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eggmcmuff Blog

Avast! And at last! I'm back! And part deux!

Author's note: Boy Howdy did I underestimate (and forget) what it takes to own and care for a baby! My first one was easy. Every night between 8:00 and 10:30 I'd throw him at his crib and he'd be sawing toothpicks til 9:00 am. This one, THIS ONE, has an agenda, man! If I'm doing it, he wants to be involved in it whatever it happens to be. It's hands on. His hands. Like little crab claws snapping and groping for whatever phone, keyboard or controller - he loves keyboards and controllers - I happen to be operating in his presence... which seems to be always these days. Whenever I come home from work or wake up on the weekends, it's "Oh daddy! I have such BIG PLANS for us today! I can sit in your lap and we can watch TV! I can sit in your lap and we can play! I can sit in your lap and you can read me a book! I can sit in your lap and just sit in your lap!"... It's getting to the poi...*WAIT*... he knows I'm not near! no. sudden. movements.

...crap ...

He's in my lap now. He knew something was up. He wants to know why I'm touching his keyboard without him.

Anyhoo, I'm typing with one hand now (something I haven't done since meeting Mrs. mcmuff on Craigslist personals *rimshot*) and if it ain't now, it's never, so let's press forth shall we?

More Author's note: So I left off with a cliff hanger and thought I'd be back in two days. Since then, I've had two colds, my wife and six-year-old have had the flu & pneumonia and my little one spiked a temp of 104.5 to go with his nasty cough - and let me tell you: on a scale of 1 to 10, having your infant spike a high fever during the current swine flu scare is a -25! Also, I knew I was in trouble when mjoanne opined: "I wonder when part 2 will come", or something like that and I thought "Now why you gotta say that?". Jinxed me she did, but I'll own my part. Sickly household aside, I know I'm a terminal procrastinator. I'm a "master of suspense and anticipation". There. I said it. Sarcastic "quoty-fingers" up and all.

Even more author's note: So's anyway, I started the whole piece with the concept that in spite of my penny-pinching ways (a point I layed on mighty thick), modern console ownership means I'm BUYING MORE BRAND NEW GAMES THAN EVER BEFORE. At $60 a pop, I've bought Killzone 2, Demon's Souls (Deluxe, actually $70) CoD World at War, Modern Warfare 2, Il-2 Sturmovik, Operation Flashpoint... etc.. etc... And at $20 to $30, BioShock, MGS4, Lego Batman (for my son) and Fallout 3 all sit half-finished & collecting dust, waiting for their turn on my ever growing, eternal, perpetual backlog. My point was to be that modern gaming so good and that I've become such a junkie that even this tightwad's cash was up for grabs if it meant getting at the "good stuff" current machines offer.

As my brother somewhat politely says about me, I can be somewhat... um... circuitous when making a point (if/when one is to be made) so failing to begin with the end in mind, I started tapping away at the keyboard, couldn't wrap it up in a timely fashion while making an actual point and didn't want abandon ship with an hour and a half invested. Sound familiar?

Anyway, consider this my official apology (if you're still reading).


So now, to my patient faithful, without further ado, I give you the rest of the story:

It worked.

The end.


Yarrr! A Poor Man's Briny Tale of Modern Gaming! Part 1.

Throughout my long and storied gaming history I've always been a late-adopting skinflint and a prideful bargain bin dumpster diver. The first & only state o' the art system I ever owned from launch was my Intellivision and that was after a solid month of constant browbeating from my older brother when I balked at spending my entire $100 (in 1980 dollars!) savings to go in halfsies with him on that fateful, fateful purchase. Up until the last few years, I had been in and out of the hobby, not really paying much attention to what was hot or new and have generally only bought systems on the verge of irrelevance, when prices are low and a bushel of decent titles can had for the $60 of single brand new game. Fancy graphics and cutscenes be damned, I revelled in being a tightwad and figured gameplay conquered all when it came to the soul of the experience. Little did I know that my strict adherence to my cheapskate ways would ultimately be the undoing of an identity forged well before Metroid or Madden even existed.


Last February, the late, great Bedlam came to me with an offer; a friend of his had a faulty 60GB PS3 that wasn't reading Blue-Ray media, but was otherwise fine. He wasn't so interested in keeping the 13 pound cinder block of a PS2 he now had and was willing to part with it, a headset and two well-worn sixaxis controllers for $160! My luck with Sony products had already been established: a freebie "bricked" PS2 I acquired from coworker needed it's lens realigned - nothing fancy, anyone with a $5 jeweler's screwdriver set could do it - and a $40 PSP off of Craigslist simply required a new LCD. A couple clicks on ebay and $17 (shipping & handling included) had me in clover! The thought of having Sony's entire gaming product line for a little over $200 was too much. I would finally be current AND I was getting over on The Man! Tall clover, indeed! I began searching YouTube for tutorials and it was back to ebay for the Blue-Ray laser assembly.

It was a funny exchange after a half-dozen, or so, phone calls and settling on meeting Bedlam at a restaurant in town. As we met in the parking lot he held it in it's original case and I felt as though I should have said something like " The blue canary flies at midnight" to which he could have responded "So does the spotted hummingbird"... or something like that... as I handed over the cash and took the case. When I got it home and unboxed it, it was pretty well marked up and the silver "3" was missing from it's cover, but it purred to life without a hiccup and the glorious title screen greeted me with an elegant symphonic intro. Now this was living! It was intoxicating. I was finally "living the now" in gaming. That is except for the little Blue-Ray problem. Sure enough, when I inserted the copy of MGS4 I bought on the way home, no icon appeared. My old standby move of blowing on the disc (Hey! It worked for cartridges!) did nothing for the stoic PS3. However, as promised, God of War II booted and played beautifully. Small victory aside, my inner cheapskate began to fret about the $100 laser assembly I had to buy on ebay. I unplugged the machine, consulted one last YouTube tutorial and with tiny screwdriver in quivering hand, I began exploratory surgery.

With the console splayed open, internal covers removed, various springs and levers akimbo, there rested the delicate & tiny laser assembly! My hands were still shaking as I paused and read the numbers off the carriage housing. Double checking the digits with the assembly I had queued on ebay, it was all systems go. I was one click away. It was then, as I relaxed and settled my nerves (did I mention I'm ADD and rather high-strung?) on a sip of beer, I had a "Luke Skywalker-at-the-exhaust port" moment! I stretched my back and took a cleansing breath. The voice in my head didn't implore me to trust The Force so much as it said "Moron! Get a Q-tip and some rubbing alcohol." I took another sip. Then I got a Q-tip and some rubbing alcohol...

Riveted yet?

End part 1!

Or actually, I gotta go and didn't start this in WORD, so...

A quick word on Dragon Rising.

You all know the "Blah! Blah! Blah!" I've put into promoting this game and I have to say, like it's older brother, "Elite", it's a title that gets mixed reviews.

Well, after cruising forums and almost finishing the campaign, it's clear they nail it's feel and overall atmosphere, but people are complaining about bugs and AI.

The truth is: It's a demanding game with a ton to manage, but I have yet to encounter any bugs or glitches AND the AI seems fine. They follow orders well and engage the targets I assign. I'm not sure where the all the ire is coming from. I understand that this might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I ain't no noob when it comes to this series and I ain't had ONE problem with my fire team throughout the campaign. NO teammates staring at walls. NO refusal to follow my lead. NO AI running blindly into the line of fire. I dunno. Like I said... It's not for everyone.

If you manage your team correctly THEY WILL NOT CROSS YOUR MUZZLE during fire... And the one time my AI buddy did, he was ordered to engage and was stepping into a better line of sight. My fault. Not his.

Like I said, I dunno...

While it's not as "complete" a game as OFP: Elite, it's more streamlined, better looking and solid throughout. I expected changes when Bohemia and Codemasters "divorced" and went their separate ways and I'm not surprised Codemasters went for a slight "dumbing down" on squad management and mission type in favor of a smoother, more polished & refined gameplay experience. The old one was a favorite of mine, but it could be a clunker... C'mon! It had a lot going on under the hood... Just like this one.

My quibbles?

Not enough vehicle play in the campaign. I love Helo's! Let me fly them!

Enemy AI can stand around in the face of heavy fire (but only when you're far away) and will take fire without reacting... Especially at gun emplacements.

You can't choose weapon loadouts.

You can't have your fireteam scavenge weapons.

OFP: Elite was 2/3's longer!

Not enough opportunity to "jack" enemy vehicles.

Online match set up is clunky.

DLC won't come quickly enough.

It's not accessible to noobs.

Not enough map features.

And lastly (I put up with it, but if you hate it, I don't blame you): walking, WALKING, WALKING,WALKING!!!

That's it for now.

9.0 in my li'l world, including online.

OFP: Elite is still the better game, though. Think Morrowind vs. Oblivion.

There you go.

Peace Walker Demo

Well, first off, I'm proud of myself for actually downloading this thing from IGN (bless their hearts) and managing to get it onto my PSP. I'm not exactly a technical wiz over here, so as a guy who's microwave clock still blinks the eternal "12:00", I was pretty astounded when I scrolled over to saved data, pressed X and lo & behold, Big Boss' grizzled puss was staring me in the face! Hey-O!

I even managed to navigate the Japanese menus and by process of elimination, I de-inverted the face button camera controls, making the game decently playable. As a matter of fact, ironically, Kojima has finally produced smooth(ish), compelling action in an MGS game in spite of the PSP's natural limitations. Who knew it would take a platform that borderline cripples FPS and third-person action for Kojima to limber up and produce any kind of frenetic game play with an actual rythm and flow? Many of those who played MGS4 felt that instead of an honest-to-goodness stealth game, they got a stiff third person shooter with sitting-duck AI and levels so linear & short they felt like intermissions between the ponderous cutscenes. Intended or not, ACTUALLY PLAYING THE DAMNED THING was secondary to Kojima's need to stretch his directorial chops and spin the final yarn in "The Epic Tale of Solid Snake". Honestly. As I played through the bite-sized levels of #4, said to myself more than once, "This thing plays like a big, fancy PSP game!". To be blunt, I think many of the changes MGS4 brought to the series were attempts at inclusiveness and accessability that simply fell flat on their face. I bring this up because, if anything (and if one can tell from a demo), my stick time with Peace Walker feels like a natural progression and refinement on many of the new ideas introduced in MGS4... Which is strange because, quite frankly, the PSP is where military action games go to die - or at least get neutered - and where quirky, experimental titles get their chance. I have to say this is the best, most fluid, most natural auto-aim system I've encountered... ever. It goes way beyond Syphon Filter and is still several steps ahead of Resistance: Retribution. Menus and weapon selection are slick & quick, which is a good thing because, unlike older MGS titles - and this is a BIGGIE - the action DOES NOT STOP when you enter menu mode! All in all, for a series that can't really pride itself on accessability, this one is a major step forward in that department and highlights the intent in Kojima's last offering.

What can I say? I'm passionate about the series.

Graphically, it's beautiful and if anything, it's more crisp than it's visual counterpart, Subsistence. There was always a slight dreamy "haze" to Subsistence that I felt was part of the aesthetic... or a clever way to mask the PS2's limitations. It was a looker, though and this one appears to top it! The movies and screen shots simply don't do it justice.

Cutscenes are handled in the way of Portable Ops. Heavily stylized black & white illustrations are overlayed with minimal animation and the occasional red dress or the orange glow of a lit cigar punctuate and bring focus to the images. Voice acting is top-notch. Criticize Kojima any way you like - a certain long-windedness remains - but he knows him some slick production and it shows here as much as anywhere, graphical limits and all. I loved this styl e in portable ops and I love it now. While it's clear that this way of handling cutscenes speaks to the PSP's lack of horse power, it would work for any game on any platform.

And on the credit where credit is due front, bluej33 appears to have called it: The series has transitioned from stealth to action if this demo is any indication. I'd just say that Kojima has finally figured out how to handle the transitions between the two... Or he's letting his underlings take more of a role. A successful control freak willing to improve his baby after a few mid-series missteps, false starts and critical outcry? Let's call him the "Anti-George Lucas".

As a relatively objective Metal Gear fan(boy), I'm very pleased, although two weird things (it's Kojima, right?) creep in: You can't crawl (WTF? #1) and you can't slide along walls (WTF? #2). If the level of sheen on the demo is any indication of the final product and they smooth out the action just a little more, this one's going to be a dandy and will probably be the most inclusive title yet in the Metal Gear Solid Series.

Droppin' like flies... Must be in the air 'round here.

There must be something in the air here lately, because the "I'm outta here" blogs are getting to be an epidemic.

Is it the fading Autumn sunshine?

Is it the school/work/family obligations that ramp up after summer?

General Stress?

Just plain bored?

I mean I've just come off my first suspension (did it standing on my head, see!) and I admit I was in violation of the terms of use. I was pretty much ready to start a fight -- not a real one... I just wanted to talk some nonsense and get a little in return, you see. The Hero feature gave the perfect outlet and I baited the right kind of guys by hitting them in the places they live. The one zing that finally got me thrown in the brig wasn't in my top five, quite frankly and I delighted in some of the return fire, what little there was.

My point is I'm punchy and my general rule of thumb to never say anything online that I wouldn't say to someone's face at a sports bar with, say, four beers in me is getting tested more and more. Problem is, it's just too easy to be a "telephone tough guy" when there is pretty much zero chance of retribution, so I've always tried to maintain some personal sense of honor in the face of the carte blanche s*it-talking privileges anonymity affords.

Now, my aim here isn't to editorialize and say that we all should be mindful of what we put out there and it certainly isn't to point the finger at any one instance or any individual therein. Actually, if anything, I'm driven to write this because the only person I physically know has given the ol' "sign off" and lazyhoboguy mentioned the practice in his last blog. Looks like I'm not the only one who's noticed. Also, I have to admit the urge to cut back, but I know as a video game junkie (I maintain we all are) that we only work in binary. All or nothing. That's it. So, when the palate is cloyed and the scene gets stale it's "Later days, fools!" instead of a quiet timeout.

I dunno. I've never really cared. To each his own, I guess.

But, lately, I've seen the need in myself to step back and as the urge grows, my cantankerous side has stepped up. Little things have been getting under my skin in and beyond this online meeting place... And usually I find it was my own perception, my own invention to take anything in a bad light, or mentally blow it out of proportion if the "insult" was real. Thankfully, by and by, I've held my water. It's tough, though and between sleepless nights with a three-month-old and honest-to-goodness, constant family drama (oh! I relate to the prezzy's), it only makes sense to take a bite out of an easy target.

But that's not what Im going to do.

Nor am I going to announce my departure.

I might scale back.

Although, probably not. It's the junkie in me.

What can I say? This wasn't the tone I wanted to convey when I started typing over an hour ago, but here we are.

Maybe it's the lunar cycle. Maybe it's the economy. Maybe we've played 'em all and we're just bored.

One thing is for certain, though. I'm seeing a lot of people wanting to jet lately and I'm feeling a little a' that bug, too. Maybe there's a bit of therapy in admitting it to myself and saying it out loud.

Suspension over.

After three years, I was wondering what it was going to take. Apparently the Hero event got the best of many a Gamespot denizen if my summary slap on the wrist and subsequent dismantling of the "voter sound-off" feature was any indication.

I found out after the long weekend.

So sad to see GS water down their best feature since I've been here. I really enjoyed the give & take of a little trash talk, but alas, on teh internets for every "telephone tough guy*" like me, there are three or four li'l ones who's hides are thick like rice paper.

mcqueen

Above you see yours truly explaining to the Gamespot staff exactly what I meant by calling Halo fanboys "Prepubescent, booger-eating, screen licking dung monkeys". It wasn't even the worst thing I said! I thought it was pretty funny at the time. Them, not so much.

I hope the little rat who tattled stubs his toe and loses the nail.

Just kidding.

Although, not really.

The Gamespot Hero Brackets: Megaprops to Gamespot...

... Credit where credit is due, they finally got one right.

Another palate-cleansing blog, cuz I don't have time for a real one.

If you haven't checked out the hero voting thing the Gamespot's been putting on lately, you really should. It's actually pretty awesome and I'm having fun with it. You'll definitely find out who shares your gaming (and other) sensibilities and get to talk a little trash.

I see rampant, hilarious fanboyism getting to a fever pitch as the rounds whittle down and I even see myself getting a little dander up with sackboy poised to beat the great Bo Jackson in round one. The youngin's are killin' us I tells ya!

Let's put it this way: If 'Sister Christian' didn't take it's proper turn as your favorite song of all time, you probably are too young to understand what it was like to live in a golden age of double-base drum kits, double-decker limo's, Howard Cosell, fearing nuclear Armageddon (Oh to have that back! It was sooo simple then!) Ronald Reagan and Redskin superiority. And bad hair! Yeah! Lots and lots of really bad hair... Although that does seem to be coming back...

Um... Where was I? There was a point around here somewhere...

OH YEAH!

Bo Jackson.

He was great. And that Monday Night Football game when he totally trucked Brian Bozworth on one touchdown and ran up the tunnel - just kept on going, he did - after scoring that other touchdown? That was so cool!

And you couldn't tackle him in Tecmo Bowl. Everybody just bounced off! Which made you mad if you weren't the Raiders.

So he's my champ.

Check out my bracket to the left and see just how right I am!

And check out the All Time Greatest Hero thing.

You'll see.

MOTO-ring! What's your price for flight? In finding mister right!...

Arkham Asylum: Game Informer's Second Opinion Review.

I'm not a huge Batman or comic book fan, but I've had my eye on this one from the get and felt it had "9.5's-to-10's" written all over it since reading Game Informer's September '08 cover feature.

For those who don't get Game Informer, it features a thorough main review and a second review which is more reminiscent of what you'd find in EGM back when it existed. I would have loved to put up the main one, but I can't cut & paste (a fire fox thing, apparently) and I ain't gonna type forever.

This is probably illegal (don't rat me out), but here is the Second Opinion review from GI:

"For years, all I ever wanted was a decent Batman game. With it's superb blend of action, stealth, survival horror and Metroid-like exploration, Arkham Asylum finally delivers video games' equivalent to Batman Begins. Arkham's greatest success is making you feel the power of the Caped Crusader.

Any comic reader can tell you about those awesome moments when it looks like the bad guys are about to do something dastardly then - from out of nowhere - batarangs knock their guns away and Batman single-handedly takes down twenty men. Arkham Asylum is filled with these moments, but now you're the one kicking guys in the head as you ninja drop from the ceiling, silently picking off criminals one at a time as the rest of the group slowly goes insane with terror. I never got sick of playing with Bruce's million-dollar gadgets, or fighting armies of Joker's goons with a battle system that looks so badass Rocksteady wisely threw in a series of challenge rooms just to show it off."


9.5

There you go.