Just my luck

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It's looking like Wiredcontroller.com has folded. The site itself is still up but no one has done anything with the site in months and the guy behind it fired up a new venture. It's more of the same stuff, but with a broader scope. However, he did not invite me to join in on the new site so my brief career doing anything cool has come to rather inauspicious end. I saw it coming. I'm back to posting any reviews I feel inclined to write on this site. That is all.

Resurrect the Railed Shooter!!!

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I've noticed a niche community running through the gaming world: retro gaming.You get things like the Retro Duo console and other similar consoles which allow you to play NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis carts, as well as emulators, and reissues of the old games (like Sonic the Hedgehog or Super Mario Brothers) on the present consoles. It seems that a respectable number of gamers either want to return to the by-gone days of their carefree youth, or are younger gamers who want to either get in touch with their roots or see what all the fuss is about. But this niche seems to be largely ignoring a market that, with recent technologies coming to all present platforms, should be right on the threshold of a triumphant return. The technology is, obviously, motion gaming. The genre is none other than the On-Rails Shooter.

Yeah, the Wii has seen a few reissues like House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return and a new installment in House of the Dead: Overkill. They have Link's Crossbow trainer, but that works like Wii sports, it merely piques your interest. They also have the Cabela huning games, but almost no one takes those seriously. There are some other titles floating around out there that all come across as gimmick games that no one takes seriously. I know the Playstation Move has The Shoot, a present day incarnation of a railed shooter where you take on the role of a sharpshooting movie stuntman filming the latest gun toting action flick. These are nice, but with titles like the Midway Arcade Treasures series, the forthcoming release of the Super Mario collection (ala Super Mario Allstars from the SNES), the full reissue of the Sonic The Hedgehog games from the Genesis on one disc, and all of the Wii's Virtual Console downloadables I feel that the Retro Gaming community could be doing more to bring back this genre than what's happening now.

Sega is always quick to remind people of their great contributions to the gaming world. They obviously did so with the HotD games for the Wii. Why not a reissue of the Virtua Cop line? The Sega Saturn version featured a secondary path unique to that version. The Dreamcast reissue came with a similar variation. I'm positive a Wii/Move/Kinect reincarnation would have the same sort of thing. Sega could also revive Confidential Mission or Death Crimson OX or any of the railed shooters from their ill-fated Dreamcast. Their railed shooters were so much fun. There are so many from the Sega library that could be brought back.

The arcade had so many shooters (not just Sega titles, obviously) that it almost isn't worth trying to name them here. I can still remember a little gem called CarnEvil. That one was great. The villain's name was even "Tokentaker". There are so many buried treasures from the arcade days that would be a perfect fit for both the retro gaming scene and the motion gaming resurrection of the light gun games. Of course, I imagine that with companies that came and went through the arcades and mergers and acquisitions acquiring the correct licenses and rights would be almost impossible.

We have games like Time Crisis who are still appearing because Namco continues to reatin their licenses (as well as keeping their doors open). But the available number of established franchises and reissued games is slim at this point. I want to see more. Motion gaming is the only thing that can save the light gun genre. On current HD TVs the old light guns don't work. Someone needs to make a push to bring this thing back like the old arcade games!

We need Sally Struthers to do a long-winded commercial where she sniffles as she walks through an barren, dusty, windswept landscape and crys over discarded items like the old NES gun, the Super Scope, and the old Gun Cons. She can talk about how the colors in the plastic is being bleached out by the sun, the glass is broken out of barrels, the triggers stuck, never to detect the light of a digital target again. Then she shows the old discarded tube televisions and talks about the hours of delight they brough to the masses, only to be made obsoloete and phased out by the new HD TVs to be neglected and forgotten by those who used to cherish them. Then she eats an entire box of Ding Dongs and an ethiopian boy.

Maybe we can have a telethon and interrupt marathons of CSI or the Star Wars saga on Spike with washed up, obnxious celebrities pleading with the public (and corporate sponsors) for money. We could throw in video game titans like Will Wright, Yuji Naka, Yu Suzuki (I feel he would be obligated since Virtua Cop is his legacy), Hideo Kojima, and anyone else who would show up. We could have Shigero Miyamoto playing the Super Mario theme on wine glasses or Hideo Kojima constantly creeping onto the stage to scare hosts and guests (hiding under a cardboad box, of course). We need to do something and these companies know that there's a market for this once glorious genre so that it may bask in the light of the retro gamer movement as it so rightfully deserves.

Pay to play?

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Let me preface this lengthy rant by mentioning that I am an internet veteran. While I wasn't there since "Day 1", I have been there long enough to see the rise and fall, as well as the metamorphosis, of many many things to do with both the internet and how the internet has impacted gaming. I can remember when multiplayer on a PC actually required your PC use its Dial-Up Modem to contact your friend and their Dial-Up Modem to start playing. I remember when 56Kbps was the hawtness. I then remember the rise of sites like MPlayer and File Planet and their subsequent acquisition and transition to pay sites.

This is the perfect point to segue into the topic at hand: the decrease in free services all over the gaming world in favor of "nominal fees" and "subscription services". Again, I remember when a lot of that stuff was free and watched as it changed.

At first I was adamantly opposed to such a thing. I watched sites like MPlayer fall into the GameSpy Network and begin demanding fees for everything. Of course, by this point, most PC games had developed other (much more user-friendly) methods of hosting multiplayer servers. However, File Planet asking for money was frustrating since a lot of studios weren't hosting first party downloads for their patches and updates. Now, however, distinctions are being made, premium services and basic services exists, and my indignance is starting to subside...to a degree.

I had an XBox 360 (I've had two, both of them died out of warranty) and now I have a PS3. I also have a Wii. Making headlines just a short while ago were rumblings that Sony and Nintendo were going to begin asking for "nominal monthly subscription fees" much like XBox Live. I have seen a massive wave of revulsion towards this idea, largely because neither Sony nor Nintendo deliver a very reliable internet experience. Nintendo lacks a lot of online support. The games with online play are few and far between. Sony tries harder but the PSN experience isn't very reliable. All my experience thus far (since Xmas '10) with attempting to download patches and updates for games has been horrific. The updates make it to about 35% and then stop as I get disconnected from the Playstation Network. They provide a cheap save for console fixes beacuse you can DL those to a USB flash drive on your PC and run them from the drive on your PS3.

However, if these two industry pillars were to start charging a fee like XBL (mine was about $7 a month) then we would OBVIOUSLY see vast improvements to their services. Nintendo would probably be the last to do it if only because they would need to up the online/multiplayer support for their library. Sony would probably benefit most from the income generated by an XBL-esque fee. Downloads would go more smoothly, bandwidth would be portioned out more effectively, and the over-all experience would be much more hassle-free. I know Sony already has a premium subscription service, but you can still play multiplayer and such without it. On XBL, a free account grants access to patches and updates for both the console and its games and you can purchase points to buy add-ons and games to download. You can't DL game demos nor do you have access to open multiplayer betas. I feel that if Sony were to go this route then they would follow XBL's example and offer their services in a similar fashion. And, remember, it isn't just about the people who would pay. I had an XBL Gold membership for less than one third of the time I had my 360s, but patches downloaded smoothly and quickly, and I even bought GTA Lost and Damned and Ballad of Gay Tony from the Marketplace with no problem with just the free account. I still had access to all the freebies that came with the purchase of other titles like Dragon Age Origins or Mass Effect 2. I could also acquire the items in the marketplace that cost 0 points. I feel Sony would do well to try this, then they could hire more people to ensure that their online support functioned more smoothly for all.

I mentioned Multiplayer Betas and this brings me to a tangent that I want to visit: Stand-Alone Multiplayer. Back when MW2 dropped and its multiplayer began life as a glitch riddled bug-fest it brought up a real flaw: MW2 never offered a public Beta. Considering the known popularity of this title, that was a glaring over-sight. This brought up the potential that the next one would feature a stand alone multiplayer so the added income could support a staff dedicated to patching game issues quickly and efficiently. This was a bunch of garbage. To me that seemed like they intentionally sabotaged themselves in order to squeeze the gaming public out of more money. Now, with an XBL Gold membership you had free access to multiplayer public betas. These make tons of difference to the dev teams. If Sony did that then PS3 owners could have that same opportunity and then glitches and bugs could be taken care of.

As an added note after reading this: I seem like a bit of a 360 fan-boy. This is not the case at all. I'm not going to say I hate the 360 (Though I do remember the gaming public raising a collective middle finger and Micro$oft when the original XBox dropped), but I don't love it either. I was actually leaning more toward the PS3. I actually feel disillusioned by the problems that I've been having with my PS3. The only nod I would ever be able to give my old 360 over the PS3 is the network experience...and even then I prefer the fact that the PS3 has built in wireless.

I know there would be a lot of resentment if the console that offers up all of the things that it does for free were to suddenly charge for them. I think after the growing pains and awkwardness were to subside the end result would be much better for all PS3 owners. However, I feel a little resentful now because I switched to the PS3 because of all the 360 Hardware issues I've had and the PS3 suffers from network issues. If they were to start charging a fee like $7 for things like their multiplayer I would gladly pay it for at least a year if the end result was the over-all improvement of their network.

Trying to cope.

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I'm circa 2 weeks from the follow-up with my neurologist to discuss the findings of my spinal tap and get my diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. Then I can finally discuss options for controller medicines. I've lost so much of in the last few months. In february I was stricken with what turned out to be a bout of MS induced vertigo. It baffled half a dozen doctors and had me bedridden for a MONTH. Then came the loss of vision in my right eye. That still isn't fully resolved. It still doesn't work.

What has been torturing me is that just the other day I felt another bout of vertigo coming on. I called my neurologist and they faxed a script for a steroid pack to my pharmacy. Now I'm in bed to avoid triggering it again. The steroid pack seems to be working. However, it's only been one full day (just two pills short of day 2) on the steroids. I can't say for certain yet, but it feels like it's helping.

When I was first told of my diagnosis I was crushed. I know a lot of people out there have said they've felt crushed, but if you haven't been given any kind of diagnosis of a permanent illness I don't think you can fully understand crushed. And the Dr. that told me my MRI showed clear signs of MS was about as concerned and delicate as a mechanic when he tells a customer he should consider replacing his brake pads. I was almost positive I couldn't drive home from his office. I could barely talk to the assistant who was attempting to set up an appointment with the neurologist. The drive home was bad. I had Slayer's "God Hates Us All" in the CD player, full volume, and by the half-way point on my route home I was screaming along with it, punching the steering wheel, tears streaming down my face. When I got home I pulled up to the curb, shut off the stereo and managed to navigate my way back into the house. I collapsed on the couch, a shaking, screaming, sobbing mess. The first few days were horrible. I couldn't get up, I couldn't do anything. I was useless. I felt as if my life had ended. I felt like that doctor had told me that my life was over.

My initial trip to the neurologist hadn't helped. They looked at the MRI and agreed with the first doctor. Then they ordered a spinal tap to be sure. Then they immediatly started discussing IV Steroids to restore my eye (the first doctor had cautioned me that IV steroids destroy the single blood vessel providing blood to the hip thus causing necrosis and leaving me needing a hip replacement0. It was all moving so fast and I wasn't even over the "I'm certain you have MS" (and they even showed me the lesions on the MRI). Everything was moving so quickly. I didn't have time to process. For any of you who haven't hada spinal tapdone (or an epidural for women who have given birth, though those are worse) let me tell you...the pain is horrific. The injection to numb it was excruciating. It felt like they were injecting liquid fire into the small of my back. Then when they stuck the needle in to do the spinal tap (aka "Lower Lumbar Puncture") it felt like someone parked a full-sized Dodge Duelly Diesel on my hip. Apparently the needle was a larger form of the same type used to draw blood. With this thing in my spine (in the envelope around my spine) I had to roll from my stomach to my side. Before I went down to get the puncture they took about a dozen vials of blood. If I hadn't been so terrified I would have insisted they at least leave me enough to get home. As for the aftermath my right leg still feels funny. The foot occasionally gets that feeling like it was asleep and the blood came rushing back in. The hip periodically burns in a similar way. It's weird. My cousin's wife had one before and she said that she would get a piercing pain around the injection sight that would leave her immobilized sometimes when she tried to sit or stand.

Then I got the IV steroids, three doses in three days and then a 6 day oral dose pack. At this point, the diagnosis still new, and me still scared s***less my wife was in Florida on a trip to see her family that they'd been planning for months. While I was getting a needle in my spine she was touring the Daytona Speedway. Nice, she gets to see Jamie McMurray's winning car and I get Dr. Josef Mengele wedging needles into my back. I'm a little resentful but I really can't hold it against her. It was to see her father. She hadn't seen him in almost a decade, her grandparents in an even longer time than that. Anyway, for those of you who haven't had IV steroids, they hype you up. I didn't feel it at first, though I did notice I was eating a lot more than usual. Later that night I did notice I was wound up like a spring. I wanted to go in the garage, crank up the terdmill, and run like hell. I didn't, but that's about how wound up I was. The problem was, espcially after the 3 day IV treatments, I was in my house alone. I would attempt to improve my mood but the thought that these pills and these needles are my life now would start eating at me. I did just about everything I could to distract myself. My desktop is shot and my wife took her laptop to Florida with her. However, I had my Wii and the Netflix disc. (IMHO the Netflix Wii disc isn't as good as it could be. It has no real browsing capabilities with nothing more than "Previously Watched" and "Based on your interest in..." as the bulk of it, just download the internet channel and use that) I wore that poor thing out. I finished all of the episodes of Monty Python and watched GAWD Awful B-Movies from Troma (the studio repsonsible for The Toxic Avenger Series) like Mother's Day, Hellblock 13, and Surf Nazis Must Die. I watched about 20 episodes of Dilbert and the few MST3K's I had left to stream. It wasn't enough. The thought that my life was over kept creeping back into my head. I broke down randomly and would catch myself crying out of nowhere.

Now after a little while this was more the s*** in my head. The neurologist had given me a few things that helped to keep me from going to the nearest gun store, getting some ammo for my Glock and then force-feeding my skull a piece of copper-jacketed brass. They said they didn't see any on my brainstem so the condition won't paralyze me. They said it wasn't on my frontal lobe so I won't go crazy. It helped, but my mind is really hard to silence sometimes.

Now I have the second bout of vertigo and I keep getting that feeling that "this is my life" now. It's getting easier to cope with now that my wife is here with me, but the bills are still piling up. I need the diagnosis because that can take care of the bills for me. But I need that diagnosis. And I need some controller medicine so I don't keep losing my eyesight or getting bouts of vertigo.

I want to be a tattoo artist. I've even got my licence to do it. But with this coming up and the potential for it to affect my motor skills has me freaking out in my weaker moments. I've been practicing and trying to find friends and family to tattoo. I also talk to my tattoo artist/the man who taught me to tattoo (Ray Frost) whenever I'm there. I like to know how he works and how he does what he does. But again, this MS thing has me freaked right the f*** out. It keeps creeping in there. I can't out-run it and I'm sure I won't feel better until I get the controller meds and can see that it's doing it's job.

Beauty (Surprisingly Up-Beat entry)

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The sky tonight is so beautiful. The cool, crisp air has helped to really let you see many more stars. Even the almost constant roar of saturday night/post UK football game traffic on the main road 100 yards from the balconyand the sickly yellow and glaring white lights on the road and in a nearby parking lot are not enought to diminish the beauty of this night sky.

This is a very active time of yearfor meteorites and every 5 to 10 minutes a small area of the blackness plays host to the fleeting sliver of a shooting star as it passes through our atmosphere.

ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS.

Customer Service...WTF? (WARNING: Major Rant)

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I've had to spend a bit of time in retail stores over the last several days and so far I've come to one single conclusion:

The "art" of Customer Service around here is DEAD. D-E-A-D. Six feet under. Kaput. Deceased. No more. GONE!!! It's hanging out with Jimmy Hoffa and Elvis Presley.

Example one:
Store: H. H. Greg
Reason for being there: Price match on a sweet HD TV
Problem: I went in to check out some HD TV's. Originally they would do internet price matching, but I guess someone alerted corporate office to streetprices.com. After informing me that they have stopped doing internet price matching and me just accepting it, the sales person turned into an insufferable douche bag. Normally they will follow you around and ask if you have any questions to answer and do other things that are traits of good salesmen. I guess he thought I was some broke piece of white trash who stumbled in thinking he was going to hose the company. Either way, he sat at his desk checking his hours while I just kind of wandered around trying to find a TV with a comparable price. When I opted for one on clearance and he was actually forced to go in the back and see if they had one you would have thought I waved a shotgun in his face and forced him to dig his own grave. I actually decided to just tell him what he could do with both his TV and is attitude and I just bought one at Circuit City. No problems there. You would expect that someone getting a percentage of $650+ would be a little nicer about it.

Example two:
Store: Walmart (this is going to be good)
Reason for being there: Only thing open around here at 3am (multiple visits)
Problem: Getting games from the case usually becomes an hour long ordeal (sometimes longer) while they run around in circles looking for the @$$hole employee with the case key who is apparently on break for his entire shift and not responding to pages. Then they get the key. And they act like they're doing you some kind of enermous favor usually accompanied by the clerk rudely grumbling at you "I don't know anything about video games so just point at it, alright?". Hey, d!ck, you may not be able to tell people the pro's and con's of a PS3 vs. an XBox 360 but surely to God YOU CAN READ! If I say "Forza Motorsport 2 for the XBox 360" surely even you in your high school drop out planning on making a carreer out of wally world glory can look at the boxes and see the one that says "Forza Motorsport 2" capped with the corporate logo reading "XBox 360". Idiots. Last time I was there during the day I was at the Subway they put in the store and there was a group of employees presumably taking their lunches out there making total @$$es of themselves, making tons of noise and annoying everyone. And one guy had a laugh like a male Fran Drescher. Last time I worked a retail and/or grocery job like that I was forced to take my breaks in the back in the Employees Only area so we could unwind and be obnoxious without costing the company business.

Example 3:
Store: EB Games
Reason for being there: GAMESPOT DID NOT CHANGE THE DATE POSTED ON THEIR SITE FOR SKATE ON THE 360.
Problem: I went into the store and asked for a copy of skate, not knowing they changed the release date. I don't live on the internet 24/7 looking for updates so I still believed it came out today. Curse me for assuming a video game website would have the right release date for a game and even last week during their commercials they said the 11th. After standing in line for 10 minutes while the clerk attempted to explain the trade in system to a guy with obvious mental difficiencies and being patient and not doing things like sighing, grunting, looking at my watch, crossing my arms or any other manner of "hurry it up, I'm getting impatient" gesture I finally get to ask for the game. When I do I get an incredibly rude "We don't have it" followed by him actually sighting the PS3 release date and I said "I thought it was supposed to come out today". He promptly punches a few keys on the computer acting as if, he too, had been forced to do something absolutely horrible. Then he rudely informs me that the correct realease date was the 13th and they wouldn't have ituntil the 14th. So, I think I'll be buying the game at Target along with every other video game I would want.

There are about 3 or four more examples I could describe here but I don't think it's necessary. Now, to clarify in the case of the sales situations I must point out that I wasn't going in there being rude or even curt with the sales people. I was being respectful largely becuase I've worked craptacular retail jobs before. They brought their own attitude from some other source. The last one I actually got rude with when I left was the guy at HH Greg. I do believe my exact words after he sighed "Yeah, we've got one" like a child does when youhe hasto do something he doesn't wanttowas "You know what, since you know where it is why don't you shove it up your fawking @$$. I want an HD TV for my video games but I don't want one badly enough to put up with your $h!tty attitude. Where's your supervisor?" After registering a short, more-than-likely-useless complaint with the available store manager I left. I also complained to the store manager at walmart which I'm sure did absolutely no good.

I'm only 24 so I hate to sound like some kind of grizzled old tymer but I have to say it. I remember a time in this country where customer service was something which required you to develope PEOPLE SKILLS. At one point people greeted you with a smile (or at least WITHOUT an attitude) and actually tried to help you. Even if they don't go that far I'm just sick of the constant wave of people being douche bags all the time and nothing happening to make these people learn they have to stop that if they want to get anywhere in life. It just sickens me that everyone around here just seems to be getting worse. I'm going to become one of those psychotic modern hermits who stays in his house and orders everything from the internet.

Bioshock and other new video games (editorial commenting and a bit of a rant)

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As of yesterday morning I completed Bioshock on the PC. I was pleased with this game but not overwhelmed. The graphics are exceptional and it looks like the next UT game is going to be superb. The plasmid power-up system is pretty nice and lends an interesting touch to this game. Hacking security devices, vending machines, and door locks is fun and the old school setup of the minigame lends a great touch to everything. The story is nice and the excellent twists are truly enjoyable. There was nothing really wrong with this game at all. There were no odd play control glitches, no crash bugs, no hardware conflicts. It was a solid and enjoayable game and well thought out...if not a little too easy. That isn't really a complaint, so much as an observation. It's a great game and I think it largely lived up to the hype and deserves its critical praise and high review scores.

But...

The game just feels so hollow to me. So many video games coming out now have disappointed me, not because they're bad games, but just because they all have that "been there, done that" feel. The current wave of video games has failed to really excite me. I'm interested in getting my hands on the retail version of Skate and I plan on buying the new WoW expansion when it drops, but I'm not truly psyched about any new games. They all seem so freaking similar to me. I'm actually getting quite sick of FPS titles and I just fail to get too excited when I see that a developer has loaded another FPS round in their chamber. I was also hoping that the new generation of console technology with all of its power and storage space would lead developers to attempt to utilize the technology to try something new. Instead they've just trumped up the asthetics of and some of the physics assosciated with genres we've been seeing all along. I just want to see something new for once. The DS (which I own) and the Wii (which I'm having a monster of a time finding) offer the promise ofa temporary diversion with their unique peripherals and some calssic games from the early days of the home console wars but it still isn't enough since I'm sitting on my PC, PS2, XBox, 360, which are just horribly expensive omni-directional bilge bumps of mundane carbon copy video games. Hopefully once developers are truly comfortable with the limits of the consoles and their controllers we'll see some of them get adventurous and produce a few new things that are a bit out of sorts with the mainstream gaming community. Of course, that will only happen if the big guns (Sony and Microsoft) don't decide to get into another hardware power pissing contest and come out with the PS4 and NeXBox (or whatever the fark they plan on calling it) too damned soon.

That's another issue, I hope I'm not the only one who felt that the PS3 and 360 dropped a bit too soon. I was disappointed to see these two companies abandon their consoles when they could have really pushed them a bit harder. Developers had really begun tofind those systems' limitations and could have started trying truly new and original things. Of course then Nintendo was almost forced to release the Wii to keep up. (And I am really pissed at them for creating ademand for their product they couldn't possibly meet) I think the main reason we're seeing a lack of originality right now is because the hardware for these consoles remains virgin territory and the limits of these systems have yet to be found they are just kind of occupying media storage space with the info to trump up the graphics and make prettier games. If developers were given greater time to play with these consoles and actually aquaint themselves with the hardware and get comfortable with its limitations then eventuallyno developercould opt to just make a better looking game. This would force developers to go back to the drawing board and try to truly make better and different games to gain an edge over the competition.

And before you ask, I am NOT looking forward to Halo 3...at ALL. I am not a Halo fan. I was truly disappointed with the first game (and yes, I have played it for the PC) and while the multiplayer is enjoyable it wasn't enough for me to like it.

Behind the times, but....Skate looks excellent

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I finally dl'ed and played the demo for skate, all of a week before the game hits store shelves. Yeah, way to keep pace with the rest of the world, right? Anyway. Going into the game after talking to my future brother-in-law and reading some of the information on this and other similar websites I was beyond apprehensive about it.You can agrue "user feedback" but check out some of the player reviews for other games that actually give abysmal games scores of over 9.5. The control scheme, from all accounts, sounded overly complex and needlessly complicated. I have to say that everything worked together incredibly well and the control scheme was challenging but not maddeningly frustrating. As such it makes any of the combos or even single moves you pull off (espescially early on while you're still learning to handle it) extremely rewarding and the feeling is very addictive.

I also really appreciated the fact that the game works to achieve a more realistic skating experience. As such even simpler tricks and combo lines seem more rewarding. Also (as evidenced by the competition in the demo) it means that goals and objectives will be more realistic, no more "grind the switch, wall ride the weakened wall" types of absurd goals or insane stunts that have you sailing hundreds of feet over the ground to grind on thin electrical wires and telephone poles. The skate video camera angle lends a nice touch to an already immersive feel. I also like the couple of filming challenges in the game which allow you to skate where ever you want and if they preserve the same technique to start filming challenges this game will be that much more rewarding.

All in all I am very pleased with this game and I plan on purchasing it on the 11th for my 360.

Yeah, yeah this is really late but I only downloaded the demo a few days ago.