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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Cerebrations of the past tense

Originally posted at GameSpot on November 19, 2007

(Or, recent thoughts I’ve been meaning to get in here but haven’t had the time.)

These are not in order of importance, just simply how they’ve come into my brain:

Able to see World in Conflict over at my brother-in-law’s house a few weeks ago – the game was just as amazing as the GameSpot review made it out to be. The first thing that struck me was the graphics – stunning. The detail of the terrain, weather effects, lighting, and the smoothness at which the game ran was fantastic. True, he has a state-of-the-art PC that can handle the heavy load – but even at a lower resolution things would have looked great. The level he showed me also had some fun game play, which kept things moving with good voice acting and high drama. All that being said, it was a treat to see what’s currently out there as far as high-quality RTS.

On that same PC, he booted up Medieval II: Total War for me as well. Shogun Total War is one of my all-time favorite games, and I eventually hope to own the entire Total War series. Until then, however, this small taste will have to tide me over. Simply put, I can’t wait. It’s worth noting, however, that this game (from what I could tell) was more of what I was used to playing Shogun, just beefed up and expanded. That’s not to take away from the game at all – in fact, I see it as a compliment. I hope to spend many future hours with Medieval II and the whole series.

A few memories of old Tom Clancy games. My brother-in-law had the gold edition of the first Rainbow Six – a title I used to own – with all his other games. I never could really get into that game. If I had to nail it down, it probably was because I wasn’t that good at it. All the planning, all the map points, all the trial and error – it just didn’t add up to a fun experience. It came down to me executing a well-laid plan – and then doing just as well without said plan and shooting anything that moved.

I had to take back Band of Brothers. I appreciate the need to be realistic, but having the characters swear at least once every sentence made me pop and game out and take it right back to the store. To be fair, the first sequence in the game drops you right in the middle of a battle, and there’s no doubt a heavy amount of loud swearing would be taking place in that situation. Also, to be fair, I’m a father now – and I can’t have that crap on in the background. It’s too bad – I was really looking forward to getting into that game for awhile.

Currently playing Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, and I’m stuck at the second battle against Gothmog. I know I’ll re-visit this thought when I finish the game, but it’s not really “fun” to play. I love the source material, but that’s what carries me through. On its own, I would have stopped playing a while ago. There are some perks that stick out, and I’m glad I’ve been able to see them: 1.) Fighting (or playing as) the Balrog was sweet. His animation is done extremely well; I really feel like he’s a powerful enemy when he steps up to the plate. 2.) A sense of “being there.” Oh, it doesn’t happen a lot in the game – but when the sunset hits the wall of Helm’s Deep just right, I feel like I’m in the movie. 3.) Since the characters are the same models used in The Two Towers and Return of the King, I feel like I’m playing with weather-worn friends when they show up. I played as those characters for hours on the other games, so there’s a “welcome back” feeling when they join my party for a battle in The Third Age.

Unfortunately, a strong feeling of being boxed in by the game, big differences in difficulty from one second to the next, and a weak story (with Tolkien’s literature as a backdrop? How could they have a weak story?!) crush any of these small joys from making it a fun game. Will I ever finish it? Yes. Will I ever play it again? No.

We had a couple over this past Friday and they brought the Wii. I’ve been able to play the Wii at several friends’ houses’ and I really enjoy the console. I mean, you’ve got to love a gaming system that makes bowling that fun. My wife and I were also able to introduce them to Halo, and that was a lot of fun as well. I love that moment when someone says, “Well, we better get going…what time is it…12:40!? Just one of the many reasons why I enjoy this form of entertainment.

Warmed up Fable: The Lost Chapters and Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty: Substance this past weekend. Not really playing, just looking around. I wandered around a little in Fable, and watched the cut scenes from MGS2. I don’t have the time to play these games through again at this point, but a little remembrance tour always makes me feel good.

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You balvarine turd!

Originally posted at GameSpot on February 9, 2007

Thoughts on Fable: The Lost Chapters – First off, the atmosphere of the game was amazing. The most recent action RPG I’ve played was Knights of the Old Republic II, and that already had a pre-packaged world to build around. Fable had to start from the ground up, which is no small task.

But every area in the world, from the Guild to Hook Coast, was masterfully rendered and presented. Towns, taverns, shops and fauna were beautifully done to make an amazing world for the Hero to quest in.

The story was good, but it could have been better. How? How about this: if you want to build up tension for a climatic final battle with your arch-nemesis that will decide the fate of all of Albion – don’t do it by having the main character read about it in a book!

The only way to get a back story (other than cryptic remarks from your long lost sister) was to read about Jack of Blades, your bloodline, and the Sword of Aeons from some random text you hopefully picked up along your wanderings.

Jack of Blades could have been a great villain, but you don’t even hear of him until you’re captured by him a little over half way through the game. Then – before your know it – you have the showdown of the world with him! It just seemed to happen so fast, since there was no build up to it in the actual game world. A cut scene, or better yet some actual events in the game itself that revealed to you who (or what) Jack of Blades was, what your relationship was with him, how your family’s bloodline figured into all this, etc. would have really beefed up the tension for the final confrontation.

Instead, after Jack is defeated, the world seems pretty much the same. Because he didn’t affect it too much when he was around, his death doesn’t seem to rock anyone’s boat in the end. You’re told it does, but you can’t really see it. All in all, still a really good story – but it could have been great.

While the main story could have used a little more, the “game story” – the atmosphere in general (as I mentioned before) was fantastic. Being able to own homes and rent them out for money was especially satisfying, although I’m not sure why. Maybe it was because I felt I was actually earning something on my own merit – I don’t know. If only I could have bought a shop or two…

Having the Guild be a place I could revisit anytime I wanted also brought a wholeness to the adventure. I love the exploring and constant travelling – but it was nice to have a place you “grew up in” that you could always return to.

I enjoy games that give me a sense of “hominess” – a sense that I belong to that world. Fable: The Lost Chapters certainly did that.

This game also has me wanting to play through on the evil side of things. Usually when I finish an RPG, there’s really no motivation to play through it again – even if there are slight changes with how the game ends. You can usually predict the outcome – and the same could be said of Fable’s ending. But since your character (and NPC’s reactions to him) really can change throughout the game, I really would like to see the other side of things.

A few bullet points to wrap this up:

Never had time to get married – kept putting it off, and now I’ve finished the game. Thank goodness life hasn’t imitated art!

– The singing guy in some of the towns was a nice touch – actually putting a few of my adventures into verse. Cool.

– The Chamber of Fate was sweet – I loved the tapestry and the bridge, just the sense of reverence the place gives.

– After reading a book in Maze’s quarters, I was able to find Avo’s tear (incredibly powerful sword – the ying to the Sword of Aeons yang). Since the main game was already over, I now had this sweet sword with nothing to swing it at. Would getting it sooner had made it sweeter? Oh yes.

– The final final boss battle with Jack in dragon form was very cinematic, very well done. A little lame how after defeating Jack the first time he now simply reappears a year later, is twice as powerful, and taunts you like you’re nothing.

– Glad I have the Lost Chapter’s version. Based on what I’ve read, I would have definitely missed the new content.

– I love the detail in the game. Small, off-beaten paths / names and clever sayings on every gravestone, etc. Nice.

– I can’t get the oracle to work! YMCA? Huh? Not working!

Soundtrack was fantastic – still in my head.

Best use of magic I’ve ever seen in a game so far. Quite a number of spells, and many of them sweet. I loved using them and it made the combat fun.

– Very clean level-up system. Menus and items also done very well. This wouldn’t matter, except there are so many items (including tofu) that it all could have been very messy.

– Bowerstone South…Tavern…memory card game…BEST MINIGAME EVER! Actually fun! What a concept!

As always, if I can find a game that my wife enjoys watching me play (and actually looks forward to doing it), then I know it’s priceless. Fable: The Lost Chapters is a great game that gives your imagination a lot to work with.

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