Monday, August 17, 2009

Game of the Week Mk. 2 - Week #2

Ok, so maybe the idea of having 2 games for a week was a bad plan. I never did get any Hitman 2 in and still haven't tried a full TimeSplitters 2 run on the first level on Normal. Instead, I got onto a bit of a Tomb Raider kick (brought on by playing a little bit of the 360 version of Underworld). I played (or tried to play) a little bit of Tomb Raider 2 for the Playstation (how in God's name did people stand playing games like that - side-scrollers on the SNES looked and played better). I also did some of TR:Angel of Darkness. That wasn't too bad, but it was still pretty clunky. I can see how people were disappointed given the considerable step-up in processing power of the PS2. I wasn't too happy with the "strength" bar - it just made moving around ledges harder because you didn't know where to go and she doesn't move very fast that way anyway. You felt like saying, "Get a move on, bitch! You can't hang there forever!" From what I remember of the reviews, logic was one of the biggest losers in the design. Things like not being able to move a cot or having to kill dogs with only with bullets, take away from the feeling of being "in the world". But, it was an interesting start and I might get back to it as some point - just to see if there is anything else amazingly stupid they did.

As for my new game of the week, I'm thinking I'll give a good Lara Croft game a try. My choices are Legend or Anniversary. This actually leads me to a new "problem" I'm having. A number of my games have never been opened. With mint copies of these games disappearing, it's getting harder to just unwrap them and spoil their potential value (not that I would want to sell them, of course). But, this will be a good thing to do - time to get one out in the open. I'm leaning toward Legend for the PS2, but I might go for the Cube version instead. Either way, it ought to make for a good week.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Back to Basics - Game of the Week Restarted

Looking back on previous posts, I'm always struck by how much I like my Game of the Week posts. I never really got a long ways into a game, but it gave me some much needed focus in an otherwise fuzzy gaming picture. I also liked the growing collection of save games I made on my private memory card - each is like a pre-Achievments kind of award. So, I have decided to try it again.

To kick off this refresh, I've decided to pick two games for the same week. (This might become a new way of running GotW. As long as one of them isn't a big RPG, I could see advantages to having two different styles of games to switch between instead of getting stuck on just one.) The two games are both ones I've played on other platforms to varying degrees of success (ie, not much). They are Hitman 2 and TimeSplitters 2 for the PS2. (That's a lot of 2's.) I tried Hitman 2 on both the XBox (ugly graphics) and the Cube (better graphics but cumbersome controls) and am looking forward to a better experience on the PS2. TimeSplitters 2 has been an arch nemisis of mine for years. My goal on that one is to get through the first level, just the first level, mind you (!), on...wait for it...NORMAL DIFFICULTY! While I applaud Free Radical (may they rest in pieces) on having the ingenuity to make a game where an Easy mode gives you an abridged version of a level, it's always left me with the feeling that I need to work harder to get though the whole thing. I'm hoping the PS2, with it's better controller, will allow me to reach my goal.

Let the games begin.

Update #1: Got some hands-on time with TimeSplitters 2 last night (or early this morning, depending on how you look at it). I played though the first two episodes on Easy (of course), to get a feel for the way the PS2 version worked. Playing this gem had me thinking of two things. First, "old gen" is still just fine, and second, I'm still not as accurate in an FPS with a gamepad as I'd like to be. I need a steadying brace for my thumbs, damnit! Oh, well, it will have to do, as they say.

Update #2: To keep this short, I'm just going to add to this post for this week as I didn't get as much time in on TS2 and Hitman 2 as I wanted (ok, none on Hitman 2). I did get some time over the weekend on Tomb Raider Underworld for the 360. Nice graphics, but nothing that couldn't have been done on last gen (ie, my gen) hardware. Larger environments with less "fog" and better fire effects.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Weekly Game Blog - 7/13/09 - 7/19/09

New feature - a running commentary during the week.

Monday: Lunchtime CoD4 on the DS. Played the rather cool air support stages. Not sure how accurate they were, but major kudos to the designers for coming up with the idea and making it work...While I still can, I had to buy a black DS. Amazon is the only ones that still have them and when those are gone, I'll kick myself for not picking one up.

Tuesday/Wednesday: Been on a bit of tear buying PS2 games, but not sure why. I do consider the PS2 to be the best console ever, but my library is going to outlast me by decades. Some of the games are for Sarah (fighting games, RB1 for PS2), some are ones I've meant to buy in the past (.hack, Tourist Trophy), and some are duplicates of of favorites (Timesplitters 2 for PS2). I now have TS2 for all 3 systems - and I'm still trying to get through level 1 on Normal mode! What is it about that game! Mind you, I think it's excellent. I'm just hoping that running it on the PS2 or Xbox will give me a better chance....Recent disappointment: Red Faction 2. Reviewers thought it was good? Why? The graphics and gameplay are just slightly higher in quality then a PS1 game. If these are systems that can do TS2 and MGS2, RF2 could have been a lot better. Maybe I'll have to try it on PS2 (I played a bit of the Cube version). I do remember a distinct difference between the Xbox and Cube versions of Hitman 2 (but there is was the Cube's version that looked better!).

Monday, May 11, 2009


Maybe it's the global economic slump. Maybe it's the profusion of 'casual' games. Maybe it's just a kind of natural selection. Whatever it is, it sucks.

A few months ago, I read with almost disbelief that Free Radical, the makers of Time Splitters, was shutting down. It seemed impossible that a studio with more than a few hits was having to close down. I mourned the TS titles that would now never be.

But there was worse to come.

Word came out last week that 3D Realms (aka Apogee) was closing it's doors. The house that Duke built was gone.

I might be being a bit over dramatic, but the shock of all this hasn't really sunk in yet. Losing Free Radical tore at the sentimental but newer bastions of my gaming. Their games had a distinctive look that I will miss very much. It's a shame they never had a chance to put those quirky, puppet-like characters (and monkeys) into a high-powered game for the 360.

But hearing that 3D Realms was gone left me reeling. The early Apogee games were hallmarks of what platform gaming should be. While others were playing Mario on their NES's (in sickly colors), I was playing Cosmo and Duke in glorious VGA (ok, it was a long time ago). Then Duke 3D changed everything.

I remember Duke 3D being the anti-Doom game. Doom was (and is) a fantastic game and Duke 3D owes it's life to it. But while Doom was an abstract, sterile, sci-fi inspired landscape that was difficult to relate to (much less explain), Duke 3D took us to the streets of our cities - places we knew from the action movies of our youth. It also encouraged exploration and interaction with the game environment that had previously been unknown. And it gave our avatar a wise-cracking voice, full of Bruce Campbell one-liners.

I remember the announcement about Duke Nukem Forever in 1997 and I was thrilled. A better, more detailed FPS in the style of Duke Nukem? Hell, yes! While the years and jokes flew, I honestly never lost hope. Yeah, it NEVER should have taken this long. Yes, they SHOULD have just put SOMETHING out (as long as it wasn't complete trash) using some engine or another. But I never doubted that DNF would come out someday. And when it did, I would want to play it.

But 3D Realms sudden collapse has put an end to Duke's last adventure. Rest easy Duke, you now pass into gaming history.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Monday check-in

I can't say I really have a lot to offer this week, but I felt it was important to at least try to put some words out. I hate having big gaps in the blog. If anyone comes and reads it (like THAT'S going to happen), I don't want them thinking that this is a dead page. Too many of those out there already.

Well, the game buying drought continues. If this keeps up, I'll have almost no new games for all of 2009 - and that's not a bad thing really. I was all set the other day to go to Gamestop to see about picking up a few games in their B2G1F sale and I wanted to check my library to see which ones I was missing from a couple of series. After looking at the games for a few minutes, I quickly decided not to bother even going. I've got so many really good games that adding more just doesn't make any sense. Are there any out there that I'm willing to spend money on anymore?

As for actual play, I've been Rock Band-ing (could play that game forever!) and some Dokapon on the DS. Too soon to say about Dokapon, but so far it seems like it's just the mechanics of the game without any of the charm or humor. At least it doesn't seem to cheat. Also been playing some very casual games on Bigfish and Facebook. Nothing special, just some time killers.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Demoing on the PSP

Hey, only 2 days since the last post. A new trend maybe?

Anyway, I tried the demo for the Resistance PSP game last night. In general, the thing that impressed me was the graphics - stunning cut scenes and good in-game third-person action for such a small screen. What didn't impress me was that I had to fight way too many monsters with waaaay too little ammo. Note to designers: checkpoints that don't replenish your ammo to reasonable levels when you return to them aren't very helpful. It's a "no buy" for me.

The PSP has been something of an oddball for me. If I were still doing business travel, it would be my constant traveling companion. But, it's hard to find a niche for it when I'm never away from my consoles. I have gotten into making movie files for it, which can be fun, but games are harder to get into. I like that Sony keeps updating the firmware, adding more features and refining others. In some ways, it adds that "tinkering" aspect that computers have to them. I've bought a number of UMD movie for it, but I haven't watched a single one. The only reason I broke down and bought this one (aside from having the money at the time) was that I liked the case color!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Somewhere in April '09

So this is my first 2009 post? Wow, time flies when you aren't having lots of fun.

Yeah, been busy. I've gotten some playtime in. On my own, I'm working on "007 Everything or Nothing" for the PS2 as the first of the Wowbagger Project and enjoying the game quite a bit. However, I do apologize for getting Pierce Brosnan shot so many times.

What is the Wowbagger Project, you ask? For those who haven't read, or don't remember, Wowbagger was a character from that wholly remarkable book, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Wowbagger was an alien that had become immortal as the result of an experiment gone wrong. At first he loved it, but then all those Sunday afternoons got to him and he needed something to focus his eternal life on - insulting the whole universe.

In a way, I'm going to take page from Wowbagger's book and do something similar, but less insulting - I'm going to play all the games in my collection, individually, one-by-one, and in alphabetical order!

So, that's why I'm playing 007 Everything or Nothing because in my sorting scheme, 007 was the first game. (Other sites like Metacritic list it as "James Bond 007 etc", but if you look at the box it seems to start with "007").

Because of this plan, I've really lost my great desire to constantly buy new games - a decision that has had beneficial effects on the family budget. I've also started to get disillusioned with where the industry is going. I don't think that at this point they can return to the glory days of the PS2/Xbox/Gamecube period. Big titles are expensive to produce for the 360 and PS3 and frequently return too little. The Wii is losing steam (which was more hype than anything to begin with) and is swamped with crapware. The handhelds (read: DS and DSi) are doing well, but gaming on pocket systems is a stop-gap solution to real games. You can't have a real driving, adventure, or sports game on that small a platform.

Anyway, enough of the rant for now. All I know is that at this point my "2009 Videogame and Computer Receipts" folder at home is VERY thin for being almost 5 months into 2009.