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Pre-Ordering Consoles on Amazon...

I trust you guys as a valuable word of mouth solution to my gamer issues so here's mine:

Has anyone ever pre-ordered a console from Amazon?

How does it work?

Am I guaranteed a console?

Might I have to wait weeks?

Any help is greatly appreciated!


Story Might Not Be Enough Anymore... I Want a World!

The older I get the more I realize that I have very clear wants and likes when it comes to choosing games. An almost universal requirement for me has been the story of a game where it applies. Do I care about some kind of tacked on narrative in my Madden? No. But in just about anything else, absolutely.

Like the past five Januarys I am currently on a paid six week vacation. I typically use this time to catch on the gaming that I miss throughout the year when I'm killing myself working 70 hour, 6 day weeks.

The first game I bought to catch up on was Max Payne 3. I never had played any of the previous entries but I know how Rockstar has done some mighty fine stories in the past (Red Dead Redemption) so I thought it would be a good entry point before I completed gave myself over to another game. Bottom line: YAWN.

Don't get me wrong, the story was great. Voice acting, animation and camera effects all lead to a nice coherent story that had it been a movie I would have totally finished it. As a game? No dice.

Why did I not care? It's the world the story occupied. The world of modern corrupt Brazil just didn't do it for me. Maybe it wasn't enough escapism. Without really being able to put my finger on it that's about as specific as I can get.

Now, contrast this with two games that I have really gotten into in the past month.

Star Wars: The Old Republic went free to play not to long ago and while its definitely not as polished as WoW and its completely robbing their f2p community (that's for another blog) I've found myself completely engrossed to the point where I even subscribed to the game.

Ask me the story of The Old Republic... couldn't tell you aside from the specifics of each class story I don't know what the overarching narrative of the game is. Now, what's the world that story is set it? Star Wars! I grew up in the Star Wars generation (born 1979) so I'll overlook a lot of things in a game if it lets me occupy the Star Wars universe.

So, once I grew tired of Max Payne 3 I went off to Gamestop and traded it in for Far Cry 3.

Far Cry 3, like Skyrim (from my last vacation) is this vast open world with a story that I get. Far Cry 3, you're on some kind of grownup spring break, your friends get kidnapped by drag traffickers/ pirates and you have to save them. There's your story. On top of that story, it takes place is this magnificant world of two tropical islands.

You can do as much or as little of the other stuff the game offers if you so choose. The tropical islands are your oyster. Want to go boar hunting? Knock yourself out. Find ancient treasure? Yes, indeed. Kill bad guys? Of course.

The story is quite straight forward and almost simplistic compared to Max Payne 3's intrigue and betrayal but I'm much more entertained by it.

The next two games on my list are also there because of the world they offer and without much knowledge of the story: Dishonored (with its dystopian future) and Sleeping Dogs (Asian crime underworld). I can't wait.

Hopefully more games can not only create a great story for their games but a future component of that story has to be setting it in a living, thriving world. Alas, there seems to be hope with the future launches of GTA V and Bioshock:Infinite which seem to have these amazing worlds waiting for us, the gamers to conquer.

In the meantime, I hope everyone is enjoying what you're playing. Also let me know what you think. Do you think that big world a game occupies is as important as its story? Is it more important? Should it matter?


Checking off New Year's Resolutions...

14 months to the day since my last blog post and I'm back!

crickets chirping

To be expected I suppose. A lot of people from my heyday here are gone so I'm not sure who or if anyone might actually read this but I'm gonna just roll on.

A lot has happened in the past 14 months that I won't bore you with but the main thing that has happened during that time is that I've stopped writing. This was always something I enjoyed doing especially here on GS writing about video games and the ancillary things surrounding that world. I've just been so busy with the other stuff in life that this has fallen by the wayside but in accordance with my 2013 resolution I'm going to start writing more... and away we go.

I spent a good amount of time gaming in 2012 so that didn't change.

The first three months of the year were spent with Skyrim. Loved that game and it came at the perfect time in the year for me when I'm barely working and can completely let a game like that completely take over my life.

Mass Effect 3 followed Skyrim and I loved it. They really tightened up the gameplay and I wasn't one of those people who freaked out about the ending. It was what it was. Stop your damn crying.

Spent the summer back playing WoW after the scrolls of resurrection craze ran through my workplace and suddenly we had 8 people starting new chars and leveling the hell out of em.

Fall was spent with Madden. Really loved the new physics engine. Hopefully it was the first in a line of improvements to come in the future.

The game that really completely took over my life for a month or so was Forza Horizon. Loved everything about it. It would be my vote for "Most Fun Game of the Year".

Since then I've started playing Star Wars: The Old Republic. Its good but not great but it really scratches my Star Wars nerd itch. The way they're ripping off the f2p people is almost criminal.

For the last week of my life or so I've been completely enthralled in Far Cry 3. It's like Skyrim Lite with Guns in the Jungle! It doesn't bog me down allowing me to pick up every blade of grass, berry, piece of bread or grain of salt. I get to go nuts and with all the ways you can play it its unllikely that two people playing the game will have the exact same experience. Absolutely loving it.

Not my best work but I hope to keep plugging away, getting better and back to writing more thoughtful posts on a more frequent basis.

Hope everyone is well.


A Huge Steaming Pile...

I get home from dinner tonight to see that my Xbox Live account had been hacked and someone had racked up a good amount of charges to my credit card. I call MS 4 hours after this happens and in order to get my money back they have to suspend my account for up to 25 business days.

So, let me see if I got this straight. Someone steals from me and in order to make this whole thing right by refunding money that was stolen from me I have to give up my Xbox Live priviledges? So in order to get my money money back I also lose the right to use your service? Does that seem backward to anyone else?

I'm in the middle of loving Battlefield 3 where the only portion that's worth a crap is the online portion and now I can't play it because someone STOLE FROM ME!



Lots of Time to Game Recently...

I had a little health scare this week. No big deal and most importantly, I've gotten and continue to get better so no worries.

But I haven't been able to go to work this week (the hardest part about my being sick TBH) and since I couldn't do much more than sit on the couch I got a little bit of gaming done this week.

First off, I went back and finally finished the campaigns of Black Ops and the first Modern Warfare. I had basically made it about 3/4 of the way through both of them before I gave my time over to the multiplayer only to have the game wear on me and never go back.

I don't remember much of the MW story so I can't really comment on that one. Just your typical IW, 24-esque twists and turns, blah blah blah. The Black Ops plot though was just crazy. At some point it becomes Fight Club crossed with the Usual Suspects all rolled into the narrative structure of Pulp Fiction. So it was basically a hot mess.

I also got some time to mess around with my Civilization IV bundle that I bought a few weeks back. I finally got around to playing the expansion "Colonization". Great game, a lot more nuts and bolts management than Civ 4. Still having a lot of fun with the whole thing.

Now, let me ask you a question.

What do Half-Life, Bioshock and Condemned: Criminal Origins have in common? I'll give you a minute.

In the meantime let me ask you another question... have you ever felt kind of guilty for enjoying certain aspects of gaming that might show your darker side? Now, I'm not talking about choosing the evil path in a game I'm talking about something a little more visceral.

Back to the first question... what do they have in common? A brutal melee weapon.

Half-Life has the crowbar. Bioshock has the pipe and Condemned has damn near everything you can think of.

How do these come together in my pain medication induced rambling? I love the satisfying feeling of hitting an enemy with a brutal melee weapon that feels like it has weight and can be absolutely devasting. Smashing skulls with any of the above weapons in any of the games was just something I loved... but I feel bad about it.

There's something particularly brutal about smashing someone's skull in with a blunt object. If it happens in real life your mind automatically goes to dark places. What kind of disturbed individual would do that? It's so close, grusome and personal that you have to be a special kind of looney to enjoy it.

Put it in a video game and I love it.

Condemned has been cool so far. I got it for $7 and am only two chapters in but just being almost forced to beat people to death with a variety of blunt objects instead of shooting them has made it worth it for me.

Does anyone else really enjoy the brutal melee aspects of games? What's your favorite? Are there any that I forgot?

Hope everyone is doing well.

Take care and happy gaming!


Catching Up on the Big Picture Backlog and It's Steamy in Here...

Catching up on the Big Picture Backlog

I'll be honest. There hasn't been any game to really take over my life (other than the two week affair I had with Torchlight) since Red Dead Redemption. There's just been nothing that really appeals to me. I've tried and tried to find a great game... I just haven't.

So, in lew of new games that could take my time I've decided to devote myself to games/genres of old that I never got around to playing. Because of my Torchlight experience I've added Diablo (which I've never played) to this mystical list of "classic" games that I need to play.

Having done this with Starcraft a few years ago and having really enjoyed the concept of a strategy game but not necessarily the twitch gameplay of Starcraft I went with something a little more "heady". Civilization.

Before actually playing it, there was this mystery to the Civ series. It seemed to be the real nerdy strategy game. It wasn't about building up the biggest army in the shortest amount of time. It was about diplomacy as well as war and as a person with a political science degree the whole concept intrigued me.

As a first foray into the market as well as being frugal with my gaming budget, I'd be damned if I was going to spend the money and get a brand new retail copy of the newest version. I wanted to get my feet wet with the franchise, not marry it so I went with a Civ 4 bundle (more on this in a minute).

So far, I have absolutely loved it. Like I've talked about how DJ Hero was a game that I fit into this minute section of the gaming market I feel the same way about Civilization 4. Look, I'm a real history and politics nerd. The idea that I can take all the strengths of past empire and manipulate them as I see fit to create a better version of that same empire is an absolute nerdgasm to me.

Let me get this straight, I can prove to myself and my own ego that I can rule the Roman Empire better the Julius Caesar? Where the hell do I sign up? Watch this!

The thing that I've found most interesting (at least to those who have played the franchise) is that at some point I had discovered gun powder before my rival Civilization did and I absolutely slaughtered their people when it came time for war.

While it was awesome for me in playing a PC game I also realized that at some point that same fate befell some indiginous people to a lesser satisfaction to those invloved... at least I hope.

Great game. I haven't taken it online yet... don't know if there's still a community of people playing an older version of the game but i might one day. I guess for now, I'll just keep increasing the difficulty on the campaign.

It's Steamy in Here...

I'm not a big PC gamer. I like my WoW but that's pretty much it.

The other day my girlfriend and I were at Best Buy and she was looking at games to play on her laptop.

She looked through some PC games and couldn't really find anything she liked so I told her to check out Steam when we got home.

My experience with Steam is exclusively limited to my need to login to it in order to play Half Life 2. I had never used it as a distribution service.

I've heard good things about it, but like I said, I'm not a big PC gamer so I haven't needed its services.

I sat next to her as she browsed their selection and all I kept thinking was "damn there are a lot games in here... and cheap!".

So when it came time to get into my mystical old school catalog and get Civ 4 I decided to check out of Steam could give me a deal. I've become really addicted to buying stuff without having to leave my couch if possible. For some reason it's awesome.

I got Civ 4 and it's three expansions (one of which, Colonization, I absolutely loved in college) for $30. What a deal. Steam has honestly opened me up to the idea of using it on a regular basis for games. They have a huge catalog and their games are cheap. Who wouldn't use this?

So, anyone played the Civ series? What did you think?

What's your view on Steam? Used it? Love it? Hate it?

I wish this wasn't the first blog in a long time. I miss being a part of the community here... the real world is just kicking my you know what.

Hope everyone is well!


So, This is What Smoking Crack is Like...

There are certain watershed games that I frankly missed playing when they were popular. In my older age and with my constant need to feel like I've played most of the major gaming releases since the NES I've tried to see what made certain games popular and if they suited my gaming tastes I usually went ahead and gave them a go.

One game that I was constantly told that I needed to play was Diablo. Everyone would just go on and on about how addictive it was and how you would just keep playing hoping to get better loot. That never really appealed to me.

Compounding this opinion was the comparison of Borderlands to Diablo.

"It's Diablo with guns!"

Well... I hated Borderlands. The idea of trapsing all over this huge map just to get a new gun wore on me very quickly. I think I played it for 6 hours or so before I gave up. I hated it.

Fast forward to last weekend and I started playing Torchlight.

I cannot stop playing it. I told people that I work with about it and their responses were almost universal...

"Of course it's addictive... it's Diablo light for the console."

I won't go into why I can't stop playing it as anyone who's played Diablo (damn near everyone from what I understand) will know the addictive formula of random dungeons and hack and slashing your way to new loot.

What's the story in Torchlight? Something about a haunted mine or something?

Who is the main villain in Torchlight? Beats the hell out of me.

I don't care. Just give me a dungeon, tons of monsters and some cool drops and I'm golden.

Now that I find myself in love with the Diablo format I might go back and pickup the Diablo Battlechest for uber cheap but the biggest thing that I've found myself thinking about over the weekend was... is Blizzard going to make Diablo 3 for the consoles?

Please Blizzard... I know I'm exceptionally late to the party but for the love of God, release Diablo 3 on the consoles!

Editorial Note: Blizzard might have already come out and announced one way or the other whether its coming to consoles or not, I just don't feel like looking it up.

I have a week off from work this week and already know what I'll be playing. I can't stop. Torchlight for the win!


Lack of Adventure, Too Small a Niche, and That Thing on my Gamerscore's Lip...

Hey GS! What the hell is going on? Just a couple of notes today.

Lack of Adventure

This last six weeks of paid vacation from work have taught me a little something about the gamer that I've become. Sure, I've really started branching out of my comfort zone and embracing other genres of games but in the name of this expansion of my horizons I've lost something. I need a game with a story.

Don't get me wrong, I've having a blast with the pick up and playablity of DJ Hero 2 and Black Ops but I just can't sit down for long periods of time with them. I'm just not going to sit for three hours playing DJ Hero. Its great and its fun but its not a time sink.

Now, I did just give Final Fantasy XIII and Fallout: New Vegas a go but they were awful. I know I wrote more than a few blogs praising New Vegas but the longer I played it the more the deficiencies became apparent. The game was just flat. It tried but in the end came up short. Final Fantasy was just terrible. The franchise is dead to me.

So, I've decided to take this realization and combine it with one of my other gamer New Years Resolutions, to play more PS3 games, and get Infamous. I've heard good things and while I've played the demo I've heard from more than a few people that they hated the demo but loved the game. It's cheap, so why not?

Anyone play Infamous? What did you think?

Too Small a Niche

I picked up DJ Hero 2 about a week ago and have spent most of my gaming time playing it. I love this game because I believe that this game was made specifically for me.

Let me paint you a picture... back in the late 90's and early 2000's I was one of those weirdos in colored baggy pants with beads and pacifiers on hopping around like a jackass to electronic music until the late afternoon. I was a raver. It was awesome. The music being the best part. At a certain point during the same time period I also bought a real set of turn tables and began to mess around with dance music. Nothing serious, mixing records, playing around for little house parties.

Fast forward 10 years and it's a video game!

I love this game. The only problem is that because its made by Activision and really geared at such a small niche of the video game market that I'm afraid that my love of the franchise will be short lived. In the modern age of profits and with the majority of profits on music games coming in the form of DLC, a game with such a limited market like DJ Hero combined with the extra effort to make the tracks more or less dooms it to a short life.

That Thing on my Gamerscore's Lip

The only bad thing I have to say about DJ Hero is that the achievements are complete BS. Not that they're exceptionally difficult to achieve its that they come in odd increments. Take a look at my gamerscore. It ends in a 2. An 'effing 2!

The only way I can rememdy this is to get the last achievement with an odd number and that involves getting someone else with a DJ Hero turntable into the same room with me. What the hell are the chances of that?

I don't know why it angers me so. I just look at my gamerscore and feel like its been blighted with some horrible STD of an odd ending score and the whole world is pointing and mocking me. It's like with Billy Idol. No matter how cool he is, you'll always know he has herpes. And now my gamerscore and Billy Idol have something in common.

Hope everyone has a good weekend and is careful tomorrow during the Super Bowl.

Take care and happy gaming!


A Genuine Case of the Mondays...

See, I got it right this time!

In case you haven't noticed one of the side effects of having 6 weeks of paid vacation from work is that you quickly lose track of the days. So, sorry if my arbitrary internet rambling threw off your schedule last week. Hopefully, I'm back on schedule.

Just a few notes to get the week started.

- I bought DJ Hero 2 over the weekend. God, the game is awesome. Now, this game is niche at best. This game was geared towards any idiot who might have spent a decent portion of his early twenties dressed in multi-colored clothes with tons of beads and a possible pacifier around his neck. Yeah, that was me.

I never wanted to be a rock star at any point in my life. I just didn't. Now, a real renound DJ? Where do I sign up?

While I realize this game isn't for everyone. I absolutely love it. I see many hours being sunk into it.

- What's with the achievements on this site? Not a single one of my Fallout: New Vegas or FFXIII achievements have shown up. What's with that? Anyone else hooked up to Fuse and not having their achievements displayed in that little window?

- We went to the local flea market here yesterday and was amazed by the number of people who's sole source of income is selling vintage games. There was more than one vendor there yesterday specializing in NES, SNES and Genesis cartridges. I also saw a machine that puts my Retroduo Plus to shame. This new machine plays NES, SNES AND Genesis carts! That's awesome and I need to get it.

- I never owned a Genesis as a kid and always feel like there's a gaping hole in my gaming resume. Hopefully I can get this problem solved in the near future.

I think that's it for today.

Did anyone else miss out on a popular gaming console like I did with the Genesis? I was alive for it. I was old enough and was already an established gamer but just never got one.

How was your weekend?


It's Friday, right?

Happy Friday, Gamespotters! It is Friday, right? Earlier in the week I got completely screwed up with my days and was laughed at.

Just a little quick notes before the weekend.

- Still making my way through New Vegas and like I've said, while the story isn't as good as Fallout 3, its still a pretty good game. I will be happy once I finish it though.

- After I finish New Vegas I think I'm going to try and fulfill one of my New Years resolutions and play Infamous on the PS3. I should give at least the top tier of PS3 exclusives a go.

- I will play some Black Ops this weekend. I feel bad playing it knowing that I could be better spending that time playing New Vegas instead of just getting shot in the head.

- I checked out and so thanks to everyone who suggested those two sites for my laptop shopping. I should be placing the order next week sometime so I'll be sure to let you know what I go with.

That's pretty much it for me! What's everyone playing this weekend?

Have a great weekend!