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valdarez Blog

Saints Row 3 Makes Bad First Impression

SR3About 4 hours into the game now and I'm a bit disappointed with it overall thus far. First couple of minutes begin with a Star Wars like intro with a written explanation of what happened between the last installment and the current game and what sounded like some bad Monty Pythonic want to be epic music heavy with low drum beats. Some VO work with flash backs and scenes showing the ascension would have been far better. As it is, the introduction just felt cheap. Secondly, I couldn't recreate my character from the 2nd game due to missing hair types, missing tattoos (ALL OF THEM for my character including the arms, and chest were gone), and sadly the request by gamers for more voice over types for characters was missing as well.

Farts In a JarGamers complained about the camera setting (height / distance) of the driving. Doesn't appear changed in any way from SR2, and there's no customization capability to set how high or far back you'd like to have the camera whilst driving. Huge miss here by the dev team. I'm guessing on the feature request list it was just below the jar of farts you can hurl. *sigh*


NoElizaDushkuAsShaundiNo Eliza Dushku as Shandai is a huge let down. Eliza has a unique voice that really gave Shaundi that edge in the last game and fit so well with that I'm dirtier than dirt kick ass chick that you can hear it in my crackling could be a phone sex voice. Though if I believe the trailers, we get Burt Reynolds.... not his voice, no, the real Burt Reynolds. How in the world do you get Burt Reynolds but fail to land Eliza??? One word. Fail!

Saints Row ForumsTo be fair, I hung out on the Saint Row's Official Forums for awhile and mixed with the community a bit, even dabbled writing a short story in a vain attempt to learn to write (for the record, technical minds are not suited for this endeavor!) with a story I began titled Fracture. I probably have more of an idea of what the community requests (not just my own) were than the average gamer/reader, and whether or not they were realized. My own requests were primarily centered around additional customizations and tools for story and mission creation capabilities.

Finding the drivers in the game are just all over the place. Many time running me over, crashing into other cars, running off the side of the road. It's almost as if the entire driving AI is utterly glitched. Whether this is an attempt to create a dynamic over the top crazy and dangerous atmosphere or just a buggy AI it's hard to say, but either way I'm finding it far more annoying than fun.

On the framerate issues being ironed out, that doesn't quite seem to be the case. I'm playing on the XBox 360 with it installed to the HD and I'm seeing framerate issues, primarily at high speeds when coming off bridge areas into the city portions. Doesn't break anything, but is awkward and can cause miscues if driving at high speeds.

BuggyOn the bugs side, I ran into an issue with a character getting stuck in the environment in the FIRST part of the game in the plane shoot out. Couldn't figure out what to do from there as it had just explained how to hold them with Y to protect yourself. Unfortunately I couldn't get to him (the enemy as he was stuck under the baggage section on top of a seat!), and I couldn't progress without him (at least door in front of me was not openable with no hand/Y option to open). Finally, unable to grab him, I just shot the guy, and after several agonizingly slow minutes went buy (literally) after he died the door ahead of me presented the hand icon to proceed. Not sure how that was supposed to go, but it didn't seem to be scripted well, and it definitely didn't leave a good first impression for one of the initial 'get to know the game' segments.

SR3 MontageI still have a lot of the game to play, so perhaps the game will grow on me and I can look past some of the items above. By the end of the game, I may call this the best entry in the series to date, but thus far it's not giving me anything that I was hoping for beyond the better graphics. To sum, if you wanted more of Saints Row 1 and 2, then you won't be getting it early on in the game. This is an over the top, unrealistic, and highly offensive (for no justifiable reason) game. Volition really should have renamed this game to something else and left the Saints Row brand alone. It was doing just fine before this juvenile entry into the series. :(

Saints Row 2 Story - Fracture

noneI absolutely loved the Saints Row series of game. Saints Row 2 so enthralled me that I joined the official forums where I stumbled upon the Stilwater Stories, a collection of short stories written by fans of the games. One of the stories there by Lossefalme really motivated me to take a stab at writing my own story.

As a software architect, I have written my fair share of technical documents. They are typically dry and to the point, which is pretty much about as opposite as you can get from writing a story for a reader's enjoyment. Needless to say, I'm not great at it, but I'm getting better, and Lossafalme has been kind enough to review my work and help me with both the story telling aspect as well as the multitude of grammatical errors.

If you take the time to read my writing, please keep in mind that English was my worst subject in high school / college, this is my first writing, and I'm still learning the tools of the trade as well as how to paint a picture in the reader's mind. With that said, whether good or bad, please feel free to leave your thoughts on the story either here or at the FanFiction site.

Fracture - Based in the world of the Saints Row game, Fracture is Book One of The Don's Embrace trilogy. Fracture is a Stilwater Story centered around the main character Atom, leader and care keeper of his family, the Saints.

Dissecting My XBox 360

The XBox 360 has been the worst console I have ever owned in 30 years of gaming. That in and of itself speaks volumes, but the fact that I'm having to take it apart in order to fix it screams either inferior design or corporate greed. Greed you say? Yes. Greed. In their zest to get to market first, MicroSoft released their XBox 360 to the public knowing full well they had 50+% failure rates. Dumping a product that consistently fails within a year of the sale would typically lead to a ****action lawsuit, but somehow MicroSoft managed to avoid it with a 3 year extension for the red ring and e74 error.

Unfortunately the red ring and e74 errors do not account for all of the errors of the console. The 3rd, or perhaps even 2nd most common error is the 'Open Tray' error. This occurs when your DVD drive cannot read the disk. This can occur from the laser eye being dirty, or from the laser malfunctioning. My 2nd XBox 360 just encountered this problem. Microsoft would not repair it unless I paid them $99. The drive, only costs $14, so theoretically they want me to pay them $85 to remove the drive and replace it with a new one.

It seems taking advantage of the consumer at the point of sale, and then not to extending the warranty to cover ALL the problems that occur with it, esepcially the more common ones, was not enough for MicroSoft. Now they are making money off the failures that THEY caused on the console. They are effectively taking advantage of the consumer at the point of sale, and then after it. They seriously need to be sued for every penny they made off of the DVD Drive repairs.

Anyhow, instead of paying M$ to fix my 360, I decided to fix it myself. I ordered the new drive which should be here shortly. It's going to cost me roughly $20 to fix it complete. Major props to http://www.xboxslave.com for providing excellent vidoes on how to identify the problem and fix it yourself.

Here's what the inside of an XBox 360 looks like, and if you have ever been afraid to take it apart, don't be. It's just as easy, if not easier to take apart and work on than a standard computer. Hope you enjoy the pics!

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Just Ordered 22 Games for Roughly $250

I have never purchased from GameStop online before, but today that changed as they were having a buy 1 get 1 free on their preOwned games. I ordered 22 games for roughly $250 total or the cost of 4 brand new games. Take a look at the list and see if I got a good deal. For 22 games, the total came to about $11.50 per game.

Here's the list, all on the XBox 360:

  • Blood Bowl
  • CSI: Deadly Intent
  • Darkest of Days
  • Devil May Cry 4
  • Fight Night Round 4
  • Gears of War 2
  • G.I. JOE: The Rise of Cobra
  • Hitman: Blood Money
  • James Cameron's Avatar: The Game
  • Left 4 Dead
  • Mini Ninjas
  • Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe
  • Operation Darkness
  • Overlord 2
  • Scene It: Bright Lights Big Screen
  • Soul Calibur IV
  • Star Wars: Clone Wars Republic Heroes
  • The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon
  • Turok
  • UFC 2009: Undisputed
  • Warriors Orochi
  • WET

God of War III Ultimate Edition

I received my God of War Ultimate Edition from Amazon. I love the Pandora's Box. The artwork is really nice as well. I'm a little disappointed though as I thought there was another CD that would be part of the bundle, but come to find out it's downloadable content on my PS3. Unfortunately I never listen to music on my PS3. Hopefully there's a way to transfer it to my computer/iPod so I can enjoy it everywhere (house, car, walking, etc).

Anyhow, enjoy the pics of the God of War Ultimate Edition. For me, it's on to the game. Chaos will rise again!

Created An Assassin's Creed 2 WallPaper

I mess around with graphics here and there, typically for the fan site I run at http://www.2kfootballstrategy.com or the clan site I'm part of at http://www.triplethreatclan.com. I purchased Assassin's Creed 2 last Monday and have been utterly enthralled with the game ever since.

I put in about 40 hours gameplay into it last week, doing every side quest I come across, and refusing to finish the game until I get every single item and exhaust all side questions. I was looking at the backgrounds for the game, and I decided to take a shot at making one myself, something I have never done before. Below is my first effort, which I greatly enjoyed making even though the quality may not be top notch.

The words at the center spell out what else? The Assassin's Creed! "Nothing Is True" - "Everything Is Permitted".

Makes a pretty decent Twitter theme as well, check out my Twitter page! -- http://twitter.com/Valdarez

Let me know what you think of it, good or bad. Open to any suggestions on how to make it better. :)

Click the image below to see the large version.

Fable II Load Times

If you read my previous blog, one of my chief complaints about Fable II was the length of the load times.  With the new XBox 360 experience on the way, one of the new features is the ability to install a game to the hard drive, which should help with the very problem that I encountered with Fable, namely load times.  Take a look at the load times as reported by Eurogamer in the image below.


(Fable II Load Time image from Eurogamer)

Now by looking at the load times, you might think they aren't all that bad.  What's 30 seconds of your life right?  Truth be told, these load times might be acceptable if the areas were more robust and they took more time to traverse.  In several cases, such as when you are in towns, there's almost enough to do to warrant the load time.  However, you typically have no reason to spend a large amount of time in any one area, and after your initial explore, are usually only in a given area for a very short duration, maybe a couple of minutes.  Thus you find yourself in a reptitious couple minutes of play time, load screen, couple minutes of play time, load screen, which due to the length of the load screens results in a lot of unnecessary waiting on the part of the player.

The fact that developers were unable to solve the load time issues for an open world is more than a little discouarging, especially since so many games before it have done so, or in the very least, minimize the amount of load screens to a suitable level.

Fable II - Just Another Myth

The original Fable promised us the largest most complete RPG experience imaginable. Players would create a hero and watch him age over time. The choices they take and the battles they endured would carve the hero's features. Fable was an ultimate letdown resulting in only 6 to 8 hours of game play for a single play through. Would Fable II address the wrongs of the original Fable and provide a more complete experience?

In a single word. No.

Wait. Not just no, but HECK no.

Fable II fails in places that it's predecessor succeeded. For one, the game is entirely bug ridden. From animations that get stuck including falling bodies, disappearing dead enemies (left in a twitching loop), frozen magic spell animations, and a HOST of dialogue / storyline progression bugs. It makes you wonder how this game was even released to the public in it's current state, especially with the dialog problems which force players to save games, and then reload to 'fix', or rather 'get around' the bug.

And load times. They aren't short. They are long, and completely unacceptable for a game of this type on a current gen platform. Oblivion had a more rich landscape than Fable and it had wider and more diverse areas with fewer load screens. You can literally traverse areas in under a minute before a new load screen will pop up. Oh, and I did mention they take a while right?

Another let down is the fact that player aging is completely gone in this game for all intents and purposes. There are now 'story archs' that progress the story 10 to 15 years at a time which then age the player. Considering the first game had true player aging, the loss of it in the sequel is a more than a minor let down.

Gameplay is still good. It's the same solid game play (pretty easy) from the original Fable. Fighting, shooting, and magic are all done fairly well, with only the occasional context issue. Enemies seemed to get turned around a LOT allowing you to hit them from behind repeatedly, making for easy kills. The difficult setting on this game is definitely of Lego origins.

I'm still playing through Fable II, but I'm nearly done with the game, and all I can say is it's yet another huge let down. Not only did it fail to deliver on the original promise of it's predecessor, a wrong the developers claimed they were going to right, but the lack of features from the original and the sheer number of bugs makes Fable II just another Myth.

Hard to Support Giant Bomb

The Giant Bomb is a great idea, yet here I am, finding it extremely difficult to support the site.

I have a lot of respect for Brad and especially Jeff with regards to their historical work, and what they have done thus far with this site. Unfortunately, they have decided to allow adult oriented content including questionable images, foul language, and the glamorization of alcohol consumption to permeate their work.

On a site dedicated to games, who thousands upon thousands of impressionable kids visit for information, they push forward activities that are considered inappropriate in most adult situations and especially in the life of children.

What's worse, is there are videos of the gaming companies, partaking in the exact same activities. Gaming companies are not only promoting their games to the kids on this site, they are engaging in these activities on videos that are posted on the site. Due to the recklessness of these companies and the complete lack of responsibility they have shown to the welfare of the kids, I will never purchase one of their games.

More XBox 360 Failures - Now It's the Controllers

Roughly 4 months ago, I had another XBox 360 controller go bad on me. On this one, the X button was sticking. In and of itself, a single controller failure wouldn't be that big of a deal, but this isn't the first time I have had a controller fail. If fact, in 2 years, that was the 3rd bad controller. Well, the problem doesn't end there, as of last night, I had my 4th controller fail.

4 controllers in 2 years. Lets put this in perspective with regards to the other consoles that I have owned over the years:

  • Atari - still have original controllers
  • Nintendo - still have original controllers
  • Sega Genesis - still have original controllers
  • Super Nintendo - still have original controllers
  • PS1 - still have original controllers
  • DreamCast - still have original controllers
  • PS2 - still have original controllers
  • XBox - still have original controllers
  • Wii - still have original controllers
  • PS3 - still have original controllers


See a pattern there? Perhaps I have been lucky, but I have never had to purchase a controller, ever. Literally ever.

  • XBox 360 - purchased 4 replacement controllers


All 4 failed controllers have had the exact same problem. The buttons fail to popup properly after being pressed. On 3 of the controllers it was the 'A' button, and on one it was the 'Y' button.

4 XBox 360 Controllers = $160

That's right, $160 for nothing more than replacing faulty controllers.

Is there a warranty plan?

Well, yes, I'm sure there is one, but good luck at trying to figure it out. I searched the web and while I found a ton of information on the XBox 360 console, I couldn't find anything with regards to the controllers.

Are the XBox 360 controllers issues confined to me alone, or have you experienced problems as well? Please sound off and let me know!

That's all for now, I'm off to the store to purchase my 5th controller. :(