The holiday release season is well underway, bringing with it colder temperatures, shorter days, and woefully depleted bank accounts. The one silver lining to being assailed by great games on a weekly basis is that, well, you do get to play them after you buy them. I know I've been doing my fair share of that lately. Here are some of my thoughts on the big ones over the past couple months:
The Beatles Rock Band
The Beatles are pretty much the definitive band of the British Invasion era (if not all time), but to tell you the truth, I've always been a bigger fan of The Who. It's not that I dislike the Beatles, but The Who is the only band of that period that's grabbed me so much that I felt the need to dig into their entire catalogue of music. And while I've certainly enjoyed The Beatles, I've never really felt that pull with their stuff. So I went into this game as someone who really only knew their hit singles. Playing those songs have been a blast, but what I wasn't expecting was to fall in love with some of their lesser known--by their standards--numbers like "Dear Prudence" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." Now I feel compelled to go and check out their entire backlog of music. Maybe the remastered catalogue that came out on the same day as the game? I'm this close to pulling the trigger.
The other thing I wasn't expecting was to go from a full-time Rock Band drummer to a guitarist and singer. I've been drumming pretty much exclusively since the first game in the series, getting to the point where I can play most songs on expert. But man, Ringo's work isn't the most compelling to actually play. The songs are still great, but the drumming patterns are simple and fairly repetitive. I realized pretty quick that I'd have to switch over to guitar to maximize my enjoyment out of the game. And so I did. But then I also realized I'd have to rig up a mic stand so I could play guitar and sing at the same time, because there was just no way I could listen to all these songs and not shout along to them.
Forza Motorsport 3
I've had an on-again, off-again relationship with the racing genre over the years, and Forza 2 was the game that pulled me back into simulation racing. I loved it for its simple elegance and accessibility, that combination of deft racing gameplay and a warm, welcoming attitude toward people who weren't experts at turning apexes and gear ratios. I also fell in love with the livery editor, spending just as much time designing the exteriors of my cars as I spent inside of them.
There's no one area of Forza 3 that's leaps and bounds better than its predecessor, but there are ton of scattered additions and improvements that make it a sublime experience. The instant replay is a great way to alleviate frustration when you mess up on the last corner of a marathon, 30-lap race. Cockpit views and rollovers combine for greatly improved immersion, and the new tracks are pretty fantastic additions to the overall circuit landscape. But more than anything else, I love what the new storefront system adds to the game. Now I can spend time in the livery or vinyl editor, make something cool, and reap tangible (in-game) benefits from it. Right when I first got my copy I made a Cactuar decal (you know, the little cactus enemy from Final Fantasy) and put it on the store for 5,000 credits. I've since scaled back my Forza 3 playing to a day or two a week, but on those days when I do log in it's like Christmas morning, with the game telling me I've earned enough credits to buy an A-class car selling Cactuars on my days off. It's a fantastic feeling.
I remember seeing Borderlands at a demo in Cologne this past August and thinking to myself, "WHAT." It was a tough game for me to wrap my head around, with MMO jargon being thrown around left and right during the demo. I don't play MMOs, and tend to shy away from anything remotely close to them. But Borderlands managed to grab me and refused to let go for a good while longer than I was expecting. A big part of that was the ever-present draw of collecting more and more loot. There are so damn many guns in this game that even though you're only fighting a handful of enemy types, the combat feels varied because you're using a different weapon on them every ten minutes. And while the graphics aren't great, they have a lot of character to them. That's something of a theme to the entire game. There's no real story to speak of, but there's enough bizarre charm to the people and places you visit that you feel oddly compelled to push forward. From the clever achievements ("I'm on a boat!") to the insane cackling of my Tank any time he goes into Berserk mode, Borderlands is much more than a mindless loot-fest.
I was a huge fan of the original Uncharted. Even after Metal Gear Solid 4 came out, it continued to be my favorite game on the platform. That is, until the sequel. Everything I loved about the original is here: That combination of likeable characters, fantastic dialogue, and subtle animation that makes you feel like you're not even playing a game. But, of course, you are--and those parts have been improved as well. I love that the platforming and gunplay have been more tightly integrated into each other, making for a much less disjointed experience than the original. And hey! Headshots actually register this time around, too. So that's nice.
It's hard to pinpoint any one area where Uncharted 2 excels, because--aside from a few cover mechanic issues--it really excels everywhere. I guess really the two main factors are the terrific sense of cinematic storytelling, that feeling that you're playing a movie with real human actors, and a terrific pace that offers few respites from huge setpiece battles. Yep, I like it. A lot.
Part 2 coming soon! (Modern Warfare 2, Left 4 Dead 2, Dragon Age, DJ Hero)
I wasn't into the music of The Beatles at all, but when this game came out I started to listen to it. I still don't have the game yet, but I do like their music now. :P Borderlands really disappointed me. But Uncharted 2... well. I like it too. A lot. :lol:
I have not played The Beatles Rock Band yet, but I want to get it. Also, I don't really like racing games to much. I have a few of them but I don't play them anymore. However, I do have Borderlands and Uncharted 2. Borderlands is fun when I'm playing with a friend, but mostly I play my games by myself. Uncharted 2 is a great game, I loved playing it. I liked it better than the first one.
Yeah another Beatles fan, I am doing the same thing. I play Guitar and Sing(badly but i don't care!). It is a good in-between game until.....whatever is next.