I guess this thing still works.
Just an FYI if any of you actually read this: my gaming blog has a new home and address: ShoutsFromTheCouch.com.
Hope all is well.
I guess this thing still works.
Just an FYI if any of you actually read this: my gaming blog has a new home and address: ShoutsFromTheCouch.com.
Hope all is well.
This isn't a goodbye; I will still be lurking and reading. But I am picking up stakes and settling out in the blogosphere.
You can find me at the new location of Shouts From The Couch.
As was the case with a lot of other people, I was pretty disappointed/concerned about the state of the Burnout franchise when I started messing with the demo. That said, I've spent a lot of the past 2 days playing it, and now I feel pretty comfortable saying that I get it.
The closest analogy I can come up with is Crackdown, another open-world game. The thing about Crackdown - as with Burnout Paradise - is that while there's official stuff for you to do, a great deal of the game's enjoyment can be found simply by exploring the world. Crackdown had orbs for you to find; Burnout has gates and billboards to smash. I've played for almost 8 hours by now and I've really only done 15 actual events; I've mostly just been trying to find everything there is to find - which also just so happens to be a really good way to learn all the hidden routes and shortcuts.
It can be frustrating to not be able to immediately restart an event - something I find myself doing a LOT when I play Burnout 3 - but you get over that pretty quickly, because chances are there's a similar event a few blocks away from wherever you end up finishing. The only real pain is when you're doing a "Burning Route", which is an event specifically tied to the car you're driving, but even then, as you drive yourself back to the starting point, you get a better sense of how to improve your chosen route.
Visually, the game absolutely kicks ass. The sense of speed is breathtaking, and I'm still driving low-level cars. Crashes look as good as they've ever looked; they are visceral and explosive and while they can slow the game's reckless pace down, they're always well-filmed.
Sound-wise, I should say right off the bat that I pretty much hate everything EA Trax stands for, and I hate hate HATE DJs who tell me what to do.... BUT the very first song that came on when I starting playing yesterday just so happened to be my favorite song of 2007 - LCD Soundsystem's "Us v Them."
Another good thing to point out is that while EA has been as shameless about in-game advertising as any developer out there, the signage in this game is relatively unobtrusive. It's there, to be sure, but it's not nearly as oppressive as it's been in other EA games.
So, yeah. I'm liking it a lot more than I'd originally anticipated; the controversial design choices end up making a bit more sense when you start getting into the game's natural rhythm. It's not just a driving game this time around; it's also a really slick-looking toy.
Maybe it's because we're in the January videogame doldrums, or maybe it's because I'm sad that so many longtime GSers are bailing, but I find that I'm not really spending that much time on this site anymore. That said, until I figure out where else to put all my game-related musings out on the 'tubes, this remains as good a place as any.
And since Burnout Paradise arrives next week, which (for me) officially gets 2008 started, I guess I've got some things to say.
First things first, though - I've not really been gaming very much over the last month, which is frustrating because I'm soooooo close to 30K. I bought Call of Duty 4 so that I could try to get more Achievements from doing the campain on Veteran, but it's just too goddamned hard. Hell, I even bought Boogie Bunnies or whatever it's called to try and squeeze out some points. Here's hoping BOPC has a nice Points curve to it.
Speaking of Burnout, I couldn't NOT download Burnout 3 through XBL's Originals program. I'd traded in my copy of BO3 when BO4 came out, and then traded that copy in towards the 360 version, and then traded that in when I'd hit the wall (so to speak). BO3 is one of my all-time favorite games; I spent HOURS AND HOURS with that game, both online and off-. It's interesting to come back to it after however many years it's been; certainly the graphics are suddenly a lot worse than I remember, but the sense of speed is still astounding and the controls are still rock solid. I do miss pounding the B button to get additional Crashbreakers in Crash mode, which was one of BO4's big additions, but still - that game remains as awesome as it originally was.
Even though I've not been gaming very much lately, I HAVE been making great use of my HD-DVD add-on. I will eventually get a PS3, if only for the Blu-Ray, but for now I'm snatching up as many HD-DVDs as I can. If any of you have it (or a plain old HD-DVD player), I insist that you get the Zodiac HD-DVD which just came out last week. Aside from being a really well-made film, the HD picture is jaw-dropping - it's easily the best looking HD-DVD I've seen, and I've seen most of the good ones. The Matrix movies look really good in HD, too; Pan's Labyrinth is also quite stellar; and I'm quite certian that Blade Runner is now looking as good as it ever will.
Anyway, that's the news. I will definitely be online when BOPC arrives next week; hit me up.
It's not technically 100% over - Toshiba hasn't, like, surrendered - but Warner Brothers' announcement of Blu-Ray exclusivity (which subsequently was echoed by New Line) means that Blu-Ray has pretty much won the format war, and which also means that now I have to buy a goddamned PS3, which I really didn't want to feel forced into doing, especially since I've already got 15 or so HD-DVDs. I have grown to crave 1080p content, in any form, even if it means suffering through 5 minutes of American Gladiators, and so I gotta keep with the times, and apparently very urgently. Sure, I guess it also means that I get to play LittleBigPlanet, but still - this was $500 that I really didn't want to have to spend.
I've said it before, though, and I'll say it now and again - I absolutely believe that within 2-3 years (5 at the most) this whole format war will be meaningless. Digital distribution will be the way of the future. The iPod has already proven that people can live without CDs; if the 360 and PS3's large hard drives will be used accordingly, or if there's some other storage device on the horizon, people can live without DVDs. And believe me, this is a wierd thing for me to say - I am a collector, as well as a consumer wh0re, and I like seeing my bookshelves and CD racks and DVD shelves filled with media. I like opening up shrinkwrap. But it's unnecessary. As I've also said before, 1080p content is 1080p content no matter how it arrives, and if the telecoms can ever be bothered to open up bandwidth speeds, digital distribution will be the norm. Hell, it's already happening, if bittorrent is any indication; digital distribution and commerce is the best way for the movie industry to embrace the inevitable.
In the meantime, I finally got my rental copy of Avatar and did indeed get 1000 Points in 5 minutes. Which is good, because even in that 5 minute span the game was positively reeking of suck.
Kori911 made a video that got featured in this week's On The Spot, and the soundtrack is a song I recorded a few years ago. I have yet to see it in context on the show, so I have no idea if anybody's making fun of me or not, but I'll say this - I like the song, but I hate this recording. Still, though, it's a good video and I'm glad it's getting seen.
There are rumors swirling about a HUGE Microsoft announcement at CES, most of which involve a new 360 SKU launching this fall that has new internal hardware and features either: (1) a built-in HD-DVD drive or (2) a built-in DVR. There are also rumors of a Wii-esque motion controller, but I'll believe it when I see it.
I'm on my 3rd 360 right now. My first one (the "Pro") RROD'd, and instead of getting it replaced I simply kept my hard drive and bought a Core, which was working fine - but once I got a 40" LCD HDTV, I wanted the Elite, which is what I'm currently using. And in October, I bought the HD-DVD add-on, which I am now hopelessly addicted to and my HD-DVD library has already ballooned to around 15-20 titles. I love my 360 and have never, ever regretted purchasing it - as far as I'm concerned, if you considered yourself a gamer in 2007 and DIDN'T play any 360 games, you are deluding yourself - but GODDAMN, these rumors are driving me crazy. There's only so much money I can spend, Microsoft! Make up your friggin' minds!
Before I get into the RPG thing, I just want to point out that right now it is easier for me to procure illegal drugs than it is for me to buy a Wii.
After I finished my 2nd playthrough of Mass Effect, I hit something of a wall; with no new games coming out and my GameFly queue looking stale, I didn't really have anything new to play... except all the games I have that I never finished, most notably Eternal Sonata, which I sorta got back into.
I like Eternal Sonata, but I'm having a hard time really getting into it, and I think part of that is because Mass Effect was still running through my bloodstream. But more to the point - I don't really understand where the RPG is in Eternal Sonata, and to extrapolate that even further, I'm not sure there's a lot of RPG in most games that call themselves RPGs.
Unless I'm incredibly misguided, RPG stands for "role playing game", and I deem that to mean that my player character is something I have an incredible amount of control over - not just in terms of managing stats and armaments, but what they actually do. The problem is that the vast majority of RPGs that I've played really just have you managing stats and armaments - you're still doing what the game tells you to do, and your basic choice comes down to using magic or using swords. Your character invetiably gets caught up in some sort of epic story, but you don't really ever feel like you actually did anything. At least, I don't.
Mass Effect suffers from this somewhat, too, although in reverse - you can do whatever you want (sort of), and you have direct control over conversations, it's just that the inventory management part is terrible. I don't care what kind of armor I wear anymore - I just want the strongest thing I'm allowed to wear, and the best gun.
Really, of all the RPGs I've played - and I'll admit I haven't played that many - only Oblivion really seemed to embrace the concept of "role playing game" to its fullest extent. You literally made your character your own, in every sense of the word - you made it look however you wanted, and you played the game however you wanted - you could spend hours and hours in that world without even engaging in combat, and still have a blast. You could be stealthy, you could be brutal; you could be crass, you could be honorable; you could wander around towns and fields and dungeons and really take control over your experience.
I'm not really sure where I'm going with this, other than to say that I'm finding myself having a hard time getting into "RPGs" when I don't really feel connected to the role I'm supposedly playing.
Finished my 2nd playthrough of Mass Effect over the weekend. Wierd Achievement Point glitch; I played the entire game with the same two crewmembers, but only got an achievement for one of them. Also - it's a little frustrating to have sunk another 20 hours into that game to only come out with 60 new Points or so. I do want to get more Points - and I'd also like to get my character up to Level 60, as right now I'm halfway to 59 - but I'm gonna take a break until they release some DLC. (And by DLC, I mean planets and missions. I'm already up to my ears in armor, guns and ammo, and I don't need any more - I've got more credits than I can spend, and more Omni-gel than I can use.)
Also - bought Scene It, which I've been playing with my wife all week. I feel bad because I'm a movie trivia nerd and I've been winning by quite a bit, but we've still had a lot of fun with it. (It's also a nice Points-generating game - I'm up to over 700 in only a few hours.)
Also - caved and bought Call of Duty 4. I wasn't really that crazy about the single-player campaign, but it's getting GOTY all over the place, and I never really gave the MP a look. Too bad XBL was down all weekend, although I did manage to get into a few matches, and the perk/levelling-up side of things is very well done. I'm not sure anyone on my Friends List is still playing it anymore, though. Oh well.
Happy New Year, everybody!
I was home sick from work yesterday, and when I finally felt good enough to make it to the living room, I needed something to do. And so I'm now 6 or 7 hours into my 2nd playthrough of Mass Effect, using my character's stats from the first game (so I'm now at level 51 or 52) and going Renegade instead of Paragon.
It's maybe not the best game for immediate replay purposes, if only because most of the conversations are still very fresh in my mind and I keep fast forwarding. That said, I am consciously going for Renegade points this time around, so it's forcing me to pay attention - there's already been a few times where I accidentally skipped over a dialogue response.
What's funny, though, is that while I'm fast fowarding through conversations, I'm actually being even more thorough about planetary exploration than I was the first time around. Before I even start the 3 main planet missions, I'm going through every other cluster/system/planet, and I've already encountered a number of missions that I completely missed the first time around. (Actually, I'm also doing a previously unseen mission that I picked up on the Citadel, too.) The game's story hasn't changed dramatically just yet - I expect that to happen once I've done the 3 main planets - but it is kinda nice to be able to play the Renegade side of things. It's actually kinda tricky - you can't always be a jerk, or else missions close up before you have a chance to really put the hurt on.
I've not yet determined whether I'll play it a 3rd time - if I do, it'll be on a different difficulty level, and with a completely different starting character, and I'll make more of an effort to use the Force - er, Biotic powers. Right now I'm completely decked out with ridiculously powerful weaponry and I'm laying waste to everything I see, and there's almost no need to use any of those powers.
I feel a little wierd doling out GOTY awards, when I'm only rockin' a 360 and a DS, and I didn't shell out $170 on Rock Band because that's what my actual life is supposed to be like. Wiis are still impossible to find, and - as before - I am getting used to the idea of not having one, so my hunger for Super Mario Galaxy becomes less and less fierce with every passing day. And while I confess to being intrigued by the PS3's Drake: Unchated Fortune, I'm not THAT intrigued, and I've already committed to HD-DVD for the time being. And these days my PC is being used for music, instead of gaming, so there's pretty much no chance I'll see Crysis unless it gets a 360 port. That said, I'm gonna make a GOTY list anyway. It's my blog.
DS-wise, there wasn't a lot that got me terribly excited. I was tremendously underwhelmed by Zelda - I got frustrated during my 2nd or 3rd trip through that stupid dungeon and put it down and haven't ever picked it back up. Most of my DS time this year was spent with Puzzle Quest, New York Times Crosswords and Brain Age 2. (I must admit I've not yet played Picross, WordJong or FFXII, though.) And if I had to rank my DS GOTY, I'd probably put them in that order.
On the flip side, the vast majority of my 360 playtime was spent with potential GOTY candidates - which is why I haven't really needed a Wii or a PS3, or bothered to jack up my PC. The 360 had an outstanding year - I'm actually a little worried that 2008 will pale in comparison, because just between Bioshock, Mass Effect and Portal (Orange Box), you have 3 of the best games ever made, not to mention Halo 3 and COD4, and forgotten gems like Crackdown and The Darkness. I also played the hell out of Blue Dragon and I still need to get back into Eternal Sonata, which I was really enjoying before the onslaught of AAA titles hit - and as long as we're talking about RPGs, the Oblivion: Shivering Isles expansion set me back another 25 hours or so. I was a little disappointed in Forza 2 and PGR4, but I was completely blown away by DiRT.
Still, though, those big 3 - Bioshock, Mass Effect and Portal - very tough to choose between them. All three of them featured a fantastic visual design (and while Portal may not have had all the bells and whistles that the other 2 have, it's really the only way that game could look, and I think it does a remarkable job at that), a great story featuring some of the best dialogue and voice acting of all time, an exquisitely refined approach to gameplay (as different as they could be), and - most significantly - they all featured some of the most talked-about moments in all of gaming history. The meeting in Andrew Ryan's office features a pretty amazing twist that makes you rethink the previous 10 hours of gameplay; the last 3 hours of Mass Effect are as epic and exciting as any space opera can get; and Portal, well... I'm not sure any game has ever been quoted as much as Portal has, and I'm sure that "The cake is a lie" is one of the greatest yearbook quotes of all time.
If I had to choose - and, well, I guess I do - I have to pick Portal. It may have only been 3 hours long, but those 3 hours were among the most fun I've ever had playing videogames, and any time a 3-hour gaming experience can upstage HL2:Ep2 and TF2, in the same package no less, that goes a long way.
Rough time to be a gamer right now, and by "right now" I mean "right this very second, now that I've finished all the AAA titles and there's nothing good coming out until January." My Gamefly queue is mostly full of 2008 titles and/or crap that I kept pushing back in lieu of better fare. Which is to say: I spent this weekend playing CSI: Hard Evidence and Naruto.
But first, I gotta talk about the Burnout Paradise demo. I've been a diehard Burnout fan since Burnout 2 on the Xbox, and I've been really looking forward to the Burnout franchise making the leap to the latest console generation for a long time now. Unfortunately, the demo has actually gotten me a little worried. Maybe it's impossible to be able to do justice to an open-world game in demo form, but for me the demo felt a bit strange - and that's not just because of the ASTOUNDING AMOUNT of product placement or the COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY AND ANNOYING DJ Atomica. Part of the problem is that it's just a small piece of the world, and there's only 3 events that are unlocked, and so you'll be driving past at least 20 events that ARE locked, so there's not a tremendous amount you can do. Another, big problem is that you can't restart an event - you have to finish the event, and then drive all the way back to the original intersection in order to try again, and if you wipe out even once you're pretty much screwed. PLUS there doesn't seem to be any way to mark a location on your map, so if you wanted to retry an event you just failed, you have to remember where you started it from. There are also now gas stations that refill your boost meter if you drive through them (which is completely unnecessary since you can fill up your boost pretty quickly simply by driving for about 5 seconds) and auto repair shops which will repair your car (which is also completely unnecessary since if you get wrecked, you respawn in a brand new car anyway).
On the plus side, it's Burnout.
Anyway, as for the soul-crushing part of this post, I rented CSI: Hard Evidence because (a) my wife is a huge fan of the show, and I thought she'd enjoy playing it with me, and (b) I'd heard the Points are really easy to pick up. As it turns out, my wife got bored within about 5 minutes, but not before saying "This is one of the ugliest games I've ever seen." However, I had to stick it out to get my full 1000 points. Here's the main problem, among many: a CSI game could potentially be really cool and really fun - I remember wishing that Condemned did more with the CSI aspect than what it ultimately had, and in an actual CSI game, where you're scouring a crime scene for clues and evidence, a really fun adventure-type game could be made. The problem is that the game removes any and all challenge; there's absolutely no puzzle-solving involved. The hardest part of the game is making sure you go over every pixel with your controller to get every piece of evidence; beyond that, the game does everything else. There are 5 cases in the game - it took me 3 cases to realize that I didn't have to listen to any dialogue in order to "solve" a case, and I ended up finishing the last case in the game in about 30 minutes.
Oh, and it's incredibly ugly and the controls are non-intuitive and the game does dumb things like telling you a warrant is available, but not automatically giving it to you - you have to go to a seperate location in order to pick it up, and then go back to the location you're supposed to investigate. It's a waste of time and completely unnecessary, which is a great way to describe the rest of the game, too.
I don't know why I rented Naruto, nor am I sure why I spent more than 3 hours with it when it became clear pretty early that I wasn't ever going to really enjoy it as a true Naruto fan would. I didn't get any Points out of it either, which is annoying.
Here's hoping Avatar shows up soon - while I don't think there's any chace I'll break 30K before the end of the year, I'd certainly like to get close.
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