 on a new game, and would feel much more willing to gamble one a title if it was $49, but that’s just me.

Anyway, onto the Microsoft press conference:

  • LAST.FM: Later this year, we can expect to stream music from the online service at no extra cost.  Seems like a pretty nice bonus for those that don’t already having digitable cable or sattelite radio in their homes.  I for one will be checking this out for dance channels and a little something else.
  • Twitter: Well there’s a new interface to use here, but with lack of a full keyboard, I’m not going to be sitting there using my controller to hunt and peck out messages.  I understand why Microsoft is doing this, but since I have an aversion to Twitter, I don’t see myself using this, nor most of my friends.  If we already have live chat, cell phones, email, FB and more, do I really need yet another way to read micro blog posts?
  • Facebook: Not sure exactly what to think about this move.  It uses the new NBE layout to navigate, and it looks good for viewing pictures and ties in smoothly to your Xbox friends profiles…but again, I just can’t see myself using it to type updates or all the other apps, when I have a PC that is so much easier to use for this type of thing.  Again, I understand why Microsoft is leveraging the popularity of Facebook, but the too early to tell how easy it will be to use or what people will use it for.  This one could go either way.
  • Avatars:  Microsoft said that you can expect unlockable items, (finally), in titles that will be appearing starting this fall to further customize your avatars.
  • 1 vs 100: The beta finally hit, and after we saw a glimpse of it when it was announced last year…and then delayed for whatever reason…I guess we can finally expect to see some live gameshow style events later this year.  I’m actually looking forward to this, and still wonder why it will take almost 1.5 years from it’s initial announcement to launch (pratically a year late from it’s intial planned debut).
  • Microsoft Points: May be going the way of the Do-do bird…meaning it’s rumored that MS points will lose their ‘point’ status and revert to ‘real money’….thank God.  I always hated tring to figure out the conversion that something cost , 160, 800, 1200, 1600 pts.  Just tell me how much already, I don’t want to think about it.
  • Zune: Looks like the next version of Zune hardware/software will integrate even more by the end of this year and loads of new content will be available through Xbox marketplace making Zune more of an extension of the Xbox similar to what the iTouch is for Apple and PSP Go is for Sony.  Video services will be relaunched at this time as well, and expect more HD content than ever.
  • Netflix: Update to make queing movies directly from Xbox instead of a PC.  Easier navigation as well.
  • Xbox originals: This service will be discontinued soon, or at least no new titles from first gen Xbox will be appearing.
  • Crackdown 2 (Ruffian Games): I’m jazzed about this as the first game was so much fun.  It didn’t get the recognition it should have as it was over-shadowed by Halo 3 at launch, but it has quite a cult following and is a blast!.  Anyway, expect better graphics (of course), 4 player co-op!, and 16 player versus modes.  Not too much details were given yet, just a teaser.
  • Halo Reach (Bungie): Just announced for a 2010 release and open beta for those that pre-purchase Halo ODST.  No details…just a tease.
  • Halo ODST (Bungie): Show some gameplay, of course looks great.  The setting is 3 weeks before the events in Halo 3, and you play a new character (not Master Chief).  Expect new weapons come Septermber 22nd, 2009.
  • Left 4 Dead 2:  Wow, I’m surprised how fast this sequel was announced and it’s progression in development.  Makes me wonder if some of the ideas/content was originally slated for the first, but didn’t make the deadline.  Or they new the 1st was going to be a hit, they had already started working on the sequel before the 1st was released.  Expect new weapons including chainsaw, melee weapons, characters, etc.
  • Metal Gear Rising: Announced for Xbox, but no details.  Just a big fat tease that have MG & Xbox fanboys screaming.
  • Rock Band Beatles (Harmonix): Opening trailer looks really neat and stylized to compliment the look of old school Beatles graphics.  Yoko One and Harrison’s widow comes out on stage…they wave…and walk back.  WTH?  How much did they pay them just to wave.  Could care less about them, and they didn’t sell me the game….waste of money and PR in my opinion.  Wait….Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney walk out as well…Why the hell is Paul chewing gum…I don’t care if he’s an icon or not…looks silly chewing gum.  He and Ringo say something unintelligible and then leave just as fast.  Wow…I would have hated to write them a check for that worthless appearance. “All You Need is Love” will be an exclusive Xbox track.
  • Joy Ride: XBLA arcade style kart game.  It’s free and utilizes your avatars, but lokks ‘okay’.  Good thing it’s free.
  • Shadow Complex: XBLA exclusive.  Pretty side scroller which will debut this summer.
  • Forza Motorsport 3: Shipping this fall.  I don’t know what to say about these racing games.  To me, they all look amazing whether it Project Gotham or GT or whatever.
  • Alan Wake: Gameplay footage is shown from this game that seems to have been in development forever.  They say Spring 2010, but we’ll see.  Not holding my breath, but looks pretty awesome nonetheless.  Look like a cross between Silent Hill and other freaky, tense, horror stealth titles.  Good solo game for playing at night near halloween.  Yeah, that type of scary and tense game.
  • Knights of the Old Republic (Bioware): Oh, nerdgasm.  Showed an epic trainler set in the SW universe.  Jaw dropping and Xbox exclusive.  I am really looking forward to this one.
  • Mass Effect 2 (Bioware): 2010 release.
  • Project Natal (MS): Working title and most likely change.  Looks like MS is entering the motion control arena
    Natal

    Natal

    with there own sensor bar that you don’t need any controller at all….just your body.  They demonstrate some prototype games including racing sans steering wheel, a version of the classic ‘breakout’ called ‘Ricochet’, skateboarding, etc….Looks slick, but no launch date or price is mentioned or games for that matter.  Does voice and face recognition and can automatically sign you into XBLA when you walk into a room.

While I was indeed happy with what I saw (and I’m not metioning many of the cross-platform titles, ala Modern Warfare 2, DJ Hero, Assassins Creed 2, Bioshock, etc.), Microsoft seems to be focusing a lot on social networking this time around.  While I am happy with some of the AAA titles and some of the exclusives mentioned, I have a feeling that Sony may have a bit more up their sleeve this year than they did last year and may up the ante on Microsofts offerings.  Nintendo also better deliver this year as 2008 was disapointing and underwhelming.  They may have a lock on console sales, but the games are mostly crap right now with only a few bright spots in their IP offerings.

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.