E3 2008

Originally posted at GameSpot on July 21, 2008

In honor of my first new emblem in nearly three years (watching some of the E3 coverage live for one day), I thought I’d do something I’ve never done before – weigh in on the games at E3 that I’m excited about.

While this is something that everyone else is doing as well, it’s still fresh for me – so here we go in alphabetical order:

Crysis Warhead

Since I have chosen to by food instead of a new computer, I haven’t been able to play the first Crysis game; and I probably won’t get to this one anytime soon. Still, based on reviews and just how the game looks it’s one I definitely want to get to someday.

Empire: Total War

This is a no-brainer for me. The Total War series is an all-time favorite, and I’ve been hooked sinceShogun: Total War. Naval battles and guns – the series time-line keeps moving forward. Will it ever come to present-day I wonder? Whatever the answer, I’m happy in the past.

Fable 2

I enjoyed Fable: The Lost Chapters quite a bit – so a bigger, better version is always a good thing. There’s been a lot of talk about having your pet dog run around with you. I have nothing against owning a dog, but will it really be this amazing game play experience to have an animal with you all the time? Dog or not, I’m looking forward to fun game play and a good story from Fable 2.

Far Cry 2

Much like Half-Life, this is a highly rated FPS series that I just haven’t been able to play yet. Will I get around to Far Cry 2 before the inevitable third installment rolls around? Time will tell.

Flower

With all the explosions and gun shots going off around me in these other games, it will be nice to stroll around the grassy fields for a while. I see this game in the same vein as Flow; who knows when I’ll be able to play Playstation games, but I’ll look for this title when I can.

Halo Wars

It’s Halo. It’s war. It’s Halo Wars. I think that pretty much sums it up.

James Bond: Quantum of Solace

Just because I haven’t finished James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing doesn’t mean I can’t want another Bond game! While most of the games involving 007 have been misses, the hits (such as GoldenEye) have been big ones. Let’s hope Quantum is one of them.

Lord of the Rings: Conquest

What’s that? You’re taking the Star Wars Battlefront formula and putting it in the Lord of the Rings universe? I think I’m in some sort of dork heaven right now…seriously, this is easily one of the best games I’ve played – and it isn’t out yet! Yep, it’s that good – I can already tell.

Mercenaries 2: World in Flames

Two words: tactical nukes. I may still get around to the first Merc game, but if I land on this game before so much the better.

Mirror’s Edge

Seems to be some buzz around this one; I do think it looks like an interesting concept but I wonder how truly “free” it is. Can you go anywhere, or is that just an illusion as you move along a linear path? And is that even a bad thing? With anything new, there’s always plenty of room to screw it up – but I’m going to look on the bright side and say this game will turn out just fine.

Prince of Persia

Played Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time; still need to go through the last two-thirds of the modern trilogy. This game is supposed to be completely separate from these three games, so I’m interested to see what will be different. From what I’ve seen so far, it’s an acrobatic Prince looking to save his kingdom (and himself) from certain destruction…which doesn’t sound very different at all. It’s a good formula, however, so we’ll see what happens.

Pure

While I’ve had the privilege to play several fantastic racing games (Burnout 3Project Gotham Racing 2Rallisport Challenge, etc.), off-road games seem to have a less stellar track record. Pure looks to change all that, and the videos look amazing.

Puzzle Quest: Galactrix

The first Puzzle Questis great, and this is the next one. The first one is good, so this will be good. I think with iron-clad logic like that, it’s hard to argue.

Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood

There is no denying that Bioware puts out quality RPGs (A little game called Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, for example). I’m assuming the same type of quality will shine through in this game, and the unique idea of Sonic in a RPG on the DS looks very interesting. For those reasons, this one should be good.

Sonic Unleashed

And the Sonic love continues. Truth be told, I haven’t really played the big blue hedgehog since mySonic & Knucklesdays – but those were good days. I’m hoping this game will bring Sonic to prominence in 3-D, because I have yet to see a reason to make the transition.

Star Wars Clone Wars: Lightsaber Battles

At last, all the lightsaber battles I had using my old plastic bat during my childhood will finally pay off! Hopefully the moves you make will transfer to the screen smoothly; to have such a sweet concept fall short would be nothing less then the dark side at work.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

An original storyline coupled with amazing game play and graphics? (WARNING: Tired catch-phrase from the Star Wars Universe about to be used!) The force is strong with this one…

Street Fighter IV

I can remember wishing for a Sega Genesis, and the only game I wanted was Street Fighter II: Championship Edition. That wish was granted, and Street Fighter remains my favorite fighting franchise. I want this one to be good – I won’t get to it for a while, but for the good Street Fighter name I want it to do well.

Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.K.

I’ve always been a little wary of flight sims on consoles; but they keep getting closer to the mark and this game could be the best yet. I wonder how this game will stack up against the Ace Combat series?

There it is, my take on what I’m looking forward to from E3 2008. This doesn’t cover everything, and who knows when I’ll actually be playing these games, but they all have great potential.

Potential for what? What else – potential to rock!

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Shut your freakin gob: Juno and cheat codes

Originally posted at GameSpot on July 1, 2008

About a month ago, I saw the movie Juno. I didn’t really expect too much, but I ended up really enjoying the movie.

That said, something interesting happened as I listened to the soundtrack not to long ago. I was driving home from work and heard these lyrics:

“Up up down down left right left right B A start
Just because we use cheats doesn’t mean we’re not smart”

I had heard the song before – track seventeen, “Anyone Else But You” by The Moldy Peaches. But this time I really heard the words and understood them: “Up up down down left right…” That sounds like a code I would have punched in on my NES years ago!

After some digging, I found out that this is a reference to the fabled “Konami Code,” made most famous in the states in the old NES game Contra.

While this may be common knowledge to others, I had never heard of it – and to find out about it from listening to the Juno soundtrack? Pretty sweet.

But even better is the instant connection I felt with the songwriter. I felt like I needed to pull the car over – up until them I had just been jamming along, but now the song spoke directly to me. I think if you were a musician that has to be one of your goals – your song hits someone in such a way that they almost pull over.

The moral of this story? Keep an eye (or ear) out – you never know where a fellow gamer may turn up.

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Playing a “game” game / Deus Ex Invisible War

Originally posted at GameSpot on June 30, 2008

It’s hard for me to start a new game these days. With everything else going on in my life – not to mention other games I need to finish as it is – who has the time? However, being in a marriage means that you have a help mate, your other half – someone who can bring clarity to any stressful situation.

Enter my wife, and the conversation we had this past Saturday night ( June 28 ):

“I don’t know what to play.”

“Just pick something. . .but no Lord of the Rings”

(Laughs) “Okay, no Lord of the Rings. But what then?”

“Play a ‘game’ game.”

“What? What’s a ‘game’ game?”

“You know, one with a story – a ‘game’ game.”

“Alright. . .I have a few of those still to go. I’ll play Deus Ex: Invisible War.”

“Okay.”

And just like that, my indecision was confronted and conquered by the only woman I know who will actually sit down and watch me play something – as long as it’s good. Is that love or what?

So, here I am at the Invisible War. The original Deus Ex was one of the greatest games I’ve ever played, because it was unlike I had ever played before. The story, gameplay, and atmosphere were all first-rate.

This is my second attempt at getting into the game, and this time I’m going to stick with it. It’s set twenty years after the original, with the aptly named “Collapse” isolating world into pockets of have and have-nots when it comes to the most advanced technology.

JC Denton (my old character) seems to have disappeared along with his brother Paul, and the current WTO government portrays him as the man responsible for the current state of affairs. While this is true, I can tell some rhetoric is already ringing with that familiar conspiracy/propaganda feel…

Still, I find myself “siding” with the authorities so far in the game. I use that term loosely, because it seems as if you can play both sides of the fence without there being any penalties from the other. This suites me fine, because my goal is to see all the endings, not just one. That is something I liked about the original – you could save the game at one critical moment, and then simply re-load to see what would happen if you chose a different path.

I know some people look for high replay value in everything and see this as a defect, but I like the fact that I don’t have to go through the thing again just to see a different two-minute ending.

I might have a little more time to play tonight – heading down to Lower Seattle in search of “The Order,” the ying to the WTO’s yang. We’ll see what happens!

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St. Mystere is history / my wife solves the case!

Originally posted at GameSpot on June 27, 2008

This past Monday (June 23) my wife beat Professor Layton and the Curious Village. This was the first time she’s ever beaten a game, and I’m writing to say congrats! I still have yet to finish it, so she is ahead of me for a change.

She told me the ending is wide open, and I guess the sequel is already out in Japan – we’re both looking forward to that.

Kudos to my sweetness!

I hope there is more to come, and keep working on Lord Bane – you’ll finish Puzzle Quest yet!

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Star Wars gaming past and present

Originally posted at GameSpot on June 27, 2008

I recently wrote about some of my Metal Gear thoughts after watching an expertly done retrospective series on Gametrailers.com, and now I’m going to do the same with Star Wars.

Up to five already in the series, the trip down memory lane has been fun. Each retrospective usually centers on a certain group of games in the Star Wars lore, be it the Super Star Wars series or the X-wing/Tie Fighter games.

Stars Wars is a franchise that has me hooked – and when something like that happens, I can get sucked into buying/playing a bad game (no matter how bad), just because it has a lightsaber in it. This has definitely been the case with a few games, including (but not limited to) Force Commander,Rebel Assault, and Episode I – The Phantom Menace.

Still, I’m glad I’ve taken those hits – because for every lackluster game Lucasarts has put out, another infinity better game has stepped up to the plate. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Dark Forces/Jedi Knight saga, X-Wing/Tie Fighter games, and the Battlefront series.

And things continue to look up – with The Force Unleashed and Star Wars The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels both set to break new ground, it’s a good time to be in a galaxy far, far away.

Summing up – with the help of the retrospectives it’s been a fun look back at my Star Wars gaming past, and I’m looking forward to its future. True – I don’t have the necessary hardware to enjoy the coming games right this second. . .but when I do it will be a good time.

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You must realize you are doomed

Originally posted at GameSpot on June 20, 2008

Conquered the galaxy this past Wednesday, June 18th, 2008, as the Confederacy of Independent Systems. Crushing the Republic never felt so good. Again, Star Wars: Battlefront II shows why it has some great replay value.

I think the game also shows how really little you have to do to make me happy as a Star Wars fan. Have some good locations, decent gameplay, and a very shallow “strategy” mode thrown in, and I’m good. Don’t misunderstand me – I really enjoy galactic conquest mode; it’s just that it seems to be the most basic of strategy that they could have used. (Actually, I think that would go to the conquest mode in the first Battlefront)

Be that as it may, my point is that I do enjoy the conquest mode of the game because it does just enough to be fun. I would like to see much deeper strategy, but the essentials are there: 1.) You conquer the galaxy and 2.) Actually, you only need the first one.

The ending was particularly satisfying; I don’t usually buy bonuses, I go right for the soldier types and fleets. I saved a hero bonus, however, for the last battle which ended up on Yavin 4. Darth Maul was the “hero” of choice, and I simply crushed the clones. Taking every spawn point they had except their base, I was able to run them down again and again before they could regroup. The last kill was a tossed light saber up at the last Republic clone, up in a high turret. . .it was beautiful.

As the CIS victory montage played, the feeling was sweet – and I’m sure I grab another round with a different faction soon enough.

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The New IL-2 (and the dust on the old one)

Originally posted at GameSpot on June 19, 2008

Good news: IL-2 Sturmovik is getting another follow-up in IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey. I’m a big fan of flight simulator games, so this comes as good news. Now if I can just get a PC to play it on. . .

Truth be told, I haven’t even played the original IL-2 Sturmovik, and it’s not for lack of wanting to. I have the game; it’s placed neatly on the rack with all the others. But since the game came out right around the time my PC decided to become obsolete, it has sat on that rack for years – serving as nothing more than eye candy.

It’s a sad tale, I know. It’s the same story with Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty for the PC. I wanted the game so bad I bought it thinking my machine could handle it and if it couldn’t, I would soon get an upgrade. But, that upgrade never came – and the game sits on the same rack, collecting dust.

I really don’t mind – I ended up playing MGS2 on the Xbox thanks to my wife, and now a bigger and better Sturmovik is soon to hit the shelves. I don’t know if I’ll get a PC upgrade or a Xbox 360 next (assuming I ever get either!), but I’ll plan on getting IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey when I do.

I suppose I could get it on the DS, but we’ll have to see what the general consensus is before I do that. Flight is hard to do; I love it on the PC, but everything else is a toss-up.

I have learned my lesson about getting games your system can’t handle though. I know the next time I buy a Sturmovik game, it will be when I know my machine handle it. And once I do, look out friendly skies!

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In the ol’ ball game

Originally posted at GameSpot on June 18, 2008

This is the sixth entry into a series about great moments from my gaming past. These wrinkles in time refuse to go away in my conscience, and I want to get them down before all the details are lost. The events are not in chronological order.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m not really a big fan of sports games. The simple fact is, I’m terrible at them. And with that in mind, I would rather spend my time and money on something I will be halfway decent at rather than a genre that routinely crushes me into the ground.

Still, sports games fill a slot that no other game type can. When you get done watching (or playing) a sport, you want to translate that into gaming – and (obviously) nothing else can do that besides a simulation of a sport, a.k.a. “sports games.”

This is turning into more of a definition than a wrinkle, so let me get to it – one sports game I do have found memories of is Sammy Sosa High Heat Baseball 2001. Not really because of the game itself, but because of the stuff connected with it.

I didn’t even own the game – a good friend of mine did. You could say we had baseball on the brain; we spent a lot of time just tossing the ball around in our back (or front) yards, trying to get pitches over the plate or just messing around; we took a summer tour of visiting ballparks, hitting up five of them over several states; we even worked at a professional ballpark that same summer, every single home game. So, with all this background, you can see how Sammy fit nicely into our baseball-themed summers.

What I remember, though, isn’t the graphics or gameplay, but the sheer epic feel these games seemed to take on. I don’t know how or why, but it seemed like every game came down to the ninth, or the last hit, or extra innings, or some other nail-biting moment that always ended up with one of us screaming with the joy of victory of the agony of defeat.

When I think back to good times, I find myself on that porch, sweet sun tea in hand, and Sammy Sosa High Heat Baseball 2001 humming right along.

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Grads, droids, and professors

Originally posted at GameSpot on June 17, 2008

It was my brother’s graduation party this past Saturday ( June 14, 2008 ), and along with great food and hanging out with everyone we got to play a little Rock Band.

This was the first time my wife was able to play, and while not a fan of the drums she rocked out on the guitar. My daughter liked the drums though, which begs the question – will I someday be wailing on the mic while the rest of the family plays bass, drums, etc.? Just something to think about, and not a little surreal. Of course, who knows what the game will have evolved into by the time that’s a possibility?

In other gameplay news, I’m back in the saddle again – that saddle being Star Wars: Battlefront II. Playing galactic conquest mode as the CIS (for at least the second time), and I’m about three-fourths of the way to having the galaxy under my control – “roger roger!”

Pound for pound, the game is still one of the best I own. Tons of replay value, filled with little moments that never seem to get old. An example? How about placing a timed bomb on a V-Wing, then watching the pilot scurry over to it, lift off. . .only to have it then explode in mid-air. Oh yes, THAT is replay value.

As a closing thought, my wife has played Professor Layton and the Curious Village seemingly non-stop for the last couple of days. When I call her from work, I can hear the theme music in the background. I’m glad she likes it, but I’m falling so far behind!

Rocking, bombing, and puzzling – the current state of my gaming.

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Waiting! for Snake

Originally posted at GameSpot on June 13, 2008

With Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots now just out, all things Metal Gear have been at the forefront of the gaming world.

While this has prompted many to go out and actually buy the game, I prefer to wait. And by using the word prefer, I mean I don’t have a Playstation 3.

However, waiting has been the name of the game when it comes to Metal Gear and me; after I watched a friend of mine play it, I had to wait years before I actually went through the game myself on the PC. When Sons of Liberty came out, I had to wait until my girlfriend (my future wife) bought me the game as a surprise. I’m still waiting to play Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, and since I want to play that before MGS4 I’ll being waiting for this last installment even longer.

Am I complaining? It sounds like it, and I suppose I am – a little. But good things come to he who waits, and I’m looking forward to the day I’ll be able to finish the long, twisted road that is the Metal Gear Series.

(One last note – I was able to view some of the “Metal Gear Retrospective” on Gametrailers.com, and it was very well done.)

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