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The Wait for GTAV Continues...

After years of waiting, Grand Theft Auto V is finally here.

Unfortunatley, I must wait a little longer before I get to join in.

I have been experiencing a what can only be described as maddening series of game freezes that make it impossible for me to play the game. As of yet, I've been unable to play for more than 30 minutes without the game freezing on me. There is no pattern to it; at some point during the mission I'm currently playing, the game will completely freeze. I've tried every troubleshooting step imaginable, including some oddball ones like installing one disc to the hard drive and the other to a USB drive, but as of yet, I've yet to find a working solution. Rockstar support has been of little help, sending me a form response with steps I'd already tried before, but I understand they are probably still gathering information before giving any sort of real response for my issue.

I say this because I am far from alone. After some online searches, I found a thread on an unofficial GTA forums website that seems to have become a gathering spot for other people having the same problem. So far, the common denominator seems to be older Xbox 360's, especially those that were refurbished by Microsoft for RROD crashes (some people with newer Xboxes and PS3's are also reporting the problem, and while these reports seem less frequent up to this moment, it is something to watch). My unit was purchased in 2006 and RROD'd in 2009. It certainly is on the older side, but I haven't had trouble with nay other game on my console, even with more demanding and modern games like Skyrim and Halo 4. My comments in that thread were quoted in a Kokatu article, the only real coverage I've seen this problem receive. 

I realize at this point that no amount cache clearing, re-installations, disc swapping, or other tricks will solve this problem; this will only be fixed through a patch on Rockstar's end. If I had to guess, I'd say the problem is a weird compatibility glitch with older Xbox 360s that will probably found before too long. I just hope that this problem does not fall through the cracks, that if I make enough noise about it, Rockstar will treat it seriously enough to make resolving it a priority. 

I am aware that many games suffer from glitches upon launch, and that GTA V is certainly not the first nor the last. But after of years of waiting and countless Youtube videos uploaded featuring the craziness we've all come to expect from the series, I feel like I'm being left out of the fun. It's not the end of the world by any means, but that doesn't make it any less frustraing.

Too many games, too little interst

From the Steam sale, to finally having a steady income to buy games with, I've bought quite a few games recently. In any previous summer, I'd be in a state of glee, playing each and every game to completion, forgoing what I should be doing in the summer, which is having fun outdoors. However, with all these games piling up, I find myself just now wanting to play most of them. Some I'll play for a few hours, some for mere minutes, and some to completion, but the result is always the same: complete indifference. I'll shut the game off and put it away, and from that moment on, I look at it, think about playing it, and toss it aside, and usually never play it again.

I've done a bit of introspective thinking lately, trying to find the root of this rapid loss of interest in gaming in general, and I've come up with a few answers. The most prominent answer my brain comes up with is that nothing seems original to me any more. I play Forza Motorsport, and I think of Gran Turismo 2 and how similar the games are. I play Red Dead Redemption, but I see GTA in a different setting. I play Splinter Cell Conviction, and I think of how much better the previous entries in the series were. Even when I play older games (like Dues Ex, for example, which I got for a few bucks on the Steam sale), I look at it and only see how though the game may have created, improved, or defined a genre, I cannot help but see how newer games have improved upon the game mechanics, and I simply can't get over the imperfections any more. It truly is a vicious cycle of thought.

I have always, in my own way, suffered from nostalgia more than I should, looking back to events in the past and remembering them as more fun than they likely were, so perhaps that is more the cause then the games themselves. I look back on the days when I was playing Splinter Cell PT with a group of friends and have that as the baseline of what fun in gaming is, and since I cannot possibly match that level of entertainment in my mind, I quickly grow bored of any game I play.

Perhaps I am losing interest because of the increased responsibilities of life in general that come with age. With a job, school, and the endless other things that come up, games become more of a distraction to me than anything else. Maybe because I have developed new interest in other hobbies like music, reading, etc. games are no longer my main form of entertainment, so naturally they fall by the wayside a bit. Maybe, since I now have more of an income, buying a game is no longer a special event, and one game need not occupy so much time before I get another, and the loss of what made a game purchase special is eating away at the enjoyment I take in gaming. Likely, a combination of all of the above play into the problem (if it even is a problem?)

What I do know is that I seem to log online more to talk to my friends than to actually game anymore. Now don't get me wrong, I still do game a fair bit, and I imagine I always will game to some extent, but as time goes on, they are slowly fading away in my mind as something that I have fun with. I'm only 19, but perhaps in my own way I'm getting older; my interests change as I change as a person, and it is just something I'll have to get used to.

Thoughts on Splinter Cell Conviction

Let me start off with a warning: This blog will contain spoilers about the storyline of SC Conviction. If you don't want the game spoiled for you, don't read on.

I'm not sure what I expected going into SC: Conviction. On one hand, as a huge fan of the old series, the new action spin that was put into this new game made me apprehensive. But, on the other, I understand why the developers may have wanted to change things up a bit. I never grew tired of the old stealth-reliant formula, its small issues aside, but others seemed to think it was time for a change, so I can accept that.

The problem I have with Conviction, after playing it, is that at times, the game seemed more like a third person shooter than it did a stealth game. I realize they were trying to change the gameplay away from pure stealth to an action-stealth hybrid, but I think in the end, the game ended up having much more action that stealth. By the end, I found myself playing the game more like a shooter than a traditional splinter cell game, even on realistic difficulty, where you are supposed to be punished for breaking stealth, but that never seemed to happen. I went into most situations guns blazing, and outside of a few rough parts (like after you interrogate the vice president) I usually came out just fine. Regenerating health makes you pay for your mistakes far less than you did in previous games and truly enables it to be played as a shooter. In the old games, if you played it as a shooter (on the higher difficulties anyway), you'd die, and even if you survived, you'd have no health left to continue to play it as a shooter. The thought and planning that had to go into playing the old games is now completely unnecessary, so to me, the game feels a bit dumbed down.

There are a few other gameplay mechanics I want to comment on. The one, singular most broken aspect of that game is the last known position feature. In theory, I suppose it is supposed to be realistic in that if the guards see you jump into the shadows at a certain point, they'll go look in those shadows for you. The thing is, in this game, they seem so locked into that position, that it is a simple matter to simply move around some cover and shoot them all in the back. The guards I came across would sometimes spend 30 seconds shooting at my last known position, screaming that I was over there, etc., while all I had to do is move to a different peice of cover and they'd be completely befuddled. That aspect of the game alone makes the enemy AI terrible at best. And while I'm mentioning it, why do the guards scream at you all the time? You're facing seemingly the most deadly man on the planet, so as a guard, you scream at him, taunt him, and in doing so, piss him off and reveal your position to him? What? I don't know why the designers thought it would be a good idea to make the guards scream endlessly, but I don't get it.

As far as the story goes, it was entertaining, but unspectacular. Sam's daughter ending up alive was a bit much, as was the massive, ridiculous conspiracy that drove the game's plot. I'm still not sure what Tom Reed's ultimate goal was, I know he wanted the current President out, and the VP in, but outside of some mention of Third Echelon's funding being cut, I'm still not too sure exactly why, except for that he's the bad guy, and that anything he wants is, therefore, bad. Whatever his goal was, it was satisfying to shoot him in the face at the end of the game, because he was kind of an ass. I think Yahtzee (Zero Punctuation) made a good point in his review of the game's start: Sam Fisher is over in Europe, completely out of the loop in regards to what is going on, and for some reason, Reed decides it is a good idea to send armed men after him? Why not leave him alone and out of the loop, with no leads to act on, rather than try to kill him when he poses little risk to you? I suppose in the end I enjoyed the plot (except for the fact that Lambert was dead, I saved him in my game!) but it did have its head-scratching moments that I had a hard time getting past.

I've also played through most of the co-op modes with my friend (except infiltration mode, which was only available to Amazon pre-orders, which is really stupid). We played the co-op campaign first, which I found a bit disappointing. The storyline for it was totally unclear, and until we read it online, we had no idea it was supposed to act as a precursor to the single player storyline. There was something going on with EMP's and terrorists, but the game just could not make us care, or help us follow along. We had some fun playing it, but without a coherent story, it was less fun than I thought it would be. We had a good time playing hunter mode, but much less fun playing the last stand and faceoff modes. Faceoff mode is simply terrible, and last stand mode, is frustrating and nonsensical (why do the terrorists bring machine guns to destroy the objective? Why can't whoever is giving the spies their orders come and pick the EMP up? Wouldn't the terrorists rather steal the EMP than destroy it? And what is it with this game and EMP's anyway?) Perhaps we overthought things a bit. I also am terribly disappointed that there is no spies vs. mercenaries multiplayer mode, as that is what gave previous entries in the series such lasting value.

In the end, I suppose I can say I had fun playing it. I am a it disappointed in the changes they made to the series's formula, as in the end, the game turns into a shooter with a few stealth elements than a stealth based action game. Some things, like the mark and execute feature can be good fun, but other things, like the last known position feature, are broken at best. I did have fun with the game, but I don't know if the game was $60 good or not. I guess my final opinion of the game is that it seems a casualty a developer that wanted it to make the game more mainstream. The older games weren't niche titles or anything, but they were a bit different and unique. Conviction just feels like an attempt to draw in a larger audience by making it more of a shooter than stealth game, but dumbing it down somewhat to appeal to the masses. Maybe I'm just too hung up on the fact that the game has "Splinter Cell" in the title.


It has been some time since I have updated this blog "for real," hasn't it. So much has happened since then, obviously, as my first year of college is drawing to a close. So far it's going really well, better than I expected it to go, I would even go as far as calling some of my college classes easier than my high school ones. This surprised me, as I go to an engineering school, and I thought everything math-science would be ramped up to an extreme degree in difficulty, but maybe I just built that image too highly in my mind. In case any of you are wondering, I'm a chemical engineering major, but I haven't taken any real chemical engineering classes yet, mainly just getting the required classes out of the way (general chem., calculus, physics, etc.)

I wish I knew what I was going to do next year though. I'm applying for transfer to UMass Amherst, as socially, I don't like the school I'm going to at all. It is an engineering school I know, but damn, I guess the people here are all too similar for my liking. Most of my friends in high school were different than me, and now that everyone is the same, it just isn't working. I know Amherst is a party school, and I am no partier, but I kind of want to go to a bigger school with a more diverse student body after a year here at WPI (and save quite a bit of money to boot, as it is a state school, much cheaper). Problem is, I don't think my job outlook is as good graduating from there as it is here, so this won't be an easy decision to make when the time comes in a few months. Right now I am leaning towards transferring, but I change my mind more often than my physics professor confuses me, which is nearly five times per day.

But enough about that. It is weird to think I have been away from this site for so long, nearly a year since I have seriously been involved in the community, but I think that has a chance of changing soon. My interest in this site has always come and gone, and now that it went, it is slowly coming back. I'm not sure if it will stick or not, but I'm going to try to make an honest effort to get involved in the community here again, because I do miss it a little bit. So, like it or not, you may be seeing a little more of me around here, it just may take some time for me to get back in the swing of things. My first goal is 10k posts, because I've been knocking on that door for so long now it is absurd; I've had 700 to go for like a year and a half now. :P

And I must commend the moderators and admins for the job they did on that April Fool's prank on OT. It was one of the most convincing and well-acted pranks I have ever seen, even if I do still think it was a bit cruel. Looking back the whole situation did seem kind of ridiculous, but the plot was so involved that it seemed to convoluted to be fake. Unless it really wasn't fake, and the April fool's joke is just a cover? Hmmm…

I kid.

Mass Effect 2 DLC

(Throughout this I am talking from the perspective of an Xbox 360 owner. I do not know how the topics I discuss differ on the PC, if they even do at all.)

Well, the day is about here. I have been looking forward to the release of Mass Effect 2 since I beat the original back in late 2007/early 2008, and the original stands as one of my favorite games this generation. Sure, it had its problems, like the monotony of planetary exploration, texture pop-ins, etc., but overall the game was absolutely superb, and its sequel promises to be just as if not more superb. But, before we get into Mass Effect 2, let's discuss the past few years.

Initially, Bioware discussed the possibility/likelihood a steady stream of DLC for Mass Effect which would supplement the game while fans waited for the sequel. Early on, this seemed like it might happen, as the Bring Down the Sky DLC was released a few months after the game's release. It wasn't the best DLC I have ever purchased, but it was a nice addition to the game. But, from there, the DLC stopped. There was no word of anything, not until this year, when the Pinnacle station DLC was released. Unfortunately, that addition to Mass Effect was rather poor and exploitative. I think the first sentence of Kevin VanOrd's review of the add-on sums it up spectacularly: "Like a diseased steak thrown to the wolves, so this travesty of a downloadable add-on has been tossed to hungry Mass Effect fans."

This, as a fan of the game, was mightily disappointing. I do not know why Bioware's promise never came to fruition; perhaps the business with EA caused too much ruckus, they wanted to more heavily focus on Mass Effect 2, whatever the reason may be, it was terribly disappointing to me as a fan, and Pinnacle station only worsened the sting. But, with the release of Mass Effect 2 mere months away, I got over the frustration rather quickly. Flash forward to last week: Bioware announces that new copies of Mass Effect 2 would come bundled with a code to download DLC which includes new items and characters, as well as future free DLC (but I personally believe that only small things will be offered for free trough it, the bigger things are likely going to cost us, so I'm tempering my expectations there) downloadable from day one right into the game.

Initially, my reaction was one of excitement. Naturally, after the DLC drought Mass Effect suffered, the addition of DLC to Mass Effect 2 from day one seems to hold great promise for content in the future. But now that I have had time to reflect upon this new announcement, I am not so thrilled.

I, as a college student, do not have very much money. The majority of the money I have goes into books and other expenses that I do not have a great amount of money left over to spend on myself. Therefore, outside of games like the new Call of Duty and Mass Effect 2, games I have been looking forward to with great excitement for some time, I buy used games to save the valuable commodity of money. The way I see it, this move by Bioware is a cheap shot at people like me. Say I were to wait a few months, maybe even a year or so, as I do with most big releases that I have interest in these days, and buy the game used at GameStop (or online, whatever) for say, $40, saving me $20. If I did this with Mass Effect 2, I would then have to spend $15 more in order to get the full experience of the game that someone who bought it new would get, nullifying any savings of buying used, which is what people like me thrive on due to economic limitations.

And what about those people who borrow the game from their friends? They cannot experience the full game unless they want to drop some cash on the DLC which came pre-packaged with new copies of the game. Now, if this was DLC that was released, say, a few months after the game's release, this would not bother me as much, as I see it as addition to the main experience of the game. But the fact that it is pre-packaged says to me that it is part of the main game, as it was meant to be played, and that this had to be planned by Bioware/EA/whoever. This to me means they developed it alongside the game, knowing it would not be put into the main game, instead having it as an add-on downloadable via unique code, which will, I imagine, like most other DLC's, be tied to the Xbox it is downloaded on, meaning it cannot be shared with friends.

On the surface, it may look like a good gesture by Bioware, but deep down there really seems to be no reason for this except for scraping a few bucks out of people who buy the game used or share it with their friends. If it becomes a trend, game developers could keep making more and more of the game come pre-packaged with new copies, further undermining the possibility of buying a game used and expecting to have the full experience without paying a premium. Perhaps the entire idea of DLC could be viewed in this light, but pre-packaging a game with a bunch of content not available from the disk seems to be taking a larger step in that direction than simple add-ons like Bring Down the Sky.

I'm still buying the game of course, it looks amazing, and I'm sure based on what I've read it will be better than the original. But as a fan of the game, I suppose I ask that you see this move for what it is, and pray that it doesn't become a larger trend. I won't ask anyone who buys the game used to avoid downloading it, because I know I would, but I'd hope that sales of it are not strong. I realize Bioware is a company that is trying to make money, but that doesn't make this action on their part bother me any less. I seem to be in the minority here based on comments I have read in the news article, as most see it as a fan service, and perhaps it is to some extent, and for all I know my suspicions could be without merit. But unfortunately, I can't shake the feeling of an ulterior motive behind this, one that bothers me greatly.

New Review

I wrote a review for Battlefield 1943. I haven't written a review in over a year, so it may be a little rough, but I think it turned out ok, but probably not as good as some of my others. Post any feedback as a comment here or PM me if you are shy. :P

First Blog in Quite Some Time

It's late, I should be getting to bed, considering how tired I am, but instead, I've decided to make a blog.

SO what's happened since my last one. High school ended. Yep. I ended up graduating tied for second in my class, which was a shock to me, seeing as the last time I checked I was fourth. And of course, that meant that I had to give a speech at graduation. Actually, I had to give two speeches around that time, one in front of the school for a yearbook dedication for my friend who battled cancer throughout high school, and the Salutatory address (of which there were two, and also the Valedictorian speech) in front of all the parents and everyone at graduation. I was very nervous both times, but once I started speaking I think I did a good job. My speech was short and to the point, whereas the other speeches were long and drawn out, and I think my classmates and the audience appreciated that.

Something else unexpected happened as a result of my moving into the 2 spot for my class, my college gave me an extra four thousand dollars in scholarship money as a result of my being salutatorian. I still had to take out larger loans that I would have liked to for my school, but having four thousand dollars dropped into my lap was rather nice.

After school ended I started looking for a job for the summer. Unfortunately, with the market so bad compounded with the fact that I am leaving come August 23rd, I was unable to ever find one. I almost had one at Wal-mart, but unfortunately they had a hiring freeze ordered from higher up right before they could hire me. Some luck I have. So my summer has been a whole lot of nothing, kind of sitting around, hanging out with friends, all while watching my savings slowly dwindle down. I will have a job when college starts though in a work study, which will be nice. It doesn't pay too much, but anything helps.

I guess the lone highlight of this summer was when I received my AP exam scores last month. I ended up getting a 5 on Calc AB (no idea how I managed that, but I'll take it), a 5 on Environmental Science (Not trying to sound cocky, but I knew that was coming. I walked out of that test knowing I nailed it,) a 4 on Statistics, and a 4 on Lit and Comp, which was one higher than I expected. Because I scored high on these exams (they are scored from 1-5, 5 being the highest, 3 is usually the minimum to receive credit at colleges) I received credits at my college for those classes that those exams would cover, which included the 5 I scored on AP US History last year. So I'd say the AP experience was very well worth it, in terms of gaining college credit and in terms of getting used to a more rigorous course load.

College starts in three weeks for me, well a little less than that now. I have two roomates who I have started to contact, and I'm looking forward to it. I'm sure a few months from now I'll look back on that statement and think I was crazy knowing the work I'll likely be doing, but I do want to meet new people and see new places. I'm very bored of where I live, though leaving it does have a strange sadness to it, as I have lived here my entire life. But I know I'll adjust.

Well, I hope I didn't bore you guys out there, if anyone even reads this. :P

Recent Goings-on

It's been a while since I made a real blog, so here it goes.

College: I've decided what college I will be attending. The decision was between the College of the Holy Cross, UMass Amherst, and Worcester polytechnic Institute, and I chose WPI. I decided against Holy Cross as it does not have an engineering program, and engineering is what I want to study, so even though it probably was my favorite of the three schools I got into, I decided against it. It has an option for a 3/2 engineering program in which you receive a bachelor's degree from Holy Cross and a bachelor's degree in engineering from Columbia or Darmoth, but it takes more work than usual and after five years you only have two bachelor's degrees, where at WPI or UMass I could potentially have a bachelor's and a Master's by that time, if I went into a one-year master's program. I decided against UMass Amherst, even though it was the least expensive mainly because I wasn't thrilled by it. I initially applied to it as a safety school, and seriously considered it for a while, but after a visit, I wasn't impressed. The campus had no charm; it felt like an industrial park. I know I could have saved quite a bit of money by going there, but my gut feeling told me not to, so I decided to trust my feelings.

I chose WPI in the end for a few reasons. One, the campus had more charm to it, and its located in a more interesting place than UMass, Worcester. Worcester is one of the biggest cities in New England and I have always wanted to try city-ish life after growing up in a small suburb of Boston my entire life. It is also a very strong school academically, more so than UMass I believe. It also has more options than UMass in terms of engineering. Umass only had the basic engineering majors, civil, mechanical, chemical, etc. where WPI has more biological and biomedical options, options I have always considered, and options that are not present at UMass. WPI is also a smaller school, which in a way is better in my opinion.

Of course, WPI has its disadvantages. The big one is cost. It'll cost me about twice as much per year to go there as opposed to UMass, but I'd rather go to WPI and be happy than go to UMass and only have mixed feelings. Another disadvantage is the male/female proportion... it's around 70% male there. I don't think I need to go into why I consider that a disadvantage... :P I guess WPI also has the disadvantage of being such a focused school, as if I decide engineering is not for me, I'll probably have to transfer out, where at another college I could just switch majors. WPI does have other options, but these options seem rather limited.

I am also on the waiting lists of Washington University in St. Louis, Carleton College, and Cornell University, and if I get off the waiting list at any of these schools except Carleton (same problem as Holy Cross, no engineering) I would face a tough decision. Both Cornell and Wash. University are amazing schools, and I would seriously consider either if I got off the waiting list at either. But, for now, seeing as those events are very unlikely, I'm perfectly happy with WPI.

School: I'm about a month away from graduation. This last month is going to be rough, with AP Exams coming up next week and the week after, but I think I can last this last sprint. Unless something changes, I'll be graduating fourth in my class, a place I am perfectly happy with. I have mixed feelings about leaving high school. On one hand, I do want to move on to college, as much as I know it will suck in terms of work, I do want to be more independent, and I think the college atmosphere would challenge me more. But, all the people I know I will be leaving with high school, so I don't know.

Gamespot: I haven't been on the site as much lately. As some of you may have noticed, I have stepped down as a moderator. I guess the decision was partly lost interest in the position and partly lack of time because of school and other things. I'm not sure at this point if I'll ever re-join the team (if they'll have me back :P), I think I'll just have to let some time pass and see how I feel.

Games: I've been playing the Splinter Cell games (Original, PT, CT) and Morrowind pretty much exclusively lately. I bought all three of the original xbox splinter cell games for under $10, which was definitely worth it. The Splinter Cell series is one of my favorites, and playing through them again is very awesome. I've beaten Pandora Tomorrow on hard so far, and am through most of Chaos Theory on expert (with every mission at 100% success so far). After, I'm going to finish up the original game on hard. Each game in the series is a minimum 9/10 in my book. If you haven't played them before, play them.

In Morrowind, I've basically finished the game. I still have some stuff to do, as there is always something to do in the vast world of Morrowind, but as far as the major quests go, I'm done. I went through the Tribunal expansion over the past few months (city of Mournhold) and last week beat the Bloodmoon expansion in a three days where I didn't have much homework to do. At finish, my character is a level 75 Redguard with the best everything. That;s the third time I've played through it. My other two games were on my old original xbox and were lost when I got rid of that a few years ago. Morrowind is another one of those games I recommend very highly, though it is not a game for everyone. It requires patience to get into, and quite a bit of it. It's rather slow at times, but can be immerse if you let it be. A solid 9.9/10 in my book, the .1 off being for the annoying technical issues that pop up rather often. If you remember to save often though, these can be overcome.

Phew, that's more than I intended to write. Well, see you guys around.