Be nice and play with your friends: DS multi and the big jump

Originally posted at GameSpot on July 15, 2008

Playing a bit of catch up on the gaming front; my brother-in-law had some time before he stated his new job, so he can over last week on Monday (June 7) and Thursday (June 10). He and his girlfriend just bought a DS – one for each of them. How sweet is that?

Monday it was just him and I, and we played The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. This was the first time I had ever seen the game in action, and I was impressed; I hope to get this someday for my DS as well.

I was able to see some of the single-player action; from drawing the path of your boomerang to blowing out candles through the mic. The game play looked engaging, and I think it would be great intro for me into the Zelda universe.

Watching him play was fine, but the multiplayer was outstanding. Playing as either Link or the soldiers, each of you had to stop the other from reaching your respective goals. If Link, the goal was gathering jewels – if a soldier, your goal was stopping him from doing so. The warp doors, wind barriers, and vision tricks the game made each map have its own special craziness.

I especially liked the power-ups – cloning yourself, speed or strength, and then being able to run over and deny them from your opponent was great.

We closed the night with a little “Boarding Action” from Halo: Combat Evolved. He won, naturally – but I will say I enjoy that map a lot more than I used to. Some good moments.

Thursday had even more going on with four DS’s in my living room. My wife was able to try Cooking Mama 2: Dinner with Friends, and she liked it. I was finally able to play some multiplayer for the first time on Star Fox Command, and it didn’t disappoint. Power-ups spread throughout the map were well-balanced, from bombs to various laser options, and barrel rolls while trying to get behind the enemy.

I won more of these battles; but to be fair he had never played the game before.

Other DS multiplayer action involved the New Super Mario Brothers. This is one of the best games for the DS, not just because of the tremendous single-player campaign, but for the fantastic multiplayer. We played some very intense ten star matches, each of us jumping or shooting fireballs like mad trying to crush each other.

Besides the “level” multiplayer, we played some of the mini-games as well. Card games, rolling snowballs, and bouncing Mario’s all made an appearance here – including my former best, the hidden faces! He dominated in a way I didn’t expect – I need some training. Perhaps a refresher course with some Where’s Waldo books?

You can’t play any new Mario without thinking of the old, and I showed him the GBA version of theSuper Mario World. I am currently stuck on a level, but I booted it up just to give him a little nostalgia.

I entered a world just to show him where I was at, and after commenting on how I found the game a little tough I promptly fell off the edge into nothingness. We lost it, laughing so hard at the perfect illustration of my current game progress. Oh course, funnier if you were there, but it was the best set-up I could’ve had.

He fell off once as well for good measure, and we figured it was time to put that baby down before wereally hurt our pride.

Even with all the DS goodness, we managed to get some Xbox in. After trying (and failing) to figure out the multiplayer of Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow and Chaos Theory, we ended up with Need for Speed Most Wanted.

I finally beat the “Get through 6 police roadblocks” on the challenges, but the real jewel of the evening came when my brother-in-law was trying to beat the same challenge. I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the best features of the game is at certain points of the city, the camera will snap back into a cinematic third-person view while everything moves in slow motion. It mixes up the racing very nice at key points, and I find myself trying to hit those “slow-mo points” with as many cops behind me as I can, just to make it a cooler shot.

Anyway, he had just come up to a road block and smashed through; happens all the time right? What was special about this time was the fact that his car was thrown in the air lop-sided, and it was just over a hill at a slow-mo part. So when he flew in the air, car twisting around, it was like watching our own action movie. The car flew up and we both could hardly speak due to all the awesomeness, and then he jumped up with an “Oh yeah!” that I was more then happy to second.

As the car landed he went back into first-person perspective, and we actually saw the landing through the windshield – the car flopping back into place. Simply put, it was a fantastic gaming moment that made us stand up and cheer. When we rushed upstairs to tell the ladies what had happened you could see the light in our eyes, describing how sweet a moment we had just witnessed.

They might not have shared our enthusiasm, but that didn’t matter. It was a great jump, and a great night.

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Wednesdays are for Rocket Launchers

Originally posted at GameSpot on June 13, 2008

Over the past two Wednesdays (June 4th & 11th) my wife and I have had the privilege of playing someHalo: Combat Evolved with some friends and the multiplayer experience continues to deliver.

Each Wednesday was unique; the 4th had a little Need for Speed: Most Wanted mixed in, and this most recent middle day of the week saw everyone’s “team-ees” improved. Hey, practice makes perfect, right?

We even mixed in some new maps, with Chiron TL-34 making an appearance. I still don’t think this is one of the best maps, but it was a nice change. And honestly, as long as a map layout includes a rocket launcher I’ll always be game for it.

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From Crisis Cores to Lockout scores

Originally posted at GameSpot June 2, 2008

Mondays are always a bit of a downer. But to ease the pain of the work week ahead, I like to think back on the weekend, especially if it was a particularly good one – and this past weekend was.

A lot of good things happened, but for this blog we’ll stick with the gaming highlights. In chronological order:

Friday, May 30, 2008, 11:00-2:40 a.m. – My in-laws had a cookout for some friends who came in out-of-town, and as the party died down my brother-in-law and I tried to get in some Battlefield 2125. I saytried, because he needed to download a rather large patch for the game, and it just took too long.

But we made the best of the situation, watching the pilot for “Arrested Development” and playing someHalo: Combat Evolved. He slaughtered me on two games of Slayer on Hang’em High, but I was able to leave with a bit of pride with a 25-23 victory in Damnation.

Something I almost forgot to mention: My brother-in-law just bought Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII for his PSP. Like him, I have never played a Final Fantasy game (gasp!), but the title was nothing short of impressive. The graphics and music were first rate, and even from the short game play and boss fight he showed me the game looked like it had a lot of depth. And the cut scenes! Wow.

This may be a series I could get into in the future – I could tell this game points to a rich tradition, and I know it’s one many people cherish.

Sunday, June 1, 2008, 10:45-1:30 a.m. – My brother-in-law came over with his girlfriend and while she and my wife did their thing, we played some tennis and then headed to the basement for someNeed for Speed Most Wanted and Halo 2.

I had been talking up Most Wanted for a while, so I was glad to be able to finally show him the game – and things worked out better then I had planned. Nothing is worse then wanting to show off a game but having it somehow fall flat on its face. NFSMW delivered, however, and we had some of the greatest police chases I’ve seen in the game.

One in particular had a cruiser we just smashed through in a roadblock and rolled over and over, upwards of at least five times. It was nothing short of awesome, seeing in roll in front and them hitting the back view only to see it keep going. How can you not love it?

Next was Halo 2, and we had three of the greatest matches I’ve had in a long time. Did I win either any of them? No – but they were epic none the less. Rifles for the first and third, rockets for the second; 25 kill count on Lockout all three times – it was fantastic.

They were just what multiplayer FPS should be about – great confrontations, amazing (or not) shots, close calls, intense grenade battles, logic-defying comebacks (by me), and loud shouts of “Yes!” and “Noooooo!”

An excellent night, capping of a great weekend. Let’s hope it pulls me through the week!

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FIVE GRAND says my boy will smoke this clown

Originally posted at GameSpot on May 22, 2008

I’ve played a lot of Need for Speed Most Wanted from my trade-in the other day, and it’s turned out to be a great buy. I knew the game would be fun, but I’ve been surprised at just how fun. A couple of highlights that stand out for me:

– As is the case with any great game, it’s the little things that count. When you change from third to first person view, the in-game rain sound changes – it gets louder, just like you’re sitting in the car.

Like I said, just a small touch – but a nice one.

– Another small nuance are the ambient “garage sounds” when you’re at your safe house. A distant police siren, cell phone ringing, the sound of body work being done – it all adds a good atmosphere, enough that if it was turned off you would feel a difference.

– I look at this game as the spiritual successor to Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit, and running from the fuzz has never been so well implemented. The “zoom-in” effect really ups the tension as you’re cruising around; you feel like they could pop out around any corner.

– What sort of chord does this game strike? I mean, I enjoy driving away from the cops at break-neck speed while they try to chase me down. In real life I wouldn’t dream of it. In Most Wanted, I can’t get enough! Hiding in the safe zones, hitting the pursuit breakers at just the right moment, etc.; all I’m trying to say is, this game is extremely enjoyable.

– The “heat level” you’re at is well implemented. You start with regular squad cars and go up from there. So far I’ve been to level three, and then I switch cars to lower it down. The police chases are definitely the best part of the game. If only you could play as the cops like previous installments…

– This game has the best sense of speed since Burnout 3. I’ve also noticed some transferable skills crossing over from that game – mainly sideswiping traffic at over one hundred miles an hour.

– Jeff Gerstmann was right – the cut scenes are awesome.

– The city concept is new for me in a racing game. So far, I enjoy it. I just opened up the second section, and now I have a whole new area to explore. Even after I beat everyone on the black list (assuming I do), I can still see myself wanting to drive around in it. Doughnut shops, farms, a realistic freeway system, and brick lane houses that make me think I’m driving through the streets of downtown Gettysburg.

– Another environment perk – there are so many little hideaways and secluded spots that always gives you some place new to drive around or find. Plus, some cool locations are just fun – bus station, ball park, golf course, etc.

– At certain roads or jumps, if you have enough speed, your car goes into a sort of “movie-mode” where you see a short cinematic of your car flying through the air. Nicely down and always cool when it happens.

– I own a red Ford Mustang GT and a black Chevy Cobalt – the former for racing and the latter to keep the heat off. Upgrading each is fun, and I like how you get to pick what kind of upgrade you want after you beat a rival. This includes the random markers, where you may get anything from the pink slip to your opponent’s car to a get-out-of-the-impound-free card.

– The police rap sheet you can tap into is a neat feature, but I can’t say I’m really going to use it much.

– So far, I’ve taken out five rivals – Sonny, Taz (yes, I said Taz), Rick, Izzy, and Big Lou. Razor awaits…

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The $0.55 trade-in

Originally posted at GameSpot on May 2, 2008

Ah, lunchtime (of 4/30/08) – the best part of the work day. Today’s lunch consisted of not just good food, but a few good games as well. I just got back from Gamestop; traded in some old games and got a few new ones.

Traded in:

ESPN NBA 2K5

ESPN NFL 2K5

ESPN NHL 2K5

Rallisport Challenge 2

These are all great games (except Rallisport Challenge 2 I can’t vouch for; I bought it used and it never worked), but I just don’t play them. Sports games and I have a somewhat rocky relationship, as I usually only play them when I have friends over. But, I’ll save that discussion for another time.

That said, here are the games I picked up – after my sweet trade-in value of fifty-five cents kicked in!

Picked up:

Need For Speed Most Wanted

Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3

X-men Legends

 Of the three, I’ve only had time to play Most Wanted, but I’ll hopefully check out the other ones soon. Yoshi’s Island is an old favorite of my wife’s and Legends received good reviews – so once I get to them, I know I won’t be disappointed.

We even had some friends over to try Most Wanted, but we ended up having more fun with Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2. Hey, whatever works – I just want the games on and the people happy.

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