Monday, March 26, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week #12: The Upgrade Game

Ok, so this isn't a real game, but it's what I've been playing this week.

My main computer, Wintermute, has hit the age where the best components are now just short of hitting the surplus bins. This means that for about $300, I got a graphics card and CPU that will provide the maximum performance from the system. Any more improvement would require a new system and that is something I don't want to get into right now. (Having to buy for DX10 and Vista would suck. Not buying for them would be foolish.)

You might guess from this that I'm pretty deep into PC gaming again - and you'd be right. Of course, I spent nearly all this week looking for parts and/or finding utilities to analyze my system or run benchmarks (found a great site that evaluates your PC against game requirements - which is what kicked off this upgrade frenzy). I have to remember that shopping on Newegg doesn't constitute gaming.

This week will be spent installing the upgrades (which will be mercifully short I hope), coming up with a subset of games that I really intend to play from my 2 CD album books, and (shocker!) actually playing some stuff.

P.S. After reading last weeks post, I realized I had planned to do Gametap this week. That has been postponed until after John visits so I don't lose a week. And, of course, there's no rush on trying it.

Monday, March 19, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week #11: The week that wasn't

Plans change. It's just the nature of things. No matter how good our intentions, reality has a bad habit of having its way with us.

Originally, I had planned this week to be my first crack at God of War since the sequel was coming out and I figured chances were good I would buy it. But I first thought that the TV in the bedroom (where most of my console gaming happens) was just not "good enough" for such a triple-A title. Also, it didn't look like anyone, even Mecca, was going to be having any decent incentives to buy GoW2 the first week. It was going to be $49.99; the last of the high priced PS2 games. CC was offering a shirt but frankly, it looked ugly and their track record of finding stuff in the store is not good. So, I started to think that I would kick up one of the collections of arcade games. Retro gaming has gotten big due to the various on-line services that the big 3 are offering. Of course, retro for today's gamers is memory lane for me.

At some point, I found myself drifting toward some PC games. I played a demo of a new survival horror game, Penumbra, and was very impressed with the way you had to use the mouse. It wasn't just point-and-click. You had to move the mouse the way you were moving something in the game - pull it to open a drawer, push it to open a door, click to hold while moving backward to drag something. The demo was very short but held my interest. I'm looking forward to picking this one up. I also played some more Halo on the PC primarily because I can control the vehicles better. (I'm useless on the Xbox version.) I also started the Company of Heroes demo.

This sudden spurt of PC gaming has me wondering where my gaming time is better spent. Back in the "old days" (ie, when NES was king), I was happily playing my Atari 800, ST and original PC. I was a late comer to consoles as computers had the significant edge in graphics and sound. I didn't start getting into consoles until the middle SNES days.

I know the debate between the two worlds, console and PC, is eternal. Consoles provide a cleaner, easier to drop into environment that has lots of exclusives and a more open atmosphere when playing with others. PC gaming has better production values (in general when comparing the same time periods), less corporate interference over content, and a better control scheme for FPS's, strategy, and simulation games. Also, PC gaming is almost completely "future proof" - you can almost always find a way to play an old game on a new system. And there are no clear lines between users. The weekly podcasts I listen to regularly cross-over boundaries - Xbox guys talking about PC games, PC gamers talking about Wii games, etc. There's no one answer - they will always co-exist in some form.

As for me, I think I'll just go with the flow for now and that seems to be taking me down the river of PC games. (It's a little easier to play on my PC at night than the consoles and I certainly have a large stock of games to play on the PC.) This usually lasts until I hit some sort of downer like a game that crashes a lot or something about my computer that makes me waste hours trying to fix it. Not a downer, but a different reason is a visit by my brother that gets me onto the consoles for a week. I've been on this ride long enough to know that making judgements and turning my back on one or the other only leads to me running back to the maligned, hoping I can recover whatever lost treasures I might have sold off in a fit of self righteous commitment. However, I do think I will set some goals and my first one is to try Gametap for a month (costing all of $0.99). I'm really interested to see how well it works and I can try the Sam & Max games as part of that.

A different reason I didn't do as much this week as others is that one of our cats, Randi, had to be euthanized this weekend. It wasn't unexpected and, truthfully, it was necessary. Her kidney problems were just more than we could take and at 17, there wasn't much we could do for her. At least I like to think she left this world without suffering too badly from the disease. Randi, I do thank you for the late night strolls into the computer room, looking for a pet or a scratch behind your twisty ear. You were a people cat and never missed a chance to nuzzle a hand or sit next to me on the sofa. I hope your time with us made you happy.

Monday, March 12, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week #10: Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories

If I had to sum up my experience with GTA:LCS in one word, I think it would be "underwhelming". It basically played like a GTA clone from a budget software house. It was fun (for a few minutes) to be back in Liberty City but the thing that struck me, other than the bland graphics, was how little the city changed during the time that has passed. Most cities get new buildings or at least renovations during a few years time. From what I saw, the city must have blown its budget on something else

I know this was just a PSP port (how in Zeus's butthole did anyone play this on a handheld screen and not go blind!) so it obviously wasn't going to have the graphic level of the original PS2 game, but I think it should have gone thru the update. Also, and I don't think this is specific to the PS2 version of LCS, I had a lot of problems targeting bad guys with my gun. If they got too close, I would turn around and shoot behind me while getting shot at! One thing which was nice aside from having an overview map, was the short missions, but I don't think it's enough for me to go back to it. I did get the other one, GTA:VCS, which might not be much better, but at least both of these were cheap (under $15 at Mecca on sale) and they are part of the GTA "experience". It makes them necessary additions to The Collection.

In keeping with last week's game choice being based on new releases, I think it maybe time to crack the seal on one of my true triple-A titles - God of War. The sequel comes out this week and if I can get it at Circuit City with the free t-shirt, I might have to drop 50 clams on this one. Ouch! It hurts just typing that. That's a lot of shell fish for one game. Have to see.

Other news: Staying with Hotel Dusk, but still getting stuck at points where I had to do one thing in order to keep going. Like using chalk dust. How was I supposed to know that!...Played a little more Pokemon Mystery Dungeon. You actually have to watch what you are doing in that game. I tried just steaming through, not using special moves, and died pretty quickly. Despite what people have said, it seems fun. Maybe because I haven't played the previous mystery dungeon games....In Vana'diel, our new linkshell has proven very valuable. We now have more AF gear and last Saturday did 5-1 and 5-2! So, our little gang is 67 with a 6 in our Rank column. Very cool.

Monday, March 05, 2007

2K7 Game-a-Week Week #9 - Kingdom Hearts - Part 2

Well, I think I've gotten this game out of my system, at least for awhile. I did accomplish my goal of linking up with Goofy and Donald, then getting to a "real" Disney world (Alice in Wonderland) - even if it did take several hours of game time! While novel in design (a full fledged RPG with Disney characters), it pretty much boiled down to a) enter a world and fight some random monsters, b) via talking cutscenes, find out what you need to locate in another area, c) fight lots of random monsters in that area while you are trying to locate the items. Lots more button mashing than I expected. Oh, and let's not forget the Star Fox mini-game ripoff between worlds. Also, why did they not map the camera to the right thumbstick? Must have been before someone came up with that idea. Anyway, I'll keep the last save and might try it again some other time. (If I get to the end of this year with nothing more than memory cards full of started games, that isn't such a bad thing. Getting into these games to the point where they become interesting is sometimes the hardest part.)

This week I think I'll take a cue from a game to be released this week, GTA:VCS, and start playing GTA:LCS. I never have wanted (seriously) to get a PSP and these games were some of the only reasons I would have even have considered it. Interestingly, it was either Sony or Rockstar who proclaimed, rather strongly, that GTA:VCS would NEVER come to another platform. Rrrright. *Cough!*bullshit*Cough!* It really sucks when these guys (and it was probably Sony) ouright lie to us. Sony may have created (hell, DID) create the greatest gaming platform of all time, the PS2, but since then they have been nothing by arrogant bastards to the consumer. While very attached to my 3 PS2's, I don't see that I'll ever get a PS3. They are just too damn expensive! Even if they cut the price in half, that's still $300 - I've never paid that much for a console in my life. Now, I am considering an Xbox360 soon, but even that decision isn't final unless the price drops or I can get a deal with extra hardware (like a controller) or games (note to Fry's: THAT DON'T SUCK!). My ideal package would be a 360 with Oblivion, CoD2, and PGR3. And an extra controller, if I can get it. :)