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Pre-E3 2010 Blog: Thoughts and Expectations

Hello Gamespot! It has been quite some time since I've written a blog, so I figured with E3 2010 less than a day away it would be a good time to write another one.

I'll start off by getting a few things off my chest. The main problem I have this year is the fact that a lot of announcements that seemed like great E3 reveals have already been pumped out, with Rock Band 3 and the new Mortal Kombat being standouts for me. Now I realize Rock Band 3 had already been confirmed months ago, but the inclusion of the Pro Modes and new instruments would have made an incredible impact if presented at a press conference. As for Mortal Kombat, that is something almost nobody was expecting to hear about so soon (what with Midway's financial troubles and subsequent selling of its IP's). If they had saved their reveal trailer for E3 it could have been one of the most talked about games at this years show.

On the other hand these early announcements also have benefits. With E3 being the news juggernaut that it is, a lot of the smaller stories get lost in the sea of information. Now it will be easier for the media to scavenge out those smaller games that are tossed into a lonely corner of the show floor, since they now no longer need to spend time covering the larger stories.

On another positive note, and this one might be a bit of a stretch, is that we can now assume that developers/publishers are saving some MAJOR announcements for the actual show. We've already heard some pretty major things in the past couple of weeks, does this mean that they're going to be busting out the big guns for the press briefings? Hopefully that is the case.

Now there are some things I'm expecting to see at E3 this year, primarily from Nintendo. It seems that within the past year we've seen relatively few high-profile exclusives from The House of Mario. In fact, the only one that is confirmed for the coming future is Metroid: Other M. I expect Nintendo to reveal their plans for their core franchises, with the possibilty of a new Zelda title leading the pack.

Sony has gained a lot of ground in the past year, and they are well aware of it. The Playstation 3 has had an absolutely astounding software lineup since last years show. With Uncharted 2, God of War 3, Heavy Rain, ModNation Racers, and countless others Sony has released some of the most critically acclaimed exclusives available on a single platform, and consumers are beginning to take notice. With the upcoming Playstation Move this only seems like perfect timing. There is only one thing that Sony doesn't have over Microsoft, and that one thing is Xbox Live. Sony needs to keep their new customers roped in, so its almost a certainty that we'll see a redesign to the Playstation Network.

On the other hand Sony does have a HUGE problem; the Playstation Portable is essentially dying. Its safe to say that the PSP Go was a total failure, and the handheld's software lineup is horribly underwhelming. If Sony wants to stay in the handheld market, or at the very least stay competitive with Nintendo and the increasingly viable iPod/iPhone, they need a total relaunch of the system.

As for Microsoft, I'm not really expecting a whole lot. The big ticket for them this year is Project Natal. We will most likely hear about pricing and availability, as well as any other software support it will have. The possibility of Microsoft joining up with Hulu is something I'm staying quiet about. In my opinion it just seems kind of pointless, especially if they decide to throw a price point on it.

And as much as I would like to see SOMETHING from Valve, I've learned to not get my hopes up with them.

Now your probably saying to yourself, "Jake, all that is well and good, but what are YOU personally looking forward to?".

Since it's been a long time since I've used my Wii (Super Mario Galaxy 2 just doesn't interest me, crazy I know), I'm definitely looking forward to the possible announcement of a new Zelda title. The franchise is what got me into gaming at the age of three, so anytime there is a new one on the horizon its something I obsess over until its in my clutches.I'm also curious to see how well Nintendo's 3DS holds up, if it ends up making an appearance. If the concept is pulled off correctly, then Nintendo might have a winning product on their hands.

From here on, I'm switching to a bullet list. In no particular order:

  • APB
  • Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum II
  • Brink
  • Bulletstorm
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution
  • Dead Rising 2
  • Dead Space 2
  • Epic Mickey
  • Fable III
  • Fallout: New Vegas
  • Gears of War 3
  • Gran Turismo 5 (release date, for the love of God!)
  • Halo: Reach
  • Killzone 3
  • Kingdom Hearts 3 (?)
  • LittleBigPlanet 2
  • Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds
  • Metal Gear Solid Rising (?)
  • Metroid: Other M
  • Mortal Kombat
  • Need for Speed
  • Portal 2
  • Rock Band 3
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 4
  • Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II
  • The Last Guardian
  • Zone of the Enders (?)

So tell me, dear reader: What are you looking forward to at this years extravaganza?

New level! New pick-ups! New pictures!

Hello to anyone who even bothers to read this! Its been a while since I last wrote and I needed an excuse to post another blog.

I'll start off by saying I have ranked up from Sheng Long up to Bionic Commando. Woooh! I guess...

More interesting to talk about would be the stuff that I've been blowing my money on the past couple of weeks.

EDIT: Sorry about the pictures, they got chopped a tad bit :P

First up some DVDs/Blu-Rays:

Season 12 of The Simpsons is pure gold. For fans, this one really is a must own.

Howl's Moving Castle was one of the few movies missing from my Hayao Miyazaki collection (the other two being Porco Rosso and Castle In The Sky). It may not be his best movie, but it's still freakin' awesome.

The Louis C.K. DVD caught my eye as I was heading towards the counter to cash out Howl's Moving Castle. As it was only $5, I pretty much had to grab it. If you've never seen or listened to him before, I suggest you open up another tab and hit up Youtube. The man is a genius.

The Blu-Rays were only $10 each, and all three were new. Beerfest and The Simpson's Movie don't really need to be on Blu-Ray, but when they're that cheap it's hard to pass them up. Training Day has Denzel Washington gagging Snoop dogg with a pen. 'Nuff said.

Next a batch of Cd's:

I've only recently really started listening to doom/stoner metal band The Sword, and both of their albums came in a double pack for a mere $15. Their sound can only be described as "Black Sabbath-esque" and is heavy as hell. At top left we have another stoner rock/doom metal album, Pelican's "City of Echoes". I wouldn't be too surprised if you had never heard of them, but if you wanted to give them a listen this album is a good place to start. It's probably their least heaviest album so far and is closer to being post-rock, but it's still pretty awesome.

Next to that is the third album from indie rock band Pavement, "Wowee Zowee". Pavement is terribly underated, and also difficult to describe. You should probably give them a listen as well.

The final CD is dramatically different from the others; it's a hip-hop album.

Jaylib is the collaborative effort between two of hip-hop's greatest producers: Madlib and the late Jay Dilla/Jay Dee. Together the two (along with guests Talib Kweli, Quasimoto, Guilty Simpson, Percee P, and Frank-N-Dank) churned out Champion Sound. The album has an early to mid-nineties feel to it. I also recommend giving this one a listen.

Finally, a couple of games:

I'm not terribly far into either of these, but so far I'm enjoying both quite a bit. I've been a Ratchet and Clank fan from the beginning, and the fact that not much has changed between iterations doesn't bother me the least bit. It looks good, it's fun to play, and it's pretty damn funny. I'm happy.

I figured now would probably be a good time to play the first Uncharted, as I preordered the Uncharted 2 before I even played this one (the multiplayer beta had me hooked :P). I have no real gripes with the game right now (aside from enemies being able to take waaaay too many shots before they go down), and I'm starting to wish I had Nathan Drake proceding a bit further in my Game Heroes bracket...

So I suppose thats all from me for this entry. I know its lengthy, but I barely blog so deal with it!

Oh yeah and remember...

Uncharted 2 Multiplayer Beta Quick Impressions

Its an unbroken Gears of War.

That might be a little frank but thats basically the best way to describe it.

It's hard to not compare the gameplay to Gears of War, but at the same time its totally not Gears of War. Both games focus heavily on a cover system, and that's pretty much where the comparisons end. Let me use some bullets to explain why this is not Gears of War.

  • Uncharted 2 doesn't require shotgun abuse or grenade abuse.
  • Yes you can get stuck in cover, but the absence of a "roadie run" makes this occur far less often.
  • There's no chainsaw (insert Sideshow Bob rake moan here).
  • There's a jump button.
  • Boosters, which are basically perks (higher clip capacity, better aim, etc.)
  • You can only carry 2 weapons at once, a small one-handed pistol/SMG and a larger two-handed weapon.
  • There's no texture pop-in.
  • It's actually fun to play.

Like I said at first though, this game doesn't have any of those "what the hell" moments that Gears matches are filled with. Deaths are legitimate, your bullets make contact when they're supposed to, and grenades bounce and explode properly.

Outside of a few smaller glitches (mainly some clipping issues) this games multiplayer should be able to stand with the best of them. All I can say now is that I will definitely be picking this up when its released.

The NXE: Impressions and Guidelines

Early Friday afternoon I got home from work and sat down to play some Force Unleashed. I boot up my 360, connect to live, and it says theres been an update to the dash. Curious as to why they would update this dash with the new one coming so soon, I went ahead with the update.

Turns out that update was the NXE itself, and I suddenly remembered that I had opted in to get it early. I guess you could consider this blog an early review/rant about what it brings to the table.

When you first start up the NXE you have to make your Mi....avatar. Unlike the Wii's Miis it is actually much easier to make something that looks like you. It doesn't have creation specifics that games like The Elder Scrolls IV and Saints Row 2 have, but it has enough options to create something pretty accurate. Clothing is limited at the moment, but I'm sure more options will become available as time passes.

After creating your avatar you can take a picture of it to use as your gamerpicture, a headshot or a full body-shot. If you don't want to show your digital face on your gamercard you can still use a standard gamerpicture.

After you save your avatar the new dash itself comes into full view. The first menu item you'll see is the "Spotlight" section of the dash. This area is basically Microsoft's promotion area, with different windows advertising and promoting new games, videos in the marketplace, and contests.

The next option (going down the list) is the "Events" section. This is where they give information on the many game nights the Xbox community holds. Most people probably aren't going to look at this option very much.

Next is "Inside Xbox", which has videos basically doing more promoting. It has developer interviews, strategy videos, and more contests.

The "Friends" area has recieved a major overhaul, and its looks can change depending on the theme your currently using. Instead of being a vertical, scrolling list its a horizontal display, with those that are currently online being in the front (alphebetical order). It shows their avatars and a picture of the gamebox of the game that they are playing (if they're on the dashboard it just shows the "X" logo).

I mentioned that the "Friends" area may change depending on the theme your using. Newer themes optimized for the NXE will show special backgrounds behind your friends avatars. As I am currently using a Gears of War 2 theme optimized for the NXE various things like destroyed cars and demolished buildings show up behind the avatars.

Up next is the "Video Marketplace", which has more promotional windows and the window for accessing Netflix. When you enter the marketplace itself the layout is largely the same, it just uses the whole window-scheme that the rest of the dash uses.

Netflix works great, as long as you have a decent broadband connection. After typing in a simple code that allows you to use your 360 as a Netflix device (providing you have a Netflix account), you just add movies to your Instant Queue on the Netflix website, go to the Netflix window on the dash, and pick a movie that you want to watch. It even allows for HD videos if your connection is good enough, and the HD quality is amazing for something that is streaming. This is probably one of the best features of the NXE.

After the Video Marketplace there is the Game Marketplace. This is also largely the same as before, but with one other huge addition; the Community Games section. These are the games put out by indie developers, and there is already quite a few to choose from. The best part? They're only 200 Microsoft Points a piece.

Last but not least is "My Xbox", which shows the current game you have in your disc drive, a window to view and change your profile, as well as the game, music, picture, and video libraries. If you have the HD-DVD addon there is an option for that as well, the Windows Media Center tab, and the system settings tab.

Pressing the guide button brings up a "mini-blade" dash that is basically a simplified (and small) version of the current dash. You can access everything from here if you so desire, as I imagine quite a few people are going to do.

Now while the NXE looks good and is perfectly functional there are going to be quite a few gripes with it, most of them probably stemming from the avatars. I'm not trying to get politically incorrect or anything here but theres just something about the way they stand that looks...funny. If it wasn't for the facial hair and the ballcap on my avatar it would look like a girl. Lets just leave it at that.

The other problem is that current themes look kind of funny when used on the NXE. If you use a standard theme the main picture your going to see most of the time is  the one that is on the Xbox Live blade, and its going to be squashed down into a widescreen image. The other images are used when you access the game, musis, and video libraries, but they too will be squashed down.

The friends list is also slightly annoying. Since its not a simple list anymore you have to scroll down a line of avatars to see who's online, which is somewhat of a bother. Luckily there is a workaround: if you bring up the "mini-blade" and access your friends list through there it shows the standard list.

One of the other issues with the NXE stems from one of its major additions: the Community Games. Lets just say that most of these are only 200 Microsoft Points for a reason. They also lack achievements.

I have yet to try out the party system, as noone else on my friends list has this dash yet. Besides Netflix this probably the only other major addition, and hopefully it turns out well.

I also havn't been able to try out game installing, since I only have a 20GB hard drive and not much space on it. Based on what I've heard from previews coverage, shaving a few seconds on load times just doesn;t sound worth it to me.

So thats my impressions of the New Xbox Experience. Those that havn't already gotten it yet will be able to see what all the fuss is about in a few days. Unfortunately there is no going around it: its a mandatory update and there is no going back to the blade system. I'm sure with time we will all get use to it.

If we don't, we can always take over Microsoft's headquarters.

Thanks Gamespot!

No that is not sarcasm. I get home from work today and I find an envelope from Gamespot in my mailbox. At first I'm thinking, "Umm, what is this? Some kind of super crazy awesome special item I'm getting?".

I open it up and find a beta key for Battlefield Heroes, along with a pretty sweet dog tag. I can't remember for the life of me what I may have done or entered in that got me the beta key, but its still pretty rad nonetheless. I'm installing the game right now, will blog in more detail about it at a later date.

Bangai-O Spirits...

...is most definitely a Treasure game. It is HARD.

While it has no Story mode and no Campaign it does have a ton of increasingly difficult stages, and it is oh so satisfying when you finish one. Theres a surprising amount of strategy involved with each area, for the most part you can't just fly around guns ablaze hoping you finish the stage. The other surprising bit is that for such a hardcore shooter its not all that frustrating when you die in the middle of a stage, since the game is that much fun to play.

Sharp control + Guns + Explosions = AWESOME.

If you have a DS and are a fan of sh'mups I highly recommend picking this one up.

Some updates

Since I havn't blogged in a good long while I figured I would take some time to share what I've been playing lately.

Most recently (as in yesterday) I picked up Soul Caliber IV (SoulCaliber IV? Soulcaliber IV? Namco needs to make up there damn mind with the title). All in all, its a Soul Caliber game with pretty stages and character models. Works for me. If you want to play some matches online send me an invite. Be warned: Yoda is starting to grow on me...

Also bought Braid and finished it within the same day. Its too bad that its so short, because it really is quite an amazing game. I can't quite put my finger on it, but there's just something there amongst the mostly standard gameplay mechanics that makes it engaging. Only have the Speed Run achievment left, but I think I'll leave that for a rainy day.

I gave Bionic Commando Rearmed a try, and it seems like they toned the difficulty down a little bit. This is by no means a knock against the game, the original NES game was pretty much ridiculous. The graphics look very sharp, and it animates incredibly smooth. The soundtrack, from what I can tell of the few songs in the trial version, is also superb. I'll probably give that one a full purchase in the near future (probably in a few days due to my obsessive love for great XBLA games).

Finally I also downloaded Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People - Episode 1: Homestar Ruiner. A stupidly long title, but I love it just the same. The game is actually quite easy, even for a point and click adventure game. The good news is that they successfully manged to transcend the humor across into game form, with many laugh out loud moments. It also has Teen Girl Squad comics. 'Nuff said.

One last quick snippet; I've been getting back into Team Fortress 2 (360), so if anyone wants to play some of that then lets do it!

I come home from camp and we have a beta?

So I'm back home from camping, and I brought a viscious sunburn back with me. Highly unpleasant, but I suppose thats what I get for kayaking 5 miles down a river without sunblock.

I'm browsing through some blogs, seeing if anyone posted anything cool about their weekends and whatnot, and I discover that the site now has a new design that is in beta at the moment. So far I'm liking it, with the profile pages being a major standout since they show nearly everything right on the page now. The new video pages are also much cleaner, and the HD streaming option is a cool new feature. The videos are a little slow and choppy right now, but I'm expecting that the streams will be cleaned up at some point. Standard quality is pretty good to begin with anyway.

Hopefully with a few more tweaks (broken links for the most part) this site will become even better. If this new layout is only the first of what may be a batch of changes, then I have some high hopes.

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