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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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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VR training takes up real time

Originally posted at GameSpot on March 20, 2008

This is the second 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 owe a lot to the Metal Gear series. As someone who enjoys the storytelling aspects of video games, the adventures of Snake and crew never disappointed (Okay, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty wasn’t as good, but I wouldn’t say disappointing). High drama, great characters, and with more cut scenes then you could shake a stick at, I had no trouble getting sucked into the games.

If I enjoy a series, I want to get all I can out of it – and this brings me to Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions. A good friend from my first year of college had a Playstation, and I rented the game. Essentially a puzzle game with a gun, VR missions was fun and challenging to play. Playing through the game gives you a percentage of how much you have completed, and I figured I would just get as far as I could before taking it back.

But my friend had watched me play and got caught up – it became an obsession for both of us as we played along into the night for a few nights straight to try to complete the game at 100%. I’m sure courses were missed, and I know sleep was lost, but we just keep going. Many times we looked at the time limit running out, frantically trying to reach or complete the goal on time. Each stage became our personal enemy, keeping us from our goal and laughing at our mistakes.

If I remember correctly, we ended up completing over 99% of the game. I believe there were only two stages left that we just couldn’t beat, no matter how hard (or how many times) we tried. I’m sure if we owned the game we would have made it to 100%, but it was due back – money is very precious to a college student.

This moment sticks in my mind because of how the game just took us over – me, who liked the source material, and my friend, who had never even heard of it. We both dropped whatever we had going and focused all of our energy on destroying every floating geometric shape that got in our way. I don’t know if Konami had that exact goal in mind when they developed the game, but if so – mission accomplished.

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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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